Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to eliminate Common Core won’t involve a swift overhaul of education policy, but rather what he called a “laborious” process to review the reading, writing and math standards.
The governor wrote in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed this week that three separate panels will be involved in his push to “dismantle” Common Core, an effort that resurrects a long-simmering debate in Georgia politics.
The Common Core standards, established with the help of then-Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, were meant to ensure students nationwide learned the same concepts at the same time. But they ran afoul of groups that saw it as an effort to increase federal influence over k-12 education to the detriment of local control.
Kemp wrote that a citizens’ review committee will analyze feedback on a state survey on the Common Core standards, and a committee of teachers will also offer insight. An academic review committee will then review recommendations that will be considered by the state Board of Education.
“This process, while laborious, will help us eliminate the remnants of Common Core and ensure that our students are given the best opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed,” Kemp wrote in the op-ed.
“We will do the heavy lifting now to ensure a better, brighter tomorrow. We will reject the status quo and put students first.”
Kemp previously told the AJC that he and state school Superintendent Richard Woods were discussing ways to get rid of the program with the goal of “letting our teachers teach,” though he offered few specifics on his plan.
The trio of committees is one way to push through changes that Kemp can’t take on unilaterally. State law limits his authority to immediately end the state’s use of the standards, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did when he signed an executive order.
Kemp’s plans have sparked backlash from critics. Some analysts, parents and lawmakers stressed the need for standards and uniformity in teaching. Others warned of the perils of resurrecting a political fight that took energy and attention away from other pressing education issues.
But the demise of Common Core is welcomed by some conservatives and school administrators who see the standards as too rigid and worry they amount to a federal takeover of local education policy.
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Common Core was largely met with applause, not derision, when Georgia adopted its take on the standards in July 2010. The standards say what students should know when; they do not dictate curriculum or how to teach it. For instance, a Georgia standard for third grade: “Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.”
Supporters, including the state education system under Woods’ predecessor, Republican John Barge, called them an important economic development tool and not a “hidden agenda” from overreaching federalists.
But a tea party-infused opposition erupted among ruling Republicans a few years later and by 2013 it had mushroomed into one of the most controversial issues in Georgia Republican politics, with school boards across the state fighting over the standards and political candidates allying with grassroots groups to oppose the program.
In recent years, the Common Core debate has been supplanted by illegal immigration, abortion restrictions and gun rights as the dominant issues in the Georgia GOP. It’s also been overshadowed by other k-12 priorities for Republicans, such as school vouchers and tax credit scholarships.
Still, it holds a significant appeal to many in the state GOP’s deeply conservative base – the bloc of voters that helped Kemp clinch his November victory.
At the Georgia GOP’s convention in Savannah, Kemp’s pledge to “dismantle Common Core, reduce high-stakes testing” and take on the education status quo was greeted with a crescendo of applause from the 1,500 delegates.