Indiana hits ‘pause button’ on Common Core education push

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Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was one of the staunchest defenders of the K-12 academic standards known as Common Core.

But Indiana is now ground zero in the fight against those very standards, and it may lead the way for other states to consider pulling out of the system.

Over the weekend, Mr. Daniels‘ successor, fellow Republican Mike Pence, signed legislation to halt implementation of the Common Core reforms pending further study. The measure doesn’t withdraw Indiana from Common Core, but it opens the door wide enough for the state to exit.

Mr. Pence’s approval came amid growing grass-roots opposition to the state standards, characterized by critics as a back-door way for the federal government to take over what is taught in classrooms.

Backers of the system — Mr. Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and a host of others — vehemently dispute that notion, but it’s gaining traction across the country.

“I have long believed that education is a state and local function, and we must always work to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that our curriculum is developed by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers,” Mr. Pence said in a statement. The bill “hits the pause button on Common Core so Hoosiers can thoroughly evaluate which standards will best serve the interests of our kids.”

The measure requires the state Department of Education to provide a written evaluation of Common Core by July 1. It also calls for additional study of how much the system will cost.

Indiana’s Board of Education must make a final decision on whether to adopt the standards by July 1, 2014.

By signing the bill, Mr. Pence has lent his voice to the growing chorus of Republicans opposed to the standards. Anti-Common Core movements are alive and growing not only in Indiana but in Michigan, Alabama and other states.

Supporters of the system have found themselves defending it against increasingly vocal and organized opposition groups that have seized momentum in the national debate.

Indiana’s “Hoosiers Against Common Core,” for example, was a key influence throughout the back-and-forth in that state. The organization lauded Mr. Pence for signing the bill.

“The will of the people prevailed,” said Heather Crossin, the group’s co-founder. “It prevailed against hundreds of thousands of dollars of paid advertising, a slew of paid lobbyists and numerous powerful organizations.”

Those powerful organizations have included the Chamber of Commerce and many others interested in seeing American students graduate more prepared for college or career — the ultimate goal of Common Core.

The system, which lays out skills students must master and facts they must know at the end of each grade level, was crafted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Participation is voluntary, and 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on. While the Obama administration did not have a hand in writing Common Core, it strongly supports it and has encouraged implementation by tying grant money and other perks to states’ adoption of it.

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