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Updated Mar 4, 2014 - 6:16 pm

Senate approves bill banning use of Arizona Core learning standards

PHOENIX — An Arizona bill that would prohibit the state from using a set
of educational standards known across the U.S. as Common Core has received
initial approval.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 1310, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, on
Tuesday. The bill must still receive a roll-call vote before it moves to the
House of Representatives.

Arizona adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 without opposition, and state
school districts have spent millions implementing them. The standards already
have been implemented around most of the nation.

But some Republicans have recently denounced the standards, saying they’re a
poorly conceived, federally driven effort that usurps states’ rights.

Common Core standards aim to focus learning on comprehension and real life
examples and were designed by a national, bipartisan group of governors and
education leaders to better prepare students for college and the job market.

Gov. Jan Brewer has supported Common Core and renamed the standards the Arizona
College and Career Ready Standards.

However, Melvin said, “many citizens, I think the majority, have fundamental
problems with Common Core and its implementation in the state. I believe that
we, as a state, can do a far better job in this area than the federal government
dictating to us, and that’s the thrust of this bill.”

Supporters of Common Core standards say eliminating the program would cost
Arizona millions in federal funding and would make the state less economically
competitive. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Greater Phoenix
Chamber of Commerce oppose the repeal effort.

“The folks that you rely on oftentimes are adamantly opposed to this bill. I
would urge you to pay attention to the business community like you tried to last
week, like the governor certainly did,” Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson said.

Bradley was referencing Senate Bill 1062, the now infamous religious rights
bill that Brewer vetoed after pressure from the business community. Civil rights
groups said that bill would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays.

Opponents of Melvin’s bill also say getting rid of Common Core would be a
disservice to the many Arizona school districts that have spent millions of
dollars implementing the program since 2010. Additionally, the Arizona
Department of Education receives about $1 billion annually in federal funds for
Common Core implementation. Potentially, all of that funding is at risk if
Arizona moves away from the standards, according to the department.

However, education advocates say it’s hard to track down a specific dollar cost
figure because each school district handles its own implementation. A
spokeswoman for Gilbert Public Schools, which has adopted Common Core, said the
district does not keep implementation costs in one set of data.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the legislature should not make
decisions based on whether or not schools have already invested in the program
but on what is the best policy for the state. Biggs supports Melvin’s bill.

The Senate will place the roll-call vote Wednesday.


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