Common Core Opponents Lose Again, This Time On Testing Opt-Out Bill

Earlier this legislative session the opponents of Common Core education standards were dealt a blow when lawmakers defeated a bill withdrawing the state from those standards and setting up a mechanism through which they would be replaced with new standards created by the state.

After that loss Common Core opponents hung their hopes on HB1283 which would have expanded the ability of parents to opt their children out of testing. That bill originally passed the House on a 74-18 vote, but the Senate gave it the “hog house” treatment (a term used by lawmakers to describe when a bill is completely changed to something else through amendment) and sent it back to the House where it failed today on a 7-83 vote.

Some House lawmakers weren’t happy with how that process unfolded, suggesting that the House’s position on the bill wasn’t upheld during a conference committee with the Senate (when the two chambers pass different versions of a bill a conference committee is appointed to work out the differences).

“Were any House amendments offered to support the House’s position?” Rep. Mike Schatz (R-New England) asked the bill carrier Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake) who replied that there were no amendments offered that were deemed acceptable.

Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo), the prime sponsor of the bill, echoed Scatz’s concerns. “There were some amendments given to our conferees that were not presented again,” he said during the floor debate. “It would have been a compromise but it wasn’t proposed,” he added.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”I’m going to have you ‘shoot my dog,'” Koppelman said before the final vote.  … “I would rather kill the bill than accomplish the opposite of what was intended,” he continued.[/mks_pullquote]

Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo), who was the prime sponsor behind the anti-Common Core legislation defeated earlier in the session, was also concerned about how the conference committee played out. “Our conferees are not attempting to put our version back in the bill,” he said adding that he felt that “is wrong.”

But Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck), the chair of the House Education Committee and perhaps the most outspoken foe of Common Core opponents, said lawmakers should approve the conference committee report and “be done with this issue.”

When the hoghoused bill passed the Senate (video here) some expressed concern that a bill originally intended to enhance the ability of parents to opt out of testing was actually making that process more difficult if not outright impossible. “Parents currently have the right to opt out,” Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot) said during the Senate floor debate last month. “Now with this amendment it says parents no longer have the right to opt out.” Specifically, Larsen referenced a provision in the amended bill which prohibits parents from opting out of any testing required for graduation. Larsen said school administrators can basically name “any test they want for graduation.”

But the intent of the Senate’s changes may have been sending a poison pill to the state House to kill this legislation entirely. The House passed the conference committee’s report (basically the committees decision to concur to the Senate’s amendments to the bill) on a 51-39 vote, but ultimately killed the bill on a 7-83 vote after Koppelman rose to say the amended bill is worse than the status quo.

“I’m going to have you ‘shoot my dog,'” Koppelman said before the final vote. “This bill says ‘thou shalt not opt out’ of those things ever,” he said referring to issues like sex education and some forms of testing.

“I would rather kill the bill than accomplish the opposite of its intent,” he continued.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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