OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation that repeals the Common Core education standards in Oklahoma, saying the federal government's attempt to influence state education policy was reason enough to abolish the math and English guidelines that had been scheduled to take effect in the upcoming school year.
The bill, overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate on the final day of the 2014 Legislature, requires the state to return to old standards in place before 2010 and directs that new ones be developed by 2016. It requires all new standards and revisions to be subject to legislative review.
"There are things in the legislation that will cause challenges," Fallin said after signing the bill Thursday. "But there's also great opportunity for Oklahomans to work together."
Fallin said the intense debate over whether to repeal the Common Core standards has "focused our attention on the importance of education."
"We are very capable as Oklahomans of developing our own Oklahoma standards to make sure that our children receive the highest quality education possible in our state," she said.
Initially adopted in Oklahoma in 2010, the Common Core standards are part of an initiative of the National Governors Association, which is currently chaired by Fallin, to outline what students are expected to learn and know by each grade level. They have been adopted by more than 40 other states, but there has been growing concern, especially among grass-roots conservatives, that the standards represent a federal takeover of state education.
Fallin tried to placate those concerns in December by signing an executive order stating Oklahoma will be responsible for deciding how to implement the standards, but opposition continued to mount.
"It has become very apparent to me that the word 'Common Core' has become a word that is tainted, that is divisive in our state," Fallin said.
She said the federal government has tied funding to certain Common Core guidelines and that "it's a possibility" that repeal of the standards could affect federal education dollars received by the state. Between 5 percent and 7 percent of the state education budget is provided by the federal government.
Former supporter of the Common Core standards, State Superintendent of Education Janet Barresi, praised the repeal.
"As it has become entangled with federal government ... Common Core has become too difficult and inflexible," Barresi said.
The more rigorous standards had been supported by the business community, including the politically powerful State Chamber.
Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said Fallin's decision to sign the bill "is a massive disappointment" to educators, administrators and business leaders who have tried to develop internationally benchmarked but locally controlled academic standards.
"Gov. Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature have reneged on their promise to Oklahoma's students, bending to political hysteria at the expense of our children and the quality of our future workforce," Neal said.
The Oklahoma Academic Standards, which are aligned with Common Core standards in English and mathematics, were scheduled to be reflected in tests administered to students next year, and more than 60 percent of the school districts in the state already have aligned curriculum with the new standards, according to state education officials.
Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said Fallin's decision "will throw many schools into chaos as they prepare for a new academic year."
"This decision is not good for Oklahoma's schools, and it's not good for Oklahoma's kids," he said.