Politics & Policy

Oklahoma Moves to Dump Common Core

Bucking the Trend: Range Riders statue at the Oklahoma state capitol
A landslide vote in the Sooner State follows Indiana withdrawal.

The Oklahoma state senate passed a bill Tuesday to withdraw the state from the Common Core standards. If the bill is signed by Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma will become the second state to withdraw from the Common Core.

Indiana withdrew last week, with Governor Mike Pence’s signature.

The bill to get the Sooner State was hugely popular in both houses. House Bill 3399 was approved by the state house in a 78 to 12 vote before being sent to the state senate for amendments. On Tuesday, the state senate voted 37 to 10 in favor of the bill. The bill will now go to the House for another vote before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Oklahoma was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards in June of 2010, after a vote by the state board of education. However, the Sooner State later dropped out of the Common Core’s standardized testing consortium in the summer of 2013. Fallin then issued an executive order in December directing the Secretary of Education to make sure the federal government “does not intrude in Oklahoma’s development of academic curricula and teaching strategies.”

State representative Jason Nelson, an author and co-sponsor of HB 3399, is confident that the bill will pass its last vote and that Fallin will sign it.

“The strong votes [for the bill] are not an illusion,” Nelson tells National Review Online. “There’s really strong support in both the house and the senate.”

Fallin did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. She has expressed reservations about a prior version of the bill.

On March 24 — on the same day Governor Pence signed legislation withdrawing Indiana from the Common Core standards — Fallin released a statement praising state authority and criticizing the Common Core.

“As we work to raise the bar in our schools, it is essential that higher academic standards are developed and implemented by and for Oklahomans,” Fallin wrote. “We have no interest in relinquishing control over education to the federal government or outside groups.”

Fallin wrote that she would support legislation repealing the Common Core, if the legislation “increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference.” She did not consider the earlier version of HB 3399 before amendments satisfactory, but but said she hopes it will “ultimately be signed into law.”

Nelson believes the legislature has fulfilled the governor’s request. “I think she would probably sign it because we’ve addressed the concerns that the standards are not watered down,” Nelson says.

HB 3399 still allows the Oklahoma state board of education — in consultation with the state’s higher education and vocational training systems– to preserve aspects of the Common Core standards, if it so chooses.

“Specifically, the bill says that the state cannot cede its control over our standards or our student assessments,” Nelson says, “or relinquish our authority over those standards and assessments.” The bill, he says, would still leave the state free to use selected Common Core standards.

If the bill is signed into law, Oklahoma will transition away from the Common Core standards over the next few years as it develops its own standards.

— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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