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May 15, 2013

House approves McMillin amendment stripping Common Core funds in state budget

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — The Michigan House of Representatives has approved the Michigan Department of Education budget, including an amendment prohibiting MDE from using any state funds to implement Common Core State Standards or “Smarter Balanced” assessments.

The budget language, approved by the House April 24, now moves to the Michigan Senate for consideration.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, sponsored the amendment and is also sponsoring House Bill 4276 to withdraw Michigan completely from Common Core. HB 4276 awaits a vote from the House Education Committee after a March hearing.

Michigan’s state board of education unanimously traded Michigan’s standards for Common Core State Standards — which lists what children in grades K-12 should know in math and English — two weeks after it was released in June 2010. In 2014, the board was also set to have Michigan trade its state tests for national Common Core tests called “Smarter Balanced.”

Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, said Common Core State Standards were adopted “to increase student career- and college-readiness and level the global academic playing field” and are being implemented in districts across the state.

“Prior to these standards, every state had their own unique standards. As a result, what students were expected to learn varied widely from state to state. The Common Core State Standards do not represent a curriculum; rather, they serve as a framework around which curriculum can be developed by local districts and educators. In other words, teachers will continue to decide what curriculum and lesson plans to best meet the needs of their students,” she said.

McMillin said the standards — which were created by a private, national organization, the National Governors Association — were never approved by the Michigan Legislature.

“The state Board of Education exceeded their authority and put us into the Common Core,” he said.

He said the National Governors Association controls the content of the Common Core State Standards, adding that the privately owned Smarter Balanced Assessments align with those standards.

“Why would we turn over our standards, what is taught in every school, to a private entity out of Washington? It makes no sense to me. I’ve gone back and forth with State Superintendent (Mike) Flannigan in writing, and he acknowledges that the Legislature and the people of Michigan will not be able to change the standards of Common Core, so why would we do that?” McMillin said.

McMillin said he believes it would “be wise” to have the Michigan Department of Education explain “why they think it’s a good idea.”

“I haven’t found a legislator that understands what Common Core is, so that’s just as chilling to me. We need to understand it fully and then we can pull that sentence out if that’s something that should go forward,” he said.

Ellis said this was just one step in the legislative appropriations process.

“We will continue to work with both the House and Senate to build a better understanding of the importance of the Common Core standards for students and the future of Michigan,” she said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.