Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to move toward throwing out the national education standards known as Common Core.
Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement minutes after the vote, saying he'll sign it.
The standards were adopted by the state several years ago. But their implementation in the 2012-13 school year angered some parents, who said they were inappropriate in several areas. For the past year, those critics have been pushing lawmakers to repeal the standards.
House lawmakers voted 71-34 to approve a bill that creates a new state commission to review the state's educational standards and recommend the replacement of any inappropriate or faulty Common Core standards with new ones.
An earlier House version of the proposal would have banned the commission from keeping any Common Core standards.
The compromise version more closely follows the Senate version, which allows the commission to choose the best standard in any given area, whether it's from Common Core or another system. The Common Core standards will remain in place for the next school year while the review is underway.
The commission will be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.
Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, said it is the state's "right and obligation" to set its own educational standards, rather than adhering to a national system.
“We’re not taking anything off the table to access the best ideas in the country to ensure we have the best academic standards,” Horn told his fellow state lawmakers.
Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, herself an educator, spoke against the bill.
"We’ve invested a lot of time, we’ve invested a lot of money" in the transition to Common Core, she said. "I think this sends a bad message to teachers, to parents, to students about what happens next."
She noted that many pushing for the repeal blamed President Barack Obama for Common Core, even though the effort was actually marshaled by the nation's governors under the leadership of Florida Republican Jeb Bush.
"Sadly, this issue was made extremely political in the last few years," Cotham said. "Why are we really doing this? Is it really to better education, or is it more political in nature?"
Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Carteret, countered that the repeal "is not a partisan issue."
"Even the Democrats' children are coming home with Common Core homework," Speciale said, adding that throwing out Common Core was essential to maintain the state's "sovereignty."
"The entire Common Core program needs to be replaced," he said. "The bottom line is, it’s a terrible system."
Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, called the measure “a victory for the people of North Carolina,” noting that the push to throw out the standards “came from the parents.”
"What we have done is respond to the concerns of the parents of this state who want the best for their children," Starnes said.
Repeal, replace, or review?
The next stop for the proposal, titled "Replace Common Core standards," is the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory, who has already said he'll sign it.
McCrory has supported Common Core in the past. Just last month, he said the push to repeal the standards "is not a smart move," but he acknowledged that some may need to be reviewed and corrected.
He also expressed concern that the changes could lower the state's standards – the same argument made by the North Carolina Chamber, which opposed the initial legislation.
However, McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis was quick to point out Wednesday that the final version of the bill doesn't actually repeal any standards. Instead, the commission would recommend changing some standards, and the State Board of Education would have to vote to enact the recommendations.
A statement from the governor's office shortly after the vote echoes that sentiment, calling it the "Common Core review bill."
"I will sign this bill because it does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards. It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards," the statement quotes McCrory as saying.
"No standards will change without the approval of the State Board of Education. I especially look forward to the recommendations that will address testing issues so we can measure what matters most for our teachers, parents and students," the governor added.
The Chamber also issued a statement praising the final version of the bill.
"This is a significant step toward a reasonable approach to make standards higher," Chief Executive Lew Ebert said in a statement, "and our top priority is pushing for the absolute best academic standards for the state."
However, advocates of a repeal of Common Core were equally quick to claim victory.
Senate bill sponsor Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, tweeted after the vote, "Senate Bill 812 heads to the Governor. Repeals #CommonCore and puts NC in charge of our own standards."
Conservative blogger A.P. Dillon tweeted, "NCGA passes Common Core repeal bill, heads to Governor."