In an event that could attract hundreds, opponents of new federal education reforms – including at least one Fort Wayne Community Schools board member – Thursday are expected to ask Gov. Mike Pence to support legislation that would delay Indiana's adoption of the “Common Core” academic standards.
“This is to education what 'Obamacare' is to medicine,” FWCS board member Glenna Jehl said of the standards being implemented in Indiana and 45 other states under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “And it's a new unfunded mandate (for states), in addition to 'Obamacare.'” Jehl plans to be in Indianapolis on Thursday.
By a 38-11 vote, the Indiana Senate last month passed a bill that would delay implementation so Hoosier lawmakers, parents and others would have more time to study Common Core's contents, impact and costs. The letter to be delivered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday on the third floor of the state Capitol asks Pence to push for similar legislation in the House, said Judy Ross, who is active in Fort Wayne 9-12, one of several tea party-affiliated groups opposed to Common Core.
Ross said 10 groups representing 5,000 members have formed the Northern Indiana Citizens Coalition to oppose Common Core, and similar coalitions have been formed in central and southern Indiana as well. Ross and many other conservatives question the imposition of a national curriculum and the resulting loss of state and local control.
House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, has opposed taking decisions on school standards from the state Board of Education and has been reluctant to allow a vote on the Senate bill, Ross said.
Northwest Allen County Schools board member Kent Somers, who is also active in the 9-12 group, said the federal government has awarded or threatened to withhold funds from states in an effort to promote adoption of Common Core, which some critics contend will impose a one-size-fits-all approach that may or may not be as good as standards already in place in individual states. The importance of classic novels will be downplayed in literature, Somers said, with instruction in procedure emphasized over finding correct answers in mathematics. Some conservatives have also accused the curriculum of attempting to promote liberal causes.
And because the Common Core curriculum is copyrighted and federally mandated, local deviations will not be allowed, Jehl said.
Supported by such groups as the Chamber of Commerce and various foundations and businesses, advocates say Common Core will close educational gaps by placing states on a level field. But Common Core's benefits should have been proved through experimentation in individual cities or states before imposing it upon the entire nation, Ross said.
Unless a delay is granted, Common Core could be fully implemented within two years, Jehl said, and may affect parochial and home schools as well.
Some critics have also suggested Common Core is being promoted by publishing companies and others who could profit from materials and equipment needed for implementation. Somers noted that schools may need to buy additional computers for testing purposes and pointed out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was one of its first proponents in 2007. Gates is the former CEO of Microsoft, the world's largest maker of software for personal computers.