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Common Core

Sen. Ligon Holds Press Conference to Discuss Removal of Common Core Curriculum Standards

ATLANTA (February 28, 2013) - Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) held a press conference today to discuss Senate Bill 167. Sen. Ligon sponsored this legislation to withdraw Georgia from its participation in the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

The Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) were adopted on July 8, 2010 under Governor Sonny Perdue’s administration as part of the state’s efforts to comply with the Federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant. The Common Core represents the first attempt at nationalized curriculum standards in math and English language arts (ELA) for grades K - 12. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is responsible for the development of assessments that will be aligned to the Common Core.

“Though I am sure the previous administration had the best of intentions when deciding to apply for Race to the Top, the lack of accountability to the parents and taxpayers of this state is stunning,” said Sen. Ligon. "First of all, there has been no thorough cost analysis of what the unfunded mandates will cost Georgia's taxpayers at either the state or the local level to implement and maintain the terms of the grant."

"Secondly, allowing a consortium of states to work with non-profits and other unaccountable parties to develop our standards without open public oversight is untenable in a country of free people, especially considering  that Georgia's taxpayers support K-12 education with $13 billion of hard-earned dollars every year," Sen. Ligon explained. "Georgia needs to have a transparent, democratic process of developing curriculum standards and a means to ensure more direct accountability at the local level. Our educational system should not be accountable to Washington bureaucrats, but to the people of this state who pay the taxes and to the parents who have children in our public schools."

Lending his voice of support to the effort, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle stated, "The most important task we face each Legislative Session is finding ways to strengthen and reform the education of Georgia's children. I believe that Georgians know best how to educate our children - not Washington, D.C. bureaucrats. I look forward to working with Senator Ligon on this important issue to ensure that we’re able to continue making decisions about the education of our children right here in Georgia rather than having curriculum standards enforced from Washington, D.C.”


Sen. Ligon’s proposed legislation, Senate Bill 167, addresses withdrawal from the current implementation of the national math and English language arts standards, and prevents the Department of Education from adopting future standards without input from the citizens of Georgia. In addition, the legislation ensures that Georgia does not forfeit control of curriculum standards to outside entities.

Another provision of the bill addresses privacy concerns. SB 167 prohibits the Department of Education from sharing personally identifiable student and teacher information with the federal government except in well-defined circumstances, some of which would require notification to parents and to teachers. In addition, the bill forbids the Department of Education from sharing any personally identifiable information with entities outside the state, such as non-profits, and limits what can be shared inside the state to educational entities only. Further, no educational institution can use the data to develop commercial products or services or transfer that information to other entities, such as the labor department for workforce planning.

“Unfortunately, measures to protect the privacy of Georgia's citizens require additional vigilance due to the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has gutted federal student-privacy law through regulations implemented a year ago,” said Sen. Ligon. “Here in Georgia, I believe it is our legislative duty to protect the privacy of our citizens, especially our children, according to the original spirit of the law passed by Congress.”

During the press conference, Sen. Ligon was joined by several key education policymakers and stakeholders including, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee and as senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education; Ze’ev Wurman, a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and former Senior Adviser at the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Education; Jane Robbins, a Harvard-trained attorney and Senior Fellow with the American Principles Project; and Dr. Jim Arnold, Superintendent of Pelham City Schools, GA. 

In addition, a number of grassroots organizations pledged their support for SB 167 and were present to offer feedback regarding the removal of Georgia’s Common Core Program. These groups include organizations such as Concerned Women for America, Americans for Prosperity, American Principles Project, Georgia Conservatives in Action, Citizen Impact, the Conservative Leadership Coalition, the Georgia Republican Assembly, among others.

Senate Bill 167 has been assigned to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

Athens Banner Herald
Ligon: Common Core Sacrifices Sovereignty

Sen. William Ligon
May 7, 2013

Perhaps never before in American history has K-12 education experienced such a huge shift from local to federal control. The Race to the Top grant process bypassed a fundamental principle of constitutional government, “the consent of the governed.”

This grant was developed entirely within the federal executive branch, and state executive branch officials unilaterally committed to the mandates of the RTTT grant - including adoption of Common Core standards, even though the standards were not yet written, the tests undeveloped, and the costs unknown.
Bypassing legislative bodies violates the very foundation of this constitutional republic. The legislative branch is the branch of government that reflects the will of the people.

Across the nation, people are realizing they have been excluded from exercising one of their most treasured rights: the right to control the education of their children.

Nationwide, vigorous objections to RTTT mandates include the questionable quality of unpiloted Common Core standards, the expensive testing component, the collection and sharing of personal information on students, the unproven teacher-evaluation system, the increased taxation that will be necessary to cover unfunded mandates, and the fact that the Common Core violates the spirit, if not the letter, of laws prohibiting federal direction of curriculum.

Currently, the Common Core represents uniform standards in mathematics and English language arts, and other standards are in the pipeline. Though talking points claim the effort was “state-led,” actual input from the states was minimal, at best - and in the case of the legislatures, non-existent.

