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Moderator Tom Neat explains the ground rules to the audience at the monthly Third House meeting Saturday, April 20, 2013. Neat selects questioners and keeps the meeting running on topic. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)

Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Rob Haworth asks a question regarding education to Joe Zakas and Tim Wesco at the monthly Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, April 20, 2013. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)

State Senator Joe Zakas makes opening remarks at the monthly Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, April 20, 2013. Zakas answered questions on a variety of legislative topics. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
School issues arise at Goshen, Elkhart Third House meetings

Posted on April 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 20, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.

ELKHART COUNTY — Questions and comments related to school funding, the Common Core State Standards and other education issues repeatedly came up during Third House meetings in Goshen and Elkhart Saturday, April 20.

Local school leaders were at both Third House sessions hosted at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce on Saturday morning.

At the Goshen session, State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, explained how several education issues, including the state’s new Common Core education standards, are wrapped up in the same bill.

HB 1427 is the bill that, if passed, would halt the implementation of the new state standards so a committee could study them more in-depth, but also includes other education issues, Yoder said.

That bill is also “the driver for A to F,” Yoder said, referencing the state’s system of grading schools and school systems in Indiana.

“We all for the most part agree that the A to F scale needs fixed and now,” Yoder said. “Do you kill the bill because the anti-Common Core bill is in there and then you kill A to F, too?”

Yoder said legislators hope to have something passed on the A to F grading system by the end of the legislative session.

“The biggest problem I have with Common Core is that we didn’t vet it at all in the legislature,” Yoder said. “It was done through the state board of education a couple years ago.”

Yoder doesn’t like the idea, he said, of having schools already implementing Common Core education standards, following state mandates from the Indiana Department of Education, but then having the legislature telling them to halt their implementation.

“That’s expensive, it’s jerking people around again and it’s probably not the most efficient way to go about things,” he said. “That being said, though, I do have some issues with Common Core ... especially with funding and some other issues.”

At the Elkhart meeting, a quick straw poll of the audience showed that the legislature’s look at the Common Core standards was the issue addressed during this year’s General Assembly with the longest-lasting impact on the state.

SB 517 also came up at Elkhart and Goshen’s Third House meetings. If passed, the bill would allow local school districts some relief from the shortfalls they’re seeing because of property tax caps, by allowing them to distribute their “losses” as they chose across multiple funds, among other measures.

Senator Joe Zakas, R-Granger, and Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, said at the Elkhart meeting that they supported SB 517, after Elkhart Superintendent Rob Haworth and Concord Superintendent Wayne Stubbs spoke to them about the bill.

At the Goshen meeting, Goshen Superintendent Diane Woodworth and Fairfield Superintendent Steve Thalheimer explained to Yoder and State Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, about how difficult the financial situation is for their school systems.

Thalheimer also listed several state measures that make the legislature seem “anti-public school” to the public. Culver said members of the public have told him that they aren’t “anti-public school, but anti-more and more taxes.”