MONTGOMERY, Ala. (April 7, 2022) – On Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that will cut the final ties between the state and Common Core.

Sen, Arthur Orr (R) and Sen. Tim Melson (R) introduced Senate Bill 171 (SB171) on Feb. 2. The new law creates the Alabama Numeracy Act and prohibits the use of federal Common Core standards in K-12 schools.

In 2013, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to rescind the memorandum of agreement that involved the State of Alabama in adopting the Common Core State Standards. As part of the termination process, the 2017-2018 Alabama Final Consolidated State Plan superseded and terminated the flexibility waiver agreement with the United States Department of Education pertaining to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. This included the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. SB171 takes the final step and severs any remaining ties between the state of Alabama and Common Core.

The new law “terminates all plans, programs, activities, efforts, and expenditures relative to the implementation of Common Core State Standards.” The law also prohibits the adoption or implementation of any national standards or variations of national standards from any source that cedes control of Alabama educational standards in any manner.

“The state shall retain sole control over the development, establishment, and revision of K-12 course of study standards.”

SB171 also includes an extensive overhaul of the state’s mathematics standards, implementing steps at the state level to improve the mathematics proficiency of kindergarten to 5th-grade students. This includes monitoring the progression of each student with early numeracy screenings and creating a process to help failing schools meet math standards.

On March 29, the House passed SB171 by a 76-24 vote. The Senate concurred with House amendments on the same day by a 33-0 vote. With Gov Ivey’s signature, the new law went into immediate effect.

While the law technically ends Common Core in Alabama and prohibits state schools from using federal standards, the process is not without potential pitfalls. As Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education said about a similar bill passed in Tennessee, legislatures sometimes do little more than to create “rebranded” versions of the same program. Even if the new state standards completely reject Common Core, it doesn’t mean the state won’t continue to allow the federal government to influence its education system. It will require public and legislative vigilance to completely push the feds out of education in Alabama.

BACKGROUND

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.

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 Alabama and could represent a path for other states to follow.

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