By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Nearly 80 grassroots activists met Tuesday at the Alabama State Capital on strategies to convince legislators to embrace a more conservative approach to state government. Key in that agenda is overturning the nationalization of education thru the controversial Common Core Standards. Most had attended the Fourth Annual ‘Welcome Back’ rally at 11:00 am in front of the legislature.
The conservative group then retired to strategy sessions beginning at 1:00 pm in the Star Wars Room on the Eighth floor of the building, where a variety of speakers explained how to lobby elected officials, how to use social media to build political organizations, internet campaigning etc. After 4:30 pm, state Representative Mack Buttram (R) from Cullman addressed the group and told them that while he appreciated the tea party, he was not in favor of repealing common core.
Representative Buttram said an, “Elected board of education should not have interference from the state legislature.” While many legislators have expressed that view, Buttram went further. The North Alabama Republican legislator said, “I have spent a lot of time studying this,” and the Common Core Standards, “Will help the children.” Buttram said that he is confident in that opinion, is confident in the research that led to development of the new education standards and supports common core.
Buttram said that Alabama industries have expressed dissatisfaction with Alabama high school graduates and believes the state should have more career technical training. Buttram said, “Students coming out of high school have basic knowledge, bit do not have the skills necessary to move up into the work force.” Rep. Buttram said that too many Alabama students lack the technical skills to put them on to a career path out of high school. Of those that go to college, one third have to have remedial education. Students who have spent 12 or 13 years in Alabama public schools go to college and then have to pay the college to teach them material that they should have learned in high school or earlier. Buttram said that too many students are spending five years to finish college, if they finish at all. Representative Buttram said that Common Core was needed because of the failures in the Alabama Education system. Buttram said that the Alabama Educations system is not meeting the needs of industry in Alabama.
Rep. Buttram said, “The standards the Alabama board of education has adopted are good mstandards.” Rep. Buttram said that it was a Republican Principle that an elected board of education should not have interference from the state legislature. “You do not want the Alabama legislature setting education curriculum.” “I am comfortable with the Board of Education taking the lead on this. I am not going to take any action on this.”
When members of the audience expressed concerns about the material being taught under Common Core Buttram said that the state of Alabama had a textbook committee that approved every text.
State Representative Buttram said, “My concern is for the students in the classroom.” “The Alabama College and Career standards are emphasizing that by 9th grade we are developing a career path for each student.” Buttram said that he hoped that they can move that up to the eighth grade.
Buttram’s comments followed a statement earlier in the session by state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston. Senator Marsh said, “The people who are elected to the school board are elected to make policy decisions.” “Go and vote those people out if they don’t agree with your position.”
Sen. Marsh said that he had met with Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale earlier in the day. Sen. Beason has sponsored legislation to reject Common Core and was going to meet with the total caucus at breakfast at 8:00 am tomorrow and will talk with the Caucus about Common Core then.
Sen. Marsh said when asked, ‘Why not have a vote.’ “I believe in separation of powers. Dr. Bice and the school board are on the executive side.”
Rep. Buttram serves on the Education Policy Committee that would need to act on the repeal Common Core proposal for it to come to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives. Sen. Marsh, as Senate President Pro Tem, has tremendous powers to set the schedule of what bills are addressed by the Senate.
Alabama Legislative Watchdogs Coordinator Deanna Frankowski said, “What we did Friday night scared some people,” referring to the anti-Common Core rally in Anniston. “I want an up or down vote,” of the legislature on overturning the Common Core standards.
Some legislators have been telling the tea parties and other groups opposed to Common Core that if they wait, then next year the legislature can overturn Common Core. Republican moderates like Representative Buttram and Sen. Del Marsh are now indicating that they won’t ever support a repeal if it means disputing the Alabama Board of Education.