In May of 2010, (just prior to my election in November of that year), the state legislature passed the Common Core Standards in the same bill as the Teacher Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Evaluation Standards. With the promise of more federal funding via grant access, the 2010 Legislature voted for the Common Core bill (SB 2033), which was then approved by Gov. Brad Henry. On July 6, 2010, several weeks after the legislative session had concluded, Gov. Henry expanded the Common Core legislation, which only pertained to English and Math standards, to also include Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science. Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science was added outside the legislative process and under Gov. Henry’s executive powers through the Administrative Rule making process (Rule 210:15-4-3). Common Core was initially billed as an initiative only pertaining to English and Math as many felt that wouldn’t be perceived as pushing an ideological agenda. Given that there are thousands of agency rules, these particular emergency rules went unnoticed by the Legislature.
My decision this session to press the Oklahoma Senate to repeal Common Core was made after talking to concerned parents, administrators and teachers and after hours of study (where I learned about such things as these added standards in History/Social Studies and Science). After understanding the need for repeal, and praying to make sure I was doing the right thing for the right reasons, Sen. Anthony Sykes and I went against Senate tradition and forced a floor vote on my amended bill (SB 1764) to repeal Common Core. This bill circumnavigated the committee process given the chairman’s refusal to hear any Common Core related bills (including my own shell bill, SB 1250). Given the powerful lobby supporting Common Core, SB 1764 was stopped on the day I was to present it on the Senate floor given misinformation that my bill would harm Oklahoma FFA programs. Although, I was provided legal counsel that proved that SB 1764 pertained only to the State School Board Standards and had nothing to do with the State Career Tech Board that oversees the Oklahoma FFA, the damage by a powerful lobby had already been done and the perception became reality for my Senate leadership. I’m convinced this was a tactic to test my resolve given my affinity for the program as a former Oklahoma FFA Association State President. It was not successful.
Even though SB 1764 was stopped by Senate leadership from being heard on the floor, I was able to get them to agree to hear HB 3399, which was another bill to repeal Common Core and which I was privileged to be the Senate author of, along with House Speaker Jeff Hickman.
After weeks of meetings, answering concerns about unintended consequences and needed modifications, I offered HB 3399 on the Senate Floor. HB 3399 ensures we maintain high standards without exposing our students and teachers to these experimental Common Core standards that are now causing chaos in states like New York. These states didn’t have adequate funding to provide teacher preparation and they’re embattled in teacher and student upheaval. Other states with higher standards, like Massachusetts, have also now begun to back pedal on Common Core worried the standards are inferior. With these facts in mind, it’s simply too great a gamble for us to proceed unabated subjecting our students and teachers to this untested national experiment.
Following almost two hours of questions/debate on the floor of the state Senate, HB 3399, passed on a mostly partisan vote, 37-10 (Senators Ellis and Ivester being the exceptions). HB 3399 repeals Common Core from state law and severs the ties to the Common Core consortiums which have received over $300 million in federal funds to date.
The bill will allow new standards to be written and reviewed and then acted upon by the Oklahoma State Legislature after adoption by the State School Board (SSB). This brings representative government back into the process ensuring there is a check against the state board simply submitting a “copy and paste” version of the former Common Core standards (a.k.a Oklahoma Academic Standards). This is what makes our bill unique as a true repeal of Common Core ensuring the voice of the people is represented when the new standards are ready to be enacted in the future.
In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss the timeline and guidelines for the new standards as well as the many studies critiquing the Common Core standards so that you can better understand why Oklahoma needed to repeal them.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Josh Brecheen, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 413, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (405) 521-5586.