What are the Costs of Implementing Common Core in New Hampshire?
Sadly, this is not known.
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and math were released just days before the NH Board of Education’s June 2010 meeting. At this meeting, the BOE only discussed the new ELA standards as they compared to the then-current Grade Level Expectations. They covered the math standards the following month in a special meeting; the BOE does not customarily meet over the summer. The NH Board of Education had to rush through adoption of the Common Core State Standards, including acceptance of these unvetted standards, in order to complete their Race to the Top (RTTT) grant application, which was due the following month. In their haste, a fiscal analysis was never done. The grant application also required states to use one of the aligned assessments, and New Hampshire selected the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA). To say it another way, in order to chase after federal dollars, the NH BOE and DOE made promises to the US DOE without fully investigating what they were agreeing to or the costs.
The NH Department of Education insists that adopting Common Core is optional for school districts, yet the DOE mandates that all school districts must use the Smarter Balanced Assessment as of Spring 2015 (despite the fact that New Hampshire was not awarded a RTTT grant). The mandated assessment largely determines what is taught in the classroom because schools will be judged based on their assessment scores. This necessitates the purchase of Common Core aligned curricula, as well as the need to upgrade technology and provide professional development. This is proving to be an extremely expensive conversion.
A cost estimate is available through the Pioneer Institute. They researched the national and state costs, and ultimately published a white paper in February 2012. The Pioneer Institute estimates that over a period of just seven years, Common Core will cost “approximately $15.8 billion across participating states.” This is a “mid-range” estimate and does not include other recommended Common Core changes including performance-based compensation for teachers or reduced class sizes.
Using the Pioneer Institute’s estimates, Mr. Henry Burke, a contributor to “Education Views,” further analyzed the costs by state. He calculated that Common Core will cost New Hampshire an additional $404 per student. This price tag was not considered when the NH Board of Education and Department of Education decided to pursue the Race to the Top grant. This is an unfunded mandate and against Part I Article 28-A of the New Hampshire Constitution.
One district, Conway, has already balked at the expense of implementing Common Core. They estimate that Common Core will cost them $127,530 for the first year of equipment and training alone. They also anticipate another $133,000 for technology upgrades. As reported in the Conway Daily Sun, this school board intends to seek reimbursement from the state for the Smarter Balanced Assessment costs, although they don’t expect it to succeed.
Conway is not the only district struggling with the financial impact of Common Core. There are other small, rural districts that do not have reliable internet service in their schools. They are not prepared for the technological upgrades implementation will require. They also have smaller budgets so the additional financial expense is a significant burden.
It was irresponsible for the NH Board of Education and Department of Education to mandate the SBA without considering the costs and downshifting them to our local school districts.
For this reason, HB 1239 must be given an Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation. This bill would require the NH BOE to do a fiscal impact analysis of Common Core’s implementation in the Granite State. Further, it would prohibit implementation of additional Common Core standards until this study is complete and hearings are held in each executive council district.
The NH BOE and DOE owe it to the citizens of New Hampshire to calculate the fiscal impact of this unfunded mandate.
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