School board candidates split on Common Core
by Wes Mayer
Several of the Coweta County Board of Education candidates gathered for the Coweta County Republican Women’s Club meeting Thursday, and the discussion quickly turned to the topic of Common Core after the candidates introduced themselves and were asked questions by those in attendance.
With election day coming on Tuesday, several of the school board candidates used the meeting at the Golden Corral on Bullsboro as a chance to meet voters and talk about issues. Amy Dees, Larry Robertson, Harry Mullins, Jan Horne and Linda Menk attended the meeting, but Monica Terrell, who is running against Dees, and Graylin Ward, who is running against Menk, did not attend. Horne is running against Mullins, and Robinson is running unopposed.
The candidates talked about their careers, their family ties to Coweta County and its school system, and then they provided their beliefs or political views on some of their most important issues for the schools. All of the candidates’ children or grandchildren are either currently in or have graduated from the Coweta County School System, but Robinson is the only one who has lived his entire life in Coweta.
Both Horne and Menk expressed their concerns regarding Common Core educational standards.
After the introductions, those in attendance were allowed to ask the candidates questions, and one of the first questions was if the candidates believed in the current curriculum. Dees was not able to stay for questions.
Menk was the first to respond, and she said she does not. She believes in getting rid of the federal part of education, she said, and the county should be able to address its own needs for education, she said. It is the teacher’s job to teach kids how to think, and it’s the parent’s job to teach them what to think, according toe Menk.
Horne agreed. She said that what is happening with Common Core is that teachers are becoming overburdened and the kids are becoming frustrated. Horne said teachers should be given autonomy and the opportunity to make their own teaching choices.
Robinson said that although the curriculum is not perfect, he agrees with it – his daughter, who graduated from a Coweta County high school, recently graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia. Robinson said it is necessary to have standards to start with, and it is the school system’s job to do everything it can to get it perfect.
Another question was whether the school system is as good now as when Robinson’s daughter was in school. Robinson replied it was much better than when he was in school. The students who graduate today are more tech-savvy.
Menk responded that Georgia’s school system is not doing well, and she cited statistics that Georgia is currently the second of all nine states in the Southeast region in school system spending, but is second from the bottom in graduation rates. Menk said only 71 percent of students are graduating. Menk questioned who is creating the standards set by Common Core and who is enforcing them.
Mullins said the school system is not broken, and that Common Core was adopted by the state. The standards set out by the Common Core have to be followed, he said, and the status of the school system’s accreditation or violating any ethics are also major concerns.
Also asked was what happens if the school system chooses not to follow the standards set out by Common Core. Mullins said he did not know the penalty, but said he believes it is necessary to follow them. Menk replied that it probably ties into funding if they don’t participate, but the system may still have to participate in the standardized testing.