Leaving Common Core Will Be the Right Move for Oklahoma

Oklahoma will save about $121 million by withdrawing from the Common Core Standards.

Also the state will avoid the expensive and disastrous Common Core train wreck!

The Daily Caller published an article on 6.3.14 entitled “Leaving Common Core Could Cost Oklahoma $125 Million.”

1.  Fordham / OBEC Analysis

The article discusses a joint analysis published on 6.1.14 by the Fordham Institute and the Oklahoma Business Education Coalition (OBEC).  That analysis was titled “Six Reasons Why HB 3399 Is Bad Policy.”  In the analysis, the authors calculate that it will cost Oklahoma at least $125 million to withdraw from the Common Core Standards.

The Fordham / OBEC analysis provides a very sketchy breakdown of the $125 million withdrawal cost.  They indicate that Oklahoma will forfeit $27 million in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal funding.  They state that new testing will cost $26 million per year; and new assessments will cost between $44 and $54 per student.  The Fordham / OBEC analysis estimates that the new standards will require $2,000 of training per teacher.  According to their analysis, it will cost Oklahoma $125 million to leave the Common Core Standards

I attempted to determine the Fordham / OBEC total cost, but I could not duplicate their figures.  This is immaterial because their assumptions are wrong!

2.  Oklahoma Common Core Implementation Cost

When I was searching for reliable cost estimates on implementing the Common Core Standards, I found an excellent White Paper report published by the Pioneer Institute entitled “National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards” by AccountabilityWorks published in February 2012.

Based on the great work of the Pioneer Institute, I determined the Common Core Standards (CCS) implementation cost for each of the 46 Common Core states (45 states plus the District of Columbia.)

The cost to implement the Common Core Standards in Oklahoma was detailed in my 8.31.13 report “Oklahoma Common Core Implementation Costs.”  The Common Core implementation cost for Oklahoma is about $246 million.  The figures are given in the following Table:

TABLE 1 – Oklahoma Common Core Implementation Cost

Description OK CCS Implementation Cost ($ Millions)
Testing 19
Professional Development 82
Textbooks 37
Technology 108
Total CCS Cost $246 millions

I do not know how much money Oklahoma has spent to implement the Common Core Standards to date.  Eventually, the state will spend $246 million over the 7-year period.

In the Pioneer Institute white paper, the authors assumed that the states would spend sizeable dollars early on to implement the Common Core Standards.  Their analysis pegged the up-front, one-time costs at about 67 % of the total cost.

For this analysis, I will assume that Oklahoma has spent roughly half of the total cost for each of the four categories.  The information is shown in the following Table:

TABLE 2 – Oklahoma CCS Cost – Past and Future Costs

Description Total CCS  Cost
($ Millions)
CCS Cost Spent to date
($ Millions)
Remaining CCS Cost
($ Millions)
Testing 19 10 9
Professional Development 82 41 41
Textbooks 37 19 18
Technology 108 54 54
Total CCSS Cost $246 million $124 million $122 million

If these assumptions are correct, Oklahoma has spent roughly $124 million on implementing Common Core; and the state will spend about $122 million on Common Core in the next five years or so.

3.  Evaluating Economic Alternatives

When I was in graduate school at Oklahoma State University, I learned a very useful principle in an Engineering Economy class.  (I earned my M.S.C.E. in Civil Engineering at OSU in 1972.)

When you are evaluating various economic alternatives, keep in mind that you cannot change the past.  You should look only at today and into the future.  Examine the alternatives and determine what the various alternatives will cost today and going forward.  Because you cannot change the past, it is futile to be concerned about what you spent in the past.  Force yourself to only look ahead; determine which option will be the most economical in the future.

Obviously, the Engineering Economy course dealt mainly with the “time value of money.”  Interest rates, present worth analyses, depreciation, etc. were explored in considerable detail.  For my discussion here, I will focus only on the economic alternatives principle.

If Oklahoma stays with the Common Core, the state will need to spend about $122 million in the next five years to implement the relatively new Common Core Standards.

The Oklahoma Department of Education estimated that the switch would cost the state $1.24 million.  If the State of Oklahoma drops Common Core, it will save $122 million on future Common Core implementation costs.  However, the state must spend $1.24 million to switch to the previous standards.

Thus the net cost of dropping Common Core and adopting PASS will be $121 million.

[$122 million Common Core savings – $1 million PASS cost = $121 million net savings]

4.  Quality of the Previous Oklahoma Standards

The Fordham / OBEC analysis tried very hard to say the previous Oklahoma standards (Priority Academic Student Skills or “PASS”) were weak.  When the Thomas B. Fordham Institute evaluated all of the state standards, it gave Oklahoma’s English Language Arts Standards a “C” in 2005 and a “B+” in 2010.  Fordham gave the Oklahoma Mathematic Standards a “C” in 2005 and a “B+” in 2010.  Fordham cannot have it both ways; it cannot claim Oklahoma had bad standards in 2010 when it granted both the English Standards and the Math Standards a “B+” that year; and then say the standards are poor today.

Of course, Fordham has been a distinctly pro-Common Core organization since the Common Core Standards came out in 2010.  Since that time, their reports and evaluations have exhibited a distinctly pro-Common Core bias.

5.  Misleading Statements in Fordham / OBEC Analysis

As a side note, the Fordham / OBEC analysis makes numerous false and misleading statements about the origin and adoption of the Common Core Standards.  For example, the analysis states:

In fact, Oklahoma had not adopted Common Core when it applied for the first round of Race to the Top funds, and never won any Race to the Top competition.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) made it very clear that states had to adopt the Common Core Standards in order to score well in the Race to the Top (RTTT) competition.  Many states adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) before they submitted their Applications; while numerous states “promised” to adopt the CCS very soon.  The important point is that the states committed to adopt CCS in order to receive some of the federal RTTT money.

Oklahoma submitted the Phase 1 Application for the Race to the Top competition in January 2010.  In the Application, Oklahoma stated:

The Governor’s Office and Superintendent of Public Instruction have been involved in the development of and agreed to adopt the internationally benchmarked Common Core Standards.

In the Phase 2 Application, Oklahoma included a Timeline.  This Timeline projected that Oklahoma would adopt the Common Core Standards on June 24, 2010, by special rule-making.

RECOMMENDATIONS

House Bill 3399 requires Oklahoma to abandon the Common Core Standards and revert to Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS), the state’s prior academic standards.  Governor Mary Fallin has until June 7, 2014 to sign or veto HB 3399.

I urge Governor Fallin to sign HB 3399 and thereby move Oklahoma off the Common Core Standards train.  By doing so, Oklahoma will save about $121 million in Common Core implementation costs. Also the state will avoid the expensive and disastrous Common Core train wreck!