South Dakota Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh-In on K-12 Education

(From Left) Democrat Billie Sutton and Republicans Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley

The Rapid City Journal asked the three leading candidates in South Dakota’s gubernatorial race about education. The candidates are State Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-Burke), Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley who is a Republican.  I wanted to highlight a couple of the topics that are of interest here: Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Universal Pre-School. After that, I take a look at what the candidates tout on their websites about K-12 education.

Career and Technical Education

All three candidates were supportive of CTE. Jackley focused on post-high school, but Noem and Jackley addressed what happens before college:

Both Noem and Sutton responded by emphasizing what happens prior to college.

“I think we try to connect students who have an affinity for technical trades at a younger age to apprenticeships and training,” Noem said.

Sutton pointed to a bill he introduced last session to create a grant funding schools that share technical education resources, such as a mobile lab for engineering or manufacturing classes for high school students in Gregory County.

“Sioux Falls has a CTE high school, and that’s great,” Sutton said, “but our rural communities don’t have the resources to do it on their own.”

Universal Pre-School

South Dakota currently does not fund pre-school, and we’ve noted that education reformers pushed early childhood education.

Said Sutton, “There’s just a lot of kids in South Dakota who don’t have access to Early Childhood Education,” repeating a common pledge to provide a pathway for publicly funded preschool.

“Last session I introduced a bill just to study the impact of pre-K because so often we hear fellow legislators dismissing all these studies that suggest it’s a great return-on-investment,” he said. “But even that was killed in committee.”

Noem agreed of the importance of educating children prior to kindergarten. Yet, the state’s budget doesn’t have a “lot of extra money” rolling around.

“We need to go in with our eyes wide open,” she said.

She also suggested a bigger philosophical question at play.

“We should not have the government doing the job that parents and families should be doing.”

In an education initiative released Friday morning, Jackley called for expanding ECE to “under-resourced communities.” On the phone, he also framed the question in personal terms, saying he and his wife chose to have their children benefit from preschool.

“There’s no disputing that early childhood education is critical to brain and social development.”

But he also noted that as a low-tax conservative, he would work with the legislature to prioritize education funding while “remaining fiscally responsible.”

Noem’s comment that it is the parents’, not the government’s job to provide early childhood education is spot on.

What they promote:

I was curious what the candidates promoted on their campaign websites.

Billie Sutton:

Sutton’s website addressed CTE in K-12 education:

One of the most important elements of economic and workforce development is education. It is through carefully designed educational experiences that students find their fit in the workforce. Our high schools offer great opportunities to present career and technical exploration earlier, and the need is especially strong in rural South Dakota. In Billie’s hometown of Burke, the school district partnered with three others to buy four mobile units with a grant from the Future Fund, each offering a career & technical class like manufacturing, engineering, biomedical engineering, and welding. This is the kind of innovation we can bring to all our schools, urban and rural, so all our students get exposure and experience to job opportunities before making post-secondary decisions.

Billie’s plan for a stronger economy includes developing CTE grant programs to encourage schools to be collaborative and innovative in creating these opportunities for students and in connecting them with the post-secondary options that put them on the path to jobs. We must give schools the resources to build partnerships with tech schools and industries to give opportunities to students of all interests. Billie will work with educators to develop tech experiences for our students and explore more ways students can earn high school and college dual credit while gaining work experience in the community.

I should note that Legislative Democrats in South Dakota have been opposed to repealing Common Core. I don’t have Sutton’s voting record in front of me, but I doubt he stands for local control in education in any meaningful way.

Kristi Noem:

Noem had more to say on her website about K-12 education:

South Dakota students consistently produce good test scores, graduate on time, and meet college readiness benchmarks. But many schools struggle to make ends meet, jeopardizing the long-term success of South Dakota’s K-12 education system. As governor, I will be committed to balancing the needs of families, teachers and administrators, and taxpayers as we prepare students for college, the workforce, and citizenship.

Empower families. When it comes to raising kids, family is better than government. As a conservative, I will protect the rights of parents to choose the educational path that’s best for their child, whether it’s homeschooling, public schooling, or a private education. Regardless of a family’s decision, I will work to ensure all students have equal opportunity within the education system.

