TV ads oppose review of Indiana school standards

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An advocacy group that supports Indiana's charter schools program said Tuesday that it's starting an advertising campaign to fight efforts to end the state's use of national reading and math standards.

Stand for Children said its television and radio ads are aimed at conservative lawmakers opposed to Common Core State Standards, which the group calls good national benchmarks. A TV ad featuring an Indianapolis high school teacher and radio ads with a parent will start airing statewide Wednesday.

The group's Indiana director, Justin Ohlemiller, declined to say how much was being spent on the ads, but said Stand for Children, which works in several states to improve public education, wants to increase public awareness about the standards and boost support among legislators.

"Our effort is to take no chances. We want to see Common Core implemented on time," he said. "What we hear is teachers want these standards in their classrooms, parents believe the bar needs to be raised."

The Common Core State Standards, developed by a group of state school officials from across the country, tell schools and teachers what students should learn during each grade and have been adopted by 45 states. Indiana currently uses them in kindergarten and first-grade classes, though all grades are scheduled to begin using them in the 2014-15 school year.

The effort to overturn the state's use of those benchmarks has exposed a split between education leaders in the House and Senate.

Last month, the Indiana Senate approved a bill that would require statewide hearings by the state Board of Education on whether the standards should be kept. The legislation was drafted after a few hundred people opposed to Common Core State Standards attended a Statehouse rally in January.

Currently, the board has the power to independently make decisions about school standards.

House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, has opposed taking the decisions on school standards away from the Board of Education, which decided in 2010 to approve the benchmarks. The board is made up of the state superintendent of public instruction and 10 members appointed by the governor.

Behning said Tuesday that he hadn't heard anything to change his mind on implementing the standards.

The chairman of the Senate's education committee, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he was surprised by Stand for Children's decision to start an advertising campaign supporting the standards. Kruse said he supported the bill's call for new statewide hearings on whether it should keep or modify those standards.

"I think this has been a professional education movement with mostly Ph.D.s and college education people and some of these big foundations that have been funding most of the activity," Kruse said. "It really hasn't been involving the general public and the average person who has their kids in school."

Stand for Children didn't disclose its funding sources for the ad campaign. State records show the group's political arm gave nearly $33,000 to candidates for state offices last year. Its biggest donation was $15,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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