The funding for Common Core came largely from the Gates Foundation to two private trade associations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, along with their affiliated group, Achieve, Inc.


In turn, these groups designated three main writers for math standards and three for ELA standards. How anyone was actually chosen is still a mystery.
So much for transparency, public accountability, and claims of a state-led effort.

The Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee recently heard from education experts who warned of the dangers of the Common Core. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, a leading expert on ELA standards and a member of the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the ELA standards because of what she called their “empty-skill sets.”

The Common Core math standards are similarly deficient. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the validation committee, refused to sign off on them, concluding that students would be about two years behind students in other countries by eighth grade.

The claim that the Common Core is more rigorous than Georgia’s previous standards does not hold up well. Even the Fordham Institute, paid $1 million by the Gates Foundation to compare standards across the nation, gave Georgia’s former ELA and math standards the same overall rating as the Common Core. Yet, Georgia’s executive branch was willing to trade the state’s sovereignty over education to unaccountable Washington, D.C., bureaucrats and trade associations for a mere $400 million doled out over four years.

Grant terms prohibit Georgia from changing or deleting any standard, and limit the state to adding only 15 percent to them. When state taxpayers pay more than $13 billion in local and state taxes every year for K-12 education, how can their elected officials possibly concede their right to control educational standards?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington that only D.C. elites are competent to manage our lives (and our children), I believe what our founders believed: that liberty is best preserved when control is exercised close to home.

In no area is this truth more fundamental than the education of our children. As control over education has become increasingly centralized over the last 40 years, education has deteriorated. Are we to believe that the solution to this problem is even more centralization in Washington?

My bill to withdraw Georgia from Common Core, the aligned assessments, and the intrusive data-tracking on students is part of the movement to reassert our constitutional autonomy over education.

The prevailing sovereignty of the states in matters of K-12 education both reflects and promotes the common sense competence of the people. To weaken that sovereignty will, over time, undermine self-rule and individual initiative as well as the education of our children.


http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2013-05-07/ligon-common-core-sacrifices-sovereignty
Sen. Ligon Releases Comparisons Between Common Core Curriculum Standards and Previous Georgia Performance Standards

Click here to download the math comparison between Common Core and the former GPS.

Click here to download the ELA comparison between Common Core and the former GPS.
ATLANTA (August 5, 2013) - Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) released two reports Monday, one regarding math and the other on English language arts, which compare the Common Core Standards to Georgia's previous Performance Standards. The independent analysis on the math standards was provided by Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao, a 25-year veteran of math instruction who teaches mathematics and science education at Mercer University's Tift College. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and a former member of the Common Core Validation Committee, provided the analysis on the English language arts standards.

"Now that Georgia has withdrawn from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), I believe the next step in our efforts to exit the national Common Core framework must turn to the standards themselves," stated Sen. Ligon. "I am encouraged that Dr. John Barge and Governor Nathan Deal jointly agreed to exit PARCC, but until Georgia reclaims control over all facets of our educational system, including our standards as well as testing, our citizens cannot exercise their full constitutional authority over education."

The Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) were adopted on July 8, 2010 under Governor Sonny Perdue’s administration as part of the State’s efforts to comply with the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant. The Common Core represents the first attempt at nationalized curriculum standards in math and English language arts (ELA) for grades K - 12. The PARCC is one of the consortia responsible for the development of assessments that will be aligned to the Common Core.

"State officials and their personnel knew early on that Georgia was one of the nine states that already had standards as good as or better than Common Core. That analysis was provided by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which in fact is a pro-Common Core organization which received Gates Foundation funds to perform that study. Even so, Georgia's standards fared very well under their analysis," stated Sen. Ligon. "However, I wanted to know just how satisfactory or how deficient Common Core standards are compared to what Georgia already had. I sought out two content experts who were willing to perform the study. What they found is eye-opening and proves that Georgia made a very bad deal when it traded in our former standards for Common Core."

The math report summary shows that important mathematical concepts have been removed in the elementary grades: (1) data-analysis tools such as mean, median, mode, and range; (2) the concept of pi, including area and circumference of circles; and (3) division of a fraction by a fraction, which is a key component to number sense.

Throughout the math standards, the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic (prime factorization) is gone completely. Other missing concepts include (1) geometry - two of the five standard geometry theorems for triangles; (2) measurement - density; (3) number and operations - using fractions, decimals, and percents interchangeably. Algebra has been pushed back one year, from 8th to 9th grade. This means that the majority of Georgia students will not reach calculus in high school, as expected by selective universities.

Common Core English language arts fared no better. Based on her experience as a reviewer for Fordham in 1997, 2000, and 2005, Dr. Stotsky applied the same criteria and 4.0 scale that she used when examining English language arts standards in all the states during those years.

