Published Friday, March 01, 2013

Tea Party groups lend support to withdrawing Georgia from national school standards

By WALTER C. JONES

Morris News Service

ATLANTA – A coalition of state and national conservative groups is backing legislation that would withdraw Georgia from national school standards adopted last year, arguing they are too costly and not rigorous enough.

The groups met with reporters before they and various parents testified to the Senate Education and Youth Committee on behalf of Senate Bill 167 that would mandate withdrawal.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, opposes the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards because they were drafted, he said, by a small group of special interests in Washington meeting behind closed doors without regard for taxpayers, teachers or parents. And national standards prevent individual states from innovating or excelling, he said.

“When you have national standards, you eliminate competition,” he said.

Many of those participating in the coalition regularly advocate for causes at the Capitol, such as Tea Party groups like Americans for Prosperity, Conservatives in Action and the Georgia Republican Assembly. Others were new to politics.

One of the newcomers, Tish Strange of Dacula, Ga., said as an accountant she should be able to help her daughter with math homework but the current curriculum stumps her.

“I just sent the senator an email thanking him for introducing the bill, and here I am,” she said.

Lobbyist Jane Robbins with the Washington-based American Principles Project said even the parents of home-schooled children like Ligon should be concerned because college-entrance exams will soon be based on the national standards.

American Principles — which bills itself as a defender of the “unborn,” traditional marriage and U.S. Constitution — is coordinating campaigns in the other states that have volunteered to participate in the national standards as part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program that awarded Georgia $400 million. The national school standards, Robbins said, violate the Constitution which makes education a state responsibility, and the states can back out without having to repay the federal government for the grants.

Among those in from out of state to testify was Sandra Stotsky, a retired education professor who had served on the panel that reviewed the national standards before states were asked to adopt them. She was one of five reviewers who refused to sign the report validating them.

Ligon released a statement from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle supporting withdrawal.

On the other side of the issue are Georgia Superintendent of Schools John Barge and the Georgia Association of Educators, among others. They argue Georgia officials helped draft the standards and Georgia curriculum served as a model in many cases.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee devoted hours to testimony but had not taken a vote by mid afternoon.

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