Senate panel votes to void Common Core

A bill that would dump Common Core standards in Indiana has passed a legislative committee and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote later this week.

Senate Bill 91’s passage means the state will no longer follow Common Core standards as of July 1, author Scott Schneider said, ending months of sometimes intense debate. That date was intentionally chosen to coincide with a standards review, mandated by the legislature last year and already underway. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has said the review will result in recommendations for new standards by the deadline.

Common Core supporters did not fight the bill, to the surprise of many Democrats on the Senate Education Committee.

Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, led a small group of Common Core backers to the microphone who said they did not object to the bill, once it was amended to go into effect on July 1. The original bill would have voided Common Core once it was passed, potentially leaving Indiana without standards for a short period.

“We do not believe all of this is needed but we believe the process is a reasonable one,” Redelman said.

Democratic senators Earline Rogers, D-Gary, was incredulous.

“You’re OK with striking all references to Common Core?” Rogers asked.

Redelman responded: “It doesn’t prohibit Common Core in the future.”

In just more than a year, Indiana morphed from a strong Common Core state to one that appears ready to toss the national standards aside. In 2010 Indiana was one of earliest of the 45 states that ultimately agreed to make Common Core their state standards with the goal of assuring high school graduates are ready for college or careers. But aopposition, which started with a pair of Indianapolis mothers who thought the standards weakened learning, broadened into a potent force at the statehouse.

Before the November 2012 election, the state’s governor, state superintendent and key legislative leaders all supported Common Core. Then-state Superintendent Tony Bennett was an active promoter of Common Core nationally.

But after Bennett’s defeat by Ritz and the election of Gov. Mike Pence, the state’s commitment was in question. Both were noncommittal about Common Core. Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, announced in early 2013 he changed his mind and aligned with Common Core opponents.

Push back resulted in a 2013 bill that “paused” implementation of Common Core, which the state had been implementing a grade per year starting with kindergarten in 2011. The bill instructed the Indiana State Board of Education to review the standards, take new public testimony and vote by July 1, 2014, as to whether Indiana would continue with the Common Core.

As a result, Ritz and the board initiated a process by which all academic standards are being reviewed with recommendations coming this spring as to whether each should be kept as is or changed. Momentum swung against Common Core earlier this month when Gov. Mike Pence called for “uncommonly high” standards that were “written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers” in his state-of-the state speech, statements widely interpreted as moving away from the national standards.

After the speech Ritz said she did not expect Common Core standards to emerge unchanged from the review process and Common Core supporters said instead they hoped Ritz would propose new standards that incorporated many of its elements. Common Core supporters echoed that sentiment today.

Warren Township Superintendent Dena Cushenberry cautioned that the new standards must reflect Common Core so that students will be able to perform well on college entrance tests like the SAT and ACT, which are moving to connect the tests with the standards.

“If we are not careful, Indiana students will actually lose scholarship money because their standards are not aligned with Common Core,” she said.

But Schneider, and opponents, said the state board should interpret Senate Bill 91 as rejecting Common Core and not try to adopt most of its principles under a new name.

“If some want to say this is an advancement of Common Core and through this process trying to make that happen, so be it,” Schneider said. “But I will tell you there is as a whole group of parent in this state, many of them in this room, that will be watching.”