CORRECTION: Rep. Steve Harris, R-Meridian, should have been listed as "undecided" on Common Core.
Leaders of the House and Senate education committees are bracing for a backlash over the state's new public school standards and testing system.
And some of the harshest criticism could come from their own members.
So far, a count by the Statesman shows, Common Core could survive a challenge. The Statesman found eight members in support, three opposed and three undecided in the House Education committee. Two members could not be reached.
The Senate committee is closer: four are in favor and three opposed; one senator couldn't be reached.
The Legislature easily supported Common Core State Standards as the template for beefing up education in 2011. The standards, which emphasize critical thinking over memorizing dates and formulas, took effect in Idaho classrooms this school year.
But legislators will return in January after a summer and fall of hearing from Idahoans who berated the standards, curled their lips at Idaho lining up with other states to decide what children should learn, and wrung their hands over what they consider an erosion of state and local education control.
State Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, House Education Committee chairman and a supporter of Idaho's standards, plans to meet the criticism head on. In the opening days of the Legislature, he said, he'll ask the public to submit questions and concerns, and then he'll convene a panel - which could include the Department of Education, teachers and other educators - to address them in a public session.
"There is not going to be an attempt to hide anything," DeMordaunt said. "I think we need to have a forum so people's questions can be addressed and the bogeymen that are concerning to people can be exposed, if they really are there."
BLOCKING A VOTE
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R- Coeur d'Alene, wrote a letter with DeMordaunt to lawmakers last month supporting Idaho Core Standards. He said there is room for discussion, but he warned that he may balk at attempts to throw out the standards by using his perogative to decline to hold hearings on such a proposal.
"I feel strongly enough about sustaining Idaho's standards that I would consider that, yes," Goedde told the Statesman. Attempts to rescind the rules or pass a law rolling back Common Core likely would require approval by both committees and both chambers.
Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill said he would not try to stop Goedde from blocking a proposal to derail Idaho Core Standards.
"He is very much in favor of (them)," said Hill, R-Rexburg.
But Hill supports the idea for a town hall meeting to address critics, who worry the standards are a federal intrusion into state education policy, a criticism that backers such as state schools chief Tom Luna have long disputed.
Idaho Core Standards passed the Legislature long before the opposition took hold last spring, as critical parents and others lined up to try to poke holes in the system before Gov. Butch Otter's Task Force for Improving Education.
Opponents warned that the math standards taught communism, that a state data system would collect biometric and religious information on kids for the feds, and that creating a system of national standards was really a ruse to line up all schools to buy equipment from technology companies.
State education officials say none of that is true, and Otter's task force endorsed the Idaho Core Standards with just one dissenting vote from its 31 members.
As Common Core criticism has grown, business organizations, Micron Technology, chambers of commerce, school districts, and colleges and universities have come out in support of the standards as a way to raise the bar and reduce the amount of remediation that high school graduates need to succeed in college.
TWO COMMITTEES DIVIDED
Even supporters worry that the state didn't do enough to include Idahoans in the discussion about the standards.
"We should have explained it better," said State Sen Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls. "I think Common Core is a good deal."
There are plenty of detractors, such as Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins. He initially voted for the Idaho Core Standards, but said he did not realize it was tied to what he sees as a national plan with 45 states backing the same standards.
"I would like to see us back off," Shepherd said. "I like states' rights."
For some critics, nothing less than ending Idaho Core Standards will do.
State. Rep. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, likens Common Core to the Affordable Care Act, which he considers a wasteful federal mandate. He thinks Common Core standards are too narrow and require too much testing.
At a recent meeting of Washington County Republicans, he apologized for the standards and said that he would take steps to get rid of them.
Pearce, absent the day the Senate Education Committee voted on the rules in 2011, said he would have voted against them. He sums up his constituents' concerns in two sentences: "They don't want it. They don't like it."
He's not ready to say what effort he'll make in January, but he does believe that the federal government has a role in standards, despite those who say otherwise.
"The feds lay out the hook, bait it with money, we take it and scream and cry," he said.
FULCHER'S CHANGED MIND
Senate committee member Russ Fulcher, who last month announced his Republican candidacy for governor against Otter, originally supported the standards.
But the Meridian lawmaker said he's rethought his position. Opposition to Common Core is the second-largest complaint he hears, he said, after criticism about the health care law and the state's exchange.
Fulcher said that even though districts retain control of what will be taught to help students meet standards, the testing that goes with it could morph the curriculum into one that is indistinguishable from those in other states.
He anticipates several actions by the Legislature. One would involve teachers and parents more in curriculum, as a means to keep it as local as possible. Another would clamp down on student data leaving the state - a proposal Goedde already is working on.
Passage of those bills "will go a long way" toward making Idaho Core Standards palatable, Fulcher said.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts