Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, was cornered at a Tea Party gathering in Indiana last week. Russ Pulliam, blogging at the Indianapolis Star gives an account of the exchange:
Bennett is usually locked in debates with advocates for traditional approaches to public education. But this argument was different. Bennett played defense on behalf of a set of academic standards called the Common Core, which many tea party advocates see as yet another example of the federal government’s overreach.
The temperature in the room rose as Bennett took one question after another from the audience at the White River Yacht Club. He contended that the Common Core is a state-driven initiative, but one that was hijacked by the power-hungry Obama administration.
“I’m a strong conservative and I believe in states’ rights,” he told the gathering of about 100 tea party members.
Bennett pointed out that the Common Core’s standards originated with the National Governors Association, and were intended for voluntary adoption by states. Then, according to Bennett, Obama nationalized the standards and has tried to use federal clout to force the Common Core on the states.
“This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” he said. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”
So shouldn’t this be a reason to pull out of the Common Core? Buck the trend, preserve federalism, show other states that Indiana can produce standards of their own without Arne Duncan breathing down their neck?
I’m reminded of a letter I was shown sent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to State Senator Mike Fair. Senator Fair has worked diligently trying to rid South Carolina of the Common Core State Standards. In it Governor Haley wrote:
South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality, and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states. Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support your efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt the common core standards.
Dr. Bennett, are you saying there isn’t enough knowledge, talent and experience within the state of Indiana to develop standards for the Hoosier state that makes sense for Indiana’s kids? Governor Haley understands that even ceding control to the consensus of other states is not practicing fidelity to federalism. It’s time for you to understand that as well.
Pull Indiana out of the Common Core State Standards or at the very least let elected officials who are accountable to the citizens of Indiana decide whether or not it is the right course to pursue.