With some legislators in Nashville already entertaining paranoid delusions and conspiracy theories against Common Core State Standards, a set of academic standards voluntarily adopted by the state in 2010, we would do the parents and students of this state if we allowed the extremists to dictate the tone of the debate.
While those in Nashville wring their hands about non-existent “threats” to the populace, it is important that we consider the subject of the real world ramifications to Tennessee families of rapidly and inexplicably changing course.
Namely we need to consider real world financial effects associated with peeling back the standards.
When Tennesseans rightly decided to join the movement to give our students the chance to compete with students in other states and around the world, they set the state on the right course, the correct path.
Voluntarily banding with other states to create the Common Core State Standards is not the same thing, as some have suggested, as receiving some sort of national mandate. The Common Core does not set curriculum, it simply sets an agreed upon finish line for students to reach before they are considered viable candidates for secondary education or to join the workforce.
And that word, “workforce,” is a large part of the reason Tennessee joined in the Common Core State Standards.
Tennessee students were, and frankly still are, seen among large segments of the national and international business community as being under-prepared to join the workforce, much less enter college. Locating business and industry is a tricky process. Tennessee has a lot of positives on which industry leaders can be sold, but if we are going to be successful in a global marketplace we must be able to guarantee employers that the people they hire are able to do the job. Maybe even more important than that, they must feel assured that their own families and the families of their workers are going to receive the quality education their state taxes are paying for.
But the economic factors extend well beyond the big picture of business, industry attraction and jobs.
Think of the individual economics of a family struggling to send a student or more to college.
An astoundingly high percentage of Tennessee students enter college and are forced to take remedial math or English courses. At the dollars students and their parents are paying each semester – thousands of dollars even for state schools – it is financially foolish that these students have to pay for knowledge they should have received in high school for free. An education that under the former system, parents were assured their college-bound students had received.
But that is not to blame our schools – particularly here in Hamblen County where the school system is continually recognized for getting the best bang for its buck.
But the reality remains that we get what we pay for and Tennessee’s per pupil spending, again funded mostly by state dollars with relatively small local financial support, is bringing up the rear, just like our national education rankings.
Returning to the below average standards will leave too many opportunities for counties and school system unable or unwilling to commit the financial support to reach these standards on their own. Stated another way, local governments looking to save pennies on the tax rate, and their own political seats, are unlikely to push for the improved standards on their own.
Some forward-thinking communities would see the value while others would not. This unacceptable scenario would leave Tennessee back in the boat it was before – hit or miss education for its students.
If you’re lucky enough to be born in a city or a county with a good school system, strong financial support and an educated populace, that might not be the end of the world. But for too many Tennessee school systems it would be a long-term recipe for financial disaster.
As ideologues and lobbyists from Washington flock to Nashville and whisper sweet nothings into the ears of Nashville insiders more worried about their political machinations than our children, we strongly urge you not to allow anyone to tell you our students can get by with less.
Our children deserve every chance at success we can give them. The Common Core makes financial sense for our children and for Tennessee in the short and the long term.
Don’t be fooled. Don’t be swayed. Stand strong for Tennessee’s future. Stand strong for our kids.