News: CJ Exclusives

Common Core Commission Has No Money

General Assembly failed to allocate funds to group studying standards

The commission that’s charged with investigating a replacement for Common Core in North Carolina has a money problem.

It doesn’t have any.

When a bill passed the General Assembly setting up the Academic Standards Review Commission, lawmakers left a funding source out of the legislation.

“Somehow, it didn’t get in there,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, sponsor of the bill.

An earlier version of the bill appropriated $250,000 from the General Fund to pay for the committee’s expenses. Another version hinted that money for the commission might be appropriated in the main budget bill adopted by the General Assembly this summer.

While the bill passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory allows the commission to contract with consultants or professional services “to the extent that funds are available,” nowhere does the statute appropriate money for those services.

The lack of a checkbook didn’t go unnoticed as commissioners came to the state capital Monday for a monthly meeting.

Commission member Tammy Covil of New Hanover County said the lack of a budget made her question the commitment that the state might have about the commission’s work.

“We as a commission cannot execute our charge without a budget, without funding so that we can bring in content experts and child development experts,” Covil said during a break in Monday’s meeting. “It’s wonderful that [the Department of Public Instruction] comes in and helps us sort of understand some of these things, but we need some outside expertise in order to make some sound recommendations for changes with the standards.”

A team from DPI spent most of Monday afternoon explaining to the commission the current math Common Core standards. In October, DPI officials explained English and language arts Common Core standards to the commission.

Jeannie Metcalf of Forsyth County, who co-chairs the commission, said the schedule for completing the commission’s work could be a problem.

“I’m concerned that if we don’t have enough money to do the things we need to do, then we’re not going to be able to follow the timeline,” Metcalf said.

The legislation calls for the commission to expire by the end of 2015, or at the filing of its final report, whichever comes first. Commission members want to call experts and consultants, as well as look at what other states have done with their public school academic standards, before drafting recommendations.

“We can’t come to conclusions by the time we’re supposed to if we’ve not been able to do the due diligence that we need to do,” Metcalf said.

If the commission does not replace separate components of the Common Core State Standards with rules specific to North Carolina, then the original Common Core standards will take effect in the state.

Andre Peek of Wake County, another commission co-chair, said, “We are really frustrated at this point that this is still a topic of discussion.”

Peek said he had discussed the issue with legislators. “They assured me that they are frustrated,” he said, adding that he received a commitment from lawmakers that they will resolve the issue.

“I’ll take that as a vote of confidence that we will get this problem solved,” Peek said.

Tillman said he’ll work to get the commission the money it needs.

“We’re going to find a source, if possible, right away,” Tillman said. “We’ll work out a solution. We don’t want this thing to fall flat on its face.”

Tillman said the “worst-case scenario” would be for the 2015 General Assembly to appropriate the money in January when lawmakers return to Raleigh.

Common Core State Standards are curriculum requirements in English language arts and mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School officers, and Achieve Inc. developed them. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded much of the project.

Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core standards. Three states — Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma — rescinded their approval for the standards after adopting them.

In North Carolina, the State Board of Education endorsed the standards in June 2010.

The legislation adopted by the General Assembly this summer calls on the commission to conduct a comprehensive review of all the standards and propose modifications to the State Board of Education.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.