Lawmakers could move to dump Common Core as Indiana’s official state standards under a bill the Senate Education Committee will consider Wednesday.
A provision in Senate Bill 91, written by Sen. Scott Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, is focused squarely at killing Common Core in Indiana.
“This is the legislature speaking finally about this issue once and for all,” he said. “Indiana is going to write its own standards.”
But a spokesman for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz warned today that such a move could threaten a critical agreement between Indiana and the U.S. Department of Education that released the state from sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Language added last week to Senate Bill 91 would void Indiana standards adopted after June of 2010. The Indiana State Board of Education adopted Common Core as the state’s standards on Aug. 3, 2010, and has been implementing them in stages a grade per year starting at kindergarten.
Schneider said he is frustrated by two years of legislative debate and testimony and motivated by what he sees as a widespread change of heart about Common Core.
“We’re putting a capstone on two years of waiting,” he said. “There’s been a lot of discussion on this.”
In 2013 there was a backlash against Common Core, as conservative legislators raised concerns that the standards were too closely aligned with the priorities of the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama, ceding too much local control. Others felt Indiana’s previous standards were stronger.
The legislature in 2013 passed a bill to “pause” implementation of Common Core. It required new public hearings and additional study of Common Core, setting July 2014 for a new vote of the state board as to whether to continue with it or write new Indiana standards.
The state board and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz have responded by embarking on a process to set new standards. Ritz said earlier this month she did not expect Common Core standards to emerge from the process as the state’s sole standards, but instead new standards may incorporate Common Core elements along with locally-created standards.
Ritz has said the standards will be ready for the board to vote on them by the July deadline.
Daniel Altman, Ritz’s spokesman, said Senate Bill 91 could violate Indiana’s agreement with the federal government. That deal requires the state to adopt “college and career ready” standards in order to be released from the accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. If the state were subject to the those sanctions, a significant number of schools that did not meet NCLB’s goals for test score gains could be forced to take dramatic actions, like replacing the principal and replacing teachers.
“As this bill is written right now, we think it will put the waiver in pretty significant jeopardy,” Altman said. “The U.S. Department of Education is watching very carefully right now what is happening in the Indiana legislature.”
That’s something Schneider said he will aim to avoid, even if it means changing the bill. He said he’s already begun conversations with Ritz’s office to find a solution.
“I think she has legitimate concerns and I’m willing to work on that,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in the building wants to jeopardize that waiver.”
Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and a Common Core supporter, said the bill language also could force Indiana to revert to its 2000 standards, which are 14 years out of date. The 2009 standards Indiana created, which some Indiana critics of Common Core argue are superior, were never formally adopted by the state board, he said.
But Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, who chairs the House Education Committee, said he thought there would be a way to restrict the bill to fit its intention was to revert to the standards written in 2009 only if Ritz fails to deliver on new standards by the July deadline.
“I’m told we’re on task right now to have our new standards in place,” Behning said. “I think the bill is out there just in case something breaks down.”
Gail Zaheralis, of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said teachers need the state to resolve its standards debate so teachers can know what to teach.
“We want as quickly as possible to resolve this issue,” she said. “We’re supportive of college and career ready standards. We also support more Hoosier involvement in setting the standards.”