Put aside for a moment the questionable curriculum standards, the data mining, and the legality of Common Core. Once the smoke clears and the layers of controversy are removed, all that is left is the hidden cost of Common Core requirements to Arkansas taxpayers. While some of the cost has already been absorbed by local school districts, the final bill comes in the 2014-2015 school year. Taxpayers, prepare for sticker shock. Implementing Common Core will cost the state of Arkansas $139 million!
The cost of Common Core
Arkansas adopted Common Core as part of the Race to the Top initiative. The Obama Administration dangled Race to the Top in front of states—offering a way to circumvent the No Child Left Behind mandates and a way to receive additional funding. It was an offer that states couldn’t refuse. But, just like in the book “The Godfather,” there is a cost. The federal government makes very specific mandates for Common Core—without offering states money to pay for it.
Starting in 2010, elementary schools were the first group to be subjected to Common Core standards. The middle schools followed in 2011, and finally high schools came on board for the 2013-2014 school year. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, all Arkansas schools must adhere to Common Core standards and it is going to be expensive. Here’s why.
All textbooks must meet Common Core guidelines. How nice for the few publishers of textbooks. Unfortunately, this means all school districts must rid themselves of books that do not meet the curriculum guidelines. New textbooks, which are aligned to the new Common Core standards, must be purchased. This is a huge burden on rural school districts—those that ask students to donate basic classroom supplies. If a school district cannot supply classrooms with facial tissues, how are they going to supply the students with new textbooks? The Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research states their report “National Cost of Aligning to Common Core” that Arkansas will spend approximately $30 million in textbooks and materials (excluding technology) to implement and maintain Common Core requirements.
The high price of technology
The biggest expense to come is technology. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, Common Core testing is to be done on computers. School districts will be scrambling to add enough computers so all students can test electronically. Therein lies the problem. Many schools in Arkansas, even newer ones, are not equipped to handle the large computer networks required by Common Core.
Almost every school building in Arkansas will have to upgrade computers, routers, wiring, and bandwidth. This is a very expensive undertaking. It also poses problems in rural areas where internet access is limited. Those schools will have to use satellite internet connections. Satellite internet is extremely expensive.
If the federal government will not pay for the upgrades, and local school districts do not have extra money in the budget, it falls on the taxpayers to foot the bill. The last thing this economy needs is for struggling families to have their property taxes increased. School districts cannot randomly increase the district’s portion of property taxes—it has to go to a vote for a millage increase—thus opening the door for taxpayers to vote against it. Then what? You will have school districts that cannot comply with the technology requirements of Common Core.
A vicious cycle
Failure to meet requirements means loss of federal funds. A vicious cycle begins with lack of federal money and taxpayers unwilling to give up more of their paychecks to local governments.
Rural communities and school districts with a high percentage of students participating in the free and reduced lunch program will be hit the hardest. Who suffers most—the students. Therein lies the failure of Common Core. It is simply too expensive to work. Once the states figure out they are being hung out to dry when it comes to upgrading textbooks and technology, Common Core will be dropped like a hot potato. Until that time, taxpayers in Arkansas will be footing the bill for a poorly designed and controversial set of standards.
Lynda Altman is very concerned about the state of the public schools in Arkansas and the United States. She writes a blog called Homeschooling When Mom has Cancer. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.