Houstyn Lehman 5, works on math work as she waits for her mother in the gallery of the State House of Representatives Thursday March 13, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. - George Walker IV / THE TENNESSEAN
Lawmakers dealt a rebuke to Gov. Bill Haslam and other supporters of Common Core, approving a two-year delay to the education program in a surprise fight on the floor Thursday morning in the state House of Representatives.
Critics of the education standards used an unrelated bill on teaching schoolchildren about the U.S. Constitution to force a reckoning on controversial new teaching standards and the new testing that will go along with them. Opposition spanned partisan lines, with House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, joining with conservative Republicans to force the confrontation.
The measure, House Bill 1129, passed the chamber on an 82-11. It now is likely to go to the state Senate.
The floor fight began to take shape Wednesday night, when opponents of Common Core filed more than two dozen late amendments to a bill filed by state Rep. Timothy Hill that required schools to teach the "values of American government," including its foundational documents. Foes of Common Core have complained that their bills have been stuck in committee, and the maneuvering suggested they would use the bill as a way to force a showdown on the issue.
They coalesced around a pair of amendments brought by Fitzhugh that would freeze Common Core implementation where it stands now until July 1, 2016. The amendments would block new science and social studies standards, as well as new standardized tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career exams.
Supporters of Common Core scrambled late Wednesday night to mobilize their side, but they appeared to be too late They may have a chance to marshal their forces before a vote in the state Senate.
Just as recently as Wednesday night, the Senate Education Committee defeated legislation similar to Fitzhugh's on a 7-2 vote.