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Would Common Core repeal in Oklahoma be a ‘tipping point’ in national debate?

Rep Joe Dorman
Rep Joe Dorman

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Associate Publisher


OKLAHOMA CITY – With the Oklahoma Senate likely to approve what authors intend as repeal of the controversial Common Core curriculum standards, debate is intensifying about the full meaning of that action.

One person not in doubt about its impact is state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs. Dorman says House Bill 3399 “is absolutely a tipping point in the national debate on the curriculum. It reflects on individuals who have worked hard to force reconsideration.”

Dorman supported the measure when it cleared the state House two weeks ago (

If an amended version clears the Senate, as expected this week, he and other House members will get a second chance to oppose Common Core.

House sponsor of the legislation is none other than Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.

While conservatives like Hickman primarily assail Common Core out of concern over federal control and certain provisions, Doman also attacks the standards process as inadequately funded.

In essence, Dorman has bracketed Common Core, attacking the issue from both the right and the left.

“Steps have been taken toward implementation, but without funding,” Dorman told Oklahoma Watchdog.

He continued, “It’s wrong for government to implement these kinds of plans without adequate funding. The result is that no matter what is done we’re setting up students to fail unless we assure remediation for those who need it. Making teachers spend weeks and even months in testing is not an effective approach.”

Despite this critique from a perspective sympathetic to increases in education spending, Dorman also echoes many of the issues raised by Republican colleagues.

“One of the concerns I’ve heard repeatedly is that there is no guarantee on the security of information in the Common Core information systems. And, there has not been enough attention paid to individual treatment of students with learning challenges.

“Bottom line, these one-size-fits-all ideas are not effective. All education plans need to take into account the individual needs of students.”

Leaders of ROPE (Restoring Oklahoma Public Education), a conservative education reform group, support Hickman’s bill. ROPE has praised Hickman, Dorman and other legislators for their work against Common Core.

Scattered national analysts have questioned whether similar legislation signed into law last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence actually amounts to a repeal. ( The Oklahoma bill stresses state-based curriculum development, explicitly and repeatedly rebuffing national norms.

Hickman’s close allies, state Reps. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, told Capitol reporters, in response to questions from Oklahoma Watchdog, the state standards will ultimately be tougher than Common Core, but without the latter’s age-inappropriate objectives.

Both men have been particularly critical of Common Core proposals aimed at PreK through third grade children.

The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce repeated its support for Common Core last week, issuing a widely circulated letter at the Capitol declaring votes to repeal the measure would be considered negative in a policy scorecard issued annually.

One common criticism from agricultural business interests has been that House Bill 3399 could ban public schools from working with groups like the Future Farmers of America (FFA) on agricultural academic standards. However, Speaker Hickman and his Senate co-sponsor, Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, say that issue were first addressed in the House several weeks ago, and again in the Senate language limiting the state Board of Education’s development of standards.

Hickman told Oklahoma Watchdog the criticism about agricultural curriculum, still repeated by some Common Core proponents last week, shows critics “haven’t read the bill” as amended.

Sen. Brecheen, who guided the measure to 11-0 passage in the Education Committee, told Oklahoma Watchdog he will likely seek for a Senate floor vote this week. The measure would then return to the House for final consideration.

Despite her past support for the Common Core, Gov. Mary Fallin has indicated she may sign the legislation, insisting it echoes her push back against federal control of education policy, issued in an executive order last fall.

One provision in H.B. 3399 with undisputed direct impact is that, if signed into law, it would push development of Oklahoma state standards off until August 1, 2015, in contrast to previous plans to implement Common Core later this year.

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