A substandard assault

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 06:13 PM

State Rep. Graig Meyer, an Orange County Democrat and our region’s newest legislator, was being a bit facetious Tuesday as he recalled a hearing on a proposal to reject the Common Core educational standards adopted by North Carolina and 43 other states.

Virtually all the speakers at the hearing opposed the new standards, being implemented for the first time this academic year. They said the Common Core would “likely lead us to socialism, fascism, monarchy and crony capitalism,” Meyer quipped, as the Associated Press put it.

But Meyer – we suspect intentionally – highlighted the legislative majority’s oddly intense opposition to Common Core standards.

That majority is rushing toward scrapping the standards after educators have invested millions of dollars and countless hours preparing to follow them.

The House Education Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to endorse the ostentatiously named “Replace Common Core State Standards with NC’s Higher Academic Standards”  legislation. The Senate Education Committee followed suit Wednesday afternoon, and the full House voted 78-39 for the legislation later Wednesday.

The legislation would create an Academic Standards Review Commission under the Department of Administration, tasked with drafting new standards. While schools would continue to follow the Common Core next school year, the state Board of Education would be barred from further implementing standards.

We’ve acknowledged legitimate concerns about Common Core. Many educators and others agree significant tweaking is in order.

But are the standards some sort of plot for a radical, monolithic national curriculum?

Well, consider that the N. C. Chamber of Commerce, a stolid business group, staunchly defends the Common Core and strongly opposes the legislative move to unravel them.

“Speaking on behalf of job creators, I can say with good authority that North Carolina’s current standards are, in fact, a positive step toward preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow,” Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the chamber, said in a statement Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has publicly supported Common Core and, like many dismayed at the rush to abandon it pointed to misperceptions – or intentional misstatements – of many opponents.

Many people, he said, wrongly blame the Common Core for the increase in student testing. The increase is a legitimate concern. But “some of those have nothing to do with Common Core, but everything’s been associated with Common Core and there’s total confusion there,” he said.

Secretary of Education June Atkinson, a Democrat elected three times to that post, worries with good reason that the legislation’s new processes will undermine the state education board’s constitutionally mandated authority to set standards. And she like McCrory bemoans the confusion over standards and testing.

“The tests we see today are a result of the General Assembly’s requirements that were passed into law over the past several years, and the result of the federal No Child Left Behind law,” Atkinson told N. C. Policy Watch.

The legislation that appears to be rocketing toward McCrory’s desk is bad law. He should veto it unflinchingly, futile though that may be.