The battle over Common Core standards in Massachusetts is heading to court.
A grassroots in-state organization of parents, teachers and citizens, Common Core Forum, is trying to get a question placed on this November’s ballot, asking voters if they want the state to drop the controversial Common Core State Standards (CCSE) for Massachusetts public schools and revert to those used prior to Common Core’s adoption in 2010.
However, a group of 10 people, including former Massachusetts Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci; Stephanie Gray, president of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association (MPTA); and Dianne Kelly, superintendent of Revere Public Schools, is firing back, challenging its constitutionality in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court saying, in essence, that it fails to meet the Commonwealth’s legal requirements under its constitution.
The lawsuit was filed against State Attorney General Maura Healey, who deemed the potential ballot question constitutional last December, and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who certified the voters’ signatures, requesting the question be placed on the November ballot.
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“In this litigation, the Plaintiffs challenge that certification and ballot placement, maintain that the petition does not meet constitutional requirements, and ask that this Court quash the certification by the Attorney General (Ms. Healey),” the lawsuit says.
In the lawsuit, Antonucci and his group argue that the Massachusetts state legislature is empowered to allow the state Board of Education (BOE) to set the Commonwealth’s educational standards for its public K-12 schools and, as a result, CCSE should remain in place. The BOE adopted Common Core in July 2010.
Brian McNiff, a spokesman with Galvin’s office, says if the anti-Common Core ballot initiative is approved by Massachusetts voters, it will become law within 30 days of the election being certified by the Governor’s Council, which usually happens around Thanksgiving.
McNiff also notes that the state legislature retains the power to amend or repeal the anti-Common Core ballot should it become law.
“If a petition is overwhelmingly approved by the voters, the legislature is usually hesitant to go against it,” he said.
Worcester School Committee member Donna Colorio and her group, Common Core Forum, says they gathered more than 100,000 signatures for the anti-Common Core question to be placed on the November ballot. Two rounds of voter signatures are required to place the question on the ballot. Of the 100,000 gathered in the first round, more than 80,000 were validated by Galvin’s office, which exceeded the required 64,750 signatures, or 3 percent of all the voters in the 2014 election.
This month, Colorio and her group will be working to gather 10,792 new signatures, or half of 1 percent of the voters in the 2014 election, required for the second round.
“The big education special interests are trying to silence us, but the people will prevail and our voices will be heard in the voting booth,” Colorio said regarding the lawsuit.
“If this petition goes forward, we’re saying to school districts that we want the standards we had 10 years ago [set in 2001 and 2004],” MPTA’s Gray said. “Is that what we want for our children?”
It’s unknown when or if the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will rule on the lawsuit, which was submitted in early March. If the court decides not to rule on the case and the required second-round signatures are collected and validated, the question will appear on the November ballot.