By Garry Rayno

Citing the state's economic competitiveness, Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a bill that would prohibit the Department of Education or the state Board of Education from implementing Common Core standards in any school in the state.

She said Senate Bill 101 would undermine New Hampshire's commitment to preparing students for a 21st Century workforce, noting that no district is required to implement the national standards under state law and school districts are aware they have a choice.

"As this bill has no practical impact, its purpose appears to be that of sending a message, and it is the wrong message," Hassan wrote in her veto message. "New Hampshire must be clear that it is committed to developing a 21st Century workforce and citizenry, that it welcomes innovation, and that it is modernizing its education system to reflect those values."

Common Core has become a flashpoint for conservatives who claim it undermines local control as the federal government uses federal money as a carrot to lure school districts to join the program.

But supporters say the standards were developed to make the nation's young people more competitive with their European and Asian counterparts.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed Common Core and its subsequent testing counterpart, Smarter Balance.

In her veto message, Hassan refers to a letter from the Business and Industry Association urging her to veto the bill.

"SB 101 undermines New Hampshire's commitment to higher education standards and sends a message that mediocre is okay," wrote Jim Roche, BIA president. "It also exhibits a lack of faith in the abilities of education professionals at the New Hampshire Department of Education, leaders of the state Board of Education, and board members from local school districts to make sound decisions regarding education standards designed to raise student performance."

Hassan urged lawmakers to stop focusing on Common Core and instead work to improve students' education by helping schools implement the new standards effectively and building on the state's reputation as a leader in competency-based education.

"As we work together to make sure that our students have access to a rigorous education, it is critical that we continue to do so in the New Hampshire way, with local school districts continuing to have the authority, flexibility and responsibility to meet the best interests of their children," Hassan wrote. "And we need to continue to improve outreach so that we can enhance understanding of modern and rigorous standards among all stakeholders and citizens so that we are working together in a rapidly changing economy to prepare our young people for the future."

The prime sponsor of SB 101, Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, said he is deeply disappointed by the governor's veto of a bill that guarantees local school districts can decide if they want to adopt Common Core. Her veto, he said, opens the door for greater state and federal control over student education.

"I've heard from many parents around the state who are worried not only about the quality of these federal educational programs but that they are mandated across the state, limiting the ability for individual towns and cities to decide on their students' education," Avard said. "New Hampshire's students deserve the highest quality of education decided on locally by school boards and teachers."

SB 101 passed the House on a 202-138 vote, short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

Although the Senate did not records its votes, it is doubtful two-thirds of the Senates would support an override.

(c)2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)