CONCORD — Opponents of the Common Core educational standards are expected to turn out in force today at a legislative presentation they say is stacked with proponents.
The House calendar has the event, titled "Perspectives on education reform and meeting the demands of the 21st century," posted as an information session hosted by the Education Committee from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in rooms 210-211 of the Legislative Office Building.
Board of Education Chairman Tom Raffio said the session will provide a "fair and balanced approach" to the information in the wake of a forum recently hosted by Common Core opponents at St. Anselm College.
That mid-September event, which drew a standing-room-only crowd, featured some of the initiative's most prominent opponents on the state and national level. Less than a month later, a large turnout before the Manchester Board of Education cheered the decision by the state's largest city to reject the standards.
"When that event was held at the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm, it was clearly a one-sided thing," said Raffio. "We're really obligated to make sure our legislators, who see these potential bills, get balanced information."
Republicans Lenette Peterson of Merrimack and David Murotake of Nashua have introduced bills to delay or prohibit the state from implementing Common Core. Lawmakers from Keene and Tuftonboro have filed similar bills.
The standards do not establish curriculum, but outline what students should know, or what tasks they should be able to complete, upon graduation from each grade level, kindegarten through 12. Critics argue the standards are not rigorous enough and amount to a federal takeover of education.
The morning session will feature a presentation by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, followed by a panel discussion hosted by Raffio on the state's "Career and College Ready Standards."
Scheduled speakers include National Education Association-NH president Scott McGilvary; Bedford School Board member and state Board of Education member Cindy Chagnon; Concord Superintendent Christine C. Rath; Bill Duncan, president of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education; and Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry.
The afternoon session includes an update from the National Conference of State Legislatures on reforms in other states and a work session on assessment and reform activities for lawmakers.
Ashley Pratt, executive director at Cornerstone Policy Research, issued a statement on Monday saying she has heard from many Common Core opponents who are outraged at the one-sided lineup for today's session. Cornerstone's New Hampshire Education Liaison Ann Marie Banfield was among the speakers at the St. Anselm event.
"We at Cornerstone have heard from many parents and citizens about how outraged they are that members of the House Education Committee in conjunction with the Speaker of the House would only be portraying one side of the issue to the elected members of the Legislature," said Pratt. "Since our Legislature consists of members who are elected by the citizens of New Hampshire, it only makes sense that both sides of such a controversial topic should be presented to our elected officials, seeing as they are elected to represent all citizens."
Pratt was particularly critical of Tucker, whom she identified as an avid supporter of Common Core standards.
"Marc Tucker is very well-known for his 'Dear Hillary Letter' that laid out a master plan for the Clinton Administration to take over the entire U.S. educational system so that it could serve national economic planning of the workforce," Pratt said. "Mr. Tucker has also called for eliminating local control in education, something that many New Hampshire residents believe to be at the heart of American education."
Open to the public
Elena Ball, program chairman for the Belknap County Republican Committee, wrote in an email on Monday that she had been trying to find out if the event was open to the public since the middle of last week, and finally heard from her state representative that is open to the public, but seating is limited.
"I guess enough of us complained to the right people about being frozen out," she wrote.
Raffio said the event is open, but the public will be admitted only after all the lawmakers interested in attending are seated.
"It actually is for the legislators, and so we need to make sure we have seats for them," he said. "If someone from the public shows up, we will probably be able to accommodate them, but we'll have to make sure there are seats for the legislators. I think there will be enough room for everyone."
Ball said the Belknap GOP will host a forum of its own on Nov. 13, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Beane Conference Cetner in Laconia, featuring many of the same opponents who spoke at the St. Anselm event. Seating is limited and RSVP is required by Nov. 8 to BelknapRSVP@firstname.lastname@example.org.