An important, but unreported aspect of the Common Core debate is the amount of local taxpayer resources – both in terms of money and man hours – school districts have expended implementing the Common Core Standards.

The 2009 federal stimulus bill offered states and local school districts the opportunity to compete for Race to the Top (RTT) grants to help pay for innovative education reform initiatives.  What was not well publicized was that in order to be considered for RTT funds, states and school districts had to adopt “college and career ready” education standards as well as state achievement tests aligned to the standards. In addition, school districts had to put in place a robust systems infrastructure that could support online testing and share private student demographic and performance data with state longitudinal databases.

The only education standards considered “college and career ready” at the time were the Common Core Standards.  So states and school districts rallied around Common Core in a sort of a feeding frenzy in order to be considered a viable candidate for the federal dollars that were at stake with RTT.

But, for the majority of school districts in Ohio, the dollar amounts awarded in RTT grants did not come close to covering the costs of the RTT mandates.  Four years into the implementation of RTT and Common Core, Ohio school districts are still spending money retraining teachers, rewriting curriculum, purchasing new textbooks, and upgrading technology.

The recent hearings in the Ohio House Rules and Reference Committee on the Common Core repeal bill has shed some light on just how much money local schools in Ohio have spent fulfilling Race to the Top mandates, such as Common Core implementation.

The Worthington School Board passed a resolution in support of Common Core in response to the hearings.  The resolution reads,

“…the Worthington School District has spent over three years, thousands of man hours, and millions of dollars in creating and implementing a local curriculum that aligns with these standards;”

The resolution also states that in light of the State of Ohio’s mandated use of the PARCC tests (Common Core aligned achievement tests) and their related technology requirements, Worthington Schools passed a tax levy and spent millions on technology upgrades.

“WHEREAS, Worthington School District taxpayers, relying on the State’s guidance, passed a bond issue in 2012 based in part on the technology requirements; and

“WHEREAS, The Worthington School District has spent millions of dollars in upgraded bandwidth, computers and facilities, partially designed to comply with the PARCC mandate;”

Worthington’s resolution does not quote exact figures, but the use of the plural “millions” two times leads one to conclude that, at minimum, the district has spent $4 million implementing Common Core.  The Race to the Top grant that Worthington “won” that set the district down this path was for only $532,400.

Superintendent Brent May of Plain Local Schools in Canton testified to the Committee that his district spent $3,000,000 on instructional supplies and $154,000 on professional development implementing Common Core.  Plain Local received only $513,000 in Race to the Top grant money.  Superintendent May said to the Committee,

“How can any public official honestly stand in front of their constituents and say that their money was spent wisely if we move away from Common Core?”

An ODE report outlines the RTT grants received by Ohio school districts.  Most districts received grants between $100,000 and $600,000, nowhere near enough to cover the costs of the RTT mandates as described by Worthington and Plain schools. The largest city school districts, Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, received material dollar amounts – between $10 million and $30 million – which leads one to wonder just how much RTT is actually costing taxpayers.  A handful of school districts received between $1 million and $6 million.

There are 610 school districts in Ohio.  If each school district spent $3 million dollars to implement Common Core, as Plain Local did, that’s a total expenditure of $1.83 billion across all Ohio districts, which raises some questions:

  • Were taxpayers made aware that the “award” of an RTT grant for their school district would put them on the hook for millions of dollars in additional school spending?
  • Were taxpayers and teachers told that “winning” an RTT grant meant their districts would have to adopt new content standards that would transform curriculum and cede local control of schools to federal authority?
  • And, did parents know that with the implementation of RTT, Common Core, and PARCC their children’s school performance data as well as private health and demographic information would be tracked and stored on a state longitudinal database where it would be shared with federal agencies and third party contractors?

The answer to all these questions is, of course, “No”.   Local taxpayers, parents, and teachers were not consulted before state officials and local school administrators bound taxpayers and school districts to the RTT mandates.  And it is only now, four years into the process, and only with the help of a grassroots campaign to inform the public about the true nature of RTT and Common Core, that local taxpayers and parents are learning the full costs of this bureaucratic overreach.

Our system of government is one of checks and balances, but it can only work if all branches of government are involved.  RTT and Common Core were thrust upon Ohio without legislative oversight.  There should have been a transparent and vigorous debate on the merits and cost of the program in the Ohio Assembly before Ohio taxpayers were placed on the hook for what looks to be at least $1.8 billion at the local level alone.

As pressure builds for Common Core repeal, local school districts such as Worthington and Plain claim they have spent too much to turn back now.

“It’s too late to turn back now.  I believe, I believe, I believe, I’m falling in love.”  (Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, 1972)

Trouble is, people are not falling in love with Common Core.  Recent polls show that the more people learn about Common Core, the more they dislike it.  Ohioans should not be held hostage by the money local school districts have spent without taxpayer knowledge or consent.

Call your school district’s treasurer and ask him how much money has been spent implementing Common Core in your district.  Ask your treasurer to consider the curriculum re-writing, the teacher retraining, the new textbooks, the new computers, the systems upgrades, and the man hours spent in planning.  If you can get a dollar amount, please post a comment below.

Find out how much your school district received in RTT grant money HERE.

Worthington School Board’s Common Core Resolution can be found HERE.  See page 4.

Plain Local School Superintendent’s testimony to the House Rules and Reference Committee can be found HERE. Click on September 4th.