ATLANTA — One of the most controversial bills of the two-year legislative term suddenly hit a brick wall Wednesday when the House Education Committee voted down legislation designed to pull Georgia out of the Common Core school standards.
The legislation would have ended Georgia’s three-year use of the multi-state education standards. When the committee, which includes several former teachers and administrators, voted on Senate Bill 167, five hands were raised in support, but 13 went up against it, effectively killing it.
The sponsor, Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, expressed disappointment and said there was no way to attach such a complex bill onto other legislation to keep it alive.
“We’ll just have to continue working,” he told reporters after the vote.
He said it took him two years to get the Senate to pass it Feb. 25, but that only allowed two weeks for discussions in the House of Representatives.
“It’s part of the legislative process, and sometimes the discussion takes longer,” he said.
The committee had held a four-hour hearing last week in which 65 witnesses spoke. Most were from educational, business and civic organizations opposed to Ligon’s bill, warning that it would have unintended consequences, such as preventing students from taking the SAT college-entrance exams.
Ligon told the committee those concerns were misplaced and based on misconceptions about the bill. To address them, he offered a revised draft of the bill, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy the committee.
Rep. Amy Carter, a Valdosta teacher who serves on the committee, tried to pin Ligon down before the vote.
“I ask you again, what are the specific standards that you have problems with?” asked Carter, a Republican like Ligon.
The senator didn’t offer any specifics but said much had been published nationally about the shortcomings of Common Core. He argued that any national standard would automatically be watered down and less rigorous than what Georgia had previously set on its own.
Earlier in the day, supporters of his bill joined him in a press conference. They represented groups usually more associated with conservative social issues than education, such as the Georgia Baptist Convention and Georgia Conservatives in Action.
Tanya Ditty, state director of Concerned Women of America, said the math and English standards that have already been agreed to by the states using the Common Core would soon be followed by history and social studies. And she said that would be a repeat of a similar attempt in the 1990s that stalled in the face of public outcry over its treatment of family values.
“Our concern has been that if we don’t stop this participation, that that’s going to be the next thing that will be brought in,” she said.
Ditty warned that global warming and evolution would likely be treated as settled questions in any national science standards without including the skepticism conservatives have for both.
Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project dismissed the reasoning of Common Core supporters who said it would help with the comparison of students from different states and smooth the transition of students moving from one location to another. She said maintaining each state’s control over what is taught was more important.
“That’s part of living in a decentralized, federal system,” she said.
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