State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Common Core critique tied to turnover falls flat, officials say

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 29, 2013 9:32 PM
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The latest round of criticism of new academic standards springs from recent turmoil in the Corbett administration.

The Pennsylvania Common Core, a revision to already-adopted standards meant to comply with federal regulations, were the subject of a Thursday hearing before the state Senate Education Committee.

The hearing was the last legislative meeting on the new measures before they go to the state Board of Education for approval. It also came days after the abrupt dismissal of the governor's nominee to fill the top post in the Department of Education.

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Montgomery) took the resulting resignation, announced Monday, as evidence that the agency is "hobbled."

"The department has to be in a position to provide leadership to the schools," Dinniman said. "Let's look at the state of the department right now. The department, in the last three months, has gone through three secretaries."

That third secretary, Carolyn Dumaresq, was on the receiving end of the critique. She became the acting secretary of education this week after Corbett's nominee resigned. The departure followed that of Corbett's first education secretary in May.

Dumaresq suggested Dinniman's concern was specious.

"Thank you, to the senator, for worrying about the Department of Education," Dumaresq said. The folks who are responsible for the implementation of [federal requirements known as] Chapter Four and the testing have been there for over three-and-a-half years."

The executive director of the state Board of Education, Karen Molchanow, also responded to Dinniman's suggestion that the state Board of Education wasn't up to snuff to approve the new standards.

"The board currently has, I believe, three openings," Dinniman said at the hearing. "These have not been filled."

Molchanow said the nature of members' staggered terms means there's always a bit of turnover, and that the three members whose terms had lapsed would not drop their responsibilities until the Legislature approved replacements.

Molchanow also pointed out the academic standards hardly began with Corbett's office, calling the Pennsylvania Common Core "a continuation of policy across multiple administrations."

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