Common Core takes center stage in local Senate race
by Tim Lockette
Feb 11, 2014 | 3860 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY – Oxford resident Steven Guede thinks the Common Core should be a core issue in Alabama’s 2014 elections.

“This is exactly what we do not need,” said Guede, an aerospace technician from Oxford. “We do not need a top-down, authoritarian approach to education.”

Guede has long been an organizer for the local branch of Rainy Day Patriots, a tea party group. And he has long been a critic of the Common Core State Standards, a multi-state set of academic standards that served as a model for Alabama’s academic standards for K-12 schools. Last week, he qualified for a run against one of the most powerful figures in the state Senate – President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston – as a challenger for the Republican nomination in Senate District 11. The winner of that race will face Anniston lawyer Taylor Stewart, a Democrat, in the general election.

Guede’s entry into the race may mark a shift for anti-Common-Core activists, who have been a regular presence at state school board meetings and legislative hearings, but have fielded few candidates for office.

Common Core was created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Proponents say the earlier standards, created on a state-by-state basis, created confusion when students transferred from state to state, and left students in some states less prepared for work and college. Critics of Common Core, citing the Obama administration’s support for adoption of the standards, see them as a federal intrusion on state control of schools.

Marsh, the incumbent, has never believed there was clear evidence that Common Core is a federal plot.

“I can’t see it,” he said. “I’ve had people show me documents, federal documents that supposedly prove that this was passed at the federal level. I just can’t connect the dots.”

Marsh ran afoul of Common Core critics late last year when he worked to put a hold on a bill that would have banned Common Core in Alabama. At the time, he said the issue was too complicated for the hectic general session of the Legislature, and needed to be studied after the session. Since then, Marsh has said that the issue should be dealt with in a dedicated special session, if it’s handled by the Legislature at all.

“I strongly believe this is a matter for the state school board,” Marsh said.

He said Guede should consider a run for the school board if he wants to change the standards.

The Alabama State Board of Education has debated the issue multiple times since it originally passed Common Core-based standards, known as the College and Career-Ready Standards, in 2010. The board has voted to rescind its original agreement with the other Common Core states and replace it with a statement that asserts Alabama has control over the standards.

Guede said a full repeal of Common Core is what is needed. And he said Marsh’s indifference to the anti-Common-Core cause is a sign that Marsh, and Montgomery, are out of touch with Alabama.

“Only the so-called smart people in Montgomery, who know what’s right for all of us, get to have a say,” he said.

Marsh said he’s talked to teachers about the standards.

“The bulk of the educators I’ve talked to are happy with it,” he said.

Stewart, the Democrat in the race, said Monday that he’s still consulting with teachers and other education experts to formulate a detailed position on Common Core, though he said the standards “have some issues.”

“I know Alabama teachers don’t like to be told how to run their classrooms, but the state board will decide,” he said. Asked if that meant the issue should be settled by the Board of Education, Stewart declined to rule out settling the matter in the Legislature.

Stewart has more time to stake out a position than either Marsh or Guede. The Republican primary is in June, and the general election – when Stewart will face the winner of that battle – is in November.

So far, Marsh has a sizable campaign-finance lead over his opponents, with around $200,000 in his campaign coffers. Guede and Stewart say they have just started to raise money, and have not yet filed campaign finance reports.

Guede said he was less concerned with raising a lot of money than with raising money from grassroots supporters.

“I’d rather have $5 each from 100 people than $5,000 from one person who thinks I owe him something,” he said.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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