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Michigan Looks Set to Unfreeze State Spending on Common Core

The Michigan Senate voted to Thursday to allow the state to resume spending on the Common Core State Standards. Michigan officially froze spending on the standards and their associated assessments on Oct. 1 due to language in the state's budget, although districts were allowed to continue their common-core implementation unimpeded. That state spending freeze mainly affected Michigan's work on common-core assessments. 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 bears a close resemblance to the resolution that the Michigan House of Representatives passed last month and sent to the Senate for approval. It's worth noting that the legislature is not committed to the assessments being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two consortia developing common-core-aligned tests. By Dec. 1, lawmakers want a review from the Michigan education department of available assessments that could be provided to students, and the department can't formally commit to using the Smarter Balanced assessment until the legislature conducts a review of those testing options for the 2014-15 school aid budget. Until then, it can only commit to the development of testing options and recommendations. Senators added a section stating their preference for computer-adaptive tests, which tailor questions to students' demonstrated ability level—Smarter Balanced tests are slated to meet this criteria.

The Senate version also alters the House resolution by clarifying that parents who are home schooling their children are not subject to the common core. 

As Michigan Live's Brian Smith notes, the Senate conducted a voice vote on the resolution, meaning that there isn't a clear "yes" or "no" marked next to each legislator's name to show how they voted, and that this may have been done to give some senators political cover. 

Since the Senate version changed slightly from the House resolution, members of the House have to vote on the resolution that passed in the upper chamber. Given the relatively few changes senators made to their colleagues' resolution that don't touch on the primary issue of state spending on the common core, the chances of the resolution clearing this final House vote appear strong. The resolution doesn't need the approval of Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who supports the standards. 

Like Indiana, Michigan had voted to slow down or hedge its implementation of common core through language in the state budget. If the House approves the Senate resolution, it will be bad news for GOP Rep. Tom McMillin, the main opponent to the standards who originally introduced a bill to stop them in the state. That legislation failed to get traction, leading him to insert the state spending "freeze" into the Michigan budget. 

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