Implementing the new Common Core State Standards in reading and math will cost school districts an estimated $32 million to $60 million over the next five years, mainly to pay for new textbooks and teacher training, according to a Legislative Post Audit report released Thursday.
Meanwhile, the report noted, the Kansas State Department of Education will probably save about $9 million over that time, compared with what it would have spent if it had developed new reading and math standards in-house.
That is significantly lower than estimates from two national studies — one by the Pioneer Institute and another by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute — that estimated the costs in Kansas at $100 million to $180 million.
But state education officials said even the Post Audit report was probably high because the cost of textbooks and professional development for teachers are costs schools incur on a regular basis anyway, and they would continue to be incurred even if the state had not adopted the Common Core standards.
"Every district has what they call a textbook revision cycle," Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker told the Legislative Post Audit Committee, a select panel of legislators who supervise the auditing agency. "Usually that cycle is on the same cycle the State Department (of Education) has in adopting new standards. Typically it's about seven years."
Kansas lawmakers requested the audit during the 2012 session during battles over the state budget and school finance. Conservative lawmakers in particular cited national reports alleging the Common Core standards would cost states hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars to implement.
Both the Pioneer Institute and Thomas B. Fordham Institute are private, nonpartisan think tanks that promote charter schools and other kinds of school-choice initiatives.
But the Post Audit report questioned the methods used in those groups' estimates, noting among other things that they assumed all teachers would have to be retrained to teach the new standards, when the standards apply only to reading and math. They also assumed states would incur significant technology costs to use online testing tools aligned to the new standards, even though Kansas schools already use computerized testing.
The complete audit report is available online at http://www.kslpa.org/docs/reports/r-12-017.pdf.