Arizona Senate Education Committee approves proposal ditching Common Core school standards

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PHOENIX — The Senate Education Committee approved a bill to ditch the state's new Common Core school standards Thursday after amending the bill to allow the state Board of Education to help adopt new guidelines.

House Bill 2190 by Republican Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley drops the standards adopted by more than 40 states and prevents Arizona from adopting standards that are substantially similar to other states. The Common Core standards have become a political issue nationally as opponents criticize them as driven by the federal government.

"What I'm saying is the mere fact that we've set up the ability to share the data with the federal government is a violation of U.S. code," Finchem said. "This whole program is built on something that is a violation of U.S. code."

Finchem's proposal is wide-ranging and blunt. It ends Common Core, sets up a new committee to study alternatives and blocks the Board of Education from adopting new standards unless the committee and the Legislature agree.

However, the Education Committee passed an amendment by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, that if adopted by the Senate, allows the Board of Education to work in collaboration with the new committee to develop statewide standards. The amendment also extends the bill's enactment date to begin in 2016 rather than this year, Ward said.

House Bill 2190 passed on a 5-2 vote and now moves to the Senate. The bill passed the House last week after days of delays as some Republicans balked at the proposal.

Arizona's Board of Education adopted the standards in 2010, well before the issue became politicized. Proponents say they are state-created and designed to increase standards so high school graduates are prepared for college.

Dayna Burke, a first-grade teacher from the Sahuarita school district, said her school has been implementing the standards for the last three years and is beginning to see results.

"What standards are to teachers is the heart of what we teach. It's like ingredients to a chef," Burke said. "My colleagues and I are seeing tremendous success with our students."

Another teacher and author of "The Cult of Common Core," Brad McQueen of Tucson, is on the other side of the debate. McQueen said the new standards are a complete transformation of the education system that include copy-righted learning standards, data-collection systems and testing regiments.

"Common Core has nothing to do with education," McQueen said. "It has everything to do with centralizing power over our kids' minds, centralizing power away from parents and into the waiting hands of big government and big business at the chambers of commerce."

A similar effort failed in the Legislature last year. Then-Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed one bill that sought to limit the state's ability to adopt any federally mandated standards.

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