Gov. Jay Nixon has signed a bill that would replace national Common Core education mandates with Missouri’s own set of educational criteria. House Bill 1490 would abolish the Common Core standards by the 2016-2017 school year and establish new state standards with a built-in process for revision.
“HB 1490 can be simplified to three words: sovereignty, privacy, and flexibility,” said the chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles).
Representative Government Restored
Education standards set forth what curriculum and tests must contain. Common Core is a set of national standards and tests for English and math in grades K-12. One of the central critiques of Common Core is that states put them in place, in large part, without the approval of voters or their representatives. Private organizations created the mandates, and the Obama administration gave states extra money to adopt them.
“Missouri adopted [Common Core] without the General Assembly’s knowledge or authorization. One of our problems with Common Core was its secretive implementation,” Bahr said.
He says HB 1490 is intended to correct this problem and restore sovereignty to the state and the people by creating a transparent process for developing and revising the state’s standards.
“We will have two taskforces of Missouri educators from higher ed, elementary and secondary [education], and the various stakeholders in education to include parents, to write Missouri standards in an open and transparent process that will ensure quality standards for our state, our schools, and our students,” Bahr said. “We also included clear language that the school districts have complete autonomy on the selection of curriculum for their districts.”
Potential for Rebranding National Mandates
The mostly parent grassroots activists who oppose Common Core learned politicians could turn a victory for the grassroots into a defeat when Indiana repealed Common Core but replaced it with standards that closely resembled Common Core. Oklahoma and South Carolina also recently repealed the national mandates.
“In many ways, the Missouri bill to ‘repeal’ Common Core is very similar to bills passed in Indiana and Oklahoma. It is not a full-scale repeal but could lead to a new set of standards,” said James Shuls, director of education policy at the Show-Me Institute.
“The state could end up staying with Common Core, or they could come up with something completely different,” said Shuls, “That will really depend upon the work of the committee.”
Anne Gassel, a cofounder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, said HB 1490 has greater potential to produce higher-quality standards than Indiana’s Common Core rebrand.
“Unlike Indiana’s bill, ours requires that members of the work groups be residents of Missouri and [have] a minimum of 10 years teaching experience,” she noted. “There are also positions on the workgroups specifically for parents.”
Shuls said the bill could give the people of Missouri the ability to “opt out” of Common Core.
“The most important piece of the bill is not the potential for repeal of Common Core, but the assurance that a new set of standards cannot be foisted upon Missourians without the knowledge of the public,” he said.
Data Privacy and Local Curricula
Additionally, the Missouri bill aims to protect student privacy, Bahr said. It is not clear what privacy protections there are for the national Common Core tests, which Missouri will drop if Nixon signs the bill.
“We put in strict requirements to protect personally identifiable data and even put in penalty provisions with significant fines to put teeth behind those requirements,” he said. “We also put in language to protect teacher evaluation data from unauthorized access.”
Bahr said the bill would create a process for revision so the standards may better serve specific state interests.
“By creating a process for revising our state standards, we give our state the opportunity to change those standards as we see fit to ensure their quality and rigor remain high and developmentally appropriate,” Bahr said.
Gassel said the bill creates the opportunity to restore power to Missouri citizens.
“We consider the bill a good start at returning educational direction and development to the state and local districts,” she said.
Image by Missouri News Horizon.