Tedd Gassman
State Representative Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville)

(Des Moines, IA) State Representative Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville) introduced two bills that address standards that the Iowa State Board of Education adopted back in 2010.  The Common Core State Standards are content standards in English Language Arts and Math that were developed by the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, INC.  States that adopt the standards agree to only add up to 15%, not subtract or rewrite the standards.  After Iowa adopted the standards the Common Core became the foundation for Iowa’s math and English language arts standards.

Gassman, a former math teacher, told Caffeinated Thoughts that his goal with these bills is to make common core standards voluntary in both our public and private schools.

“I believe that government closest to the people is the best government. We see our system of government repeated over and over again. The people elect a board who in turn elects a CEO that carries out the policies that the board approves. Our schools, cities, counties, even the states and Federal government work under this system. Private entity’s also work under this same system such as elevators,” Gassman said.

“I believe that the State and Federal government are usurping the authority of our local governments. Those people and parents that live in that district know what is best for their children. A home school mom stated to me ‘Who has more interest in my child’s education than her father and I.’ My concern is that the common core standards will lead our children done some paths that their parents do not approve of. They would be able to go to a local board and express their dislike of a given policy under our system before common core. Will it do any good under the common core system?” Gassman added.

Advocates say these standards will help prepare Iowa students to be college-and-career-ready, especially in STEM fields.  They claim that the standards are rigorous and will help development critical thinking skills.

However there has been a growing backlash against the Common Core State Standards among parents and grassroots activists who disagree with those claims.  These bills are a result of that movement.

The first bill Gassman filed is HF 2140.  It would make the Iowa Core (along with the Common Core) voluntary and strikes language in the Iowa Code giving the State Board of Education the authority to change the standards.

The Iowa Core was passed by the State Legislature in 2005 and then made mandatory for public schools and accredited nonpublic schools.  It includes math, English language arts, social studies, science and 21st century skills standards.

Opponents of the Common Core, like Gassman, are concerned about the federal involvement in pushing the standards onto states through the Race to the Top competition.  They also are concerned by the lack of evidence that the Common Core State Standards will raise student achievement and help prepare students for college.  Governor Terry Branstad has pushed his STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative across the state, but critics of the Common Core believe that those standards will fail students to prepare students for STEM programs in college that they will need in order to pursue those careers.

“The more I read and study common core the more it seems that the common core standards are not as rigorous as what we did under the local control system. The education concept inside common core is different in that it will emphasize less memorization and more concept understanding. Could that simply mean less concepts that are learned. They keep talking about critical thinking but I still have not heard a good definition of those words,” Gassman said.

This bill is cosponsored by State Representatives Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia), Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig), Dave Maxwell (R-Gibson), Sandy Salmon (R-Denver), Dwayne Alons (R-Hull), Larry Sheets (R-Moulton), Tom Shaw (R-Moulton), Dean Fisher (R-Garwin), John Landon (R-Ankeny), Ralph Watts (R-Adel), Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) and Stan Gustafson (R-Cumming).

Gustafson said he’s in favor of this bill because he supports local control in education and believe local school districts should be able to choose whether to participate or not.  “If they choose not to participate in Common Core, the State Department of Education will still be setting the content and will adopt sets of academic and assessment standards.  The local school district will then voluntarily accept these standards,” Gustafson told Caffeinated Thoughts.

It was assigned to a subcommittee that includes State Representatives Salmon, Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia) and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).

Critics of the Common Core State Standards are also concerned about the assessments that are part of the reforms being pushed in 44 other states.  Iowa is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  The second bill that Gassman filed is HF 2141 addresses this.  It directs the Iowa Department of Education to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

If this passes Iowa would join a growing number of states who are abandoning their consortia due to cost among other concerns.  Currently the state of Iowa pays $3.50 per student per assessment for the Iowa Assessments.  The Iowa Department of Education has stated that the cost to taxpayers would be $27.30 per student per assessment for Smarter Balanced.  Smarter Balanced has said that stated amount does not include the cost for scoring.  Opponents also point out that it doesn’t factor in the cost to local school districts to make certain they meet the technology requirements for the assessment that students would take on computers or tablets.  Opponents are also concerned that student-level data would be shared without the permission of parents and students.  Smarter Balanced has a signed agreement with the U.S. Department of Education that states they would make student-level data available for research.  Currently under No Child Left Behind only school and state aggregate data is required to be shared with the Department.

This bill is cosponsored by State Representatives Salmon, Alons, Sheets, Heartsill,  Maxwell, Shaw, Landon, Watts, Schultz and Rogers.

It has been assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Representatives Salmon, John Brynes (R-Osage) and Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport).

One or two additional bills addressing the Common Core are expected to be filed.

Update: State Representative Salmon emailed me this statement this afternoon.  She will be shepherding these bills through their subcommittees.

The biggest problem with the Common Core system is the control of the federal and state government over our children’s education: control coming from the top down! The Common Core system strikes a lethal blow to local control of schools, be they public, private or home schools. And local control of schools has always been important to us as Iowans. It takes control away from the parents, teachers, administrators, and the local school board. Local control of schools has its roots in our nation’s foundation of liberty which includes the right to direct our children’s education. It goes back to the people’s and the states’ rights under the 10th Amendment of our Constitution which says that any power not specifically given by the Constitution to the federal government belongs to the states or to the people. And the right to direct our children’s education is one of those rights that is not given to the federal government by our Constitution but belongs to the states or to the people. Therefore, this Common Core system of control over education is in violation of the Constitution and of the spirit of liberty.

In addition, it is being set up in spite of the fact that our federal laws explicitly state that the federal government may not establish a set of national educational standards or national curriculum or a national test. The Obama administration, in the manner in which it is setting up the Common Core system, mostly keeps the letter of the law while violating its spirit so that the effect of their actions is to do exactly what federal law explicitly prohibits.

Besides that, in the case of educating our children, the most effective means to do that is by decentralizing the control and keeping it local as much as possible. The parents, teachers, and schools know best what standards ought to be required for their children, not some unelected, unaccountable staff member of an unknown special interest organization with strong ties to the federal government hundreds of miles away in Washington, D.C.

I have not touched on the problems with security of student information, cost, and quality of the Common Core which are also serious concerns and should not be overlooked but I know you have informed your readers about these issues. I have just sought to explain the main reason why I got involved in this Common Core issue.

Also there will be a public forum held on Tuesday evening hosted by Concerned Women for America of Iowa.  They are bringing in Jane Robbins of American Principles Project, Henry Burke, and Bruno Behrend of the Heartland Institute.  It will be held at the Airport Holiday Inn & Conference Center in Des Moines.  It will start at 6:30p.

3 comments
  1. I don’t see a problem with standardization. As a country, we aren’t even in the top twenty for math and science.

    If you want your kid to learn creationism or any other religious view, send them to private school or homeschool them or just set them down and explain your beliefs above and beyond what they learn in public schools. Even though it is a disservice to your kids, I do think parents should have that choice.

  2. common core is an indoctrination of our children to liberal bias, it is a takeover by the federal government of our states’ rights, it dumbs down our children academically…i am homeschooling because of common core and i actively support our legislature denouncing it

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