Do more with every taxpayer dollar. Public education policy is too often evaluated by expenditures, rather than student success. That’s a mistake. We need to focus on creating a better system, not a more expensive one – a goal that can and should be accomplished without taking necessary resources out of classrooms. As governor, I would:

  • Work to centralize and standardize purchasing, giving local schools more options to cut costs by taking advantage of the state’s massive buying power;
  • Encourage schools to share resources and expand long-distance learning opportunities;
  • Assist local school districts in pursuing private funds to mitigate the cost of capital projects;
  • Continue leveraging the state’s AAA bond rating to help schools borrow at a lower cost;
  • Reform the Department of Education, adopting a model that promotes much closer collaboration with locally elected school boards; and
  • Improve transparency in school district budgeting, as proposed in my Sunshine Initiative.

Create a culture of performance. From teachers and administrators to school board members, South Dakota is fortunate to have many talented people dedicated to student success. I want to elevate high-performers while expanding continued learning opportunities for those running our classrooms and school districts. As governor, I will pursue public-private partnerships to financially reward rockstar teachers. For instance, I’d like to collaborate with local businesses to sponsor a robust “Teacher of the Month” program. Additionally, my administration will explore opportunities to improve overall performance through evidence-based school board training and teacher mentorship programs.

Reject Common Core and federal overreach. In the U.S. House, I helped get legislation signed into law limiting the federal government’s role in our education system. As governor, I will take advantage of those flexibilities, continuing to reject Common Core and seeking appropriate waivers and grants to customize South Dakota’s education system.

Promote civic education. Our republic only works if citizens are active and informed. The next generation of South Dakotans must understand the foundations of our nation, the tremendous sacrifices made to protect our constitutional rights, and the freedoms, liberties, and responsibilities we have as citizens. In collaboration with school districts, I will work to expand civics and U.S. history programs and encourage schools to include the citizenship test as part of their graduation criteria.

Encourage kids to explore in-demand jobs early. South Dakota already faces severe labor shortages, and even greater demands for a skilled workforce are on the horizon. As governor, I would work to:

  • Provide career counseling and information regarding in-demand jobs beginning at the middle-school level;
  • Inspire students by expanding experience-driven learning opportunities before college;
  • Coordinate resources to identify and help at-risk children plan for their futures; and
  • Dramatically increase shared-learning opportunities among high schools, technical schools, universities, and employers to better manage the transition from home to post-secondary education to the South Dakota workforce.

Noem’s support of public-private partnerships, workforce development, and CTE are dog-whistles for education reformers. Also, her support of the Every Student Succeeds Act and falsely claiming it provides flexibility for states is unfortunate.

Marty Jackley:

Here’s what Jackley had to say about education on his website.

