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Cobb School Board Nixes Math Books

Opposition to Common Core curriculum standards resulted in 4-3 votes against new texts starting with the 2013-14 academic year.

The battle against Common Core curriculum standards came to Cobb County Thursday night.

Opponents of the federally-embraced guidelines filled the Cobb Board of Education board room to strongly protest spending $7.5 million for new mathematics textbooks in the Cobb County School District.

And after some heated debate, and by 4-3 votes in two separate votes, the board made those opponents happy in rejecting the measures.

They were at their most vocal right before the votes, when board member Kathleen Angelucci of Northeast Cobb pleaded for more time due to a "groundswell" of concern about the new standards in numerous states, including here.

"When Common Core was adopted, nobody knew what was in it," she said. "It's like Obamacare. You vote for it, then you find out what's in it."

But board member Scott Sweeney of East Cobb, who was in the minority, said that while he "loathes federal intrusion into education," the Common Core has been approved in Georgia (in 2010, during the tenure of former Gov. Sonny Perdue).

"We do not have the capability to extract ourselves from it. We are dealing with the realities of what our state has adopted," Sweeney said.

Voting with Sweeney to approve the textbook purchases were East Cobb board member David Banks and David Morgan of South Cobb, the only Democrat on the seven-member board.

Voting with Angelucci were board member Tim Stultz of Smyrna, chairman Randy Scamihorn of North Cobb and vice chairman Brad Wheeler of West Cobb, with the latter two saying they wanted more information before voting for the textbooks.

The proposals called for purchasing nearly 73,000 books and related materials tied to the Common Core standards for Cobb students from kindergarten through the 12th grade, paid for with current SPLOST III funds.

Scamihorn, who said he has "an open mind," indicated he may bring up the issue at next month's board meeting.

Common Core opponents, who dominated the nearly half-hour public comment period at the start of the meeting, lashed out against what they said would lead to federal control of education. 

A group of around 30 sat throughout the nearly four-hour meeting, constantly chattering and occasionally moaning when they objected to a point being made during the board's discussion.

Among their claims: That the Common Core is an attempt by "liberals . . . . to control our children," "a Utopian scheme" that would lead to "standardized minds" and a move "further and further away from our founding values."

Cobb Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy amplified remarks he made to The Marietta Daily Journal in a Thursday article, in which he referenced 1960s Weather Underground radical Bill Ayres, who "sits on the board of directors for two or three" textbook publishing companies.

While another speaker rattled off the names of mostly conservative groups opposed to the Common Core, Powder Springs resident Mary Ware, who is home-schooling her five children, received the greatest applause after citing The Federalist Papers and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:

"It is the right of the people to choose what curriculum they want," she said.

Others feared that the new standards -- which encourage students to meet generally accepted writing and mathematics benchmarks -- would "dumb down" the curriculum.

Georgia is one of 45 states that approved Common Core standards, which were crafted by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But efforts are underway in a number of states to withdraw from the program, especially after the Republican National Committee came out against the Common Core earlier this month. 

Legislation in the Georgia General Assembly, HB 167, was withdrawn this year and may be reintroduced in 2014. But Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, has expressed support for the Common Core, reflecting GOP divisions nationwide.

A group calling itself Stop Common Core in Georgia has thanked conservative commentators Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck for their opposition, but contains little information about itself.

Amy Krause, Cobb's Chief Academic Officer, said that the new math textbooks -- reviewed and recommended by a working committee of more than 100 teachers -- are an improvement over the district's current math textbooks, which were bought in 2007.

"It is more demanding of our teachers and our students in the classroom," she said, drawing a skeptical reaction from the audience.

The greatest urgency, she said, is that teachers would not be able to prepare to teach from the new books in a timely manner and students wouldn't have them in their hands by August if the board delayed approval.

That prompted an even more emphatic reaction from Sweeney: "This has nothing to do with the Common Core. This is what our school professionals, the people we hired to make these decisions, are recommending. And we're rejecting it. That's my concern.

"If it's not this textbook, what is it?"

Brian April 27, 2013 at 06:36 AM
Wow, I'm against spending money unnecessarily, but all the quotes of the people who spoke make Cobb county look like redneck idiots. By the way, I'm a so-called liberal and a yankee AND a fiscal conservative. The social conservatives have their priorities all backwards. Fiscal conservatism is important. That doesn't mean not spending. You SHOULD spend a lot on education. Especially math education, since our nation is failing in that. However, buying brand new textbooks when you could pay for a bunch more teachers is a stupid idea. Teachers > Books (for those who are math illiterate, that was teachers are greater than books). The reason I'm against the new textbook purchase, for now, is because textbooks are just supplements to good teaching. Any decent math book can be used to teach the core curriculum, with some common supplements agreed upon by the board. I imagine the county already had decent math books.

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