Topeka — Legislation that would put the brakes on Common Core education standards and proposed science standards was marching through the Legislature on Friday.
The state's top public school officials — Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker and State Board of Education Chairwoman Jana Shaver — opposed the bill, but on a voice vote a Republican majority of the Senate Ways and Means Committee recommended approval of the measure.
Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and state Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said they had received numerous e-mails from people in opposition to Common Core standards.
"A pause," in implementing the standards "is not just prudent, but necessary," said Masterson.
But state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said the proposed legislation would burden school districts that were already implementing some of the standards.
State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said legislators didn't know what impact the legislation would have. "I'm not sure we understand what kind of chaos we might be creating," Kelly said.
The bill would set up an 11-member oversight committee made up of legislators that would review educational standards and make recommendations next year to the full Legislature on whether the standards should be implemented.
For Common Core standards that have already been implemented, the committee would recommend whether the standards should be continued.
Education Commissioner DeBacker said an oversight committee was unnecessary because it was the elected State Board of Education's job to approve education standards.
Education Board Chair Shaver asked state Masterson how the proposed committee would interact with the board, which has authority over supervising schools.
Masterson said the education board handles policy and the Legislature deals with funding.
The Common Core standards 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 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.
DeBacker said all school districts have been implementing Common Core through hiring teachers, professional development, purchasing textbooks and changing local curriculum.
The bill would have no effect on the math and English language arts standards but would prohibit school districts from moving forward with history/government standards adopted in March, and new science standards that will be before for the board next month.
The last-minute move against Common Core and science standards was seen by some as a way to woo Tea Party-backed legislators to vote for a sales tax increase sought by Gov. Sam Brownback. A number of Tea Party affiliated groups have come out in opposition to Common Core.
The action came on the 98th day of the 2013 legislative session, which was only supposed to last 90 days, and which GOP leaders had earlier said would be finished in 80 days.