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House Education Kills Anti-Common Core Bill 8–7

Last updated on 2015.02.23

I am now batting .000 as a bill proponent. I came to Pierre this morning to testify in favor House Bill 1223, which would have ended South Dakota's involvement with the Common Core standards and with any "multistate educational standards related to, similar to, or associated with" Common Core. Rep. Chip Campbell (R-35/Rapid City) brought the billon behalf of Common Core opponents, and amidst of all of the conservative activists surrounding me, Rep. Campbell chose me to give HB 1223 the liberal blog kiss of death first.

Wollmann, Kaiser, May, Klumb—believe it or not, these four Republicans all voted my way on HB 1223.
Wollmann, Kaiser, May, Klumb—believe it or not, these four Republicans all voted my way on HB 1223.

Leaving my ideology at my chair, I simply told the committee what I've said before about Common Core: state-mandated standards don't make teachers better. They take up time and effort that could be devoted to working directly with students. By eliminating Common Core, legislators could help teachers without spending a penny.

Other proponents of HB 1223 spoke more ideologically, and dare I say more emotionally. Dale Bartscher of the Family Heritage Alliance said HB 1223 reinforces state and family sovereignty. He also said his group was open to an amendment to replace Common Core with other external standards (psst! Dale! Were you listening to me? The point is that any external standards become paperwork exercises in plugging existing good practices into the latest faddish rubric and nomenclature.)

Cindy Peterson of Chamberlain said, "Human children... are not and can never be standard," Peterson said. "Any attempt to standardize learning... is doomed to failure, at the expense of the child." She then read a letter from Lane Larson, a teacher from Pukwana, who wrote that she had been afraid to speak for fear of losing her job. Larson quit teaching because she saw Common Core was not developmentally appropriate for young children.

Mark Chase of the Family Policy Council took the mic to say that a man from Mongolia had told him that Common Core was "what we had under Soviet Communist reign." Common Core, said Chase, is designed to "break your kids down and make them compliant with the State."

Common Core opponent Mary Scheel-Buysse said she has heard teachers complain that Common Core is "working kids like dogs." She said teachers had told her that administrators had forbidden them to do spelling lists with third graders and multiplication drills with fourth graders.

Linda Schauer of South Dakota's Concerned Women for America office quoted George Will to make Common Core sound like the Affordable Care Act: "If you like your curriculum, you can keep it."

For those of you scoring at home, consider that this liberal blog author stood shoulder to shoulder with the Family Heritage Alliance, the Family Policy Council, and the Concerned Women for America. (The word syzygy jumps to mind.)

The education establishment of South Dakota then proceeded to crush us with gusto. If they spoke with notable vehemence, it may come from having dealt with arguments about Common Core one too many times for their taste. Or, as some of my lunch companions observed, maybe it was just arrogance.

Whatever it was, it came hard. Secretary of Education Melody Schopp said a blind survey found over 80% of South Dakota math and language arts teachers say Common Core is appropriate and will increase student achievement. She said if any administrators are banning spelling and multiplication, they aren't following Common Core.

Secretary Schopp also ran this lovely circular argument: since Common Core is in effect, stopping it would cause all sorts of upheaval. State law requires that we have statewide standards, so we'd have to throw ourselves into a fast cycle of developing new standards and tests and retraining teachers. The universities would have to retool all of their teacher education programs. All that change would be bad for teachers and students, so we can't change.

In other words, we can't change the machine because we can't change the machine. And since HB 1223 doesn't offer a new machine, it's bad. Never mind that I'm not convinced we even need a machine.

The Associated School Boards, the Board of Regents, the Superintendents Association, the Education Association, the Large School Group, and the United Schools Association all backed the Secretary. Common Core opponents are acting from unfounded political fears (hmm... where was my political argument?). They are "astounded" at statements likening Common Core and the Soviets (as am I, Mark!). Lobbyist Dianna Miller said most of this opposition comes from the Internet, and "you can post anything on the Internet" (true, and thank goodness for that liberty!). SASD's Rob Monson said that just last weekend he checked his fourth grade son's spelling list, and no Common Core cops busted him (that, Rob, was an awesome rhetorical point).

Before the hearing, even the proponents suspected HB 1223 was headed for quick death. But with no other bills on the House Education agenda, HB 1223 got just over two hours. The indefatigable committee members loaded both sides with questions. Even when they closed questions, they didn't go immediately to death for the bill. Rep. Roger Hunt (R-25/Brandon) offered an amendment to remove the vague "similar to" from Section 2, saying that wording would prevent the state from adopting any standards (which, again, Rep. Hunt, might not be so bad!). That amendment passed, and Rep. Hunt moved "do pass." Rep. Joshua Klumb (R-20/Mount Vernon) said he likes standards, but he's still afraid "the government is coming" and urged folks who don't like Common Core to "seek alternative education" (code, shades of Graves, for "send your kids to private school and homeschool and kill public education!"). Finally fed up with the foolishness, Rep. Tim Johns (R-30/Lead) moved to table HB 1223, which parliamentarily is what you do when you want to shut down the debate and be done.

