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Holtzclaw claims balance in common core debate

By Charles Molineaux

MADISON – “I’m not going to run from controversy,” said Senator Bill Holtzclaw.

Madison’s District 2 state senator has become a focal point in the statewide debate over Alabama’s use of common core educational standards. As the school year began, Holtzclaw faced the prospect of a formal rebuke from local Republican leaders, and he promised to protect local control.

“There are two camps – those who see what they believe is federal government intrusion into the state’s control of education,” Holtzclaw said. “The other camp believes local control is maintained.”

Holtzclaw attracted the ire of the former camp in March when, as a member of the Senate Education Committee, he helped derail legislation to repeal the state’s use of the standards.

Common core, modified for implementation in Alabama under the title Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards, consists of educational benchmarks educators are required to reach for each grade level.

In August, the Madison County Republican Executive Committee voted to censure school board member Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville for her support of common core. It had a similar reprimand for Holtzclaw ready for its September meeting, said Hunter. But Republican State Representative Mike Ball said action against Holtzclaw looked less likely as the September meeting drew closer. “I think they realize this has not been helpful,” Ball said.

Holtzclaw attracted skepticism from common core supporters, and national headlines, when he suggested the common core endorsed book “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, which features graphic depictions of incest and pedophilia, be removed from recommended reading lists.

“I think once you get into censorship, it’s a slippery slope,” said Madison school board member Connie Spears.

Holtzclaw said the issue reflects his balance between common core standards and local control, explaining on his website “I have promised all along that if a constituent came across something objectionable in our standards that I would personally address their concern.”

Holtzclaw claimed his support of common core has the support of educational leaders.

“In Madison County we have three school systems,” he said. “I have three superintendents and three school boards saying this is the way we should go.”

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