"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Much Will Common Core Cost Missouri School Districts?

The question on how much CCSS will cost school districts might just be the $64,000 question. In all reality, the bill will probably be in the $350 Million range (at the least) as districts have to comply with infrastructure, assessment, training and curricula mandates.

This is not new information on cost nor is it set in stone.  In fact, the bill to school districts will become much higher if the science and social studies standards (now being crafted) are adopted.  Don't forget the Art Common Core standards that may be imposed on districts as well!  The idea of creativity in the art room would go against the idea of common educational delivery and product.

Reality is setting in for some folks, however, and it is coming as quite a shock.  California (in the same consortia as Missouri) is more upfront on state/district costs than Missouri DESE has been.  Since we are in the same boat as California in terms of mandates, you can receive a foretaste of the reform to come in this article from edsource.org, Uncertainties and unknowns beneath the gloss of Common Core:

Listening to the people at the State Department of Education who are charged with California’s transition to the new Common Core K-12 learning standards, as I did (twice) earlier this month, you’d have to conclude that it’s all going pretty well.

Everything’s on schedule, local districts are moving ahead to “varying degrees” to get ready, teachers are champing at the bit to be liberated from the chains of rote learning and fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice tests, and there’ll be materials to support the new focus on analytical skills, critical thinking, problem solving and essay writing.

By spring 2015, the state officials say, the kids will be ready – many of them anyway – for the “Smarter Balanced” computer-based test assessments that will measure how well they’re doing. (Yes, Virginia, “smarter balanced” is a test, not a shoe or a brand of margarine.) Anyway, they say, local districts will have a lot of flexibility on when to get on board. 

If all the foregoing resonates with a bit of skepticism, it’s meant to.

For state Department of Education officials, from Superintendent Tom Torlakson down, optimism is part of the job description. But California, one of some forty states that have signed up for Common Core, faces an enormous task not only because of the apparent magnitude of the change, but because its education system, and the state Department of Education itself, are so badly strapped in so many ways.

In the past few years we’ve laid off thousands of teachers; our average classes are among the largest in the nation; we have the fewest counselors and librarians per pupil; our per-pupil spending is near the bottom, even after Gov. Jerry Brown’s much-ballyhooed tax hike. And now we will take on this change as well.

The other day Torlakson estimated that it will cost $1 billion for California to make the change, and that, too, may turn out to be optimistic. So far most districts have been left dangling with little help other than the information – and there’s a fair amount of that – they can glean from the Department’s websites.

Even the optimism at the top – all of it from good people with good intentions – has some weasel wording. What does it mean that districts are getting ready to “varying degrees”? How many teachers are eager to change?

And a lot is left unsaid. The state may adopt texts and other classroom materials for Common Core, but the locals will have to buy them out of already strapped budgets. (emphasis added)

Missouri is not that different than California in that mandates will be coming to your school district that were never voted on by voters nor the Legislature. If "optimism is part of the job description" for Missouri Commissioner Chris Nicastro as it is for California Superintendent Tom Torkalson, she's doing a darn good job.  However, it is time for reality and truth to prevail and the tough questions must be answered in terms of cost and loss of local control.  The "weasel wording" is becoming suspect and the hard truth on the financial impact must be shared with the very taxpayers who are mandated to fund these standards.

The taxpayers and legislators require more documented evidence than DESE's statement that "CCSS won't cost Missouri any money" and regurgitated ed reform talking points.  Missouri has adopted standards/assessments that are unproven, untested and unfunded.  Legislative approval was never granted for this process and the Legislature was not informed of the additional cost needed for these mandates.  DESE needs to tell taxpayers and legislators how much they will cost the state (and local districts) and how they will restore local control.

We're waiting, Commissioner Nicastro.


1 comment:

  1. I forecast a sprinkling of tax levies across the state with heavy localized showers of bonds in the next few local election cycles as districts try to find ways to finance changes and programs they were never allowed to review or approve. This week's economic report on GDP does not bode well for passage of these ballot measures.


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