Questions need answers

In case those in Washington, D.C., and Albany missed it, people have questions about the Common Core State Standards.

It should surprise no one, then, that there was a full complement of criticisms of Common Core at a recent town hall meeting at Spackenkill High School, Dutchess County. Common Core standards are an attempt to bring state curricula into alignment. Many argue the Common Core places too much focus on compulsory testing, overemphasizes rote learning and uniformity at the expense of creativity and has been implemented so fast teachers haven’t had adequate time with the new curriculum or texts.

Why, then, is New York state canceling public meetings where the new standards were to be addressed by John King, state education commissioner?

According to King’s office, the meetings have been canceled because of “disruptions caused by the special interests.”

You see, there are a separate batch of criticisms about Common?Core standards that have little to do with the actual education of students. The laundry list of issues includes privacy concerns relating to who has access to information gathered from students and an argument that Common Core violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, violates a federal law that prohibits federal control of education, is in violation of the New York state constitution and violates state education law.

“I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state. I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we’re moving ahead with in New York state. Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum,” King wrote in a statement posted on the state Education Department website.

Taxpayers and concerned citizens deserve to have some answers. Quelling debate and discussion moves New York no further toward its end goal of providing the best education possible for all of its children.

Yes, speakers should be more civil than they were at Spackenkill, but King must realize it’s time to listen to the very real questions and concerns many parents have regarding Common Core.

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, Assemblyman Angelo?Santabarbara and Assemblyman Marc Butler issued statements indicating King should still conduct the meetings.

Not only should King resume the scheduled PTA town hall meetings – which included visits to Clifton?Park and New Hartford – he should hold more meetings throughout the state.

However, those interested in shouting at King need to restrain themselves and let the state answer the questions so we can all have the facts in order to make an educated decision about the Common Core standards.