U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sounds worried about what’s going on with education in Indiana.
“Indiana has some very, very deep dysfunction right now,” Duncan said Thursday, “some fundamental challenges that I hope for the sake of kids that they can work through.”
Duncan made the statement in response to a question about whether Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver could be placed in jeopardy by rising opposition to Common Core academic standards.
In an interview with reporters in Washington, Duncan was critical of Indiana when asked about whether the state would continue to be released from some of the sanctions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Indiana was one of several states granted a waiver partly on condition that it adopt Common Core academic standards. But lawmakers now appear poised to void Common Core and require new standards. Duncan said he would decide on continued waivers for Indiana and other states that drop the Common Core on a “case by case” basis.
“There are some pretty deep issues there in Indiana I hope they can work through and I hope they can work through together,” Duncan said. “That kind of dysfunction is not good for moving education forward. When adults fight, kids lose.”
Indiana is one of several states that asked Duncan for an NCLB waiver, seeking to be judged on a broader set of criteria than the law’s narrow focus on rapidly increasing standardized test scores. The state’s agreement with the federal government granted release from sanctions. NCLB could have forced radical changes, including firing principals and teachers, at many schools across the state in return for instituting “college and career ready” standards, among other things. Indiana proposed following the Common Core to meet that requirement.
But on Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced a bill that would dump the Common Core, replacing it with new standards in July.
A recording of Duncan’s comments, posted online by Education Week, show he did not get everything correct when speaking about Indiana. More than once he incorrectly said he thought Gov. Mike Pence and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz were suing each other. Ritz has clashed with Pence and the Indiana State Board of Education over who controls the state’s education policy.
The only lawsuit was filed by Ritz against the state board in October. Ritz’s suit alleged board members violated state transparency laws by meeting in secret when they crafted a letter to legislators over email. The suit was dismissed because Ritz failed to get consent from Attorney General Greg Zoeller before filing it.
But Duncan was right that there have been deep disagreements over education in the Hoosier state. In contrast to Indiana, he mentioned Tennessee and Hawaii — states he said demonstrate strong alignment between the governor and state superintendent, even when they are from different parties.
Neither Pence or Ritz responded to request for comment.