HAMLET — Public schools in Richmond County and throughout North Carolina will have to rewrite their lesson plans if state lawmakers choose to throw out the national Common Core curriculum standards.
The N.C. House and Senate passed separate bills to replace Common Core this week, with state Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, voting against the House measure. Both chambers have to approve a single version in order for the proposal to advance to Gov. Pat McCrory.
“It passed yesterday (Wednesday) in the House and today (Thursday) in the Senate,” Goodman said. “This measure will do away with Common Core standards in the state. And we’ve already spent over $100 million on it. Now we are throwing it out the window.”
Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Norris said he disagrees with the initiative to abandon Common Core.
“The state — and Richmond County Schools being part of the public schools of the state — has spent literally millions of dollars unpacking, disseminating information, training teachers, preparing pacing guides and standardized tests aligned with Common Core standards,” Norris said. “I think it’s a travesty now to let all that good work go for naught. These are rigorous standards. Our teachers and students have worked so hard, then, bam! Back to square one.”
Common Core is not without its detractors. Parents have protested new ways of teaching grade-school math that rely on number substitutions and multi-step formulas to solve arithmetic problems. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill to drop Common Core last month, and Oklahoma’s governor set the controversial curriculum aside Thursday.
Opposition to the Common Core standards initially was seen as conservative pushback, but left-leaning groups including factions of the Occupy Wall Street movement also have come out against the curriculum, according to media reports.
Norris said that if the proposed 2014-15 state budget passes as currently written, public schools will be an additional $1 billion short. While he supports teacher pay raises, Norris said there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for sustaining the permanent pay hikes.
“What are we going to cut next year to pay for it?” Norris said. “We aren’t raising taxes, we’re cutting education programs. It doesn’t make much sense.”
North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay, and low morale has led some educators to pursue careers in other states.
“Our teachers have seen a 1 percent raise in five years, insurance is going up,” Norris said. “With deductions from their paychecks for retirement and Social Security, a lot of them are making less money than they did three or four years ago. Turnover is hurting us. We have teachers leaving the state, leaving the profession, retiring early.”
At a job fair last weekend in Wake County, hundreds of North Carolina teachers met with representatives from a school district in Texas actively recruiting them with promises of a starting salary of nearly $47,000. The starting salary for North Carolina teachers is $30,800.
“Despite all of that, it is amazing how hard these teachers continue to work,” Norris said.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.