Herbert on Common Core: 'We are going to settle this question once and for all'

Published: Thursday, July 17 2014 1:00 p.m. MDT

Education officials, both local and national, have long maintained that Utah continues to hold control over education under the Common Core and in 2012, legal staff with the Utah Legislature determined that Utah was free to withdraw from the Core and under no requirement to disclose personal student information.

When asked how the current review would differ from past reports on the Common Core, Herbert said he hopes the current reviews will provide some finality on the issue.

"I don’t know that it’s exactly different, I think it is just timely," he said. "Whatever has been done in the past has not resolved the dispute. There’s too much animus out there with the groups on all sides of the issue and it’s just time for us to kind of push the pause button and say, 'Let's re-evaluate. Let’s ascertain that we have Utah standards.'"

State School Board Chairman David Crandall said he welcomes the review and he looks forward to the findings of both the higher education committee and the attorney general's office.

"I agree with the principles (Herbert) laid out about having high standards, limited federal involvement in education and local control," Crandall said. "I agree with all that and I think it's wholly appropriate for higher education to define what it means to be college-ready since they control college."

He also said he appreciates the governor's efforts to resolve the contention that has surrounded Common Core since its adoption in 2010, but he added that some dissent is likely to continue no matter the outcome of the review.

"Realistically we realize that nothing is ever settled once and for all," he said. "I do appreciate what he’s doing and think it will help to calm some of the commotion across the state."

Oak Norton, a critic of the standards affiliated with the group Utahns Against Common Core, said in an email that he, too, welcomes a review by the attorney general's office.

"There are some significant challenges we face and it is paramount that we do everything in our power to shift to true local control where parents, teachers and students have maximum control over the educational pathway our children pursue," he said.

JoDee Sundberg, a member of the Alpine School Board, described her district as a "hotbed" of disagreement on the Common Core. She said an in-depth legal review of the Core will be beneficial for resolving questions and concerns.

"I think that (Herbert) has taken a great step forward," she said. "He’s taken leadership to put at ease questions and concerns."

When asked about the potential for overreach at the state level, Sundberg said that the Legislature, State School Board and local school boards all have a role in overseeing public education. She said that as long as each body can perform its individual responsibilities, students will be well-served.

"As long as everybody is doing their job in a collaborative effort, the right things will happen," she said.

Following Herbert's remarks, the State Board of Education released a statement of appreciation for the governor's committment to high educational standards, student data privacy and adequate teacher training.

"For decades, the board has regularly reviewed educational standards and has traditionally involved numerous professionals and outside sources in the process," the board's statement read. "We look forward to seeing higher education now even more involved in that process."

Reports from both the Utah Attorney General's Office and the higher education review committee are expected to be completed before the end of the year, and public comment on the governor's website will be open through the end of August.

The review committee will be chaired by Rich Kendell, education adviser to former Gov. Mike Leavitt and who more recently served as interim president of Southern Utah University. The committee will also include Matt Holland, president of Utah Valley University; Rob Brems, president of the Utah College of Applied Technology; Elizabeth Hitch of the Utah System of Higher Education; and Alan Hall, chairman of Prosperity 2020.

Other members of the committee have yet to be announced.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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