Lawmakers expect to vote to pause implementation of Common Core school standards

By Darian Eswine and Lesley Weidenbener
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The state’s implementation of the Common Core education standards would go on hold– at least temporarily – while a commission studied the issue under a deal key leaders are still negotiating.

House Education Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said Wednesday that he's worked on language to put the implementation of Common Core standards in Indiana on hold while the State Board of Education takes a second look at the issue. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

House Education Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said Wednesday that he’s worked on language to put the implementation of Common Core standards in Indiana on hold while the State Board of Education takes a second look at the issue. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

House Speaker Brian Bosma tweeted early Wednesday that he was working with Gov. Mike Pence and senators on “language to pause Common Core for legislative review, statewide input.”

Later, House Education Chairman Bob Behning said that language would “slow down” the rollout of the standards, which are now used in kindergarten and first grades and are scheduled to be implemented in the others. But he said it wouldn’t “eliminate what we’ve done so far.”

“It mandates that the state has to go back and look at Common Core as well as college and career readiness,” Behning said. “We’ve tried to review the language to make sure it allows us to move forward after it’s been thoroughly vetted.”

But some key supporters of Common Core say the proposal – if it becomes law – could put a federal waiver and some federal education funding in jeopardy.

The waiver of provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind law means that Indiana has been able to develop its own accountability and grading systems for schools, a program that education officials have said is more fair.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and a pro-Common Core group called Stand for Children say that pausing the implementation could cause federal officials to take the waiver away. If that happens, schools would be graded under a different system and hundreds would be downgraded from an A or B rating to a C, said Kevin Brinegar, the chamber president.

“We’ve been told that if the requirements under NCLB are not met by 2014, then the U.S. Department of Education may withhold federal funding, including the significant Title I funding,” Brinegar said. “All of this will happen – or in the case of Title 1 is likely to happen – if we withdraw from Common Core. And it very well could happen if we halt Common Core for even one year. With so much at stake, do legislators really want to take that risk?”

But Behning said Wednesday that he’s working on language to keep the timeline of a pause and review “relatively tight so we’re fairly confident we wouldn’t be impacting our waiver.”

Opponents of the national Common Core standards passed out buttons at a Statehouse rally earlier this year. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

Opponents of the national Common Core standards passed out buttons at a Statehouse rally earlier this year. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

Legislation to stop or slow down Common Core – which has been adopted in 46 states – started in the Senate but Behning killed it when it came to the House. So the Senate amended it into another bill.

Still, some members of the House had concerns as well. Rep Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, whose bill will likely become the vehicle for the compromise language, said most Hoosiers didn’t fully understand the issue when the State Board of Education voted three years ago to replace Indiana’s standards – which had generally be lauded – with Common Core.

“Common Core needs to be stopped at this point,” Rhoads said. “It has to be better than our standards or it’s not acceptable to me and I think Indiana has very high standards.”

The proposed compromise when give the Board of Education the job of reconsidering the standards and require the General Assembly to review it as well, Behning said.

Jay Kenworthy, the Indiana communications director for Stand for Children, opposes any pause. But he said that even if the bill passes, the resulting state board hearings could be positive.

“Common Core is better and I think that would be proven in hearings,” Kenworthy said. “I think it would be a positive and good thing to have public input.”

He said the Common Core standards are just as rigorous, if not more, and “it makes more sense in the context of an actual classroom.”

The standards were initiated in 2008 by the National Governor’s Association and the National Superintendents Association. Later, President Barack Obama endorsed the measure and tied some federal funding to it.

Kenworthy blamed the tea party for later opposition.

“The tea party claimed it was an Obama initiative and a federal initiative and they wanted the government to stay out of local schools,” Kenworthy said.

But Kruse has said that parents and educators have only recently started to use the teaching materials associated with Common Core and they’ve raised some questions. Indiana is not alone in its rethinking about the issue but it could be one of the first to take action to pause the implementation.

“The issue has become more of a political debate and less of a policy debate. If it was based on the policy alone — Common Core is a good thing,” Kenworthy said. “But because of the politics of it, legislators are hesitant to throw support.”

But Rhoads said there’s nothing wrong with another evaluation of the program. “It’s important that we take a look at it, let the legislators take a look at it, and find out some more information before we proceed,” Rhoads said.

Darian Eswine is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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