A key legislative leader who controls the fate of a bill designed to void Common Core academic standards in Indiana said today it might not be needed if state education officials do a good job drafting new standards over the next few weeks.
Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, chairs the House Education Committee and could block the House from voting on Senate Bill 91, which last month passed the Senate, if he does not put it on his committee’s agenda by early March. If that happens, lawmakers could still seek to block the Common Core using the less conventional — and less assured — strategy of amending another education bill to include the anti-Common Core language.
Behning said he has been in discussion, and will aim to come to consensus about the Common Core bill, with House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. Behning’s personal view about whether to move the bill forward, he said, will be influenced by how a standards setting process underway with the Indiana Department of Education and overseen by the Indiana State Board of Education plays out. Senate Bill 91 would void Indiana’s current standards by July 1.
The education department said last week that it will begin work to finalize new standards this week, with public meetings on Thursday and Friday. That will follow with release of draft standards as early as mid-month. In the last week of February, three public feedback meetings are already planned in northern, central and southern Indiana.
Indiana is currently one of 46 states that have agreed to follow the same standards, which are aimed at assuring high school graduates are ready for college or careers. In 2013, the legislature approved a bill to “pause” Indiana’s implementation of Common Core to allow time for a review of the standards and a new vote of the Indiana State Board of Education by July 1.
Behning, who has supported Common Core in the past, said he sees the bill as a fallback option the legislature could use as leverage if lawmakers feel the standard-setting process is not on track. The bill might not be necessary if the education department, led by Democratic state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, moves quickly to propose new standards, he said.
Ritz said last week she expects the state board will vote on new standards at its April 2 meeting. That’s well in advance of the July 1 deadline in Senate Bill 91 for new standards to be in place.
“It appears to me they’ve met everything we’ve asked them to do,” Behning said.
Behning said issues remain with Senate Bill 91, notably how it defines its requirement that Indiana have the nation’s “best” standards.
“I don’t have any problems with the language in the bill,” Behning said of Senate Bill 91’s goal of voiding Common Core.
Gov. Mike Pence, who said last week he was pleased to see the Senate back Senate Bill 91, said he wants new Indiana specific academic standards but didn’t express a preference for whether it happens thanks to the bill or through the education department’s process.
“I’m very encouraged about the process on reviewing standards that’s underway now thru the the state board of education and grateful for their efforts on that,” Pence said. “I also appreciate and respect efforts in the Indiana General Assembly to move legislation along that is supportive of that effort.”