published Monday, March 10th, 2014

Common Core critics working to slow, stop implementation

Bill Haslam
Bill Haslam
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Critics of Common Core standards are hoping to use legislation that broadens the scope of American history teaching requirements to bypass committees that have been holding up action on their bills to terminate or delay Common Core.

The history bill [SB 1266] has passed the Senate and was scheduled for a House vote last week. But several amendments relating to Common Core were filed and the sponsor, Republican Rep. Timothy Hill of Blountville, put off consideration until Thursday.

The proposed amendments range from one by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, that would repeal all Common Core state standards to a proposal by House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley that would postpone new tests required for Common Core until July 1, 2016. The tests, known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College or Career, are now scheduled to be launched in the coming school year.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, has filed two amendments. One would declare that PARCC results cannot be used in teacher evaluations and the other gives parents the right to block their child's participation in any test that is not part of classroom instruction or required by federal law. PARCC is regulated by state, not federal, law.

Fitzhugh has another amendment requiring that the state commissioner of education be a licensed teacher in Tennessee or have 10 years' experience as a teacher in another state "immediately preceding" appointment as commissioner -- requirements that current Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman could not meet.

A week earlier, eight anti-Common Core bills wound up being held by the House Education Subcommittee until the panel's last meeting. Womick was quoted by The Tennessean newspaper as saying members were "being pressured by the administration and by leadership in the House not to vote for these bills."

Gov. Bill Haslam is a staunch defender of Common Core and is backed by House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Elsewhere in the General Assembly, a House subcommittee has advanced legislation that requires approval in a local referendum before any county commission or city council can raise property taxes by 25 percent or more during a 12-month period.

Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, said his bill [HB 201] was inspired by the city of Lavergne raising its property tax rate by 100 percent through a city council vote. Smyrna at one point was considering a 46 percent property tax increase, he said. Both towns are in Rutherford County.

Members of the House Local Government Subcommittee observed that residents elect council members and commissioners and have the option of voting them out of office in the next election. Sparks said that, by then, it's too late.

Rep. Steve Hall, R-Knoxville, agreed.

"The damage has already been done; the taxes have already been increased," Hall said.

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