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Classroom Control Heats Up Colorado Gubernatorial Debate

In one brief response given during the gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper underscored a key difference from his opponent, Bob Beauprez, regarding education in Colorado.

Candidate Beauprez has stated that he “believes education outcomes improve for students when parents have more choice and control in education” and he would “get Colorado out of Common Core.” When pressed on the issue in Tuesday’s debate, though, Hickenlooper made a series of statements about the Common Core State Standards and why he supports them.

“Well, first, what he is referring to is the Common Core,” Hickenlooper responded to his opponent at the debate. “I call it the Colorado Core because we took those assessments systems. Each one of them has been tailored and is particular to Colorado’s conditions and schools and then we turn it over to the school districts and they have final control on how it works.”

Classroom control has been a driving argument in the debate over Common Core. Many Colorado politicians repeatedly state that the adoption of the standards is irrelevant because they are so similar to the existing Colorado standards. But some educators argue that Colorado’s existing standards were far superior.

In December 2012, former Common Core English Language Arts Validation Committee member Dr. Sandra Stotsky publicly asked “Why would Colorado trade in a silk purse for a sow’s ear” by accepting these standards? Further, some say the standards do not meet the needs of a STEM (Science, Technology, and Math) education as the math requirements end at algebra II.

It is not just the standards that Common Core opponents say undermine local classroom control, but also the periodic standardized tests. Race to the Top requires that standardized testing will follow a specified timeline consisting of two sessions per school year, raising concerns that teachers will be beholden to the tests rather than to the needs of their classrooms.

Hickenlooper continued, “And so you know, Common Core was started by Republican governors. It came nowhere out of Washington. It was a group of governors working together.” The cited National Governor’s Association (NGA), an organization comprised of all 50 state governors, plus leaders of the outlying U.S. Territories is currently chaired by Hickenlooper, a recent replacement for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

The NGA was also a bi-partisan organization in 2009 when the Common Core State Standards were conceived. In fact, then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) was instrumental in creating the standards as chairman of the NGA’s Education Commttee.

Common Core supporters cite the NGA’s role when the highly-publicized standards are referred to as a “state-led initiative.” The NGA involvement ensures adherence to laws that forbid the federal government from dictating curriculum at the local level. Some argue, though, that the standards represent a federal overreach because No Child Left Behind requires states and school districts to adopt the CCSS to meet eligibility requirement for federal grants.

In addition to funding, Common Core adoption means states must also join a testing consortia – either PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) or SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). Both consortia were formed with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. PARCC received $186 million and SBAC received $176 million.

According to expert stakeholders like Bill Gates and David Coleman, the federally-mandated tests were created to drive curriculum. Colorado became a member of PARCC in 2012 after the state legislature adopted a law requiring membership in one of the two consortia.

“And if we were to bow out of our obligation under PARCC,” Hickenlooper concluded, “which is our collaborative that we’re working on with 11 other states, right? We would have to come up with $25 to $30 million or be in violation of all the contracts we have because of No Child Left Behind…”

But that doesn’t account for the entire price tag. A Fordham Institute study on state-level Common Core implementation costs showed that if Colorado maintains current standards of education while implementing CCSS, including the PARCC tests, Colorado will need to come up with $156 million.

State involvement with PARCC, Common Core, and Race to the Top comes with bipartisan pressure against any action to roll back their influence in Colorado. Beauprez says he understands the challenge and is prepared to meet the NGA.

“Bob is looking forward to pulling together a coalition of governors, especially those here in Western states, to work together to push back on Washington,” said Allen Fuller, campaign communications director. “He will work with the NGA on policies that help Colorado and protect our citizens’ rights, but it’s the job of the governor to stand up for their state, and that’s just what Bob will do.“

The Hickenlooper campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Aimie Randall

Aimie Randall is a Colorado resident who is passionate about preserving the American way of life, even when much of the populace is disinterested in liberty. Twitter: @JennyLedge

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