  • Work side-by-side with educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and students. My primary opponent has announced opposition to collaborative task forces such as the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Teachers and Students that was convened in 2015. A Jackley administration, however, will welcome these stakeholders to the table. These voices deserve to be heard, and volunteer task forces do not grow government—they bring expertise to government and make it more efficient.
  • Equip South Dakota educators and institutions with adequate funding to ensure competitive salaries and safe, secure learning environments so every learner has a highly trained, well-prepared, skilled adult guiding them along the educational journey to reach their maximum potential. We will support educational institutions with flexibility to customize systems and processes to best serve a broad spectrum of education needs necessary for entering a modern, vibrant workforce. As your attorney general, I have already brought $28 million in education funding to the state through the tobacco settlement—without raising taxes—and I am committed to expanding education funding opportunities without raising taxes.
  • Expand South Dakota’s K-12 system to include adequate early childhood educational opportunities for the most under-resourced communities by working with both public and private entities to support our youngest, most vulnerable learners. Putting learners on a path for success early in their journey reaps rewards for the individual as well as economic stability and sustainability for communities.
  • Provide equitable educational experiences for Native American students. This is paramount to sustaining a vital aspect of our state culture and heritage. As a board member of Jobs for America’s Graduates I am dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment. As Governor, I’ll work with our public and federal education systems to break the gridlock on best serving students in under-resourced communities. I will also reach out to leaders of the nine tribes to listen and learn about how we can work together to best serve all children.
  • Engage our entire pre-kindergarten to graduate-level education community to create a pipeline of opportunity that propels our citizens toward increased economic opportunities. Students must be exposed early to employment options that both leverage their unique talents and capitalize on their personal interests. They must be counseled during their K-12 experience to efficiently access the advanced training and educational opportunities that make best use of state and personal financial resources. For students to appropriately access employment opportunities that boost our workforce and economy, we must continuously improve the educational experience by pairing the most effective instructional methods with modern technologies to support a more personalized, competency-based learning experience that powerfully engages learners and sets them on a path for success both personally and professionally.
  • Empower our institutions with partnerships that capitalize on our strong South Dakota work ethic and can-do nature. By working together, we can empower people, streamline resources, and ensure relevant and meaningful learning opportunities successfully launch our learners to appropriate secondary learning institutions in our technical institutes and university systems.
  • Create incentives that encourage in-state placement. Our Opportunity Scholarship and Build Dakota programs are strong. We should continue to provide financial aid to South Dakota students who are committed to remaining in the state after receiving their postsecondary education.
  • Reduce barriers to teacher innovation. I will work with the South Dakota Department of Education to reduce the negative impact of ineffective mandated programs that don’t work well for rural states (ex. school improvement regs, Smarter Balanced testing) and to creatively, but appropriately, leverage federal dollars for programming that benefit our educational community.
  • Defend the rights of parents to educate their children on an even playing field. I support higher education opportunities for homeschool graduates, including SB 94 which would have expanded Opportunity Scholarship eligibility for homeschool students. In addition, students who need access to additional educational tools, such as the South Dakota Virtual School or classes offered by the e-learning center at Northern State University, should not be turned away because they are homeschooled.
  • Partner with local law enforcement to keep our schools safe. As your attorney general, I have seen firsthand the meaningful relationships our resource officers have formed with teachers and students. I will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure our schools are adequately protected and our students have methods to report potential threats to their safety. These kinds of decisions will be made together with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

So Jackley promotes a preK-12 “pipeline”… just wonderful… His comment about reducing regulations on school districts is encouraging however.

Conclusion:

Sutton, suprisingly for a Democrat, has the least to say about education. All of the candidates have bought into the workforce development model of education. Noem and Jackley at least appear to support parental rights. Noem says she’s anti-Common Core, but support of ESSA tarishes her record. Jackley seems to understand that state mandates on local school districts is problematic.

I’m writing this to inform our readers, especially those in South Dakota, about where the candidates stand, not to make an endorsement. Each candidate holds a position or has a record regarding K-12 education that is problematic for me (however like most of you I’m not a single issue voter). I would encourage our South Dakota readers to meet the candidates and ask questions as you get an opportunity. I would be curious to hear what Jackley has to say about Common Core, how Noem plans to address Common Core, and why Sutton supports Common Core. All candidates still need to weigh in on parental opt-outs and student data privacy.

If you live in South Dakota and receive additional information, please feel free to send it to me at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.

South Dakota’s New Standards Are a Rebrand

When I wrote last week about the media reaction to a lack of public comment about the “new” South Dakota Academic Standards I said, “I have not reviewed the proposed math and ELA standards in comparison to the Common Core yet. Because of reviews and revisions that other states have completed, I’m not hopeful for significant change. I would like to be wrong though.”

I am not wrong and I am not surprised.

South Dakota Secretary of Education Don Kirkegaard said, “Common Core standards in South Dakota are officially gone.”

At best Kirkegaard’s statement is misleading. Megan Raposa with the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reports:

But remnants of the controversial standards remain. More than remnants, really.

About 60 percent of the K-12 English language arts and math standards approved by the state Board of Education in Pierre last week were taken verbatim from Common Core, according to an Argus Leader analysis.

A line-by-line review showed that, in addition to the bullet points taken verbatim, those changed within a few words of the original Common Core language made up nearly 75 percent of the state’s updated standards.

