Some Republicans and participants in the work groups tasked with creating new state education standards say Department of Education staff is trying to be too involved in that effort.

The legislature passed, and Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed, a bill that put Common Core standards in place for a year. During that year these groups, made up of people chosen by the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the State Board of Education, the Senate President, the House Speaker and the Commissioner of Higher Education, will work to create new academic performance standards that could potentially replace the Common Core standards.

Eight teams began Monday discussing math, science, social studies and English language standards for elementary and secondary students. Some lawmakers say their intention in creating HB 1490 was for the Department of Education to support those groups, not control them, but one of the group’s chairman says that’s not what’s happening.

“DESE made their presence known, made their agenda known, wanted their outcomes known, and they were very crystal clear about it,” says Chris Howard of Ballwin. “The facilitators had an agenda, and the agenda was to protect DESE’s interests in maintaining whatever of Common Core that they could.”

Howard says the situation led to tension and flaring tempers during some of the meetings Monday and Tuesday.

House Speaker Tim Jones and several other elected Republicans released a statement Tuesday morning that Jones tells Missourinet was an attempt to make clear to the Department what its role was meant to be in this process, according to the legislature.

“We expected that the stakeholders that were appointed to the committees would be the ones that would work together to manage the process and not that DESE would suddenly somehow presume that they were in charge of everything,” says Jones.

Jones says it was a legislative response to the Department that led to the creation of the work groups.

“This whole problem was started by DESE in the first place, who … began the process of implementing Common Core in our 500-plus school districts across the state, without any legislative input, without any legislative oversight, without any contact with the legislature at all,” says Jones.

Attempts to reach the Department for its take on how the first two days’ meetings went were unsuccessful.

Work groups resume meetings next week. Their goal is to have new standards ready in about a year.