Common Core Opponents Want Michigan Schools to Start from Scratch. That’s a Costly Proposition


Opponents in Michigan argue that proposed legislation that would allow policymakers to continue to build on the Common Core framework “retains federal control.” The Tenth Amendment Center contends, “Michigan is heading down a dangerous road that has imperiled other states…By pushing through phony reforms in a cloak-and-dagger fashion, the federal-backed standards are protected while the public is deceived.”

The like-minded Michigan Campaign for Liberty perpetuates that claim. “All manner of federal control will be justified under this new provision,” the group wrote recently. “Common Core is a federal takeover of education.”

It’s unfortunate that some hold-out opponents continue to propagate such claims, even after objective analysis has repeatedly exposed them as a baseless means to raise parents’ concerns. Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country. They were voluntarily adopted by states, and states continue to lead implementation efforts.

The Every Student Succeeds Act goes further to ensure federal authorities have no control over states’ education standards—whether they choose the Common Core or another set of learning goals. Congressman John Kline called the ESSA a “huge win for conservatives,” and argued that, “If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

The ESSA “forever ends what has long been an Achilles’ Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments,” Karen Nussle wrote in December.

Contrary to attacks like those made by the Tenth Amendment Center, the Common Core remains a state-led initiative grounded in conservative principles. “It is time for integrity and truth in this debate,” former Education Secretary Bill Bennett wrote last year. “The issue of honest standards of learning for our children is too important to be buried in an avalanche of misinformation and demonization.”

The reality is states like Michigan risk putting students at a disadvantage by replacing the Common Core. Experiences from the few states that have taken the ill-fated “repeal-and-replace” path reaffirm that such action invariably leads to either “rebranding” of the Common Core, or inferior academic expectations.

Michigan lawmakers would be wise to consider Oklahoma’s example. In an effort to appease critics, officials there pledged to replace the Common Core with “superior” education standards. However, by all accounts, the resulting standards fell far short of that goal.

One independent analysis noted: “These [new] standards will disadvantage Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states; students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers.”

Even lawmakers that initiated the legislation to replace the Common Core conceded the resulting criteria were a step down from the rigor and clarity of the Common Core. When Oklahoma’s new standards were released, lawmakers filed at least three joint resolutions calling for improvements.

The fact is, it is impossible to produce a set of education standards that fully prepares students for college and careers and that bears no resemblance to the Common Core. Michigan lawmakers should take that into consideration before taking the state down the costly path others have already paved.