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Cobb Revisits Common Core Issue

The school board heard possible options in lieu of math textbooks, but took no action.

Nearly two months after refusing to purchase new mathematics textbooks because of protests over Common Core standards, the Cobb Board of Education resumed the matter at a work session Wednesday.

Not much has changed on a divided board that listened to possible options for supplying math teachers with instructional materials instead of the textbooks.

Among the options discussed include e-book purchases of textbooks and the collection of other online resource materials.

Board members took no action, and another vote to reconsider their decision is unlikely. But they did spend quite a bit of time rehashing sharply-held arguments.

The four members who voted against spending $7.5 million in SPLOST funding for the textbooks restated their objections on fiscal grounds, saying the money would be wasted if the state legislature acts to remove Georgia from the Common Core.

"My hesitation is the amount of money," said board member Kathleen Angelucci of Northeast Cobb, who said some members of the school district's textbook committee were concerned about its ultimate recommendations.

"I try to take all of this into consideration. I felt personally that it was prudent to wait."

The three members who voted to buy the textbooks claimed that the denial hamstrings teachers and places a heavier burden on students to meet the standards, which were adopted by the Georgia Board of Education and then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010.

"The materials we have today are not consistent with what our students are being tested on," said East Cobb board member Scott Sweeney. "I think we're doing a disservice to our community by not supplying [the next textbooks] as soon as possible."

Board chairman Randy Scamihorn of North Cobb, who voted against the textbook purchases, countered that by that logic, Cobb "did a disservice" by not having math books in the past school year that corresponded to the Common Core.

The board faced heavy opposition in April from Common Core opponents, including Cobb Republican Party chairman Joe Dendy. They claimed that the standards presented a federal intrusion into education and would move "further and further away from our founding values."

The standards, which have been adopted in 45 states, stem from no federal legislation or mandates. They stipulate general academic benchmarks, but are not tied to test scores and they call on state and local school districts to develop curriculum around them.

"Common Core is in the crossfire between federal intrusion and local control," said David Morgan of South Cobb, who supported the textbook purchase and is the only Democrat on the school board. "In Cobb, we had a committee that said this is in the best interests of our children."

At another heated meeting in May, several members of the textbook committee, including some math teachers, and parents lashed out at the board for voting down the new textbooks.

"Please do not politicize mathematics," urged John Salinas, the parent of a Walton High School graduate who is now in medical school.

To address divisions among Georgia Republicans, Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed an executive order declaring state sovereignty over the Common Core.

Leading Cobb legislators are among those who pushed for HB 167, a withdrawn bill that would have removed Georgia from Common Core.

Their pledge to reintroduce the measure next year prompted Angelucci and Scamihorn to call for a delay in the textbook purchases.

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