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Oklahoma governor must decide Common Core’s fate this week

By   /   June 2, 2014  /   No Comments

By Patrick B. McGuigan | Oklahoma Watchdog

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin faces a Saturday deadline to decide what to do with bills passed in the closing days of the 2014 legislative session.

The most weighty matter still on her desk is the fate of the Common Core education standards.

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FALLIN WILL DECIDE: The fate of the Common Core standards in Oklahoma now lies in the hands of Gov. Mary Fallin.

Activists on both sides of the Common Core debate have flooded Fallin’s office with phones calls, emails, letters and petitions since the Legislature adjourned May 23.

Previously a supporter of Common Core, Fallin issued an executive order last fall stressing the state would not use federal requirements in state curriculum design.

Fallin has declined to say if she will sign House Bill 3399. Indeed, she invited the wave of input offered in recent days from across the political spectrum.

Fallin met Friday with three conservatives who played leading roles in the broad coalition that has opposed Common Core with mounting intensity during the past three years. Complicating the situation for Fallin is the fact that her opponent in the November election, state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, has opposed the Common Core from the start and is aligned with conservatives on the matter.

Phyllis Hudecki, a national analyst from Fordham University and Fallin’s former secretary of education, is expected to hold a briefing for reporters Monday at the state Capitol. She is expected to restate the case in favor of Common Core, asserting that repeal could cost Oklahoma federal education dollars.

One of the more contentious education policy issues of recent decades in the Sooner State, Common Core would be repealed if H.B. 3399 is signed into law. The measure sailed through both chambers of the Legislature on the last day of session.

Passions against the national curriculum, which passed in Oklahoma in 2010, are so intense that many legislators say they want to return in special session to override the governor if she chooses to veto the legislation. The trio of Common Core critics who met with Fallin on Friday would not give details other than to confirm they submitted a petition signed by thousands of people against the standards.

“We need to get our public schools out of the grip of the federal government and back to local control,” said Bunny Chambers, past president of Oklahoma Eagle Forum and a former Republican National committee woman. “Parents, teachers, citizens and business leaders from across Oklahoma support academic excellence and want standards that reflect the values and goals of Oklahomans, not a nationalized standard that eliminates local control of our schools.”

A veto would assure continuing conflict over the development of education policy standards in the state. State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, often a Fallin ally, worked with Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, to design the new legislation.

The measure would establish a two-year cycle for design and to start implementation of Oklahoma-based standards.

Contact Patrick McGuigan 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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