Common Core debate draws a crowd at the Statehouse
COLUMBIA - Arguments held at a Senate subcommittee meeting on Wednesday seemed to breathe new life into both sides of the debate concerning the adoption of Common Core standards in South Carolina.
Members of the Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee listened to three proponents and three opponents of Common Core on Wednesday, in a room packed with more than 40 Palmetto State residents calling for the repeal of the standards.
What: Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee meeting
When: Feb. 19, Time: TBA
Where: Gressette Builiding, 1100 Gervais St., Columbia. Room: TBA
Russell Booker was among the three proponents who spoke at the meeting. Booker is a superintendent of education for District 7 in Spartanburg County. He argued in favor of the standards, and cited examples from teachers in his district, which has been implementing Common Core for the past three years.
"I feel good about where we're heading as a state," Booker told the subcommittee. "We want to make sure that at the end of the day everyone is on equal footing and with our current system in the state of South Carolina, we have no way of knowing that right now."
Booker argued that Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards that prepares students to be just as prepared as rest of their peers in the nation when applying for jobs or for higher education. He added the implementation of the standards in his district has not impeded the administration's ability to dictate their own curriculum.
Members of the committee also heard from Jane Robbins, of the American Principles Project - one of three opponents who argued against the standards. She said the implementation of Common Core is part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's agenda, and not the educational agenda of individual states.
"Common Core removes even more local control over the revisions of the standard," Robbins said. "These standards will inevitably drive curriculum."
Robbins argued the standards focus on "21st century skills," which she called "fuzzy skills."
"Common core enforces mediocrity, but it will be across the board mediocrity so it won't be apparent to the casual observer," Robbins added.
The end of Robbins' speech, and that of each opponent of Common Core, was met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
Speeches from the proponents were met with less enthusiastic applause.
Booker said he was not surprised by the opposition to the standards, but added he doesn't anticipate any changes when it comes to their implementation.
"Everybody is not against it," Booker said after the meeting. "We're full steam ahead with Common Core."
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said Wednesday's meeting showed South Carolinians are passionate on both sides about education. Kimpson added he is in favor of the adoption of Common Core because business leaders have said the standards prepare students for the workforce.
"We can't be afraid to try something new in South Carolina," Kimpson said. "These standards have been vetted. I'm willing to give it a try."
But Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, did not share Kimpson's sentiment.
"The teachers aren't allowed to express their own philosophy," Fair said after the meeting. "Educators in South Carolina don't have any input."
Fair disputed the testimony of teachers shared by the proponents of the measure. He said he's heard from teachers who are against the standards, but don't speak up because they're afraid.
Robbins added after the meeting that as the momentum against Common Core grows, there's a chance South Carolina will back out of implementing the standards. She cited several states that have backed out already.
"As that starts to happen, it's going to fall apart," said Robbins of the implementation of the standards. "And it is going to fail."