The Republican-led House passed several bills Wednesday aimed at weakening aspects of the Common Core education standards and affirming the importance of local and parental control in education.
“We can fire a shot here today in the battle over federal intrusion,” Republican Rep. Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro told the chamber to loud cheers. “You will make a statement today, you will stand tall. No more unfunded federal mandates, no more federal control of education, no more.”
By a vote of 204-136, the lower chamber passed a bill prohibiting the state Board of Education from adopting rules that require school districts to comply with federal mandates that are not fully funded by the federal government.
Officials from the board and state Department of Education said the bill could restrict the state’s ability to administer the statewide tests associated with the standards. State and federal law requires an annual assessment, and the federal government covers most of the costs, board Chairman Tom Raffio said.
The House also passed bills saying local schools do not have to adopt the standards and allowing parents to opt their children out of the tests. The state does not currently require districts to adopt the standards, and districts such as Manchester have chosen not to. Districts that choose not to use Common Core must come up with their own standards that are tougher than the Common Core.
“I think in all the years that I’ve been in school administration and education in the classroom, (Common Core) is the most contentious issue in education that I’ve ever experienced,” Ladd said.Opponents of the opt-out bill said it is not necessary. But Rep. Rick Ladd, a Haverhill Republican and former school administrator, said it would give school boards that opt out more power to determine whether the standards they choose instead are sufficient. The bill passed along party lines.
Two bills aimed at parental control also passed. One requires schools to give two weeks’ notice to parents before teaching material involving “human sexuality or human sexual education.” The other lets parents excuse their children from taking statewide tests.
“Parents have the ultimate say in their child’s education,” said Republican Rep. Ralph Boehm of Litchfield.
All of the bills will now go to the Senate.
Heather Gage, director of educational improvement at the education department, said the agency is willing to have conversations about how to improve the standards with lawmakers and parents.
“As educators we should always be looking for a way to do it better,” she said.
But, Gage said, continuing to resist Common Core as an intrusion by the federal government does not serve that purpose.
“Always having a conversation about how Common Core is mandated by the federal government and is an intrusion by the feds is not productive,” she said. “They mandate we have high standards, they don’t mandate the Common Core and they never have.”