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Common Core opposition could help Democratic candidate in OK governor race

By   /   February 27, 2014  /   No Comments

By Patrick B. McGuigan | Oklahoma Watchdog

OKLAHOMA CITY — While state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, the likely Democratic nominee for Oklahoma governor, is a long-shot in the race, he might garner fans among conservatives most passionately opposed to the controversial Common Core standards.

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JOINING JOE? The odds seem against election of Oklahoma state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, in November’s gubernatorial election. However, some conservatives agree with him on one major education issue: the Common Core Curriculum.

This week, Dorman decried Common Core, which is supported by both Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican schools Superintendent Janet Barresi.

In an interview with Oklahoma Watchdog, Dorman acknowledged the issue has potential to draw support from disgruntled conservatives, many of whom are passionately opposed to Common Core.

“I am willing to listen to those in classrooms,” he said. “I am opposed to the idea that there is a ‘one-size fits all’ approach that will address our needs in state education.”

While he believes there are “bits of good” in the objectives, Dorman said he opposes “mandates without money” in Common Core — also his criticism of the No Child Left Behind template from the Bush years.

Conservative grass roots organization Restore Oklahoma Public Education has long opposed implementation of Common Core standards in the state.

ROPE President Jenni White told Oklahoma Watchdog on Wednesday that “Dorman’s strong comments about the Common Core State Standards Initiative quite thoroughly echo the depth and breadth of concern of parents, educators and taxpayers across the state of Oklahoma. Public Education is not now — nor should it ever be — a partisan issue over which legislators haggle and fight while parents sit on the sidelines, effectively cut out of the legislative process.”

Last spring, then-Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, aligned himself with Common Core opponents, saying the standards “appear to be another vehicle for federal control of our public education system.”

At the Capitol, state Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, has helped coordinate hearings highly critical of Common Core.

However, critics of the curriculum have gained little traction in the state Senate, as Republican leadership has declined to hear legislation touching implementation, which began at the Oklahoma Department of Education in 2010.

White decried the Senate’s refusal to hear Common Core-related bills. “This must stop. Parents, educators and taxpayers deserve to be heard,” she told Oklahoma Watchdog. “Representative Dorman’s analysis is important and we are glad he not only understands the issues, but is willing to speak about them publicly.”

Fallin issued an executive order this winter that asserted state control over curriculum standards, with or without federal incentive money. Both Barresi and Fallin are up for reelection this year.

In the press release where he stressed his opposition to the standards, Dorman’s campaign assailed the curriculum shift as originating with “outside consultants for the National Governors Association.” Falllin is chairman of that association.

Dorman, pegged as a moderate during his legislative career, characterized Common Core as “an unfunded nightmare which has been thrust upon our students and teachers across the state with no input from them. … The last thing Oklahoma schools need is another unfunded, national mandate placed on them.”

Dorman is pressing his criticism even as the DOE implements controversial testing programs, including an A-F grading structure for state schools. Dorman promised to resist “implementation timelines and plans that set schools up to fail, [and] … the stakes and priority attached to the tests.”

You may contact Pat at pmcguigan@watchdog.org.

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Patrick B. McGuigan is bureau chief for the Oklahoma City Bureau of Watchdog.org, and works from the press room at the state Capitol. He is also the editor of CapitolBeatOK, and Associate Publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper. In 2013, The Washington Post blog “The Fix” designated Pat one of the best reporters in Oklahoma. In addition to the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists, where he serves as state secretary-treasurer, Pat is a member of the National Press Club and the Tulsa Press Club.

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