A pair of education firsts from the just-completed Indiana legislature came with an usual twists last week, as the state traded outlier status on one national education issue for the same position for another.
Simultaneously, Hoosiers dropped out of of a group of 45 states that have agreed to share Common Core standards while also joining in on another education front by becoming the 42nd state to offer direct state aid for preschool.
Driving the state in these different directions were politics, timing and changing attitudes. But to some it was one step forward, one step back.
That’s certainly how Democrats felt. They’d like a much bigger preschool program and found the arguments that prevailed on Common Core — that the it threatened the state’s freedom to manage its own education policy — ludicrous, said Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, the Democratic leader in the Indiana House.
“It’s a little bit embarrassing,” he said. “I don’t know what it says about Indiana. It doesn’t necessarily shed us in the best light.”
But Republican Gov. Mike Pence defended the state’s approach to both issues as sensible.
“It’s the Indiana way,” he said. “We deliberate, we consider and we’re careful.”
Still, how did it happen?
In 2o12, nobody would have believed Common Core was in trouble in Indiana. It had strong support from the governor, state superintendent and nearly all the key education decision-makers among the Republican legislative leadership, which controlled super majorities in the statehouse. But when some of those players changed, the landscape quickly shifted.
For preschool, proponents were dispirited in 2013 when a small preschool pilot proposal went nowhere in the legislature. But over the course of a year, business-connected supporters pushed harder and eventually piqued the interest of a new governor, who became a critical ally.
Chalkbeat took an in depth look at the changes in Indiana on these issues. Read the stories here: