DENVER — Anita Stapleton is on a mission. She wants to bury the Common Core national education curricula standards, and in the last half year, she has won a lot of support in Colorado.
Stapleton first traveled to the Capitol to protest Common Core in August. She brought 84 opposition letters with her. This week, she brought more than 400 letters.
For people watching the state and national political debate growing around education policy, that may come as little surprise. Common Core is now at the heart of the messaging war. The two words run across newspaper headlines and websites posts. Free-market politics sites and mom blogs trade information, much of it confusing and confused. Heated comments threads stretch down web pages.
Stapleton has been actively opposed to the standards since May and throughout her failed bid to win a seat on the Pueblo City Board of Education last November. She says she’s recently seen a big up-tick in interest and opposition to the standards as people find out what they are and as students across the state are sitting down for testing at their schools.
“There’s no transparency,” she said. “The government wasn’t transparent with our state. Our state is not being transparent with our districts. And now, some of our districts aren’t being transparent with the parents.”
Stapleton travels across the state now, speaking against Common Core to teachers and superintendents and PTA members.
The move to common core is also part of an effort to nationalize education evaluation, which was previously directed by high-population education state powerhouses like Texas and California. That means developing new, more rigorous and more nuanced tests than ever before, which may be more expensive than anyone predicted.
Opponents of the Common Core like Stapleton say the move to unify curricula is an example of government overreach that will affect education well beyond the walls of public schools.
“Everybody needs to be worried about these curriculum changes because college tests align with them,” she said. “So even Christian homeschool curriculum has aligned with Common Core because the [administrators] know that in order for their students to get into college they need to test well.”
The debate over Common Core at the Capitol unsurprisingly has become largely a partisan matter. Education policy, like energy policy and health policy, for example, become a free-market versus big government tug of war. Republican Senator Vicki Marble of Fort Collins introduced legislation she dubbed the “Mom’s bill” or SB 136, which aimed to delay implementation of the standards and create a task force to evaluate them. Republican lawmakers lined up in support of the bill but majority Democrats killed it in committee.
In fact, it never stood much of a chance. The Common Core initiative is being lead by the National Governor’s Association, which is vice chaired by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are grappling with, but moving forward on, adoption of the new standards, which are slated to go into full effect during the 2014-2015 school year.