Failure to address Common Core regrettable

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 

WHEELING, W.Va. — Monday’s decision on national Common Core education standards represented a triumph of both procrastination and federal government pressure. It appears some lawmakers feel it would not be realistic to simply ban use of the standards in West Virginia.

They may be right.

Early in the legislative session, Common Core opponents introduced a bill that would have forced the state Department of Education to stop using the national program in our state.

But little by little, amendments to the bill and second thoughts about its practicality surfaced. By Monday, with just days left in the session, the state Senate Finance Committee in effect killed the proposal. It did so by amending it to require state school Superintendent Michael Martirano to conduct a “comprehensive review” of Common Core standards. That is to be completed by Jan. 1, 2017.

By then, Common Core will be even more entrenched in Mountain State schools than it is now. Already, most school districts have either begun using the national program’s mathematics and English curriculum or are well along in planning to do so.

Changing that ought to have been easy. It will be difficult – if not impossible – because of the federal government. During the past couple of years, Washington has used hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to prod states to adopt Common Core lock, stock and barrel.

That sort of pressure ought to be unacceptable in the United States, especially given the fact states, not the federal government, are constitutionally empowered to make public education decisions. As we have pointed out, members of Congress should stop allowing liberals in the executive branch to use schools for experiments such as Common Core.

West Virginia lawmakers – and those in other states – should have objected sooner to the federal mandate. That did not happen here because Democrats controlled both Houses of the Legislature until January, and turned back objections to Common Core.

Legislative majorities by Republicans with legitimate concerns simply came too late in the game.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, Common Core has some desirable features. Martirano should identify them and recommend ways the state can abandon aspects of the program that are not good for students.

In the meantime, Martirano and the state Board of Education should use their discretion to let county school systems know objectionable provisions of Common Core will not be enforced at the state level – so that at least something can be salvaged from this unconstitutional fiasco.

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