Iowa Common Core Implementation Costs

Feb 10, 2014 by


Iowa Common Core Implementation Costs


by Henry W. Burke


2.09.14 (Revised)



It will cost Iowa $184 million (net amount) to implement the Common Core Standards (CCS).  Where will Iowa find $184 million to implement the mediocre Common Core Standards?  


The Ongoing Expense for Common Core implementation in Years 8-17 is $94 million.  


When I add the $184 million for the first 7 years to the ongoing expense of $94 million, I obtain $278 million. 


Where will Iowans find $278 million to cover the Common Core implementation cost over the 17-year period?




I will call your attention to an excellent Pioneer Institute report, “National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards,” dated February 2012 (PI report) and my report, “States’ Taxpayers Cannot Afford Common Core Standards,” by Henry W. Burke, dated 10.15.12 (Burke report).  These are the links to the reports:



I also wrote a companion report applicable to the states that did not adopt the Common Core Standards, “Non-Common Core States Will Save Millions of Dollars,” by Henry W. Burke, 10.18.12:



I encourage you to realistically evaluate the costs versus the benefits for the State of Iowa.  I will focus only on the cost of implementing the Common Core Standards (CCS) versus the dollar awards received from the federal government. 


I thought I would offer a little insight into the CCS implementation costs.  This explanation includes the Pioneer report figures and my assumptions.  Obviously, I cannot speak for the Pioneer Institute nor its partners in the white paper, Accountability Works and Pacific Research Institute.  These are strictly my thoughts, assumptions and calculations.


The Pioneer Institute report identified four cost categories for CCS implementation.  The categories are: Testing, Professional Development, Textbooks, and Technology.  Pioneer calculated the total CCS implementation cost over a 7-year time period. 


The PI report included bar graphs (without dollar figures) for each state in Professional Development, Textbooks, and Technology.  The Appendices to the PI report showed exact dollar figures for each state in only the Textbooks and Technology categories.  This is the link to the Pioneer Institute Appendices:


Consequently, I had to derive figures for Testing and Professional Development for each of the 46 states.  My goal was to duplicate the Pioneer figures as closely as possible.  My nationwide totals for the four categories agree quite closely with the Pioneer Institute report. 


A.  Iowa CCS Loss


The State of Iowa submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program and received a rank of No. 24 in Phase 1 and a rank of No. 22 in Phase 2 of that competition.  The 12 “winning” states under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of RTTT received a total of $3.94 billion.  Iowa did not receive any funds under the Phase 1 and 2 competitions.


In subsequent competitions, Iowa received $9,035,380 ($9.035 million) for competitive stimulus awards (from the Teacher Quality Partnership program).



In the Burke Table 1, CCS Loss Per State, the CCS Total Cost for Iowa is $192.565 million; and the federal competitive award total is $9.035 million.  The difference is $183.530 million.

[$192.565 million – $9.035 million = $183.530 million]


This means Iowa will have to find $184 million to pay for the implementation expense of CCS.



B.  Iowa CCS Cost


In the Burke Table 2, CCS Cost Per Student, we can see that Iowa has a CCS Cost per Student of $392.  This is slightly above the average cost per student of $379 (average cost for the 46 CCS states).


Table 3, Total CCS Cost, lists the components making up the Total CCS Cost of $192.565 million for Iowa.  Testing cost is $14.596 million; Professional Development cost is $69.211 million; Textbook cost is $28.483 million; and Technology cost is $80.275 million.


In round numbers, Iowa will spend $15 million on Testing, $69 million on Professional Development, $29 million on Textbooks, and $80 million on Technology.  The Total CCS Cost for Iowa will be $193 million.



Explanation of Figures


1.  Testing


a. Nationwide CCS testing Cost


Testing is a function of the number of students tested.  Table 5 in my report shows the Total Nationwide Cost for the 46 CCS states.  My Table 5 duplicates Pioneer Figure 2B (on page 2 of the PI report).  Figure 2B shows a Total Testing Cost of $1,240,641,297. 


Table 6 (Burke report) lists the number of students and teachers in each of the 46 states; the total for the 46 states is 41,805,062 students.  I obtained all of the numbers in Table 6 from the Pioneer report Appendices (NCES: 2009 – 2010 School Year). 


When I divided $1,240,641,297 by 41,805,062 students, I obtained a factor of $29.67681993 per student.  This Testing cost factor was applied to each of the 46 states to get the Testing cost for each state.  My Total Testing Cost of $1,240.641 million agrees with the Pioneer Figure 2B number.



b. Iowa CCS Testing Cost


Iowa has a total student enrollment of 491,842 students (Burke Table 6).  When I multiplied 491,842 students by the $29.6768 factor per student, I obtained $14.596 million.

