House votes to repeal Common Core

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House votes to repeal Common Core
By David Gutman, Staff writer, Charleston Gazette

A day after the state Board of Education announced its unanimous opposition to repealing the state’s Common Core-based education standards, the West Virginia House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to repeal those standards.

Strictly speaking, West Virginia does not have Common Core standards, but the state’s Next Generation math and English standards are based on the national Common Core standards.

The bill (HB 2934) passed the House 75-19 and would repeal those standards and direct the Board of Education to establish two new committees to develop new standards for math and English.

Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that it would be “ideal” if those new standards are done by the time the next school year begins, but if they are not, she said the state would fall back on its old standards.

Standards such as Next Generation and Common Core develop benchmarks for what students should know in each grade. They do not establish classroom curriculum, but serve as a guide for what curriculum should achieve.

Common Core standards are very unpopular with conservatives nationwide who characterize them as a federal takeover of education.

A fiscal note prepared by the state Department of Education says repealing the standards would cost $128 million, for things like developing new standards, retraining teachers and buying new textbooks.

Pasdon, the chair of the House Education Committee, said she did not think that number was accurate.

She said the Department of Education has implemented previous standards without supplemental money, so it should be able to absorb the changes within its existing budget. But she did acknowledge that it would cost money to repeal the standards and write and implement new ones.

“Whatever money that they spend on this change this time will not be available to spend on other things,” said Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, pushed Republican delegates to name which standards of Common Core they specifically objected to.

In response, several answered with anecdotes about kids being faced with incomprehensible math problems as a result of Common Core.

Delegate Michael Ihle, R-Jackson, told a nonsensical riddle involving apples, pencils, pancakes and the color purple.

“This is not an official Common Core problem,” Ihle said, adding that he thought it illustrated the confusion that parents have.

Asked why he told the riddle if it wasn’t from Common Core, Ihle said, “It’s what’s called a meme. It was on social media.”

Christine Campbell, West Virginia president of the American Federation of Teachers, opposes repealing the standards because she said it is not going to help teachers develop better curriculum.

“It took two years to develop the Next Generation standards that we have in place, it’s taken five years to implement them,” Campbell said. “It’s a lot of time and money in going backwards not forwards.”

Several Democratic delegates expressed concern that West Virginia could lose federal funding if it abandoned the standards.

Pasdon said that would not happen. “I wouldn’t put it at risk, trust me,” she said.

She said the Board of Education adopted the standards in 2010 and has not responded to complaints from teachers and parents. She said she has heard hundreds of those complaints in the last several weeks.

“It’s unfortunate that this has landed in our laps; the state Board of Education had many months, if not years, to address the problems,” Pasdon said. “Their constituency is crying to us for help because they didn’t listen to them.”

The bill next heads to the state Senate