|By Tom Humphrey, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The business lobby — when united about policy and not involved in turf battles — has rarely had to play defense in recent legislative sessions. Instead, it's pretty much been on the offense, repealing laws passed when Democratic legislators were dominant and creating new ones to limit lawsuits against business, stifle union activities, cut the cost of workers' compensation insurance, etc.
But this year is different.
Former Republican state Sen.
The source of the angst is Common Core standards, which were blessed by
Since legislators left
And it has split the
Businesses like Common Core as it is, unchanged, viewing it as a uniform means of measuring student performance and as a big step toward educating future employees in an era of global competition.
And businesses, through political action committees and individual business owners and executives, provide much of the money legislators need for their re-election campaigns.
On the other side are social conservative activists prone to calling the standards "Obamacore" or even "Commie Core" and viewing the matter as federal intrusion into education.
"In my 20 years at the state Capitol, apart from the income tax or abortion issues, I don't think I have ever seen such a swell of conservative, grass roots opposition to something in our state as I have seen with Common Core," wrote Fowler in a recent newsletter.
"In case you didn't know, grassroots conservatives are the people on the ground that do the legwork and provide the bulk of the actual votes that allow Republican political candidates to win and their party to control
Going by the emails, phone calls and such received by an old reporter, it seems Fowler is right about the conservative grassroots swell. Core concern has gone from nothing to a storm over the past few months and created some strange bedfellows in the process.
Besides the national anti-Core movement, funded by wealthy conservative activists including the Koch brothers, there's homegrown opposition that includes home-school parents and folks like
The controvery has created some strange bedfellows.
Democratic legislators, attentive to teachers' concerns about the rapid pace of change lately in the name of education reform, are also listening to teachers unhappy about a brand-new student testing plan thanks to Common Core.
Core critics' strategy seems to be not to try to kill the standards outright — that won't happen, given united business and gubernatorial opposition — but instead to delay their implementation for a year or two, or three or four. That might happen, what with the strange bedfellows situation and legislators' inclination to procrastinate on difficult decisions.
Some Republican legislators, meanwhile, have an apparent strategy of scurrying to come up with stuff to appease the anti-Core conservatives without unduly offending businesses. Examples include resolutions denouncing federal intrusion into the education arena, but actually accomplishing nothing beyond sound-bite rhetoric, and bills setting reasonable conditions for release of data collected from student testing — basically restating law that already exists.
That would logically entail putting off testing based on the Common Core standards for a year. It would be hailed as a compromise and would dovetail neatly with the appeasement efforts. And the poor legislators could perhaps then sleep through an election year without a nightmare.
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