Massachusetts Common Core Ballot Initiative Stopped in Court

The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, MA is home to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.Photo Credit: Swampyank (CC-By-3.0)

The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, MA is home to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Photo Credit: Swampyank (CC-By-3.0)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that the language in the Common Core ballot initiative is unconstitutional.

In their opinion they wrote:

We conclude, as the plaintiffs argue, that the Attorney General’s certification of Initiative Petition 15- 12 did not comply with art. 48, The Initiative, II, § 3, of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution because it contains provisions that are not related or mutually dependent.

They further explain:

An initiative petition properly may contain only subjects “which are related or which are mutually dependent.” Art. 48, The Initiative, II, § 3. The two subjects in this petition are clearly not “mutually dependent.” In fact, the opposite seems true. That is, whether the diagnostic assessment tests are based on the common core standards or some previous set of academic standards — the focus of sections 1 through 3 of the petition — will not affect in any way the commissioner’s obligation under section 4 to release before the start of every school year all of the previous year’s test items in order to inform educators about the testing process; the commissioner’s obligation will exist independently of the specific curriculum content on which the tests are based.

In a nutshell they said voters are in an untenable situation to vote yes or no on both the standards and the assessment because those are two separate, distinct questions. Had the standards and the assessment been two separate ballot questions that may have satisfied the Court on this particular issue. They didn’t rule on the other claims made by the plaintiff.

Donna Colorio of End Common Core Massachusetts expressed disappointment in the ruling in a released statement:

No emotions can express how disappointed we are with the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today.

Parents, educators, and concerned citizens collected over 100,000 signatures to put this critical question on the ballot, and their voices have been silenced by this disastrous ruling.

This ruling is an example of big special interest money using intimidation tactics with scores of lawyers and public relations machines to do what is best for them and drown out the voices of the people.  The special interests behind Common Core do not want an open and fair debate about education in Massachusetts, so they rely on legal maneuvers and technicalities to control public education in Massachusetts.

The ones who really lost are the students.  They are the ones most negatively affected by this ruling.

We are not sure what the next steps may be, but we are exploring all of our options.  There was never a doubt in our mind that if the truth was brought before the voters in November, Common Core would have ended in Massachusetts and the very best standards in the nation would have been restored.

The special interests may have won this time, but ultimately the people will prevail and overcome a corrupted system that does not represent the children and their future.

We will continue to fight for our children and try to make sure Massachusetts has the best possible education for our students.

Massachusetts Common Core Ballot Initiative Waiting Game

Supporters of the ballot initiative who seek to repeal Common Core in Massachusetts have to wait to see if their question will end up on the ballot in November. The group spearheading this effort, End Common Core Massachusetts, says they have enough signatures, but they are waiting on a judge to rule in a court challenge to the certification of the initiative question.

The Worcester Telegram reports:

A local group looking to scrap the Common Core learning standards in Massachusetts says it has gathered enough signatures to get its question on the state ballot this November.

End Common Core Massachusetts organizers now will have to wait to see if their efforts will even count, as the Supreme Judicial Court weighs a challenge to state Attorney General Maura Healey’s earlier certification of their ballot question.

“I believe we will weather the storm on this one,” said Worcester resident Donna Colorio, who is spearheading the ballot initiative to undo the state’s adoption of the national Common Core standards in 2010.

Ten Massachusetts residents have appealed to the courts to throw out the question, arguing it shouldn’t be eligible for the ballot because it seeks to repeal the actions of a government board, whereas state law requires initiative petitions to propose a new law or constitutional amendment.

After holding oral arguments last month, the court is expected to issue its decision early next month, around the same time when the state will start making up the ballots for the Nov. 8 election. If End Common Core gets a favorable ruling, Ms. Colorio, who is also a member of the Worcester School Committee, said her group has gathered more than 30,000 signatures, well more than the 10,792 it would need to get on the ballot.

Her statewide team of roughly 500 to 700 volunteers collected those names over the past six weeks, staking out grocery stores and other high traffic public places. Since last fall, when ballot question campaigns had to gather 64,750 certified signatures to get approval from the attorney general, Ms. Colorio said, End Common Core expanded its range in the state.