In Dr. Stotsky's analysis comparing the standards side-by-side, the previous Georgia Performance Standards in ELA outscored the Common Core's ELA standards as the following table shows.
The End of the Beginning for Common Core

Jay P. Greene
May 30, 2013

The folks at Pioneer have landed another blow against Common Core in the mainstream Conservative press.  This time Jim Stergios and Jamie Gass have a lengthy piece in the Weekly Standard detailing the start of troubles for Common Core, both substantively and politically.  This follows on a piece by Gass and Charles Chieppo in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.  A central part of the strategy for Common Core was to create the impression that it was inevitable, so everybody might as well get on board.  That aura of inevitability has been shattered.

My reasons for opposing Common Core are slightly different from those articulated by the folks at Pioneer, but we agree on the political analysis of its fate.  To become something meaningful Common Core requires more centralization of power than is possible under our current political system.  Pushing it forward requires frightening reductions in parental control over education and expansions of federal power.  These are not the unnecessary by-products of a misguided Obama Administration over-reach.  Constraining parental choice and increasing federal power were entirely necessary to advance Common Core.  And they were perfectly foreseeable (we certainly foresaw these dangers here at JPGB).

To continue reading
http://jaypgreene.com/2013/05/30/the-end-of-the-beginning-for-common-core/

In fact, Dr. Stotsky's analysis led her to recommend that Georgia should "re-adopt its previous standards (with some revisions...) because they are far superior to Common Core's."

To ensure that Georgia's citizens will have the opportunity to fully understand the findings of Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Bacallao, Sen. Ligon has posted these documents on his website so that all interested citizens can review the information.

Sen. Ligon is the author of legislation (SB 167 and SB 203) which would withdraw Georgia from the Common Core and the aligned assessments; prohibit the adoption of any future national curriculum standards; prohibit intrusive student data-tracking; and provide for a transparent, statewide public adoption process for curriculum standards.
November 26, 2013

Barbara Hampton, Chair
Georgia State School Board
205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive, SE
Atlanta, GA 30334

Dear Ms. Hampton,
Rally to Stop the Common Core Under the Gold Dome
February 4, 2014

ATLANTA Sen. William Ligon ( R - Brunswick), surrounded by a crowd of parents, children, and grassroots leaders holding "Stop Common Core" signs, held a rally and press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

Sen. Ligon and others called on the Governor as well as the State Legislature to withdraw Georgia from its participation in Common Core national standards and forego any testing associated with these standards.

“Today, I had the opportunity to join many Georgians from around the state at the “Stop the Common Core” Rally at the State Capitol,” said Sen. Ligon. “I am looking forward to the day when Georgia is out of the Common Core and our state asserts its complete autonomy over our own educational decisions.”

During the press conference, Sen. Ligon outlined two of the bills he is sponsoring, Senate Bill 203 and Senate Bill 167, to reassert Georgia’s constitutional autonomy over education. The bills, on file from last year, are being revised to ensure a more detailed process for the adoption of standards and to provide specific prohibitions on data collection and tracking.


Senate Bill 203, “An Act to Restore Educational Authority to Georgia Citizens,” would provide an orderly process to withdraw the state from Common Core and would ensure a more transparent process for the adoption of Georgia's educational standards. Senate Bill 203 would also create the Curriculum Content Standards Advisory Council, which is to be comprised of 24 members, including parents, teachers and college professors, to advise the State Board of Education on revising and adopting content standards. The bill would also allow school systems the local option to conform their curriculum and instruction to the previous Georgia Performance Standards while the process of revising math and English language arts standards occurs over the next two years.


Georgia Senate Passes Bill to Withdraw from National “Common Core” Standards
ATLANTA (February 25, 2014)

The Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 167 today by a vote of 34-16. Sponsored by Sen. William Ligon (R - Brunswick), this legislation provides an approach for withdrawing from the national education standards known as “Common Core” and specifies new protections for student privacy.

"Passage of this bill today represents the hard work of many people over the course of two years. This bill is the first major piece of legislation that has passed anywhere in the nation that has allowed the voice of the people to clearly say that national standards are unacceptable," stated Sen. Ligon. "This bill draws the line in the sand that Georgia will no longer be bound by national standards or the testing of national standards or be obligated to special interests. The people of Georgia, through this legislation, finally can begin to reclaim their educational sovereignty over what their children are taught in public schools. Georgia citizens should never again be shut out of the process as they were when the Common Core was ushered into this state."
Senate Education Committee Passes SB 167
February 20, 2014

On Thursday, Senate Bill 167, which I sponsored, received unanimous support from the Senate Education and Youth Committee. This bill is a combined substitute of both SB 167 (Student Right to Privacy Act) and SB 203 (An Act to Restore Educational Authority to Georgia Citizens). The legislation provides an orderly process for Georgia to move away from its experiment with national standards, currently known as the "Common Core," and limits the collection and sharing of student data. The bill also provides new protections for the privacy of students in order to prevent life-long data tracking.

