Common Core Attacks Popular Among Some Republicans, But Voters Continue to Support Rigorous Education Standards

Attacking Common Core State Standards “sits at the top of the pantheon of red meat lines” for Republican presidential candidates, a recent CNN article asserts. “Common Core-bashing is a staple for almost every Republican candidate. The issue is synonymous among conservatives with Obama and the expansion of government.”

While Common Core State Standards have become a popular target for some Republican presidential candidates seeking to curry favor with a subset of the base, most parents strongly support rigorous academic expectations and high-quality assessments. “Support for high, consistent standards, by any name, remains strikingly strong,” Karen Nussle wrote last fall analyzing a string of education polls.

Many candidates who now oppose the Common Core will have to explain to voters why they formerly supported it. Gov. Chris Christie’s reversal last year “sends a mixed signal to teachers, students and parents,” Karen Nussle explains. “For Gov. Christie, perhaps the biggest consequence of his decision is the blow it deals to his self-professed status as the guy who will tell the hard truths… With his Common Core decision, Gov. Christie has shown that he neither had the courage to forcefully flip-flop on the standards, nor the fortitude to stand by them either.”

Likewise, a recent article by Breitbart News notes that Senator Marco Rubio, who has been critical of others’ support for Common Core State Standards, himself once supported the ideas behind the initiative.

Campbell Brown, a highly-regarded education advocate, notes that much of the attacks among Republicans are little more than political pandering. “Here’s some advice for people running for office: If you want to campaign against core standards, perhaps you should try having core standards of your own first,” Brown says.

Even the claim from candidates that they will repeal the Common Core does not make sense. There is no law or requirement obligating states to use the standards. States voluntarily adopted the standards, and more than five years later most states continue to implement them—refining and building on the framework, exactly as the Common Core was designed.

Last month, the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, ensuring federal authorities have no authority to influence which academic standards states use, Common Core or otherwise. For that reason Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, called the ESSA a “huge win for conservatives”—because it gives states the choice of whether or not to use the Common Core.