Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules Against Common Core Ballot Question
On July 1, the justices unanimously ruled that a grassroots November ballot question asking voters to revoke Common Core violated state law, which means the educational standards will remain in place for the Commonwealth’s K-12 public schools. The standards, which have elicited a vocal negative response nationwide from many parents and educators, have been in place in Massachusetts since July 2010 when the state Board of Education (BOE) voted to adopt them.
“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,” said Donna Colorio, who led the grassroots campaign through her group, End Common Core in Massachusetts, to have the proposed referendum question placed on the ballot this November.
“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.”
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Colorio, a Worcester School Committee member, noted that her group gathered more than 100,000 signatures from voters across the state to get the referendum on the ballot this fall.
“If the ballot initiative had passed, it would have pulled the rug out from under Massachusetts educators who have been teaching to the existing standards for the past five years,” said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester on the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website. “Educators can now continue to develop curriculum and prepare for the upcoming school year knowing that their work will not be derailed this fall.”
“We’re very excited and thrilled that the process worked and that our standards aren’t going back to where they were in 2004,” added Stephanie Gray, president of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association (MPTA), whose organization supported the lawsuit against the Common Core ballot initiative. “The Massachusetts PTA will continue to make sure that every Massachusetts child has a good, quality education and that Massachusetts remains #1 in education.”
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the ballot failed to meet Bay State legal standards because it involved two subjects — Common Core and standardized testing — and as such “voters would be in the ‘untenable position of casting a single vote on two or more dissimilar subjects’ …which is the specific misuse of the initiative (ballot) process,” wrote Associate Justice Margaret Botsford.
The ruling came just days after Colorio’s group submitted the final series of required signatures to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin for certification, which would have put the referendum on the ballot.
A group of 10, including former Massachusetts Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci, MPTA President Gray, and Dianne Kelly, superintendent of Revere Public Schools, filed a lawsuit with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in March, asking the Commonwealth’s highest court to throw out the petition to put the referendum on the ballot because it violated the Bay State’s constitution.
The lawsuit was filed against State Attorney General Maura Healey, who deemed the petition constitutional in December 2015, as well as Secretary of the Commonwealth Galvin, who certified voters’ signatures.
In the lawsuit, Antonucci and his group argued that the Massachusetts state legislature is the only government entity empowered to allow the BOE to set the Commonwealth’s educational standards for its public K-12 schools and, as a result, CCSS should remain in place.