Hearings begin on repeal of Common Core standards in Ohio

by Marc Kovac | Capital Bureau Chief Published:

Columbus — Nancy Capps has heard horror stories about the Common Core.

The Portage County retiree told a lawmaker panel Aug. 18 that children are stressed out and frustrated over confusing lessons, parents are paying tutors and sending their kids to summer school to help them catch up, and teachers are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution.

“There are kindergarteners not wanting to go to school, a second-grader whose teacher suggested that his parents enroll him in their stress management class because he was so afraid to go to school, children vomiting every day and under a doctor’s care, children who think they are dumb and being labeled as having a disability because they can’t do math,” Capps said. “A friend’s neighbor was called at work by her babysitter telling her to come home because her third-grade son was on the floor in a fetal position crying fearing that he would have to repeat third grade....”

Capps was among the people offering testimony in support of legislation that would repeal Common Core standards in Ohio.

Two state lawmakers, Reps. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) have proposed the newest bill, HB 597, to address continued concerns about the national movement to implement more uniform educational standards in classrooms.

“Is the state of Ohio at this point going to cut the cord between the state of Ohio and the national consortium as it relates to the standards in our K-12 education?” Huffman asked, adding later, “The decision to turn our children over to a group of people for 30 hours a week or more is a very personal decision. So when you do that, you want to make sure that you have as much influence as you can....”

Thompson added, “Ohio has a Common Core problem.... We need to base our educational approach on the unique and varying talents and skills of our children. We need high standards and to hold our education system accountable to those high standards. .... Ultimately, Ohio must be in charge of that process, not merely a bystander in a national consortium that makes state and local control a meaningless concept.”

Proponents say Common Core is an effort to ensure every high school graduate has the foundational knowledge needed for college, technical schools or other career paths. They also say local school boards retain control over curriculum, and districts have invested heavily in recent years training teachers and preparing lessons and assessments to meet the new standards.

But opponents say the standards represent an overreach of the federal government and corporate interests into local classrooms, with resulting textbook lessons so convoluted or awkwardly phrased that students and their parents don’t understand them.

Thompson earlier introduced a bill to repeal Common Core standards in Ohio, prohibit the state board of education from using assessments based on those standards and block the dissemination of certain student data to the federal government.

But Thompson’s initial bill quickly stalled, without enough support from other Republicans in the chamber or the chairman of the education committee.

Late last month Huffman and Thompson introduced HB 597 as placeholder legislation “to repeal and replace the Common Core initiative academic standards [for math and language arts] and related assessment system.”

Huffman, who serves as chairman of the Rules and Reference Committee, opted to play host to hearings on the new repeal effort during lawmakers’ summer recess, with no final action expected in the House until after the November general election.

Democrats on the committee voiced concern Aug. 18 about the process — having the hearing before the Rules and Reference Committee instead of the Education Committee, for example. They also questioned the wisdom of changing standards that schools have already implemented and the timing of developing new standards.

“How are we holding ourselves accountable in terms of public trust?” asked House Minority Leader Tracy Heard (D-Columbus). “... We have already invested I’m not sure how many millions of dollars in Common Core.”

If enacted, Huffman said the legislation would require new standards to be in place for the 2017 school year. Common Core standards would remain in place for the current school year, with standards formerly used in Massachusetts used during the two school years when new standards are being developed.

“What those standards are going to be aren’t in the bill...,” Huffman said. “We can’t be specific about something that’s going to happen in 2017 that a number of other people are going to work on.”

Aug. 18 was the first of three days of hearings scheduled for this week to give individuals and groups that want to repeal Common Core standards in the state an opportunity to offer testimony. Additional hearings are planned for opponents of the repeal to speak.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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