“We don’t call it ‘Common Core,’ but the ghosts are there,” said Art Marmorstein, a Northern State University professor and advocate for local control in education.

The new standards, called simply “South Dakota State Standards,” will be fully implemented this fall.

The Associated Press reported the standards “mirror” Common Core:

Kirkegaard says it’s not unusual for standards to look similar after a revision.

Nicole Osmundson is a Sioux Falls parent who helped review the new standards. She says if the standards mirror what they were before, it’s because they’re good standards.

No, they were awful standards. They needed to be jettisoned and the standards writing team needed to start from scratch. Not only is this process and the rhetoric coming out of Kirkegaard’s mouth deceptive, but it’s also just lazy.

If they wanted to have some sort of baseline they should have started with their standards pre-Common Core and gone from there or used Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core ELA standards or California’s previous math standards.

Anything other than Common Core, not that the Every Students Succeeds Act makes that easy. It requires a state’s statewide assessment to be aligned to their standards. South Dakota uses Smarter Balanced as their statewide assessment. Abby Javurek, the Director of Assessment and Accountability with the South Dakota Department of Education, is the chair of their board.

There has not been any talk (that I’ve seen) about South Dakota changing its assessment and without changing their assessment they would be in violation of federal law. The rebrand was baked in.

The whole review and rewrite process was nothing but a farce.

South Dakota Adopts New Standards, Media Reports Zero Interest From General Public

The South Dakota Board of Education Standards adopted on Monday new standards in the following subjects:

  • Capstone courses
  • Career and technical education (business management & administration; government &
  • public administration; hospitality & tourism; marketing; transportation, distribution &
  • logistics)
  • English language arts
  • Health education
  • Math
  • Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards

You can review the current standards, proposed standards, workgroup information, and submit a comment here. (I have not reviewed the proposed math and ELA standards in comparison to the Common Core yet. Because of reviews and revisions that other states have completed I’m not hopeful for significant change. I would like to be wrong though.)

The South Dakota Joint Legislative Rules Review committee has to approve the changes.

South Dakota state law requires that the South Dakota Board of Education Standards review academic content standards on a cyclical basis. In addition, the board is required to host four public hearings as part of the standards review process. The adoption of the standards came after the conclusion of the fourth public hearing.

An overall lack of public comment during these “public hearings” which is just an open comment time during the board’s regular meetings caused the Watertown Public Opinion to conclude: “School-content standards draws zero interest from general public.”

Was it zero interest or was it that most people who care lack the ability to come to a state school board meeting that is held at 9:00a when most people work?

The board does hold their meetings at various locations. This week’s meeting was held in Pierre, the state capitol, and the last three were held in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City.

They are still held during the work day, it’s almost like they want to discourage public input. If the board was serious about public input they would hold their public hearings at 7:00p rather than 9:00a. I’m self-employed, but even I have difficulty attending meetings at that time so I can imagine the difficulty for people who punch a clock or who are expected to keep regular office hours.

Also, considering the public outcry over the last few years following the adoption of Common Core both nationally and in South Dakota how can anyone conclude there is not public interest?

Unfortunately, many people may have also concluded that petitioning the South Dakota Board of Education Standards (or any state board of education) is largely a waste of time. I think that is sad, but that skepticism says more about the established educracy than it does the general public.

That said, it’s important for concerned citizens to stay engaged if, for nothing else, to prevent the narrative that we don’t care.

South Dakota In Middle of Tweaking Education Standards

The Daily Republic in Mitchell, SD, reports that the South Dakota Board of Education is in the middle of the hearing process for proposed education standards.

On Monday, they held their second of four required public hearings.

State government’s Board of Education Standards must hold two more hearings next year before members decide whether to further change what South Dakota teachers are presenting to students, its departing leader said Monday.

Board president Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis, made the remarks after the board conducted the second public hearing in Sioux Falls. Board members are considering proposed revisions to state standards for 10 sets of subjects, including math, English and the history and culture of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribal peoples.

The Legislature passed a state law in 2012 requiring the board to hold at least one public hearing in each of Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The board first considered the changes at a Sept. 18 meeting in Aberdeen at Northern State University.

