Topeka — An effort to give the Kansas Legislature more control over educational standards in public schools failed to pass the Kansas House on Saturday, but some officials say the issue may come up again before lawmakers adjourn.
It also would have established a legislative oversight committee to investigate those science standards, as well as the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and math, and to make recommendations next year about whether those standards should be allowed to go forward.
"I'm very pleased with the way the vote ended up tonight," Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said after the House vote. "I think it was clear that there are some representatives who think that this authority to set standards clearly lies with the State Board of Education."
DeBacker confirmed that several state board members had already been talking about filing a lawsuit to challenge the bill on constitutional grounds if it had become law.
The bill's failure to win House approval was surprising to some because conservatives in the House were the ones who had insisted it be given a vote, as a condition for them voting in favor of a budget bill. They also insisted that it pass the Senate first.
The Senate passed the bill, 24-12, earlier in the evening. But when it reached the House, it failed, 55-58.
Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, had said the Common Core standards represent, "a dramatic centralization of authority" over public education.
But opponents of the bill said the standards are supported by the vast majority of educators, as well as business leaders across the country.
But others argued that Common Core had nothing to do with the federal government and that much of the criticisms of the standards were based on false information.
"This is another example of why Kansas has become the laughing stock of the nation," said Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.
The bill would have provided that: "No school district, nor the department of education nor the state board of education shall expend any moneys to institute the common core standards, the next generation science standards or any other uniform educational standards for grades kindergarten through 12, or any portion of such standards, including any assessments affiliated with such standards, that were not adopted by the state board of education prior to the first day of the 2013 legislative session."
It also would have set up a legislative oversight committee to review the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and make recommendations to the 2014 Legislature about whether they conform to the "educational values" of the state and whether they should be continued.
Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, succeeded in getting an amendment added to clarify that "uniform educational standards" means standards adopted in two or more states. Otherwise, she said, it also would have prevented the state from implementing the new social studies standards that were adopted in April.
The bill raised constitutional issues because Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution says the state board is given authority over "general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state."
But supporters of the bill argued that the Constitution also gives the Legislature authority to fund public schools. They said there were legitimate concerns about the cost of designing new assessments for those standards and preparing teachers to integrate them into classroom instruction.