Topeka — Kansas State Board of Education member Ken Willard said today that the legislative battles over the new Common Core standards are far from over this year.
Willard, from Hutchinson, is considered a reliably conservative Republican, but he has broken ranks with the majority of his party by openly supporting the new curricular standards for reading and math, which are officially known here as the "Kansas College and Career Ready Standards."
Last week, the Kansas Senate passed one version of a school finance bill that included language to prohibit spending any money to implement the Common Core standards or to administer tests aligned with those standards. But that language was quickly stripped out during conference committee negotiations with the House.
In February, though, Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, requested introduction of House Bill 2621, which would repeal the standards in their entirety and have states revert back to the standards that were in place before October 2010 when the state board adopted the Common Core. It also would repeal the Next Generation Science Standards, which the state board adopted in June 2013.
That bill was the subject of a hearing Feb. 14, but no further action has been taken. But the bill was "blessed" by House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, which means it remains alive for the rest of this session. "Blessing" refers to a procedural maneuver that exempts the bill from the normal "turnaround" deadline for bills to pass from their original chamber.
During Tuesday's state board meeting, Willard said he has been told there will be a "big confab" while the Legislature is recessed to discuss the anti-Common Core legislation.
At the same time, Willard noted, there is federal legislation pending that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from using public funds to incentivize - some have used the word "coerce" - states into adopting the Common Core.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who is running for re-election, is one of the co-sponsors of that bill.
Poll shows most Kansans want court to order more school funding; Davis has slight lead over Brownback; Roberts faces challenge
A new poll out today shows that by a wide margin, most Kansans believe public schools are underfunded and want the Kansas Supreme Court to step in by ordering more funding.
The survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in North Carolina, found 59 percent of those responding believe that public schools in Kansas are not adequately funded, and an equal number think the Kansas Supreme Court should rule that funding for public schools needs to be increased.
The court is currently considering an appeal of the case Gannon vs. Kansas in which a trial court ruled in January 2013 that the Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional duty to make "suitable provision" for financing education. The trial court ordered the Legislature to add more than half a billion dollars a year to the K-12 education budget. A decision by the Supreme Court is expected at any time.
The survey of 693 Kansas voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. It included telephone interviews as well as internet responses to capture voters who do not have land-line telephones.
Other findings of the PPP Kansas poll included:
• Democrat Paul Davis of Lawrence holds a slim lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, 42-40.
• While Brownback suffers from a 51-percent disapproval job rating, 59 percent of those surveyed don't know enough about Davis to have an opinion of him one way or another.
• Brownback's tax policies are unpopular among voters, with only 26 percent saying they have been successful and 47 percent saying they have not.
• Former Kansas governor and current Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now has a 55 percent disapproval rating. While she was governor from 2003 to 2009, polls routinely showed her job approval rating in the upper 50s or low to mid 60s range. She is occasionally talked about as a potential Democratic challenger to GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, but has never made any public indication that she's thinking about a Senate bid.
• Roberts may have a challenge on his hands for re-election. Although he leads his GOP challenger Milton Wolf, 42-23 percent, PPP says that appears to be a function of name recognition, since only 24 percent of GOP primary voters are familiar with Wolf. Roberts' own job approval rating is split: 29 percent approve; 38 disapprove; 32 percent are not sure. That's a 12-point drop in his approval rating from a year ago.