Read the rest.

Volunteer Help Needed for Massachusetts Common Core Ballot Initiative

massachusetts-state-flag

Have some free time on your hands? Can you travel to Massachusetts to help the effort to stop Common Core there? End Common Core Massachusetts needs volunteers to help collect signatures to ensure their ballot initiative makes the ballot in November.

WWLP 22 News reports:

Volunteers have until June 22nd to collect 11,000 signatures. After that, the signatures need to be reviewed by the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General must approve the ballot question.

Their goal is to collect 16,000 signatures. You can learn more about volunteering and contact End Common Core Massachusetts here.

MA Gov Baker Straddling the Fence on Common Core Ballot Initiative

charlie-baker

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is on the fence about the Common Core ballot initiative that will be voted on this fall.  He testified against adopting the Common Core in Massachusetts in 2010. He believes the state getting out of PARCC and the current review the state will accomplish the same goal as the ballot initiative.

Commonwealth discusses his “Common Core caution.”

“We’re not going to be the caboose to the train of a federal program,” said Baker. “We’re in Massachusetts going to chart our own course. And the board of education is going take the best of what I would describe as all possible options that are out there and create an MCAS 2.0 framework here that will work for our kids and our families going forward. I think that’s pretty consistent with the basic intent of the [ballot] question, which is to have Massachusetts chart its own course and make its own call.”

Anti-Common Core activists in the state are not convinced.

“I‘ll just respectfully disagree with the governor that what we want has been addressed,” said Donna Colorio, leader of End Common Core Massachusetts, which is spearheading the ballot question campaign. She said Chester has signaled that as much as 90 percent of the updated MCAS 2.0 assessment will draw from the PARCC test, meaning Common Core standards will largely have to be kept in place.

Opponents have criticized the heavy hand of the federal education department in pushing states to adopt Common Core. They’ve also leveled detailed critiques of the standards themselves, taking issue with Common Core’s approach to understanding math and criticizing the English language arts standards, which call for an increased emphasis on nonfiction “informational” texts, saying they are misguided and will diminish the study of literature and poetry.

Common Core is currently being reviewed in Massachusetts, but don’t expect any major changes.

Jim Peyser, Baker’s education secretary, said he doesn’t expect the current review of the state’s standards to lead to “radical change,” but he does “expect a conversation about meaningful change.”

While the process now underway is “not identical to the one that’s specified in the ballot question, it is intended to be a good faith effort, in substance, to accomplish what they are looking for,” said Peyser.

The administration has “made a decision to work through a revision of the standards” with a belief that this is “a process that may get them to a place where they have standards that approximate or, in their hope, go beyond what Massachusetts had prior to adoption of Common Core,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. The right-leaning Boston think tank, where Baker and Peyser both previously served stints as executive director, is a leading national voice against Common Core. “We’re empiricists so we’ll see how it comes out,” said Stergios.

Massachusetts Voters May See Common Core on the Ballot

MassLive reports that a ballot initiative on Common Core has been certified as constitutional and may end up on the ballot in 2016 provided there are enough signatures.

Massachusetts voters will have their say in 2016 on whether to adhere to the national Common Core Standards for education. A ballot question with Worcester roots was one of 22 questions certified as constitutional by Attorney General Maura Healy on Wednesday.

The next step is collecting the signatures needed to actually place it on the ballot according to Donna Colorio, a candidate for and a former Worcester School Committee member, a Quinsigamond Community College professor and one of the questions most ardent supporters.

“This was the first step,” Colorio said. “I am excited beyond excited that this passed constitutional muster and can move forward. We can have the discussion that we never had when this was approved (by the Mass. Board of Education) in 2010.”

Read more.

Common Core opponents need to collect 64,750 signatures from voters by this November.  The Massachusetts Legislature then will need to act.  If they fail to act then the initiative will need an additional 10,800 signatures by June of 2016 for the measure to be on the ballot in November of 2016.

End Common Core Massachusetts set a goal of collecting 120,000 between September 16, 2015 through November 18, 2015.  You can learn more about that effort here.