The Kansas State Department of Education is tired of losing the messaging war when it comes to talking about the Common Core Standards. And so now they're fighting back.
On Wednesday we reported that Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker soon will respond in writing to a recent Kansas Republican Party resolution calling for withdrawing from Common Core. That resolution makes several assertions that, by any objective measure, can be labeled flatly untrue.
But the new communications strategy doesn't end there.
During the State Board of Education meeting Wednesday, board members received a 44-page "communications toolkit," full of helpful tips and strategies that board members can use when they're talking with people in their communities. The toolkit also is being sent out to local school leaders and other education interest groups.
And the department itself has launched a social media campaign, including a "Common Core Fact of the Day," which you can find under the Twitter hashtag #educateks.
Both the toolkit and the social media campaign are the work of Denise Kahler, the agency's new communications director.
"There's some opposition coming up. You all have seen that in the papers," Kahler told the board. "Probably all of you have seen the Common Core resolution that's been presented, so we need to make sure that we're being well represented."
Education officials across the country do seem to have been caught off guard by the sudden surge of opposition to the Common Core standards. And it's possible many of them had been lulled into a false sense of security since most states, including Kansas, started adopting them as long as three years ago, and the process of developing them had begun two years before that.
Through all of that time — from about 2009 to the present — hardly a word of opposition was spoken by anyone.
By the same token, there wasn't much promotion of the new standards going on, either. And that left a huge vacuum of understanding, into which any kind of information, misinformation, distortion or truth could be poured.
According to a recent Gallup/PDK International survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans had never heard of the Common Core standards.
Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, told the Journal-World Wednesday that he wasn't very well versed on the subject either, even though a majority of the state committee that he chairs just passed a resolution calling for the standards' repeal. He noted that it only became a hot political topic in Kansas toward the end of the legislative session.
Opposition groups began forming around the country last fall, in the weeks leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Much of argument then, as it is now, stressed that the standards are somehow an effort by the Obama Administration to expand federal control over education by usurping state authority.
On Wednesday, Politico reported that most of the money for the ongoing campaign has come from an array of conservative institutes and think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute, Conservative Women for America and FreedomWorks.
Given that, the Kansas State Department of Education may have a tough battle ahead with its belated communications campaign.