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Michigan Close to Putting Brakes on Common Core in New K-12 Budget

The Michigan Legislature is poised to pass a budget that prohibits the state education department from spending funds to implement the Common Core State Standards.

The budget, which the House of Representatives approved May 28, is now being considered by the Senate. MLive.com reporter Brian Smith wrote that the Senate adjourned yesterday and isn't scheduled to reconvene until next Tuesday, June 4. If the Senate approves an education spending plan that prohibits spending on the common core, Gov. Rick Snyder does not have the kind of line-item veto power that would allow him to remove only this provision from the budget.

So unless Snyder, a Republican and recently avowed common core supporter, vetoes the entire education budget, implementation of the standards would grind to a halt in Michigan. A joint panel of Senate and House members approved budget language that removed funding for the standards earlier this week, before the House held its final vote on the budget. So there could be a decent chance that the entire Senate adopts the House version of the budget without common core funding.

If Snyder approves an education budget without common core funding, supporters of the standards would have two options. One such supporter, Business Leaders for Michigan CEO Doug Rothwell, told me they could either hope a lawmaker introduces legislation later this year reinstating funding for common core implementation. Otherwise, they could look to 2014, when they could work on the next version of the state's K-12 budget to reintroduce funding for the standards. Rothwell added that he thought it would be unlikely for Snyder to veto an entire K-12 spending plan just to try to preserve common core.

"Unfortunately there is a lot of misunderstanding [about] what the common core is," Rothwell said.

Michigan figures in a recent story I wrote about efforts by common-core supporters to fight back against opponents of the standards at both the state and national levels. In the story, Rothwell said he was caught off-guard by the move among state lawmakers to stop the standards. The opposition grew out of efforts by GOP Rep. Tom McMillin, who introduced a bill to stop the common core. That piece of legislation never got traction, but he transferred his efforts to the budget.

Discussing the prohibition on using state funds to implement the core, McMillin told MLive.com reporter Brian Smith on May 28 that the budget language represented a "pause" (a term also used in Indiana to describe a bill Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, signed in that state earlier this year). "This pause will allow Michigan citizens to weigh in, for the first time, on whether we should hand over authority on standards taught in all our public schools to a private trade association," McMillin said, referring to the National Governors Association, a key supporter of the standards along with the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But that argument doesn't hold water for Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. In a May 28 statement he lamented that politicians were "playing politics" with schools. Citing the support of the standards in the state's business and education community, Flanagan said, "Thoughtful improvements to education must be protected from partisan and self-serving politics, where adults should be more concerned about student needs rather than their own." (McMillin dismissed Flanagan's comments as an overreaction.)

The state school board adopted the standards in 2010. Gov. Snyder recently reiterated his support for the standards in a joint appearance with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Michigan. If the governor signs a K-12 spending plan with no common core money, it will be interesting to see how much lobbying he does on behalf of the common core to try to restart implementation in his state.

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