Why Do Some Politicians Still Claim Federal Overreach When It Comes To Common Core?


New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Ted Gatsas criticized incumbent Governor Chris Sununu this week, alleging “Sununu supported Obama’s Common Core agenda, taking away local control of our schools.”

In an ad set to air this week, Gatsas adds, “As governor, I will get [Common Core] out of our classrooms for good, strengthen local control and give parents a choice on how their kids are educated.”

A PolitiFact analysis calls out that the Common Core State Standards were not developed by the federal government, nor were states pressured into using them. “In fact, federal law predating Common Core prohibits ‘an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum…,’” the fact-check notes.

Beyond mischaracterizing states’ adoption and implementation of high standards, claims like Gatsas’ ignore the fact any concern of federal overreach has already been answered by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Enacted in December with bipartisan support, the law permanently replaces No Child Left Behind and returns control over education standards and assessments to state and local authorities.

Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House education committee, calls the law a “huge win for conservatives.” He adds, “The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt.”

Conservative columnist Lyndsey Layton explained previously in the Washington Post: “States decide academic standards. That has been true for years but was spelled out explicitly by the [Every Student Succeeds Act].”

Candidates like Gatsas, who insist they will get rid of any federal requirement to use the Common Core are barking up an empty tree. Their pledge has been accomplished by Congress already.

While folks like Gatsas continue to bemoan the term Common Core, states have moved on. In most places, education leaders have reviewed their standards, made adjustments to meet their specific student needs and continued to raise the bar for schools. That squares with the design of the Common Core—and it does right by parents, who strongly support college- and career-ready standards.

The Common Core State Standards were always intended as a floor for student proficiency on which states could continue to build up. In that regard, the initiative has fulfilled its purpose.

A Harvard study notes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.” In fact, only one state—Oklahoma—has reverted back to inferior learning goals.

With high standards and high-quality assessments in place, many states have ditched the Common Core label. But regardless of what they call it, states have renewed their commitment to rigorous, consistent academic expectations and meaningful systems of accountability.

That is a huge achievement for state education systems, and it is a message that leaders like Gatsas should be sharing.