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Fighting the Core

With the number of bills, fiscal notes, supplemental notes, submitted testimony and background material circulating through the Kansas Statehouse each legislative session, one could appreciate the fact not every legislator reads everything about all potential changes in state law.

There is no excuse once a lawmaker knows a particular bill is being prepared for a vote. Or, that's at least the expectation citizens have of those entrusted with making such decisions. Hearing after the fact a state senator or representative cast a vote without perusing the pertinent material indicates an abdication of the duties they swore an oath to accept.

Yet some elected officials express no embarrassment when their preparation appears lacking. Some, in fact, seem proud they didn't need to take the time.

The representative carrying the No More Common Core flag this session admitted last week he doesn't know what the reading and math standards are because he hasn't read them.

That bears repeating. Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, is pushing legislation that would nullify the Common Core standards adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education almost four years ago -- and he has not read what the standards say.

"The Common Core standards, I do believe, are not addressing the problems of the children," Dove said. "When (No Child Left Behind) came along, that told me that individuals were teaching to the test. Now it seems the Common Core is just a replication of that in another format."

Dove said he's bothered by the federal government trying to push a program downward to the states, and he doesn't want Kansas to be part of that.

If this particular member of the House Education Committee took the time to educate himself on Common Core, he would discover it's not a federal program. It was, in fact, developed by teachers and administrators from various states -- Kansas included. He would discover curriculum selections would be made at the local level. And he would discover the standards are designed to ensure critical thinking skills are mastered to better prepare students for success either at college or in the workplace.

And, oh yes, it did receive kudos from both President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. These two recognized Common Core was such a good set of standards that federal money was set aside to help further the cause.

Just mentioning the president's name is enough to get certain individuals motivated to action. Facts are superfluous when the cause is keeping anything associated with Obama out of Kansas.

Dove even convened a group of opponents last December in Basehor after teachers and administrators spoke highly of Common Core. "I want to bring them some information from both sides of this," he said.

He brought in fellow ultraconservative legislators, the one Kansas Board of Education member who voted against Common Core, and members of Kansas Against Common Core and Kansas Catholics for Academic Excellence. All spoke about the "myths" of Common Core, although none offered any evidence or citations to back up their claims.

How could they? If Dove still hasn't read the standards, he didn't know what they were back then either.

He just knows he doesn't like them. And so House Bill 2621 unequivocally calls for their nullification. The bill also does away with the next generation science standards the KSBOE passed. And the social, emotional and character developments adopted by the same board.

HB 2621 does go to great length to detail what kind of information can and cannot be tracked or released once students graduate. And then it establishes an advisory council on curriculum content standards comprised of 19 members, of which 10 are appointed by the governor or legislative leaders. That would be a majority for those counting at home.

This bill is reflective of the unprecedented power grab taking place in Topeka. We understand the marching orders come from national organizations, but the torchbearers here should at least pretend to understand what they're supporting.

Demand Common Core's repeal without bothering to read the standards? That deserves a failing grade.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net