State board member says Common Core battle not over

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.