- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Education officials told North Dakota lawmakers Monday that it would be a mistake to repeal new state English and math standards that outline what students should know and when.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, is sponsoring legislation to repeal Common Core education standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Kasper and other critics told the House Education Committee that the standards represent a federal takeover of education.

“The decision-making process for the education system in North Dakota no longer rests within our state,” Kasper said.

The several hours-long hearing was attended by more than 200 people in the state Capitol’s largest room. Armed Highway Patrol troopers attended the hearing, a rarity that happens only during contentious debates.

The committee took no action on the measure Monday.

Common Core standards have been adopted in most of the states and replace standards that varied state-to-state.

Backers contend the standards provide students with the critical thinking and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

North Dakota adopted the standards in 2011, and began to fully implement them during the current school year. Assessments based on the new standards will start for all students this spring.

Kasper’s bill would require lawmakers to appoint a committee to craft new standards, at a cost of about $750,000.

North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said more than 130 educators from the state were involved in helping develop the Common Core standards.

“This bill threatens to undo the very process that other states are replicating and remove the authority from a majority of teachers and put it in the hands of a committee whose majority is legislators, non-educators and possibly even outside consultants who are not even residents of North Dakota.”

Kasper invited a trio of out-of-state Common Core opponents to the hearing including, John Sauer, a lawyer from St. Louis, Missouri, who said the academic standards crafted by a consortium of states was unconstitutional and represent an illegal interstate compact not approved by Congress.

Sandra Stotsky, a retired University of Arkansas education professor, told the committee, “Common Core standards in math and English will retard your students in preparation for 21st century jobs.”

New Town School Superintendent Marc Bluestone said the 793 student in his district, located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, are benefiting from the new standards.

“Our district has invested heavily into the implementation of these standards and have experienced positive results,” Bluestone said. “To pause what we are doing and wait for new standards would not be beneficial to our students.”

West Fargo School Superintendent also urged the committee to reject the measure.

“To re-invent the wheel, and thereby potentially be out of alignment with other states would be foolhardy,” he said.

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