Testimony Wednesday in support of Idaho’s Common Core public school standards outnumbered opposition as state lawmakers consider bagging the standards altogether.
Common Core is a set of national education guidelines adopted by many states.
Several teachers and administrators told the House Education Committee that the current standards give them flexibility. They said they allow local school districts to decide how to teach kids in the best way that meets those benchmarks.
State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said she and other board members ultimately decided to back the standards, despite uproar from some parents over their efficacy.
“We voted unanimously to support the standards as they are feeling that it would not be responsible to reject them without anything to replace them with,” Critchfield said.
Fred Birnbaum is with the influential conservative lobbying group, Idaho Freedom Foundation, whose president last year said that state government shouldn’t run public schools. Birnbaum said repealing the standards isn’t a life or death decision.
“I don’t see the downside. We don’t see the downside. This is not the missile coming down on Soleimani if we replace these standards,” he said.
But leaving Idaho temporarily without curriculum standards could cause “mass chaos” according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra (R).
States are required by the federal government to have their own content standards and assess student comprehension based on those standards. Some states have been fined or had their funding reduced by the feds, according to Kristin Rodine, a spokeswoman for Ybarra’s office.
“…reduced funding would have a disproportionate impact on many of Idaho’s most vulnerable students, such as special education students and low-income students,” Rodine wrote in an email.
Some who testified said some books used in classrooms were inappropriate or pornographic, though the example used was not actually from these standards.
Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) read a letter from Geoffrey Thomas, the superintendent at Madison School District #321 in Rexburg, who has long opposed these standards.
Thomas wrote that they resulted in “a massive money grab by curriculum companies and corporate testing agencies.”
Both he and other opponents also said the standards haven’t resulted in better educational outcomes for students.
Committee members will continue hearings on Common Core Thursday morning.
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