Unable to kill outright the Common Core program they fear, state senators now are moving to let schools opt out of the national education standards.
On a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate approved SB 1395 and SB 1396. While the wording and methodology are different, both essentially allow local school board and charter school operators to decide they do not want to implement the standards.
SB 1396 also would force the state to withdraw from the consortium that is creating a multi-state test designed to see whether students are making progress.
“It's been proven time and time again that local control is best control,” said Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, sponsor of one of the measures.
The moves come just a week after the Senate refused to approve legislation absolutely forbidding Arizona from implementing the Common Core standards adopted by the National Governors Association. Suspicion of the standards as some sort of nationally imposed mandate remains.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the U.S. Department of Education is urging that the GED high school equivalency diploma and the SAT and the ACT college exams line up with Common Core standards.
“That is a further nationalization of the educational system,” he said, and a further erosion of local control. Biggs said that education attainment levels have not increased even as federal “encroachment” has.
Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, said he's never been a big fan of any sort of standards at all.
“If we are going to have standards, they ought to be home-grown Arizona standards,” he said.
But Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said sometimes national standards are necessary. He asked colleagues to imagine what it would be like if each community adopted its own purity standards for over-the-counter drugs.
Both measures face an uncertain future.
Most major business organizations support Common Core as a method of ensuring that students graduate from high schools with the skills they need either to get a job or go on for higher education. Gov. Jan Brewer, who has been supportive of the standards, has suggested she would veto any attempt to dilute them.