Common Core Mirrors Obamacare

Apr 20, 2013 by

The Common Core education standards that Indiana is on the verge of implementing look like Obamacare in a couple of ways. They both are attempts to tackle big problems with sweeping and expensive change. They both take a top-down, federal approach to addressing those problems. Both initiatives also likely will cost more money than originally projected. Common Core is more than a new set of national academic standards. It will require new, expensive assessment tests to replace the state’s ISTEP test. One important difference between Obamacare and Common Core is how they were adopted. The health-care law was fully debated in Congress. Common Core, in contrast, was quietly approved by the State Board of Education.

Now some Indiana legislators think Common Core needs a hearing beyond traditional educational circles. The state Senate has recommended a pause in implementing Common Core, to provide for a series of hearings around the state, along with a more detailed look at the expense. In the House of Representatives, Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, a Republican, wants Common Core to proceed full steam ahead, while taking a look at the expense side. GOP state Rep. Rhonda Rhodes is more sympathetic to the Senate ideas. “Nobody in the legislature was ever included in the discussion over the Common Core,” said Rhodes, a retired kindergarten teacher from Corydon. She also has a philosophical problem with Common Core, as a national takeover of education. Supporters point out that states, 45 of them, have adopted Common Core voluntarily. But opponents note that the Obama administration is using the standards to impose more federal government control over education, even if the core originally came from the National Governors Association. “I still think that the state of Indiana should be responsible for our standards,” Rhodes said.

Common Core has been championed by the same people who have given us more choice in education—charter schools and vouchers for low-income families to be able to choose private schools. The assumption is that the more choices parents
have, the better all schools will strive for excellence in a more competitive marketplace. Common Core moves in the other direction
by taking a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

What’s puzzling is why Common Core advocates are so reluctant to have a public airing of questions raised by the critics. As Rhodes notes, “If it’s so good and so wonderful, why can’t we hear it?”

✭ Pulliam is associate editor of The Star.
Contact him at

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