A bill eliminating Common Core in public schools that passed quickly in the state Senate may face more hurdles now that it's in the House Education Policy Committee.
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is chairwoman of the committee, and she said there is "still a lot wrong" with the bill sponsored in the Senate by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Collins said she’s not putting the bill on the “extremely fast track” for a vote in the committee because she sees “a lot of problems that hadn’t been addressed.”
She specifically mentioned a section of the bill that "prohibits the adoption or implementation of any national standards from any source."
Collins said this would hurt student-athletes who received scholarships to participate at NCAA-member colleges and universities.
Some national standards, such as passing three years of math Algebra I or higher, are NCAA requirements to participate in Division I athletics.
“We have to address these issues,” Collins said, adding that half the members of the 14-member committee she chairs are serving for the first time.
Collins didn’t have a timeline on when her committee would take up the bill, which passed the Senate 23-7 along party lines.
“I’m going to slow the bill down so we can address everyone’s concerns,” she said. “We have to get this right before it proceeds.”
Collins said the bill has to get a “favorable report” from the education committee to go to the full House for a vote, but there are many things that have to be reworked in the Senate version of the bill.
“I support higher standards and the teachers in north Alabama support high standards because we want our students to be able to compete nationally,” she said. “This is important, and I’ve heard that from teachers and workforce people.”
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, co-sponsored the Senate bill, and agrees it may need some work because it was amended on the Senate floor before the March 21 vote.
But he said Alabama has to look at its standards. Since the state adopted Common Core, he noted, math scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test have declined, especially in the testing periods between 2015 and 2017.
NAEP, a test used to generate national report cards, is given randomly to Alabama students. Math results on the test were increasing before Common Core was implemented.
Orr said Common Core is the only variable since the decline started in 2015.
The National Governors Association developed Common Core standards as a way to measure educational progress throughout every state, and Alabama implemented versions of Common Core in 2011 and 2012.
The standards in Alabama apply to English language arts and math and are incorporated into what education officials call Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards.
Marsh’s original bill immediately repealed Common Core standards and banned the State Board of Education and State Department of Education from using any national standards.
However, Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, offered an amendment to delay implementing new standards until the 2021-22 school year. His district covers part of Lawrence County. His amendment also specified that some specified national standards and assessments can still be used.
Decatur-area superintendents said they are not worried about a Senate-passed bill that repeals the state’s Common Core standards.
“We still have to teach students to read and do math, and my focus is on growing students,” Decatur City Superintendent Michael Douglas said.
He said any curriculum decision made in Montgomery needs to include educators.
“But if it doesn’t, we can’t worry about stuff we can’t control,” Douglas said.
Lawrence County Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said Gudger’s amendment gave him comfort because just about everything in his district involves some kind of national standard.
He said the certifications students get through career tech classes are based on national standards as well as the Alabama Reading Initiative and Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.
“We’ll have to regroup if the standards change, but we have time,” he said.
A fiscal note attached to the Senate bill estimates the cost of compliance for the state will be $6.1 million, including designing and implementing new standards, adopting new textbooks and changing assessments.
The estimated cost of implementing the bill for local boards of education, according to the fiscal note, would total $4.8 million.