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Gresham reneges on anti-Common Core bill

The Tennessee senator who filed a bill to repeal the Common Core State Standards has had a change of heart, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said that after conversations with teachers across the state, she is convinced that the standards are improving student learning in math and English.

“I have talked to teachers who have told me in so many words, at last, we are no longer dumbing down our children,” she said. “That kind of encouragement is very important when other people are not so enthusiastic.”

That’s a 180-degree turn from remarks she made last November when she, along with Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), filed a bill replace the standards.

“We want to continue to be the fastest improving state in the nation, providing a model for education improvement,” Gresham said at the time. “As such, we need to be a leader and take the next logical step which is to use the knowledge we have learned and tailor it to Tennessee students, exerting state responsibility over education.”

Although Gresham might now support the standards — which Gov. Bill Haslam has advocated for since taking office in 2010 — many Tennessee lawmakers oppose the Common Core. Rep. John Fogerty (R-Athens), who chairs the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee, introduced a measure to review and recommend new academic standards. That measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), a member of the Senate Education Committee, as well as three other House education panel members.

Still, Gresham’s shift changes the balance on stances toward the Common Core among education leadership in the legislature. Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), chairman of the House Administration and Planning Committee, and Mark White (R-Memphis), chairman of the subcommittee on administration, also have been vocal in supporting the standards, which currently are under review until the fall.

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