Pence, Ritz strongly endorse new Indiana standards over objections

Gov. Mike Pence, a national voice in opposition to Common Core, strongly endorsed Indiana’s new draft standards over loud laughs and jeers from a packed house of his former allies on the issue at today’s Education Roundtable meeting.

The roundtable, which is the first step in Indiana’s standards approval process, supported the controversial standards by votes of 21- 2 with an abstention for English and 21-3 for math.

Pence co-chairs the roundtable with state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat with whom he has frequently been at odds. But today he called the openness and thoroughness of the state’s standards setting process “unprecedented.” It was jointly run by the Ritz-led the Indiana Department of Education and Pence’s Center for Education and Career Innovation.

“Clearly these standards were written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers,” Pence said. “The standards before us today are also uncommonly high.”

That brought loud laughs and expressions of disbelief from a standing room only crowd in a large conference room at the Indiana Government Center.

Opponents say the new standards are too much like Common Core. More than 150 of them rallied at the statehouse prior to the roundtable meeting, calling for the state to return to the standards it followed before adopting Common Core in 2010.

Those who worked to get Indiana to dump Common Core, and in the past praised Pence for his support of that effort, said they were deeply disappointed in him.

“Gov. Pence did not deliver in any way, shape or form on his promise,” said Heather Crossin, one of the founders of Hoosiers Against Common Core, calling the new standards “an edited version” of Common Core. “His actions have not matched his words. He put his signature on Common Core.”

But Pence said Indiana’s process was the most transparent and open standards development process in the state’s history.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the opinions of every Hoosier on this issue,” he said. “I said that our goal was to create new standards in Indiana that would be created by Hoosiers for Hoosiers and would be uncommonly high. I’m confident that we’ve done that.”

Ritz said teachers were the driving force in choosing the standards from options that included Common Core, the state’s prior standards and others.

“As a teacher, I’ve always trusted the teachers of Indiana to set the highest standards,” she said. “We set out to have high standards and we set out to do them for Hoosiers.”

Indiana, once an early champion of Common Core, has backtracked over the past two years from the standards that 45 states have agreed to follow. Common Core was designed with the goal of assuring all students graduate high school ready for college or careers, but critics in Indiana said they feared the shared standards cede too much control over the states’ education systems to the federal government. Creation of Common Core was led by the state governors but the standards were later endorsed and promoted by the U.S. Department of Education.

As a state-ordered review of Common Core was underway earlier this year, lawmakers introduced and ultimately approved a bill to instead withdraw Indiana from participation in Common Core. That spurred state education officials to quickly begin the process of setting new standards to replace them.

“What I never imagined is that they would produce a set of standards that were worse than Common Core,” said Erin Tuttle, a co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, at the rally. “The new standards are really a slap in the fact to parents who fought really hard against Common Core.”

But on the roundtable there was little opposition to the new standards.

“People want to simplify things that are really complex,” said roundtable member and Fort Wayne Superintendent Wendy Robinson. “We can argue about the standards but what is more important is the curriculum we wrap around the standards.”

Voting no on both the English and math standards were WTLC radio host Amos Brown, who raised concerns about how the standards addressed the use of media sources by students, and state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a Common Core opponent.

Sergio Aguilera, retired Mexican Consul to Indianapolis, abstained on the English standards but voted no on the math standards.

The Roundtable, created by the legislature in 1999 to ensure the state has high academic standards and an effective testing system, makes recommendations the governor, state superintendent, Indiana General Assembly and Indiana State Board of Education. Its members represent K-12 schools, colleges, business, labor, parents, the community and the legislature.

The new standards go next to the Indiana State Board of Education, which plans to vote on them next Monday.

State law requires new standards to be set by the state board no later than July 1.