Bahr, Dean Credit Grassroots for Common Core Bill Success

May 25, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — During the last week of session, the General Assembly agreed on compromise legislation dealing with education standards in response to the adoption of the sometimes controversial “common core.”

The bill had a long journey to Gov. Nixon’s desk, starting with rising concerns from parents demanding a legislative response.

Rep. Bahr from  St Charles, MO

The biggest concerns Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, had with common core lied in state sovereignty, privacy, and education quality, which he sought to specifically address in his legislation.

Bahr sponsored HB1490, which originally was less than a page. The largely discussed compromise for standards sits on the Governor’s desk at only 14 pages and seeks to establish various working committees across the state to mold new standards for math and language arts. The bill does not forbid those working groups from adopting common core, but rather relies on the assumption that Missourians will ultimately choose a different route.

“The bill was originally written harsh – no common core, none,” Bahr said. “The reason for that was to force debate because the establishment – DESE – didn’t want to debate, didn’t want to negotiate. ‘It simply is – so do it.’ I offered an alternative and I was viewed as harsh and intransigent. That was never my intent. I had very specific harms and I had a bill that addressed those harms.”

Bahr’s legislative assistant, Nina Dean, was integral to the effort behind the legislation. Dean has a Master’s in Elementary School Education and formerly taught in the classroom, which made her uniquely suited to handle the anti-common core grassroots efforts that emerged in light of the bill.

“They are mixing up curriculum with standards,” Dean said. “The problem is that the standards drive the tests and the tests drive the curriculum. Some of the schools brought this upon themselves because they were so secretive – they wouldn’t allow students to bring home work they had done in school, thus making the parents feel like there was stuff going on in the classrooms that they don’t know about. When I look at it, I look at it from a teacher’s point of view.”

Dean found herself talking to parents across the state about the issue, providing them with a variety of resources for issue education. She made a deliberate effort to be fair, pointing parents to links of source documents and telling them to come to their own conclusion.

“More often than not, people would come back and say, ‘I don’t like this, tell me what I need to do,’” Dean said. “It grew into this coalition of parents who wanted to do something. “

The parents started to mobilize and reached out to Bahr’s office again for a solution.

Jill Carter is one of the mothers. I will never forget the phone call that she made wanting me to explain common core,” Dean said. “I talked to her and she said, ‘I don’t like it, what do I need to do?’”

“I met them after I hearing and researching some concerns about Common Core,” Jill Carter said. “I was just trying to understand the issue myself and wanted to talk to someone who I felt that there were enough valid concerns they would propose legislation against it. I called Representative Bahr’s office and talked to Nina about why they were concerned.”

Rachael Herndon, The Missouri Times.