Alabama Anti-Common-Core Bill Dies; Rhetoric Turns Bizarre

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 24, 2013 3 min read
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Along with the news that the Alabama Senate has squashed a bill that would have required the state to drop the Common Core State Standards, it’s worth noting how the rhetoric surrounding the standards has now entered a strange stage, involving one-night stands in Indiana and Big Brother-style surveillance.

First, the legislative news. The Alabama Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh, a Republican, announced that he would not entertain any bills pertaining to the common core for a full Senate vote. That means Senate Bill 403, which passed the Senate Education Committee and would have required the state to drop the standards, has gone belly-up. Marsh’s announcement comes the day after a rally, reportedly consisting of about 300 people, at the capital, during which educators and others urged state lawmakers not to drop the standards.

For someone who killed a fellow Republican’s bill, Marsh had an interesting comment when discussing why he won’t give the bill any oxygen: “I truly have talked to educated people on both sides of this issue and I can’t tell who’s telling the truth ... I have talked to people on both sides of this issue who make sense.”

Marsh said the issue could come up during next year’s legislative session. But GOP Sen. Scott Beason, who introduced Senate Bill 403, was fuming after Marsh’s decision, saying his “disappointment is unbelievable.” He added that Marsh initially told him that the bill would get a chance in front of the full Senate, only to see Marsh kill it. Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, has previously voted at the state Board of Education to drop the common core, but state Superintendent Tommy Bice supports it.

There’s no doubt that the news surrounding the common core is coming fast and furious in recent days. But it’s hard not to raise eyebrows at some of the rhetoric being fired off into the public arena. In an April 22 Anniston Star story, reporter Tim Lockette says that opponents of the common core have raised an objection to the standards that involves not policy, not President Barack Obama, and not local control ... but home cooking and creepy spying on students.

“Common Core opponents claimed the federal government was developing biometric technology to read students’ facial expressions and collecting detailed info on what students’ families ate at home,” Lockette writes.

Chad Colby, a spokesman for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, responded with a denial: “Obviously, the common core doesn’t include facial recognition.”

Now for supporters of the standards. On April 23, Larry Grau, the Indiana state director for Democrats for Education Reform, sent out the following tweet: “Are u going 2 hate urself in the morning? U will if you follow @Sen_Schneider @PhyllisSchlafly on #CommonCore.” The tweet includes a link to a series on why Indiana GOP Sen. Scott Schneider and Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the conservative Eagle Forum, are all wrong in their opposition to the common core.

In an introduction to the series, Grau also wrote, “Before you decide to get into bed with extremist right-wing critics of the Common Core, we highly recommend that you get to know them better. Here’s the first in a series of would-be, right-wing bedfellows you’d be smart to stay away from.”

I called and left a message with Grau to ask him about the language he used to characterize his opponents (DFER supports the common core). If I hear from him, I’ll update this post. Also see my colleague Catherine Gewertz’s post about Benjamin Riley at the NewSchools Venture Fund having some fun with common core opponents.

UPDATE: When I spoke with Grau today, he admitted that the rhetoric DFER used about common core opponents like Schneider and Schlafly in the last 24 hours was “edgy,” but he said the group is trying to make a point, especially to Indiana Democrats, that the standards are worth supporting and enjoy bipartisan support. He also said Democrats uneasy about the direction of education policy in the state shouldn’t use that as a reason to lash out at the common core.

“It’s, shall we say, fighting fire with fire,” Grau said of the language DFER used.

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