And we were done... but just by an 8–7 vote. My head counters said it looked more like 11–4 vote before the hearing.

The three Democrats on House Ed all voted to kill HB 1223. Seven Republicans, including Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Pine Ridge), who was just here yesterday saying this blog as "no creditability," voted the way I told them to. Apply your Common Core critical thinking skills to that flip.


  1. Owen 2015.02.18

    "Family Heritage Alliance, South Dakota's Concerned Women for America and Family Policy Council."

    Hope you took a shower afterwards Cory

  2. Liberty Dick 2015.02.18

    Common core has something in it everyone can hate. It just takes guts to get past the federal bribery I like to call it. Something our state has a long history of failing at. Its like a donkey chasing a carrot at the end of a stick.

  3. Donald Pay 2015.02.18

    2 hours!!! It sounded like the bill got a good hearing, but, given who testified (minus you) a lot of the testimony from bill supporters sounded rather "out there."

    Your testimony might have been more rational, but was pretty much not on point, as far as I'm concerned. Common Core Standards take up very little teaching time. Now standardized testing, yes, that takes up way too much time, but that is not Common Core.

    There is a learning curve for any new standard or any new curriculum, so anytime there is any change in any standard or curriculum, time is going to have to be spent. There's a way around that, of course. Just don't do anything--don't buy new books, don't institute new curriculum---ever. That's not realistic.

    Old books wear out, or become dated. New information is generated, times change, new technology comes along, and pretty soon what you taught and how you taught ten years ago might need a tune up. And since kids (especially poor kids) move around from district to district and state to state, having some national standards on basic skills like reading and math assures the kids aren't falling through the cracks.

    The elementary school my daughter attended in Rapid City had a lot of poverty and 50% mobility. Half the student body came in or moved out of the school in one school year. Those kids would be attending two or three different schools in two or three different school districts in one year. Each school had different curriculum, different standards. It's not any surprise that those kids were at serious risk of not learning how to read or do basic math. That problem may not be solved with Common Core, but it makes it solvable.

    So, no, Common Core needs to continue. But all the standardized testing that takes time from learning needs to be addressed.

  4. Troy 2015.02.18


    I'm with you. Teachers aren't entrepreneurs who get to decide what is best. They are part of a team each building on the other.

    You mention the mobility issue. Very relevant.

    For a student to be career/college/technical school/military ready, we need a standard of skills to be expected for a graduate. For teachers to teach students in the 12th grade, they must be delivered with a standard of skills from the 11th grade. And, 10th grade teachers have to do the same, all the way back to 1st grade teachers delivering 2nd grade ready students.

    One teacher "doing his/her thing" and we have a weak link. Having standards/expectations is prudent. Having a bunch of "free-wheelers" is imprudent.

    Right now one of the biggest causes of the growing income gap is we have a skill gap that is growing. And one of the biggest "weak links" is in math and science.

    I don't know about the appropriateness of the English standards (if they are bad, propose better) but I have taken the time to study the math standards. They aren't only superior to the existing "standard" they are excellent. We have been so "easy" on our grade schools with math that when students get to high school they are wholly unprepared for the advanced math concepts (concepts that everyone can and should be able to grasp) and stop at Algebra 1 (if they even take that) because "it is too hard."

    Finally, I'm a state taxpayer. The biggest use of my tax dollars is state aid to education. It is reasonable to expect the Huron school district, Eureka school district as well as my Harrisburg school district to meet State standards in exchange for State tax payer support. If any school district wants to be outside the state standards, do so without my support.

  5. grudznick 2015.02.18

    Hear, hear, Mr. Troy. And bonuses to the good math and science teachers that I am sure were talked about in this bill hearing committee of

  6. Owen 2015.02.18

    what's a good teacher Grud?

  7. Tim 2015.02.18

    He doesn't know Owen, it's obvious he didn't have one.

  8. Taunia 2015.02.18

    To add to Don's point about student mobility and uniformity: when we moved our kids from South Dakota 11 years ago to Missouri (at the time they were 5th, 6th and 7th graders), they were almost exactly one whole school year ahead of Missouri students in their respective ages/classes.

    We figured out to keep them involved to avoid boredom and distraction, but I cannot imagine what we'd have done if we'd moved in to South Dakota and they were a year behind in class work. That would have been a recipe for disaster.

  9. Dr. Math 2015.02.18

    I agree with Donald and Troy that the standards are much superior than what we had and that they need to stay. However, the continued emphasis on standardized testing is one of the things that is killing our education system. This testing has nothing to do with the standards, except that South Dakota is using the Smarter Balanced tests to measure students' knowledge. The argument against standardized testing needs to be separated from the standards argument.
    I also agree with Cory that new standards don't make better teachers, but they can make better critical thinkers. The best part of the math Common Core is the eight standards for mathematical practice, If all math teachers follow these practices every day while teaching our children, our students are going to be better mathematicians.
    I have watched my sixth grader learn math with the common core standards for about 3 years. He is an amazing problem solver and I think that has to do with higher standards. It is going to take a while to see the results of the Common Core standards, but I strongly believe that our students will be able to demonstrate better critical thinking skills.
    As a parent, tax payer, and educator, I want our future generation to be well-prepared to be citizens of the 21st century.

