Common core review commission worried that keeping standards would violate copyright law

Members of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) met Friday afternoon to continue their work in reviewing the Common Core State Standards and developing recommendations for high quality alternatives. But commission members quickly ran into a road block when the issue of the Common Core’s copyright arose, with some members becoming concerned that attempts to revise the standards, instead of scrapping them wholesale, would be met with a lawsuit.

State Board of Education attorney Katie Cornetto told ASRC members that they were free to come up with replacement standards that comprise some or even nearly all of the Common Core yet are called something else, and that they would not be in violation of copyright law because the standards are part of the public domain.

Cornetto’s assertion was contradicted by ASRC member Tammy Covil, who said that the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are owners of the Common Core, would have to issue North Carolina a waiver if they wanted to use some of the Common Core standards in their replacement recommendations.

Covil, who has publicly decried the Common Core, said she did not feel comfortable moving forward with evaluating the standards and considering keeping parts of the Common Core until she saw a waiver from either the CCSSO or the NGA, neither of which have agreed to awarding one to North Carolina, she said.

“Either we go with an entirely new set of standards…as a recommendation…or we merely revise Common Core and open us up to a lawsuit,” said Covil.

State Board of Education chair and ASRC member Bill Cobey said he doesn’t see a suit coming, however, and the fact that North Carolina couldn’t get a waiver was not a red flag.

State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson is the current president of the CCSSO. She told N.C. Policy Watch at the conclusion of the meeting, “there is no Common Core Police. Each state can do what it wants to do with the Common Core standards, as evidenced with some states adopting them, some modifying them and some not adopting them at all.”

Cutting in on the debate, Rep. Michael Speciale and Rep. Larry Pittman both stood to speak on the intent behind the legislation that created the review commission. They said the bill ultimately sought to replace, not re-brand, the controversial Common Core standards. Further, Pittman promised that if the recommendations that came from the committee resembled the Common Core, more legislation would ensue.

Rep. Pittman later emphasized to N.C. Policy Watch that he wants to see Common Core gone.

“Kill it, get rid of it, bury it, never go back to the source from which it came,” said Pittman, who also explained that he was not happy with the final version of SB 812. The original legislation he authored, he said, intended to completely rid the state of the Common Core standards.

Instead, Pittman said, Rep. Craig Horn and Sen. Jerry Tillman co-conspired to remove his language from the bill and block him from a conference committee that came up with a final version of the legislation, which he characterized as watered down.

“And I started this whole thing,” said Rep. Pittman of jettisoning the Common Core from North Carolina.

Andre Peek, who has been a vocal proponent of the Common Core standards, acknowledged, “we’ve suspended the Common Core, and we’re going to adopt North Carolina standards…we need to pick a starting point that acknowledges where we are.”

But where ASRC members exactly are is unclear. The consensus among members today was that much of the academic standards in place need revision or replacement—however, teacher survey results administered by staff at the Department of Public Instruction seemed to suggest that teachers are by and large happy with the current standards, although the survey methodology was unclear.

The direction that commission members will take—whether to throw out Common Core completely or keep some parts or all–remains to be seen as members continue to debate whether or not their actions could trigger a lawsuit on the grounds of copyright violation.

Today’s discussion also centered around whether or not to hire a policy analyst to staff the commission once funds are in place, which are expected to come once the General Assembly passes legislation that would provide the ASRC with approximately $250,000.

Tammy Covil indicated she would rather not hire a policy analyst, asserting that commission members were sufficiently equipped to handle drafting policy recommendations. Ultimately Chair Andre Peek offered a motion to hire an editorial assistant instead, which passed.

The next meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission will take place February 16.


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