TOPEKA - Some conservatives in the Kansas Legislature are still hopeful of finding a way to block public schools from implementing the new Common Core standards for English language arts and math, a move that state and local education leaders argue would be costly and disruptive to school districts across the state.
Although bills introduced earlier in the session to block Common Core failed to advance out of committee in either chamber, some conservatives still hold out hope of using the issue as leverage in last-minute negotiations to pass a tax package and budget bill that would allow lawmakers to end the 2013 session.
The renewed push in Kansas comes at the same time Tea Party-backed groups are making similar efforts in other state capitols around the country.
One of those still holding out hope of blocking the new standards is Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Republican from Mulvane.
"I've gotten so many emails from constituents and people across the state that have looked into it much better than I have," DeGraaf said Thursday. "But any time we move to a federalized program, I don't know anything the federal government does well en masse."
The Common Core standards, however, are not a federal program. They are academic standards developed by states through a project that was launched by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The Kansas State Board of Education adopted them as the official English language arts and math standards for Kansas in October 2010, renaming them the Kansas College and Career Ready standards. Teachers are already using them in classrooms in Lawrence and throughout the state.
"Our elementary teachers really used this year to gear up and to really start to make the transition to use the more rigorous standards," said Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll. "Our elementary teachers are implementing the more rigorous standards now. Middle schools and high schools are also in that process, but might not be quite as far advanced."
Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said other school districts are in the same situation.
"The word 'implement' is tricky because all schools in Kansas are far, far beyond implementation," DeBacker said. "Worst case scenario, we would have either no standards or have to revert to the retired standards of 2003. Either case would be burdensome and costly to schools."
Both DeBacker and Doll said any attempt by the Legislature to block the new standards would raise legal questions because the Kansas Constitution gives the State Board of Education authority over supervising public schools.
Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said there continue to be talks about finding a way to block the Common Core standards, but he could not say how such a deal would be arranged.
"I don't care for the Common Core. I think it's a mistake for the state of Kansas to do that," Abrams said.