Monday, July 7, 2014


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

   The Common Core battle continues.  Last week a lawsuit was filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court naming the state of Oklahoma, the state legislature and the Oklahoma Department of Education as defendants.  The lawsuit alleges that HB # 3399, which repealed Common Core in Oklahoma, violated the state constitution (Section 8- Article5) because the legislature doesn’t have the authority to set school standards. 
     The suit was filed by former U.S. Attorney Robert McCampbell on behalf of four state school board members who said HB #3399 violated the state constitution in two ways.  He said the first is, “When you’re constructing the new standards, the State Board of Education has the constitutional power to do that. However, House Bill 3399 would have the legislature encroaching on that authority and taking control of that process.”  McCampbell also said the bill violated the state constitution’s ‘separation of powers,’ provision.  He said he believed the legislature can ‘make recommendations’ or ‘disapprove’ of curriculum, but they can’t get down to the details like HB #3399 does. 
     McCampbell said, “Will students learn double-digit arithmetic spring of first grade or fall of second grade? When students are writing their first research paper are they going to be taught Chicago style footnotes or APA style footnotes? Those kind of decisions need to be made by educators not the legislature.”
     Representative Jason Nelson, (R-OKC), who co-authored the original Common Core bill said, “All the things that he (McCampbell) said we can’t do, we did in 2010 and now we are repealing it. So nobody complained then and I don’t understand why they are complaining now.”  Four observations:
     First, Oklahoma parents don’t want Common Core!  During the fight over the repeal of Common Core, state legislators reported calls to their offices ran 10-1 in favor of repealing Common Core.  HB#3399 was the clear will of the people.  What some members of the state school board fail to grasp is parents don’t oppose standards, but they don’t want the federal Department of Education imposing the standards on local school districts in Oklahoma.  And Oklahoma parents are not alone.  In Louisiana, Governor Jindel just signed an executive order repealing Common Core.  As more and more information about Common Core becomes known to parents, they have rejected it throughout the U.S.  It took a while for the Oklahoma legislators to get it, but finally they also understand the people don’t want Common Core- period. 
     Second, Oklahoma parents want standards!  The state school board does have the right and responsibility for establishing standards in Oklahoma’s public schools.  Those standards should be enforced and children shouldn’t just be promoted to the next grade when they can’t do the work.  I have not spoken to one parent who opposes Common Core that wants no standards in Oklahoma public schools.  What they don’t want is the federal government doing it.  HB #3399 directs the state school board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish Oklahoma standards.
     Third, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is wildly unpredictable!  In the past year, they have ruled in a very inconsistent matter on similar ‘logrolling’cases.  A majority of the justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by Democrat Governors and therefore lean to the left.  The court could very well rule HB#3399 unconstitutional, but if that happens, they are ‘legislating from the bench.’  That is why we need judicial term limits in Oklahoma.  Another subject for another time. 
     Fourth, the suit will hinge on what are the prescribed “powers and duties,” of the state school board.  The state constitution says in Section 8, Article 5, The supervision of instructions in the public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.  So where does the state school board get their authority?  The constitution says from ‘law.’  Who makes laws? The legislature.  Who in their right mind thinks an appointed board should have more authority than a body of elected officials?  Evidently, some misguided state school board members.
     Most Oklahomans thought their local school board and school administration ran their local district, but with the passage of the Oklahoma School Code of 1971, the state school board was established.  There are seven members of the state school board; the State Superintendent(who serves as Chair and is the only elected official on the board, five members from the five Congressional districts and one at-large member.  SIX OF THE SEVEN STATE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ARE NOT ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE!
     The state Supreme Court is expected to make their decision next week.  The battle continues for the hearts and minds of our young people.  Common Core has less to do about standards and much to do about control.

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