NC House panel wants Common Core replacement

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 04:58 AM

Nationally developed academic standards used in more than 40 states would be phased out in North Carolina under legislation that cleared a General Assembly committee Tuesday.

The House Education Committee voted 27-16 along party lines for the Republican-backed bill directing the State Board of Education to replace Common Core standards for math and language arts with new rules. A special nine-member commission would be formed by September and ordered to recommend new standards by March.

Common Core has been used since the 2012-13 school year and would continue to be used until replaced by the board. But the bill orders the board to stop developing Common Core standards beyond what is already in use. A legislative study committee recommended the replacement after hearing concerns recently from parents, teachers and conservative activists who feared the state was losing control of curricula and instruction.

"We just don't feel that Common Core is appropriate for North Carolina," said Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, one of the primary bill sponsors, pointing out that the bill directs the board to come up with academic standards at least as high as the current ones. He said Common Core also can't be deleted immediately for fear it could mean North Carolina would have to return federal Race to the Top grants.

"We want high standards," Holloway said, but "we want to move down a different path than Common Core."

Opposing the bill are the North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina Chamber. The Chamber began running print and radio ads urging Common Core to remain in place, saying the standards will make students more prepared for future employment.

The bill "waves the white flag and sends a signal to job creators in North Carolina and every state in the country that North Carolina is not ready to compete," NC Chamber Executive Director Lew Ebert said in prepared remarks.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has publicly supported Common Core, told reporters Tuesday many people are wrongly blaming it solely for the increased number of tests students are taking.

"Some of those have nothing to do with Common Core, but everything's been associated with common core and there's total confusion there," McCrory said.

The measure, which heads next to the House floor for debate Wednesday, was approved after House members rejected an amendment backed by the Chamber that would have allowed the state education board to keep working on Common Core while the commission looked at a different model.

Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare and the amendment sponsor, said problems with implementing Common Core shouldn't stop the state from trying to improve it. North Carolina already has spent $22 million on preparing teachers for it, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has said.

Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, until recently a public schools social worker, called the bill "ideological" rather than a pragmatic method to improve Common Core. He recalled a public hearing earlier this year in Raleigh on the issue where nearly all speakers were opposed to the measure.

Meyer quipped the speakers at the hearing said Common Core would "likely lead us to socialism, fascism, monarchy and crony capitalism."

But North Carolina needs to reaffirm its constitutional duty to operate the public schools without influence from outside groups, like the multistate consortium that developed Common Core, said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, another bill co-sponsor.

"It's our job, period," Horn said. "And we do not cede that responsibility to anyone — to any organization, the federal government, anyone."