When someone hears bureaucratic terms like “compliance, mandates and penalties,” they might think of the EPA, the IRS, or these days, the Department of Health and Human Services. But another federal government department is fast adopting the language of strict and onerous regulation. Annoyed that Indiana wants to extricate themselves from the Common Core education standards, the U.S. Department of Education is erecting procedural obstacles to make this as difficult possible.
At stake for Hoosiers is $200 million in federal education funds. The Obama Administration is using “No Child Left Behind” waivers to warn Indiana officials of the penalties they face for non-compliance with Common Core. In a political scheme that could only be hatched in Washington, one federal program enacted under George W. Bush and widely derided for undermining local school authority, is pitted against another federal program even more derided for the same reasons.
Horror stories about Common Core are increasing by the day. Police are ejecting or arresting parents from public venues for voicing opposition to Common Core. Social media depicts test questions that make young pupils burst into tears, because they are impossible to answer and make them feel like failures. Meanwhile, elected officials like me are concerned about yet another federal government mandate that dangles $4 billion in federal Race to the Top education grants for local schools under the condition of adherence to Common Core.
Indiana is the first state to officially back out of Common Core. Governor Mike Pence signed into law legislation this spring requiring the state to adopt its own standards and opt-out of Common Core. “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” Pence said. That sounds simple and agreeable enough.
Hoosiers Against Common Core, however, an advocacy group drawing attention to test questions, data tracking on students and the notion that the standards could morph into a national curriculum, are far from declaring victory. Their concern is that Indiana is simply re-branding the standards, essentially cutting and pasting them into a state-based version of Common Core. There are similar concerns in Arizona, Florida and Utah which are in varying degrees of trying to rid themselves of the politically toxic Common Core. Parents and teachers are not waging this fight only to see an Arizona Common Core, a Florida Common Core or an Indiana Common Core.