  10. MJL 2015.02.18

    I have no problem with the concept of common standards. I have the problem with standardized tests and "suggestions" to meeting the standards becoming the gospel. I can work within the English standards. In actuality, the Reading standards are vague and the writing standards are pretty much the same as the old ones.

    Lets focus on the boon-dogle of the testing and the billion dollar waste that it is.

  11. Donald Pay 2015.02.18

    I have a different take on the "teacher as entrepreneur" that Troy brings up. I want teachers to implement the standards, but I want them to be entrepreneurial about how they do it. I want them to figure out what works, what doesn't. I want them to be a valued and needed partner in improving upon the standards. The best standards don't mean a thing without good teaching.

    Also, there's a bit of unearned arrogance in Troy's assumption that a state that does the least it can to fund education should claim any right to have much of a say in how education gets done. When South Dakota state government steps up and takes responsibility for 50+ percent of the funding of education, as every other state bordering South Dakota does, then they have a far better claim for throwing their weight around. Until then, try to stifle the arrogance.

  12. Stace Nelson 2015.02.18

    Mr "H,"
    Thank you for making the long trek to Pierre to oppose this.

    Your courage to admit the liberals are wrong on this issue is admirable.

    Ironic that we limited government Republicans are the ones sitting in SD with egg on our face because of statist insurgents in the GOP.

    How ever did the greatest minds of man (Jefferson, Edison, Einstien, etc) ever make it without the bureaucrats imposing additional steps into simple math on them..

  13. grudznick 2015.02.18

    Owen, people told me that Mr. H talked about bad teachers, so he knows how to define good and bad teachers. He just refuses to tell as do the other good teachers because the union will punish them.

  14. Bob Newland 2015.02.18

    I only know anything about Common Core by reading comments about it in various places on the web. Which means I know something maybe but not probably.

    Any attempt to centralize control of the history and science and language and critical thinking skills is highly suspect to me.

    We've mostly (if you are reading this) voluntarily given up quite a little marketable information about ourselves. Why not turn out high school graduates already barcoded to be assaulted by marketing images and text?

    Common Core. A grating, somewhat "collective"-sounding combination of words.

  15. Stace Nelson 2015.02.18

    Well said Mr. Newland, well said.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.18

    Ever notice that when Troy wants to have an intelligent conversation he comes to Madville.

    Good comment Troy.

  17. Troy 2015.02.19


    I agree with you on being creative. My entrepreneurial was with regard determining the goal. Not the how.

  18. larry kurtz 2015.02.19

    Exactly, Roger:

    Confusion has its cost.

    Wordlessly watching
    He waits by the window
    And wonders
    At the empty place inside

  19. MJ 2015.02.19

    I have definitely seen the bad that can happen with common core. When my daughter was in 4th grade she loved math. She even got to work with 6th graders at their level. She was way past 4th grade math. Now as a 5th grader she dreads math. What should take 10 minutes now takes 2 hours for her complete. This because she has to show other ways of adding numbers. Now I can see showing more work when it comes to Algebra and Geometry and Calculus. But not with basic addition, subtraction, etc. A student shouldn't hate doing school work but that is what has happen to her in just one year because of common core standards.

  20. Troy 2015.02.19


    Your daughter's experience is exactly the problem with the current system. They don't get a broad enough exposure to the multiple concepts and ways to do things such they have trouble grasping the more advanced math classes in high school and quit math. The current system is broke and we have to fix it and at least in Math we have a great solution.

  21. larry kurtz 2015.02.19

    2 + -2 = ?

  22. Wayne B. 2015.02.19

    Time for critical reading comprehension skills:

    Cory, what on earth are "anti-Common Core opponents?" Are they substantially different from Common Core supporters? Do they oppose the anti-Common Core crowd, but not advocate for Common Core?

  23. Cranky Old dude 2015.02.20

    Common Core is just the latest Deweyite assault on the education system. It seeks to eventually replace education with indoctrination to make students "better citizens", more responsive to government. It is telling that Dewey was not actually an educator, nor it would appear that the "experts" involved in the formulation of this travesty are.
    It will probably fail of its own incompetence and corruption, as all of these initiatives do but at what cost?

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.23

    Good point, Wayne! I forgot where my sentence was headed. I have edited the offending sentence. :-)

  25. WayneF 2015.02.23

    Most bureaucrats have been educated in public schools and therefore think they are educational experts. Teachers know how to set standards and help learners achieve them. Please back away from this issue and let teachers do what they've been trained to do.

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