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Eagle editorial: Legislature shouldn’t block Common Core

  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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In what passes for due diligence at the Statehouse these days, the state legislator behind the measure to block the Common Core education standards in Kansas acknowledged he hadn’t seen their “actual content.” His colleagues should reject House Bill 2621, which would trample on the Kansas State Board of Education’s constitutional responsibility for setting K-12 standards.

Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, the bill’s main proponent, also told the Lawrence Journal-World that he doesn’t “believe it is within the scope of our federal government to put something together when it comes to education.”

But Common Core is no federal takeover of public schools. As Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker, state board members and local superintendents have tried to explain to concerned parents, clueless lawmakers and partisan provocateurs alike, the Common Core State Standards Initiative was led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and involved business leaders and many teachers. Educators decide how to teach the standards and states decide how to test students’ knowledge against the new benchmarks, which have been adopted by 45 states and are aimed at bolstering U.S. students’ college and career readiness in a high-tech global economy.

The Legislature’s efforts to block the Common Core also are tardy at best. The reading and math standards were adopted in 2010 by the state school board, which last year approved science and history standards. Students will begin taking math and reading tests reflecting the Common Core next month.

The bill also would eliminate compilation of post-high school data, which the State Department of Education argues it needs to have an accurate picture of how students fare after graduation.

The legislation meddles further by creating an Advisory Council on Curriculum Content Standards within the education department to advise the state board “on the development and adoption of curriculum standards”; only three K-12 teachers would be among the council’s 19 members, who would be appointed by the governor, legislative leaders and the Kansas Board of Regents as well as the state board. The bill even ventures into science fiction by barring the collection of students’ DNA sequences and retina patterns.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, expressed doubt Friday about whether the anti-Common Core bill could gain enough votes to pass out of committee, let alone pass the House, and there appears to be little enthusiasm for it in the Senate. But proponents of the bill have planned a Capitol rally timed around its Wednesday hearing before the House Education Committee.

Implementation of the standards is raising a lot of good questions, which the state board, DeBacker and her staff, superintendents and teachers are working hard to answer. As lawmakers shelve this latest attempt to nullify the Common Core, they might also consult the state constitution, which says the state school board has “general supervision of public schools.”

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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