ND Senate Gives Common Core Testing Opt Out Bill The "Hog House" Treatment

In the parlance of the North Dakota Legislature, a “hog house” amendment is a change to a bill that completely replaces the original text of the bill. Basically, it’s lawmakers taking an existing bill and turning it into something else entirely.

That’s what happened to HB1283 today. It passed the state House as a bill codifying the right of parents to opt their children out of certain testing in the public schools (this is an issue championed by the opponents of Common Core). But the Senate today approved a “hog house” amendment to the bill (see it here) which replaced the House language entirely.

The proponents of the amendment say they’re merely looking to codify the opt-out process. The opponents of the amendment say it removes their right to opt out.

The proponents of the amendment say they’re merely looking to codify the opt-out process. The opponents of the amendment say it removes their right to opt out.

“The procedure needs to be clear and easy to understand,” Senator Don Schaible (R-Mott) said during his speech carrying the amendment out of the Education Committee to the floor.

But Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot) disagreed. “Parents currently have the right to opt out,” he said. “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.”

Senator Jerry Klein (R-Fessenden) said he was uncomfortable with the way the amendment came to be. “These parents weren’t aware of this until yesterday,” he said of the amendment, referring to the parents supporting the original bill. “The folks of North Dakota need more of an opportunity to take a look at this,” he said, urging a no vote.

But the amendment ultimately passed on a 32-13 vote. The amended version of the bill will get a vote next week. If it passes the House will have to approve the “hog house” amendment, and if they don’t the state will be stuck with the status quo on opt-outs.

Personally, I’m not sure whose side I’m on here. I’m at the point where there’s clearly so much consternation and distrust over the Common Core standards and testing that I feel it would behoove all involved to just hit the reboot button and start over again.

But a bill to withdraw North Dakota from Common Core and begin a state process for creating new standards was defeated earlier in the session. That legislation was far from perfect, but I feel like lawmakers should take up the spirit of that legislation again, because the rancor over Common Core doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And it certainly isn’t helped by the perception, earned at times, that the education establishment is just going to ram this stuff down the public’s throat.

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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