Standards part of funding debate


GOP proposes blocking Common Core as part of funding proposal.

GOP proposes blocking Common Core as part of funding proposal.

TOPEKA (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Senate expanded a GOP education funding plan Thursday night to include a measure blocking public schools from using multistate reading and math standards.

Senators debated the plan into the night and expected to use their supermajority to push a package through the chamber. Before the debate began, Majority Leader Terry Bruce, of Nickerson, urged GOP senators to vote for a plan even if they thought it was flawed to keep the Legislature's work on school funding issues progressing.

Conservative Republicans have attacked the multistate Common Core reading and math standards since the State Board of Education adopted them as the state's own in 2010. The measure GOP senators added to the funding plan on a 27-12 vote would prevent the spending of tax dollars on implementing the standards through June 2017.

Opponents see the Common Core standards as akin to federal standards, because federal officials have encouraged their use. Critics also say the standards take control of school courses away from states and local districts, and would be costly to put into effect.

"We are in control of the pursue, and with that control comes responsibility and accountability," said Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative Hiawatha Republican.

But the standards were an initiative of governors' and education commissioners' associations, and supporters say they'll improve teaching nationwide.

"The Common Core standards have the potential to do the best possible curriculum for students across the country," said Terry Forsyth, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union.

The GOP-dominated Senate also voted 29-11 against a simpler school funding proposal from Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.

Both the GOP plan and the one offered by Hensley were designed to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court decision directing lawmakers to boost aid to poor districts by July. Senators expected to consider multiple changes and vote on the bill late Thursday night.

The measure increases aid to poor districts by $129 million annually to reverse past, recession-driven cuts in funding. The bill offsets part of the cost by trimming state aid to all districts for online classes and transportation programs.

The bill also ties changes in aid to school districts to other education policies sought by conservatives, including a proposal to give families sending their children to private schools a tax break of up to $2,500 a year.

"We need to think strategically and long-term as to where we want to be in the end," Bruce told fellow Republican senators during a meeting ahead of the debate. "What we are voting on obviously is not going to be the final package."

But Hensley argued that the state should simply boost aid to poor school districts, cover the cost with the state's cash reserves and jettison the rest of the GOP plan.

"All the rest of this stuff that we have in this bill isn't necessary at all in order for us to meet the obligation under the court order," Hensley said.

But Senate Vice President Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said Hensley's approach would put only about $40 million of new money to schools to use with the rest going to property tax relief. That compared with more than $110 million available to schools under the underlying plan that was being debated, King said.

Any proposal will have to be negotiated with the House, and its Appropriations Committee was finishing work on an alternative plan Thursday night.

Legislators were also working under a tight deadline because they plan to take a three-week recess starting this weekend. GOP leaders hoped to have the school funding issue settled before the break and leave only minor issues to resolve when they returned later in the month.


AP Political Writer John Hanna also contributed to this report.



Information on Senate GOP schools plan:

Kansas Legislature:

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