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VOL. 39 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 13, 2015

Resolution calls for end to fed ‘imposition’

By Sam Stockard

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Ketron

Saying the feds are guilty of intruding in local schools, state Sen. Bill Ketron is seeking passage of a resolution designed to end what he calls overreach by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We don’t need the federal government telling us how to do it,” Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said during a recent meeting with teachers in the Rutherford Education Association.

Gresham

The resolution, which Ketron is co-sponsoring with Sen. Dolores Gresham, would be sent to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for consideration in Congress.

Tennessee Republicans hope the U.S. House and Senate, which are now controlled by Republicans, will recognize that education is the responsibility of state and local governments and that the federal government is meddling in local affairs with programs such as Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Race to the Top competitive grant program of 2009 and current waivers of No Child Left Behind by the U.S. Department of Education.

Many Republicans believe Common Core, the set of standards and curriculum being used in Tennessee public schools, is part of that federal intrusion into local decisions.

Tracy

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and Gresham, R-Somerville, are both sponsoring legislation that would break ties with Common Core and set up methods for adopting Tennessee standards in public schools.

Their efforts conflict with those of Gov. Bill Haslam, who previously backed Common Core but then called for a review period in which the state is taking input from teachers and residents statewide to determine what types of standards should be enacted in schools.

The state school board would then make a recommendation.

Tracy says he wants to “sever ties with Common Core and do our own state standards.”

And rather than wait for the governor’s proposal, which could take the rest of the year, Tracy wants to “go ahead and get it going” so the Legislature can take action this session.

Ketron agrees, saying the Legislature needs to have something done by the end of April in regard to Common Core and state standards so Tennessee teachers will have “clear direction” on curriculum, student testing and teacher evaluation.

Common Core originated with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The term was also part of Race to the Top, President Barack Obama’s education initiative, a competition of sorts for federal funds that Tennessee entered when the Legislature was starting to shift from Democratic to Republican control six years ago.

But Republican politicians have been distancing themselves from the term and the set of standards, saying it is a federal mandate with too much influence from Washington, D.C.

Common Core isn’t mentioned in the resolution Ketron is sponsoring, but it opposes a “National School Board” and says states and local school systems “should be free from federal mandates, rules and requirements concerning academic standards and tests, performance targets for student achievement expectations, accountability systems to determine which schools are succeeding or failing, teachers and principal evaluation systems to measure the effectiveness of school personnel, and other educational matters.”

It urges Congress to stop the “imposition” of a national school board and end decades of “federal intrusion” into local school policies with “burdensome” mandates and calls on Alexander to help get Washington “out of the way” of education in Tennessee.

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