- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Senate on Thursday rejected a proposed study intended to help settle the dispute between supporters and opponents of the Common Core standards now used for math and English in the state’s school districts.

Senators voted 18-16 for the bill, but it required a two-thirds majority, or 24 votes, to pass because it would have spent state money on the study. The measure failed because it was opposed by some who want the Common Core standards repealed now, others who want the benchmarks to stay in place and some who want to see what other measures will be introduced on the subject.

The measure’s main sponsor, Sen. Ernie Otten of Tea, said the-two year study could have determined whether the new standards used in nearly all states are better than the state-written rules they replaced. Otten said he has been unable to reconcile the two sides in the dispute, so he thought a panel of lawmakers, educators and parents should gather information and decide what to do with the standards.

After the vote, Otten said he doesn’t know what approach he will take now on Common Core.

“I guess I’m in reboot,” Otten said.

Supporters argue that the Common Core standards will improve education by setting more rigorous requirements. Opponents contend the new standards take away local control from school districts and could hurt student achievement by encouraging confusing curriculum in schools.

South Dakota school districts this year began implementing the Common Core standards, which were developed in an initiative started by the governors and chief education officers of 45 states. The standards establish what students should know in math and English at each grade level, but each school district chooses the textbooks, material and curriculum used to meet the benchmarks.

Some critics of the bill argued the study would have been biased because too many of the panel members would have been appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who supports the standards. Before the measure was rejected, senators changed it to give the governor and the Legislature equal say in appointing members.

Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, said the study is not needed because the state Board of Education adopted the standards and teachers have been trained to use them.

Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, opposed the bill, saying the study panel would not have included enough parents. The panel also would have had no power to order changes in Common Core, he said.

“It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of money,” Omdahl said of the proposed study.

The Senate passed two related bills. One would prevent expanding Common Core standards to other academic subjects until July 2016, while the second seeks to protect the privacy of student records.

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