Indiana and the Common Core

Last week, Indiana became the first state to drop the Common Core.  Common Core opponents heralded it as a sign of things to come.  Time will tell if that is the case.

Before we get too deep into the story, it needs to be stated that one or more states dropping the standards was inevitable.  The standards were adopted in a rush for federal cash from Race to the Top in 2010, and given the fact that three years later (according to the Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll) 62 percent of Americans did not even know what the Common Core was, support in many places is likely soft.  Pair that with the unfortunate reality that there appears to be little appetite in developing a workable governance model for the standards, and there is no force (outside of the federal government rewarding states with regulatory relief for adopting the standards) holding the coalition together.  If states end up being able to drop the standards without consequences from the feds, there is nothing holding them back.

What people really want to know, it seems, is could more states join Indiana in dropping the standards? As I highlight in an infographic here, there are several Republican governors that have come out against the Common Core in states that have adopted the standards. Some, like Rick Scott in Florida and Nikki Haley in South Carolina, are facing what could be tight re-elections in the fall.  If they want to shore up their base, taking a harder line on the Common Core could be the ticket to staying in office.  Tom Corbett, who has been the most vulnerable of the vulnerable for months, has been “studying” the standards for almost a year.  If liberals continue to break against the standards as they have in his neighbor New York, opposing the Common Core could win him more votes on that end of the spectrum while simultaneously helping him shore up his base on the right. It’s hard to say if in any of these cases Common Core is a make or break voting issue for anyone, but stranger things have happened.

At the same time, there are also factors that are peculiar to Indiana that make them a more likely candidate for dropping the standards.  For one, two of the leading crusaders against the Common Core call the Hoosier State home.  Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle, dubbed by the National Review as the “Two Moms vs. the Common Core, ” are from Indianapolis.  They displayed a remarkable acuity in binding together a coalition to oppose the standards. They lobbied their state Senator, who authored the first draft of the bill to remove the Common Core, brought together anti-Common Core organizations from outside the state, and rallied Indiana-based organizations like the Indiana Family Institute and the Indiana Association of Home Educators against the standards.  Such people do not exist in every state.

My take? If states continue to implement the standards in ways that undermine systems working to improve education in their state (like teacher evaluation, school accountability, school choice, etc.) more and more states will feel the pressure to abandon the standards.

-Michael McShane

Mike McShane’s most recent article for Education Next is “Navigating the Common Core.” For another take on Common Core implementation, please read “The Common Core Takes Hold,” by Bob Rothman. Both articles will appear in the Summer 2014 issue of Education Next.

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