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My view: New Common Core lawsuit fights for local control

By Connor Boyack

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 4 2014 9:34 a.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, Aug. 4 2014 9:34 a.m. MDT

Porter Davidson of Payson gathers with Common Core opponents at the State Board of Education office in Salt Lake City on in this Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 file photo.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Two weeks ago, Gov. Herbert held a press conference to announce that he’s “listening” to Common Core critics and that he has asked the Attorney General to conduct a “thorough legal review” of these untested, yet quickly adopted, education standards.

Whether or not the governor is seriously concerned about Common Core’s legal implications — given re-election pressures, it’s reasonable to suggest his inquiry may be more superficial than substantive — he’s right to seek a review. Libertas Institute has identified numerous violations of the law in an investigation ongoing since January.

Unfortunately, Herbert and others are primarily focused on the “federal entanglement” as a result of the strings attached to federal grants sought out and obtained by the Utah State Board of Education. This is too narrow a focus for reviewing the full legal landscape of Common Core. Other issues exist and serve as the basis for a lawsuit we have organized.

For starters, state law (§ 53A-1-402.6) requires the Board to establish and implement standards “in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers and parents.” The point of this law is to ensure local control and buy-in of whatever standards the board adopts.

Lawmakers effectively committed to these affected groups that their feedback and concerns would be listened to, and perhaps acted upon — a commitment that the Board violated. At no point prior to binding millions of Utahns to this new program did the board consult with these various constituencies. Instead, the board consulted with out-of-state consortia and other related groups, accepting Common Core in rapid fashion in hopes of obtaining the federal “Race to the Top” grant. (Utah was not given the grant, though remains bound to Common Core.)

The plaintiffs in this case are from among these disenfranchised groups — parents, teachers and school board members who were not consulted and who were therefore denied an opportunity to voice their concerns to the decision makers.

The other part of the lawsuit highlights the fact that the board failed to utilize the required rule-making process to adopt education standards, which would have provided a transparent process including a standard public comment period during which concerned parents, teachers and others could have objected or suggested alterations. Once again, the public was denied due process in reviewing and commenting on this massive change in education policy.

Common Core is set to go into full effect in Utah this fall, subjecting students around the state to a new program that was never pilot tested or held up to any serious scrutiny before being foisted upon teachers and students by the Board of Education. Before its full implementation, we believe it’s necessary to take a moment and address whether the law was indeed violated.

This lawsuit focuses on one fundamental question: did the Board violate the law in rushing through Common Core’s adoption without required public input? We believe the facts point clearly to only one viable answer, which we are asking the court to evaluate. Whether you love or hate Common Core, it’s reasonable to expect that it only be adopted in accordance with state law and with reasonable opportunity for a thorough review.

Most Utahns believe that local control of education is important. We agree, but it’s important to note that local control is not merely about having Utahns managing federal or multi-state programs. The idea behind local control is that the people who are most intimately affected by the product of public education should be involved and able to give input. This did not happen with the adoption of Common Core — and it should have.

Connor Boyack is president of Libertas Institute.

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