Squabble Over Common Core Could Shut Down Michigan Education Department Website

Oct 2, 2013

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has asked to have its website taken offline.

The state budget that took effect Tuesday bars the department from spending any money to implement a set of nationwide school standards known as the Common Core.

"By the mere fact that we have information and assistance to local districts infused throughout our website, we felt - and we believe - that we would be in violation of the state law," said MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley.

The Michigan Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards three years ago. The standards outline expectations as to what students should learn at each grade level. More than 40 other states have adopted the standards.

But some Michigan lawmakers say Common Core and associated standardized tests strip local control over school curriculum. Some also have concerns about student privacy.

The state House approved a resolution last week that would allow the department to continue implementing the standards, but under certain conditions. Among other things, the tests could not dictate curriculum or prescribe teaching methods to local schools. If the conditions are not met, lawmakers could once again cut off funding for the standards or associated testing.

MDE officials say local districts will continue to implement Common Core either way. If the Legislature cuts off funding, schools would just lose out on technical assistance provided by the state.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says lawmakers still need time to decide whether to reinstate funding for the standards. But he says he expects to take up the issue soon.

"The sponsor and co-sponsors of the bills that asked me to keep this dialogue going deserve their day in court," Richardville told reporters Tuesday morning. "And I think we'll probably look at something very seriously within a week or two."

Richardville indicated he was unaware of the MDE's request to take down its website.

If it is taken down, MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley says officials will try to make changes to the website and have it back up as soon as possible.

The website was still online just before 6pm Tuesday evening. Ackley says the MDE's request was submitted Monday. He says the final decision whether to take it down will be made by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.