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Common Core repeal bill amended to allow time for replacing standards

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Common Core repeal bill amended to allow time for replacing standards
By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter, Charleston Daily Mail

The Common Core repeal bill up for debate in the state Senate has been amended to give the West Virginia Department of Education an additional year to carry out its mandates.

In a 2-1 vote, the subcommittee the bill was referred to on Monday agreed to give the department until July 2016 to develop and implement replacement education standards. The bill, as introduced in the Senate on Sunday, would have required the process to be completed by the start of school in August, a task deemed virtually impossible by the state’s education officials.

The subcommittee, made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, also added language that would require the state school board to reinstate its previous education standards and use pre-Common Core standards from California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Washington or other states with reputable standards to develop a new set

To work around federal mandates in the Elementary and Secondary Education and No Child Left Behind acts that require college and career ready education standards, the state Higher Education Policy Commission will be asked to update its definition, which was written to be aligned with West Virginia’s Common Core-based Next Generation Content Standards.

The bill now moves back to the Senate Education Committee. The committee accepted the amendments late Tuesday and will take the bill back up as a committee substitute at its next meeting.

While the bill has been fast-tracked through the House, repealing Common Core has been a contentious topic between West Virginia’s chief education officials and lawmakers for at least two years.

This session, the divide between the two parties is as wide as ever as education officials say West Virginia must “stay the course” while legislators demand change after continuous poor student achievement.

Sen. Donna Boley, a member of the subcommittee, has tried to get the Legislature to repeal Common Core for years. While she may yet see that become a reality, she said Tuesday that the timetable the department was given in the bill’s earlier drafts was too short.

“It didn’t give them (the Department of Education) enough time,” she said. “We’ll take this amendment back to committee and see what they have to say.”

While committee chairman Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, agrees changes to the state’s education standards are needed, he isn’t sure a repeal is the best option. While he said the committee will work on the bill and likely send it to the Senate floor for further debate, that may be as far as it goes.

The bill’s chance of success was raised into question Sunday when Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, the majority whip, told the Daily Mail Senate Republicans aren’t set on repealing Common Core like those in the House. He thinks the bill will ultimately fail.

While repealing the standards is not ideal for department officials, the time extension is a minor victory. State Superintendent Michael Martirano, however, is still worried repealing Common Core will destabilize West Virginia’s education system.

“The concern is still great to me,” he said. “This is the greatest thing impacting our education system now.”

Martirano went on to say the most important thing is that his department is afforded the time to be “thoughtful” about the process. He said it would be preferable if the standards were first reviewed and then revised if needed. Repealing education standards should be a last resort, he added.

“If this is going to happen, we need to make sure it is implemented in a way that doesn’t disrupt the education of our students,” he said.

Common Core is a set of math and English standards that guarantees public school students across the country get the same basic education.

The bill, which passed the House of Delegates on Saturday in a 75-19 vote, would repeal those standards as well as the Common Core-based Next Generation Content Standards adopted in 2011. 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.

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