Common Core debate in Ohio fueled by politics within GOP

It is significant that a bill aimed at killing Common Core in Ohio is before the House Rules Committee, where support for the measure has been orchestrated, rather than the Education Committee, where the chairman, Gerald Stebelton, is a backer of the national academic standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.

It is also noteworthy that both committees are led by Republicans and have Republicans in the majority. That’s because the GOP controls the House.

So, what’s driving this debate that has not only attracted the attention of various interest groups, including the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers, but has become the subject of intense press coverage?

Here’s how the Columbus Dispatch in a detailed story published Sunday in The Vindicator presented the infighting among Republicans:

“An unusually large number of Ohio Republican legislative incumbents faced primary challenges in May from conservative and tea-party candidates several of whom made Common Core a key issue. House GOP leaders really took notice when, in suburban Cincinnati, Rep. Peter Stautberg was handily defeated by former lawmaker Tom Brinkman — just two years after Stautberg easily won their first matchup. Observers say the key difference was Brinkman making Common Core opposition a major issue this time.”

It’s clear that the current debate in Columbus isn’t over the merits of Common Core, but the politics being driven by right-wingers. Indeed, one of the arguments against the national standards for math and English/language arts is that they were the brainchild of President Barack Obama.

Although that claim has been shown to be nothing more than an attempt to demonize the president — as is the Republican campaign against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)— the critics are undaunted.

It does not matter to them that the national standards were proposed by the business community, led by by such notables as Bill Gates, and embraced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed, the National Governors Association, made up of Republicans and Democrats, and the Council of State School Officers formed the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

No state was forced to adopt the standards, and Ohio was one of 45 that did initially. There have been some that have changed their minds.

It is a fact that absent the standards, many high school students from around the country are graduating unprepared for the workplace and in need of remediation in the basics if they head off to college.

Flimsy argument

As for the opponents’ contention that the standards dictate curriculum and undermine local control of schools, the Columbus Dispatch story showed the flimsiness of the argument.

The newspaper reported that the standards set goals for what students should know in kindergarten through 12th grade, while local school districts and teachers decide how to meet the goals. Thus, they determine the curriculum and what academic materials, textbooks or teaching methods should be used.

Without a persuasive case to be made against Common Core, opponents have taken to fear-mongering — with President Obama as the one to be feared the most — and bending the truth.

That’s why we contended at the beginning of the editorial that support in the Ohio House Rules Committee has been orchestrated.

According to the Dispatch, a number of personnel swaps in the committee all but guarantee that House Bill 597 will be reported out.

The Republican leadership in the General Assembly and Republican Gov. John Kasich should make it clear that HB 597’s days are numbered. It should die on the legislative vine.

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