ATLANTA (AP) - Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order Wednesday putting in place restrictions on a set of academic standards adopted by the state that have faced growing opposition in recent months by tea party and conservative groups.
Under the order, the state will be prohibited from collecting certain information on students and their families, including religious and political affiliation and voting history. The move comes just days before Republicans gather for their annual state convention in Athens, where the Common Core academic standards are expected to be a big topic of debate.
Deal, a Republican, acknowledged in his remarks that the personal information is not currently being collected, but said his order was designed to ensure no one's rights are violated.
"Georgia has not been collecting that data, and Georgia will not collect that data. To make the above clear and unambiguous, I have signed an executive order and I will ask the Legislature to embrace the content of that executive order in legislation during the next session of the General Assembly," Deal said.
At the news conference, Deal was joined by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, state schools Superintendent John D. Barge, a number of Republican state lawmakers and two vocal critics who say the standards amount to federal intrusion and threaten student privacy. Deal did not call for a repeal of the standards and began his remarks by emphasizing their common interests.
"We're here because we are concerned about the future of education in the state of Georgia. All of us want our children to have the best education possible," Deal said. "Setting rigorous academic standards is an essential component of increasing student achievement and improving college and career readiness."
The standards, which create basic requirements for math and English language arts, have been embraced by dozens of states, which helped develop them under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue was a leader on the committee that created the benchmarks and pushed for Georgia to adopt them in 2010.
The federal government was not involved in creating the standards but has encouraged states to adopt them under its "Race to the Top" grant competition. Under the standards, third-graders should know how to add fractions and eighth-graders should understand the Pythagorean theorem.
Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, was among those attending the governor's announcement Wednesday. Ligon introduced a bill mid-session that would have halted implementation of the standards. It did not pass but remains active for consideration next year.
"While this is a step in the right direction and we appreciate the governor's efforts, this does not ultimately move Georgia out of the Common Core program," Ligon said. "The executive order issued today does, however, make a good-faith effort toward preventing the disclosure of our student's private information. ... Now it's up to the Georgia Legislature to pick up where the governor left off."
Debbie Dooley with the Tea Party Patriots praised Deal for taking action but still wants the state to drop the standards.
"I don't believe it's enough but it is a step in the right direction and it will protect us from intrusive federal government," Dooley said. "I think it's a good first step, and I praise Gov. Deal for taking this first step."
Virginia Galloway, state director for Americans For Prosperity, echoed those comments.
"We support Gov. Deal's step toward protecting Georgia students and school systems from the worst aspects of Common Core," Galloway said. "We hope that this will be followed by a deep consideration of other steps to extract Georgia from Common Core."
Under the executive order, Deal reiterated that all decisions regarding curriculum and instruction shall be made at the local level and that no educational standards shall be imposed on Georgia by the federal government. The order also orders that any proposed changes to state educational standards shall be posted for public review and comment for at least 60 days. Critics have charged Georgia moved too quickly to adopt the standards.