Gov. Mike Pence Scrambles to Preserve Indiana's Federal Education Waiver

Gov. Mike Pence Scrambles to Preserve Indiana's Federal Education Waiver

Gov. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana is traveling around the country these days, likely because he’s testing out the waters for a presidential run in 2016. Mallory Factor interviewed Pence at the recent New York Meeting, during which the governor boasted about his conservative policies, including his state’s supposed status as the first in the nation to withdraw from the Common Core standards.

“I believe education is a state and local function,” said Pence. “I don’t know if they’re perfect, but they’re better than Common Core,” he said of his state’s “new” standards.

Pence seems to be hoping he will come off sounding like a federalist, but the truth is he has attempted to deceive Hoosiers for his own political gain by touting that he is the first governor to withdraw his state from the Common Core.

As Erin Tuttle, one of the organizers of Hoosiers Against Common Core, told Breitbart News, “For all Pence’s claims of federalism, his signature legislation removing Indiana from the Common Core required the new standards to ‘comply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver.'”

In fact, last week Pence sent a letter to the Indiana state Board of Education requesting it assist the state’s Department of Education in its endeavor to preserve Indiana’s education waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

It turns out the state has drawn the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Education (USED), which released its Part B Monitoring Report of Indiana’s Waiver for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility. The report makes Indiana’s waiver conditional for 60 days, pending a comprehensive remediation plan to correct the nine issues of non-compliance cited in the report.

As Alyson Klein explained in Education Week, states were not required to adopt the Common Core standards specifically to obtain a federal waiver from NCLB. Rather, they were required to adopt college- and career-ready standards.

Though Pence claims his state ditched the Common Core standards, many Hoosiers and those Pence asked to help in the review of new drafts of standards know that the “new” standards are strikingly similar to Common Core and, in some cases, even inferior. That is the deception.

The USED now wants Indiana to first provide evidence that its “new” standards pass muster with the state university system, since the standards are, at least nominally, no longer the “Common Core,” and, second, to obtain the state’s plan for a new test that is aligned to its “new” adopted standards.

In his letter to Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the members of the state Board of Education, Pence writes:

I am disappointed and concerned by the findings in this report, and the potential consequence that Indiana might lose its waiver effective June 30, 2014, because education is critical to the future success of our children and our state.

As you know, the ESEA waiver provides three primary benefits: (1) Indiana can utilize its own state accountability system – our A-F system – for purposes of both federal and state accountability, instead of using the federal AYP system in addition to the A-F system; (2) Indiana has flexibility at the state level to allocate federal funds to support our under-performing schools; and (3) Indiana schools have flexibility at the local level to utilize federal funds to improve academic performance.

…I am writing to urge the State Board of Education to assist the Indiana Department of Education in developing a comprehensive remediation plan that addresses the concerns laid out in the monitoring report. It is vital that the Indiana Department of Education secure the renewal of the state’s waiver to protect the flexibility that the waiver provides to the state and to our schools, and I urge you to make this your highest priority over the next 60 days. [Emphasis added].

“Does this statement sound like the words of a man who demands state sovereignty?” asks Tuttle. “This was all about delivering a predetermined result, a set of standards with almost perfect alignment to the Common Core to satisfy the US Department of Education.”

In fact, Pence now sounds very dependent on the federal government for his state’s waiver and desperate for the granting of federal approval for flexibility to use federal education dollars.