Bipartisan Leaders Rethink Indiana’s Common Core Participation
A bill to withdraw Indiana from Common Core national education standards is morphing into a bipartisan bid to have the state reconsider with more public input.
When 46 states signed the initiative in 2010, few held public hearings. Kentucky even agreed to adopt the requirements for what K-12 kids should know in English and math before they were published. Even now, nearly three years later, legislators, teachers, parents, and the general public routinely report in interviews and opinion polls they’ve never heard of the Core.
Lack of public input is a central concern of state Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), Senate Bill 193’s original author. During a January 16 hearing on the bill, however, he publicly noted testimony from Indiana Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Vice President Derek Redelman. Redelman worried that by overriding a state board of education vote to adopt the Core, the legislature was thwarting established procedure.
A Senate Education Committee vote on SB 193 was scheduled for Jan. 23, but has been moved back several times and now is slated for Feb. 13. The delays reflect a pending amendment to the bill “to make it more acceptable to a greater number of members on the committee,” said Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn).
Public Hearings, Input
Once senators pin down the amendment, the bill will likely put the Common Core on hold in Indiana, Kruse said. That means it would stay in place for kindergarten and first grade, where the state has already phased it in. Between the bill becoming law and the end of 2013, it would have the state department of education hold one public hearing in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts. The bill would also require the governor’s budget office to analyze the Core’s costs to the state over the next five years. After that, the bill may require the Education Roundtable, a board under the governor’s purview, and state board of education to publicly reconsider their 2010 decision.
“More people are aware of [Common Core] now than the first time around,” Kruse told School Reform News. “So even though groups may try to approve it again, we’ll have more people involved in the decision.”
Despite these accommodations to ICC concerns, the chamber has issued email blasts to members, asking them to pit their state senators against SB 193.
“Common Core is under assault from a contingent of out-of-state special interests, tea party activists and conservative Republican legislators,” reads one email from ICC President Kevin Brinegar.
Since 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Common Core’s underwriter stationed in Washington state, gave the ICC’s parent organization $3.8 million to “engage the business community” to support national standards. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce then disseminated this money and advocacy to its state and local members, according to public tax documents.
Bipartisan Support for Withdrawal
Newly elected state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat and former teachers union president, has signaled her support for SB 193 based on concerns she’s heard from teachers, administrators, and parents around the state, said Indiana Department of Education spokesman David Galvin.
“Indiana had exceptional standards before Common Core,” Ritz said in a statement. “The Indiana Department of Education, and its board, must re-evaluate Common Core Standards to determine what parts we will accept or reject and determine which of our current Indiana standards should be retained.”
Ritz also plans to withdraw Indiana from Common Core tests because she is against high-stakes testing, Galvin said, and is investigating whether she can decide that herself or if that move requires approval from the governor or board of education.
“The idea is to make an Indiana standard, to take the best of these programs and make our own,” Galvin said. Ritz agrees with conservative critics that the Core constitutes “removal of local control. That’s something the superintendent wants to reinstall,” he said.
Ditching the Core may cost the state federal education money, he noted, because its federal No Child Left Behind waiver requires involvement.
“It’s not easy to get rid of Common Core,” he said.
Image by Gage Skidmore.