President: Rae Chornenky
 
Editor: Maria Jeffrey



The Common Core State Standards Initiative

  Acacia M. Scott 

What is it?

  • The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCS) is a set of K-12 standards developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to form a set of academic standards to be used in common across all states.
  • CCS moves control of the school curriculum from local schools and states to the federal level with only 15% of additional content being left to the school's discretion. However, this additional content will not be covered on national tests.

Which states have implemented CCS?

  • 45 states have adopted CCS.
  • 5 states (Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Alaska) have rejected the standards.
  • 2 states (Alabama and Indiana) are actively working to repeal the CCS.
  • Most states adopted CCS to be eligible for Race to the Top funding or No Child Left Behind waivers. There are several states, however, that have implemented part of the standards and have yet to see their additional funding.

Why are states repealing and rejecting the standards?

  • States were asked to accept the CCS standards in late 2009 before they were even published in March 2010. Now, in 2013, the Math and English Language Arts standards are published while the science and social studies standards have yet to be released.
  • States are now discovering that the standards are lacking.
  • In fact, some members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign off on CCS because they considered the English and Math standards to be poor.
  • There is also concern about the fact that CCS has not been tested and there is no proof that new standards will improve student achievement.

What is the cost?

  • The Pioneer Institute estimates that over the next seven years, CCS implementation costs will total approximately $15.8 billion across participating states.
  • In addition, states and local communities are expected to face substantial new expenditures for technology infrastructure and support.
  • It is also estimated that $350 million will be used to create the standardized tests. 

What are some pros and cons?

 

Pros:

  • Provides course alignment across teachers, grades, and nearly all states.
  • Thus, students moving from state to state will not have to catch up or be held back. However, this affects less than 2% of students.

Cons:

  • This curriculum reduces a teacher's ability to differentiate between gifted and struggling learners.
  • Student performance on standardized tests is linked to teacher evaluation.
  • The ACT and SAT are now linked to Common Core Standards so homeschoolers and private schools will have to acknowledge CCS in some ways.
  • The data collected on the student by the teacher can include medical, psychological, and religious information, as well as the political and religious ideology of the parents. This information will also be available to different organizations such as the Department of Labor, private corporations, and potential employers.
  • There is some question on the legality of the CCS as the curriculum was approved by the state boards of education and no legislative vote was taken.

For more information regarding the Common Core Standards, please visit:

 

Tax Code Reform Proposed

                

       Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and the committee's top Republican, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have proposed to scrap all tax breaks and start fresh in an effort to simplify the tax code and lower rates. Grover Norquist, the influential anti-tax activist, has announced his support for the proposal.

Farm Bill Update

            
       Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of the farm bill and now Senate Democrats are accusing House Republican leaders of blocking the next step, a conference committee, in the process of reconciling their competing proposals. Senate Democrats report they have only 24 scheduled legislative days until current farm subsidies expire on September 30.
 
       The accusations include the claim that Republicans are delaying in sending their farm bill to the Senate so that a conference can begin, and the delay is caused by hesitation over the food stamp program according to Senate Democrats. House Republicans refused to approve a farm bill unless it stripped funding for food stamps and focused only on farm subsidies. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has stated the House would work with "dispatch" to pass a food stamp bill but did not say whether the House will block a conference committee until such a bill is passed.
 
        Democrats believe they would have an advantage in a farm bill/food stamp conference committee if a conference committee convenes right away and pressure builds to pass a final farm bill quickly.  They want the conference to begin before the House can take a position on how much food stamps should be cut since members of the House previously passed Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) non-binding 2014 budget resolution calling for $135 billion in food stamp cuts while the Senate farm bill cut only $4 billion.
 
        Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is joined by farm lobbyists in claiming they will not support a mere extension of the 2008 farm commodity subsidies because the 2008 plan "leaves out big, important pieces of farm policy and keeps subsidies that we all agree should be eliminated."  She warned, however, that the House should not attempt to pass a bill that contains anything like Ryan's 2014 budget cuts to food stamps claiming "that is so extreme." 

House Votes On ObamaCare Delays

                

        The House will vote on two key provisions of ObamaCare this week. The votes are a reaction to the administration's decision to delay a requirement until 2015 that companies offer workers health insurance plans by 2014 or face fines. While they have celebrated the setback for ObamaCare implementation, Republicans have also labeled the announced presidential delay as illegal because the ObamaCare legislation does not allow such a delay to be ordered by administrative fiat. 

               

        It is expected that the House will formally authorize the delayed enforcement of the employer health mandate and will also vote to delay the individual policy mandate requiring individuals to obtain health care or pay a fine.

                

       House Republicans argue that delaying the individual mandate is only fair as they have aggressively accused the White House of setting a double standard by giving businesses a break while leaving in place the mandate requiring individuals to buy insurance. Votes will be critical as they could put Democrats on record as opposing the second delay.

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