Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) and state education department Deputy Superintendent Martha Reichrath,

Here’s a multiple-choice test for parents. The state’s new Common Core education initiative is: a) a reasonable way to make sure Georgia students measure up against others across the country; or b) a national takeover of what’s taught in Georgia’s schools that erodes local control.

Which way to answer that question touched off extensive debate among Republicans and education experts during a panel discussion sponsored by the Fulton County Republican Party Sept. 26.

About 75 people, many of whom loudly applauded opponents of the Common Core initiative, attended the town hall at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in Sandy Springs to discuss the Common Core standards, which state educational officials have adopted, but now are taking another look at.

Georgia joined 44 other states in adopting the Common Core curriculum, a set of core standards for kindergarten through high school in English, language arts and mathematics, and in grades 6-12 for literacy in science, history/social studies, and technical subjects, according to the state education department. The standards are intended to “provide a consistent framework to prepare students for college and/or the 21st century workplace,” the department said.

During the town hall meeting, State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) defended the Common Core, saying education officials and teachers around the state endorse it. “It’s about standards,” he said, arguing the Common Core offered a way to make sure Georgia students were keeping up with students in other states.

“We have kids going to college in this state, where between 35 and 50 percent of them require mediation,” Millar said. “We’ve got a problem.”

But Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) argued the Common Core curriculum had been drawn up by outside groups and large corporations, and that Georgians would lose control of what was taught in the state’s schools.

Jane Robbins and Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick)

“The issues of Common Core are as much about governance as about education,” Ligon said.

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project and Ligon’s partner in opposition to Common Core, called the development of the Common Core “elitism run amok.”

“It assumes Georgia parents and Georgia teachers are incapable of educating our students without help from really smart people … in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

But Martha Reichrath, state education department deputy superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said Common Core’s standards were tougher than previous state standards. “It is more rigorous,” she said. “It’s more rigorous in many areas.”

But Robbins called Common Core “a work-force development scheme.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.