Michigan Moves Two Bills to Replace Common Core

Published July 19, 2016

Two bills that would repeal and replace Common Core State Standards in Michigan are progressing through the two chambers of the state’s legislature.

Senate Bill 826, sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), and its companion, House Bill 5444, would terminate the state’s use of Common Core and require the state Department of Education to adopt the standards Massachusetts used during the 2008–09 school year.

SB 826 passed the Senate Education Committee in April. The full Senate did not approve the bill before lawmakers adjourned in June. By passing through the Education Committee, SB 826 is eligible to be brought to the floor for a vote when the legislature reconvenes in the fall.

On Stop Common Core in Michigan organization website,  Karen Braun cites a Senate “Fiscal Analysis” as a possible reason for a delay in the Senate bringing the bill forward for a vote. The analysis’ authors wrote, “The bill would have a significant negative fiscal impact on the Department of Education and local school districts and boards.”  

HB 5444 remains under consideration in the Michigan House Education Committee.

Fighting for Local Control

Colbeck says his desire to fight for local control of education was inspired by members of his own community.

“I had a lot of constituents and active members of the community who said, ‘You have to keep digging into this. This isn’t just about common standards across the board,'” Colbeck told School Reform News. “And sure enough, as I dug into it, the lightbulb went off when I realized that education is actually a five-layer cake: You have the standards zone connected to the assessment zone, connected to the curriculum zone, connected to the lesson plans and course materials. The bottom three have always been [within] the purview of local school districts.”

Colbeck says looking more closely at the standards made him realize the Common Core methodology is flawed.

“You have de facto national control over curriculum and what gets taught in each of the classrooms,” Colbeck said. “That for me was concerning, especially when you start looking at the content of some of the resource kits they provide to help schools with their curriculum and course materials. That’s where the real concerns came in—in particular, on math. As an engineer, I thought there was too much of an emphasis on the ‘how’ versus the ‘what’ on several of the standards. I don’t think the ‘how’ should be anywhere in the standards. You should focus on the ‘what.'”

Hard to Escape

Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, served as senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003 and directed a complete revision of the state’s standards, the same ones Colbeck is pushing for his state to adopt.

Stotsky says legislatures must rely on state boards of education and governors to repeal Common Core. 

“Common Core has locked almost everybody up in its deadly coils,” Stotsky said. “Part of the problem is that Common Core was voted in by governors, Republicans as well as Democrats, and state boards of education and state departments of education. Nobody else knew what was going on, but by statutory law they were able to vote in Common Core and then to test based on Common Core standards, because that is within their legal authority.

“It is very hard for state legislatures and others to try to get out of Common Core unless their state board of education rescinds its own decision or a governor has enough [courage] to issue an executive decree saying, ‘We’re out of Common Core, and we’re going to adopt another set of standards that are good,'” Stotsky said.

Kimberly Morin ([email protected]) writes from Brentwood, New Hampshire.