House Education Committee amends bill to step back from Common Core

The House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 97 until after 7 p.m. Monday. (WyoFile/Gregory Nickerson — click to enlarge)
By Gregory Nickerson
February 18, 2014

The House Education Committee passed an amended version of House Bill 97, which would change the way the state of Wyoming adopts educational standards and remove the state from the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The bill will now return to the House for debate. In order to become law, it would need to pass through the Senate Education Committee and then pass three votes in the Senate.

Members of the public offering testimony included Bill Schilling of the Wyoming Business Alliance, Amy Edmonds of the Wyoming Liberty Group, and a number of teachers, school board members, and parents.

A primary concern among supporters of the bill was that the Common Core increases federal overreach into Wyoming’s education system. “Wyoming residents do not want decisions about the education of our children to be made by the government,” said one member of the public who testified. “The people of Wyoming know what is best for our children. We do not need the government telling us what is best for us. The people will make those decisions for ourselves.”

Hollis Hackman, a school board member from Sheridan District 2, spoke against the bill. He felt the measure would cause disruption by changing  direction on the implementation the Common Core standards, which his  been in progress in his district for four years.

Several members of the committee had similar concerns. “I realize there is great passion behind this issue,” said Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale). “I talked to all the people I know who are educators — I’m not an educator, I’m just a cowboy — and they said (the Common Core standards) are better standards than we had previously.” He said that local school boards in his district have not asked him to change direction.

Sommers commented that the bill is three bills in one, with aspects on data security, assessments, and standards. He said he believes that discussion on the issue might be better as an interim topic.

Rep. John Freeman (D-Green River) opposed the bill and suggested an interim study. “I think we should leave the Common Core alone because school districts need stability and predictability, and I’m not backing off from that because that’s what people have been telling me all along,” he said.

Rep. Patton (R-Sheridan), also supported an interim study, saying it would be a better way to assimilate the wide variety of opinions on the issue. “The one thing I don’t like is being singled out and told you don’t support my interests.  We are not like milk. We are not homogeneous. … We get something that alarms us and we react quickly. … If we are going to do this at all I think we should do it in the interim.”

Rep. Jerry Paxton (R-Encampment) spoke in favor of House Bill 97, though he had reservations about its length and complexity. “I don’t know that we want to wait another year. I’m in favor of moving something forward.” Rep. Hans Hunt (R-Newcastle) agreed that the bill is imperfect and would need to be worked. “While it would be good to work on this as an interim topic, I fear what would happen with Common Core sinking in more deeply,” he said.

House Education Committee chair Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) also spoke in favor of hearing the bill. After receiving a motion and a second to work the bill, Teeters made a motion to strike the data portion of the bill, saying including it would leave the bill with too many moving parts. The motion passed.

Rep. Sommers then read in 16 pages of amendments, which the committee worked until 8:40 p.m.

“After hearing more than 45 minutes of amendments, I am even more convinced that this (committee) is not the right venue,” said Rep. Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie). She said she would vote no and support an interim study. Rep. Sommers speculated that the bill will die in the Senate and that the issue will likely become an interim study.

In final voting of the amended bill, Rep. Patton, Rep. Connolly, and Rep. Freeman voted no. Representatives Teeters, Sommers, Paxton, Hunt, Northrup, and Piiparinen voted in favor of the bill. The measure passed and will now go back to the House.

“We spent almost four hours on the bill,” said Rep. Teeters. “If you don’t think your citizen legislature works, come to a committee meeting.”

— Gregory Nickerson (@GregNickersonWY) February 18, 2014

— Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He writes the Capitol Beat blog. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com.

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Gregory Nickerson

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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