MONTGOMERY — A bill to end the use of Common Core-based standards in Alabama schools was approved by a state Senate committee Wednesday.
To reach the Senate floor, however, the bill will have to get past the most powerful man in the Senate.
I'm not hearing a groundswell of support, from my caucus, for this to be on the calendar," said Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the president pro tempore of the Senate.
Four years have passed since Alabama adopted the academic standards for K-12 schools that were largely based on the Common Core — a multi-state set of standards created at the request of the National Governors Association and state school superintendents.
The standards have long been a source of controversy.
Proponents say the Common Core can get states on the same page in their schedule for teaching core topics — an advantage in an age of standardized testing and a mobile populace. Opponents, citing the Obama administration's endorsement of the standards, claim they're a federal overreach into state authority over schools.
"We hear all the time that these are Alabama standards," said Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes. "Eighty-five percent of these standards are from the Common Core."
The issue has often split the Republican supermajority in the Legislature.
The state GOP's executive committee passed a resolution to denounce Common Core, but efforts to repeal the standards in the past two legislative sessions have not passed. In last year's elections, several leaders in the GOP faced primary opposition from Republicans opposed to the standards. Voters largely rejected the anti-Core candidates.
Marsh, one of the candidates who defeated an anti-Core challenger last year, said the standards belong in the hands of the state school board.
"You know what my position is," Marsh said. "The school board is elected, and they drive the policies for the state's schools."
Last week, the Senate Education Committee heard more than an hour of testimony from people on both sides of the issue.
"Common Core requires compliance with federal control and monitoring of Alabama's public school teachers, parents, agencies, schools, boards and superintendents," said Deborah Garrett, director of the conservative group Eagle Forum.
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, noted that there was little outcry when the Bush administration began to implement No Child Left Behind, the federal law that drove required the states to set up accountability systems based on standardized testing.
"I didn't see the backlash with Common Core that I do today," Ross said at the hearing.
Teachers, school officials and leaders of business organizations largely spoke in favor of the standards at last week's hearing.
Billy Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, said the voters have already spoken on the issue.
"This issue has been politically litigated in the court of political participation during the 2014 election cycle," Canary said. "The verdict was: We want the standards."
The committee vote sends the bill to the full Senate but won't reach the floor unless the Senate Committee on Rules places it on the Senate calendar.