OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma Senate education panel approved legislation Monday to repeal standards for math and English instruction that more than 40 states have adopted and replace them with new state ones in Oklahoma that local school districts would implement.
Members of the chamber’s Education Committee voted 11-0 to send the measure to the full Senate for a vote, despite concerns among educators who think repealing the Common Core standards would be a step backward as the state tries to help students become more prepared for college and the workforce.
“We’ve got to have higher standards,” Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, said after the committee’s action. “These (the Common Core) are the standards that we need.”
The measure originated in the Oklahoma House and already was approved there, but would face another vote in that chamber if it were to pass the Senate.
Repealing the Common Core standards will disrupt the instructional plans of teachers who have spent years preparing to put them into place, said Jonetta Jonte, a teacher at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City.
“If (the legislation) passes and the governor signs it, then that leaves us wondering what to do next,” Jonte said.
“The chaos in the classroom will be great because the teacher doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
Oklahoma is among 45 states that have adopted the standards, which are part of an initiative of the National Governors Association.
The standards were adopted by Oklahoma in 2010, but there has been growing opposition from conservative groups concerned about a federal takeover of state instructional standards.
Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, author of the Senate version of the measure, said the bill ensures that Oklahoma’s new standards would exceed Common Core without surrendering state control.
Under the bill, the Board of Education would work with higher education and career and technology education officials to adopt new standards by Aug. 1, 2015.
Among other things, the measure states that the content of all subject matter, standards and corresponding student assessments “shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the state Board of Education.”
“The bill allows for us to control our standards,” Brecheen said.
But Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, said the version of the bill considered by the committee was filed late Friday and lawmakers have not had enough time to study its impact.
“It is a hastily put together piece of legislation,” Paddack said. “This bill really has not seen the light of day.”
Paddack became emotional as she described conversations she has had with the parents of students who struggle academically.
“It weighs heavily on me,” she said. Despite her stated opposition to the measure, Paddack left the committee room before the panel voted and did not cast a vote.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said in a statement that the measure “puts control squarely in the hands of Oklahoma and our local districts, helping make sure our students will receive the education necessary to succeed.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin chairs the National Governors Association and has been a strong supporter of Common Core.
But in a statement Monday, Fallin said she supports the goals of the legislation that would repeal it.