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Taking aim at Common Core

You have to enjoy the fact that the first big challenge of Indiana Republican leadership's education policy agenda is coming from its own right flank.

Sen. Scott Schneider, a Tea Party favorite, will file a bill that, if approved, would make the state the first to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards. If there's any better way to insult state Superintendent Tony Bennett as he leaves for his new post in Florida, I can't think of it.

Bennett was a key player in the state-led efforts to push the standards and was chosen to defend them before a gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council in late 2011. Indiana is a governing state in developing the tests that will be aligned to Common Core through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. He is on the PARCC governing board.

Bennett downplayed his Common Core enthusiasm whenever he spoke to Tea Party groups, suggesting that problems with the standards were because of the Obama Administration's "overreach," but he's once again a true believer.

How much success Schneider will have in advancing the bill, I don't know. Sen. Dennis Kruse, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said at the Legislative Conference last month that his committee will look at the standards.

My impression from speaking with many Republican candidates during election season was that they don't know much about Common Core. The Indianapolis women leading the protest against the standards, however, are politically savvy, well-connected and persistent. They've likely convinced some GOP lawmakers that Bennett's reelection defeat was a result of his embrace of the standards, although that's a real stretch.

In addition to Schneider's bill, Sen. Mike Delph is filing a bill that would "reward high-performing schools" with greater flexibility, including the "freedom to choose, develop and implement their own curriculum." I'm assuming that means Carmel, Zionsville and the parochial schools in Delph's district could opt out of Common Core.

The real test for the anti-Common Core legislation might come from Gov. Mike Pence. If he stays true to his Tea Party supporters and champions Schneider's cause, the first strike at the Bennett/Daniels legacy could land a powerful punch.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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