U.S. Rep. Roby’s Common Core Action May Not Ease State-Level Pressure

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 04, 2013 2 min read
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On May 24, my colleague Michele McNeil over at Politics K-12 took a look at a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican, that would prohibit the federal government from using waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act or grant money to encourage states to adopt standards like the common core. Roby’s bill doesn’t single out the common standards explicitly, but she did say that the federal government’s reach into certain parts of education policy must be reined in, an argument used against common core by state-level opponents such as tea party advocates.

What has been the state-level response to Roby’s proposal? Practically speaking, it may not change much at all. Alabama Sen. Dick Brewbaker, a Republican in the state legislature, told the press today that he remains in favor of the state dropping the standards, after he and some other GOP legislators unsuccessfully pushed for the repeal of common core in the state this year. While he and other Republicans said they support Roby’s plan, Brewbaker also said he is certain the issue will come up again for state lawmakers in 2014. The senator reiterated his belief that the common core as it is structured now “places far too much reliance on other people developing our content standards.”

Roby’s bill would not apply retroactively to the way common core is a part of waivers and grant money already given out. (However, under the bill, if a state had to renew its NCLB waiver, the situation would become perhaps less clear.) Roby’s broader intent is to get the federal government out of areas of education policy where, in her view, it has no business. But that doesn’t necessarily touch on the decisions individual states have made to adopt or not adopt the standards, and now whether to now back out of common core.

Keep in mind that even supporters of the common core are starting to press for the federal government to take a more limited role in how the standards proceed. For example, Thomas B. Fordham Institute Executive Vice President Michael Petrilli wrote in Education Next column in support of a move by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to prohibit the federal government from pumping more money into support for common-core implementation or common-core tests. Supporters of the standards like Petrilli appear to be increasingly worried that every move the feds take in support of the common core will erode general political support for the standards. Of course, common-core opponents say the feds have in fact pushed the common core inappropriately, not just through rhetoric but through highly questionable actions, a sentiment that Roby and Grassley are using to push their political and policy agenda. (You’ll see from Michele’s item that U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who chairs the panels dealing with K-12 education policy, largely shrugged off Grassley’s argument.)

Ultimately, states formally voted to adopt standards through their boards of education, and either they or state lawmakers will be the ones to formally undo their involvement with common core. The role of congressional members in this process, so far, appears to be very limited at best.

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