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Senate Bills 62, 63, 64: Wasting Time on Common Core

Now that the Legislature is in session, the time-wasting machine is kicking into gear. Senate Bills 62, 63, and 64 start what I feared: a cycle of time wasted misfocused on analyzing the Common Core standards instead of implementing real reforms in education.

Senate Bill 62 creates a 23-person committee (oh yes, that will be productive) to produce the following comparisons:

  1. Comparison of the substance of previous South Dakota math and English language arts content standards to the common core state standards;
  2. Comparison of the Smarter Balanced assessment to the DakotaSTEP assessment; and
  3. Comparison of the fiscal impact of fully implementing the common core state standards to alternative standards.

Sigh. The fiscal train has already left the station. The Common Core standards are already being implemented. If the Legislature were serious about studying Common Core, they'd have done Senate Bill 62 in the 2011 session, right after the South Dakota Board of Education moved to adopt them.

Senate Bill 62 also misses the main philosophical point of contention. Sponsors Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea) and Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) are simply charging the sprawling committee to decide which top-down standards we ought to impose, not challenging the question of whether the state ought to be imposing any top-down standards on K-12 schools.

Senate Bill 63 ignores educational progress entirely and panders to the anti-Common Core paranoia about the alleged massive database that collects student data and subjects them to... well, what, really? Fine. Pass it. What difference will it make to graduation rates? And will Senator Otten (yup, SB 63 is his baby, too) follow through with his commitment o privacy by getting rid of all the document requirements for driver's licenses, or by advocating nullification of the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance?

Senate Bill 64 fritters further around the edges, trying to tell the Department of Education that they can't implement Common Core standards or any other standards drafted by multi-state consortia until July 1, 2016. However, any content standards already in the chute, drafted and finalized prior to July 1 of this year, are unaffected... which means that SB 64 doesn't stop Common Core. Schools like Spearfish should have their responses to Common Core finalized by the end of this school year; next fall comes full implementation of what we've already written.

Senator Otten and his co-sponsors are going to waste a lot of the Legislature's time with these three bills. If they pass, they will also waste a lot of education officials' time by reinventing the wheel and missing the point. Otten's bills make a political statement, but they do nothing to put resources toward real policies that will improve the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn.


  1. John Tsitrian 2014.01.17

    I share your frustrations, Cory, but Common Core is legitimately debatable, made all the more so because it has morphed into a political football. At some point this state will snap out of its trance and recognize that we're so far behind in supporting our students and teachers that we may never catch up. Meantime all this political prancing gives a positive, if illusive, sense of collective self-esteem to a political class that pretends it's doing something about public education in South Dakota.

  2. Donald Pay 2014.01.17

    SB 63---may be somewhat useful, but probably not necessary. There is no funding provided, and with this big of a committee, costs are going to be pretty high for the output generated. Maybe you get better impact by giving the money spent on this committee to the districts. I participated on several committees like this on environmmental issues. I couldn't say these sorts of committees are totally useless. They provide information, clarify issues, etc.

    SB 64---test the sponsors for hallucinogens or mental illness. Probably written by some paranoid moneyboy on the far right (ALEC?). Maybe someone will hoghouse this for something more reasonable.

    SB 65---Probably what the kooks can realistically expect to get out of the dippy SD Legislature. The real target of the wealthy righties bankrolling opposition to Common Core is science standards. They don't want anyone questioning their dogma of a flat, 5,000 year-old earth that is not undergoing climate change.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.18

    It's legitimately debatable, John, but its football status means it has become a distraction. For too many "debaters" of the issue, it's just another proxy for evil-Obama/evil-govt/evil-teachers paranoia instead of a discussion of how schools really work and what we can do to make them work better.

    Donald, the SB 62 mega-committee could get the DOE's support for its possible usefulness and the political cover it would provide: "O.K., fine, you've had your hearings, you've heard from experts, and they all told you the same things we told you: standards are fine, we're not putting microchips in your kids, now back off." But when the committee is done, kids won't be learning any better, and teachers won't be getting any better pay.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.01.18

    When it comes to social issues,I always figured wingnuts don't care about results,they want to be perceived as having done something.

  5. Donald Pay 2014.01.18

    Cory, exactly. None of these bills need to be passed. At best they are pandering to the anti-public school crowd and the ultra-righty money boys. SB 62 wastes money. If you had any sort of real fiscal conservatism there that bill would go down in flames in committee. The other two don't pass the laugh test, which is why SD legislators will be inclined to spend time on them.

  6. Steve O'Brien 2014.01.18

    And herein lies the rub. For those that have an opposition to Common Core, do you stand with the groups now rallying around this issues of halting the big government take over and Nazi-fication (word?) of the US, and ending the enslaving of our children . . . or are those claims so far fetched that one has to oppose them - and in effect support Common Core?

    Is the enemy of my enemy friend - or is it that enemies are starting to pile up?

    Sometimes who one stands with is important; in the charged climate of "political debate," it can be as telling as what one stands for.

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