Republican candidate for governor Charles Baker today forcefully affirmed his intention to remove Massachusetts from federal education standards and, if necessary, give up $250 million in Race to the Top money to preserve the commonwealth’s own successful education reform.
“If that’s the price we have to pay, I think that’s a price worth paying to retain our independence. This should belong to Massachusetts,” Baker said at a forum in Boston sponsored by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE).
Baker wasted no time in addressing an issue that has put him at odds with AIM, MBAE and other business groups that endorsed the recent shift to national Common Core standards.
“If I get elected governor, I will work to remove Massachusetts from participation in that national program. I think Massachusetts should own, manage and control education standards, its testing policies and its curriculum development,” Baker said.
“I don’t believe that handing the keys to this particular initiative to a soon-to-be-developed federal program involving 20-plus other states is the way to ensure that Massachusetts controls its own destiny when it comes to educating the kids here in Massachusetts.”
Baker maintained that two decades of bipartisan education reform have put Massachusetts at the head of the class in public education, and that the Patrick administration’s decision to adopt federal standards will deprive the Bay State of one of its only economic advantages over competing states. He called the Common Core standards a distraction that will force Massachusetts to work with other states in various stages of education reform.
“The way to go forward on this one is to continue together to grow and expand upon what we have achieved as a state, as local communities, as teachers, parents and students over the past 16 years. We must strive, not to be better than we were yesterday, but to be the best, anywhere, any time.”
Baker’s comments came at the second of three forums sponsored by AIM and MBAE providing the candidates for governor an opportunity to outline their views on education and the economy.
Independent candidate and state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who has also opposed the move to federal standards, told a forum audience last week that he would support the Common Core as governor.
“I’m not here to fight old fights,” Cahill said.
Incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick will discuss his views on education during the final forum on September 29. The Baker forum took place at Nutter, McClennen & Fish.
Baker said charter schools hold the key to improving education in Massachusetts and closing the often wide achievement gap between affluent suburban schools and those located in urban areas. He noted that state policymakers did not raise the cap on new charter schools until forced to do so by the federal Race to the Top competition and that it would take 80 years to work off the current waiting list of students seeking admission to charter schools.
“I won’t be satisfied until we don’t have lotteries anymore,” he said in an emotional response to a question.
Baker also said the state Board of Education needs more independence and that all elements of the state higher education system – the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community college – should expand efforts to work together to address economic needs in the various regions of the commonwealth.