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Gov. Gary Herbert's campaign says a new brochure targeting the Common Core education standards should get an "F" for transparency and be shunned by voters.

But Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka said the brochure has information that every Republican delegate should know about the Common Core — which she said will lead to federal control of Utah schools — before they vote for candidates Saturday. It's a notion at which state education leaders balk.

At the heart of the issue is a slick trifold pamphlet sent out to 4,000 Republican state delegates and distributed to thousands more at the Utah, Weber, Davis and Salt Lake county GOP conventions.

The anonymous pamphlet warns that the Common Core is a set of national education standards, orchestrated by special interests and the federal government, designed specifically to nationalize education.

That's despite reassurances in recent months from education leaders that the standards — which outline the concepts students should learn in each grade to be ready for college and work — were developed by states, not the federal government, and are optional.

The mailer targets Herbert for signing on to the Common Core and urges delegates: "Do not support candidates who support Common Core."

Herbert's campaign manager, Scott Ericson, said that "Utah voters are sick and tired of anonymous third-party, outside interest groups like FreedomWorks trying to come into Utah and influence the outcome of elections.

"It doesn't belong in Utah politics and Utah voters should reject it immediately."

But Ruzicka said the pamphlet isn't the work of any group. She said there is one man — whom she would not name because he wants to remain anonymous — who paid to publish and mail the brochure. She said he is not politically involved and his name wouldn't be recognizable. Ruzicka said she offered some information and input on the composition.

Utah law allows individuals to spend as much as they want sending materials to voters as long as it doesn't directly support or oppose a candidate within 45 days of an election, said Mark Thomas, director of the Lieutenant Governor's Office, which supervises elections.

Ericson estimated that it would have cost well over $10,000 to design, print and distribute the flier.

"It's difficult to accept that this is all put on by one person with the resources that are being used," he said.

The Common Core standards are a contentious issue in the governor's race. Ruzicka said she has been surprised how the issue has escalated over the past several weeks. The state school board formally adopted the standards more than a year and a half ago.

Morgan Philpot, a former state representative running against Herbert, said the Common Core is a fair issue to raise during the campaign.

"If the governor doesn't want issues like this raised, he needs to understand what he's doing. You don't go signing contracts that long and entering into entanglements you don't understand," Philpot said. "What I'd say to the governor is stand up and take credit for what you've done instead of whining about what people are saying."

State education leaders say many of the mailer's claims are bunk and support for the standards is widespread.

For example, the mailer claims that Utah will not be able to get out of the Common Core without losing federal funds because Utah agreed to use the standards when applying for a federal waiver to some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

But Brenda Hales, state associate superintendent, said it wasn't necessary to sign on to the standards to get the waiver. A March 7 letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to State Superintendent Larry Shumway agreed that Utah maintains "complete control" over its standards.

The mailer also shows Herbert's signature on a document under a heading, "Why did Utah's leaders sign away our children's future?"

But the signed document — actually an agreement to be a governing state within a consortium dedicated to developing assessments to reflect the new standards — also states that "Any State may leave the Consortium without cause."

The consortium did receive federal money to help develop the assessments, but the Common Core standards were not developed or paid for by the federal government. Also, the state school board is still actively exploring other testing avenues when it comes to the Common Core, having recently created a committee dedicated to putting together a request for proposals.

Still, those against the Core are standing firm.

Oak Norton, an Alpine District parent who has been heavily involved in education issues over the years, says, "The state office is not giving the public the full story." Norton created the website, which is listed on the mailer and also has a petition signed by more than 1,200 people urging state leaders to drop the standards.

State leaders insist the Core standards will better prepare Utah kids for a competitive world.

"If you want to try to make a nefarious connection … you can connect anybody to anything," Hales said. "It would be unfortunate if standards that are clearly in the best interest of the state of Utah and our children and our economic prosperity were discarded over politics." —

Public forum

The State Office of Education is trying to clear up misconceptions about the Common Core with its own "facts vs. fiction" pamphlet now posted on the office's website. The office will also hold a public forum about the standards from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 26 at the Granite School District board room, 2500 S. State St., South Salt Lake.