As legislative efforts to repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards continue into their fifth year, the controversial benchmarks remain an issue in local races because of their Common Core roots.
The Common Sense Campaign, a Tea Party group openly opposed to Common Core, hosted a multi-candidate forum on Feb. 15. When the candidates for the District 5 seat on the Mobile County School Board took the stage, it didn’t take long for the issue to come up.
Incumbent Bill Foster, Ph.D., is the only member of the board facing election in the March 1 Republican primary. While he far from lauded Alabama’s mandatory standards, he told the crowd in Theodore he does support the state Legislature’s right to set education policy.“I do believe the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants the states the right to education. The states determine what it is that we’re going to do in terms of education, and I support that,” Foster said. “Now, if [Common Core] is repealed at the state level, then what is put in its place I’ll be more than happy to support as well, but because I’m a Constitutionalist, that’s why I support that now.”
While Foster has discussed his tenure as a teacher, principal and board member in the Mobile area during the race, his opponent, Theresa Lucas Hubbard, has regularly boasted of her experience raising children in multiple state education systems during her stint as an active member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
She was also quite upfront about her opposition to Common Core, and her stance on the subject even landed her in the national spotlight last fall in an interview with Breitbart News.
Speaking with Lagniappe in December, Hubbard said she blames Common Core for the recent drop in Alabama student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has fallen considerably since the new standards were adopted.
“I believe these educational state standards they’re talking about are not working. Our [NAEP] testing shows they’re not working,” Hubbard said during the candidates’ forum. “I don’t hold that against the teachers, though. I hold that against Montgomery and Washington.”
That said, proponents of the College and Career Ready Standards have blamed declines in both standardized testing and NAEP scores on the increased difficulty and rigor that came with the change. Even Hubbard herself has previously said there are “probably some good things about [Common Core] that need to be salvaged.”
As for Foster, he said it’s the new higher standards that should stick around.
“We ought to have very high standards because what that promotes is thinking on the part of children, and I want to create children who are thinkers,” Foster said. “I want them to have high standards. Whatever is decided at the state level that those high standards are, I want them to be able to focus their efforts on reaching them.”While Hubbard may be committed to examining Common Core and working toward its repeal, it could prove a tough sell to current board members if she wins the seat next week.
In 2014, the members at the time — including Foster — voted to send a letter opposing a bill to allow school boards the leeway to opt out of the statewide standards. Even if the current legislation passed, one of its provisions puts any final decision to repeal the standards in the hands of local boards.
In the meantime, Hubbard said she would stand with teachers, who she says have no control over state requirements and who she has heard “could be fired if they speak out against the curriculum.”
“If you want to save this country, it begins at the local level,” Hubbard said. “It begins in the schoolhouse teaching them American values, and that’s what I want to see from our children and I’ll work as hard as I can to ensure that.”
MOBILE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD,
DISTRICT NO. 5
Theresa V. Hubbard