This piece was co-authored by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project.
The passage of the new No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill (the Every Student Succeeds Act) hasn’t ended and, in fact, will intensify education debates in this country. In the coming months, we’ll see whether the state legislature leaders and governors like Doug Ducey (AZ), Pat McCrory (NC), Charlie Baker (MA), Asa Hutchinson (AR), John Bel Edwards (LA), Andrew M. Cuomo (NY), Earl Ray Tomblin (WV), and Matt Bevin (KY) fight on behalf of citizenry, or whether they spiral into disrepute like Jeb Bush and Governors John Kasich (OH), Mike Pence (IN), Scott Walker (WI), and Rick Scott (FL).
The issue on deck is the Common Core — a bellwether of gubernatorial trustworthiness and competence. In state after state, governors have bungled the Common Core issue and in so doing have broken faith with their constituents. Just as their brethren in Congress have done, they have catered to the political gadfly class — the parade of party apparatchiks and special interests (especially wealthy foundations and educational-industrial complex donors). They worry about backlash from the crony “capitalists” – those business interests who use government to gain advantage over citizens, smaller competitors, and businesses disfavored by elitists. They listen to the media, and fail to understand the concerns of citizens. Or they simply lack the courage and wisdom to fight for citizens against powerful interests.
Common Core is a bellwether because the standards are demonstrably and fatally defective. That is is the primary concern of parents – less the federal government’s involvement in Common Core adoption than the reality of the minimal, workforce-development standards now being imposed on their children. Yet some governors have bought into the propaganda and concluded that parents will be mollified as long as the same standards are served up on a state platter rather than a federal one. Some governors have even sunk to blatantly trying to deceive citizens.
Gov. Rick Scott provides a prime example. In September 2013, with a strong grassroots movement against Common Core gaining momentum in Florida, Scott asked for advice from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who in turn sought the counsel of Jeb Bush. As BuzzFeed reported, Bush responded that Scott “[w]ants to stop using the term common core but keep the standards.” From there, rather than merely renaming the standards, Scott engineered a phony rebrand — making changes around the margins but keeping the overall structure so as to ensure the continuance of Common Core’s instructional emphases and slowed-down academic progressions and textbooks. Now he could claim that these were Florida-grown standards. Problem solved.
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education.