Common Core & SB167: Where Are We Now?

Last Wednesday, the House Education Committee held a hearing over Senate Bill 167, a bill designed to stop and reverse the implementation of national standards for education.  The problems with the bill seem to have escaped notice in the Senate, but were put on glaring display before a packed House committee room (and overflow room).

Representative Amy Carter may have had the winning moment of the hearing when she asked Senator William Ligon, the bill’s sponsor but not necessarily the bill’s author, what were three actual standards he had issues with.  He didn’t have an answer, because the reality is, this bill isn’t about standards.  It’s about fear. It’s about appeasing a small faction of perpetually frustrated activists.  But it’s not about educating Georgia’s public school children.

Ligon also stumbled through questions about the bill’s ambiguous and contradictory language.  After several assertions that the bill didn’t intend to do what the plain language of the bill said, he was chided by one committee member with “People tend to take our laws rather literally. You know. And literally it says you can’t do it.”

The size and scope of the opposition to SB 167 was also somewhat surprising.  While Common Core has been an “issue” within uber-conservative circles since Glenn Beck decided to (erroneously) proclaim it a federal initiative last April, mainstream Georgians were slow to come to its defense. That’s likely because most in education circles have already been through the public hearings of Kathy Cox’s curriculum redesign a decade ago, or the Common Core adoption four years ago.   Most considered this issue “settled”, and have moved on, unaware that Common Core is this year’s cause celeb replacing Agenda 21 and fluoridated water.

When you look at the breadth and depth of the organizations and people represented on both sides (see list at end of post, and consider the numbers behind each organization), it no longer looked like a fair fight.  “Common Core” may still be an issue near and dear to right side of the conservative base, but a haphazardly worded, contradictory SB 167 steeped in paranoia and loaded with unintended consequences woke up educational, business, and civic interests.  It was clear during the meeting (and with an informal whip count taken afterward by those opposed to Ligon’s bill) that SB 167 didn’t have support to pass out of committee, much less the entire House.

To their credit, the members of the committee took all sides interests to heart.  They continued to try to find a solution that asserts Georgia’s standards for schools will always be decided by Georgians, and that student data would be protected and never sold for profit.  Vice-Chairman Mike Dudgeon and Rep Ed Setzler, neither of whom would be confused as a RINO/Squish, took input from all and re-worked the bill into a proposed House substitute.  That bill was released Monday evening.

The reaction from Senator Ligon and supporters of SB 167 was immediate.  They wanted their bill, and do not appear to want any part of the House substitute.

This reaction has appeared to galvanize feelings in the House.  Those members, especially members of the Education Committee, feel they have been dealing in good faith to achieve a good and workable bill.  Some close to the process note, however, that every time a change was proposed to Senator Ligon, he would have to “get with his people” and come back with an answer.

Here, a problem is clear.  The House attempted to craft a bill and an open and transparent manner.  Senator Ligon is doing the work of people who are unnamed, undisclosed, and uncompromising.

While the Committee substitute bill still gives too many nods to paranoia, it is a significantly better than the Senate’s version, which is anti-Science, anti-technology, and would allow each school system to revert to the curriculum of their choice for the next two years while new standards are designed.  Teachers could be faced with a third or even fourth set of standards and approaches during a 6-year span.

Senator Ligon has let it be known that he will not support the House’s substitute.  It’s clear that Senator Ligon’s bill will not receive support in the House.  We may be at a stalemate.

And that, in reality, isn’t so bad.  Why? Because Common Core started here in Georgia, and is based on Georgia’s curriculum circa 2005.  There are steps that Georgia can and should take to minimize federal intrusion onto these voluntary standards.  But – and this one is big – these should not be reactionary steps to placate the paranoid.  They must be made with children and their educators in mind.

SB 167 does not meet this threshold.  Senator Ligon (or those he is speaking for) does not appear willing to accept substantive changes.   The standoff may be just enough to get us away from making hasty, politically charged decisions before an election, and give us a year to study, cool, and ultimately tweak only what is necessary to make sure these standards are what is best for Georgia’s kids.




Speaking in favor of Common Core (and against SB 167) were representatives of the following organizations:

John Barge (Ga Dept of Education)

GA Association of Educational Leaders

Troup County Schools

An Assistant Professor of Chemistry

PolicyBEST (hey, that’s me!)

