Court Monitor

Common Core Strikes Out in Oklahoma

Common Core is widely opposed for how it deprives parents of local control over education. But parents in Oklahoma have one less thing to worry about when they send their children back to school this fall, thanks to action taken by the Oklahoma legislature which was then successfully defended before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. On July 15th, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the legislature's complete repeal of the Common Core standards by an 8-1 decision, in Pack v. Oklahoma.

Earlier this summer the Oklahoma legislature had passed a law, HB 3399, to repeal Common Core. For days it was unclear whether Governor Mary Fallin, who supported Common Core as recently as January, would sign the repeal into law. But a groundswell of phone calls by citizens opposed to Common Core poured into her office, and she eventually added her signature to the repeal. She then explained why: "Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards."

At that point it appeared Common Core was forever banished from Oklahoma, but the Oklahoma Board of Education audaciously tried to bring it back in time for school this fall.

The Board brought an extraordinary lawsuit directly before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, to demand that it reinstate Common Core in Oklahoma. The theory of the case was that the legislature acted contrary to the state constitution by repealing Common Core. According to the lawsuit, only the state Board of Education had the power to get rid of Common Core, and it wanted to implement the standards as quickly as possible rather than repeal them. "Supervision of instruction is vested in the Board of Education," the attorney for the Board argued.

The Oklahoma Constitution gives the Board of Education "[t]he supervision of instruction in the public schools" but expressly requires that the Board's "powers and duties shall be prescribed by law." OKLA. CONST. art. XIII, §5. It was an extraordinary demand for a mostly unelected Board of Education to ask the unelected Oklahoma Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the elected Oklahoma legislature and governor. If this strategy had worked, it would have been another example of judicial supremacy.

Jenni White, President of Restore Oklahoma Public Education (R.O.P.E.) and opponent of Common Core standards, observed that the Board of Education "is overseen by elected officials, it is not the same thing as representatives directly supervised by the people." The legislature is elected by the people, and it should be able to repeal the unpopular, unjustified Common Core.

Within a few hours -- which is record time for a supreme court -- the Oklahoma Supreme Court sided with the legislature and upheld the repeal of Common Core standards. The Court ordered the Board to return to the academic standards previously in place, before Common Core. Oklahoma citizens against the controversial Common Core standards can send their children back to school with a sigh of relief this fall.