ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers chose the safe route during the 2014 legislative session, paying considerable lip service to revising the Common Core educational standards, but opting to take no action – at least for this year.
The 152nd session of the Georgia Legislature ended its 40-day run last week, allowing legislators to head home and campaign in earnest for the May 20 primary election. Every seat in the delegation is up for re-election this year.
Few issues impacting K-12 education will come out of this year’s session, unless the idea of being able to say “Merry Christmas” in public schools (Senate Bill 283) or allowing schools to be built with wood (House Bill 301) meet that standard.
Revisions to the Common Core standards was a marquee topic from day one of the session, easily passing the Senate, but stalling in the House Education Committee.
Senate Bill 167 did not seek to pull Georgia out from among the 40 states that follow the standards. Instead, the bill proposed to effectively gut the standards by prohibiting any state assessments tied to the national standards. Though dead for this session, it will likely be considered again next session.
State and local educators, along with business leaders, supported the Common Core standards and came out in droves during committee hearings.
Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said his organization is fully committed to the success of students under the Common Core standards.
“The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education is committed to keeping Georgia moving forward with strong standards and rigorous assessments,” said Dolinger, a former superintendent for the Fulton County School System. “After much research and analysis, we strongly believe the Common Core State Standards are right for our state and applaud the House Education Committee members who voted to stop Senate Bill 167.”
But conservative groups who oppose the standards decried the legislature’s lack of action.
“The Georgia House Education Committee killed an important bill which would have been a major step toward Georgia’s sovereignty over education and would have meant greater privacy protections for children and families,” said Jane Robbins, senior fellow of American Principles in Action and a Georgia resident. “Although the bill had a broad support among parents and other citizens, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Republican leadership surrendered to the education and corporate establishments.”
State curriculum is law in Georgia since 1985
ATLANTA – Georgia law requires the state adopt a curriculum outlining what kids are expected to learn in each grade. Since 1985 when the law was passed, the state has run through the Quality Core Curriculum, followed by the Georgia Performance Standards (2003) and now the Common Core (2012).
The Common Core standards were developed in 2008 as an initiative of the National Governor’s Association. The goal was to provide a framework of education objectives across the country. Common Core does not dictate how states meet the standards, so curriculum development is still the responsibility of each state.
While there is some federal grant money available to states to help implement the standards (Race to the Top), there is no other federal oversight. The Fulton County School System opted to not participate in any programs linked to Race to the Top funding.
Georgia education leaders say the Common Core standards were adopted after two years of review and feedback – not in secrecy as many opponents maintain.
“Georgia sought feedback within the state rather than just relying on the national data,” said Angela Palm, legislative director for the Georgia School Boards Association. “After receiving feedback, [the standards were] adopted by the State Board [in June 2010]. All the documents are still online and available for review.”
Legislative leaders appeared hesitant to throw out the Common Core entirely, noting teachers would then be faced with adhering to their third set of standards in a decade. Alienating teachers is a risky proposition during an election year, as former Gov. Roy Barnes learned in 2002.