PHOENIX — An Arizona bill that would prohibit the state from using a set of educational standards known across the U.S. as Common Core has received initial approval.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 1310, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, on Tuesday. The bill must still receive a roll-call vote before it moves to the House of Representatives.
Arizona adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 without opposition, and state school districts have spent millions implementing them. The standards already have been implemented around most of the nation.
But some Republicans have recently denounced the standards, saying they're a poorly conceived, federally driven effort that usurps states' rights.
Common Core standards aim to focus learning on comprehension and real life examples and were designed by a national, bipartisan group of governors and education leaders to better prepare students for college and the job market.
Gov. Jan Brewer has supported Common Core and renamed the standards the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.
However, Melvin said, "many citizens, I think the majority, have fundamental problems with Common Core and its implementation in the state. I believe that we, as a state, can do a far better job in this area than the federal government dictating to us, and that's the thrust of this bill."
Supporters of Common Core standards say eliminating the program would cost Arizona millions in federal funding and would make the state less economically competitive. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce oppose the repeal effort.
"The folks that you rely on oftentimes are adamantly opposed to this bill. I would urge you to pay attention to the business community like you tried to last week, like the governor certainly did," Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson said.
Bradley was referencing Senate Bill 1062, the now infamous religious rights bill that Brewer vetoed after pressure from the business community. Civil rights groups said that bill would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays.
Opponents of Melvin's bill also say getting rid of Common Core would be a disservice to the many Arizona school districts that have spent millions of dollars implementing the program since 2010. Additionally, the Arizona Department of Education receives about $1 billion annually in federal funds for Common Core implementation. Potentially, all of that funding is at risk if Arizona moves away from the standards, according to the department.
However, education advocates say it's hard to track down a specific dollar cost figure because each school district handles its own implementation. A spokeswoman for Gilbert Public Schools, which has adopted Common Core, said the district does not keep implementation costs in one set of data.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the legislature should not make decisions based on whether or not schools have already invested in the program but on what is the best policy for the state. Biggs supports Melvin's bill.
The Senate will place the roll-call vote Wednesday.