October 31, 2014

A Poke in the Eye?

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Two education advocates will clash on Veteran’s Day in a debate over the future of education standards in Oklahoma.

The debate will be held in the Lyon Performance Hall on the Oklahoma Wesleyan University campus at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Michael Petrilli, president of the D.C.-based think-tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supports Common Core State Standards, announced Friday he will face off against Jenni White, president of Restore Oklahoma Public Education. ROPE advocated against the standards this past legislative session.

White said she challenged Petrilli to a debate after watching him say on a national broadcast that Oklahoma is in a state of chaos after losing its federal No Child Left Behind waiver for dropping Common Core.

The state is reapplying for the waiver after Oklahoma’s old Priority Academic Student Skills standards were deemed college- and career-ready by the state Board of Regents.

Losing the waiver is expected to tie up to about $30 million in federal education funding.

“(Petrilli) is a D.C. policy wonk, he’s not in Oklahoma,” White said. “Any chaos we have in Oklahoma education is due to the number of federal mandates we have. It’s not from dropping Common Core.”

Petrilli said it’s important to engage with people who disagree with his or Fordham’s stance, so he accepted the invitation.

While standards might be dead legislatively in Oklahoma, White said they are still important because some schools still use Common Core curriculum in the classroom and the state is in the process of drafting new standards.

While the topic is serious, White said she and Petrilli want to have fun and make the debate entertaining for viewers.

“Honestly, I just kind of thought it’s all in good fun. I just wanted to poke him a bit in the eye,” White joked.