By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY — State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is the likely Democratic nominee for governor of Oklahoma this year. He is a long -shot in the Sooner State, where statewide political offices are dominated by Republicans, including incumbent Mary Fallin.
Still, Dorman – pegged as a moderate during most of his career in the Legislature — might garner fans among those state conservatives most passionately opposed to the controversial “Common Core” standards.
Nationally, most opponents of implementation of the standards appear to be conservatives, although some teacher organizations have also assailed Common Core’s pressure on teachers to improve student performance.
Last week, Dorman decried the Common Core – which is supported by both Fallin and Republican Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. In an interview with Oklahoma Watchdog, Rep. Dorman acknowledged the issue has some potential to draw support from disgruntled conservatives, many of whom are passionately opposed to the Common Core.
Dorman said his primary motivation is “I am willing to listen to those in classrooms. I am opposed to the idea that there is a ‘one-size fits all’ approach that will address our needs in state education.”
Dorman opposed creation of the Common Core standards in 2010. While he believes there are “bits of good” in the objectives, he said in an interview Wednesday (Feb. 26) he opposes “mandates without money” in Common Core – which is also his criticism of the No Child Left Behind template from the Bush years.
Dorman said the criticisms of Common Core from professional educators have been raised from “rural, urban and suburban school districts.”
A conservative grass roots organization known as ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) has long opposed implementation of the Common Core standards in the state (http://capitolbeatok.com/reports/editor-s-notebook-closing-time-lobbying-day-haze-hearing-hard-core-on-common-core),
Last Wednesday, ROPE President Jenni White told Oklahoma Watchdog that “Dorman’s strong comments about the Common Core State Standards Initiative quite thoroughly echo the depth and breadth of concern of parents, educators and taxpayers across the state of Oklahoma. Public Education is not now – nor should it ever be – a partisan issue over which legislators haggle and fight while parents sit on the sidelines, effectively cut out of the legislative process.”
Last spring, then-Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, aligned himself with Common Core opponents, saying the standards “appear to be another vehicle for federal control of our public education system.” (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/legislative-opposition-to-common-core-curriculum-intensifies)
At the Capitol, state Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, has helped coordinate hearings highly critical of the Common Core.
However, in the state Senate, critics of the curriculum have gained little traction, as Republican leadership has declined to hear legislation touching implementation, which began at the state Department of Education in 2010.
White, in her interview with Oklahoma Watchdog, decried the state Senate’s refusal to hear Common Core-related bills. She said, “This must stop. Parents, educators and taxpayers deserve to be heard. Rep. Dorman’s analysis is important and we are glad he not only understands the issues, but is willing to speak about them publicly.”
Gov. Fallin, a close ally of Superintendent Barresi, has been supportive of Common Core. However, she issued an executive order this winter that asserted state control over curriculum standards, with or without federal incentive money. Both Barresi and Fallin are up for reelection this year.
In the press release where he stressed his opposition to the Common Core standards, Dorman’s campaign assailed the curriculum shift as originating with “outside consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). Falllin is presently chairman of the NGA.
Dorman characterized Common Core as “an unfunded nightmare which has been thrust upon our students and teachers across the state with no input from them. … The last thing Oklahoma schools need is another unfunded, national mandate placed on them.”
Dorman is pressing his criticism even as the state Department of Education, which Barresi runs, implements controversial testing programs, including an A-F grading structure for state schools. Dorman promised to resist “implementation timelines and plans that set schools up to fail, [and] … the stakes and priority attached to the tests.”
Further, he joined in part conservative critics who have assailed what, in his words, are deemed “commercial and political interests shaping and benefiting from this false panacea for the problems our schools face.”