Utah’s common core standards have been hotly contested ever since they were adopted by the state board of education in 2010. Now, with eight new school board members and President-Elect Trump entering the White House, the future of the core is unclear.
“We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education," said Donald Trump in a campaign video this summer. "So common core is a total disaster. We can’t let it continue.”
Alisa Ellis, a newly elected member of the Utah state board of education, says the core standards often symbolizes much more than it actually is.
“Common core basically has been a nickname for a much larger education reform," says Ellis.
The common core standards were originally created by governors and state superintendents and then adopted on a state by state basis. This was never a federal requirement, but President Obama did incentivize states with extra funding.
Simply put, the core is a set of subject specific standards meant to guide teacher instruction. But Ellis, and at least two other elected board members, say it’s bigger than that.
“With all of these reforms is a loss of local control and a system where accountability shifts from the local community to far off distant bureaucrats," says Ellis
On the other side you have someone like Kathleen Riebe. Also newly elected to the state board, Riebe has 15 years of experience working in public schools
“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding," sayd Riebe. "When I ask people what they don’t like about the core and when I show them the core. It’s hard for people to go past their gut feelings.”
Riebe says people don’t even know what they don’t like about common core. And most parents are upset about testing and school programs, not state standards.
She says she’s happy to change the core but wants it to be a constructive conversation, rather than starting from scratch.
“To dismantle that whole thing and start all over again seems very expensive to me," says Riebe.
One thing Riebe and Ellis do agree on is that they see common core reform happening over time. They also both say the solution is much bigger than any blanket statements from leaders in Washington.