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OKC Chamber, educators speak out on plans to scrap Common Core programs

OKLAHOMA CITY – When a business is looking to expand in Oklahoma, one of its first questions deals with local college graduates.

Mark VanLandinham, vice president of government relations and policy for the
Greater OKC Chamber, said, “Do we have a workforce who’s capable of meeting the demands of our businesses if we locate there or expand there?”

Unfortunately, sometimes that answer is ‘no.’

VanLandingham was excited about Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma.

He says its higher standards would have improved the talent pool in Oklahoma for jobs in bio sciences, aviation and oil and gas.

He said, “Being able to think critically, that’s a skill set that needs to be learned at an earlier age.”

Oklahoma Rep. Jason Nelson is a co-author of House Bill 3399, which throws out Common Core’s math, English and language arts standards.

Nelson said, “To say that Common Core is the only way for kids to get a great education is just simply not true.”

Nelson says lawmakers wanted to give Oklahoma, not the federal government, control over standards.

The future standards may include similar goals, like improving critical thinking.

Nelson says the state will receive advice from higher education and career tech educators.

He said, “They’ll have to say that these standards will lead to lower remediation rates when kids go to college.”

Chris Brewster, superintendent of Santa Fe South Schools, calls the bill politically motivated.

“Where it’s pandering to this idea that ‘We don’t want Washington in our backyard’,” he said. “No matter what, it shouldn’t be scrapped because it’s good for our kids.”

Brewster says his schools have spent six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing for Common Core, all of which could be down the drain.

He said, “It’s just the best idea that we’ve had for raising the bar in our state.”

The state Senate Education Committee voted Monday to pass HB3399 to replace Common Core standards with new ones, which would be developed and adopted by the state Board of Education by Aug. 1, 2015.

Academic testing for the new standards would be implemented by the 2017-18 school year.

The Senate could vote on the bill next week.