A big break came in June 2012, when the local tea-party council asked Heather and Erin to develop a flyer that it could use to spread the word to tea-party meetings all across the state; the two women turned to Emmett and Jane to help draft it. The first time Heather and Erin were asked to appear on a local radio show (something they had never done before), they asked Emmett if he would fly in and do the show with them. APP staff would fly out to attend rallies, do local radio shows with Heather and Erin, help them prepare to meet with editorial boards, and act as sounding boards and strategists each step of the way as the grassroots movement grew.
THE FIRST TIME FAILED
In 2012, it looked as if Heather and Erin had failed: Prodded by Governor Daniels, the Indiana legislature voted down a bill to withdraw from Common Core.
Heather was ready to give up. Without hands-on support, she told me, “For sure, I would have given up. But Emmett told me this was just the beginning.”
So Senator Schneider agreed to introduce the bill again, and Heather and Erin went to work crisscrossing the state that summer for rallies and meetings that drew large crowds. The media reluctantly began to take notice.
And then something magical intervened: an election.
Tony Bennett’s reelection as state superintendent of public schools was supposed to be a slam dunk. His opponent, Glenda Ritz, was a Democrat in a deeply Republican state, and she had no name recognition and almost no money; she ended up being outspent by more than 5 to 1 as Bennett’s war chest swelled to $1.5 million with major gifts from Michael Bloomberg’s PAC, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, and other national players.
But Bennett was also the highest-profile public defender of Common Core, while Ritz was raising concerns about it.
When the dust had settled on election day, Bennett had lost, badly. It was the upset of the year.
When Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (which backs Common Core), found out late on election night that Bennett had been unseated by the unknown, underfunded underdog Glenda Ritz, he wasn’t happy: “Tony Bennett! Sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t,” Petrilli told Huffington Post writer Joy Resmovits. “You can quote me on that.”
Well, something had clearly hit the fan.
Bennett’s defeat marked a decisive turning point, making every Indiana politician aware how deep voter discontent over Common Core was.
In Indiana, as elsewhere, Common Core proponents have responded to public criticism by accusing the parents of being stupid and uninformed or possibly lying. Common Core, they say, is not a curriculum; it is not being driven by the federal government; it will not interfere with local control of schools.
A few days before Senator Schneider’s anti–Common Core bill passed, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (which had spent more than $100,000 in ads opposing the bill) lashed out in frustration at the outsized effect Heather and Erin had had on the legislature: “Two moms from Indianapolis, a handful of their friends and a couple dozen small but vocal Tea Party groups. That’s the entire Indiana movement that is advocating for a halt to the Common Core State Standards,” the Chamber of Commerce fumed.
This is not accurate, given the opposition by many education experts, including Professor Milgram, Professor Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas, Professor Diane Ravitch of New York University, Professor Chris Tienken of Seton Hall, and former assistant education secretary Williamson Evers at Hoover.
But never underestimate the power of a mother, especially one who is defending her own child’s future.
What started in Indiana is not staying in Indiana.
Legislation opposing Common Core has been introduced in at least seven other states, and large crowds are turning out at public panels and rallies in states from Tennessee to Idaho. Last month the Michigan state house voted to withhold implementation funding, despite Republican governor Rick Snyder’s support for Common Core; the Missouri senate this week approved a bill calling for statewide hearings on Common Core.
In April the RNC passed a resolution opposing Common Core as “inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children.”