The attack by some Kansas legislators on the Common Core standards adopted for public schools in the state includes two elements that appear to be all too prevalent in the current session.
The first is to shoot first and ask questions later. The main architect of the bill that would declare the Common Core standards “null and void” recently admitted he hadn’t actually read those standards. The main objection Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, has to the standards, however, is that they are part of a federal government mandate. That’s a common misconception, but, nonetheless, wrong. Development of the Common Core standards and the Next Generation Science Standards was a cooperative effort of education officials in the states. The standards, which are designed to prepare students for college and the workforce, have been adopted in most states and have the support of educators in Kansas and elsewhere.
The second characteristic of this measure is the Legislature’s desire to take over duties that are allocated in the state constitution to other government entities — in this case, the elected Kansas State Board of Education. Never mind the time and effort that state board members and Kansas Department of Education officials put into reviewing the Common Core standards and adapting them to the needs of Kansas students. Dove’s bill would simply throw those standards out and force the education department and board to start over with the assistance of a 19-member advisory council appointed by legislative leaders, the governor, the state school board and the Kansas Board of Regents. To give an idea of the power shift he envisions, legislative leaders would appoint eight members of that council; the state school board would appoint four.
A Wichita newspaper report quoted Dove as saying he has “no beef with the Board of Education. They’re elected officials. People elected them to do their job, and the people elected me to do my job. We just happen to be on opposite sides.”
It would be interesting to poll Dove’s constituents and see whether they think vetoing the curriculum decisions of the elected State Board of Education — without even reviewing the curriculum he is throwing out — is really part of his job description.
State education officials probably should have communicated better with Kansans about the goals and process involved with the Common Core standards. That’s part of their job. Part of a legislator’s job is to be fully informed on an issue before introducing legislation that takes extreme action based on largely unfounded fears. There are too many examples in the current session of legislators falling short in that duty.