NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 26, 2021) – Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that prohibits the use of textbooks and instructional materials created to align with Common Core standards.

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) introduced Senate Bill 769 (SB769) on Feb. 9. The new law prohibits the state textbook and instructional materials quality commission, the state board of education, and public schools in Tennessee from recommending, approving, or using textbooks and instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials created to align with the common core state standards.

In effect, this would chop the legs out from under federal Common Core standards.

On March 15, the House substituted SB769 for the House companion, HB782 sponsored by Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland), and then passed it by a 64-19 vote with an amendment that creates a penalty for schools that intentionally violate the law. They will be subject to a funding cut.

With Gov. Lee’s signature, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2021.


Common Core was intended to create nationwide education standards. While touted as a state initiative through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the U.S. Department of Education was heavily involved behind the scenes. Initially, the DoE tied the grant of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to the adoption of Common Core, using the standards as powerful strings to influence state education policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress in 2015 prohibited the DoE from attempting to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards … or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States.” ESSA gives more latitude to states and local school districts in determining standards, but the feds still maintain significant control over state education systems. States are required to submit their goals and standards, along with a detailed plan outlining how they plan to achieve them to the DoE for feedback and then approval.

Even with the federal strings cut from Common Core, for the time being, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards independent based on its own criteria. The feds can once again use these national standards to meddle in state education at any time if they remain in place. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standards simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.

It’s also crucial for activists on the ground in the state to monitor state and local education boards to ensure they aren’t slipping Common Core standards in through back door maneuvering.

Rejecting nationalized education standards is the first step toward bringing true academic choice, and freedom. Passage of this legislation into law would take a positive step forward for the people of Tennessee and a path for other states to follow.

Mike Maharrey

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