A key feature of the bill is the public and transparent process for adopting first-class education standards so that control is returned to Georgia citizens. As part of the new process, the bill language provides for a Content Standards Advisory Council that would require participation from the different congressional districts throughout the state. The council would include parents, university professors, and other citizens. This council will use additional sub-committees comprised of K-12 teachers and curriculum specialists to work on curriculum standards at the various grade levels, and through a detailed public process, the council would receive public comments statewide over a 90-day period and make recommendations to the State Board of Education on revisions to the core curriculum content standards. Priority is given to revising math standards so that revisions would be complete within one year's time.

In addition, the bill language allows local school districts a choice to return to curriculum and instruction that aligns with the former Georgia Performance Standards or other standards, including the flexibility to use discreet math, while the statewide revision process occurs. After the process is completed, it will still allow local flexibility to enhance or modify standards so that parents and teachers can have meaningful input at the local level about what is taught in the classroom. The bill requires that all statewide assessments be solely controlled by the State of Georgia, requires the Department of Education to inform the General Assembly of the long-term effects of any grant, and prohibits State officials from ceding any measure of the people's constitutional authority over standards and testing to third parties.

Additionally, Senate Bill 167 outlines the limited categories of data that can be collected and disclosed without parental consent. It also prohibits the use of any student records for commercial purposes. The bill ensures that state agencies, local school districts, and educational institutions must disclose the nature of the information they collect on students and provide parents access to these records. It also prohibits the use of funds for building and maintaining any data system that is designed to systematically collect records on students beyond their K-12 and college education.
"I want to thank the many citizens around the state and people in leadership who have been willing to come to the table and work with me on this legislation. There is quite a long list of people, but I personally am indebted to my friend, Sen. Lindsey Tippins, the Senate Education Chairman, who has stood with me the entire way. I appreciate Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, along with their staff, who have reached out to me and were willing to offer assistance with the bill. I also appreciate House leadership working on the bill in advance and look forward to it being passed in the House of Representatives."

SB 167 helps returns control to Georgia’s citizens by creating an open and transparent public process for the adoption of content standards. The process will include a 90 -day open comment period and public debate in each of the congressional districts throughout the state. In addition, an 17-member Curriculum Content Standards Advisory Council, composed of parents, university professors, K-12 teachers, and other citizens along with additional working subcommittees of K-12 teachers, curriculum specialists, and other knowledgeable citizens, will review public input and make recommendations on the standards to the State School Board. The effort will begin with math standards, so that those standards are completed in one year's time.

The legislation gives school systems local control through the option of utilizing the previous Georgia Performance Standards as the process of revising math and English language arts standards occurs over the next two years. Even after the revised standards are completed, the legislation offers more flexibility for local districts to sequence, expand, and enrich the standards in ways that better suit the educational needs of their students and local communities.

In addition, SB 167 requires all statewide tests and assessments to be solely controlled by the State of Georgia, requires the Department of Education to inform the Georgia General Assembly of the long-term effects of any educational grant, and prohibits officials from relinquishing constitutional authority over standards and testing to third parties.

SB 167 also enforces higher student privacy controls by outlining limited categories of data that can be collected and disclosed without parental consent and prohibits the use of student records for commercial purposes. State agencies, local school districts, and educational institutions must disclose the nature of information collected and also provide parental access to these records. Any funds used for building or maintaining data systems for student records may not be used beyond students’ K-12 and college enrollment years.

"Though I recognize that this is a major milestone today made possible through the efforts of many grassroots activists around the state and through the prayers of many people, the effort has really just begun," added Sen. Ligon. "If this bill passes the House and is signed by the Governor, parents and citizens will have to build on this foundation. They will need to stay engaged in the effort to not only revise Georgia's content standards in English and math, but also to ensure that their local school districts stop all Common Core instruction and return to curricula aligned to the superior Georgia Performance Standards while the statewide revision of standards takes place. This is a long-term effort, and we must stay the course."
Senate Bill 167 will now transfer to the House of Representatives for consideration.

"I want to thank the many citizens around the state and people in leadership who have been willing to come to the table and work with me on this legislation. There is quite a long list of people, but I personally am indebted to my friend, Sen. Lindsey Tippins, the Senate Education Chairman, who has stood with me the entire way. I appreciate Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, along with their staff, who have reached out to me and were willing to offer assistance with the bill. I also appreciate House leadership working on the bill in advance and look forward to it being passed in the House of Representatives."
Senate Bill 167, “The Student Right to Privacy Act," would protect personally identifiable student information. The bill strictly delineates the limited categories of data that can be collected and disclosed without parental consent and requires written consent for any other data-collection or data-disclosure. It prohibits the use of any student records for commercial purposes. It ensures that state agencies, local districts, and education institutions must disclose the nature of the information that they collect on students and give parents access to those records. It also prohibits the use of funds for constructing and maintaining any data system that is designed to systematically collect records on students beyond their K-12 and college education.
The rally was sponsored by Concerned Women for America of Georgia with participation from American Principles in Action and many other organizations throughout the state including the Georgia Republican Party, the Georgia Baptist Convention, Americans for Prosperity Georgia, the North Georgia Tea Party Alliance, the Georgia Tenth Amendment Coalition, the Georgia Republican Assembly, Citizen Impact USA, and the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders.

