Battling the Common Core at the State Level

An article in the Indianapolis Star today demonstrates the impact that can be made in battling the Common Core State Standards.  Tony Bennett, the Indiana State Superintendent of Education who is an elected official, has found that his challenge for re-election has been on the right, not on the left with teacher’s unions.  He wants to talk about his reform efforts and school choice, but people who attend Tea Party groups want to know about the Common Core.

Republican incumbent Tony Bennett is officially running against Democrat Glenda Ritz, a teacher at Crooked Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis, for state superintendent of public instruction. Yet he also seems to be running against critics of the national Common Core standards.

Critics see the Common Core as part of a federal effort to command a larger role in education, which historically has been the responsibility of state and local government. They also argue that previous Indiana standards were excellent and should not have been tossed aside.

They cite studies by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research to make their case.

“Common Core would deprive students of the intangible benefits of studying classic literature,” says a Pioneer white paper. “A student who learns to love great books learns to understand great principles that endure throughout human history.”

Bennett has attended tea party forums to remind voters of his impressive reform record, but he winds up answering a lot of questions about the Common Core, including at a recent meeting in Hamilton County.

Groups in Indiana like the American Family Association of IndianaC3 of Wabash County, Greenfield Area TEA Party, Indiana Eagle Forum, Indiana Policy Review, Owen County Tea Party, The Tea Party Coalition of Central Indiana and Hoosier Moms Say No to Common Core.  They are not alone.

We saw a victory in Utah when the State Board of Education there voted to pull out of the SBAC thanks largely to Oak Norton and his group Utahns Against the Common Core.  We also have other groups who are trying to make a difference in their state.  Two new groups have formed.  The first in Georgia called Stop Common Core in Georgia and I launched last night Iowans for Local Control.  You can check out a list of our participants to see if there is somebody in your area.  If not, perhaps you can launch a group!

What’s going on in your state?

Indiana Education Chief Admits Obama Hijacked Common Core

Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, was cornered at a Tea Party gathering in Indiana last week.  Russ Pulliam, blogging at the Indianapolis Star gives an account of the exchange:

Bennett is usually locked in debates with advocates for traditional approaches to public education. But this argument was different. Bennett played defense on behalf of a set of academic standards called the Common Core, which many tea party advocates see as yet another example of the federal government’s overreach.

The temperature in the room rose as Bennett took one question after another from the audience at the White River Yacht Club. He contended that the Common Core is a state-driven initiative, but one that was hijacked by the power-hungry Obama administration.

“I’m a strong conservative and I believe in states’ rights,” he told the gathering of about 100 tea party members.

Bennett pointed out that the Common Core’s standards originated with the National Governors Association, and were intended for voluntary adoption by states. Then, according to Bennett, Obama nationalized the standards and has tried to use federal clout to force the Common Core on the states.

“This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” he said. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”

So shouldn’t this be a reason to pull out of the Common Core?  Buck the trend, preserve federalism, show other states that Indiana can produce standards of their own without Arne Duncan breathing down their neck?

I’m reminded of a letter I was shown sent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to State Senator Mike Fair.  Senator Fair has worked diligently trying to rid South Carolina of the Common Core State Standards.  In it Governor Haley wrote:

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality, and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them.  Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.  Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support your efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt the common core standards.

Dr. Bennett, are you saying there isn’t enough knowledge, talent and experience within the state of Indiana to develop standards for the Hoosier state that makes sense for Indiana’s kids?  Governor Haley understands that even ceding control to the consensus of other states is not practicing fidelity to federalism.  It’s time for you to understand that as well.

Pull Indiana out of the Common Core State Standards or at the very least let elected officials who are accountable to the citizens of Indiana decide whether or not it is the right course to pursue.