COMMENTARY | Few issues are dominating United States or Georgia’s education than the debate over the Common Core State Standards. Supporters see a streamlined education system, developed in a bipartisan fashion, which will allow students to compete internationally, mandating levels of achievements. Opponents see the bill as a takeover of the education system by the national government, and more teaching to the test.
The argument has spilled over to the race for Georgia’s State School Superintendent contest. But this isn’t a simple Republican versus Democratic contest, as you’ll find members of both Peach State parties on both sides of the debate.
Republican Education Candidates Are Split On Common Core
Take for example the State School Superintendent Chief of Staff Mike Buck, a Republican candidate. He explains that Common Core isn’t a curriculum, but a set of standards developed with Georgia’s input and support of the teachers. “I’ve read the research that we’ve done with our teachers and they are overwhelmingly in favor of the standards we’ve got – and they really don’t want to see a massive overhaul,” Buck notes.
Buck is opposed by Teacher Kira Willis, a libertarian seeking the GOP nomination, who argues that “Schools are overburdened by too many mandates from the federal government, Georgia children are tested too much, and Common Core will lead to more testing.” Willis supports “common sense” and “local control.”
Willis is joined by retired school administrator Richard Woods, a 2010 candidate, who echoes the “common sense over common core” mantra. “We must have standards that can be adequately covered in the course of a school year and allow time for mastery, remediation, and acceleration,” Woods claims.
Ex-DeKalb County School Board Member Nancy Jester has frequently criticized Common Core, noting how the Georgia Performance Standards list Jackie Robinson and MLK, and other Americans, ahead of the Bill of Rights. She calls for more of an emphasis on the Founding Fathers, the Federalist Papers, and knowing The Constitution.
“The usual outcome from their ideas, no matter how noble or misguided the intention, usually end with money being stuffed into the pockets of the textbook publishers, testing companies and the various parasitic classes,” Jester argues. “As a woman I have no need to inject more female perspectives and biographies into the study of history from the 1700s forward. My daughter’s self-esteem and growth potential is not predicated on being provided 18th century female role models. My daughter and my sons deserve a full and rich understanding of the greatness of the Founding Fathers,” she adds.
Democrats Like The Common Core A Little More, But Are Still Divided On The Issue
Alisha Morgan, a Democratic state representative, took a strong stand in favor of Common Core. She introduced House Resolution 1345 to support Common Core Georgia Professional Standards. She noted these were developed by 47 states, and is supported by the Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, as well as Georgia’s PTA.
“When I talk with educators across the state, they tell me that Common Core is working in their classrooms,” said Morgan, also a candidate. “I’m the mother of a six-year-old in Cobb County Public Schools, and I see Common Core working at the kitchen table. I see how the standards are improving my daughter’s problem solving and critical thinking skills, and I’m amazed at what my first grader is required to know.”
Teacher Rita Robinzine, another Democrat candidate, has a different take. “I still need to look more at the Common Core standards and all the ‘merchandise’ that comes with it before I can make a final decision as to whether or not it’s the best choice for the children of Georgia. Parents hate it. Teachers who work hard anyway don’t have any problems with it…I will in no way how allow Georgia to become a state overwhelmed with tests where our students will get burned out from learning and where they will be used as way to fire teachers and use ‘failing’ schools as a justification to open charter schools, both online and physical, and to reintroduce the voucher bill.”
Dr. Doeford Shirley, an educator and businessman seeking the Democratic nomination, is more ambivalent in his attitude toward Common Core. “Seek a resolution to the utility of the Common Core Curriculum and how to augment it with career pathway readiness programs that adequately align with college and apprenticeship programs which correlate with student potentials,” he writes.
Only a few are straying from the issue. Ex-Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell, a Republican seeking the nomination, did not take a stand on the Common Core. Neither did ex-military officer and defense contractor Fitz Johnson, another GOP candidate.
But for most State School Superintendent candidates, it is the issue for Georgians, and one where party label hardly explains one’s stand on the Common Core.