[491,842 students  x  $29.67681993 per student = $14,596,306]



2.  Professional Development


The purpose of Professional Development is to train the teachers on the new Common Core academic standards.  Professional Development is a function of the number of teachers that must be trained.  Pioneer used a Professional Development cost of $1,931 per teacher.


Iowa has 35,842 teachers (Burke Table 6).  When I multiplied 35,842 teachers by $1,931 per teacher, I obtained $69.211 million.

[35,842 teachers  x  $1,931 per teacher = $69,210,902]


Incidentally, my calculations produced a Professional Development Cost for California of $605.938 million.  The PI report bar graph showed the number $606 million for California.  This verifies that my calculation assumptions and methodology are correct.



3.  Textbooks


I obtained the Textbook cost for Iowa directly from the Pioneer Institute Appendix.  The Table in the Appendix showed a Total Textbook Cost for Iowa of $28,483,017 ($28.483 million).


The PI Appendix listed the following numbers for Textbooks and Instructional Materials:



Iowa Textbook Cost

(Millions of Dollars)



Grade Textbook Cost($ Millions)
    K     2.789
    1     2.349
    2     1.905
    3     1.948
    4     1.773
    5     1.762
    6     2.036
  Subtotal — K – 6   14.562
    7     2.092
    8     2.131
  Subtotal — 7 – 8     4.223
      9     2.326
    10     2.320
    11     2.516
    12     2.536
  Subtotal — 9 – 12     9.698
    Total — K – 12   28.483




4.  Technology


I obtained the Technology cost for Iowa directly from the Pioneer Appendix.  The PI Appendix lists the Total Technology Cost for Iowa as $80,274,926 ($80.275 million).


The PI Appendix provides the following information:



Iowa Technology Cost

(Millions of Dollars)






($ Millions)




($ Millions)

One-Time Costs     32.899     32.899
Year 1 Operations       3.441       3.441
Years 2 – 7 Operations (Annual)       7.32258       —
Total for 6 Years (Years 2 – 7)     43.935     43.935
    Total Technology Cost       80.275




C.  Urgency of Decision


We know that the total cost to implement CCS in Iowa will be $192.565 million ($193 million), but we have not said anything about the timing.  The timing for the expenditures is extremely important!


A sizeable portion of the total CCS implementation cost is spent early in the implementation.  In the Pioneer Report Figure 2B, two-thirds (about 66 %) of the Total Cost falls into the up-front, one-time cost period.  Pioneer shows a one-time cost of $10,522,885,028; the Total Cost is $15,835,121,347.  When I divide these two numbers, I get 66 %.


For Iowa, the figures are as follows:


Timing of Iowa CCS Costs

(Millions of Dollars)



Cost Category


One-Time Cost

 ($ Millions)

Years 1 – 7


($ Millions)

Total Cost —

Up-Front &

for 7 Years

($ Millions)

Testing     —     14.596     14.596
Professional Development     69.211      —     69.211
Textbooks     28.483      —     28.483
Technology     32.899     47.376     80.275
    Total Cost   130.593     61.972   192.565
    Percentage of Total     68 %     32 %   100 %



As this table shows, 68 % of the total cost ($130.593 million) is incurred as an up-front, one-time cost.  If Iowa has any interest in dropping the CCS, the state should act very soon.  Much of the CCS implementation expense (68 %) hits very early in the process.  If the state delays the decision to drop CCS, it could waste $131 million on a system that it is not going to use.  The decision is urgent!




D.  Ongoing Expenses


a. Nationwide CCS Costs


The Pioneer Institute tabulated the additional cost for implementing CCS over the first 7-year period.  They needed to cut it off at some point; and seven years was a reasonable time horizon.


I mentioned in my full report covering all 46 CCS states (“States’ Taxpayers Left to Pay for Common Core”) that:


          The cost for CCS does not suddenly end at Year 7.  The ongoing cost for Year 8 and after will be $801 million per year.



According to the Pioneer Institute’s analysis, Years 2 -7 will cost $801 million per year higher than before the Common Core Standards.  However, this $801 million is an ongoing expense that will occur each year in Years 8 and beyond.


In Pioneer’s analysis, Professional Development and Textbooks are one-time, up-front costs; they are not a continuing expense.  We could build a case that, in fact, these two categories have ongoing expenses.  You may need to provide additional training for the teachers in the state for Years 8 and beyond?  Similarly, you may need to buy some additional Textbooks (instructional materials or IM) in Years 8 and beyond?


The Pioneer Institute analysis considers Testing and Technology to be ongoing expenses. 


It makes sense that Testing is ongoing; the schools must conduct assessments every year, even past Year 7. 


