This post is the second in a 10-part series called “Dispatches from a Nervous Common Core Observer,” written by Michael McShane, a research fellow in education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank in Washington D.C. This appeared on the AEI website, where you can find more information about the series as well as the first part. He is on Twitter @mq_mcshane).
(Correction: Fixing first name of Michigan governor and McMillin’s legislative designation)
By Michael McShane
Michigan state representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) doesn’t like the Common Core.
It is, according to him, “An obvious overreach by the federal government into our classrooms.” He believes that “The federal government should not dictate what is taught in every classroom in the nation, especially in Michigan.”
Agree with him or not, he has a perspective that is shared by numerous legislators in states all across the country, from Kansas to Louisiana to Indiana to Georgia to Pennsylvania which is causing headaches for Common Core advocates.
To try and stop the Common Core, McMillin introduced, along with several other lawmakers, HB 4276, which specifically states, “The state board model core academic curriculum content standards shall not be based upon the Common Core Standards.”
Now, trying to pass a bill to openly thwart the Common Core — which, it should be stated, Republican Governor Rick Snyder supports — is probably a bridge too far. To date, it appears that the bill, like several others throughout the nation, has stalled in committee.
So what is a Senator like McMillin to do? Well, all he needs to do to stop the Common Core is make sure that it doesn’t get funded.
That is exactly what he did.
It appears that McMillan and other House Republicans were able to use the 11th hour conference committee that gets the state budget passed to slip in a provision that prohibited the Michigan Department of Education from funding Common Core implementation. Before folks knew what hit them, the budget was approved, and the die was cast.
In doing so, he knowingly or not created a playbook for Common Core opponents in state houses nationwide. Trying to openly oppose the Common Core by amending state code is extremely difficult. Cutting the legs out from under it in the budget does not appear to be.
What does this mean for the Common Core writ large? The coalition that passed the Common Core is fragile. It seems now that not a week goes by without calls to oppose from the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Heritage Foundation, the Eagle Forum, or the Heartland Institute. Again, like them or not, agree with them or not, this concerted effort is going to rally Tea Party Republicans in state houses, and while they might not have the clout to change the education code, they might have just enough to excise the Common Core from the budget.
Those on the left who don’t want the standards tied to accountability systems too quickly will be able to take a shot as well if implementation doesn’t go their way. Don’t like the assessments? Don’t fund them. Don’t like the data systems necessary to calculate value-added? Don’t fund them. With multiple claims on budgets, from unfunded pension liabilities to increased Medicaid responsibility, there are more than enough reasons to justify clawing back funds. It’s a small-ball strategy that just might work.
There is still some wrangling to do in Michigan before the legislative session ends on June 13th, but generally speaking this puts a noxious odor in the Common Core’s “air of inevitably” that Ashley Jochim so eloquently described in her paper “A reform at risk? The political realities of the Common Core.” To be fair, she saw a lot of this coming long before I did, and if you want to know more, you should totally check it out.