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Common Core Attracts Uncommon Set of Opponents in Hoosierland

By Larry Grau, DFER-Indiana State Director

In an unfortunate turn of events, Indiana has gone from being lauded as a leader in advancing the Common Core and education reforms to rightfully being called into question about our collective sanity on education policies. That rapid left - or rather, far right - turn in the perception of education policy in the state was prompted by a piece of legislation filed by Indiana State Senator, Scott Schneider (R, Indianapolis). Sen. Schneider’s bill (Senate Bill 193, or SB193) requires the state to completely withdraw from the Common Core (read it for yourself HERE). Much to our dismay, the bill passed out of Committee, after being stalled for weeks following a hearing that spanned nearly six hours.

DFER-IN proudly provided testimony (which is outlined below) opposing SB193 and supporting the Common Core, and was glad to be joined by a diverse group of organizations and individuals covering a wide political ideological spectrum that supported our efforts, including the Indiana teachers’ unions. However, there were some local and regional union representatives and members teaming up with Tea Partiers to express opposition to the Common Core and support for SB193.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed this perplexing alliance in education policy issues form at an increasing rate in Indiana, and it is something that begs the probing question: what’s up with that? The explanation for the alliance is probably fairly simple - it is the convergence of individuals or groups who will always oppose ed reform for two very different reasons: One doesn’t want government to do much of anything and the other doesn’t want to have any accountability in education.

The hearings on SB193 have been marked by the Tea Party/union alliance stoking uneasiness, fears and misperceptions around Common Core. They tried to persuade legislators that Common Core would take away “local control” through more government programs and requirements, allow corporate interests to take over our schools, and enable the Government to mandate what and how teachers can teach. Their goal was to convince legislators to not only oppose participation in Common Core, but also to be leery of anyone favoring reform at all.

During the course of the two hearings on the bill, the Tea Party/union alliance was able to convince enough legislators to pass the bill out of Committee. However, our efforts against the bill made an impact. All of the Democrats on the committee - lead by Sen. Earline Rogers - voted against Schneider’s bill.

In spite of the bill passing its way through Committee, I am managing to stay positive. Individuals representing the diverse group of organizations supporting Common Core gave spirited and intelligent testimony against the bill. Even the harshest critics of the Common Core found it difficult to argue against the facts; the standards emphasize the skills and content knowledge students need to successfully transition from k-12 to post-secondary education, and give teachers a stronger basis to work together to develop strategies for providing instruction. Those points were highlighted by over a dozen classroom teachers appearing in front of the Committee to offer firsthand, heartfelt stories of ways the Common Core was already producing amazing results for their students.

Ed reform is about what benefits students! It isn’t about guarding turf, or who controls what. At the heart of the matter, the Common Core is designed to provide all students with a set of uniform expectations to guide them toward becoming college-and career-ready for a global economy. At the end of the day though, those who put students first will always choose to advocate for what’s in the best interest of our children.

We have a long way to go before the Indiana General Assembly concludes its work this session, and that means SB193 still faces an uncertain future. Our hope is that this misguided piece of legislation has received more than enough attention, and will die the sudden and unceremonious death it deserves. Anything less would be an insult to everyone who has worked so hard to make Indiana a leader in ed reform, and worse yet, would put Hoosier students at a disadvantage nationally and globally.

Links to Press coverage in which DFER was quoted or cited...

Heartlander 

IndyStar

Herald Times

Indiana Public Media

Main points made in the DFER-IN testimony opposing SB193, supporting the Common Core:

Larry joined the DFER team at the end of 2010. He has over twenty years of experience in research, policy development and analysis, and evaluation, primarily in the areas of education and youth development. He was formerly the chief education policy advisor to Governor Frank O'Bannon, and served as the Education Finance Analyst for the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee prior to that. Read more about Larry here.