Candidates to talk benefits, perils of Common Core in Kingman

KINGMAN - It's not an official debate, but two candidates for state superintendent of public instruction will square off Monday over their views of Common Core.

John Huppenthal, who has been the incumbent since 2011 and is seeking re-election, will outline his support of Common Core. He will be joined by Diane Douglas, a Republican and former Peoria Unified School District board member who opposes Common Core because she believes it represents a federal takeover of Arizona's education system.

"I think it will be a very good meeting," said Laurence Schiff, president of the Kingman Republican Mens Club, which is sponsoring the event. "The only problem is that John Huppenthal is going to be defending the indefensible. He says we need educational standards and we do, but we need them to be developed locally and not nationally."

Common Core is a controversial national educational system that was implemented last year in Arizona. Its standards were created by a consortium of teachers, business leaders and education experts from 46 states, including Arizona, to toughen up standards for math, English and writing from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Indiana recently became the first state to opt out of the national program.

The Arizona Common Core standards are based on the national Common Core standards and were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010 without input from the Arizona Legislature. The education board has the authority to adopt new standards and assessments without the legislature's consent.

In September, Gov. Jan Brewer attempted to calm protests in the state against Common Core by issuing an executive order renaming it "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards" and reaffirming that Arizona is acting independently from the federal government. The order came days after Huppenthal proposed the name change.

In his Feb. 2014 State of Education speech, Huppenthal defined Common Core, or Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards, as the third crucial element of education transformation in the state. Huppenthal said he backs the standards and almost all the exemplary schools and districts in the state have embraced them.

"After comprehensive study, I'm confident in the ability of these standards to improve outcomes for our students," he said.