Fear of federal overreach is alive and well in Idaho’s capitol building.
The House Education Committee is trying to kill the Gem State’s version of Common Core, called Idaho Content Standards, for English language arts, math and science in K-12 public schools. The standards have one primary goal: To ensure that when students graduate from high school, they’re proficient educationally for the next phase of life, whether that’s college, technical training or a job.
Adoption of the state’s modified standards in January 2011 by Superintendent Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter has never set right with some of Idaho’s most conservative legislators. They aren’t alone, either. At Saturday’s Lincoln Day Republican fundraising dinner in Coeur d’Alene, loud applause greeted a legislator’s report that the House Education Committee had thrown out Common Core.
Common Core was an early enemy of the Tea Party, which referred to it as “Obamacore.” What’s interesting is that over the years, it also has drawn attacks from the left, from educators and parents frustrated with increasing emphasis on a testing culture, and from those who believe the higher standards are impossible to reach or sustain without additional funding.
As longtime Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane told The Press on Monday, it is the Legislature’s prerogative to do with state education standards what it will, but an attempt to remove those standards without having a replacement is shortsighted and potentially severely damaging. Entire plans for instruction, including purchase of expensive textbooks, are built around meeting the standards that are in place. Unraveled, the tapestry of these standards could quickly reduce consistently good education in Idaho.
Before Idaho’s standards are indeed thrown out, the Senate Education Committee must agree. And that’s not a sure bet by any means. On Monday, members of Senate Ed proposed a bill that would create a committee to study Idaho’s standards, then make its own recommendations. Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said it likely would take a year or two for new standards to be established.
“I hope that it’s more rigorous,” Mortimer told The Idaho State Journal. “I hope that it’s more beneficial to all our education stakeholders.”
Composition of that committee would be critical, of course, but Mortimer is on the right track. If the current education standards don’t work for Idaho, replace them with something that does.