PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers took another step Wednesday to prevent further expansion of Common Core standards while a study is done to determine whether the state’s schools should continue using the academic benchmarks that establish what students should know in each grade level.
Earlier in the week, a legislative panel approved a measure that would set up a two-year study of the existing Common Core standards for math and English.
The Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday endorsed a companion measure that would prevent South Dakota education officials from adopting Common Core standards in other subjects until July 2016. The measure, approved 7-2, also would require the state Board of Education to conduct at least four public hearings over a six-month period before adopting any additional content standards.
The committee also voted unanimously to approve a bill protecting the privacy of student records, an issue raised by Common Core opponents who fear the federal government will get personal information about students through testing used for the new standards.
The full Senate will debate all three measures, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, on Thursday.
South Dakota this year began implementing the Common Core standards, which were developed in an initiative started by governors and chief education officers of 45 states. The standards establish what students should know at each grade level, and each school district decides what curriculum to use to teach those skills.
Supporters contend the new standards, used in nearly all states, will improve education by setting more rigorous requirements. Opponents argue the Common Core standards take away local control from school districts and could hurt student achievement by encouraging confusing curricula in schools.
Otten said the state should keep the existing Common Core standards for math and English, which are being used by South Dakota schools, while a study panel determines whether the new standards are better than the state-written standards they replaced. People are deeply divided on whether the new standards will improve student achievement, he said.
“The future is at stake ... the future of another generation,” Otten said. “I think it is incumbent on us, if you will, to pause, take a deep breath and work our way through this.”
Tony Venhuizen, an aide to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, did not testify on the measure. But in response to committee questions, Venhuizen said the bill would prevent adoption of Common Core standards in additional subjects for two years. State officials have no plans to adopt Common Core standards in additional subjects, he said.
Florence Thompson, a retired school psychologist from Caputa, said Common Core is not led by states, but is part of an effort to change the national educational system. The standards support socialism and de-emphasize liberty, she said.
“We will lose our children. We will lose our country, if we don’t jealously guard the education of our children for a life of liberty,” Thompson said.
Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, voted against the measure, saying the Legislature should let the state Board of Education continue to make decisions on standards.
The State Affairs Committee also approved a bill that would prevent the collection of some kinds of information from students and restrict how information on individual students can be shared.
Venhuizen said the governor supports the privacy bill, which state education officials helped write. He said some of the privacy protections are already in place, but the bill spells out what information about individual students the state can provide to federal agencies.
The bill also prevents collection of information from students about their political beliefs, religious practices, gun ownership and other subjects.