A national program to align public school education across the country is under fire by a group opposed to the latest federal initiative.
Locally, the group has set its sights on Cape Henlopen school district.
"My hope is that we can defund this thing," said Karen Gritton of Lincoln. "This conversation should've happened three years ago."
Gritton was one of about 30 people – many members of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots – who attended the Cape Henlopen school board meeting May 23 to protest the Common Core State Standards initiative. From the beginning, creating national standards for what students should know in English and math has been a component of Race to the Top funding. One of the first two states awarded funding in 2009, Delaware received $119 million in Race to the Top money.
Cape received $2 million after the school board approved Race to the Top funding during a 2010 vote. According to a presentation by Cape Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Kelley, district implementation of Common Core standards were part of a memorandum of understanding approved by the 2010 school board.
Cape board Vice President Spencer Brittingham said he recalled voting during a special meeting but he thought it applied to funding only. He said he was not aware accepting funding implied the district would adopt Common Core standards.
"No where was Common Core included," he said. "I agree Common Core was back-doored on us."
Board member Sara Wilkinson, who also signed the 2010 memorandum, said the board was told they could sign it or not but the initiative would still go into effect.
"We were going to be required to follow the standards regardless," she said.
To date, Cape school board member Sandi Minard has been the most vocal board member against Common Core standards. In early May, she introduced a resolution calling for the district and state to pull out of the Common Core State Standards initiative, but no board action has been taken on the resolution.
"We are listening to bureaucrats and people who will profit from this and not from the taxpayers who fund it," Minard said. "There were no parents from Delaware, no school board members from Delaware and no taxpayers from Delaware involved in the standards."
Instead, she said, textbook publishers, General Electric and Bill and Melinda Gates through their Gates Foundation are spearheading changes to the nation's public education curriculum.
Data mining, religious tracking and higher technology costs all will be negative side effects of the common core initiative, said Lewes resident Steve Castiglione.
"It's 2013, and nobody has any idea that this is going on?" he said. "Was it worth $2 million to take yourself out of the situation?"
But not everyone at the meeting was against the Common Core standards.
"It's not going to change what our kids are learning. It's going to increase the rigor," said board member Jen Burton. "Common Core is a standard, it's not a curriculum, and you have to separate them ... the Common Core standards aren't going to crumble us."
Board President Andy Lewis said he does not see much difference between Common Core standards and state standards that were created more than a decade ago.
"How is this different from any of the other standards that have been brought to us before?" he asked.
One thing's for sure, Common Core and the controversy surrounding it won't be dying down anytime soon.
Residents in Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana, Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia have recently criticized Common Core's value; Minard, for one, said she plans to bring the discussion back to the Cape school board at a future meeting. She asked that a speaker from the American Policy Project – a group that opposes Common Core – be put on the next board agenda to speak.