State government’s Department of Education plans to present the proposals for public comments at board meetings Jan. 26 in Rapid City and March 19 in Pierre. Kirkegaard said Monday board members could decide immediately after the Pierre hearing whether to accept changes yet that day or wait until May 8 in Vermillion.

“We’d be done with our four hearings,” he said.

Kirkegaard is in his final weeks as superintendent for the Meade School District. He starts Jan. 1 as state education secretary, replacing Melody Schopp. Kirkegaard served eleven years on the state board, including the last six as president.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Oct. 13 that Schopp would retire Dec. 15 after seven years in the department’s top post.

You can find the current and proposed standards here, as well as, links for public comments.

The next two public hearings are on January 26 in Rapid City and in March 19 in Pierre. Times and locations. Frankly, I’m not optimistic any comment or testimony at a public hearing will make much of a difference as the incoming Secretary of Education indicated they could decide right after the last hearing. So it seems like they are just checking off the minimum boxes required by state law to pass the standards they want.

I have not yet looked at the proposed ELA and math standards so I don’t know how different they are from Common Core. If other states can be used as an indicator I’m not optimistic it won’t be just another rebrand.

South Dakota’s Public Colleges Promise Admission for Good Smarter Balanced Scores

South Dakota’s public university system has promised that students earning a level 3 or 4 on their Smarter Balanced Assessment will be guaranteed a general acceptance to one of the state’s six public universities or four technical schools.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports:

High school seniors in South Dakota may receive an acceptance letter for college before they ever apply.

In an effort to boost enrollment, South Dakota public universities will be sending out what they call “proactive admissions” letters to qualifying students later this month.

These letters will go to students who score well in English and math on either the state standardized tests or on the ACT. Students who receive letters will be guaranteed acceptance into the state’s six public universities and four tech schools.

“This now is the first criteria that our institutions will use to determine a student’s admission,” said Paul Turman, vice president for academic affairs for the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Students who earn an 18 on their ACT will also receive a general acceptance letter.

This news provides more motivation for teachers to prep the state’s high school juniors for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Oh goody.

South Dakota Judge Rules Against Parents in Common Core Lawsuit

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The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reported on Tuesday that a circuit court judge found that the state of South Dakota did not violate any state or federal laws when adopting the Common Core State Standards and joining the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

They write:

Two South Dakota parents filed a suit against Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state in November arguing that South Dakota’s involvement in an multi-state assessment group aligned with Common Core standards was illegal.

Last week, Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett ruled that the state had not violated any federal or state laws.

“The governor was happy to see the judge agree with the state’s position,” Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s chief of staff, said in an email Monday.

Parents Amber Mauricio and Shelli Grinager—the plaintiffs in this case—had alleged that the state’s involvement in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) violated a constitutional clause because it lacked congressional approval. The lawsuit was supported by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based group with strong resistance to Common Core standards.

Court documents summarizing the ruling show that participation in SBAC did not require congressional approval.

The state is free to regulate its education policies, including the decision to freely adopt Common Core standards, according to the court documents. Barnett rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the state was coerced into accepting Common Core standards.

Mauricio and Grinager also argued that the nature of Smarter Balanced testing was illegal. Smarter Balanced assessments are “computer-adaptive,” meaning questions either get easier or harder depending on a students’ answers.

The two plaintiffs referenced a South Dakota law that requires public schools to administer the “same assessment to all students.” They said if each student answers different questions, they’re not receiving the same assessment.

Court documents reject that argument, saying that if the legislature intended every student in each grade to answer the same questions, the law would have been more specific. As written, law only requires students take the same “assessment,” not the same “questions.”

So much for checks and balances. What I find interesting is that a court in Missouri found the opposite and state lawmakers then defunded it.

In this case in South Dakota when the state wins parents lose. I do hope this ruling is appealed.

South Dakota to Review Common Core

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Last week The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reports that the South Dakota Board of Education plans to review the Common Core State Standards.

They write:

The South Dakota Board of Education plans to re-evaluate the controversial math and reading curriculum this summer following a massive federal overhaul of the No Child Left Behind law.

