Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina has invested tens of millions of dollars to implement the Common Core academic standards that could eventually be abandoned in public schools statewide.
State lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation calling for the controversial standards to be repealed and replaced by standards drafted by a new state commission. Gov. Pat McCrory has said he plans to sign the bill.
The repeal effort was backed by angry parents – mostly conservatives – who said the national English and math standards aren't appropriate.
Since 2010, when the state started preparing for Common Core, the Department of Public Instruction has spent $66 million in professional development for the 100,000 teachers responsible for getting students to meet the standards.
The money, which is over and above normal teacher training costs, was covered by a federal grant, but state officials said it could have been spent in other ways to upgrade North Carolina's academic standards.
"This $66 million is not a normal expenditure when we review and modify standards every 5 years. Normally the changes do not require training, only sharing. So $66 million is a huge cost, and one that will need to be covered if NC standards are significantly adjusted," said DPI's Philip Price.
DPI didn't have estimates for the cost of developing the curriculum needed to implement the standards, as well as lesson plans, new state tests to meet the standards, or textbooks and materials for the new curriculum.
"I think it is very safe to say this is in the thousands of hours," said DPI spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter. "There are adjustments and lesson preparations that would need to be made beyond the professional development part."
The $66 million figure also doesn't include what local districts have spent on Common Core.
The Wake County Public School System spent $3 million since 2012 on Common Core training workshops alone. Officials said that doesn't cover the time individual teachers have invested in learning the new curriculum.
"If Common Core is about higher standards and those standards are embedded in the curriculum, it's a bit like asking, 'How much did you spend to carry out the state curriculum?'" said Wake County Schools PIO Tim Simmons. "It's a great question. It just doesn't have a nice neat answer."
Chapel HIll-Carrboro City Schools estimates it has spent about $2.7 million implementing the new standards since 2012. $1 million was federal grant money, and the rest was state and local.
Other Triangle-area school administrators said it's impossible to estimate exactly what they've spent on changing to Common Core because it's part of the overall curriculum development and training effort, and isn't on separate line items in the budget.
They also said they don't know how much it will cost them to change to a new system in the 2015-16 school year once the new state standards are approved.
The legislation allows the new commission to consider retaining some of the Common Core standards if they are deemed better than alternatives, so it's still unclear how much will change next year, or how much that change will cost.
"Anytime there is a transition in standards," said Jeter, "there is cost in terms of funds and time and effort."