Anti-Common Core bill faces uphill fight on SC Senate floor

jself@thestate.comMarch 12, 2014 

— A proposal originally intended to repeal Common Core in South Carolina classrooms is headed to the full Senate but without repealing the K-12 education standards.

The Senate Education Committee advanced a proposal Wednesday that would remove South Carolina from a group of states developing a test aligned with the standards and require the General Assembly approve future changes to standards that are not dictated by the state Department of Education.

The bill also would limit schools from sharing student-level data and end a requirement that high-school students pass an exit exam to graduate with a diploma.

However, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate where one senator, Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, already has placed an objection on it, a way of blocking legislation from coming up for debate.

‘Cleared a hurdle’

Nonetheless, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, said he was happy the bill advanced to the full Senate. “I cleared a hurdle today,” he said. “There’s several other hurdles that must be cleared.”

Lawmakers moved away from pulling Common Core out of S.C. classrooms because, they said, doing so would disrupt school districts that have been transitioning for about four years to using the standards, which outline what students should know at each grade level.

The decision to let the standards remain in place came about in a compromise backed by state Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, a leading Common Core critic.

A full repeal of the standards also would put about $200 million in federal education money in jeopardy. That’s because the state would be required to use previous education standards that do not meet federal benchmarks for preparing children for college and careers.

The proposal would remove the state from the testing consortium, addressing concerns the new test is part of the federal government’s attempt to control education at the local level. The testing group Smarter Balanced, which South Carolina belongs to, was paid for through a federal grant.

Getting the proposal a priority spot on the Senate’s calendar will be tough but may be doable, Grooms said. Timing is an issue. All active bills that are not passed by the end of June die, at the end of the two-year General Assembly session.

Other senators expressed concerns that proposals tacked onto the bill may not be related to the bill’s intent, a problem that could stymie the proposal altogether.

Asked about the proposal at a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Nikki Haley, a Common Core opponent, said she wanted to talk to senators and review the bill before saying whether she would veto a proposal that leaves the standards in place. Haley said she prefers the standards be “stripped out.”

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