In less than two weeks, Indiana could potentially lose its federal No Child Left Behind law waiver unless state leaders can convince the U.S. Department of Education it is on track to raise its academic standards and institute a tougher state test next year.
Last week, Gov. Mike Pence pledged that Indiana would meet the those expectations. He rejected a suggestion by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz that the state consider asking federal officials for leeway to delay accountability measures, like A to F grades for schools and teacher evaluation based on in part on student test scores.
At stake is Indiana losing control over more than $230 million annually that schools use to pay for programs that benefit poor children.
The U.S. Dept. of Education demanded in early May that Indiana officials show how it planned to meet the promises of a waiver, which the state signed with federal officials in 2012 to release Indiana from sanctions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Chalkbeat asked a top Democrat and a top Republican, who returned to the Statehouse for one day as the legislature took up technical corrections to bills they passed earlier this year in a special session, where they stood on the questions surrounding the waiver.Here’s what they had to say:
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis
On whether the legislature should step in to make sure Indiana retains its NCLB waiver:“We’ve been involved in meeting with both the superintendent and the governor and their staffs and we’ve done some outreach to Washington D.C.. We’re watching this very closely and want to be sure that that waiver stays in place. It’s of utmost importance to the state.”

On taking a pause in accountability:

“(Senate President David) Long, the governor and I are all in agreement that there should be no step back from accountability measures that were difficult to obtain and hard fought. A new test, yes there’s generally some impact of that, but it can be dealt with statistically. There’s no reason to suspend, for two years essentially, the accountability measures that were adopted by the General Assembly.”

On collateral damage from Indiana’s reversal on Common Core:

“There’s some smoke and mirrors pointing in that direction, but the change from Common Core has nothing to do with the NCLB waiver despite some comments from the (Indiana) Department of Education to that effect. It has to do with maintaining accountability. There should be no step back.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson

On whether the legislature should step in to make sure Indiana retains its NCLB waiver:

“I really don’t think we should play much of a role. I think we ought to leave that to Supterintendent Ritz. She’s been having the conversations with the federal officials on that and I trust her judgment on these things. As I’ve said on other matters involving her, everyone should step aside and let her do her job.”

On taking a pause in accountability:

“We have a brand new test and we’ve had trouble with tests in the past. This whole issue of how you fairly assign grades and evaluate teachers, I trust (Ritz’s) judgment on. Taking one year out to make sure we’ve got this system done right, to me, that’s a reasonable request.”

On collateral damage from Indiana’s reversal on Common Core:

“One of the reasons this is all happening is because legislators stuck their noses into this thing and messed around with Common Core standards and now it’s resulting in all of these ramifications.”