Topeka — The Tea-party affiliated FreedomWorks is urging Kansas legislators to reject Common Core reading and math standards.
"Help us protect Kansan students from Common Core," Whitney Neal, director of grassroots for FreedomWorks, said in a note to the group's members. "Let’s fight to keep parents, teachers, and local communities in charge of education – not Washington bureaucrats."
Kansas formally adopted Common Core standards in 2010, saying they would help prepare students for college and careers. Numerous school districts throughout the state, including Lawrence, have spent the past two years getting teachers ready to implement them.
Common Core standards have been adopted by most states, and started as a project of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.
But FreedomWorks says Common Core will take away the rights of states to compose their own education requirements.
In Kansas, the Legislature is fighting over budget and tax issues. Senate Republican leaders want to insert a provision in the budget that would prohibit the expenditure of state funds to implement Common Core standards.
The Kansas House on Friday approved a bill that will require public schools to have a "Celebrate Freedom Week" every year in mid-September.
Supporters said it would help students learn more about the early history of the United States and founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
"I think it's time we got involved in celebrating patriotism," said state Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, who said he felt that children were not getting enough instruction on U.S. history.
But opponents of House Bill 2280 said schools were already teaching American history and that mandating a specific period for the instruction could mess up teachers' class schedules.
"How ironic that we have a bill with freedom in the name that is one more mandate on local government," said state Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton.
State Rep. Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, said he liked the idea of a "Celebrate Freedom Week," but opposed mandating schools to have it. "I don't think every time we come up with a great idea we should force schools to do that great idea," he said.
The measure was approved 95-25 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
In addition to studying the "original intent, meaning and importance" of the nation's early documents, the bill says, "The religious references in the writings of the founding fathers shall not be censored when presented as part of such instruction."
A state legislator has pre-filed a bill that would retain students in third grade if they score less than proficient on state reading tests.
The measure by Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, will be considered by legislators when the 2013 session starts Monday.
House Bill 2004 includes exceptions for mandatory retention.
These include students with limited English proficiency who have had fewer than two years of English language instruction and special education students for whom state tests are not appropriate or who have received two years of intensive remedial help and were previously held back one to two years.
A controversial task force that Gov. Sam Brownback appointed to study public school spending is holding its third and probably final meeting today.
The Governor's School Efficiency Task Force was initially under fire because it was dominated by accountants and no one on it was an educator or worked in a school. Brownback also established a website where people could make anonymous reports of their experiences with inefficient spending in the educational system.
Democrats and education groups said the task force was set up to attack public schools. In the task force's first meeting on Oct. 8, it heard from the Kansas Policy Institute, which has been a critic of how schools spend money.
In setting up the task force, the governor's office said that only 15 of the state's 286 school districts complied with a state law that requires at least 65 percent of state funds be spent in the classroom. But there is no such legal requirement, and school officials released a report that showed based on state funding, all school districts were surpassing the 65 percent level.
The task force is expected to make recommendations to Brownback soon.
School efficiency task force chairman says panel has broached sensitive topic of district consolidation
A task force appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback to make school spending more efficient has broached the politically explosive topic of consolidating school districts, the panel's chairman said Tuesday.
"There really is no way to have a conversation about this without that coming up, however, so we are talking about it," Ken Willard told the Legislative Educational Planning Committee. Willard, of Hutchinson, said he understood that emotions run high around the subject of consolidation, and added that the task force was "not going to go there" when it delivers a report to legislators by the time the 2013 legislative session starts in January.
There are 286 school districts in Kansas and Willard said the question is whether that is an efficient "model for delivering education."
But Willard noted that Brownback has made it clear that he doesn't favor the state forcing consolidation.
State Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said the only way to save money when consolidating school districts is to shut down schools, and that, she added, has a devastating impact on communities. "When you close buildings, you close the town," she said.
Willard said the task force was looking at several other items, such as the salaries of school superintendents. "Many are paid more than the governor is," he said.