Georgia Bio

Georgia Education Coalition (Cartersville City, Cherokee, Cobb, Coweta, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Savannah-Chatham County schools)

Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Mission Readiness

Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Gwinnett County Public Schools

Georgia School Boards Association

Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathmatics

Clark County Schools

Georgia School Superintendent’s Association

United Way of Greater Atlanta

Lee County Schools

Georgia Cyber Academy

Georgia PTA


100 Black Men

Georgia Science Teachers Association

Software & Information Industry Association

Tift County Schools

StudentsFirst (school choice organization)

DeKalb County Schools

Atlanta Public Schools

Georgia Council of Teachers of English

Georgia Independent College Association

Captain Planet Foundation

And various folks listed as “citizen”, retired teacher, etc.

Organizations Speaking Against Common Core/For SB 167

The Georgia Republican Assembly

Concerned Women of America

American Principles In Action

Georgia Baptist Convention


And various people listed as “citizen”, “former math teacher”, educator, and professor.


    • Charlie says:

      There’s a term in politics called “salience” , which in context means awareness.

      SB 167 didn’t have awareness of the general public to bring all sides to the debate, and voice concerns. As such, the well organized and noisy minority were heard. The rest of us, frankly, had yet to lace up our track shoes.

      That changed once we read the bill. A lot of us from different backgrounds, different spheres of influence, and different goals sounded alarm bells. The bill achieved salience.

      As such, it achieved new scrutiny in the House, and by the Governor’s office. To their credit, they realized the multiple levels of unintended consequences if SB 167 as passed by the Senate would become law. They smartly chose otherwise.

      I don’t blame the Senate for passing. We the people hadn’t shown up, and they listened to those that had. Luckily, the House took the time to take a deep breath, and listen to ALL the people, not just those that made Common Core the caricature that it has become.

      The result is that GA’s education remains on the new track that Kathy Cox and Sonny Perdue set us on a decade ago, that is already paying dividends. Instead of another reorganization fire drill, we proceed onward and upward.

      Today was a good day.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        Yes it was a good day, but come on, you don’t blame the Senate for a near GOP unanimous vote? It passed the Senate 02/25/2014, not crossover day or Sine Die day where thy “Yeas” can claim they didn’t know what they were voting on.

        Guys like Fran Millar and others knew better, but went along to get along. (I’m guessing Millar got scared because of a mailer pointed at him about SB141 sent a day or two ahead of the vote to his constituents from “A Healthy Georgia”, what I suspect is an astroturf group funded largely by a party that is likewise opposed to Obamacore.) Legislation can as well be handled by referendum rather than a General Assembly if the public has to show up to object to tripe like SB167 when there was plenty of time to review the legislation.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          PS – You were right that the Tea Party and not OWS should have been Time’s 2011 People of the Year. I’m feeling for you dealing with the Tea Party monster.

          • Charlie says:

            This comment deserves a whole column, and should I remember to get to it, will probably be one, framed in the context of “What I learned/what I had to work on this session.”

            The answer would/will hopefully surprise or at least somewhat enlighten you. Or others. Or at least not bore everyone. Or something.

        • Charlie says:

          Here is what I am told (via Facebook friend) is Fran Millar’s statement on his vote:

          As you know I have been an ardent supporter of the Common Core standards. I do have concerns about the assessment portion. I voted for SB 167 because I knew deficiencies would be addressed in the House. Also if there is a conference committee then I would possibly be eligible since I voted in the affirmative.

          It was gratifying to see the following results of two 2013 Georgia teacher surveys on Common Core: A 2013 survey taken for the state Board found:74 percent of K-5 teachers said the English/language arts standards were clear, coherent and age
          appropriate 74 percent of K-5 teachers said the math standards were clear, coherent and age appropriate 62 percent of middle and high school teachers said the math standards were clear, coherent and age appropriate A 2013 survey taken for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators found: 75 percent of educators said they were supportive of Common Core 85 percent said Common Core was important or very important.

          //What I know of Senator Millar is that he is a man who understands process but doesn’t play games, nor mince words. As such, and as someone who endeavors to see the whole chess board, I have no issue taking him at his word.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Good work in helping to shed some light on the Common Core issue, Charlie.

            I have a few (seemingly relatively very-minor) issues with Common Core, but I don’t think that Common Core is part of a sinister Islamic plot to advance mandatory female circumcisions in the U.S., nor do I think that it is a good idea to deal with Common Core’s flaws by taking very-extreme steps like doing what appears to be banning SAT, ACT and AP testing.

            I can get extremely paranoid and downright ornery with the best of ’em when needed, but not on this one…sorry.

            Anyways, keep up the good work.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            I’ll go with the conference committee portion of the explanation, especially given his past experience on the House education committee.

            Millar demonstrated he’s capable of bucking the caucus as one of only two SB98 GOP nays. Wish I could recollect the name of the guy supporting SB141 and opposing Obamacore, that I suspect bankrolled the flyer to Millar’s constituents targeting Millar about the time of the SB167 vote.

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