A Chat With the ‘Repeal Common Core’ Bill Sponsor in Ohio

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 19, 2013 3 min read
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Although I haven’t been able to update my anti-common-core tracker with this piece of legislation because it hasn’t been officially introduced yet, a piece of legislation designed to blow up the Common Core State Standards in Ohio is indeed set to be introduced by state Rep. Andy Thompson, a Republican. The “repeal common core” bill will likely introduced in about a week, since Thompson is hunting down any potential cosponsors.

I rang up Thompson to chat about it, and he said he has been following the political scrum surrounding the common core across the nation this year. How did get interested in common core? Old fashioned constituent service—Thompson said he spoke with a resident in his district in Noble County, east of the state capital Columbus, who didn’t like what she had heard about the standards. He started doing his own research, and several of the issues that have alarmed or outraged conservatives around the country began to crop up in his mind. And the volume of social media he saw about the topic also spurred him on. (It’s a similar story to how Indiana Sen. Scott Schneider, a prime opponent of the common core in Indiana, became interested in the topic.)

“Given the level of concern not just in communications to my office, but on Facebook around the state, I introduced the bill,” Thompson told me.

He brought up the connection of common core to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus, through Race to the Top, and how in his belief states were required to adopt the new standards in order to grab the federal cash. (Common core wasn’t mentioned explicitly in Race to the Top applications, but adopting common core was very clearly the easiest path for states to take in terms of standards.) Despite the steadfast and repeated statements from common-core supporters that the instructional standards have been a state-led initiative, Thompson said he believes that National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers merely provided their blessing but weren’t actually involved in common core’s development.

“There’s some dispute about whether they came up with it or whether someone else came up with it and got them to bless point is that Ohio never really got a chance to vet it,” Thompson said.

I asked Thompson if there was any standard or set of standards in common core which he felt represented either bad educational practice, or else seemed unduly influenced by the federal government. (Yes, we know that Sec. Arne Duncan loves that question.) While he had seen a presentation on the English/language arts standards, Thompson said he didn’t have one standard in particular that he felt was inappropriate. Part of the purpose of the bill, he said, is to provide legislators and the public at large information they still don’t have about the standards.

Is anyone, from the governor’s office or elsewhere, giving Thompson a hard time about drafting this bill? He said no, not so far. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Washington that is active in Ohio through its sponsorship of charter schools, supports common core, so Thompson can fairly expect some resistance from that quarter. A small galaxy of right-leaning organizations and GOP officials recently launched a website intended to convince conservatives that common core should be supported. Perhaps they are sensing that the right-wing push against common core in states is at a critical juncture.

It’s worth pointing out that Thompson brought up a concern about common core that resonates with some liberals: too much focus on testing. “You turn teachers merely into administrators...they’ll be teaching to the tests,” he said.

For a sense of the political environment that common core is dealing with in Ohio, you can view a May “The State of Ohio” video below (sponsored by a law firm in the state) in which Ohio House Education Committee Chairman Gerald Stebelton (R) discusses the standards at the top of this post. The segment on common core begins at about the 4:00 mark.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.