Politics & Government

Anti-Common Core protest Monday asks parents to keep children out of school

Opponents of Common Core education standards are asking S.C. parents to keep their children out of school Monday to attend a protest at the S.C. Department of Education.

“Instead of sending your children to school on Nov. 18, raise awareness of the problems with Common Core with a public family outing,” says a flier for the event, at which Republican state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, a U.S. Senate hopeful, is scheduled to speak.

South Carolina Parents Involved In Education, run by conservative activist Sheri Few of Lugoff, said the protest is national. The protest at the Education Department starts at 10 a.m. “It’s going to send a very strong message to the decision makers in our state who don’t seem to be giving (Common Core) the attention we desire.”

State governors and school superintendents created Common Core education standards to ensure students in every state are ready for college or careers. The standards set what students should know at every grade level. Most U.S. states, including South Carolina, voluntarily adopted the standards. But critics have noted the standards were encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education and contend they developed without adequate public input.

State Education Superintendent Mick Zais was unavailable Thursday to give his reaction to the protest. He will not attend but will provide a statement to be read at the event, said his spokesman, Dino Teppara.

Zais, Teppara said, “believes in personalized education at the local level, not one-size, fits-all mandates from the federal government. He was opposed to Common Core from Day One, and nothing’s changed his mind.”

Scott Price, with the S.C. School Boards Association, called the protest a “very unusual and troubling method of showing disfavor with an issue. I could only imagine what the (public) outcry would be if schools themselves were to push for students to miss a day to protest an issue.”

A spokeswoman for Lexington Distric 1 said officials have heard very little about the event and plan to treat Monday like a regular school day.

Few said five speakers are scheduled for the event, including Meg Norris, a former Georgia public school teacher who left her job over disagreements with Common Core; Duke Peska, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh English professor; and Peg Luksik, founder of Founded on Truth, an anti-Common Core organization. Also scheduled to speak is Bright, a sponsor of a state Senate bill to outlaw Common Core in South Carolina and one of four announced GOP challengers to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham., R-S.C.

The primary sponsor of that bill, state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, said he disapproved of the protest tactic, though he encourages critics to speak out about the standards.

“I’m not one that would urge a parent to keep your child out of school,” he said. “Whether we move forward or do not move forward with Common Core, that should be debated,” Grooms said, adding the standards’ merits “need a proper vetting.”

State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, another legislator fighting Common Core, said he does not understand “what could be gained” from keeping children out of school. “Either we can articulate our position against the Common Core standards in such a fashion as to convince others that we are looking at it correctly, or we aren’t able to.”