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Feds strip Oklahoma of education funding decisions

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Obama administration on Thursday stripped Oklahoma of authority to decide how to spend $29 million in education funding because the state abandoned national academic standards known as Common Core, in a rebuke that a union official said could lead to teacher layoffs.

The Department of Education said it was hitting Oklahoma with the sanction under the No Child Left Behind Act because the state no longer could demonstrate that its school standards were preparing students for college and careers.

The Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature voted this year to ditch Common Core, a national benchmark for what students should learn in such subjects as math and English that has been adopted in more than 40 states.

GOP Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure into law, and Oklahoma will revert to weaker standards in place in 2010.

Following the announcement, Fallin blasted Obama and the federal government for the decision and said Oklahoma would fight vigorously.

“It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” she said in a statement. “This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

Common Core has drawn a chorus of complaints from conservatives, who see it as a federal power grab over education, traditionally a state and local matter. Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money to force states to adopt Common Core. In addition to Oklahoma, the Republican-led states of Indiana and South Carolina have ditched Common Core.

Washington is the only other state to have faced a federal sanction similar to Oklahoma, although the issue there was how teachers were evaluated rather than overall academic standards.

More than 40 states have received “waivers” from the Department of Education, essentially approvals to states allowing flexibility in how federal money is spent under No Child Left Behind. Indiana and Kansas were granted one-year waivers under the education law Thursday, in sharp contrast to the Oklahoma decision.

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