Is Common Core Dead In South Carolina?

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Blake Neff Reporter
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South Carolina appeared to become the second state to pull out of Common Core educational standards this week, after Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill last Friday that requires the state to craft new educational standards of its own.

Some Common Core opponents, however, aren’t fully satisfied, warning that the controversial multi-state educational standards have yet been truly eliminated from the state.

According to the bill, South Carolina’s education department must craft new “college and career ready” standards for the 2015-16 school year. The state will also be prohibited from taking part in the Smarter Balance national testing consortium that is based on Common Core. In the future, the bill also decrees that any educational standards created outside the state may only be adopted after winning legislative approval.

Dillon Jones, an analyst with the strongly anti-Common Core South Carolina Policy Center, said the group was hoping for a more ambitious bill, and said the current measure didn’t guarantee Common Core’s elimination.

Jones pointed out that the bill doesn’t mention Common Core or prohibit the state explicitly from adhering to it, and said that as a result the state could end up reviewing the standards and adopting “new” ones that are only marginally different.

“They might adopt new standards, and they might not call it Common Core, but it’s still Common Core,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. While he said the bill offered a chance to eliminate the standards and thus was “better than the status quo,” he was very hesitant to offer further praise.

Similar fears have crept up regarding Indiana’s withdrawal, with critics saying new standards could be less of a departure than they hoped for.

Jones said a desire by the state’s educators to attract federal money could be a major factor, as the federal government has been favoring Common Core states when it comes to distributing federal money.

“Until states stop taking the federal money, they’re going to do what the federal government wants them to do,” Jones said, with the implication that South Carolina’s educators would be hesitant to depart too far from Common Core if it would risk monetary incentives.

South Carolina State Sen. Larry Grooms, who authored the bill, strongly objected to the SCPC’s criticism.

“If anybody can read, they would understand that it is a repeal of Common Core,” Grooms told TheDCNF.

He also suggested that the SCPC has a personal animus against him and disliked any bills he put forward even if they knew they would be effective.

“They have a long history of opposing any proposals I put forth,” Grooms said.

Another conservative South Carolina policy group, the Palmetto Policy Forum, largely defended Groons, saying the bill did what was necessary even if it didn’t destroy Common Core overnight.

“This is definitely a huge step in the right direction,” PPF president Ellen Weaver told TheDCNF.

Weaver admitted, though, that the fight wasn’t over, because the bill assigns a great deal of authority to the state’s superintendent of education. A new superintendent will be elected in November, and that person’s attitude towards Common Core could have a tremendous affect on how much changes, she said, with a superintendent who favors the status quo more likely to seek standards that imitate Common Core.

Weaver remained upbeat that the end results would satisfy activists, however.

“We’re realistic that we’ll have to keep pushing this,” she said. “But this was a first step.”

There are nine Republican candidates contending for the party’s nomination to the office, with the primary occurring next week. A policy observer in the state noted that all the plausible candidates have expressed dissatisfaction with Common Core, but their level of opposition seems to vary significantly, with candidate Sheri Few exceptionally hostile while others such as Molly Spearman are seen as more moderate on the issue.

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