by David Safier
I don't know which fact is more interesting: that there was a symposium on Common Core organized by Sen. Andy Biggs at the Capitol that had an overflow crowd, or that both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Post Intelligencer picked up the AP article about it, at least on their websites. When it comes to immigration and education, Arizona is national news.
Biggs said absolutely, his symposium wasn't a setup by the anti-Common Core crowd to give Huppenthal a hard time. The Bigg-man doth protest too much, methinks. The panel had Huppenthal on the pro Common Core Arizona College and Career Ready Standards side (It's got a new name, so that means it's not Common Core anymore, right?) and three people against it. It sounds like the crowd might have been packed with people against the Common Core as well.
It may be that none of the journalists know how stacked the panel really was. Half the panel, two out of the four, was made up of a Goldwater Institute employee and someone else connected to G.I. by less than one degree of separation — and G.I. does not like Common Core. First there was Jonathan Butcher, ed director of the Goldwater Institute. Then there was Sandra Stotsky, a University of Arkansas prof. Why fly in a prof from Arkansas when we have profs galore here in Arizona, you may ask. The reason is, she's in the university's Department of Education Reform, which sits at the more conservative end of the conservative education spectrum. Also in that same department is Jay Greene, who is a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute. Jay P. Greene's Blog gives Stotsky a regular forum. Another regular on Greene's blog: Matthew Ladner, former ed director of the Goldwater Institute. A very incestuous group, Butcher, Stotsky, Greene and Ladner. (The fourth panel member, by the way, was from a Mesa charter school and also doesn't like the Common Core a whole lot).
Conspicuously absent from the panel was anyone on the educational left who has problems with the Common Core. The reason: the right thinks the standards are the problem, because they're a fed plot to undermine our children's educations by standardizing the schools to the lowest common denominator. The left's objections have to do with Common Core's high stakes testing regimen, which will be even more high stakes than the current NCLB variety. But the right likes testing, so Biggs didn't want anyone complaining about that aspect of the Common core.
The takeaway from the symposium is, Arizona's hard right really, really doesn't like the Common Core, while Brewer and Huppenthal love it, and Craig Barrett (who I wrote about in the Weekly) helped design it. We're seeing the same grown schism in the Republican Party here we're seeing in Congress and across the country.