8 months, 4 weeks ago foxnews.com
Risings costs and curriculum dictates have prompted criticism
Indiana has become the first of 45 states to opt out of the national education standard known as Common Core, and critics of the controversial K-12 program say the move could "open the floodgates" for others to follow.
Growing criticism over costs imposed by the program, as well as fears that by setting a national education standard, the program has already begun dictating curriculum, has made Common Core an increasingly polarizing issue. Although the program has both Republican and Democrat supporters, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence predicted his state will be the first of many to rethink participation.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, originally drafted by state education superintendents working with the National Governors Association, and since embraced by the Obama administration, seeks to impose a national standard for achievement among K-12 students. Some states began implementation this year, with the majority slated to begin in the fall.
But several states are seeing a backlash against participation, which was typically approved as long as five years ago. Jim Stergios, executive director of the nonpartisan, Boston-based think tank Pioneer Institute, said the Hoosier State's move could "open the floodgates."
"Indiana, under [Republican Gov.] Mitch Daniels, was one of the early proponents of Common Core, even the poster child," Stergios told FoxNews.com. "By pulling out, it sends a strong signal to other states, particularly red states, that, 'Hey, if they can do this, then why can't we?'"
Common Core officials said in a statement the decision was Indiana's to make, and pledged to work with the state in whatever way was possible.
"States have always been in full control of determining which standards are right for their students," Carissa Miller, deputy executive director for the Council of Chief State School Officers, said in a statement. "CCSSO has stated from the beginning of this effort that we support states in choosing higher, clearer standards that prepare students for college and career and that the Common Core was one path. We look forward to continuing to support Indiana with their college and career-ready standards.”
Although Common Core has been in the works for years, Stergios said it is not surprising that the real opposition has galvanized now that it has begun to influence curriculum and have an impact on state and local budgets. FoxNews.com reported last month that states face unfunded mandates totalling $10 billion or more, as well as annual cost increases to comply with the programs testing component.
"The whole process behind Common Core was developed in a way to minimize input or popular knowledge of what was going on," Stergios said. "It was to be expected that parents would not react, positively, or negatively, until their kids started coming home with this new material. And legislators only start to get the message when they are confronted by new costs and angry voters."
A handful of other states have opted out of the assessment component of Common Core, though they presumably will mandate that districts comply with curriculum that prepares students for the standards. Other states, including Arizona, have renamed the program with their states, hoping to avoid the polarizing title while still implementing the program.
"We have yet to see leadership like that shown by Gov. Pence in any other state," said Glyn Wright, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a think tank that has also been highly critical of Common Core. "We hope that other principled governors like Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), and Sam Brownback (Kansas)will emulate Governor Pence’s leadership by defending taxpayers, families, and state sovereignty in leading their state out of the Common Core."
Critics say Indiana is also simply stripping the "Common Core" label while largely keeping the same standards in place. This year, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a measure requiring the State Board of Education to draft new benchmarks for students.
The draft for those standards, put out for review last month, has already drawn skepticism from Common Core critics, including an analyst hired by Pence to assess the new program. That analyst, retired University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, says the proposal is just too similar to Common Core.