None of the opponents of the Common Core education standards like to say it out loud, but the movement to pull Indiana out of that program is dead. It was killed in a House Education Committee that last week watered down to the point of meaninglessness Sen. Scott Schneider’s bill postponing implementation of the standards. That’s too bad; a meaningful public discussion of the plan isn’t likely to happen now – or ever.
Schneider at first tried to kill Common Core. When that didn’t work, he asked for implementation to be delayed while education officials conducted public hearings in all nine congressional districts. As amended, that measure calls for the hearings but allows rollout of the standards to continue as scheduled, with second grade being added to the kindergarten and first-grade standards already in place.
Last week, 80 representatives from local, state and federal agencies in both Indiana and Illinois met in Gary to see if they could come up with a way to halt or at least slow down the flow of guns from this state to that one.
What great idea did they come up with? Well, says Lake County, Ind., Sheriff John Buncich, they plan to “scrutinize” the sponsors of gun shows more closely.
Like most gun-control efforts, this is something that sounds commonsensical and makes safety advocates feel good about their intentions but has no real effect. Yes, about 20 percent of the guns recovered by Chicago police from 2008 to 2012 came from Indiana, and many if not most of those came from gun shows. But gun shows themselves aren’t the problem, so scrutinizing their sponsors would do little.
Much-needed revision of the state’s criminal code was one of the few goals set by Gov. Mitch Daniels that he did not achieve. Now, the prospects for the reform plan seem brighter.
House Bill 1006, sponsored by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and Greg Steurwald, R-Avon, is going to the full House after getting unanimous approval from the Ways and Means Committee.
Last time around, the revision was killed over concerns by prosecutors in the state that it was too soft on crime. This time, the reform has the backing of state associations of judges, prosecutors and public defenders. The chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court has even weighed in.
The major impetus for reform was the need to reduce prison overcrowding – if the state doesn’t, a court might end up ordering it to.
It is certainly instructive to compare and contrast the two budget battles currently going on, one in Washington and the other in Indianapolis. One is pure folly, an exercise in excess and waste, the other a model of sober fiscal restraint.
The folly is federal, of course. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are in a frothing-at-the-mouth panic over the “sequestration” that could result in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion. But the cuts that would take effect this year would amount to just $44 billion. We’re supposed to believe that the country will be devastated by taking less than 2 percent out of the $3.8 trillion budget? The only debate seems to be over how fast the national debt should be allowed to grow.
The responsible process is the one going on in Indiana.
What a difference a year makes. Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett are gone, and the reforms they pushed through aren’t safe even with their fellow Republicans having a supermajority in both the House and Senate. It might have been a signal that there’s been too much change when a House committee scaled back plans to greatly expand the school voucher system. And it surely is when a Senate committee unanimously votes to scrap the A-F grading system for schools that is barely two years old.
There is a contradiction in that system. It was meant to be more transparent for parents and taxpayers; everybody who’s ever been to school knows what an A and an F mean. But the formula for arriving at a grade is so complex it is all but impossible to explain.