Parents and teachers hire lawyers in Utah for suit against the State School Board

August 19, 2014

The Common Core State Standards has been controversial in the U.S. since its introduction and implementation more than four years ago. Designed to present schools and educators with a set of curricula and skills that “outline the minimum standards in math and English that students should master at each grade level,” the core standards have been criticized for being too rigid and classified as yet another product of overreaching federal intrusion into local control despite their agenda “to increase college- and career-readiness for graduating students.” Now, in the beehive state, a group of six parents and educators are letting their lawyers in Utah file a lawsuit against the State School Board noting that stakeholders in the education system weren’t given enough consultation prior to the common core curricula adoption and are seeking an order “barring further implementation of the education standards,” according to this article in the Deseret News.

Utah’s general dislike of federal oversight into its programs originally resulted in Governor Gary Herbert asking the Utah Attorney General’s office to see what the state’s obligations around the Common Core were. But for the plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit against the State School Board—satisfying those obligations aren’t enough. The question of local control over curriculum is only “a piece of legal issues surrounding the common core,” and that diverging matter in the state is confusing the issues. At one end is the question of federal entanglement, and at the other, which the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ and parents’ lawyers in Utah is most concerned with, involves the extent to which “local control” may be interpreted.

In Utah, a statute requires the State School Board to establish “rules and minimum standards for the public schools in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers, and parents.” And that hasn’t happened, the plaintiffs in the suit argue. Connor Boyack, president of the libertarian advocacy organization funding the lawsuit said that not enough opportunity was provided at the time of implementation four years ago. And even though “education officials have long maintained the board’s adoption and review of the standards were conducted in accordance with established policies and during public meetings,” Boyack says there’s a difference between holding a public meeting and actually seeking input from local stakeholders.

The lawyers in Utah representing the plaintiffs in the suit contend that the state statutes “include specific language about participation” in those public meetings with requirements around input from stakeholders that were unfulfilled. But the school board’s spokesperson disagrees, reporting a yearlong review of the common core before it was adopted, “during which time the Utah State Office of Education conducted meetings throughout the state asking for feedback from community members.”

The State School Board sees some of the claim put forward by the teachers’ and parents’ lawyers in Utah as a case of the way in which “people often don’t pay attention until they’re angry about a decision that has already been made.” Too little, too late, the spokesperson for the School Board says, calling the lawsuit “political nonsense.” But Utahns, for whom the issue of government control is an ever-sensitive one, may not be put off so easily.



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