Common Core repeal bill could be introduced this week

Use of integrated math textbooks and other Common Core-aligned curricula could soon be outlawed in West Virginia if Republican lawmakers are successful in their attempts to repeal the controversial standards the state Board of Education adopted in 2010. Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, who has said she would not support a repeal of Common Core, recently told the Daily Mail public outcry has forced her to address what she calls “vast challenges” in a repeal bill that could be introduced this week.
Fred Albert, a math teacher at DuPont Middle School math teacher holds some common core textbooks and has posters on the wall describing the standards for the teaching method. He says that even though a few things need changed, personally he likes the method. West Virginia’s Republican lawmakers predict they will soon repeal Common Core, a set of controversial standards that created national academic goals in math and english. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 2/13/15
Posters on the classroom wall of DuPont Middle School math teacher Fred Albert. West Virginia’s Republican lawmakers predict they will soon repeal Common Core, a set of controversial standards that created national academic goals in math and english. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 2/13/15

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Craig Cunningham/Daily MAil

While the majority of West Virginia’s Republican lawmakers are working on reforming the state’s prevailing wage laws and lifting the ban on charter schools, a faction within the caucus soon will turn their focus to another controversial topic: Common Core.

Spurred in part by months of public outcry in communities around the state, members of the House of Delegates and state Senate say the question of whether a repeal of the education standards will pass both houses isn’t a matter of if, but when.

“We will repeal Common Core,” said Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, in a recent interview with the Daily Mail. “The public is demanding that, and we have to respect their needs and wishes.”

Common Core is a set of national math and English standards that guarantees public school students across the country get the same basic education. Created through a partnership of governors and state school officials in 2009, Common Core is meant to replace outdated benchmarks in the No Child Left Behind Act.

After they were released, the U.S. Department of Education supported the standards and, with the help of President Barack Obama, offered $4.3 billion in competitive grants to adopting states.

Despite receiving no grant money, West Virginia was the second state to adopt the standards. The state school board voted to do so in 2010 after Department of Education officials retooled and renamed them the Next Generation Content Standards.

Since then, 46 other states have adopted Common Core. While the standards have become widely unpopular across the country, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina are the only states that have withdrawn. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia never adopted Common Core.

While lawmakers like state Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, for years have been unsuccessful in their attempts to repeal the standards, the Republican takeover in both chambers of the Legislature may finally give those critics the needed votes.

They also may have just won over another important vote in Pasdon. As House Education Committee chairwoman, she will decide if a repeal bill ever makes it onto the committee agenda.

Until recently, Pasdon has been silent about her stance on West Virginia becoming the fourth state to nix the standards. Her only comments came in December when she told the Daily Mail she would not support a repeal unless there was a “solid alternative.”

While Pasdon said she still wouldn’t OK getting rid of Common Core without new standards to replace it, she admits something has to be done.

“My support for education standards hasn’t changed,” she said. “But, as I have talked with educators, parents and students, I have seen there are some major challenges with Common Core we will have difficulty overcoming.”

Pasdon said those challenges are “vast” and that she is working to address them in a bill that could be introduced as soon as this week.

While there currently is a repeal bill pending in the House Education Committee, Pasdon said it doesn’t do anything to set up new standards.

Last month, Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, introduced a bill that would make it illegal for schools to use Common Core after this school year.

“The reason House Bill 2184 hasn’t been taken up is because it removes all standards without proposing a replacement, which would put West Virginia at risk of losing federal funding,” Pasdon said. “That would be devastating.”

Because federal funding is tied to academic standards, among other requirements, Pasdon said she is working with her staff and House leadership on a new bill.

“We believe this is something we have to address,” she said.

When asked if she would suggest using West Virginia’s old standards, another state’s or commission an entirely new set, Pasdon said she is still working out those details.

“I’m hesitant to copy and paste and use another state’s standards though,” she said. “We need something that adequately reflects and supports students and their learning environment.”

Authors of an efficiency audit of West Virginia’s public education system said the state’s schools are over-regulated by code, but some opponents of Common Core said legislative repeal would undo some of that gridlock.

West Virginia isn’t the only embattled state. Republicans and Tea Party conservatives in statehouses around the country also are pushing for full repeals of the standards.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.