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John Huppenthal says no flip-flop on Common Core

PHOENIX — Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal said Tuesday that he’s
still a strong backer of the state’s new Common Core education standards and
that he didn’t flip-flop on that support during a recent debate.

Huppenthal sent out a video message Tuesday is an effort to walk back from a
broad denunciation of the new standards he made at a debate last week with
Republican primary challenger Diane Douglas. In answering a debate question,
Huppenthal said he “never supported the Common Core standards.”

That was a major change from the vigorous defense of the standards Huppenthal
has put on for years that left Douglas “thunderstruck.”

“Mr. Huppenthal says that he doesn’t support Common Core standards,” she said
at the debate. “But we have a long 3 1/2 year history of him being out, going
around this state and telling people that these are the standards that we
absolutely have to have for our children need those standards.”

Douglas is mounting a strong challenge to Huppenthal for superintendent of
public instruction. Douglas didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment
Tuesday. Douglas strongly opposes Common Core, calling it a federal takeover of
local schools.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Huppenthal said he did not change
his position or `flip-flop” but was merely using precise definitions on an
extremely complex subject.

He made a distinction between Common Core standards and Arizona’s standards,
renamed amid a conservative outcry last year as Arizona’s Career and College
Ready Standards. There’s no difference between the two standards, which have
been adopted by most states and were approved by the state Board of Education
with little opposition in 2010.

“The context is everything,” Huppenthal said. “And the confusion around and
the impressions that are formed about the standards means that you have to
define exactly what you’re talking about. And in that debate I defined exactly
what I was talking about.”

Huppenthal’s new statement says he supports the reading and math standards in
place now. But he says he’s fighting other standards for history and science. In
the debate, he also said he stripped out controversial titles from literature
readings lists.

“In the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, I support sound standards
like using phonics to teach reading proficiency, letter identification, and
learning multiplication facts by third grade. These are excellent standards,”
Huppenthal said. “However, I will always oppose any standard that presents an
unbalanced debate on scientific topics like climate change, and I will always
oppose any standard aimed at denigrating our Founding Fathers and the U.S.

Huppenthal’s denunciation of Common Core at the Aug. 5 debate came after he
spent the last couple of years defending it from attack by opponents who believe
they are a federal intrusion into the education system. In late June, at a press
conference where he apologized for posting anonymous blog posts denigrating
welfare recipients and other postings that were seen by some as racist, he said
politicians across the country “folded like wet paper bags,” when faced with
critics of the standards.

“I didn’t fold,” Huppenthal said. “I went out there and I fought for our
education system. And I fought for a set of standards that I independently came
to the conclusion were a solid set of standards.”

On Tuesday, Huppenthal said he would “oppose any law that removes
responsibility for curriculum choices from local school districts and boards and
charter schools. He also said he planned to partner with the next governor to
review the standards.”


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