California’s Common Core Spending Never Ends

Published June 10, 2014

Californians really have no idea how much they’re going to spend to suffer their kids as test subjects for the new testing and curriculum scheme called Common Core.

Back in 2011, the California Department of Education estimated phasing in the national curriculum and testing mandates would cost almost $760 million. In 2013, lawmakers voted to spend $1.25 billion for that purpose, almost twice the initial estimate.

Just a few months later, they’re back for more. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, chair of the Assembly education spending committee, recently proposed sending schools another $1.5 billion for the same purpose. If this bill passes, Common Core will have cost California taxpayers nearly four times as much as the state told them it would cost just three years ago.

Imagine if a store did that. If a salesman of anything but other people’s money told buyers the price of any item was four times lower than it rang up at the check register, people would refuse to buy the item … and then they’d tell everyone in town to avoid that huckster like the mumps.

But this hustle is even worse than overpriced stuff. It’s overpriced, useless stuff. At best, the kind of instruction Common Core is spawning will not improve student achievement. At worst, it will actually reverse the academic progress California children had been making.

A great many people insist these new national math and English mandates will help kids learn more. Unfortunately, they don’t have any proof this will happen. They’re just saying it because they want it to be true. But a 2012 Brookings Institution study found curriculum and testing mandates do not increase student learning. Some states have high expectations and low student performance. Others have low expectations and high student performance. The research says the two are not related. This makes the entire enterprise a  waste of time and money.

Common Core proponents like to cite “studies” and “a growing body of research” they say supports their claims. But when two researchers—Dr. Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas and Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University—investigated these claims independently, they both concluded almost no independent research confirms Common Core will helps students learn more. Nearly all the “research” Common Core proponents cite is advocacy material, not trustworthy, peer-reviewed studies.

The Common Core proponents themselves have paid for this advocacy research. So they essentially are saying, “People we paid to say Common Core is good say Common Core is good.” Such self-serving research does not justify inflicting taxpayers with billions in extra costs, nor does it justify forcing schoolchildren and teachers to undergo drastic changes in instruction and testing.

California had among the best-regarded requirements for math and English curricula in the world before it bought into Common Core. One of its many achievements was dramatically increasing the learning of thousands more students, including poor and minority children, by requiring them to take Algebra 1 in eighth grade. Research shows this creates a gateway to success in college and in adult life. Common Core moves Algebra 1 to ninth grade and dilutes the course content.

Californians are about to pay billions of dollars more to reduce their students’ achievement. The only people who win in this scenario are the hucksters selling this overpriced bill of goods.

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute.