Common Core: Who’s for it, and who isn’t?

Common Core — a series of standards in math and English language arts — is the hottest education topic in the nation, and in Idaho.

Where do Idaho’s political leaders and key stakeholders stand?

Here’s the roundup:

Otter Press Club
Gov. Butch Otter

Gov. Butch Otter. Supports. Otter believes Common Core gives Idaho and other states the chance to chart its educational course. Where textbook publishers once catered to the interests of populous states such as California and Texas, Common Core states now have buying power and leverage they can use to develop tests that are more responsive to their needs.

Quote, from spokesman Jon Hanian: “Through Common Core we are no longer held captive to an old antiquated system that upholds Texas and California values at the expense of others.”

Task Force for Improving Education. No decision. This group of 31 state leaders was asked by the governor to draft recommendations for improving education. The group, at its last meeting, discussed making a public statement in favor of Idaho Core Standards, but no decision was made on the statement. A couple of drafts went back and forth, but the group did not reconvene as a whole and did not have an opportunity to come to consensus. The chair intends to communicate further with the members on this issue.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Supports. Luna first began discussing the idea with fellow state school officials in November 2007 — one year into his first term.

Quote: In a Jan. 24 presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Luna described Common Core as a collaborative effort headed by the states’ school officials. “We all recognize a need to raise academic standards in the core subject areas of mathematics and English language arts. So we decided, as states, to partner and work together to develop more rigorous standards that we all agree are fewer, clearer, higher and competitive with any other country in the world.”

University presidents. Support. Here’s a quote from a recent letter from the heads of Idaho’s universities and four-year college: “By helping develop and then adopting the Idaho Core Standards, we are saving time and taxpayer dollars while creating a set of common, rigorous, and forward-thinking standards designed specifically for Idaho and Idahoans. We are confident that they will result in much-improved educational outcomes for all of our students.”

State Board of Education. Supports. The board endorsed the Idaho Core Standards in November 2010.

House and Senate education committees. Support. Common Core has never been considered by the entire Legislature — but was considered in the administrative rulemaking process. On Jan. 24, 2011, the Senate Education Committee approved a State Board-State Department of Education rule establishing Common Core. The House Education Committee followed suit two days later.

Penni Cyr
Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association

Idaho Education Association. Supports. However, the teachers’ union says Common Core’s success hinges on “a philosophical and financial commitment” from the Legislature, the State Board and school districts.

Quote, from a statement from IEA President Penni Cyr: “We must make sure that our teachers are aware of the expectations, and provide them with additional professional development and other resources so that their students receive the quality education that they deserve.”

Northwest Professional Educators. Leaning in favor. The Spokane, Wash., organization, which presents itself as an alternative to teachers’ unions such as the IEA, is educating its members on the issue. Says executive director Cindy Omlin, “Initial polling of our members on the merits of (Common Core State Standards) reveal that overall, while the jury is still out on the implementation process and its effect on the flexibility of curriculum, NWPE members appear to be moving in the direction of support for consistent standards.”

Idaho Association of School Administrators. Noncommittal.

Quote: “We recognize the Common Core State Standards and the (Smarter Balance Assessment Coalition) assessment have been chosen as drivers of the work in our schools. Fiscal support is critical to successfully implement these standards and assessments.”

Idaho School Boards Association. Undecided. Even though the State Board and the Legislature acted on Common Core more than two years ago, executive director Karen Echeverria called the standards a “new issue,” and said her group has taken no position.

Idaho’s congressional delegation. Reactions are mixed.

Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson — a former state Senate president pro tempore and Idaho House speaker, respectively — are deferring to the state on Common Core.

Jim Risch
Sen. Jim Risch

Sen. Jim Risch — another former Senate president pro tem, who served seven months as governor in 2006 — opposes Common Core. Quote, from an April 29 statement from spokesman Brad Hoaglun: “Senator Risch has always believed that the standards and methodologies for educating Idaho students is best determined by Idahoans.  For that reason, he does not support federally mandated standards.  Whatever standards Idahoans deem appropriate should be through an Idaho process, not from Washington, D.C.”

Rep. Raul Labrador has made no comment on Common Core. Labrador is also a former legislator, and some observers have speculated that the second-term congressman is considering a run for governor.

Idaho Business for Education. Supports.

Quote, from a recent guest opinion from Rod Gramer, recently hired to head this group of nearly 100 business leaders: “For business the core standards mean that we can have a highly educated and skilled work force for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It means that Idaho businesses can give those jobs to Idaho students and won’t have to import talent from other states.”

Wayne Hoffman
Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation

Idaho Freedom Foundation. Opposes.

Quote, from a recent guest opinion from Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the conservative group and lobbying organization: “Homogenization and standardization of education is not the answer for what ails education. If the government were to decide, for example, that all grocery stores had to sell only certain commodities in a certain way, we’d expect mediocrity to overtake the system, and investment in creativity, ingenuity and passion to decline.”

Idaho Leads Project. Supports.

This team from Boise State University has created a series or professional learning modules aimed at helping Idaho’s teachers and administrators understand and implement the Idaho Core Standards. The training is available to the K-12 districts and charters participating in the Idaho Leads Project.

Disclaimer: The Idaho Leads Project and Idaho Education News are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Idaho Education News is housed under the Idaho Leads Project at Boise State University.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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