March 13, 2014

Committee to Hear Common Core Bill

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Nate Robson

Nate Robson

EDUCATION WATCH BLOG
March 13, 2014

The state Senate has agreed to hear a House bill that aims to replace the state’s Common Core standards – a move that could have financial ramifications in the classroom.

House Bill 3399, co-authored by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, and which passed the House Wednesday, 78-12, would delay implementation of the academic standards for two years. It also lays the groundwork to throw out the existing Common Core standards, which set guidelines for what students are expected to know in math and reading.

Joel Robison, chief of staff for State Superintendent Janet Barresi, said the bill requires the state Board of Education to examine what other states are doing with their standards and collect public input before potentially releasing a new set of standards.

It’s unclear what will happen with Nelson’s bill in the Senate.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Senate Committee Chairman John Ford, R-Bartlesville, promised his committee will hear any House bills repealing Common Core in exchange for Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, tabling an amendment doing the same thing. Senate leadership also guaranteed a floor vote.

“Every situation is different,” Ford said about allowing the committee to take up a bill. “This time we decided we would hear a bill.”

Ford said he has heard from people on both sides of Common Core, adding he still supports the implementation of the standards, which were adopted in 2010 and supposed to be in place by 2014-2015.

Any bill approved by the House and Senate still must get past Gov. Mary Fallin, who has thrown her support behind Common Core.

Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Fallin’s office, said the governor maintains her support of Oklahoma’s Common Core standards.

Weintz said any legislation calling for blanket prohibitions on national testing or course content could have unintentional consequences. He pointed to the ACT and SAT as examples, since both have taken steps to align with Common Core.

“(Fallin) encourages lawmakers to work slowly and deliberately through these issues to ensure that any legislation improves education in Oklahoma, increases classroom rigor and does so without unintentionally hamstringing educators or affecting ongoing successful practices,” Weintz said in a written statement.

The statement did not say whether Fallin would veto any bill repealing or delaying Common Core.

Implementation of Common Core was a condition of Oklahoma getting a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Repealing or replacing the state’s existing Common Core standards could jeopardize the state’s waiver.

Losing the waiver means schools would have to meet federal proficiency requirements dictated by No Child Left Behind, Robison said. That means 100 percent of students would have to be proficient in topics like math and reading this year.

Schools with even one child failing to meet proficiency would have to set aside 20 percent of their federal funding for use in programs established under No Child Left Behind.

The state estimates that only two out of nearly 1,760 schools would have 100 percent of their students meeting proficiency requirements.

Oklahoma gets about $149 million in federal funding.

“Nearly $29 million would have to be set aside. It would have real specific strings attached,” Robison said. “We don’t want that.”

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org

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