Education provision muddies Kan. budget talks

Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott, left, and Emporia State University President Michael Shonrock await the start of budget negotiations Thursday, May 16, 2013, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Legislators are trying to settle differences in House and Senate proposals to cut funding for higher education in the 2014 state budget. (AP Photo/John Milburn)
Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott, left, and Emporia State University President Michael Shonrock await the start of budget negotiations Thursday, May 16, 2013, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Legislators are trying to settle differences in House and Senate proposals to cut funding for higher education in the 2014 state budget. (AP Photo/John Milburn)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education advocates say they were surprised by a provision added to the 2014 state budget banning the spending of any money to implement the national Common Core standards for math and reading.

The provision, introduced Thursday by Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson, says no money could be spent to implement the new standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states. The provision also covers the Next Generation Science Standards which Kansas educators helped develop but the State Board of Education is yet to adopt.

“There is a general resistance to the federal government imposing on our schools,” said Masterson, an Andover Republican.

The provision, which also applies to the 2015 budget, mirrors language of a bill that failed to get out of the House Education Committee earlier in the session. Several conservative legislators have argued that Kansas can’t afford the price of implementing the standards, or the strings that may be associated with following them, such as the reporting of student data to the U.S. Department of Education.

Rep. John Bradford, a Lansing Republican and member of the House Education Committee, was confident the provision would survive the budget debate. Bradford said a handful of states, including Indiana, were rethinking adoption of Common Core and “if that many states are pulling out, there has to be flaws in it.”

“Education is local, should be local and controlled by the state,” he said. “We have good education in Kansas, why change it?”

But Sen. Laura Kelly said blocking Common Core makes no sense if legislators want more from public schools.

“We harangue our schools to get with it and make education better,” the Topeka Democrat said. “And when they are trying to move forward we slam the door on it.”

Critics of Common Core, including former state board member Walt Chappell of Wichita, maintain that Kansas was hoodwinked by other states and the federal government to adopt the standards. They argue that Kansas, and others, adopted the standards to chase federal grants aimed at improving student achievement and as an escape from the burdensome requirements of No Child Left Behind.

However, Chappell and others argued Tuesday before the State Board of Education that the states are now beholden to the federal government and fear that it will take local control away from school districts to set curriculum and will be forced to teach certain material viewed by some as indoctrinating students in a non-theistic view of the world or acceptance of homosexuality.

“When I heard about Common Core, I decided to check it out, and realized it was just the latest incursion of the federal government in its relentless pursuit of controlling our lives,” said Judy Smith, state director of Concerned Women for America.

According to its website, the group advocates to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” The group has been active in Georgia seeking to get the state to opt out of Common Core.

Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said if the provision takes effect it would leave districts that have already started implementing Common Core in limbo.

Many have hired teachers, provided professional development, purchased textbooks and aligned their curriculum to the new standards. It was unclear to Tallman if the language of the provision means that all comes to a halt and districts would have to do something else.

“I think our members will be looking at it closely,” Tallman said. “We clearly knew (the provision) was a possibility that it could be approached this way.”

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Online:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

Kansas Department of Education: http://www.ksde.org

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