TOPEKA, Kansas — A Kansas House committee heard testimony Wednesday from an overflow crowd of several hundred on legislation that would bar use of the Common Core standards for reading and math in public schools.
Supporters and opponents of the standards filled the House Education Committee meeting room and the adjacent corridor for the hearing. Chairwoman Kasha Kelley told the gathering at that start that she appreciated the respect shown by people on both sides of the issue, which was a holdover from the 2013 session.
"It isn't lost on anybody that there isn't anyone who doesn't want rigorous, thought-provoking standards for our children," said Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.
Last year, a measure to repeal Common Core failed to get out of the committee, though a bill was approved by the Senate that later died in the House. Several states have backed away from the standards or delayed their implementation.
The Kansas measure seeks to reverse a 2010 State Board of Education decision to adopt the standards for math and reading, as well as a set of science standards. It would also create an advisory group to develop new guidelines to replace the existing standards.
Witnesses had 90 seconds each to address the committee, which asked no questions and took no action on the bill.
Critics of the standards used language such as communist, Marxist and socialist to describe the standards and the manner in which they were developed and adopted.
"This loss of local control is eminent if we don't do something," said former state Rep. Owen Donohoe of Shawnee.
Other opponents of the standards complained that they resulted in curriculum that was difficult for students and parents to understand, resulting in poorer classroom performance.
Supporters, including parents, educators and the general public, told the committee that they were stringent and that teachers welcomed the changes because it allowed them to teach students content the way it was intended.
"Kansas teachers are moving in the right direction for learning, exploration, thinking and professionalism for our students," said Dyane Smokorowski, an Andover language arts teacher. "Denying us this progression only reduces the possibilities for dynamic classroom experiences."
Kansas was part of a multi-state consortium that developed the Common Core standards and the so-called Next Generation Science Standards to create common material that students should master.
States were able to add content to the standards, which Kansas did and rebranded as the state's College and Career Ready Standards. A contract has been made with the University of Kansas to write the assessments that students will take in the coming years to determine proficiency on the standards.