Hold the phone! HB 3399, which repealed Common Core standards in the state of Oklahoma, is the subject of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a group of parents, teachers, members of the State Board of Education, and former US Attorney General Robert McCampbell. The lawsuit challenges the repeal, calling it unconstitutional because HB 3399 gives the state legislature power to review and amend, or otherwise disapprove of curriculum drafted by the education board.
HB 3399 (PDF) directs school districts “to develop and implement curriculum, courses and instruction” in place of those required by Common Core. It also calls for “the State Board of Education to adopt English Language Arts and Mathematics standards.” I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds like the control is left with the education board, and merely supervised by the legislature.
An amendment to the bill struck language calling for the Board to implement curriculum, and instead calls for it to adopt subject matter standards while individual school districts develop the curriculum. It returns power to local schools, giving them control over the content and methods of education, while encompassing a broad description of what types of courses must be included, often referencing other existing state law.
Section 3 gives the legislature power to review the Board’s standards, but the word “curriculum” was struck from the original language of the bill. The legislature does not control curriculum under this law. It also requires the board to receive certification from the State Board of Regents, who are appointed in successive terms by the Governor, according to the Oklahoma Constitution.
What comes under scrutiny in the lawsuit is Section 4 of the bill, which calls for the legislature to review the new standards prior to their implementation. Without Section 4, the education board could draft any standards it wished, essentially even copying Common Core, and the entire law would have no effect. Section 4 gives HB 3399 teeth, and ensures the intent of the law is carried out.
McCampbell requested the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision be expedited, and a hearing is currently set for July 14, 2014.
Here’s my favorite part of the bill. It’s Section 3, Subsection D, Paragraph 3:
3. The State Department of Education may participate in a multistate or multigovernmental cooperative pursuant to the requirements of the Oklahoma Central Purchasing Act, but shall not bind the state, contractually or otherwise, to the authority of any other state, organization or entity which may supersede the authority of the State Board of Education.
And finally, the Oklahoma State Constitution states in Article 13, Section 1, “The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated,” and in Section 5, “Section 5 – creates board of education whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. “The supervision of instruction in the public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.”