Group Sues to Prevent Common Core Question on Massachusetts Ballot

By Daarel Burnette II — January 27, 2016 2 min read
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A Massachusetts coalition of parents and business leaders have sued to block a statewide ballot measure that would ask the state’s residents whether they want to keep the Common Core State Standards. It argues that the ballot question does not seek to make a constitutional amendment or new law.

Late last year, End Common Core, an activist group based in Worcester, got more than enough signatures (64,750 of the 80,000 needed) to get a question on the ballot this November that asks whether voters want to keep the state’s common-core standards. The group argues that the standards were secretly put in place by a board that wasn’t elected by the people (the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, also known as BESE). Since the state adopted the common standards in 2010, the group claims, the state’s educational outcomes have slumped and local educators no longer control what’s taught in the classroom.

(Here’s a fact-sheet on common-core standards from the Massachusetts Department of Education.)

The lawsuit was filed Friday, Jan. 22, by a group of 10 people and is directed at the state’s attorney general.

The plaintiffs argue that scrapping the common-core standards would undo years of work by the state’s schools to prepare for the new standards and would revert the state to outdated standards.

“We think there’s a very strong legal case to be made the question shouldn’t have been certified,” Tricia Lederer, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education told the Telegram & Gazette. (The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education is not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, but has long fought to keep the common-core standards in place.)

Donna Colorio, the chairwoman of End Common Core, said in a press release that the lawsuit is a “desperate ploy to stall the petition’s positive momentum.”

“They already tried to stop this last summer and they failed,” she said. “Now they are trying to tie this matter up in court and deny citizens the right to vote on this important question.”

Attorney General Maura Healey said the measure has passed the hurdles necessary to get on the state’s Nov. 8 ballot.

“We certify ballot initiatives based on the law, to see if they meet certain constitutional requirements,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office said in an email to the New Boston Post Monday. “We work cooperatively with parties who wish to challenge our rulings. The most important thing is to get the right result.”

Massachusetts has been held up as the gold standard by common-core advocates because its public school system traditionally outpaces most other states academically.

In November, the state’s school board voted for its students to take a hybrid standardized test in 2017 that would include material from both the state’s own assessment and one aligned to the common-core standards. Many saw that as the state moving away from the common core, though the state’s longtime education commissioner, Mitchell D. Chester, disputes that.

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