GOP fights Common Core at convention

MOSCOW – Idaho Republicans kicked off their state convention Friday by passing two resolutions that push back against Common Core standards.

Thayn Resolution
Members of the resolutions committee debate a Common Core proposal Friday at the state convention in Moscow.

Members of the resolutions committee comfortably passed a resolution brought by Clearwater County Republicans calling on the State Board of Education to “design an appropriate exit plan and develop a transition plan to higher quality, less invasive standards and testing.”

The resolution further calls on Gov. Butch Otter to initiate the plan and withdraw Common Core standards in English and math.

Outgoing Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna fought the proposal, going as far as writing a detailed response to the proposal and citing what he described as “too many inaccuracies.”

The resolution describes Common Core as “a set of top down, nationally based standards, assessments and data collection, teacher accountability measures, and school performance ratings with accompanying teacher redistribution measures…”

Luna countered by saying the standards are simply goals for what a child should know and be able to do. Then he listed a specific example of a first grade Common Core standard: “Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20.”

“The biggest objection I have to it is there are too many inaccuracies and I don’t think we want to pass a resolution that has inaccuracies in it,” Luna said.

In the end, Luna could not persuade the nearly 40 members of the committee. As was the case with many debates within the resolutions committee, delegates made parliamentary moves to cut off debate and move quickly to voting before all members had a chance to ask questions.

At one point, members swiftly passed an unrelated resolution that many members said they did not get a chance to read or review.

In other action Friday, committee members easily passed a parental choice in curriculum resolution carried by Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.

Thayn said his resolution is a response to concerns over Common Core. It reads, in part: “Idaho should create a process whereby parents can work with local school boards and administrators so that parents can give input on curriculum decisions and/or choose curriculum that each parent thinks is appropriate for their own child.”

“At some point we need to put some mechanism in place where parents have some input,” Thayn said. “That’s what this resolution does, start opening up this discussion. It does not say parents will be allowed to chose any curriculum they want.”

Members passed two other education-related resolutions:

  • One contained similar language to Thayn’s, but went on to deal with spending in higher education.
  • The other calls on Idaho schools to incorporate the Bible into elementary and secondary schools for “literary content and historical value.” A minority of members objected to the resolution, saying it would surely be ruled unconstitutional. Then others, including Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, spoke of requiring “non-denominational Christian Bibles,” be placed in all classrooms for student use. Some delegates were confused by the idea of a nondenominational Christian Bible, but the proposal passed easily, even after Luna said Idaho teachers are already allowed to teach from the Bible.

Each of the resolutions passed Friday will go before the entire delegation Saturday for consideration. Resolutions and aspects of the party platform do not carry the force of law, but the ideas within them could be brought forward to the Legislature next year.

The convention continues Friday night and all day Saturday.