It was deja vu on the North Dakota House floor Tuesday as proponents of the elimination of Common Core were delivered a setback for the second consecutive session when lawmakers rejected a bill that would have opted out of the standards.
The defeat of House Bill 1432 comes two years to the week of the defeat of a bill to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium during the 2015 session. The consortium is a collection of states that developed a standardized test which students take each spring to measure their ability to meet Common Core standards.
Primary bill sponsor Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, divided the bill into two parts as was done two years ago with the same result.
The first division of HB1432 related to two sections of the bill; the division eventually failed by a 27-62 vote.
The portion of the first division dealt with barring the state superintendent from adopting, aligning or signing on with any multi-state consortium. The state superintendent also would not be able to implement new standards without legislative approval. A prohibition beginning in the 2017-18 school year of the use of state funds in support of Common Core standards was also included.
“It would ensure that we in North Dakota will have control of our standards, assessments and curriculum,” Koppelman said. “In order to rid ourselves of Common Core, it is imperative that it be removed by the roots.”
HB1432 would also require use of 2008-09 school year standards utilized by Massachusetts that school year and limit State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler’s control in the development of crafting new K-12 standards.
Several lawmakers rose in opposition to the division, with concerns over these parts of the bill as well as the potential loss of federal funding, which a fiscal note to HB1432 estimated as being more than $182 million for the 2017-19 biennium.
Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton, said the governor signed on to Common Core standards in 2008 and they were implemented in 2010.
“The standards that occur in what is labeled Common Core existed in previous standards developed by North Dakota educators prior to Common Core,” Schreiber-Beck said.
Schreiber-Beck said a large amount of content in North Dakota standards pre-dates Common Core and wondered whether or not the state would be able to use certain aspects in the classroom.
Rep. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks, echoed Schreiber-Beck’s sentiments.
“There’s only so many different ways you can say ‘teach a kid to count one to 100, teach multiplication tables,’” Owens said.
In September 2016, Baesler signed a letter withdrawing North Dakota from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, effective June 30 of this year.
Efforts are already underway in the Department of Public Instruction to craft new standards. Educators and stakeholders worked on ideas for the standards during summer 2016. A pair of drafts have been completed, with finalized standards to be submitted to Baesler in March for implementation in the fall.
To give the Legislature the right to approve standards could result in eviscerating whatever the DPI comes up with in two years, according to Owens.
“By the time they strip it, we won’t need anything but elementary school. We’ll only need six years to educate our kids because that’s what our standards will be reduced to,” Owens said.
Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, said many officials and parents in the state oppose Common Core.
“I look at education as 50 different laboratories of how to learn, and that is a good thing,” Schatz said of each state having its own standards.
The second division of HB1432 contained the rest of the bill’s language and failed by a 10-78 vote after a brief debate.
Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said the state has invested generously in recent sessions in K-12 education without seeing improved results. He said the state needs to raise the bar and hold educators accountable.
“It is a call to action. Not just for us but for the kids and for the parents,” Carlson said of the bill.