Idaho GOP stops well short of Common Core rejection

Idaho Education NewsJune 17, 2013 

Idaho Republicans took a stand on Common Core over the weekend — but stopped well short of outright rejection of the controversial educational standards.

Meeting in McCall on Saturday, the GOP’s state Central Committee passed a resolution rejecting “the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose.”

The resolution takes no position on Common Core itself — or the Idaho Core Standards, the state’s variation on the initiative. These math and English language arts standards are slated to go into effect this fall, with student assessments to follow in the spring of 2015.

For Republicans who have long supported Common Core, including Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, the Central Committee vote represents a validation of sorts. But in an interview Monday with Idaho Education News, Luna called the vote a triumph for public school standards designed to encourage critical thinking and prepare students for college.

“It was a victory for higher academic standards and higher accountability,” said Luna, who attended Saturday’s meeting and helped draft the Common Core resolution. “That’s where I think the victory was.”

The Central Committee rejected — and “gutted,” in Luna’s words — two similar and far-reaching resolutions opposing Common Core. Republicans from Bonner and Idaho counties pushed language that labeled Common Core a top-down federal dictate to drive curriculum.

“We call on the governor and the Idaho state Department of Education to withdraw from, and we ask the Idaho state Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, the Common Core State Standards Initiative/Idaho Core and any other alliance that promotes and tests for similar or same curricula, standards and assessments, and restore Idaho’s education back to state and local control,” the Idaho County resolution read.

The push to rescind Common Core comes six years after Luna and other state schools superintendents began discussing consistent, state-driven standards; those meetings began in 2007. The State Board of Education approved the standards in 2010. In January 2011, the Legislature’s education committees followed suit.

Data collection has become one of the recurring points in the Common Core controversy — and in a debate that has intensified in recent months. Luna’s office has downplayed the data collection concerns.

“Idaho’s statewide longitudinal data system is not tied to a national database in any way,” the department says. “Neither the state nor local school districts collect data on things like religious affiliation, nor do we have the technology to collect biometric data on students.”

The risk that Idaho student data could fall into the wrong hands is “minimal,” Luna said Monday. But in light of recent news about federal government surveillance programs — cited in the Common Core resolution that did pass Saturday — people have a right to be “legitimately concerned” about data security, he said.

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