SALT LAKE CITY – The results of a legal review of Utah’s adoption of Common Core standards in education were presented to Gov. Gary Herbert Tuesday afternoon in the Gold Room of the Utah State Capitol building.
In July of this year, Gov. Herbert requested that Utah State Attorney General Sean Reyes review the state’s adoption of the core standards in order to “clarify state control of academic standards and local district and charter school control of the curriculum,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The release further stated the governor’s request of the review was part of a greater effort to help resolve some of the divisive issues that exist in education, namely the legality of Utah’s adoption of Common Core and the state’s ability to maintain control over the standards and curriculum.
Gov. Herbert asked the attorney general the following five questions to review:
- Does the State Board of Education have the authority to set academic standard for Utah students?
- By adoption of Common Core standards has Utah ceded authority over standards and curriculum?
- Are we, as a state, bound by any federal entanglements in regards to our academic standards and curriculum?
- Can we change our academic standards, including modifications to Common Core? Can we change the standards?
- Can we confirm that our waiver from No Child Left Behind is also in compliance with Senate Bill 287?
The results of the review were as follows:
- The State Board of Education has the authority to set academic standard for Utah students, and the State Board’s adoption of the Common Core State standards was in no way illegal.
- By adopting the Common Core standards Utah has not ceded authority over to the standards and curriculum. Utah charter schools or local school boards have authority to control their curriculum. There are no partnerships or programs that have indirect control on the curriculum.
- The definition of entanglement is debatable; however, neither Utah standards nor curricula are dictated by the federal government.
- Utah did not receive federal monies to adopt Common Core Standards. Utah did not acquiesce education control or state sovereignty by adopting Common Core Standards.
- Utah’s waiver from No Child Left Behind is in compliance with Senate Bill 287.
Gov. Herbert issued a statement regarding the findings:
What we now have are objective and legally reviewed facts. For those whose view has been that Utah has always held control of its own education standards, they can rest assured they are correct. For those who have been concerned the federal government has taken some degree of control of Utah’s education system, they can breathe a sigh of relief.
Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson echoed the governor’s statements and said he hopes the district will be able to get back to the business of educating kids.
“This just confirms what we have tried to help people understand,” Bergeson said. “We have local control over how we teach the standards. This issue is so politically charged it is reassuring to hear (these results).”
Bergeson maintains that standards in education have always existed, and the only difference with the current Core Standards is the increased rigor, he said.
“The standards are definitely more rigorous,” Bergeson said. “They require students to apply what they’ve learned to a larger degree.”
Bergeson admits this has caused some frustration among students and parents, but he said he believes the increased rigor is necessary for college and career-readiness.
While both Herbert and Bergeson expressed hope that the results of the review will lay to rest many concerns over the Core Standards, it is likely that opposition and divisiveness will continue to persist both through legal channels – recently a lawsuit was filed against the state challenging the adoption of the standards – and through local voices who want to maintain control over their children’s education.
Independent American Party candidate for House District 75 Nihla Judd opposes Common Core and offered a list of reasons for her opposition. Among her concerns are federal and even state encroachment on a system she feels ought to be controlled on a hyper-local level.
“Utah law states that education is to be administered on a local and parental level,” Judd said. “The state is far away and the federal government is even farther,” she added.
Judd also challenged the legality of a system that was adopted without the state legislature and with no parental reviews held.
Though the legal review from the attorney general counters that language requiring the State Board to “consult with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers and parents in implementing core curriculum standards …” did not exist in 2010 when the standards were adopted, it maintains there was “significant outreach” to local education agencies and the public before and during the consideration and adoption of state Common Core standards.
The review goes on to say that during the period between May 2009 through Aug. 2010, consideration of Common Core standards was an “agenda item or public comment topic in 10 meetings” of the State Board of Education and was reflected in the minutes of those meetings.
Judd also opposes Common Core on a curriculum level and said though the standards do look great, it would behoove parents to take a look at how they are being implemented. She cited the way math is being taught as a chief example.
“Math is slow and sluggish to the point of being ridiculous,” Judd said.
Judd offered the following quote by Farley Anderson from his book “The Restoration of our Republic” to sum up her opinions on the Common Core standards:
If the responsibility to teach a nation’s children is transferred from the parents to the state, then every other responsibility and right are in danger of following.
For now, Washington County School District will stay the course, Bergeson said.
To read the attorney general’s report in its entirety, click here.
- Read and view the release here
- Read what the Utah State Board of Education had to say about the review here
- On uncommon ground; common core in Washington County School District
- Residents meet with district, education officials over Common Core, SAGE testing
- Letter to the Editor: St. George Airport, Disneyland & Common Core; grounding effects of education reform
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