Bill to overturn Common Core wins introduction in HouseBy Gregory Nickerson — February 12, 2014
A bill to roll back the Common Core educational standards in Wyoming won introduction in the House today on a vote of 47 in favor and 13 against. Rep. Tom Reeder (R-Casper) read in House Bill 97, saying it, “addresses the concern that most, if not all of us have, of getting back to more state and local control and (getting) input from parents, teachers, and local school boards.”
Since the Wyoming State Board of Education adopted the Common Core state standards in June of 2012, an organized opposition has arisen to challenge the standards. Local groups like Wyoming Against the Common Core and the Wyoming Liberty Group have voiced their opposition to lawmakers and Gov. Matt Mead.
House Bill 97 would prohibit Wyoming from joining any consortium that would, “cede any measure of control over any aspect of Wyoming public education to entities outside the state.” The language is implicitly aimed at the consortium of states that have adopted Common Core standards. The bill would also establish an advisory board to oversee the adoption of state standards, and prohibit use of the Smarter Balanced test.
Further, the bill prohibits the expenditure of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds, and creates restrictions about the sharing of student data, which, if violated, would be punishable as a felony and a $5,000 fine. The legislation is 34 pages long, and is co-sponsored by Rep. Reeder, Rep. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), Rep. David Miller (R-Lander), Sen. Dan Dockstader (R-Afton), and Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs).
Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle), who chairs the House Education committee, spoke in support of the bill. “I would be the first to admit we do have problems in how standards are adopted,” he said.
Speaking in opposition to the Bill, Rep. Sue Wilson (R-Cheyenne) noted that it hadn’t gone through the normal interim committee process, which would have allowed it to be discussed and debated for up to nine months. She noted that few in the legislature had heard about the bill until a week ago. She asked the sponsors if any of the 12 educators who serve in the legislature had been consulted in drafting the bill.
Rep. John Freeman (D-Rock Springs) spoke against the bill. In his work as a high school transition counselor for Western Wyoming Community College, he said the 11 school districts he works with are looking for stability and consistency in standards. He disagreed with the notion that the Common Core standards were adopted without public input. “We had a process that took two years to adopt the Common Core. There was plenty of time to look at those records,” he said.
Rep. Freeman also cited college preparation statistics; only 17 percent of Wyoming students test as college-ready on the ACT test, and 50 percent of college students need remedial course upon entering college. “To have a national standard and to tie ourselves into that is a good experiment,” he said.
On hearing the word “experiment” several members of the public who were observing from the third floor gallery raised their voices, denouncing the Common Core standards as an unproven experiment. They were quickly hushed by other observers and legislative staff.
In a final remark before the vote, Rep. Reeder said, “We have many people here today who are watching and listening. Please allow this bill to be introduced and reinforce that this is truly a republic.” The bill gained more than the two-thirds vote needed for introduction. In the 3rd floor gallery supporters of the bill breathed sighs of relief.
Earlier in the day, the House voted not to allow introduction of HB 26 Early-childhood education programs. The bill would have charged the Wyoming Department of Education to coordinate various early childhood programs under three different agencies. A separate provision would have created a grant program to support the development of early childhood programs by school districts and non-profit service providers.
Note: This article was updated to clarify that HB 97 implicitly calls for overturning the Common Core by prohibiting Wyoming from ceding any control over education to entities outside the state.
For in-depth coverage on the debate over the Common Core standards, read this WyoFile feature. For more on early childhood education in Wyoming, read this feature.
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