In 2011, the Arkansas legislature authorized the State Board of Education to impose Common Core, but the public and many legislators were not aware the legislation did that. Even years later, some legislators were surprised to learn they voted to authorize the State Board of Education to impose Common Core.
Three steps were taken to make sure the legislation passed without notice.
- Step #1 Hide the issue in a bill presenting itself as being a harmless house cleaning bill for the Department of Education.
- Step #2 Rush the bill through the legislature.
- Step #3 Don’t mention Common Core.
Step #1 hide the issue.
Just a few lines concerning Common Core were tucked away in a long and seemingly boring bill requested by the Department of Education.
Let’s take a look at the title of SB383 of 2011. It says:
An act to amend various provisions of Arkansas Code Title 6 concerning public education; to make technical corrections to Title 6; and for other purposes.
The title tells you NOTHING…. other than it has something to do with “public education.”
If you read the rest of the front page and the next several pages of the bill, you still won’t read anything about Common Core. The words “Common Core” appear only once on line 24 of page 6. It is a 35-page bill. In just a few short lines of a seemingly boring bill, the legislature gave the State Board of Education the power to mandate Common Core in your public schools.
Much like the Trojan Horse, a very close inspection was necessary to find the danger lurking inside.
Since the bill came from the Department of Education, we wonder if the sponsors of the bill were made aware of the Common Core provision. If they were, they didn’t mention it.
Step #2 rush the bill through.
Another element that made this Trojan Horse so effective is the timing for when the bill was presented. The bill was not run until very late in the 2011 legislative session. The legislature was rushing to finish. Committees were meeting more than once a day and the House and Senate were meeting long hours hurrying to finish. This is a time when many bills speed through the process with little to no examination.
Step #3 don’t mention Common Core.
- SB383 was heard by the House Education Committee on March 29, 2011. It was the committee’s third meeting of a long day. The explanation of the bill was given by an employee of the Department of Education. He described the bill saying: “This is the Department’s cleanup bill for this session.” There were no questions and no one spoke against the bill. The committee gave the bill a “Do-Pass” recommendation.
- SB383 was considered by the full House the next day. The bill didn’t come up until almost 7 PM. The explanation was as short and wrong. The legislator handling the bill gave a very brief explanation. He said the Department of Education was using the bill to bring the laws together in one place where you could read them. The bill had nothing to do with that, but that was his only explanation. There were no questions and no one spoke against the bill. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill.
- The bill had first passed the Senate. There is no audio or video from the Senate to review, but it is unlikely Common Core was mentioned or that there was a real examination of the bill.
Curbing deception in the legislature
Remember Nany Pelosi’s crazy statement on the Obamacare bill, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” Is Arkansas operated any differently?
Little can be done about legislators failing to read legislation. But something can be done to help alert legislators and the public to issues contained in legislation.
Reasonable legislators should amend their rules to require honest bill titles which summarize each issue presented in the bill. Instead of a meaningless two-line title, an informative title might be a page or more long. That is not much to ask the legislature to do, considering the deceptions that occur with meaningless bill titles.
Last legislative session Senator Linda Collins-Smith filed SJR10 to take a first step to stop deceptive titles. Her proposal only applied to ballot titles for constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature but it was an important first step. Unfortunately, the committee kept her proposal bottled up in the committee.