Bill aims to prevent national education standards from affecting Missouri schools
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Bill aims to prevent national education standards from affecting Missouri schools

Date: March 6, 2013
By: Emily Donaldson
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB210

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri would refrain from joining 46 other states in adopting national education standards under legislation heard by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, would prohibit the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from implementing the statewide education standards without approval by the General Assembly.

The education standards targeted by the bill, the Common Core Standards, are a part of the application for Race to the Top money.  The Race to the Top program is a competitive federal fund from which states can apply to receive money.

When Missouri applied for this federal funding in 2010, Missouri government officials agreed to adhere to these standards even though they had not yet been written or clearly defined.

Lamping argued that standards should not be adopted if the government does not have a wealth of knowledge on the issue.

"I am against all of our state standards that are in the process of being changed without any of us in the General Assembly being made aware of the fact," Lamping said.

Anne Gassel, a member of Missouri Coalition against Common Core, expressed concern over a blanket program for national education.

Missouri Coalition against Common Core is an organization advocating against the Common Core Standards.

"There is no single magic bullet for our education," Gassel said. "There is no single way to teach."

Witnesses testifying in opposition to the bill and in favor of Common Core Standards said that these uniform requirements would give Missouri and other states the opportunity to create a large nationwide resource for collaboration rather than prohibiting innovation within education.

Jeff Klein, assistant superintendent of the Park Hill School District, said he was enthusiastic over the number of opportunities the standards could create for collaboration across state lines, especially around the border which lies near to his Kansas City area school district.

"We have been excited, frankly, to begin this process and are excited about the possibilities for our students," Klein said.

If the legislation passes and prevents the adoption of the Common Core Standards, school districts would still be allowed to adopt the standards independently.  However, Klein said he believes that without a nationally required adoption, there would be an absence of national resources available to Missouri.

Some parents at the hearing testified in concern that data collected for nationally required assessments would be used for nefarious purposes.

Jane Robbins, representative of the American Principles Project, said that she feared the data collected could follow a person from a toddler to workforce age, collecting information such as religious affiliation, family income range and health care history. The American Principles Project is a conservative advocacy group.

"I don't want my children's data to be tracked by the government," Robbins said.

Despite many witnesses testifying out of concern about improper use of data, none of them provided evidence to support the claims that personal data outside of the realm of academics would be collected.

Economically, witnesses had different opinions on whether the legislation would be beneficial.

Lamping said that the standards would be an "unfunded mandate" and cost Missouri school districts $350 to $400 million to equip schools for changes in curriculum. Under the standards, schools would take nationally required assessments on computers instead of with pen and paper. This would require additional funding for districts without Internet access.

Cathy Cartier, Missouri Teacher of the Year for 2013, said that better preparation for college and the workforce would counter this need for funds and give Missourians a return on their investment in education.