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Legislative Republican Leadership Stands In Agreement with Obama

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Few Republicans in legislative leadership admit sharing common cause with President Barack Obama, but when it comes to charter schools and Common Core they are in full agreement.

It might come as a surprise to many conservatives that Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) agree with the President when it comes to Common Core and charter schools.

Of course, some might say they agree with Obama on corruption and the way they pass legislation, without debate or transparency.

Many Republicans in the State House and Senate ran campaigns that vilified Obama, but they do agree on a few things.

The President has said that charter schools are “incubators of innovation” and that they are “an important partner in widening the circle of opportunity for students who need it most.”

These words could have easily come from the mouths of Speaker Hubbard.

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This is also true of Common Core standards that are opposed by the National Republican Party as well as the Alabama GOP.

Yet, the House and Senate leadership remain fully committed to its implementation in the State.

Former Gov. Bob Riley has criticized the Obama administration for making Common Core unpopular, because he linked the program to Federal Race to the Top grant money.

However, in the Heart of Dixie, Republicans are, for the most part, for charter schools and against Common Core. Republicans, who lean more toward the Tea Party, find both a wrong-headed and an unnecessary intrusion and fusion of the State and Federal government sticking their nose into local matters.

For years, the GOP has trumpeted charter schools as the fix for failing public schools.

Marsh, who has been a constant champion of charter schools, has recently admitted that they are not a “silver bullet” for the State’s education ills, but rather an alternative.

In this, Marsh offers an intellectually honest answer as to why he is promoting charter schools.

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The 2013 National Charter School Study, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, finds that charter school successes and failures are, statistically, a mixed-bag.

CREDO’s 2009 study, the first to take a comprehensive look at the impact of charter schools on student performance, found that students in charter schools did not perform as well in the aggregate as those attending traditional public schools.

The 2013 study had more positive news for those who back the idea of charters. A analysis of student performance in charter schools in 26 states and New York City found “that the charter school sector is getting better on average and that charter schools are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged, and special education students.”

CREDO reports that in the 26 states studied “…25 percent have significantly stronger learning gains in reading than their traditional school counterparts, while 56 percent showed no significant difference and 19 percent of charter schools have significantly weaker learning gains. In mathematics, 29 percent of charter schools showed student learning gains that were significantly stronger than their traditional public school peers’, while 40 percent were not significantly different and 31 percent were significantly weaker.”

Despite Republican’s concerns over Common Core and the inconstant results of charter schools both seemed destined to be a of education’s future.

Over the objections of the State’s Superintendents Association, the Alabama Association of School Boards and Alabama Education Association the charter school bill should pass easily.

In the Senate, Marsh did take the time to answer the concerns raised by those opposed to the charter school measure.

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Still unanswered, are the questions over Common Core.

But, if the past is prologue the State’s legislative leadership will again side with President Obama, not on the campaign trail by at least in legislation.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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