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Gov. Haley’s strange relationship with Common Core

Posted: January 24, 2014 9:52 a.m.
Updated: January 27, 2014 5:00 a.m.

South Carolina politicians are masters at promising one thing and doing the opposite. From ethics reform to restructuring, they promise the moon and deliver exactly nothing. How do they get away with it? By assuming that the public won’t dig any deeper than a post on Facebook. Gov. Nikki Haley, for example, posted this on her Facebook page: “We have been trying to repeal Common Core since 2011 when we came into office. Whether its [sic] education, healthcare, or any aspect of government, we will fight to keep all standards state based, not federal.” She then linked to a letter she wrote two years ago in support of a senator who also claims to be fighting Common Core.

Haley has blamed the implementation of Common Core standards on the previous administration, claiming her administration has “actively supported efforts to pull South Carolina out of nationalized standards since taking office in 2011.” That’s not the case. In fact, the governor reauthorized Common Core through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with federally funded SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium on June 9, 2011, which required states in the Consortium to “adopt the Common Core Standards … no later than December 31, 2011.”

What the governor hasn’t mentioned is that the same MOU she signed in 2011 outlined an opportunity for her to start the process of truly rejecting Common Core. The MOU states that “any state may leave the Consortium without cause” so long as they abide by the process outlined, starting with submitting in writing a request to opt out and explain the reasons for doing so. In other words, the state could leave the Consortium that mandates the adoption of the Common Core Standards -- a major step toward actually doing what the governor says she’s been trying to do -- repeal Common Core.

Sure, she can’t fully repeal the Common Core Standards on her own. There are two boards that make decisions over South Carolina’s education standards and tests -- the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) and State Board of Education. But she could take responsibility for actively authorizing the standards and start the process of exiting the Consortium that mandates them. Instead, she takes the easy and largely meaningless step of supporting legislation that would purport to “repeal” Common Core but do little or nothing about it.

There is plenty Gov. Haley could do in practice to stop Common Core. For example, she could use her executive budget to force lawmakers to at least publicly take the responsibility they already have for accepting the federal dollars that trigger federal mandates. Our state can’t “fight to keep all standards state based, not federal” while we continue accepting federal dollars and federal mandates.

To the citizens who are working throughout the state to stop Common Core: ask your state politicians what they’re doing to stop it. Remind them that the federal government didn’t force us onto this path -- they did when they took money from the federal government and agreed to adopt their education standards. Remind them, too, that we could take back control of our state’s “education, healthcare, or any aspect of government” by refusing federal dollars and supporting our citizens with our own money.

Or do you think they know that already?

(Jamie Murguia is director of research for the South Carolina Policy Council, TheNerve.org’s parent organization. This op-ed was made available to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C., by the S.C. News Exchange.)

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