TRENTON – It’s not often one finds Republican lawmakers and the state’s largest teachers union on the same page.
The complex world of the new educational benchmarks known as Common Core State Standards has accomplished that.
Earlier this week, a group of 12 GOP senators sent a request to Education Commissioner Chris Cerf seeking specific information about the new Standards’ methodology, timetables, student privacy safeguards, and not least among them: costs.
“Who is going to pay is a major concern of mine,’’ said Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, (R-26), Pine Brook. “The biggest question I have as a legislator is what are the costs involved with implementation.”
Teachers have expressed concerns to him, he explained.
And the N.J. Education Association does indeed have concerns about this major shift in the field.
One NJEA spokesman said that in general there are questions about readiness and whether all parties are prepared for this.
Cerf responded to the senators’ letter by issuing a statement:
“I applaud Sen. Pennacchio for reaching out to our office for more information on the Common Core State Standards. He’s doing his job: He’s getting information so he can accurately and rationally discuss the issue with constituents.
“Some citizens have questions about the new state standards because they need more information, while other citizens have questions that are fueled by the spread of misinformation.
“We look to clearly answer any and all questions, and we know that is the goal of our legislative leaders, as well.”
Pennacchio said that the Education Department has been agreeable and open, and he said he anticipates cooperation moving forward.
The parallel he sees is with the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s similar to Obamcare,” he said about the health care overhaul that was years in the making. “Now the details are finally coming out and we didn’t expect some of that.”
The new standards, which are supposed to be in every classroom this school year, encourage critical thinking. Approximately 45 states have adopted them.
The goal is to better prepare students to compete with an international work force.
Pennacchio said that the letter they sent to the Education Department will help in their pursuit of transparency about the issues.