ATLANTA — Only one of eight candidates for state superintendent of schools favored keeping the Common Core education standards Tuesday.

The seven Republicans participating in a forum before the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors gave various reasons for jettisoning the multistate standards that have drawn objections from grassroots conservatives. The chamber has come out in favor of the standards, and moments before the forum, the board heard a national expert list its virtues.

The lone Democrat in the forum, Rep. Alisha Morgan of Austell sided with the business organization.

“I absolutely support Common Core,” she said, adding that as a member of the House Education Committee and as a parent, she sees it as effective in raising student performance. “I’m proud of the product.”

But Mary Kay Bacallao, a college math professor and member of the Fayette County Board of Education, said the standards are less rigorous than the state’s previous standards.

Several of the Republicans called for the flexibility to let local school boards have greater say in standards.

“Centralization is not what drives success. The chamber knows that because y’all are business leaders,” said Nancy Jester, a professional actuary and former member of the DeKalb County Board of Education. “We know what drives success, and that’s competition.”

Matt Shultz, a former teacher who now owns a business and serves on the Bartow County school board, said there may be benefits to the Common Core but convincing the public to accept it is impossible.

“We have lost the marketing war on Common Core. That’s just a statement of fact,” he said. “… I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can push this Common Core on the state.”

During the forum, the candidates tried to show how they are different from each other and similar to the chamber members. Fitz Johnson, a consultant who is leading the fundraising contest among candidates of both parties, noted his experience building an international defense-contracting company with his family and selling it. “I’ve sat out there where you are,” he told them.

Drew Evangelista, the former head of AT&T’s mobile learning, stressed his understanding of technology.  “It’s a bit frustrating seeing what’s available and what’s out there and not having it available in school for my daughters,” he said.

Two candidates have run for the post before. Kira Willis, a veteran teacher who was the Libertarian nominee in 2010, would put additional money toward teacher pay. School administrator Richard Woods, who lost the GOP nomination four years ago, wants to reduce testing and paperwork while giving teachers more autonomy.

Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at and (404) 589-8424.


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