We need to understand the assumptions made by Pioneer in their analysis.  On page 21 of the Pioneer white paper report, it addresses the Technology needs as follows:


          We assume in this analysis that a 4:1 ratio of students to computers is necessary for efficient online testing (with testing windows of a couple of weeks), but that the initially available ratio is about 7.5:1.



Many states and local school districts have decided that every student needs a computer.  Under that scenario, the Technology Costs would far exceed the figures in Pioneer’s white paper and my cost reports! 



b. State CCS Costs


This nationwide situation is interesting, but what about Tennessee?


I will first consider the Testing category.  The Total Cost for Testing in Tennessee for 7 years of Testing is $14.596 million.  This equates to $2.085 million per year.

[$14.596 million / 7 years = $2.085 million per year.


Technology is also an ongoing expense.  The Technology expense was taken directly from the Pioneer Appendix.  From the Appendix, I obtained the One-Time Total Tech Cost, the Year 1 Total Tech Cost, the Years 2+ Total Tech Cost, and the Tech Grand Total Cost.  These figures were entered into the Table – “Iowa Technology Cost.”


I will not repeat those calculations here.  Instead, I will focus on the ongoing or annual portion of the Technology expense.  The annual Technology Cost is $7.323 million.  (The Pioneer Appendix shows $7,322,582 for Years 2+ Tech Cost.)


The Testing Cost and Technology Cost are combined in the following Table:


Iowa Ongoing Costs

(Millions of Dollars)




Technology Cost



Total Cost

for 10 Years:

Years 8 – 17


Testing Cost       2.085     20.850
Technology Cost       7.323     73.230
  Total Cost for 10 Years       9.408     94.080



From this Table, we can see that the Total Cost for the next 10 years (Years 8 – 17) is $94.080 million (about $94 million).


The Total CCS Cost for Iowa is $192.565 million; the Federal Awards Total is $9.035 million; the difference is $183.530 million.

[$192.565 million – $9.035 million = $183.530 million]


When I add the Total Net CCS Cost for the first 7 years and the Ongoing Cost for the next 10 years, I obtain $277.610 million (about $278 million).

[$183.530 million + 94.080 million = $277.610 million]


The Ongoing Expense for Common Core implementation in Years 8-17 is $94 million. 


When I add the $184 million for the first 7 years to the ongoing expense of $94 million, I obtain $278 million. 


Where will Iowans find $278 million to cover the Common Core implementation cost over the 17-year period?



E.  Local School District CCS Costs 


Because schools are operated primarily on a local basis, school districts have a vital interest in the Common Core implementation costs.


From the above discussion, we know that it will cost $193 million to implement the Common Core Standards in Iowa.  What would the cost be for the local school districts?  Because of the economy of scale, unit costs will be cheaper at the state level than at the local level.  Nevertheless, I will extend the state costs down to the local level. 


In my larger report, “States’ Taxpayers Left to Pay for Common Core,” I divided the Total Cost of $192.565 million by the number of students; I obtained a unit cost of $392 per student.  I will use this same unit cost of $392 per student to calculate the CCS Cost for the 10 largest School Districts in Iowa.  This information is shown in the following Table:


Iowa School District CCS Costs

(Millions of Dollars)


School District

Number of Students* in

School District

CCS Cost**


School District


Ankeny     9,099       3.567
Cedar Rapids   15,576       6.106
Council Bluffs     8,277       3.245
Davenport   15,440       6.052
Des Moines Independent   30,473     11.945
Dubuque   10,334       4.051
Iowa City   12,350       4.841
Sioux City   13,384       5.247
Waterloo   10,395       4.075
West Des Moines     8,450       3.312





* Student Enrollment, 2012-2013 School Year, Iowa Department of Education, “2012-2013 Certified Enrollment Summary by District,” December 19, 2012.


** CCS Cost Calculation:

Number of students x $392 per student = CCS Cost for District


Example, with Ankeny:

  9,099 students x $392 per student = $3,566,808 ($3.567 million)



All School Districts, large and small, will struggle to pay for the heavy Common Core implementation costs.  For example, where will Des Moines Independent find an extra $12 million to pay for Common Core?  Where will Cedar Rapids or Davenport get $6 million apiece?  The high CCS costs could prove especially troublesome for the smaller School Districts not listed above.


I am guessing that the School Districts will appeal to the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Legislature for help with Common Core implementation costs.


These high Common Core costs should serve as a strong reason to drop the Common Core Standards in Iowa!


Please contact me if you would like copies of my two reports.



Bio for Henry W. Burke




Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer  with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years.



Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction contractor. 


Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy.


 Henry W. Burke


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