Oklahoma City — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision last week to set aside Common Core education standards further heats up an already-hot race for schools superintendent.
Incumbent Janet Barresi has drawn two GOP challengers, plus four more among Democrats, as she seeks a second term. Like Fallin, Barresi formerly supported Common Core’s guidelines for achievements in math and English but says now “it has become entangled in federal government” and has become “too difficult and inflexible.”
With Fallin’s signature, Oklahoma returns to academic guidelines in place before 2010 and establishes a plan to draw up new ones by 2016. Fallin said she signed the bill because the federal government was attempting to use Common Core to unduly influence state education policy.
Barresi was also a driver behind Oklahoma’s A-F grading scale for public schools. Ex-state Education Board member Joy Hofmeister, a Fallin appointee, has been critical of the grading system and resigned her seat to mount a challenge in the June 24 primary. During her campaign, she has said state administrators have lacked meaningful communication with districts and that the A-F scale is “not meaningful, useful or reliable.”
Brian Kelly of Edmond is also in the GOP primary.
While both Fallin and Barresi have a record of supporting Common Core and then opposing it, political fallout likely won’t land evenly, said Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor.
“The difference between the governor and the superintendent is that this is one of many issues the governor has to deal with and the governor is able to frame this particular issue and step back and she doesn’t have serious primary opposition,” he said. “The Superintendent of Public Instruction has got serious primary opposition that has been consistent on this issue.”
Gaddie noted a recent ad by GOP opponent Hofmeister, which grouped Barresi, Common Core and President Barack Obama.