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Alan Petersime

Common Core bill passed; heads to Pence

If Gov. Mike Pence signs off, Indiana is poised to officially junk Common Core academic standards despite last minute drama when the bill’s author removed his name and voted no.

The Indiana Senate today voted 35-13 to concur with the House version of a bill that voids Common Core standards by July 1. Senate Bill 91 now only needs Pence’s signature to become law. Pence has expressed support for Indiana-created standards.

The bill’s original author, Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said he objected to language in the bill referencing Indiana’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Education releasing the state from some of the sanctions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. That waiver required Indiana to adopt “college and career ready” standards. It did not require Common Core but Indiana, at the time, said it would use Common Core.

Schneider said he opposed the federal education department’s practice of requiring states to change education policy to receive waivers or qualify for grants. Indiana would be better off to decline federal grants than agree to change its education system, he said.

“In order to get substantial amounts of federal dollars states have to adopt college and career ready standards or Common Core,” Schneider said.

Schneider said he objected to the federal government “directing us into adopting policies on a statewide level or we don’t get the money,” he said.

The bill’s only reference to the federal government is a section that permits the Indiana State Board of Education to renew its NCLB wavier.

“I think that’s unnecessary in this bill,” Schneider said.

Indiana’s 2010 adoption of Common Core put it among 45 other states that did so with the goal of assuring that high school students across the nation graduated high school prepared for college or careers. But in 2013, the legislature approved a bill to “pause” implementation of Common Core to allow time for a new review of the standards and a new vote of the Indiana State Board of Education by July 1, 2014.

The standards were promoted in Indiana and nationally by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett, who was state superintendent at the time.

Opposition grew beginning in late 2012. Conservatives, worried that the Common Core ceded too much authority over what Indiana students learn to the federal government, led the charge against it. The U.S. Department of Education under President Obama has endorsed Common Core and sought to persuade states to adopt the standards. Some liberals also raised concerns that Common Core represented a deeper commitment to standardized testing, which they opposed.

Schneider said the more he learned about Common Core, the more troubled he was.

“Back in 2012 not many of us knew what Common Core was,” he said. “We were able to expose Common Core and some of the main issues and problems.”

Schneider also issued a warning that Indiana’s new standards should not closely resemble Common Core.

“I was reassured on numerous occasions to trust the process,” he said. “But I will say this. If what comes out at end of the process remains Common Core under a different guise or a different name, in my opinion, that will be a monumental violation of the public trust.”

The standards review process over the last few months evolved into an effort to set new, Indiana-specific academic standards to replace Common Core.

The draft standards were released last month and public hearings were held in Indianapolis, Plymouth and Sellersburg. Today is the deadline for public comment on the proposed new standards.

The fast-moving timeline to new standards has already slowed, as state officials said last week the standards would not be ready for an April 9 state board vote as had been planned.