The new law gives local school leaders more flexibility to set curriculum and testing standards. “We can stand back and say this is what we want for our state,” said Melody Schopp, the state’s education chief.

The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December, but it won’t hit classrooms until the 2017-18 school year. South Dakota education officials will start the revision process this summer for the Common Core.

The state reviews curriculum standards on a seven-year cycle. Reading standards were due for review this summer, but math standards weren’t scheduled for review until the summer of 2017. State education board members agreed unanimously to speed up the process, moving up the timeline for math.

“We’re basically going to review the Common Core and review that process this summer,” Schopp said.

Four thoughts about this.

First, it seems to me that Secretary Schopp is blaming the adoption of the Common Core on the feds. That wasn’t the tune she was singing when she and I spoke at a forum together in Sioux Falls a few years ago.

Second, giving Secretary Schopp the benefit of the doubt perhaps the Sioux Falls Board of Education felt boxed in due to their Race to the Top application or ESEA flexibility waiver.

Third, “flexibility” is misleading. We warned that Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t change Common Core’s grip on a state, and a former Arne Duncan staffer said it locks states in.

Finally, I never get very excited about the concept of a review as they have yet to lead to a substantial change in a state’s standards.

Thomas More Law Center Sues South Dakota Over Common Core

Amber-Shelli-Thomas-More-Law-Center-Steps-Up-Attack-on-Common-Core-with-New-Lawsuit-in-South-Dakota-WebsiteContinuing its legal battle to stop the federal government from usurping control over the nation’s elementary and secondary public schools, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI filed a third lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state’s implementation of Common Core and its participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”).

This latest challenge to the Common Core Curriculum and SBAC was filed last week against South Dakota Governor, Dennis Daugaard, and other state officials on behalf of two South Dakota taxpayers, Shelli Grinager and Amber Mauricio.  Shelli Grinager is the mother of three school aged children and Amber Mauricio is the mother of five.

These Plaintiffs seek to stop South Dakota from paying yearly SBAC membership fees totaling over $600,000 by state taxpayers on the grounds that SBAC is an unconstitutional compact. Its creation was never approved by Congress, as required by the Compact Clause, which states that “[n]o state shall, without the consent of Congress . . . enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” The lawsuit claims other violations of federal and South Dakota laws dealing with public education.

Shelli  Grinager, a West River plaintiff, and Amber Mauricio, an East River plaintiff, have both seen their school aged children break down in tears due to the amount of pressure that teachers and schools were subjecting them to in the name of passing the SBAC tests.

Grinager, a former school board member, PTA president and advocate for students and families, has fought against Common Core since the beginning, speaking out against the roll out of the high pressure SBAC tests. Last year, Grinager was forced to start homeschooling her children, after two of her children were denied more challenging math because they had to stick to the rigid Common Core curriculum. She said, “The public school environment has become more about testing our children than teaching them.”

Amber Mauricio’s fight against Common Core began when she attempted to “opt out” her children from the SBAC testing. The school ignored her opt out request and tested her children anyway.  Mauricio was alarmed by the nature of some Common Core aligned questions asked of her children which sought to examine how they would behave in certain situations and what their home life is like.

As in the two earlier lawsuits, which challenged the constitutionality of SBAC and Common Core in North Dakota and West Virginia, the Thomas More Law Center partnered with D. John Sauer of the James Otis Law Group based in St. Louis, MO.   South Dakota attorney Robert J. Rohl of Johnson Eiesland Law Offices, PC located in Rapid City, SD is assisting as local co-counsel.

The lawsuit was filed in the Hughes County Circuit Court.

Click here to read the South Dakota Complaint

The North Dakota and West Virginia lawsuits follow the success of an earlier lawsuit filed by Mr. Sauer that stopped Missouri’s implementation of Common Core. That case is currently on appeal.  The Thomas More Law Center filed a friend of the court brief in support of upholding the Missouri district court decision (Editor’s note: The Missouri case is no longer on appeal as the Common Core opponents received a positive ruling).

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on behalf of the Law Center, “Employing an insidious bureaucratic system, the Federal Government directs what and how American students learn, and effectively eliminates the fundamental rights of parents to control the education of their children.”

