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Common Core heads to subcommittee for further discussion

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Common Core heads to subcommittee for further discussion
By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter, Charleston Daily Mail

A bill that would make using the Common Core education standards illegal in West Virginia was assigned to a Senate subcommittee on Monday for further review, a move one senator said could stay the piece of legislation for at least three days.

After moving through the House in less than a week, the bill now awaits approval from the Senate Education Committee before members of the Legislature’s upper chamber can vote on whether to send it to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk.

While the bill received bipartisan support in the House — passing in a 75-19 vote on Saturday — its chance of success in the Senate was raised into question Sunday when Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, the majority whip, told the Daily Mail he thinks the bill will ultimately fail.

Senate education chairman Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, who referred the bill to a subcommittee so the committee could continue working on other issues, said he isn’t sure if the bill will pass or whether he supports a repeal of Common Core, but he admits changes are needed.

“I don’t know if modifying the standards or repealing them is the answer,” he said.

Sypolt said the subcommittee will study the bill and report back to the committee sometime in the next week. Assigned to the subcommittee are senators Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, and William Laird, D-Fayette. Boley sponsored a Common Core repeal bill of her own earlier in the session and has been the standard’s staunchest opponent within the Legislature for years.

The bill, if passed into law, would prohibit use of Common Core and the state’s subsequent Next Generation Content Standards, which were adopted by the Board of Education in 2010 and 2011, respectively. It also would restrict student assessments and require the Department of Education to develop a new set of standards with the help of teachers, parents, other education officials and specially appointed legislators.

Education officials, from Superintendent Michael Martirano to representatives for the state’s teachers unions and county school boards, all oppose a wholesale repeal of Common Core. While many admit implementation of the standards was clumsy, they claim West Virginia cannot go through another standards change. It would be the fourth in less than a decade.

“We can’t take it,” said Christine Campbell, state president for the American Federation of Teachers.

On Monday, newly appointed state school board member Beverly Kingery said she has received numerous emails and phone calls from parents and teachers telling her about the problems they have with the standards, but most are tired of constant change.

While conversations between the Legislature and Department of Education have been tense this session, officials have cautioned lawmakers there will be “significant consequences” for students and teachers if the standards are repealed.

Should the Legislature’s attempt to get rid of Common Core prove successful, West Virginia could risk forfeiting more than $360 million in federal funding and lose waivers to the Elementary and Secondary Education and No Child Left Behind acts, which are tied to having rigorous standards and student assessments. It also could lead to the U.S. Department of Education intervening and imposing sanctions.

Education officials are worried some or all of those outcomes are in West Virginia’s future.

Martirano, who has been state superintendent for nearly six months, asked committee members to listen to education officials and give the department more time to make any needed fixes.

“I’m asking that they let me do my job,” Martirano said after the meeting had ended, frustration in his voice.

In addition to lobbying for the state’s education standards, Martirano has spent considerable time addressing misinformation over the difference between standards and curricula.

Common Core is a set of math and English standards that guarantees public school students across the country get the same basic education. Curricula, on the other hand, is what teachers use to deliver content outlined in the standards.

Standards are set by a state while curricula is determined by a local school board, Martirano told committee members, adding that many of the concerns raised over Common Core should actually be attributed to poor utilization of curricula.

Instead of repealing all standards, Martirano suggests lawmakers and education officials review the specific standards that are problematic.

He said no one has identified a problematic standard when he’s asked them to.The Department of Education has invested millions implementing the standards over the last four years and estimates that carrying out the mandates of the bill would cost $168 million, an amount legislators claim has been exaggerated.

After it was introduced in 2009, more than 40 states adopted Common Core, but it has become increasingly unpopular each year, especially with conservatives who claim the standards usurp state sovereignty over public education.

The governor’s office has not indicated whether Tomblin would sign or veto the bill should it pass the Senate.

The bill’s success would make West Virginia only the fourth state to repeal the standards