Anti-Common Core initiative moves one step closer to ballot

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Voters in Massachusetts might be the first in the nation to weigh in directly on Common Core educational standards.

Last week, End Common Core Massachusetts, a committee of citizen activists, teachers, and parents, announced that it has gathered over 30,000 signatures in support of placing Common Core on the state ballot in November — almost 20,000 more than the 10,792 signatures required at this stage of the petition process.

“We’re ready to move Massachusetts forward to stronger standards by repealing Common Core,” said Donna Colorio, Worcester School Committee Vice Chairman, and head of the group spearheading the ballot initiative.

The proposed ballot question asks Massachusetts voters whether the state should keep the Common Core standards, adopted in 2010, or revert to the state’s homegrown standards in place prior to adoption of Common Core. If voters approve the measure to repeal Common Core, the state would also be required to establish a committee with the power to veto any new standards and would direct the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education to “release all of the test items, including questions, constructed responses and essays, for each grade and every subject.”

In 2010, Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association. Like many states, Massachusetts chose to replace its own standards with Common Core in order to improve the state’s chance of winning a chunk of the federal government’s $4 billion pool of “Race to the Top” money.

But opponents of Common Core say the gamble wasn’t worth it, as the nationally aligned standards have proven inferior to Massachusetts’ own standards. They argue Massachusetts was one of the highest-achieving states in the country, but that achievement levels declined after the state adopted Common Core.

Despite collecting nearly three times as many signatures as required to put Common Core on the November ballot, proponents of the citizen initiative still face a major legal roadblock.

In January, opponents of the ballot question, who claim Common Core is necessary to reduce national achievement gaps and give students the skills they need to compete globally, sued to stop the issue from reaching Massachusetts voters.  In their brief before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, plaintiffs argue that the question was not properly certified.

RELATED: Common Core supporters sue to prevent vote

Under Massachusetts law, voter initiatives must propose a new law or amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution and must only cover a single topic. Common Core supporters argue that the ballot question does not propose a law or amendment, but rather directs a state board to repeal an earlier action. They also argue that the section on assessments — or testing — is separate and distinct from the portion on the education curriculum frameworks.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to render a decision on the challenge this summer. If the Court allows the initiative to go forward, this would be the first time any state has held a voter referendum on Common Core.