Capitol Chatter


National PTA President: A Parent's Praise for Common Core

. Posted in Capitol Chatter


National PTA President:  A Parent's Praise for the Common Core

By Otha Thornton

Published May 09, 2014

Picture this: you are a seventh grader whose father is in the military. You and your sister have gotten used to moving every couple of years, based on your father’s assignments. You do your best to fit in at a new school and make friends. But your parents wonder whether the school you left provided you with an education equal to your new one.

As a retired Army officer, I know what it’s like to have to research the quality and competitiveness of a state’s educational offerings. Now I serve as the president of National PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), and I can definitely say that lack of consistent educational standards and accountability are doing a disservice to our children.

I support the Common Core Standards. It has been very disappointing to read criticisms from Erick Erickson and a host of others who are reacting to parts of the program instead of looking at its entirety.

With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will
receive similar excellence in their schools.

The fact is, experts from 48 states were involved in drafting the standards, which were also shaped by more than 11,000 public comments. The standards address only the core competencies of English and math and are in no way meant to encompass all of the subjects we expect schools to teach.

But I strongly disagree with his assessment of the Common Core based not just on my own research but from the feedback National PTA has gotten from millions of parents and teachers.

In fact, recent efforts by our association that reached 3 million parents electronically and included face-to-face conversations with 60,000 more parents indicate that 87 percent of those we spoke with support the Common Core.

National PTA represents millions of children in the United States and at Department of Defense schools abroad, and we are uniquely positioned to interact daily with hundreds of thousands and parents and educators. What we hear from both groups is overwhelming support for the Common Core because students are gaining a more substantive understanding of what they are studying.

There is consistency not just among school districts but throughout states – and students, parents and educators all have confidence that high academic standards extend beyond state borders. Finally, we can have assurance that a high school senior in North Carolina is receiving the same quality education as a senior in Colorado.

The most commonly repeated myth about Common Core is that the standards were developed in secret and forced onto the states. This is completely false. The federal government had no role in developing the standards. Forty-five states adopted the standards in a manner consistent with state laws, which are generally developed by state Boards of Education.

Last December, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of its 2012 worldwide testing of 15 year-old students in mathematics, science and reading literacy. The United States scored slightly above average in reading, average in science, and below average in math. This is clear proof that whatever “standards” were in place before Common Core were not working.

As a nation, we have very high expectations for our children. We expect that their grade-school and high-school educations will provide them a foundation for success in their lives.

We do our children a disservice not to couple those high expectations with meaningful assessment and accountability measures. The Common Core standards are not a curriculum – they are benchmarks that every state-developed curriculum must meet.

I recently heard from one of our members, a veteran first-grade teacher in Ohio who has taught under both the former method and Common Core.

Her experience with Common Core has been significantly better for her students. As she related, the Common Core standards do not force her to teach in a way that might not be beneficial for young learners. Instead, she has the flexibility to design lesson plans instead of being restricted to pre-planned lessons.

During February, her students wrote about significant African-American historical figures using narrative writing – a high-reaching goal for such young students but one in which their teacher said they excelled. In fact, this teacher said her students are writing better pieces now than they ever have due to the high standards and flexibility of the Common Core.

My children received an excellent education in all of the schools they attended. With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will receive similar excellence in their schools. The many critics of Common Core focus on myths that have no basis in reality. To paraphrase what we all learned in kindergarten, if you can’t speak the truth, then at least stop spreading misinformation.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA and a member of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.


