The Missouri legislature handily passed a bill Thursday that would define a process in which state education experts will evaluate and recommend K-12 education standards in the state.
HB1490, which passed the Missouri state House, 131-12, and the state Senate, 23-6, would also require a one-year moratorium on actions that could be taken based on student performance on Common Core-aligned standardized assessments. Such actions include teacher evaluations and local school district accreditation.
According to Missouri Education Watchdog, while the bill did not achieve the return of local control of education as Common Core opponents had hoped, the legislation is a step in the direction of reclaiming state sovereignty over education. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has until August 28 to act on the bill.
“We would have liked the language to be a lot stronger in terms of rejecting the Common Core State Standards,” said Anne Gassel, a co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core (MCACC). “We will have to rely on the professional integrity of those selected to be on the various work groups to really focus on what is best for our students and teachers and not be swayed by outside political or financial interests.”
MCACC is a grassroots group made up of mothers and fathers, grandparents, teachers, and school board members who are working together to restore local control of education.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Kurt Bahr (R) of St. Charles County, initially called for the state to stop implementation of the Common Core standards. Additional amendments addressed how districts would operate while the state was developing new standards.
“It was a team effort between grassroots supporters and our counterparts in the Senate,” said Bahr. “I am happy to have gotten a bill that will force an open and transparent process involving all of Missouri in the education of our children.”
Missouri State Sen. Ed Emery (R) sponsored the bill in the Senate where other amendments were added, including a provision for the protection of student data. Since the resultant state Senate bill differed from that of the House, a conference committee worked out the discrepancies with input from the governor’s office so as to avoid a veto.
“The essence of HB1490 is an affirmation of the Governor’s February statement about local control of education, and we hope that he continues to support his publicly stated position by signing this bill,” said Gassel.
In 2009, Nixon told C-SPAN, “Education… is primarily a state responsibility, no doubt about it,” adding that Missouri had an “outstanding” public education system.
In fact, in 2008, then-U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said about Missouri’s education standards, “Massachusetts gets a lot of air time about their high standards, but it’s a little known fact that Missouri’s are right up there and very, very strong.”
Just four months later, however, Nixon committed the state to adopt the Common Core – despite the fact that the standards had not yet been written – in exchange for $1.7 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, delivered in the Race to the Top stimulus bill program initiated by the Obama administration.
In order to receive the federal funds, governors had to agree to adopt college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, to track student data from pre-K through college, to evaluate teachers through measures prescribed by the U.S. Department of Education, and to make changes to assist failing school districts. These “four assurances” required by governors were also included in the waiver applications for No Child Left Behind.
Nixon, however, could be presented with a conflict of interest in signing the legislation, as he also sits on the Board of Directors of Achieve, Inc., the progressive education think tank that, along with the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), helped develop the Common Core standards.
Achieve, Inc. also received millions of dollars of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary source of private funding of the Common Core standards.
Members of MCACC have worked to bring about awareness of the federal restrictions placed upon states as a result of the Common Core initiative and No Child Left Behind before it.
“It’s not about what is best for the students, its about making sure that states follow the Department’s instructions to the letter,” said Gretchen Logue, co-founder of MCACC and the editor of Missouri Education Watchdog. “Those states are being punished for Congress’s failure to act to fix or repeal No Child Left Behind.”