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South Carolina Governor Silent Common Core Education Standards in State of State

Nikki Haley has railed against the new education standards as she runs for reelection in a state known for its disdain of anything that reeks of federal intrusion. But Common Core was absent from her 90-minute address that was heavy on education.

During a nearly 90 minute State of State address that dealt extensively with education, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was silent on a new curriculum known as the Common Core State Standards, which she told local media days before the speech she’d like to eliminate completely.

The Republican governor, who is running for reelection this year, proposed several serious new education proposals, including a reshuffling of the state funding formula to direct 20 percent more money to high poverty school districts and placing a reading coach in every elementary school. Just days before that speech she told a women’s group in Greenville that South Carolina children should be taught according to local benchmarks. 

“We are telling the legislature: Roll back Common Core,” she said, according to a local report. “Let’s take it back to South Carolina standards.”

She added that she will “absolutely” sign a bill making its way through the state Senate that would forbid implementation of the standards, which were adopted in 2010, before Haley’s election. 

The Common Core is a series of learning benchmarks in math and English that were designed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to be more intellectually demanding. Their adoption was voluntary, but earning federal Race to the Top grant money was contingent upon the states adopting tougher standards. Conservatives, the support of whom Haley will need to win reelection, fear the standards amount to a national curriculum that steps on local control. Critics on the left are equally disenchanted, but for varying reasons

The standards, along with new testing regimes, take effect the following school year. States are faced with updating their own standards to align with the new ones and build curricula around the new benchmarks. Most have agreed to let two federally funded groups design standardized tests that are aligned with the Common Core, though a growing number have backed out of those arrangements or are at least considering it.  

South Carolina would be the first state to adopt the Common Core then unequivocally halt its implementation. Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan have “pressed pause” to review Common Core before proceeding, though Michigan has since reauthorized it. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence briefly touched on Common Core in his State of the State address. Although he gave no clear indication of whether he believes his state will rejoin the standards in the coming months, his speech invoked local control.  

“When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana's will be uncommonly high,” he said. “They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers and will be among the best in the nation.” It remains to be seen whether any state that already adopted the Common Core will reject the standards outright this late in the game. Last year, about 20 bills revoking the standards floated around statehouses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. None of them passed into law.

Chris covers health care for GOVERNING. An Ohio native with an interest in education, he set out for New Orleans with Teach For America after finishing a degree at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He later covered government and politics at the Savannah Morning News and its South Carolina paper. He most recently covered North Carolina’s 2013 legislative session for the Associated Press.
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