Sen. Mike Delph proposes ditching new academic standards for 2006 version

If a new bill proposed by state Sen. Mike Delph passes this year, Indiana could do a complete about-face and dump its newly implemented academic standards that aim to prepare students for college and careers and reinstate standards approved nearly a decade ago.

Delph, a Republican from Carmel, authored Senate Bill 501, which asks the Indiana State Board of Education to skip back over both the current Indiana College- and Career-Ready Standards and the Common Core State Standards to put in place standards adopted in 2006. Standards are expectations for what kids should learn in school, and they can shape how teachers teach.

“For the last several years as a governing body we’ve tried to do gymnastics, almost since No Child Left Behind, to try to appease the federal government in an area of public policy that it has no constitutional authority to be invovled in whatsoever,” Delph said. “The reason why we’ve done that is out of this fear we’re going to lose tax dollars we are entiteld to.”

The measure comes after almost a year of legislative bickering about overturning Common Core, creating Hoosier-specific standards endorsed by both Gov. Mike Pence and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and passing the new expectations on to schools to hastily get ready for the 2014-15 school year. Writing new standards also meant the state has had to revise its ISTEP test, which has created challenges and uncertainty for districts and teachers.

Delph had help on the bill from Erin Tuttle, an Indianapolis mom who is part of the group Hoosiers against Common Core, which led the backlash to Common Core that led to the General Assembly’s rejection of it last year. Tuttle argues that Indiana’s new standards are really no different from Common Core and that educators and experts say the 2006 standards are superior to both.

“People are growing weary of the idea of more changes,” Tuttle said. “But in all honesty, they didn’t get it right the last time. If we’re not heading down the right path, we need to correct course regardless of what challenges it might pose.”

However, proponents of Common Core argue many of the criticisms about the rigor of the standards and federal overreaching are false.

The bill would also prohibit Indiana from renewing its No Child Left Behind waiver, which gives schools flexibility on how to spend money for additional support for struggling students. Indiana’s current waiver expires at the end of June.

Delph and Tuttle said the flexibility in spending what they consider a fairly insignificant amount of dollars — ones that don’t necessarily go straight to the classroom, they say — isn’t worth the federal oversight. A return to the 2006 standards would be a return to stability, they said.

“We (shouldn’t be) having to jump through hoops every time Congress lifts their pens in Washington, D.C.,” Tuttle said. “State sovereignty provides that consistency over state education policy that I think teachers and students, and I think legislators, are seeking.”

Delph is the only legislator working so far on the bill, which asks the state board to make all changes before July 1, 2016. He said he has plans in the coming weeks to discuss it with Education Committee Chair Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, but that what happens next is up to the will of the legislature.

“We’ve done a very good job over the lifetime of the state of Indiana of providing public education for all our citizens and residents,” Delph said. “Why we would cede that authority and power unconstitutionally to the federal government is beyond my capacity for reason.”