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Legislature questions common core standards

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SALT LAKE CITY — On a vote of 21-6, the Utah Senate passed a resolution Wednesday asking the Utah State Board of Education to reconsider the adoption of common core curriculum standards in English, mathematics and language arts.

SCR13, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, asks the elected school board to reconsider the standards in the context of states' rights concerns raised during the legislative session.

"We believe strongly in maintaining our sovereignty," said Osmond, explaining that the state fears its future influence will be diluted by the federal government, yet the state will be tied to standards without federal dollars to support the programs.

Yet others said the standards were developed in a cooperative effort among the states.

"Utah joined with no strings attached," said Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake. "That is federalism at its best."

But Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said there is a growing movement in the education community — the State Board of Education and superintendent — to reassert the state's sovereignty over educational matters.

Stephenson said there is "not one word in our constitution giving the federal government any control over public education.”

But McAdams argued that the standards were developed by the states with the intent of helping students compete in a global marketplace.

"I think it sends the wrong message at the wrong time to pass this resolution," he said.

In a similar action, the House voted 50-23 in favor of SB287, which establishes on record that the state reserves the right to withdraw from the common core standards. House sponsoring Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, emphasized that the bill does not remove Utah from participating in common core, but merely puts language in place in the event that future changes to the common core standards do not agree with Utah education priorities.

Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, spoke in support of the bill, saying that while he had no problem with the common core standards in their current form, he was leery of the program slowly shifting to a far-reaching federal program by the U.S. Department of Education.

"I can guarantee in three or four years, we're going to be in the same bus as No Child Left Behind," he said.

Rep. Lavar Christensen, R-Draper, gave similar comments, saying he wanted Utah on record as saying "no" on principle to being attached to the common core standards and speculating that in the future the state could become "part of a caravan of people being led off a well-intentioned cliff."

Many representatives, however, spoke against the bill, saying that the common core standards is the result of a consortium of states and already allows for Utah to withdraw should the need arise. Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, spoke of the hypocritical nature of the Legislature and community for consistently speaking of the need for education reform and then crying conspiracy when substantive reform arrives.

Marjorie Cortez