In school districts across the country, administrators subject children, who obey their parents’ wishes and decline to participate in Common Core standardized testing, to unbelievable punishments.  Students have been suspended, refused entrance into their classrooms, refused bathroom privileges, stripped of their academic and extracurricular honors and awards, removed from athletic participation, and punished with “sit-and-stare” policies. “Sit-and-stare” is a practice that forces students to sit at their assigned desk with no materials, books, or paper in silence for multiple hours during testing.

Forty-three states initially joined either SBAC or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”), a cornerstone for Common Core implementation under direction of the federal government. However, due to growing opposition from parents and teachers, several states have since canceled their membership and endured punishments for doing so.

As a part of its efforts to help parents combat Common Core, the Thomas More Law Center developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and a Common Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide.

South Dakota Senate Follows SD House: Abolish the U.S. Dept. of Education

South_Dakota_flag_5Following up… the South Dakota Senate voted yesterday 19-15 to pass HCR 1003 after the South Dakota House voted 48 to 20 on Tuesday to pass the measure that calls on Congress to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.

If you don’t like the job the Federal government is doing meddling in education this is certainly one way to do it.  Now if we can get them to vote to repeal Common Core!  Here is the text of the bill:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, Urging Congress and the President of the Unites States to abolish the United States Department of Education.

    WHEREAS, public education was designed by the citizens of the United States to be a state and local matter; and

    WHEREAS, the United States Department of Education has become a bloated, intrusive agency that performs many functions that could be eliminated or performed by other agencies within the federal government; and

    WHEREAS, many of the employees of the United States Department of Education are highly paid bureaucrats who directly educate no children in the United States; and

    WHEREAS, President Ronald Reagan, during his presidency, called for the dismantling of the department; and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, during his recent successful campaign, called for the abolition of the department; and

    WHEREAS, the current federal deficit is over four hundred billion dollars, the current national debt of the federal government is over seventeen trillion dollars, and the need to

Balance the federal budget is vitally important to the long-term economic health of our nation:

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Ninetieth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature believes that education is a state and local matter that should be free of federal interference, and therefore, urges Congress and the President of the United States to abolish the United States Department of Education.

South Dakota Parents Push Back Against Common Core Math

I read an interesting article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader yesterday.  It was focused on how parents in the Sioux Falls, SD school district were fighting back against the Common Core Math Standards through pulling their kids out to homeschool.

That is probably the best thing that can be said about Common Core – it encourages homeschooling.  I’m biased since my wife and I homeschool though.

The first thing that jumped out at me in the article is how a dad with a math degree saw problems with his daughter.

Rick Nath was tired of the emotional turmoil math homework was causing his daughter.

She was struggling with a new approach to old subjects, and Nath found there were fewer things he understood and fewer ways for him to help. It was a difficult realization for the 44-year-old Sioux Falls resident, who has a degree in math from South Dakota State University.

“By the time she got to sixth grade, that’s when it really got bad,” Nath said. “In sixth grade, it was tears.”

Surely he’s misinformed right?  Doesn’t he understand these are more “rigorous” standards?

They then note the new trend with South Dakota parents.

In the four years since South Dakota schools began using Common Core, another movement has emerged: more parents are home-schooling. In Sioux Falls, the number of home-schooled students has more than doubled, and numbers statewide also are growing.

Parents choose home schooling to push their child academically, to teach beliefs not found in public schools or to avoid potentials for drug and alcohol abuse, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.

But some parents who have opted to leave public schools cite the new standards, which are benchmarks adopted by a consortium of states and embraced by the federal government: New homework, new lesson plans, new course material. And after piloting new state tests last spring, South Dakota will administer a finalized version later this year to thousands of students.

Be sure to read the rest.

Parents may not understand what Common Core is, but they have noticed how it is being interpreted in the classroom through the asinine math that kids are bringing home.  So they vote with their feet since the South Dakota continues to push these untested standards in the classroom.  The sad thing in all of this is with all of the stress that the state of South Dakota is inflicting on their students they still will not be able to produce kids prepared for STEM programs in college.