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Critics warn Common Core will lower education standards

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 4:16 a.m.

An opponent of Common Core education standards is challenging Pennsylvania politicians to reverse the state's decision to adopt them.

“(Politicians) may be telling you that they are not doing Common Core,” Peg Luksik of Johnstown told more than 100 members of the People for Liberty organization at Cornerstone Ministries in Murrysville on Thursday, “but they're telling Washington that they are.”

Luksik, a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education during President Ronald Reagan's administration, challenged Elizabeth's Barbara Hafer for the Republican nomination for governor in 1990.

She heads an organization called Founded on Truth, whose stated purpose is to help Americans recall self-evident truths cited by the Founding Fathers.

Gov. Ed Rendell and the General Assembly signed off on the Common Core concept in 2010. Gov. Tom Corbett chose not to reverse that decision but delayed implementation until this fall over objections to the potential cost and to data collection by the federal government.

State education officials said Pennsylvania Core Standards focus on the essential concepts, knowledge and skills that students need to succeed, and are designed to increase student achievement.

A chapter of regulations that include Pennsylvania Core Standards are pending review by the attorney general, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said.

“This is the final step in the regulatory review process,” he said.

The chapter's stated purpose “is to establish rigorous academic standards and assessments.” Luksik said the standards lower expectations, instead.

She pointed to changes that made Algebra I the standard for 11th-grade Keystone Exams, where formerly a student could take Algebra II and then Calculus as the advanced-placement level math course in senior year.

“We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to move math standards from horrendous to abysmal,” Luksik said.

“This is outcome-based education on steroids,” said Fran Bevan of North Huntingdon Township, who served on the Norwin school board in the late 1990s and is president of Pennsylvania's Eagle Forum chapter.

She said Luksik's presentation “hits you in the heart as well as the head.” Luksik concluded her presentation by showing a picture of her 1-year-old granddaughter.

“Don't let this go,” she told the audience.

Bevan said she asked Norwin board members in 2012 and last year if the district was adopting Common Core and was told no, but pointed to a district publication which ran a story in October that “Norwin School District is in the process of aligning its K-12 curriculum to Common Core standards.”

“(Corbett) can stop it,” Luksik said. “Texas said no and they didn't lose a dime (of federal funding). Virginia said no and they didn't lose a dime.”

“My concerns are, where does this take us?” Franklin Regional school board member Gregg Neavin said. “How do we now make sure that our kids get the best education they can?”

Michael Morocco stressed opposition to Common Core and told Luksik he came within two votes of winning a seat on the Penn-Trafford board in May's primary.

“Run again,” Luksik urged.

Another group that meets at Cornerstone is the Westmoreland County Conservative Coalition. Chairman Don Thomson of North Huntingdon, said state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, will talk about “God and government” at the coalition's meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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