“I would specifically like to thank Governor Nathan Deal for hearing the concerns of parents throughout the state, and I look forward to working with him to achieve the highest possible standards for Georgia students,” said Sen. Ligon. “We’re optimistic that the Georgia General Assembly will have a bill that addresses the concerns of parents, and does the right thing for the students of this state.”

Mike Griffin, speaking on behalf of the Georgia Baptist Convention, stated, "When it comes to the battle for the heart and soul of our country, no battleground is more strategic and sacred than the one that deals with the education of our country's children." He stated that "any effort to nationalize standards and to centralize educational control" was not a policy that the Georgia Baptist Convention could support. "We believe that withdrawing Georgia from Common Core will be in the best interest of all Georgians, and will restore authority to our citizens, to our parents, and to our state elected representatives."

Sen. Ligon was also joined by Tanya Ditty, State Director of the Concerned Women for America of Georgia, who serves on their Legislative Action Committee and is a strong advocate for putting an end to the Common Core.

“I was proud to stand with Sen. Ligon today, as we work together to stop Common Core in Georgia. “He is a man of conviction, strong moral character and integrity. Sen. Ligon is fighting valiantly for our children’s future, and we appreciate his leadership during this trying time,” said Ditty.
Based on input that my office has received since the last meeting of the Board, I am writing to address the process outlined in the "State Board Plan to address Governor's request Regarding Common Core Georgia Performance Standards," dated November 7, 2013.

Regarding the first item of Issue 1, I believe the public has a right to know which experts the State Board is selecting to provide written documentation about the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, prior to the time they begin their work, and the reasons why those individuals are particularly qualified for providing analysis. There should be a process through which the public could comment on their selection or even offer alternative candidates for consideration. Part of the problem with the Common Core at the outset was the closed-door process of not only the selection of Work Group members but the secrecy of their deliberations as well. Georgia has an obligation to her citizens to reverse this lack of transparency. The process by which the State Board chooses the review team as well as any of the resulting work should adhere to all civic procedures of public accountability.

Secondly, regarding email surveys, my office has learned that many teachers fear reprisal from their local superintendents. Whether this perception is true or false, it is a hindrance to collecting accurate information. Is there a process that would allow teachers to provide their input anonymously yet ensure scientifically reliable  results? If so, teachers who have contacted my office have designed, and others have weighed-in on, a survey design they believe could be of benefit to the Board. I would have to obtain their permission to release this survey design to you for your use, but they have put a lot of work into this effort, and I believe it deserves consideration since the Board has already approved the use of email surveys.

In addition to teachers using the alignment document that the State created when it moved from the GPS to the CCGPS, I believe it is very important for the teachers to have access to the full GPS in English language arts and mathematics when commenting on the current standards. In addition, it would be of great value to ask Georgia's recently retired teachers to comment as well. Veteran teachers, whether they are still teaching or not, have the most perspective to share on what is successful in the classroom. It would probably be helpful to categorize input from teachers not only based on their area of expertise but on their years of classroom experience.


Regarding the third item of Issue 1, this Board rule has garnered the most comment about the proposed process. If the intent of the Board is to truly obtain public input and to promote civic and parental involvement, the rules of engagement run contrary to the goal. Certainly, I agree with the need to have hearings in each Board member's district, but to insist that comments are submitted in writing prior to the hearing is something that even House and Senate Committees do not require. The State Board process should not be more restrictive than what we do in the Georgia General Assembly.

Restricting free speech to a mere minute of time if a person wishes to speak to the standards as a whole and only three minutes if they comment on a specific standard imposes restrictions that are inconsistent with the principles of republican government and the democratic process. We are the servants of the people and we should do everything possible to accommodate public input and debate, especially when it affects their children and their pocketbooks. Some people may have to drive as long as three hours to get to a meeting in a congressional district in the rural areas of the state. It is disrespectful to them to expect them to drive that distance to obtain one to three minutes of your time. A public process should not be one that is in name only, but is an authentic desire to learn the truth and one that allows for spontaneous give and take, a wholesome exchange of ideas and concerns. Also, please take into account that many parents may not address the standards at all, but they instead will discuss how their children have been affected in the classroom under the Common Core.


I will reserve a future opportunity to comment on the process concerning the social studies curriculum and how text exemplars are chosen after my above concerns on Issue 1 are taken into account by the Board.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments. I hope you will have time to discuss these concerns at your upcoming Board retreat in December. I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving and trust that you will realize that my comments are provided in the spirit of mutual cooperation. It is my utmost desire that the process reflects well on the Board and benefits the citizens of Georgia, but especially that the process provides the opportunity for the very best outcome for our children.

