I Hate to Say “I Told You So….”

Thoughts on House Bill 3399

If you read my blog, you know that when the Oklahoma Legislature got themselves all in an uproar about repealing Common Core a few months ago, I said that we might very well end up like Washington state, the only state at the time to have lost their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. Well, now Oklahoma’s waiver has been revoked because our legislature passed House Bill 3399 a few months ago, repealing Common Core. The State went back to using the former PASS objectives this year (which outlines what kids are supposed to learn at each grade) until new standards can be put in place. The PASS objectives have not been deemed “College- and Career-Ready” as required by NCLB, so Oklahoma’s waiver was yanked for not complying with the federal law.

Let the finger-pointing begin. First, the authors of House Bill 3399, Rep. Jason Nelson and Sen. Josh Brecheen, must have known that there was a very good chance that Oklahoma would lose its waiver. And those who voted to repeal Common Core must have known, too. If they didn’t know, they really shouldn’t be representing us in the State Legislature because losing this waiver is placing some major hardship on our public schools. In fact, under NCLB, almost all of our schools are failing or in need of improvement, the same thing that happened in Washington state. Did our representatives not care about these consequences, or were they just interested in making political points? Why were Gov. Fallin and most of our policy-makers FOR Common Core, and then against it? And then, when Common Core Standards were repealed, what did our leadership do? Nothing. Knowing that there was a deadline for having college- and career-ready standards in place, they said, “Oh, we’ll just put a group together to create our own Oklahoma version of Common Core and roll it out in a year.” If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might think some of our leadership would like to see public schools fail.

The Governor, Superintendent Barresi and many of our state and national representatives are using their favorite phrase to explain their own dereliction of duties: Obama did it!

That’s a little disingenuous. First, Obama was not president when NCLB became law. He did see that the law was draconian in the sense that it required that all students be proficient in all subject areas or they would be labeled as failing schools. This is obviously a ridiculous and unattainable standard, so the Obama administration granted waivers to states if they came up with “college- and career- ready” standards in at least math and reading. To be granted a waiver, those standards would have to be approved by the state’s colleges and universities. The PASS objectives have not been approved; thus, the loss of Oklahoma’s waiver.

To blame President Obama, whether you like him or not, is not the issue. Oklahoma is not compliant under federal law. It doesn’t matter who the president is. And there’s a lot of talk about how Common Core was pushed down the throats of Oklahomans by the federal government. Common Core was not created by the federal government. Moreover, adopting Common Core was not a requirement by the federal government to receive a waiver. States were merely required to adopt standards that could be deemed as college- and career-ready by colleges and universities. Adopting Common Core standards was just ONE option given to states to receive the waiver. While many states DID adopt Common Core Standards, it certainly was not a mandate from the federal government, as many of Oklahoma’s state and national representatives are saying.

If the leadership in Oklahoma had come up with rigorous academic standards in math and reading which could be validated by our universities as college- and career-ready, then we would not be in this mess. Indiana is one state that that did this. The state kept its waiver because the leadership there came up with approved standards to replace Common Core by the appropriate deadline. Leadership in Oklahoma was lacking. Rather than get to work meeting the deadline with standards we could put in place, our state leaders decided to wait, draw a line in the sand, and see what the federal government would do. The U.S. Department of Education called their bluff.

So, what are the results and who loses? The children of Oklahoma lose once again. Not only are we at the bottom in the nation in funding public schools; we give millions of dollars to testing companies to provide standardized tests that have little to do with actual learning; we have a teacher shortage; and now most of our schools will be labeled as “in need of improvement.” Because we lost the waiver, $20 – $30 million that could have gone to teachers and struggling schools will now have to be used for transportation and tutoring as outlined by law.

How will businesses, people moving to Oklahoma and those outside of Oklahoma view our state now? And what about out-of-state and competitive colleges and universities that our students might want to apply to? Even though it might not be true, our students will be viewed as less competitive and less able to succeed in college. When university admission counselors or businesses see that a student graduated from an Oklahoma high school, will that student automatically be moved to the bottom of the list, just like our school funding?

Categories: Editor’s Blog