By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday was a bad day for conservatives who wanted to see Alabama opt out of the controversial Common Core Standards for Alabama schools. The Senate Education Policy Committee met on Wednesday to vote on legislation that would have repealed the top down education standards that gives the federal government unprecedented power over what is taught in Alabama’s schools. The repeal legislation was opposed by Democrats, but was supported by Alabama Republicans including Governor Robert Bentley, GOP Chairman Bill Armistead, the Alabama Republican Executive Committee, Alabama Eagle Forum, the Alabama Federation of Republican Women, the Rainy Day Patriots, Alabamians United for Excellence in Education, and many county Republican Executive Committees.
Republican Senators Bill Holtzclaw (R) from Madison and Trip Pittman (R) from Montrose refused to pass the bill out of the Education Policy Committee unless a much weakened version of the bill written by Holtzclaw was substituted instead. When the sponsor, Sen. Dick
Brewbaker (R) from Montgomery refused, the two Senators voted with Democrats not to carry Brewbaker’s bill over.
Sen. Holtzclaw said on his blog afterwards, “I remind everyone that this debate didn’t start this session with the filing of SB190. It started in November 2010 when the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards via a resolution, against the wishes of then Governor Elect Bentley (elected in Nov 2010 but did not take office until Jan 2011). I met with the bill sponsor and with groups opposing common core after today’s committee meeting. In the committee meeting, after the substitute was carried over, I made comments referencing this to an intervention at a family reunion. We, the conservative family, need to work this out seeing this through to some conclusion. I feel that my substitute was the vehicle to do that – it was not THE answer but it was AN answer – and I am disappointed that by all indications the effort remains unresolved and as such, the family remains divided.”
Reaction from some more conservative elements was fast and fierce. Conservative activist and former candidate for Agriculture and Industries Commissioner, Dale Peterson said on his blog, “Let’s do some of that “name names and take no prisoners stuff.” Today, in Montgomery, Dick Brewbaker stood for the children and parents of Alabama, as did several other senators, including Shadrack McGill.
Unfortunately, several senators sold out the people of Alabama: Senator Bill Holtzclaw who introduced an alternate bill that was a bunch of useless rhetoric, Senator Tripp Pittman who voted for the useless rhetoric and Senator Slade Blackwell, who didn’t have enough guts to show up!”
The conservative group Alabama Legislative Watchdogs said on Facebook, “Senator Bill Holtzclaw and Senator Trip Pitman SOLD US OUT ON COMMON CORE!!!! SB190 is DEAD unless someone files another Bill. Call them NOW!!!”
The President of the Alabama Republican Federation of Republican women, Elois Zeneah threatened to target Republicans in the 2014 primary were out of step with the rest of the party on this issue. Zeanah was quoted by Al.com, “Conservatives feel betrayed by Republicans.” “Parents are waking up and parents are going to be the driving force in the next election.”
Alabama Eagle Forum wrote, “Common Core must be repealed. The standards are owned by private interests (the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers). These standards were incentivized by the federal government and will be measured and controlled going forward by assessments that are aligned with Common Core. We want excellent, not common standards, under Alabama, not national or federal governance. Alabama’s prior Math and English Language Arts Standards were more rigorous than the unproven common core regimen; they were improving student achievement; and they did reflect ALABAMA values!”
Sen. Holtzclaw wrote, “A brief recap of today’s meeting – the bill sponsor, and chair of the Education Policy Committee, brought SB190 up for consideration at the start of the meeting. He then offered an amendment addressing several areas, most notably the legislative oversight portion of the bill. The amendments were accepted but prior to voting to move the bill out of committee I offered a substitute bill. The substitute was read at length (2 1/2 pages).
The substitute addressed three key areas, one of which I previously blogged on at length – the State Board of Education cannot cede control of Alabama’s Education Standards to any entity outside of the state of Alabama.
The second element reinforced that the State Board of Education must hold public meetings in each district prior to approving curriculum changes and that they must involve stakeholders to include teachers and parents in the process.
The third element ensured data collected on students could only be used for legitimate educational purposes. Of note, the substitute bill was written entirely by me, and contained existed elements – to varying degrees – of the sponsor’s original bill. The committee chair moved to table my substitute bill; the committee vote did not support his motion. He then moved to carry over SB190 indefinitely by voice vote. I voted to not carry the bill over as I believe we need to come to some conclusion on this issue.”
It seems very unlikely that the repeal effort can move forward in the Alabama Senate in this legislative session, unless the Republican Senate Caucus can come to some sort of agreement quickly.