Kansas Common Core Opponents Look to 2014

Published June 18, 2013

Although frustrated by a three-vote defeat of a bill to reconsider Common Core national education standards or related tests in 2013, former Kansas Board of Education member Walt Chappell is resolute: “House Bill 2289 [to repeal Common Core] is still alive.”

The Common Core opponent expects a repeal bill to be reintroduced in 2014, but in the interim, Chappell, president of Educational Management Consultants, believes a “groundswell of activity from teachers and parents” is necessary to make that bill law. He plans to spread the word about Common Core and assist parents and teachers in outreach to their communities.

“We need to give them a voice,” Chappell said.

Twelve Kansas legislators abstained from voting on the bill, which went down 55-58. It would have prohibited the state board of education from adopting national science standards, and assigned a committee to study Common Core’s academic quality and implementation costs.

Common Core is a list of what children must learn in K-12 math and English, and will be paired with national tests in 2014-2015. Forty-five states traded their state standards for Common Core in 2010. As it has rolled out in schools, parents nationwide have protested, arguing the program reduces local input, is untested and of poor quality, and involves unknown costs.

‘Wild West’ Education
Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker told the legislature K-12 standards are necessary to prevent Kansas from becoming a “Wild West” of education. DeBacker told the Lawrence Journal-World she thinks people opposing Common Core are driven more by new, controversial, and related science standards rather than the initial math and English mandates. The Kansas Board of Education adopted national science standards in June. They promote alarmist global warming and lack important academic content, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

DeBacker said repealing Common Core would hurt school districts that have converted their curriculum, and the legislature would invite a legal challenge by interfering with the board of education’s constitutional authority over public schools.

Newly elected Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing), a House Education Committee member, introduced HB2289.

“Of those that voted against the bill, most didn’t pay attention to the volume of calls from parents,” he said. He chalks up the narrow defeat of HB2289 to lawmakers who “didn’t want to cross the education folks.”

Time to Study
Upon taking office in January 2012, Bradford discovered he and many other legislators knew little about Common Core. He became “disheartened to find that no one on the [legislative] Education Committee goes to State School Board meetings,” he said. Bradford said he has attended state school board meetings and Common Core town hall events throughout 2013.

“We need to get homeschoolers and parochial schools involved in this effort,” Bradford said. “When the SAT and ACT [college entrance exams] have been changed to comply with Common Core, it will put these groups at a severe disadvantage nationwide.”

This level of interest from a state legislator excites Kristin George, a Kansas mother of two children. Though she lives 75 miles from the state Capitol, a March column by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin prompted her to visit.

“I couldn’t let go of the fact that I wouldn’t have control over my kids’ education. I thought about how individual they are—I don’t see my kids fitting into a standard that doesn’t appreciate them for who they are,” George said.

Getting Involved
She says she and other parents who have begun speaking out against Common Core implementation in Kansas are being marginalized by Common Core proponents.

“Parents know what’s best for their children,” she said. She and friend Vanessa Everhart organized a Common Core potluck picnic to tell friends about common Core. As they wait for the legislature to confront the issue again, these two moms refuse to sit idle. They plan to continue using social media to inform parents and will organize parent attendance at state school board meetings to keep members apprised of their concerns, George said. 

Image by Jimmy Emerson.