Common Core has been front and center and, as Rob has often noted, the arena has gotten a little crazy a few times. Both sides have lined up their arguments in well-ordered regiments but for the casual reader, the facts can still seem pretty hard to nail down. We hear Common Core was written and developed by national corporations but then we hear it was developed by North Dakota teachers. A simple research of DPI documents proves that ND teachers did none of the writing.
We hear the standards in Common Core are harmful to our children’s education but then we hear they are rigorous and nationally benchmarked. Hopefully it helps to know that two leading curriculum experts who were part of the Common Core Validation Committee testified in the House Education Committee that the Common Core Standards are not only NOT rigorous or internationally benchmarked, they actually will make it difficult for students to get STEM degrees.
We can go back and forth on all the arguments, appealing to authority till the end of time. The real question before our legislators is: Who’s opinion matters to you?
In theory legislators should esteem all their constituents equally. Like no parent should have a favorite child, right? (Or at least no smart parent will ever admit it.) And yet, despite hearing the voices of thousands of people from around the state, it appears that legislators do have their favorite constituents: an elite few from the field of education.
During the House Education Committee hearing, we heard educator after educator take subtle—and not-so-subtle—swipes at the parents opposing Common Core. Virtually every educator said they only wanted Common Core because they were concerned for the kids, begging the question: Does it follow, then, that parents opposed to Common Core don’t care about their kids? One educator said “We’re dong this for the children, not for politics.” Another teacher said that if parents can’t do the math, then she’d be happy to re-educate them. And through it all, not one single legislator came to the defense of the parents in the room.
The room at this hearing was filled to capacity. About 50-60 people represented those opposed to HB1461. It’s safe to say that, with few exceptions, all of them were there on the taxpayer’s dime. By contrast, there were about 200 citizens from every walk of life representing those who want Common Core repealed. Every last one of them was there at their own expense, many taking unpaid leave from their jobs to be there.
At this hearing, we presented a stack of 1400 letters from citizens from around the state asking legislators to repeal Common Core. We know that NDU and other Common Core advocates circulated their version, a petition asking legislators to support Common Core. Even with school districts and unions pressuring teachers and state employees to sign the petition, they still only managed something around 600 signatures, proving the myth that teachers like Common Core. I’m guessing that the embarrassment over the muted response to their petition is the reason the Common Core proponents have yet to turn in their petition signatures.
They’ve now taken the petition off their website.
So to recap: Legislators saw 200 parents traveling to Bismarck to support HB1461, while only 50-60 educators came, most of them at taxpayer expense. They’ve received 1400 letter asking for Common Core to be repealed, and no corresponding petition from opponents to HB1461. One legislator told me that Representatives are receiving 99 emails in support of HB1461 to every one email opposed to the bill. And yet many—probably even most—of the legislators say they are still unsure how they will vote.
How can this be? Despite all evidence to the contrary, do legislators continue to buy into the story that Common Core opponents are a small, and therefore easily dismissed, minority? Or do the parents not really count? Maybe our opinion is only 3/5 of a teacher’s?
Of all the things I’ve seen in this whole Common Core debate, this contempt for parents and the breezy dismissal of their concerns has been the most disappointing. I hope that by the time the legislature holds their floor debate, some of these undecided legislators will have decided that it’s important to listen to and esteem all constituents equally, not defer to an elite few.
At its heart, that is what HB1461 does: gives parents and their elected representatives the voice they were denied when North Dakota signed on to Common Core.