- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republicans in solid control of the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday proposed replacing the state’s Common Core education standards as they laid out their top priorities for this year’s legislative session.

The education bill would create a Kentucky-based system of school standards and assessments, Republicans said. The goal is to boost the number of students deemed college and career ready, they said.

“It’s going to return the education system to educators, so they can change the system that has become flawed,” Senate President Robert Stivers said in outlining the measure in a floor speech.

The measure topped a conservative agenda for the chamber’s Republicans as the GOP wields increased influence in the statehouse, led by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Republicans in the state House are angling to catch Democrats, who have a 50-46 advantage there after four lawmakers resigned and two Democrats switched parties. Special elections to fill the four open seats are set for March 8, when the General Assembly will be entering its crucial final weeks.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Wednesday refiled his legislation aimed at shoring up the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. The measure tops his priorities this year.

It calls for the state to issue up to $3.3 billion in bonds for the teachers’ retirement system. Senate Republicans rejected last year’s version, saying they did not want to incur more debt.

“My legislation is a blueprint forward, at least on the funding side,” Stumbo said. “The one thing I know for sure is that our teachers, their retirees and taxpayers cannot afford for us to wait another year to act.”

The Senate’s education bill would shift more authority to local school officials, said the chamber’s Education Committee chairman, Sen. Mike Wilson.

The measure could be heard in committee as soon as next week, the Bowling Green Republican said.

“We are now in this quagmire of instructional compliance rather than results,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted that Bevin campaigned last year on repealing Common Core standards.

“This has the impact of doing that because it returns our standards to our own hands, Kentucky hands,” Wilson said.

The Common Core standards were created by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Most states voluntarily adopted the standards.

But the standards became a flashpoint in national politics representing to some the overreach of the federal government in educating the nation’s children.

The bill would set up a bottom-up process for setting state school standards and assessments. It would include public input along with advisory panels of teachers and representatives from higher education.

The review process would occur every six years, Wilson said.

A state Department of Education spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the measure.

Other priorities for Senate Republicans include:

- A right-to-work bill banning union membership or payment of union dues as a condition for employment.

- A measure that would require women seeking abortions to have a face-to-face, in-person counseling session with a physician 24 hours prior to the procedure.

-A bill that would require an independent panel to review the merit of medical malpractice cases before they could be filed in court.

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