DENVER Colorado lawmakers and educators say they plan to fight a proposal by the state Board of Education to adopt new teaching standards Monday to compete for Race to the Top education funding, complaining that the state is gambling millions of dollars with no guarantee it will get its money back.
More than 500 people have sent letters to the board urging them to vote against adoption of the Common Core standards in math and language arts. Monday is the deadline for Colorados application to compete for up to $175 million over four years.
If approved, opponents say local school boards could be forced to buy new textbooks and retrain teachers for new tests. Half of the money would go to the state Department of Education for administration and accountability.
Educators say Colorado is already in the process of adopting its own standards that meet most of the criteria for the federal grants and there is no reason to start over.
This is sugar to make the medicine go down, but we dont need it because were not sick, said state Board of Education member Peggy Littleton.
State Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said the states pursuit of more federal funding is misguided.
State education leaders should not allow the carrot of new federal funds to propel the state into a bad policy decision. Colorado should lead the nation in setting high standards for our public schools, not jump on the bandwagon of as-yet undefined national standards, King said.
Lt. Gov. Barbara OBrien rejected suggestions Common Core Standards amount to nationalizing public education. She said states created a coalition to come up with the standards, and 29 states already have adopted them. She said the federal government had no role.
OBrien said the compact only sets standards and local school districts can decide what text books to use and how to teach, but some of the standards say otherwise.
For kindergarten through fifth grade, for instance, teachers would be required to have English arts students analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Children learning math in kindergarten will have to be taught how to count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence, instead of having to begin at 1.
OBrien said new state standards were put on hold when she found out about Race to the Top funding in December, so no new tests or textbooks have been required. She said local school districts would still have to buy new books and train teachers no matter what content standards are adopted.