Common Core Games Bring Back Memories and Make New Ones

To date, I have not weighed in on the pros and cons of Common Core in our state, because there are many organizations tackling the issue head on and the organization I lead is taking on other issues often left “untended.” Just thinking about Common Core brought to mind some memories from an unpleasant time when I was in the Senate. But yesterday something happened that created some new memories that were a break from the past.

For those who don’t know what Common Core is, at a very basic level, it is a set of curriculum standards to be implemented in our state’s public schools. The term includes all the testing and data collection issues that come with the standards.

How Things Were Handled in the House

Common Core has been very controversial among a number of conservatives, and several bills were filed at the start of the current legislative session to repeal or otherwise mortally wound it.

The key bills were scheduled to be heard as part of the House Education Subcommittee’s calendar for Tuesday, February 25. But since the representative sponsoring the bills didn’t know his bills had been scheduled to be heard until toward the end of the week before, he asked to have one bill moved to the next week and the other bills moved to the week after that.

Normally, that is no problem. In my 20 years of involvement at the state legislature,  it has been rare that a bill sponsor’s first request to move a bill to a different date is denied. It’s sort of a matter of “legislative courtesy,” because at some point everyone will need extra time to prepare.

But this time it seemed to be a problem to somebody. Even though the bill’s sponsor was first told there shouldn’t be a problem granting his request, later that day, the sponsor was essentially told to put his bills up for a vote on the 25th of February or they would be put on the subcommittee’s last calendar, currently expected to be very near the end of the session.

Being on the last calendar meant that there would be little time for the bills to wind through the legislative process following its subcommittee hearing and, even if the bills did pass, it was unlikely that the legislature would have time to override a gubernatorial veto.

What Bothered Me

It pains me to say it, but this kind of procedural maneuvering and treatment of a representative is the way things were handled under the Democratic regime of the past. It’s how the income tax debate was handled—only what a few wanted to have debated could be debated. I know. I was there. I suggested all kinds of ways to avoid the legislative imposition of an income tax on the people, but the House Democratic leadership didn’t want it to be heard. Unfortunately, in those days, there was nothing Republicans could do.

However, unlike the old days when the minority party Republicans could do nothing about such things, there are people who can stop it now.

The ‘Little Guys’ Win

Yesterday, a number of rank-and-file Republicans, joined by a number of Democrats, staged an unprecedented move. They used the procedural rules to take the battle over Common Core straight to the House floor. And, in at least one key respect, they prevailed, passing a bill that included a provision to delay the testing component of Common Core until July 1, 2016.

There are still several hurdles before that bill becomes law, and more games may yet be played. But at least yesterday the “little guys” made it clear they would not be ignored. They were not going down without a fight. And that is a refreshing break from the past.