OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Legislature had the authority to repeal Common Core education standards for English and math in the state’s public schools.
The state’s highest court took the action a little more than four hours after attorneys presented oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the Legislature’s action.
The lawsuit alleged lawmakers violated the state Board of Education’s constitutional authority over the “supervision of instruction in the public schools” when they repealed Common Core standards earlier this year. But the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision said the Legislature’s action was not unconstitutional.
The case was argued about a month before public school students across the state are scheduled to return to classrooms. The standards were scheduled to go into effect in the upcoming school year.
Attorney Robert McCampbell, who represents parents, teachers and four members of the seven-member Oklahoma Board of Education in the lawsuit, said he was “disappointed with the result” but respected the court’s decision. McCampbell said he was not surprised the court ruled so quickly.
“We had asked for it to be placed on the expedited docket and they granted that request,” he said.
House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said he was pleased with the decision. The legislation that repealed the standards also instructed the board to revert to educational standards in place before June 2010 and develop new state educational standards by 2016.
Gov. Mary Fallin said Oklahoma’s new education standards should be rigorous and capable of being “realistically integrated into the classroom.”
“Working together, I know that we can design Oklahoma standards that live up to a level of excellence our parents and students expect and deserve,” Fallin said.
During oral arguments, McCampbell argued the Legislature’s repeal of Common Core was unconstitutional and represented and “unprecedented expansion” of its powers.
“Supervision of instruction is vested in the Board of Education,” McCampbell said.
Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick argued that the Legislature, which in 2010 instructed the board to adopt Common Core instructional standards also adopted by more than 40 other states, has supreme authority to pass laws and that public school education standards are subject to legislative review.
“This court has always held that rulemaking is a legislative function,” Wyrick said.
The legislation that repealed Common Core standards for English and math did not include standards for science and social studies. Other states that have repealed or formally withdrawn from Common Core standards are Indiana and South Carolina.
Conservative groups maintained that the standards represented federal intrusion into Oklahoma’s public education system, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law legislation repealing the standards last month. Some Common Core standards have expressed concern that Oklahoma students will fall behind those in other states because of their repeal.
McCampbell said the Legislature has broad authority to set education policy in the state. But the Board of Education, not lawmakers, should decide what math problems are taught in public schools and whether the Gettysburg Address should be taught in the 10th grade or the 11th grade, he said.
“They are reaching into the classroom,” McCampbell said. “That’s supervision of instruction in the public schools.”
But some parents and teachers who were present for the oral arguments expressed support for repeal of the Common Core standards.
Nikki Fate, who attended the hearing with her 7- and 9-year-old daughters, said she believes Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate.
“It is cognitive abuse on our children,” Fate said. “They’re learning way too much at a fast pace and their brains aren’t developed for it.”