Should public schools in Michigan be required to follow a common core curriculum?
That's the question behind legislation offered up by a Rochester Hills lawmaker this week. House Bill 4276, introduced by Republican Tom McMillin, would remove the state's participation in the Common Core Standards Initiative, a guideline of goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills should be taught in public schools across the country.
The bill introduced this week mimics a similar one introduced in the fall; that bill did not make it to the House floor.
Proponents for the Common Core have said the standards are needed to make goals consistent across the board and to eliminate inconsistencies from state to state, which could hinder students when they get to college.
McMillin describes the Common Core as a federal attempt to take decision-making abilities from state and local school officials.
"This is an obvious overreach by the federal government into our classrooms and we should join the other states that have opted out of the initiative. The federal government should not dictate what is taught in every classroom in the nation, especially in Michigan," said McMillin, who represents Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.
According to information published at CoreStandards.org, which outlines the Common Core, the federal government does not oversee the program - the states do.
But McMillin argues that the federal government has failed to come up with a plan or a funding mechanism for schools to implement many of the demands of Common Core. Lawmakers in other states - Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia - have already challenged the Common Core standards, according to a news release sent by McMillin's office.
Local school leaders respond
Tresa Zumsteg, the interim superintendent for Rochester Community Schools, said she has not seen this particular bill, but that the district is supportive of the Common Core.
"The Common Core, as I understand it, was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Officials to provide equality of opportunity for students across the country," Zumsteg said.
Some Michigan education activists have said the Common Core is a power grab by federal officials.
"If we do not stop the implementation of Common Core in Michigan and its related testing, when parents do not like what is taught to their child, they will have to go to Washington or some out- of- state consortium to get any changes," stated Deborah DeBacker of Troy, a mother of three and community activist. "At a time when our schools are short on funds, this Common Core implementation of new books, teacher training, and expensive upgrades to our schools electronic infrastructure will cost in the millions of dollars with no guarantee, seeing that none of it has been field tested."
Vickie Markavitch, Superintendent of Oakland Schools, said schools need the globally competitive content standards that the Common Core provides.
"Having these standards help with continuity of education for children who change school districts and allow us to use resources more efficiently and effectively across states," Markavitch said this week. "It is also incredibly important that local school districts are able to decide how the content is taught in their districts and how to blend the Common Core standards with locally selected curriculum."
McMillin's bill now goes to the House Education Committee for consideration.
McMillin will hold office hours from 4 to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25 at the Rochester Hills City Hall.