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Cost Concerns Still Loom Large in PA Common Core Debate

The potential cost of implementing new statewide educational standards promises to be a prominent issue at a pair of upcoming state Senate panel hearings on the Pennsylvania Common Core.
The academic standards, which include assessments required for high school graduation, were developed within the commonwealth to satisfy federal regulations.

But they were engulfed in controversy this spring as critics suggested they represented top-down educational mandates.
As policy officials have sought to quell those concerns, relatively few answers have been provided to questions about the projected cost of implementing more rigorous expectations for students and teachers.  

Joan Benso, head of the advocacy group PA Partnerships for Children, said she hasn’t seen what she would call reliable data about potential costs.

"Districts have been working on changing these standards for three years and many districts in that timeframe bought new textbooks," Benso said. "Look, we don’t spend enough money in Pennsylvania on public education and our organization thinks we should spend more, but we need to spend it wisely."

But a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said one estimate suggests the costs could be around 300 million dollars, based on a years-old study of the costs of getting students up to speed after they scored too low on past state assessments.

Another group made up of school budget officers doesn’t take a position on the new standards, but also notes the potential implementation costs among its top concerns.