Despite setback, senator happy with education reform

Senator Donna J. Boley admitted reality had finally sunk in on Monday after a weekend meeting was convened and the compromise to amend the repeal bill for Common Core was reached.

(See also: Changes made to Common Core bill in Senate)

By Joel Ebert, Capitol Bureau

Although she admits some degree of disappointment that a bill that would repeal the state’s Common Core standards was amended on Monday, essentially removing the repeal aspect of the legislation, Sen. Donna Boley is still celebrating.

“It’s at least making the Department of Education and the state board understand that there’s people concerned about the Common Core standards and what direction we’re going,” Boley, R-Pleasants, said Monday afternoon, just hours after the bill was changed. The latest version of the bill requires state school superintendent Michael Martirano to perform a review of the standards currently in place, essentially stripping the language calling for a complete repeal of Common Core.

For the past several years, Boley has been an outspoken critic of the state’s curriculum standards, which were adopted in 2010. She’s introduced bills asking to put a pause on the standards and sponsored other bills seeking the complete elimination of the standards.

Last week — after Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, told the Daily Mail the Common Core repeal bill would likely not make it through the Senate because it didn’t have enough support — Boley was clearly frustrated. Boley felt the issue, which is her bread and butter, wasn’t being given a fair chance.

But Boley admitted reality had finally sunk in on Monday after a weekend meeting was convened and the compromise to amend the repeal bill was reached.

“That was the only game in town this morning so you take it and go from there,” she said.

Boley said she knew some lawmakers wanted a complete repeal while others wanted to have a comprehensive review. Although the review-oriented side ultimately prevailed, Boley was not terribly disappointed.

“It’s the way I wanted to go to start with,” Boley said, referring to a bill she’s sponsored in the past.

One of the largest hurdles the bill had to overcome, Boley admits, was the fiscal note that came with the original repeal bill. The House version of the bill included a fiscal note prepared by the state Department of Education that said a repeal would cost $128 million.

“I was afraid that might completely kill the bill if it went to the Finance Committee and wasn’t amended,” Boley said.

The bill was further facing complications due to sheer numbers. Hall, who told the Daily Mail there were several Republicans concerned with the bill, said he would not support the repeal effort “in a million years.” Democrats were unlikely to support the bill, according to an informal poll by Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, last week.

With all that in mind, Boley agreed to the amendment, which she said is progress compared to what has happened in the past.

“We’re having the conversation that we were denied for two years by the chairmen of education (in the House of Delegates and the Senate),” she said. “We may not be where we are right now if we could have just been able to discuss it but for some reason they did not want to discuss it.”

Although she knows those supporting the outright repeal of the education standards will be disappointed, Boley said that can still happen in the future.

When asked if she intends to continue to push repeal legislation in the future, Boley said, “Absolutely. We need to get rid of it.”

But for now, she’ll settle for a review, should the bill make its way through the full Senate.

“At least we can get some review and more people will find out what it’s doing,” she said.

Following an afternoon press conference, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin weighed in on the latest version of the repeal bill, calling it a good compromise.

“I think it is,” he said. “We’ve got to have a way to measure what our students are learning. There’s been about four years of work that’s gone into Common Core or next generation standards for West Virginia. I would really hate to see all that work go out the window especially considering the possible loss of federal funds.”

Tomblin said the he did not have a problem with the review of the adopted standards, especially considering that it might find some possible ways to address some concerns.

“If we need to tweak the standards some that’s fine,” he said.

“But to completely throw out Common Core I think is a mistake,” Tomblin said, referring to the original intentions of the bill. “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater — let’s continue with the standards we have in place.”

Contact writer Joel Ebert at joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4843. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.