Party divisions continue regarding Common Core - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Party divisions continue regarding Common Core

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In an election with few viable candidates in other parties, many races will be effectively decided in the Republican primaries. In an election with few viable candidates in other parties, many races will be effectively decided in the Republican primaries.

With the June 3 primaries approaching, Madison County Republicans acknowledged their party approaches this year's elections still divided over the issue of Common Core educational standards.

"It's been festering I would say for the past year, leading up to the primary, said Brent Beal, Chairman of the Madison County Young Republicans. "I think it's going to be an interesting time on June 3 when we see who folks vote for. I think we've got a few candidates who are running solely on the issue of Common Core."        

Ahead of the primaries, local and state Republican candidates gathered Tuesday evening in Huntsville for PrimaryPalooza, sponsored by the Madison County Young Republicans and several officeholders, where those with aspirations expressed wishes the party could resolve the issue within its own ranks.

"It's just a distraction," said former judge Reese McKinney, now a candidate for Secretary of State.  "I truly believe the Republicans need to be together on this issue and to me it's as simple as keeping the federal government out of our state government."

Alabama's College and Career Ready Standards initiative, based on the national Common Core educational standards, mandates educational standards, student testing and some curriculum.  Its adoption by the state, and advocacy by the Obama Administration, have aroused concern among some Republicans about federal interference in state and local education decisions. 

In the 2014 legislative session, state lawmakers considered, but did not pass, a measure to allow local school systems to "opt out" of Common Core, an idea favored by Madison County School Superintendent candidate Ronnie Blair. "I like the opt out opportunity because if we see that there is something that is not to our liking at the local level, we need to be able to opt out," said Blair.

Huntsville School Board Chairman David Blair, seeking to replace Huntsville Republican State Senator Paul Sanford, expressed his support for Common Core, and desire that state lawmakers, whose ranks he seeks to join, leave the issue to educators like the state school board. 

"From a school board perspective, absolutely, I'm strongly in favor of standards for the kids, make sure they're college and career ready when they get done with our high schools," he said. "But from a Senate side I think we need to stay in the lanes from legislative standpoint.  The legislature needs to do legislative business and let the Department of Education worry about what the education standards need to be for the state."

Sanford, for his part, said he does not care for Common Core but that the question had not come up as a priority issue in his conversations with voters. "The issues are typically jobs, economy health care. People are still upset about the health care," Sanford said.

In an election with few viable candidates in other parties, many races will be effectively decided in the Republican primaries and Blair said he hoped the Common Core issue might be decided as well. 

"I'm hoping that these elections will be a referendum one way or  the other on whether Common Core is something we need to be focusing on or if we need to move on," he said.  "My view is that the people ought to decide and if they vote down a lot of the candidates who are running solely on common core, then I think it's time we move on and say, you know what, the people aren't interested in that issue."

A straw poll was conducted during PrimaryPalooza. You can view the results here (PDF).

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