Lawrence superintendent testifies against a bill to repeal Common Core standards
Topeka ? Lawrence schools Superintendent Rick Doll told a legislative committee Monday that a bill to repeal many of the state’s education standards, including the Common Core standards for reading and math, would have far-reaching, unintended consequences.
“You don’t kill a mouse with a shotgun,” Doll told the House Education Committee. “This shotgun approach that is advocated in this bill would literally gut many of our educational programs, placing school districts in the impossible position of making local decisions for students that are in direct conflict with the law.”
Doll testified in opposition to House Bill 2292, which would repeal not only the Common Core standards in reading and math, but also the recently adopted standards for science, history and social studies, health, sex education and character development.
If adopted, the bill would put back in place all of the standards the state used before the Common Core standards were adopted in 2010. It would further prohibit the Kansas State Board of Education from adopting standards developed by any national organization or multistate consortium.
“Some of our students enter our schools that have behavior problems,” Doll said. “Instead of complaining about those kids, we very much want to teach them how to behave correctly. This bill would prohibit us from using character education and other methods to teach kids how to behave properly. It’s a huge issue for us.”
He also said the bill, as written, could effectively shut down the district’s large virtual school, which serves more than 1,000 students.
“That virtual school curriculum meets the needs of many parents who want to home school, but they do want to be connected to a curriculum, and they want to be connected to a teacher,” Doll said. “Couldn’t do it. Those standards are written around and matched up with the more rigorous standards.”
The Common Core standards were the result of a project initiated by the National Governors Association and the National Council of Chief State School Officers, and they initially had broad bipartisan support, even from conservatives such as Republican Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.
The intent was to tie state academic standards to the kinds of knowledge and skills students would need by the time they left high school and entered college or the workforce. In Kansas, they are officially known as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.
But political opposition began to grow after the Obama administration began requiring states to adopt them, or standards like them, in order to qualify for certain kinds of federal grants and, later, waivers from the No Child Left Behind law.
“Our K-12 system has been taken over by federal bureaucrats, and more importantly by large corporations who now have a monopoly on a multibillion dollar market,” said former State Board of Education member Walt Chappell, a Wichita Republican who was the only board member at that time to vote against adopting the Common Core standards.
Hosanna Myers, of Whitewater, also spoke in favor of the bill, starting off with a quote from Adolf Hitler and comparing the Common Core standards to government under Nazi Germany.
“Their education was from the top down, no local control,” Myers said. “My Jewish grandma survived that system. In 1948, she happily emigrated to America. But today she sadly says America is like the Third Reich, centrally planned and controlled.”
Frank Clark, a former teacher in private religious schools in Manhattan, alleged that the English standards, “are abandoning the literature of the classics in favor of new authors.”
“I have seen this list and read some of the literature,” Clark said. “Several listed books can only be classified as legalized pornography.”
Interim state education commissioner Brad Neuenswander said many of the critics were confusing the standards, which only list the knowledge and skills students should have at each grade level, with school curriculum, which is the collection of courses and materials that schools use to reach the standards.
He and others said Kansas officials had substantial input into development of the standards. Neuenswander also said the department and state board are now in the process of updating the English and math standards, which they do about every seven years, and the agency website has a page where the public can comment on the standards by offering suggestions about how they can be improved.
Committee chairman Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, said the bill will likely need several amendments before the panel advances it to the full House. But because the bill originated in the Federal and State Affairs Committee, it is exempt from this week’s “turnaround” deadline for most bills to pass out of their chamber of origin.
That means the bill will remain alive and can be voted on at any time for the rest of the session.