Early Vote for Energy Standards Freeze; Lawmakers Grade Common Core

The latest Republican-backed revamp of Ohio’s energy efficiency standards is halfway through the legislature after several hours of delays and a very early morning vote. Primary day wasn’t very eventful this year, but voters did approve Issue 1, which allows the state to sell nearly $2 billion in bonds over the next decade to finance local bridge, road, water and sewer projects. In the only contested statewide race, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald became the official Democratic nominee for governor by easily defeating Larry Ealy, an unemployed Dayton area man who had no campaign organization and had raised no money.

As the school year is winding down, debate over what kids are learning and being tested on continues to rage. Ohio is among the 44 states and the District of Columbia that adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which sets details on what kids from kindergarten through their senior year of high school should know in English language arts and math. The program has been praised as superior to almost all existing educational standards, while allowing districts flexibility to develop curriculum and helping educators better prepare kids for careers because of an emphasis on critical thinking. But the Common Core has also been vilified as untested with standards that aren’t high enough, and that it enforces a one-size-fits-all approach that’s too reliant on standardized testing while costing states and school districts a lot of money.

And what’s interesting in this debate is that often, it’s not across party lines – it’s an intra-party fight among Republicans. Longtime Republican Rep. Gerald Stebelton of Lancaster is the chair of the House Education Committee and supports Common Core. He says it’s a set of learning objectives, not a curriculum, and these standards exist so that there can be benchmarks that can be measured to make sure kids are learning what they’re supposed to. And he says local school boards and states still have the flexibility to set curriculum. Stebelton said the initiative had been adopted and was being implemented smoothly, and then a lot of noise about the Common Core burst in from the national level.

Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) proposed a bill to repeal the Common Core initiative. He says concerns about Common Core didn’t explode until parents started seeing the impact, and he says national conservative commentators started talking about it at the same time. And he maintains there’s no evidence that the standards haven’t been “dumbed down”.

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