With appreciation to you for your work,

William Ligon
Senator, Third District

Common Core Usurping Local and State Control of Education Capitol Update: February 4 -8
by Senator William Ligon (R- Brunswick)


It was an honor this past week to host the visit of the former Texas Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott. I invited him to Georgia to meet with Governor Nathan Deal, our State School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, the Senate and House Education members, the Republican leadership, and other members of the Georgia General Assembly. Sen. Lindsey TippIns, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee also extended an invitation for Scott to address the Joint Meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees before a standing-room only crowd on Wednesday afternoon.

As background, Scott, as the Texas Commissioner of Education, advised Governor Rick Perry to avoid the Race to the Top federal grant competition, with its requirement that the State adopt the Common Core State Standards. I wanted our leaders to understand his reasoning because I believe Gov. Perry made the right choice to keep Texas independent of the mandates of the grant and this federal focus to create uniform curriculum standards across the nation.


As most educators in my district have known for a while, Georgia's former Governor, Sonny Perdue, and our former State School Superintendent, Kathy Cox, committed our state to the Race to the Top competition. This agenda never went before the Georgia Legislature and thus bypassed the voice of the people. Race to the Top is currently driving all school districts into "one-size-fits-all" curriculum standards in math and English language arts. Our students and our teachers will be in a federal straight-jacket, and our school districts will be at the mercy of national and international vendors making money off this latest federal program.

During Scott's visit at the Capitol, he explained that the Common Core State Standards were developed behind closed doors and that they are owned and copyrighted by unaccountable third parties in Washington, D.C. These standards were never vetted by the people of Georgia in an open, accountable process, and the terms of the grant forbid the state from changing the standards or even adding content that exceeds the threshold of 15 percent.

Scott explained that the State of Texas was wooed by the federal government with a promise of $700 million to sign onto Race to the Top and Common Core. However, after his calculations, he realized that scrapping his state's current standards and implementing the terms of the grant would cost between $2.5 to $3 billion. In his eyes, it was a sorry trade to shackle Texas to federal mandates, rob Texas citizens of their right to control education standards, and then stick taxpayers with a bill of at least $2 billion to make up the difference. To add insult to injury, that amount did not include the ongoing maintenance of the system for the years ahead beyond the four years of the grant.


Here in Georgia, though we are receiving $400 million in federal funds over a four-year period, the General Assembly has not received a cost analysis for implementation, and long-term maintenance, of the terms of the grant. The Georgia General Assembly must hold the Department of Education accountable for these types of decisions that affect not only the education of our children but the pocketbook of our taxpayers.

Further, the accompanying tests, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as the PARCC national testing consortium, will create such testing demands that this will probably become better known as No Child Left Behind on steroids. Scott informed us that the PARCC will cost approximately $30 to $37 per student, in comparison to Georgia's current costs of between $5 to $10 per student. These estimates do not take into account the additional technology, both in hardware and bandwidth, that will be required at the local level for online testing.

The bottom line is that the people of Georgia pay over $13 billion in state and local taxes for K-12 education (every year). There is no reason that a $400 million federal grant (over four years) should usurp the constitutional rights of Georgia's citizens to control the educational standards of this state.

SB 167 Introduced to Withdraw from Common Core


ATLANTA (February 17, 2013) - We are quickly approaching the halfway point of the 2013 Legislative Session, and are 12 days away from Crossover Day - the final day Senate bills are able to transfer to the House of Representatives, and vice versa. With only 40 days to pass legislation, we’re working hard to consider the merits of hundreds of bills through the committee process.

Earlier this session, the Senate worked with the House to set an aggressive schedule for the first year of the 2013-2014 legislative term, designating March 5th as Day 29 of the 40 day session.  This advanced calendar will allow for a judicious review of legislative initiatives and help legislators to more effectively plan their work at the State Capitol. 

The Senate’s committee calendar is quickly filling up for the weeks ahead, and we’re looking forward to considering many bills and resolutions that have been introduced. Several bills I sponsored are already being heard in their respective committees, including SB 1 and SB 73.

On Wednesday, testimony was heard on SB 1 in the Senate Insurance and Labor Subcommittee. This bill would prohibit health insurance policies from denying a parent the right to inspect, review, or attain copies of their child’s health insurance records. After thorough debate, it was the desire of the committee to table this bill for further review and revise the language to more adequately reflect the intention of this legislation.

One of the bills I co-sponsored, SB 73, was presented in the Roads and Bridges Subcommittee of the Senate Transportation Committee. This legislation removes the “penalty provision” as prescribed by the Transportation and Investment Act of 2010 which increases the local match for transportation projects in special districts that did not approve the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST).


Under current law, the local governments that did not approve the TSPLOST must provide a 30 percent match for any local maintenance and improvement grants by the Department of Transportation for transportation projects and programs. Local governments in special districts in which the voters approved the tax must only provide a 10 percent match.

