Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Complex Common Core 'Pause' Bill Passes Indiana General Assembly

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    Members of the Indiana House — including Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon; Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary; Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel; Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington and Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis — confer in the corner of the chamber to consider a procedural question Rep. Pierce raised about House Bill 1427.

    Indiana lawmakers sent a lengthy piece of education legislation to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk late Friday night which, Common Core opponents say, throws the brakes on implementation of the nationally-crafted academic standards in the state’s classrooms.

    In addition to a re-write of the process by which state education officials issue A-F ratings to Indiana schools — among other matters — House Bill 1427 calls for a legislative review, public hearings and a fiscal analysis of the Common Core.

    “I feel it’s a victory for everybody in the state of Indiana,” said Erin Tuttle, one of two Indianapolis parents who — spurred by their concerns over the Common Core-tied homework their children were bringing home — led a statehouse push against the standards.

    But it’s not exactly clear what happens in the meantime for Indiana schools. Opponents of the bill, some of whom support the Common Core, criticized the legislation for leaving local schools without a clear directive about how to proceed.

    As we’ve reported, Indiana teachers are already teaching kindergarteners and first graders based on the standards. Some schools have already taken extra steps to fold the standards into their current instructional practices.

    Those practices alarmed Tuttle and Heather Crossin, two parents who started the advocacy group Hoosiers Against the Common Core.

    They took their concerns to Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who authored a Senate bill that would’ve halted the standards’ rollout in classrooms pending statewide meetings. When Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, refused to hear the bill in the House Education Committee he chairs, Schneider worked to amend House Bill 1427 to include Common Core “pause” language.

    “We had some pretty strong forces against us, some corporate interests against us, who quite frankly were disrespectful of my constituents,” Schneider told StateImpact. “They can beat up on me all day, but when you start to disparage average folks, taxpayers, parents of the state of Indiana, I think that’s unfortunate. This is a good night.”

    Proponents of the standards launched a counter-narrative after House Bill 1427’s passage. A press release from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the nationally-crafted standards, said the bill’s language was not clear enough to halt the Common Core’s implementation.

    “We hope that the confusing and incoherent language is made clearer by the Department of Education in the coming weeks, so that way, teachers and principals understand what happened here today… There needs to be clarification,” said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of the pro-Common Core advocacy organization Stand for Children Indiana, in an interview after the vote.

    Behning declined to comment to StateImpact about the Chamber’s read on the bill about an hour before adjournment.

    On Thursday, Behning told IPBS statehouse reporter Brandon Smith the bill created a “pause, and not a stop” for the Common Core in Indiana. But he also said the pause could put officials at the U.S. Department of Education in a “precarious position,” since Indiana schools must use academic standards aligned to “college and career readiness” to fulfill eligibility requirements for a waiver from the most stringent sections of No Child Left Behind.

    “We’re not saying that we want to walk away from college or career readiness standards,” Behning told Smith.

    Although Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, voted against House Bill 1427 (he didn’t like the A-F re-write provisions) and argued forcefully against it on the floor, he told StateImpact before the vote he supported the idea of a public review of the Common Core:

    Let’s at least take the time where we’ve looked this over very carefully, where we have complete public input — and not a noon meeting in Indianapolis — where we look at experts around the state, because quite honestly teachers and administrators had minimal input on this. I’m not saying necessarily let’s throw it away. Let’s make sure that it fits our needs. Let’s make sure that it does exactly what we want it to do, where at this point, hopefully, maybe, we can fine tune it, maybe we can make small changes to it — I think that’s appropriate — but we’re not going to do another major overhaul two or three years down the road.

    Battles did add that, if he had drafted the legislation, he would not have necessarily wanted to pause implementation.

    Tuttle says Common Core adoption undercuts local control of school districts. She says she’s pleased legislators have endorsed her view.

    “When you put all the pieces together, it does equal what opponents of Common Core have been saying all along. It does take a lot of wisdom on legislators behalf to be able to put the pieces together, because it is a complex puzzle. But once you put the pieces all together, the picture’s very clear.”


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