A rarely successful procedure that attempts to move controversial legislation is getting a bit of use lately. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports on this latest behind the scenes move to push through a bill that brings up strong feelings on all sides – especially among Republicans.
A discharge petition seeks to force a floor vote on legislation that’s stuck in the committee process. More than half of the House must sign the petition to force the bill to a vote. Democrats tried it last year with Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion, which they supported but many Republicans opposed. And in the last few weeks, discharge petitions have been pulled to force votes on the Heartbeat Bill, which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and on a repeal of the Common Core standards. And that’s because Republican Gerald Stebelton of Lancaster is firm on his position on the repeal – there’s been one hearing, and that will be it.
“Listen, the Common Core is not going to go away in Ohio. As long as I’m the chairman of the House Education Committee, we’re going to have Common Core.”
Stebelton is term limited and leaves at the end of this year. The sponsor of the repeal, Republican Andy Thompson of Marietta, has said he’ll continue to fight against Common Core next year. But for now, the discharge petition is circulating. And meanwhile, about a hundred Common Core opponents met for a more usual Statehouse activity – a rally, led by led by Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core.
“The standards are the nucleus for everything else. If you control the standards, you control the assessment, you control the curriculum; therefore you control the classroom. And that is how we’ve gotten to where we – the feds are controlling our classrooms.”
About a hundred Common Core opponents had gathered for the rally, along with a few quiet supporters of the standards. Lisa Gray is the Project Director of the Ohio Standards Coalition. That’s a group of some 40 organizations that back the Common Core, including the state’s two teachers’ unions, the Ohio School Boards Association and other educator groups.
“There’s a lot of misinformation, conspiracy theories, lots of inaccuracies out there. These standards were developed by the states, adopted by the state – this is not a federally developed set of standards, as they sometimes allege.”
But Gray admits that there are serious concerns about the implementation of the Common Core and how it’s affecting kids, some of whom have reported frustrations with new ways of teaching in math in particular.
“It’s been a challenge. It’s been a challenge for teachers, and it’s been a challenge for students, and I think it’s been a challenge for parents who didn’t learn this way. And so this is really about helping kids dig deeper, have a much deeper understanding.”
But for Common Core opponents like Huber, the only acceptable solution is a total repeal with a new set of standards determined at the state level with local control.
“It has to go back to the legislative body, for the legislative process – which is where the people have a voice. It can’t, they cannot be adopted without the legislature. And that is key to any reform that is done on Common Core is the state legislature, because they are your firewall to the federal government. That is their role.”
But without the discharge petition, it’s very unlikely that would happen. And it’s also considered unlikely that the discharge petition would succeed. It needs 50 signatures to proceed, and minority Democrats and many Republicans support the Common Core standards.