Governor Herbert surprised a lot of people this week, including me.
After spending the past six years promoting, marketing, and providing workforce alignment strategies to serve Common Core, and after rising to the throne of Common Core’s organization, National Governors Association, to become its chair, and after going out of his way to have the Utah Attorney General provide “proof” that Common Core supposedly represented local control– after all of this, Herbert has now turned his back on the Common Core and has written a letter to the State School Board, asking it to move away from Common Core.
The media in Utah say that they are “puzzled” and confused. Not me. I’m doing the happy dance!
Regardless of the Governor’s motives in this election year, regardless of the possibility that Utah might just endure a wasteful rebranding effort that could redeliver Common Core under a new name (as many other states, have done and done and done) –I still see this letter from Governor Herbert as a home run for the freedom team.
Read it. The letter admits that Common Core is not an example of local control, that it is the federal will, and that it damages local control –of testing, data collection, curriculum and instruction.
The letter asks the board to keep these principles in mind while it moves away from Common Core: 1) maintain high academic standards; 2) keep the federal government out of educational decisions in Utah; and 3) preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection and instruction.
It also says, “Just as important as the actual educational standards is the process by which we arrive at those standards. This should be a Utah process with public comment and discourse.” It continues, “…[W]e all understand the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all approach. It is imperative that any new standards are flexible enough to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts …I believe that our teachers need more freedom to be creative in the classroom.”
Well, those words are a surprise, and a miracle, to me.
Some people are suspicious because the governor’s in the middle of his re-election campaign, while his challenger, has been extremely successful with voting delegates because of his staunchly anti-Common Core stand. I was there when the governor got booed by a crowd over well over 1,000 delegates at the Utah County GOP Convention last month, when he spoke about Common Core; I know he is under campaign pressure, but he didn’t have to do this! He knew it would make him look like a fair-weather politician. He knew that most of those who are already voting for the more-conservative Johnson won’t change their minds and that those who already support Herbert won’t likely change their minds. So why did he really do it?
Maybe a key to why the governor wrote this letter is in its closing paragraph. His own children and grandchildren do not like the Common Core. The letter says, “I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had…”
What grandfather can stand up to his own grandchildren’s lobbying efforts against the Common Core? So he caved, in a good way. He’s publically admitted that Common Core is academically miserable and politically for socialists.
I cannot see this letter as anything but great news.
So what’s next? What will the Utah State School Board do?
I don’t think it can get away with yet another meaningless rebranding job. The now-somewhat-savvy Utah public won’t stand for that, knowing what so recently happened to Utah’s previously-good science standards, or knowing what happened when Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, Tennessee, Indiana, and other states passed Common Core repeal laws that resulted in nothing better, but common core 2.0 (under new names). To the dismay of those who actually wanted freedom and autonomy beyond the federal 15% no-change alignment “suggestion”, better standards didn’t actually mean, better standards. But we have the advantage of other states’ errors to learn from today.
The letter didn’t spell out every problem with education reform. For example, it didn’t say, “Let’s finally permit parents to opt children out of the federal/state data data monitoring system SLDS“.
But I don’t see the federal SLDS (Utah’s federally-provided student data mining system, which came to Utah alongside Common Core) very much longer reading “long life and happiness” in its fortune cookie. Why? Too many Utahns are aware that common data standards and common academic standards were a package deal from day one. Utah legislators recently passed bills that took protective action on student data privacy– taking a stand against the opposition’s national data-mining-and-monitoring movement. The governor will not be able to sidestep SLDS, even if he wants to. SLDS didn’t need to be in the letter because it’s on everyone’s mind.
One of my happiest thoughts, after seeing this letter, has been thinking about the countless Utah teachers and administrators who have previously not felt free to speak their minds about Common Core. The governor’s letter, in many ways (and unintentionally, perhaps) helps to reclaim freedom of speech to Utah educators. While educators opposed to Common Core have mostly remained quiet or anonymous, some of those who have not, have been bypassed, mistreated or branded as “insubordinate” for speaking out– for refusing to pretend to like Common Core –either academically or politically. Some have even been pushed to resign.
But now, if even the reigning governor is saying he’s not happy about the Common Core –academically nor in terms of lost local control– then finally, perhaps, any teacher or principal can pipe up, too.
So, this letter is very good news.
Thanks, Governor Herbert.