In essence, local governments who voted against this measure during the July 31, 2012 referendum were penalized for exercising their right to vote. I do not believe this is sound policy, and this penalty must be repealed to protect the fiscal health of our local communities. If passed, this legislation would simply remove this “penalty provision” so that all local governments are only required to provide a 10 percent match for transportation funding.

On Thursday, I introduced SB 167, which is legislation to withdraw Georgia from its participation in the Common Core State Standards and from the aligned assessments currently being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARCC.

The bill addresses not only withdrawal from the current implementation of the national math and English language arts standards, but prevents the Department of Education from adopting future standards that are not fully vetted through a democratic process that involves the citizens of this state and the Georgia General Assembly. In addition, the legislation ensures that Georgia does not forfeit control of curriculum standards to outside entities that are unaccountable to the taxpayers of this state.

With regard to the assessments of the PARCC, these computer-driven tests will be exorbitantly expensive and pad the pockets of vendors. In addition, I have serious concerns about this type of testing as well as the means by which these tests will be used to evaluate our teachers. The information I've seen shows me that the methodology is not based on sound science and leads to flawed results.

Another provision of the bill addresses privacy concerns. SB 167  prohibits the Department of Education from sharing  personally identifiable student and teacher information with the federal government except in well-defined circumstances, some of which would require notification to parents and to teachers. In addition, the bill forbids the Department of Education from sharing any personally identifiable information with any entity outside the state, such as non-profits, and limits what can be shared inside the state to educational entities only. Further, no educational institution can use the data to develop commercial products or services or transfer that information to other entities, such as the labor department for workforce planning.

Unfortunately, measures to protect the privacy of Georgia's citizens require additional vigilance due to the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has gutted federal student-privacy law through regulations implemented a year ago.  Here in Georgia, I believe it is our legislative duty to protect the privacy of our citizens, especially our children, according to the original spirit of the law passed by Congress.


Also this week, my colleagues and I had the distinguished privilege of welcoming newly-elected Senator Dean Burke of the 11th Senate District to the General Assembly as he assumed his duties in the Senate. Throughout the week, the Senate welcomed several groups to the Capitol, including the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Young Farmers Association, the Lupus Foundation of America, and the Girl Scouts, among many others.
Bill Would Withdraw Georgia from Common Core
Joy Pullmann <http://news.heartland.org/joy-pullmann>
February 15, 2013

A lawmaker has filed a bill that would withdraw Georgia from Common Core national education standards and prohibit personal information that tests collect from being shared outside the state.

This makes Georgia the eighth state to formally reconsider the Common Core, a list defining what K-12 tests and curriculum must cover in math and English. Forty-five states adopted the Core, nearly all within three months in 2010.

“What has really been surprising to me is how many of our legislators had no idea Georgia was doing this,” bill author and state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) told School Reform News. “Such a huge tremendous policy shift was not vetted by the legislature, not vetted by the people in the state.”

To continue reading
http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/02/15/bill-would-withdraw-georgia-common-core

"Race to the Top" Mandates Undermine Local Control
Op Ed by Senator William Ligon
February 26, 2013

Georgia is just beginning to reap the consequences of not analyzing the long-term costs of taking federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funds. Not only does RTTT impose unfunded mandates at the state and local levels, students and teachers will also see a new and expanded focus on testing as well as unproven teaching methods entering the classroom.

The State Board of Education, by committing our state to the Common Core (the effort to nationalize curriculum standards and testing), has forfeited Georgia's sovereign control over math and English language arts standards to those trade associations that have copy righted these standards and to the federal government, which is enforcing adherence to the Common Core. Though I am sure that the previous administration had the best of intentions when deciding to apply for Race to the Top, the lack of accountability to the parents and taxpayers of this state is stunning.

Why should Georgians come "aboard" the Common Core train when their voice was shut out of the process? The people's voice is expressed through open public debate in their local communities and through their legislative body. Their tax dollars pay for K-12 education, and it is their children in Georgia's public schools.

This $400 million Race to the Top grant will not cover all the costs of implementing the Common Core statewide, much less the technology needs, such as considerable increases in bandwidth as well as computer hardware and software. In addition, testing costs will rise from a little over $5 per student up to $37 per student. Why is it that the legislature heard for the first time this session from the Department of Education that the RTTT grant was just to build the program not to maintain the program and systems required for the long-term? Exactly what are the long-term financial costs? Georgia taxpayers need to know.

Yet the financial cost is just one of many concerns. Many well-respected policy organizations have examined the Common Core and found no evidence that standardization promotes academic achievement. For example, a Brookings Institute report concluded that "despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards-not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states-the study foresees little to no impact on student learning."


A New York State University study found that unfunded mandates associated with the RTTT grant (approximately $400 per student) were forcing considerable sacrifices including "teacher and staff cuts resulting in increased class sizes." The study also discussed "serious challenges to this federal program's validity, and the research upon which it is based," and concluded that taxpayers appeared to be "funding a grand and costly experiment that has the potential to take public education in the wrong direction."

