IT'S a sign of the political times — and not a good one — that an idea so simple and worthy as improving academic standards for students has become so twisted.
Gov. Mary Fallin went so far as to issue an executive order last week to ensure that the federal government isn't dipping its hands too far into state education affairs, particularly as it relates to Oklahoma's adoption of Common Core State Standards. The order covered everything from banning federal input on the Oklahoma version of the standards to making sure the standards and data collection don't violate student privacy.
In 2010, lawmakers adopted the standards in English and math, to take effect next school year. At the time, Oklahoma was a partner in a multi-state consortium developing standardized tests aligned with the new standards. The state has since designed its own tests.
The executive order counters overblown concerns in Oklahoma and elsewhere that Common Core standards are evidence of a “big brother” federal government overreach. It seems doubtful an executive order will quell the chorus of division among even Republicans, but perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised.
The split among Republicans on the issue was on display last week. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said Common Core “sets standards at a higher level” without reducing local control. “We're not telling them what to teach or how to teach. School boards and administrators are still in control. My teachers, the ones that I have talked to, have been very supportive of the Common Core.”
House Speaker T.W. Shannon sees it differently. “At the end of the day, if you believe for one minute that if we nationalize our standards in Oklahoma that we are not going to become somewhat open to a takeover of our educational system by the federal government, you are fooling yourself,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “It's going to happen. We should get out now.”