Common Core repeal bill stalls in Senate

The West Virginia Senate delayed its second reading Thursday on a bill that would block the use of Common Core academic standards and implement standards borrowed from other states.

Although the bill, Senate Bill 524, blocks Common Core standards in West Virginia, it mandates the use of mathematics standards developed by California public schools and English language arts standards developed by Massachusetts public schools, both of which are the foundation of the Common Core plan, according to the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson.

However, Rucker said the bill differs from Common Core in how it avoids some of the standardized testing of the federal plan.

Thursday marks the second day senators have moved to delay the bill’s second reading, where amendments are typically introduced.

Rucker said Common Core standards are empirically tested to be effective teaching standards. Problems arose when the state implemented the standards in 2011 without consulting the public, she said.

The state Board of Education has revised the state standards, but they still largely resemble Common Core.

Although the legislation never made it to the point where other senators could propose amendments, it came under fire during both Wednesday and Thursday’s open comment forums during the floor session.

Opposing the bill, Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, took issue on two fronts. For one, he said it does not make sense for West Virginia to take up education standards from other states that no longer use them.

Secondly, he said it is not the business of the legislature to dictate education policy.

“We’ve been trying to dictate from Charleston instead of having it emanate from the counties,” he said.

Supporting the bill, Senate Education Chairman Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, said he thinks the phrase “Common Core” scares people off a bill that only serves to make sure all students graduate high school with a similar set of academic abilities.

He said Common Core has been repealed, the testing is gone and fear of the old standards shouldn’t affect a vote one way or another. The state school board has said it is dumping Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests after this spring.

He added that the proposed standards only dictate what abilities a student should have upon graduating, not how teachers should control their classrooms.

“Our teachers have been given the flexibility to teach in the style that they see fit to help each and every student reach the standard that we present to them, but once again, don’t confuse standards with teaching methods,” Mann said.

Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, a co-sponsor on the bill, made the motions to lay it over on both Wednesday and Thursday. In an interview, he said he requested the delays to have more time to speak with representatives from the Board of Education and others for input on the bill.

When asked, he said the delays are not indicative of the bill circling the drain, just a need for more time and discussion.

The bill is scheduled to return to the Senate floor for a second reading Friday. It has enough co-sponsors alone (19, along with Rucker) to pass through the Senate with room to spare.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at 304-348-5149, jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com or on Twitter @jake_zuckerman.

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