Michigan House Blocks Common Core Implementation (updated)

Published April 25, 2013

The Michigan House passed a budget bill prohibiting the state department of education from using state money to implement the Common Core national education standards and associated tests.

The Senate now must pass a budget, then both versions must be reconciled in a conference committee that will likely happen in late May, said state Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills). He sponsored the Common Core budget amendment and is sponsoring House Bill 4276 to withdraw Michigan completely from Common Core. HB 4276 awaits a vote from the House Education Committee after a March hearing.

“I didn’t really get any pushback [from fellow legislators] with the idea that before we turn over our standards to a private entity shouldn’t we have a vote on that?” McMillin told School Reform News the day of the House vote, April 24

The budget bill does not preclude local districts from using state money to implement Common Core.

The impact on schools would vary by district, but “could range from districts not aligning their curriculum and teachers not incorporating elements into lesson plans to full implementation,” said Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, in an email. The department “would need to develop, at great cost, new standards and assessments aligned to those standards.”

Who’s the Boss?
Common Core lists what children should know in math and English from kindergarten through grade 12. Michigan’s state board of education unanimously traded Michigan’s standards for Common Core two weeks after it was released in June 2010. The board was also set to have Michigan trade its state tests for national Common Core tests called Smarter Balanced, in 2014. 

However, McMillin said, the state board of education doesn’t have the authority to set education standards. The legislature does.

“We’re debating some standards in committee today on career-technical education. We don’t have this discussion if Common Core is in place,” McMillin said. “We have to go hat in hand to the [National Governors Association, which holds the Common Core copyright] and beg them to change the standards. They have a body that is not subject to freedom of information and open meetings acts. A private entity deciding what will be taught in all our public schools is just wrong.”

Even so, right after the hearing on HB 4276, the board reaffirmed its support for Common Core. 

“The Common Core State Standards were adopted to increase student career- and college-readiness, level the global academic playing field, and are being implemented by districts across the state,” Ellis said. “This is one step in the legislative appropriations process, and we will continue to work with both the House and Senate to build better understanding of the importance of the Common Core standards for the students and the future of Michigan.”

Costly Delays
The Senate’s version of the budget also includes an amendment saying the state department of education cannot use state money to “develop” Common Core standards. Although that would do little to stall Common Core in Michigan because the standards are already developed, it does mean “with the Senate saying there’s an issue there and our amendment very solid, we have a strong shot,” McMillin said.

Michigan’s legislature is in session year-round. That means HB 4276 will not be termed out in a few months, and there is more time to hold hearings on it, which House Education Committee Chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Grand Rapids) has said she plans to do. With no money to implement Common Core if the budget passes with that amendment intact, the Michigan Department of Education will also likely push for legislators to address the topic, McMillin said.

The longer Michigan waits to decide its course of action, the more expensive both courses get and the more taxpayers will pay for an unproven experiment, he said. During the HB 4276 hearing, back-envelope estimates of the cost to implement Common Core varied and no one had a clear answer.

“When I go to legislators there are very few, if any, who understand what Common Core is,” McMillin said. “That’s disturbing in itself. We ought to know it, and then decide.” 


Image by Michigan Municipal League.