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Anti-Common Core efforts fail in Legislature

PIERRE -- The last battles in the Legislature over Common Core ended in victory Tuesday for supporters of the new academic standards for math and English language.

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The House of Representatives voted 45-24 against an anti-Common Core resolution brought by Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton.

House members also refused 42-27 to debate one of the pieces of legislation from the leader of the Common Core opposition, Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. Bolin wanted to let parents withhold their children from participating in achievement tests such as those related to Common Core.

Every piece of legislation that sought to derail or analyze Common Core standards has lost so far this year. There are two-plus weeks remaining in the 2014 session, but lawmakers can’t introduce any more bills without suspending the rules.

The state Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards for math and English in November 2010. Public schools throughout South Dakota are using them this year, and opponents began protesting at state board meetings last year.

Tuesday marked the deadline for all bills to pass or fail in their house of origin. Bolin managed to get one of his Common Core bills passed before the afternoon ended.

House members agreed the state board needs to slow down and provide more time for public comments in the future, when the board considers multi-state changes for academic standards in South Dakota.

Under Bolin’s bill, the state board would need to observe intervals of at least 60 days between public hearings in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Pierre. The state board  would need to provide public notice of each hearing at least 14 days in advance.

House members voted 59-9 in favor. HB 1075 moves to the Senate next.

No one spoke against it. Bolin said it would become unnecessary if the House adopts another measure that has already passed in the Senate.

Bolin referred to SB 64, one of several Common Core-related bills sponsored by Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea.

Otten’s measure would prohibit the state board from adopting any additional multi-state standards until July 1, 2016. It doesn’t contain Bolin’s 60-day interval requirement but it would set a stricter 30-day public notice requirement. Otten also would require that a quorum of state board members be at each of the four required public hearings.

The Senate adopted Otten’s bill 28-6 on Jan. 23 and the House Education Committee endorsed it 14-1 on Feb. 5. The House has deferred action on it since then.

Otten has a second Common Core-related bill pending in the House, too. SB 63 would place sharp restrictions on the use and sharing of individual students’ information. It is supported by the state Department of Education.

That bill won approval in the Senate 34-0 on Jan. 23. The House committee amended one piece of the bill and endorsed the amended version 12-0 on Feb. 7. It now awaits a decision by the full House.

If the House committee’s amendment stays on the bill, it will need to return to the Senate for a decision on whether to agree or further negotiate.