GOP Split Over Common Core Education Standards

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 09:42 AM

By Sharon Churcher

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Introduced as a bipartisan effort by 44 states and the District of Columbia to set national educational standards, the Common Core program is causing rifts in the Republican Party.

The New York Times
reported that the initiative, which originally had the overwhelming support of Republican governors, has incited intense resistance on the right, with some former supporters now denouncing it as opening the door to a federal takeover of schools.

Supporters of the Common Core argue that while it specifies skills that students in each grade should master, it leaves actual decisions about curriculum to states and districts.

But conservatives label it "Obamacore," and claim that President Barack Obama's attempt to encourage states to improve standards with grants and waivers is part of "the silent erosion of our civil liberties."

It is not just conservatives who have turned against the Common Core: The leaders of major teachers unions are also pushing back because new, more difficult tests that will assess whether students meet the standards also are being used to evaluate staff.

"You have this unlikely marriage of folks on the far right who are convinced this is part of a federal takeover of local education, who have joined hands with folks on the left associated with teachers unions who are trying to sever any connection between test results and teacher evaluation," said Republican Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who supports the Common Core.

Anger on the grass-roots right is growing. A recent forum on the Common Core in Columbus, Ohio, drew 500 people, most of them parents. Some county Republican committees are moving to punish legislators who do not oppose the standards.

"The establishment in the party has been slow to recognize how big this is," said Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the conservative American Principles Project.

The Daily Caller reported that a group of Republican senators, including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, along with Ted Cruz of Texas, have introduced a resolution that demands the federal government stop "coercing" states to adopt the Common Core.

The Common Core still has an outspoken Republican defender, however, in former Florida governor and prospective presidential candidate Jeb Bush. In remarks this month during an event at his father's presidential library, Bush affirmed his support for the Common Core.

"I guess I've been out of office for a while, so the idea that something that I support — because people are opposed to it means that I have to stop supporting it if there's not any reason based on fact to do that?

"I just don't feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country," Bush said.

Cruz said, "I'm a big fan of Jeb Bush; I think he's an important leader on many issues. But on the question of Common Core, I emphatically do not agree with Common Core."

His opposition to the program is shared by two Senate colleagues who are possible 2016 rivals to Bush for the presidential nomination, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana signed legislation last month that made his state the first to opt out of the Common Core after having adopted it. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said he wanted his state to establish its own educational goals. And Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana suggested that he might use executive authority to go around the state Legislature if lawmakers do not withdraw from the group of states developing the standardized test for the Common Core.

In addition to the complaints about the president's support of the program, some Republican activists are growing wary of its backing by businessmen such as Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder.

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