The jousting over the Tennessee State Board of Education’s adoption of the federal Common Core Standards continued in Monday’s Bradley County Commission meeting. The crux of the debate lay in the level of local control allowed in the adoption of the standards and the acceptance of federal money.
Vice Chairman Adam Lowe introduced a resolution requesting that the Bradley Board of Education put together an official report on Common Core’s impact on Bradley County’s students and teachers.
Director of Cleveland City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff spoke in support of Common Core stating, “This argument should have happened in 2009 when this first came about. They’re already implemented in the school system, its finished. It’s a done deal, they’re being taught and they’ll be tested next year.”
Dr. Ringstaff added, “I’m 100 percent behind it because it’s better than what we had. I have three children who are in the Common Core state standards at Cleveland City Schools and I’m very proud of what’s going on. To me it’s a no brainer.”
Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools, contributed the following, “It’s expected that seven of the 10 new jobs coming to Tennessee require post-secondary education and the Common Core Standards are really inline to help our students prepare to be college and career ready. I think that there is a lot of misinformation in the media around Common Core.”
He continued, “I think that you’re doing the right thing in asking the school board to be in charge of what we do around standards, curriculum and textbooks. How we develop curriculum in the classroom and how teachers teach everyday, that has not changed. Teachers still make that decision right here in Bradley County.”
Local Tea Party leader Dan Rawls voiced his concerns over what he views as a federal power grab, “The Common Core is the federalization of the school system. No matter what anyone tells you, I’ll be glad to provide any documentation to show you that you will lose local control of your (school) system. That’s what this is about, this is the federalization of the school system through Head Start, that’s where this all got started. Anyone to say otherwise is less than truthful. This is social justice in the school system, that’s what this is, and to think otherwise would be naïve. This is not good for the students, no matter what you’re being told.”
The debate proceeded further as Commissioner Jeff Yarber posited that Common Core is ideologically driven and that since it is tied to federal money then it cannot help but determine policy. He made a substitute motion to have the commission take an official stance against Common Core and to ask the state legislature to come up with its own educational core, unique to Tennessee.
Commissioner Terry Caywood jumped in stating, "If I live in Oregon, Tennessee, Mississippi, or New York City, I should get the same quality of education and be as prepared for college as the highest paid teacher.”
He continued, “When you take federal dollars, you lose a lot of your autonomy. What the Common Core legislation does do is, it still leaves the opportunity to the states to choose to do their own (curriculum) or go with the Common Core.”
Commissioner Caywood did warn again that taking federal money comes with implications of compliance with federal demands.
Commissioner Yarber added, “Trusting the federal government not to come back and change once its completely implemented is like trusting a snake to not bite you because it said it wouldn’t.”
His substitute motion did not pass, while the original motion concerning Common Core passed with Commissioner Yarber casting the only dissenting vote.
The commission also passed a resolution in opposition to the Tennessee State Board of Education’s move to tie teacher licensure to the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scores.
The commission wrapped up the meeting by voting to make the Veterans Home project a funding priority for the Bradley County Health and Community Initiative grant cycle.