Anti-Common-Core Resolution Advances in Legislative Group

By Catherine Gewertz — December 02, 2011 3 min read
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A package of model legislation opposing the common standards gained ground yesterday at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The organization’s education task force approved the package, we learned from a couple of folks who attended those sessions of ALEC’s meeting this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But it’s not final, or official ALEC policy, unless it is approved by the organization’s board of directors. No word yet on when there might be a decision on that. If the board approves it, the package is the sort of thing that would would join other types of model legislation ALEC has crafted for states’ use.

The debate about common standards at ALEC cropped up this past summer. We reported to you that the resolution was sponsored by a conservative think tank, the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. Discussion and a vote on it was tabled, though, until this December meeting.

The resolution includes model legislation states could use to draft bills opposing adoption or implementation of common standards. You can get the flavor of it by looking at the version that has been floating around the Internet ever since it was put up for discussion last summer.

ALEC describes itself as dedicated to principles such as individual liberty, limited government and a free market. It is made up of private-sector members, such as representatives of businesses and think tanks, and public-sector members, who are state lawmakers.

I chatted with a few people who attended the task force meetings. The Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers told me that the vote came after an “extensive, well-thrashed-out” discussion of common-core issues in several sessions over the course of the three-day meeting. He noted that both supporters of the standards, such as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, and opponents, such as Texas Commissioner Robert Scott, were there to present their points of view.

Evers, a vigorous opponent of the common standards, spoke on behalf of the Goldwater Institute’s resolution.

If you’ve been tracking the common-standards debate, you already know that the federal government’s role in the common core is a sore point among its opponents and skeptics. They are uneasy with the Race to the Top program’s incentive to adopt the standards, and its investments in designing tests for the standards. Evers reiterated these arguments at the ALEC task-force meeting.

“I told them that this was part of a federal overreach, that the standards are inadequate, but that even if they were perfect, it’s part of an intrusion and a shift in federal-state relations that is unwise,” Evers told me.

Indiana’s Bennett defended the common standards during a couple of sessions at the ALEC convening, including one at the education task force. He told me after the meeting that while he is uneasy with the federal role in the standards, their overall value outweighed those misgivings.

“I told them that for us, this was a state-driven process,” Bennett told me. “We believe it is better for Indiana students. We built the common core into our comprehensive education reform agenda. We utilized it to rewrite our teacher preparation standards.”

A self-described “strong states’ rights guy,” Bennett reminded me that Indiana declined to participate in the Race to the Top competition, but the state board—which Bennett chairs—voted unanimously to adopt the common standards.

The Goldwater resolution rubs him the wrong way, he said, because he believes it overreaches in its own way: it restricts state legislatures by insisting that they refuse to go along with any common-core-related action.

“States should have the right to choose the common core if they so desire, and we so desired,” he told me. “Just as I don’t believe the federal government should overreach, I don’t like the idea of think tanks telling me I should or shouldn’t engage in the common core.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

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