Oklahoma became the third state to officially dump the Obama administration-pushed national education standards known as Common Core, handing a major victory to opponents of the deeply controversial scheme following another success in South Carolina last week. On June 5, under major pressure from across the state, Republican Governor Mary Fallin (shown) signed legislation passed recently by the legislature in a landslide, officially repealing the national standards that have sparked a nationwide uprising among parents and teachers.
The defeat for Common Core in Oklahoma is an especially big deal because Gov. Fallin is the chair of the National Governors Association, a federally funded lobbying outfit based in Washington, D.C., that was partly responsible for developing the standards. Analysts say Fallin was under tremendous pressure from both sides on the bipartisan legislation to withdraw from the Obama-backed education plot — with special interests on one side demanding it remain in place, while a grassroots army of outraged parents and teachers demanded it be killed.
“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,” Fallin said in signing the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the legislature. “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.”
Supporters of state sovereignty and quality, community-controlled education celebrated the Oklahoma governor’s decision with special zeal. According to grassroots activists involved in battling Common Core, the victory in Oklahoma might even represent the beginning of the end for Common Core across the other 41 states that accepted bribes from the Obama administration in exchange for imposing the scheme on children and have not yet withdrawn. Now, the state will get to work developing superior standards, the governor said.
“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core,” Fallin declared in a statement. “Now is the time for Oklahomans — parents, citizens, educators, employers and elected officials — to unite behind the common goal of improving our schools. That begins with doing the hard work of building new, more rigorous Oklahoma standards.”
Fallin, who initially supported the national standards, claimed the plot started out with good intentions. “Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core,” she said, echoing concerns that transcend party lines. “President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable. What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.”
Because of that, she signed HB 3399 repealing and replacing Common Core with new state standards yet to be developed. “They must raise the bar — beyond what Common Core offers — on what we expect of our students,” Fallin added. “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.”
Grassroots leaders and Common Core critics were thrilled with Oklahoma’s decision, which makes it the third state to impose the standards before formally withdrawing. “This is a great victory for the constitutional structure and for the American people, whom it was intended to protect,” said Emmett McGroarty, director of education at American Principles in Action. “This is a great leap forward in the national movement of parents who are reclaiming control of education policy.”
The legislation was approved by a bipartisan landslide late last month, with 71 in favor and 18 against in the state House. In the state Senate, the crushing defeat for Common Core was also overwhelming. In all, 31 state senators voted to kill Common Core and just 10 sought to keep it in place, illustrating the magnitude of the public uprising against the national standards, which have become politically toxic across the United States.
One of the grassroots groups that played a key role in the state effort to stop Common Core was Restore Oklahoma Public Education, or ROPE. Jenni White, president of the organization, thanked the governor for listening to the voices of Oklahoma parents and legislators. She also thanked state Rep. Jason Nelson, state Sen. Josh Brecheen, and other legislators who backed the bill, saying their efforts would “forever be appreciated.”
“Oklahoma now has the opportunity to lead the nation as never before in creating new education standards to propel Oklahoma students onto a path of excellence,” White said, applauding state officials for responding to the demands of citizens. The new law directs the state Board of Education to create new, more rigorous standards by August of 2016. Once created, a wide range of state experts, officials, and more will be charged with approving them.
While that process is underway, Oklahoma government schools will revert to previous state standards used from 2003 to 2010. One point that has sparked concern, however, is that the new standards to be developed will have to be certified as “college and career ready” — a nonsensical term used by the Obama administration as a condition for handing out unconstitutional bribes to state governments that adopted Common Core.
In Indiana, which formally withdrew from Common Core earlier this year, education experts noted that the supposed “new” standards were largely a re-packaged version of the dubious national standards foisted on states by the Obama administration. Indeed, in some sections, as much as 90 percent of the alleged “Indiana” standards were simply copied and pasted straight from Common Core, according to top education experts who reviewed the material.
When asked whether Common Core might slip into the new Oklahoma standards, ROPE chief White said in a phone interview with The New American that it would be hard. She noted that the new law mandates a side-by-side comparison between the new standards and Common Core to check for similarities. "We absolutely need to stay engaged," she said. "But I think it would be very hard for what happened in Indiana to happen here. Still, we do absolutely need to stay vigilant."
Bunny Chambers, a prominent activist who leads the powerful Oklahoma Eagle Forum, thanked officials for responding to citizens and celebrated the major victory in her state in the battle to stop Common Core. However, she also warned citizens not to rest easy just yet. “We will need to be vigilant as the new standards are being written, so that the Common Core standards don’t reappear only to have a new name,” Chambers said in an e-mail to supporters.
“We all want Oklahoma to lead the nation in academic excellence,” she continued. “I hope the grassroots, educators, parents and business leaders can unite and strive to achieve that goal.” Chambers also said parents and grandparents should make sure they know what their children and grandchildren are learning at school. “We need to find out if they are really learning what we know they should be learning,” she said, adding that families must remain attentive to ensure that their children are receiving an excellent education, and step in to fill the gaps where needed.
The major victory for Common Core critics in Oklahoma follows another successful effort in South Carolina, which officially withdrew from the Obama-backed national standards last week. Across America, meanwhile, the grassroots uprising continues to grow, with teachers unions, Democrats, Republicans, parents, and children all demanding an end to the controversial scheme.
The tide turned has decisively in favor of Common Core opponents with the withdrawals of Oklahoma and South Carolina within a week of each other. However, the powerful forces behind the scheme — billionaires, Big Business, Big Government, the Obama administration, and more — have no plans to give up the fight just yet, especially after pouring billions of private and taxpayer dollars into it. If Americans hope to restore proper, locally controlled education, the hard work of parents, teachers, and activists must continue.
Photo of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin: AP Images
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, education, politics, and more. He can be reached at