New Common Core bill gets House sub OK — it ‘strengthens’ Haslam’s review process

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that seeks to strengthen the governor’s review process of the state’s academic standards is raising questions about whether an additional recommendation committee is necessary, and who will be on it.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Rep. Billy Spivey of Lewisburg advanced out of a House education subcommittee Wednesday.

The measure would keep the state’s current standards, which include the controversial Common Core state standards for English and math. It would also make law a public review process of the standards created by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The governor’s process currently has two committees and advisory teams for those committees to review the higher standards aimed at improving schools and students’ competitiveness across the nation.

Spivey’s proposal would create a standards recommendation committee to be appointed by the governor and the speakers of the Senate and House.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to comment about the proposal.

Teresa Wasson, spokeswoman for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, an advocate for Common Core, said the group is pleased the proposal doesn’t change the standards. She said keeping them intact would provide stability for educators and keep the state on track to do a new assessment next year.

But she questioned the need for another review committee, and its makeup.

“The primary questions are what is the value of this extra layer of review … and are the members of that committee going to be well qualified to make decisions and recommendations about academic standards,” Wasson said.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said he too would like to see the committee have educational expertise, as well as Democratic representation.

“I don’t mean to interject politics, but I think we need the various points of view that the two party systems will give us,” said the Ripley Democrat.

Conservative critics argue that the common education standards represent federal intrusion in matters that should be decided by the state, while those on the left say they impose too many requirements on teachers.

There was little controversy when the bipartisan National Governors Association in 2009 helped develop the standards, which were quickly adopted by 44 states. But growing criticism led lawmakers in more than two dozen states to propose either delaying or revoking Common Core last year.

In Tennessee, Common Core opponents want to repeal the current standards and replace them with ones developed at the state level. At least one bill proposed this legislative session seeks to do that.

That being the case, Wasson said Spivey’s proposal is tolerable.

“Compared to other proposed legislation, this bill is a move in the right direction,” she said.

(Note: The bill is HB1035, apparently filed as a caption bill. The amendment is not yet on the legislative website.)