Common Core opponents ‘anxious’ about meeting signature requirement

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STATE HOUSE — Donna Colorio is anxious and exhausted, but happy.

The former Worcester School Committee member has been leading a volunteer effort to gather the 64,750 certified voter signatures needed to place a proposed repeal of Common Core education standards on the 2016 statewide ballot.

“I’m absolutely positively so happy we did this, even though it took everything out of my people,” Colorio, founder of the Common Core Forum told the News Service Thursday morning. “We did do something we believe in so much.”

Colorio estimated her team of volunteers, which she pegged at about 500, collected more than 90,000 signatures requiring weeks of work. About half of those volunteers, she said, collected signatures daily or on weekends at supermarkets, soccer games and other public places.

The question would ask voters to rescind the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vote in July 2010 to adopt the Common Core standards for math and English and to restore curriculum frameworks that were in place prior to that vote.

While volunteers were gathering signatures, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wrapped up a long process on Tuesday by voting to move away from the MCAS standardized student assessment exam to a hybrid exam based on the MCAS and the PARCC, which was developed by a national consortium is based on the Common Core standards.

Colorio sees the hybrid, or MCAS 2.0, as a “rebranded” PARCC.

“Now more than anything we’re so glad we did this,” she said. “The MCAS 2.0 is nothing but the PARCC test … We are determined more than anything to get this passed.”

Local clerks throughout Massachusetts received thousands of signatures from various campaigns by Wednesday’s deadline and are in the process of certifying that the signatures are those of registered voters.

Campaigns typically find some of their signatures are not certified – signatures must be legible, the address where the voter is registered must be provided, and no more than one quarter of the certified signatures may be collected in one county.

“I think we’re going to come right down to the wire,” said Colorio, who at another point in the interview said, “I think we’ll make it.”

Campaigns to legalize marijuana and expand access to charter schools previously announced their signature counts, expressing confidence that they’ve cleared the certified signature threshold.

Both of those campaigns paid people to collect signatures, an option Colorio used at the end of her campaign to collect 2,000 signatures.

She said it costs $2.75 to $4 per raw signature

“It’s expensive. We didn’t have the money,” Colorio said when asked why she didn’t rely more on paid signature gatherers.

A Worcester School Committee member from 2011 until 2013, Colorio described the campaign as “grass roots” and one that received donations of mostly $10 or $20.

“A majority of the committee people were parents and teachers,” she said. “We’re feeling extremely anxious right now, but relieved in knowing we did all we can do.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, while campaigning for the Corner Office in 2010, testified against adopting the Common Core standards.

“I would love him to write an executive order right now and get us out of the Common core and the PARCC testing,” Colorio said.

— Written by Michael Norton

Copyright State House News Service