By: Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Ever since the federal government announced the introduction of the Common Core educational standards as one of the factors considered in awarding federal education grants through the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program, the issue has caused deep divides in the State. While Alabama’s GOP majority is usually tight knit, this particular topic has stirred up much controversy over the last couple of years.
Last year’s session was filled with clear, concise statements on both sides of the proverbial battlefield. Adamant Common Core opponents, somewhat led by Representative Scott Beason of Gardendale, got the point across. To not – at the very least – let Common Core repeal or revision come up for a vote would be “tragic.” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, however, saw it quite differently. Common Core should not have – and did not – go up for a vote last legislative session.
With the 2014 legislative just beginning, not a lot seems to have changed. While opponents still rigidly advocate repeal of the standards, Del Marsh is still not having it. Both last year and this year, Marsh has said his position on Common Core is steadfast. The Alabama Board of Education makes policy in the area, and the legislature does not.
Yesterday, the first legislative day of the 2014 session, an anti-Common Core rally was held on the steps of the State House, featuring keynote speaker John Killian, president of the Alabama Baptists. Senator Scott Beason also gave a crowd-pleasing speech.
A few hours later, Senator Del Marsh towards the end of a Rainy Day Patriots event in the State House, and the issue was – again – Common Core.
Part of Senator Marsh’s statement is below. He has been criticized by some for his failure to appear at a Common Core rally that was held specifically in Anniston, the top ALGOP Senator’s hometown.
“I want to lay my position out there. I firmly believe that the people elected to the school board are elected to do their job. I think the school board of this state should be making policy decisions, and as voters, if we don’t like that, we vote them out. I’m going to continue to listen…. and I’m going to make the meetings that I can, but it’s going to be hard for me to change my position that the school board or elected body – you’ve voted them in and you can vote them out. Now I’ve tried. I’ve tried to connect those dots. I can’t stand here and tell you that I can honestly connect them at this time. However, I’ve also challenged the State Board of Education to show me …. that the federal government is not controlling our schools.”
Many opponents of the standards have indeed voiced their concerns to the state Board of Education. Last week, though, several ALBOE business meetings were postponed due to a lack of quorum. While only four members showed up on two separate occasions, the quorum for conducting business is five members. The Board of Education cited many reasons for absences, including sickness, family emergencies, and travel delays. At least one member, Stephanie Ball, spoke at an anti-Common Core event the same week.