Gov. Nixon announces veto of Senate Bill 509

. Posted in Capitol Chatter

May 1, 2014
Gov. Nixon announces veto of Senate Bill 509 during visit to Gateway/Hubert Wheeler School for the Severely Disabled
Unfair, unaffordable and dangerous scheme would undermine support for essential public services, short-change working families 
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – During a visit to the Gateway/Hubert Wheeler School for the Disabled in St. Louis today, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he would veto Senate Bill 509, calling the bill an unaffordable, unfair and dangerous scheme that would drain funding from public services and do nothing to help working families. 
“Senate Bill 509 is an unfair, unaffordable and dangerous scheme that would defund our schools, weaken our economy, and destabilize the strong foundation of fiscal discipline that we’ve worked so long and hard to build,” Gov. Nixon said. “Instead of helping middle-class families get ahead, the money this bill would drain from our classrooms and college campuses would go to line the pockets of lawyers, lobbyists and other wealthy individuals – while an average family would get just 32 bucks. Weakening support for vital public services like those provided here at Hubert Wheeler in order to shower windfalls on the well-heeled is wrong and would take our state backward.”
According to the fiscal estimate produced by the legislature, Senate Bill 509 would reduce state revenues by more than $620 million annually when fully implemented. Data released by the Missouri School Boards Association showed that Senate Bill 509 would reduce state support for K-12 school districts by $223 million annually.
Senate Bill 509 also contains a dangerous provision that would increase the bill’s cost by $4.8 billion annually by eliminating all income taxes on Missourians with greater than $9,000 in income. The provision would eliminate 97 percent of all individual income tax collections and wipe out 65 percent of the state’s general revenue budget.
“Now there are legitimate disagreements to be had about what policies our state should pursue,” Gov. Nixon said. “But when it comes to our most basic, fundamental obligation to provide vulnerable children a fair shot to live up to their God-given potential, that’s just not up for debate.  This fiscally irresponsible legislation would permanently undermine support for education and the vital public services that strengthen our economy and support our quality of life, and it cannot become law.”
Senate Bill 509 includes a 25 percent tax deduction for what is called “pass-through” business-income.  This type of income is often reported by wealthier individuals, such as lawyers, lobbyists and even gambling establishments organized as LLCs or corporate partnerships. 
In fact, 52 percent of the tax savings from Senate Bill 509 would go to the top seven percent of taxpayers.  For example, under Senate Bill 509, the owner of a casino with $1 million in business income could write off $250,000 of income and receive a tax cut worth more than $18,000. By contrast, a family making Missouri’s median income of $44,000 a year would receive a tax cut of only $32 when the legislation is fully implemented in 2022. 
The business income exemption in the bill would also result in workers paying higher taxes than their employer, even if the worker and the employer reported exactly the same taxable income. For example, under this bill an owner of a pass-through business with $40,000 in Missouri adjusted gross income would pay $704 in tax, while their employee reporting the same amount would pay $1,123 in tax. 
Instead of the unaffordable approach taken by Senate Bill 509, Gov. Nixon has laid out a proposal to fully fund the K-12 foundation formula and give working families a responsible tax cut by reining in wasteful tax credit expenditures.  Gov. Nixon has also signed four tax cuts as Governor. In 2009, he signed legislation to phase out state income taxes on military pensions. In 2011, the Governor signed Senate Bill 19 to phase out Missouri’s corporate franchise tax, which will save Missouri businesses $70 million this year alone. In 2012, Gov. Nixon signed a targeted tax deduction for small businesses that create jobs. And last year, Gov. Nixon signed House Bill 128, which benefits Missouri manufacturers with significant out-of-state sales.
According to the Congressional Quarterly’s State Rankings 2013, Missouri has the 6th lowest per capita taxes in the nation. In addition, areport from the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University shows Missouri as one of only five states to receive an ‘A’ grade for its tax climate and economic diversity, and the only state among its neighbors to receive the top score in these areas. 
Last year, employment in Missouri grew faster than our neighboring states of Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Nebraska, and Arkansas, and Missouri has been the fastest-growing state in the nation for technology job growth for two years running. Missouri has also led the rebirth of the American auto industry and attracted historic investments in biosciences, information technology, and advanced manufacturing throughout state.
A link to the breakdown of district funding levels if Senate Bill 509 becomes law is available here. The data was generated using the same methodology used by education groups in assessing the impact of House Bill 253 last year.