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Alan Petersime

Supporters, opponents of bill that would delay standards ready for Senate hearing, spin

The growing nationwide public backlash against the implementation of the Common Core Standards has largely skipped over Colorado — but that’s about to change during the next 48 hours.

A bill that would delay the full implementation of the standards, establish a commission to study the issue and postpone the implementation of new tests aligned to the standards will be heard at 1:30 p.m., Thursday before the Colorado Senate Education Committee.

But even before lawmakers can get to work hearing official testimony on the bill, supporters and opponents will be out in full force Wednesday. Both sides of the debate are expected to lay out their position at the Capitol and Colorado Department of Education, where the State Board of Education will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting for two days.

The bill is sponsored by Fort Collins Republican Vicki Marble.

While observers believe the bill is likely to be killed by the Democratic-controlled education committee, the debate adds Colorado to a list of more a dozen states that has re-evaluated the adoption of the Common Core Standards. Since last year, several states, mostly Republican-controlled, have either slowed or delayed the implementation of the standards, at the request of a groundswell of parents and educators. Last month, New York’s teachers union passed a vote of no confidence in the standards and how the Empire State has implemented them.

While there has been a consistent, albeit limited, opposition against the new standards present at the Colorado State Board of Education, which officially adopted the standards in 2009 and incorporated the Common Core in 2010, supporters of the bill have been working overtime in sharing their concerns and recruiting more parents to join their cause.

The spin, now in overdrive, begins at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, when a coalition of advocacy groups supportive of the standards is holding an information session for lawmakers about the standards, known here as the Colorado Academic Standards. The panel discussion includes Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, teacher Jessica Cuthbertson, businessman Scott Fast, an educator from the San Luis Valley Gilbert Apodaca, and a former Department of Education and Colorado Legacy Foundation executive Nina Lopez.

The panel is sponsored by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Succeeds, Stand for Children Colorado and the Rose Community Foundation.

At 10 a.m. supporters of the bill will gather outside the Capitol to protest the standards. They believe the standards are — among other things — a dumbed-down list of empty skills that also represent a top-down one-size-does-not-fit-all education reform effort robbing school boards of constitutionally-guaranteed local control.

Supporters of bill, from Fort Collins to Pueblo, and districts as disparate as Grand Junction and Cherry Creek, will then hold a press conference at 11 a.m. and take their concerns to the state board at 4 p.m.

“There are so many troubling aspects with Common Core, it’s hard to pick [just one],” said Cheri Kiesecker, a Fort Collins mother who helped author Senate Bill 14-136.

Standards and testing supporters are also expected to testify during the state board’s monthly public comment period. Similarly, their opposition to the bill at Thursday afternoon’s committee hearing is expected to be a well-orchestrated affair.

Opponents of the bill have been coordinating witnesses, perhaps more than a dozen, to speak against the bill. The four organizations sponsoring Wednesday’s information meeting are also working together and coordinating with the Colorado Education Association and Colorado Association of School Executives.

Their message will be that Colorado students can’t wait and that the state’s schedule for implementation of standards, testing and other reforms must move ahead, said one organizer.

A similar organizing effort is underway to coordinate next Monday’s currently scheduled House Education Committee hearing on HB 14-1202, which would require the State Board of Education to grant a district a waiver from statewide testing requirements if the district submits its own testing system that meets certain standards.

Lobbyists for the four groups also have been meeting with individual lawmakers in an attempt to build opposition to the bills.

While there is no shortage of national organizations opposed to the Common Core Standards including the Heritage Organization and American Principles Project, supporters of SB 14-136, or what the authors are calling the “Colorado Mom’s Bill,” said their fight is entirely grassroots.

“We have nobody backing us, we’re just concerned moms,” Kiesecker said.