The Heritage Foundation has become so alarmed that it released a paper recommending an exit strategy for states to use to end their participation in the Common Core.


But are the standards themselves worth the cost? Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the nation's leading expert on English language arts (ELA) standards, refused to sign off on the ELA standards when she was a member of the Common Core Validation Committee. She believed the poor quality, the de-emphasis on literature, and the low reading levels, such as 8th grade levels for 12th graders, would rob students of the education they deserved.

Even the Fordham Institute - a Common Core proponent -- gave Georgia’s previous ELA standards higher marks than the Common Core.

As for math, Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the math standards, stating, “It’s almost a joke to think students [who master the common standards] would be ready for math at a university.” In fact, one of the creators of the Common Core admitted in 2010 that Common Core's definition of "college-readiness" means only that a high school graduate would be ready for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university.

Another disturbing component of this national agenda involves the collection of data. The Common Core and the computerized testing ensures that states must build and maintain expensive high-tech systems that will track student performance and other personal data. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed his hope that the government will be able to "track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career." The next step is already written in newly introduced federal legislation, the METRIC bill, which will include teachers in that tracking system.

Georgia needs to have a transparent, democratic process of developing curriculum standards and a means to ensure more direct accountability at the local level. Georgia's educational system should be accountable not to Washington bureaucrats, but to the people of this state who pay the taxes.

Some states like Alaska and Texas wisely avoided entanglement with RTTT from the outset.  Virginia initially adopted Common Core but has since withdrawn. Indiana's Senate just voted to halt implementation of the Common Core based on their concerns. We have the opportunity to take similar action with Senate Bill 167 to help restore educational control to the citizens of Georgia.
The Common Core - an effort to nationalize educational standards - collides with local control and our state's sovereign authority over education. Common Core represents what may be the crowning achievement of progressive ideology in education, the idea that control of every classroom across the nation can be achieved by centralizing standards and testing in the hands of a select and unaccountable few.

The thinking behind the Common Core framework, which arrived under the grant conditions of Race to the Top (RTTT), is in direct opposition to the founding philosophy of this nation. Our founders staked everything on the principle of self-government. With their constitutional design, they sought to ensure that states would be able to protect their citizens against the age-old tendency that power has to increase and centralize. But they did not envision a time when the states would be so eager for money from the federal government that state leaders would not even consider the constitutional rights of the people. The people of this state - not the central planners -- have the right to control every aspect of education.

To pursue RTTT funds, Georgia's executive branch unilaterally (without the consent of the governed) committed to the Common Core scheme even though the standards were not yet written, the tests were undeveloped, and the costs were unknown. This is irresponsible government. What person starts building  a house without counting the cost and examining the construction materials?

Nationwide, the vigorous objections to RTTT mandates include the inferior quality of Common Core standards (Georgia's former standards were superior), expensive and experimental testing, the collection and sharing of personal student data, unproven teacher-evaluation models, and the increased taxation that will occur to pay for the unfunded mandates.

Currently, the Common Core consists of standards in mathematics and English language arts (ELA). The funding for the development of Common Core came largely from the Gates Foundation to two private trade associations (the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and to Achieve, Inc., none having public accountability. 
Yet, grant conditions prohibited states from changing or deleting a single standard and severely limited any additional standards a state could add. The standards were not meant to be a floor. These standards were in essence a ceiling and an unconstitutional prescription of what children would be taught here in Georgia.

Furthermore, despite claims to the contrary, the entire framework relies upon the heavy use of technology for data mining. At a U.S. Department of Education event, one business executive stated, "We're pulling data from  everywhere, tens of thousands of places. ... Common Core is the glue that ties everything together."

Senate Bill 167, which I sponsored,  not only protects our students from data mining, but  ensures that Georgia will no longer be bound by national standards or national testing, or be obligated to special interests. The people of Georgia, through this legislation, finally can begin to reclaim their educational sovereignty over what their children are taught in public schools.
The bill establishes an open, transparent  statewide process  for revising Georgia's standards. While that revision is happening, local school districts will have the right to exit the  Common Core standards and return to the superior Georgia Performance Standards. The districts can thus free their students and teachers from the Common Core mandate that they never consented to in the first place. 

State taxpayers pay over $13 billion in local and state taxes every year for K-12 education, and these are their children in our public schools. They have every right to control what happens in the classroom. That is the purpose of SB 167.
Op Ed: Time to Choose: Will It Be Common Core's Central Planning of Education
or the People's Right to Self-Government?

by Sen. William Ligon (2/27/14)

The Common Core - an effort to nationalize educational standards - collides with local control and our state's sovereign authority over education. Common Core represents what may be the crowning achievement of progressive ideology in education, the idea that control of every classroom across the nation can be achieved by centralizing standards and testing in the hands of a select and unaccountable few.
ISSUES
GEORGIA STATE SENATOR
WILLIAM LIGON
Third District