Activists in Massachusetts say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to place a referendum concerning Common Core on the ballot this fall, meaning Massachusetts may become the first state to vote directly on whether to keep the math and science standards.
The group End Common Core Massachusetts announced Thursday night that it collected over 30,000 signatures in its petition drive, well above the 10,792 required to land a spot on the ballot.
The group’s proposal would require Massachusetts to abandon Common Core and return to the math and English standards it used prior to 2010. It would also require the state to establish a committee of college professors from the state, which would have the power to veto any new standards the state creates if it believes they are not equal or better than those currently used in the world’s most economically advanced nations.
While Common Core has generally gotten more backlash in conservative states than in liberal ones, Massachusetts is hardly absent from the debate. The state’s education standards were widely regarded as the country’s best prior to Common Core’s emergence, and End Common Core argues the switch eroded local autonomy on education without providing any boost to educational quality. The group also alleges that Common Core is linked to increased data collection on students, although the standards themselves require no such thing.
If End Common Core’s 30,000-plus petitions hold up, then the Common Core question will be placed on the fall 2016 ballot, and a simple majority vote would be enough for it to succeed. It would be the first time any state has held a voter referendum on Common Core, and if Massachusetts chooses to eliminate it, it will be the first Democratic-leaning state to do so.
Even if the signatures are confirmed as valid, there is one obstacle that could end up kicking the Common Core question back off the ballot. Massachusetts requires voter initiatives to propose a new law or amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, and they must only cover a single topic. Several supporters of Common Core sued in January, arguing the initiative is illegal because it covers multiple topics and simply reverses a state school board decision rather than creating a new law. A decision on the challenge is still forthcoming.
If the initiative does go on the ballot, it won’t be unopposed. Core backers have started the Committee to Protect Educational Excellence in Massachusetts to lead the fight against the initiative.
“The public does not yet understand the enormous cost to every community or the damaging impact on every student that the repeal will have,” Robert Antonucci, the group’s chairman and president of Fitchburg State University, told the Telegram and Gazette. “But we are organizing a campaign to make sure they will know by Election Day.”