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Utah GOP convention agenda includes vote on Common Core

Published: Wednesday, May 15 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

The Common Core is a series of academic benchmarks aimed at preparing students for higher education. They have been voluntarily adopted by 46 states, including Utah, in the subjects of mathematics and English language arts, but have come under fire by groups who view the standards as an intrusion into local control by the federal government.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of the Common Core State Standards are taking their fight to Utah's Republican Party, asking delegates to vote on a strongly worded resolution opposing the new educational benchmarks at the party's organizing committee this Saturday.

The resolution, submitted by Cherilyn Eagar, calls for Utah's withdrawal from the Common Core and asks the state Legislature to potentially hold back funding that could be used in conjunction with the standards.

"Therefore be it resolved, that we call on the governor and the Utah State School Board to withdraw from, and we ask the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with the Common Core State Standards Initiative/Utah’s Core and any other alliance that promotes and tests for un-American and inferior curricula, standards and assessments," the resolution states.

But Eagar's resolution comes with a caveat from a GOP committee appointed to review this year's proposals. The three-member resolutions committee passed down an unfavorable recommendation due to what members deemed to be "inaccurate or misleading data that is inflammatory in nature."

"It is not an expression against Common Core or for Common Core," Kitty Dunn, who chaired the committee, said of the unfavorable recommendation. "It was simply that some of the information that was presented in the resolution was not factual."

The committee's disclaimer also follows a resolution passed earlier this month by the State School Board, in which the state's top education officials urged Utah's lawmakers to "resist the demands calling to 'remove Utah from the Common Core' based on erroneous information."

Eagar, a former U.S. Senate candidate, said she is not discouraged by the GOP committee's unfavorable recommendation.

"It really has very little impact on the outcome of a resolution," she said. "It was three people that were appointed to review the resolution and we have such a huge following."

The Common Core is a series of academic benchmarks aimed at preparing students for higher education. They have been voluntarily adopted by 46 states, including Utah, in the subjects of mathematics and English language arts, but have come under fire by groups who view the standards as an intrusion into local control by the federal government.

In the resolution, the Common Core is described as a binding agreement that bypassed the state Legislature, a violation of state and federal privacy laws, undermining to teachers and parents and contrary to American and Republican ideals.

Eagar said her opposition to the standards is focused on what she sees as a loss of local control, a decline in academic excellence and a potential loss of privacy. She said the Common Core is the latest piece of a larger national trend that has seen education shift from a focus on academic learning to an emphasis on workforce and skills training.

"We’ve lowered the basketball standard so that everyone can make a basket and that harms everyone," she said. "I’m a former teacher, I know from experience that when I expect the very best from my students and I don’t try to play to the middle, that the kids who are maybe the slower students are really encouraged to do better."

But Common Core supporters maintain that the standards represent an increase in academic rigor and leave control of classroom curriculum in local hands. Chet Linton, CEO and president of the School Improvement Network, praised the standards, saying they are designed to increase the global effectiveness of U.S. schools and are an improvement to Utah's previous educational benchmarks.

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