Tea party groups have found a new cause to rally round and it is giving the movement a new sense of purpose.
Grass roots organizations are pushing Republican governors nationally to oppose President Barack Obama's Common Core State Standards, getting many to pull back their support for a bipartisan plan to overhaul public schools.
The activity marks the first major tea party activity since its opposition to Obamacare, The Washington Post
"This is the issue that could change things for the tea party movement,” said Lee Ann Burkholder, founder of the 9/12 Patriots in York, Pa. The organization recently drew a crowd of 400 people, more than twice its usual turnout, to a meeting to discuss fighting Common Core.
And lawmakers are responding to the tea party pressure. They have introduced legislation to block Common Core temporarily in nine states, and Republican governors in Indiana and Pennsylvania agreed to put Obama's plan on hold.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia, who is facing re-election next year and has been targeted by tea party activists, said he and other leaders "didn't see it coming with the intensity that it is, apparently all over the country."
Common Core was written by education officials in both parties and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create nationwide math and reading standards for students in all grades. The standards have already been fully adopted by 45 states, and are to be put in place by 2014.
But tea party groups claim the standard equals a federal takeover of education, instead of allowing local control over public schools. They say Common Core was adopted with little public debate, as it was developed by associations representing governors and school chiefs and pushed by the Obama administration.
Several national conservative groups have joined the fight, including FreedomWorks, and some state affiliates of Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Conservative activists say they consider Common Core a new test of party purity. For example, even though Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett last week paused the plan, tea party organizers say they want him to pull the state out of the program, or they will look for someone to run against him in next year's GOP primary.
The tea party threats are not affecting all Republicans, however. Potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently defended Common Core to state Republicans in Michigan, saying the plan is a "clear and straightforward" strategy.
“If I felt this was a federal plan or a plot to take away responsibility for how children learn from states and local communities, I would be opposed to it,” he said.
The Common Core effort actually began five years ago, before Obama was elected, but his administration speeded up its adoption.
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