Panel leans away from Common Core, despite higher costs

A legislative committee studying controversial Common Core education standards is likely to recommend the state create its own curriculum rules and testing program despite higher costs, the group’s co-chairman said Tuesday.

But the study committee didn’t vote at its Tuesday meeting, which was scheduled to be the last for the group this year. Instead, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said the committee is likely to have a fourth meeting to consider a formal recommendation.

“There’s some sympathy for Indiana standards and an Indiana test,” Kruse said after the meeting. “But how that would be put down in writing, we’re not sure. The challenge is to get the wording right with a recommendation that we could vote on.”

The committee adjourned Tuesday afternoon following more than three hours of testimony from parents, educators and others – some who supported and many who opposed Common Core, a set of K-12 school standards created by a group of state education officials and endorsed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The committee also received a report from the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, which found the state would spend roughly $20 million more in the next couple years if it opts against Common Core and instead develops its own standards and assessments.

The study also found there’s little difference between the ongoing costs of testing under Common Core or the state’s own program.

“The OMB report leaves no room for debate: Common Core is the fiscally responsible choice for Hoosier taxpayers,” said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children, a group pushing for the national standards.

But opponents said lawmakers need to consider more than just the cost of developing an independent assessment. Suzanne Sherby, a parent of four children in Indianapolis, told lawmakers that she’s worried about the way her kids are now learning math.

Critics have complained that Common Core’s math programs are based too much on conceptual thinking and not enough on knowing how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

“My child only gets one shot at third grade. And he only has one chance to master the mathematics he will need to be successful in any higher-level endeavors,” Sherby said. “I sincerely hope you will take these costs – which are somewhat difficult to quantify in terms of dollars and cents – into account.”

The legislative committee’s work is part of a larger effort to determine whether Indiana should stick with Common Core, which it adopted in 2010 and has already implemented statewide in kindergarten and first grade.

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly voted to pause implementation of Common Core to conduct a multi-faceted study of the standards. That study includes work by the legislative committee, the education department, the State Board of Education and other officials.

Kruse said after the meeting that the costs outlined by the state budget officials aren’t a reason for Indiana not to develop its own standards and testing program.

“I would have anticipated that,” he said. “And actually the cost seems to be a reasonable amount of money.”

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