State: Replacing Common Core costly

Geymann
Geymann

Replacing the Common Core academic standards and assessments would cost the state up to $25 million over the next five years and local school districts millions more, according to an analysis by the state Department of Education dated Friday.

“In summary, our conclusion is that the financial implications of these pieces of legislation to both the state and local school systems are very significant,” Deputy Superintendent Beth Scioneaux wrote in a two-page memo.

“In every case, the cost implications reach well into the tens of millions of dollars,” Scioneaux said.

Common Core critics blasted the cost analysis.

“It sounds to me like the Department of Education has implemented Common Core math on their analysis,” said state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a top critic of the standards.

The review surfaced before what could be a volatile hearing Wednesday.

The House Education Committee is set to debate a variety of bills by Geymann and others that would revamp or repeal Common Core, which are new standards in reading, writing and math set to take full effect in Louisiana classrooms for the 2014-15 school year.

Backers contend the new academic goals, which have been adopted by 45 states, will improve student achievement and better prepare students for college and careers.

Opponents say the standards are an intrusion in local school issues that lack input from parents and others.

State Superintendent of Education John White, who heads the Education Department, is one of the state’s top supporters of Common Core.

The internal review, using three scenarios, says the proposed changes would cost the state:

$25.2 million over the next five years to craft totally new academic standards and assessments, including study, analysis, training and other costs.

$17.6 million during the same time to return the state to its previous standards and assessments, including updates and field testing.

$22 million to continue exams that were initially supposed to be a one-time transition during this school year.

Creating new standards and assessments, which some lawmakers are pushing for, carries the biggest price tag, the review said.

The state would have to retrain 60,000 teachers, develop or locate curriculum and instructional materials aligned with the new academic goals and craft new tests, according to the agency’s internal review.

The department has spent about $4 million over the past three years in training and support for educators to prepare for Common Core, Scioneaux wrote.

Local officials will also feel the pinch.

“One large school district we surveyed spent $6.5 million in the past 2-3 years on teacher training and instructional materials while a smaller district we surveyed reported spending $3 million over the same time period,” the memo says.

“Because local school systems have typically incurred costs for training and instructional materials on a seven-year cycle, they are not financially prepared to incur those costs again so soon,” Scioneaux wrote.

White was traveling on Friday and unavailable for comment, said Barry Landry, a spokesman for the Education Department.

Landry said the memo is intended for the leadership of the department and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the state from using the national Common Core testing consortium called PARCC, said other states have done away with the standards without incurring huge expenses.

“This is a clear sign that the Department of Education has dug in on Common Core and refuses to accept the fact that parents and legislators have some concerns and expect those concerns to be addressed during the legislative session,” Henry said.

But Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, who backs the new academic goals, said the department’s cost analysis points up the expenses of states pursuing the issue alone.

“We were working with a large group of states,” Appel said of Louisiana’s membership in the national effort. “Costs were mitigated.”

Geymann said his staff has tried for weeks, without success, to get state Department of Education officials to put a price tag on his proposal to set up a commission to draft new standards.

It is House Bill 381 and on the list for debate in the House committee on Wednesday.

Scioneaux said in her memo that neither this year’s proposed state operating budget nor the agency’s five-year financial plan includes dollars to pay for new or updated standards and assessments.

She wrote that costs for school districts, charter schools and private schools will vary depending on their previous investments since the transition began in 2010.