Ramsey says there’s a Common Core agreement and ‘everybody seems to be happy’

By Lucas L. Johnson II, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday that an agreement has been reached on legislation that would keep the state’s current academic standards intact — for now — despite efforts to repeal them.

The Blountville Republican told reporters that the agreement was made this week.

“Everybody seems to be happy and signed off on it,” Ramsey said.

The state’s standards include the contentious Common Core standards for English and math intended to make students more competitive.

Common Core has been a lightning rod in Tennessee and nationally. Conservative critics argue that the standards represent federal intrusion into state matters, while those on the left say they impose too many requirements on teachers.

The standards have been 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.

Common Core opponents have said they don’t have a problem with higher academic standards, they just want them to be created at the state level.

Ramsey issued a statement later Thursday stating the standards could change during the review process to reflect that sentiment.

“I believe the current compromise legislation puts in place a review process that will allow us to … replace it (Common Core) with Tennessee standards based on Tennessee values,” he said.

The companion to the Senate proposal passed a House education subcommittee on Wednesday. It would make law a public review process of the standards created by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

It would also add an additional review committee, even though the governor’s process already has several committees.

Some question the need for the additional committee, as well as who will be on it. Under the proposal, the new committee would make final recommendations to the State Board of Education, which will adopt the standards.

One concern is whether there will be enough educators on the panel.

“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,” said Teresa Wasson, spokeswoman for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, an advocate for higher academic standards.

In an email to The Associated Press, Haslam spokesman Dave Smith didn’t specifically address the additional review committee, but he said the compromise legislation does make sure educators’ voices are heard.

“One thing that is a priority to the governor … is that Tennessee professional educators are reviewing and developing Tennessee’s standards, which this latest proposal preserves,” Smith said.