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Military Generals urge Fallin to support Common Core

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The morning before Governor Fallin signed HB 3399, a bill that repeals Common Core academic standards, supporters for the English and math standards brought in some big guns, hoping to quiet the critics.

Two of Oklahoma's retired military generals showed up at the state capitol.

Lt. General Richard Burpee, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), and Major General Jay Edwards, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), said a poor education is a major reason why 75% of 17-to-24 year olds can't pass the tests to even allow them to serve our country.

Burpee said to build a stronger, more intelligent military, you have to teach critical thinking skills at a young age.

"You don't just start at the fifth, sixth or seventh grade," he said. "You start early and develop it all the way up, and that's what Common Core does."

Burpee and Edwards urged the governor to veto HB 3399, because they believe the national reading and math standards will improve America's military future by developing sharper skills in critical thinking, problem solving and communication.

"...and Common Core is probably one of the few places where that standard is measured or evaluated," Edwards said. "It requires a very highly educated young man in order to carry out the missions in the military."

Oil and gas veteran Ray Potts, VP of Potts Exploration LLC in Oklahoma City, joined the generals, saying energy technology will require Oklahoma's future work force to have an advanced education.

"Oklahoma City Chamber (of Commerce), Tulsa Chamber, State Chamber have all endorsed the benefits on continuing with Common Core," he said.

Jenni White, with Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE), disagrees, saying Oklahoma's education system doesn't need Common Core because one study shows Oklahoma ranks second in the country in steady employment.

"It's been a process of an erosion of local control over the last number of decades and there's got to be a point where we can just reign that in," she said. "Maybe we ought to focus on what's best for Oklahoma kids and how they need to be educated to stay here and perform the jobs that we have."

Governor Fallin issued a statement Thursday, saying "...We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma's public schools. The words ‘Common Core’ in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children. If we are going to improve our standards in the classroom, now is the time to get to work.

"For that reason I am signing HB 3399 to repeal and replace Common Core with Oklahoma designed and implemented education standards. I am committed, now more than ever, to ensuring these standards are rigorous. They must raise the bar - beyond what Common Core offers - on what we expect of our students. Above all, they must be developed with the goal of teaching children to think critically and creatively and to complete high school with the knowledge they need to succeed in college and in the workforce. I also ‘get it’ that Oklahoma standards must be exceptional, so when businesses and military families move to Oklahoma they can rest assured knowing their children will get a great education.

"The process of developing new, higher standards will not take place overnight, nor will it be easy. It will require hard work and collaboration between parents, educators, employers and lawmakers. Developing these standards is worth the effort; because our children's education is that important to our state. Their futures, as well as Oklahoma's future prosperity, depend on our ability to write and implement education standards that will prepare our children for success. I know Oklahoma is up to that challenge.

"My thanks go out to the educators and schools that have already worked hard to raise expectations and standards for our children. I know they will continue to build on those efforts as we move forward together as a state."