by Karen R. Effrem, MD
Despite consistently promising to end Common Core in nearly every stump speech as a candidate, which was likely one key aspect of his stunning election victory, those words “Common Core” seem to have disappeared from now-President Donald Trump’s political lexicon. The academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative standards were not mentioned in either his CPAC speech or his very well-received address to a joint session of Congress. This has been ably pointed out by many colleagues in the education freedom fight, like Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project, and journalistic observers of the education scene like Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard and Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart.
The reasons for this are likely varied and complex. The president is dealing with many large and complicated issues at the beginning of his term such as terrorism, Obamacare, and the economy. However, more concerning is the likely influence of establishment, pro-Common Core or self-described recently pro-Common Core members of the administration, including Secretary Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence, and their preferred emphasis on school choice.
Many in this movement have also reported and analyzed the dangers to non-public school autonomy due to the imposition of state, Common Core-aligned tests, and therefore Common Core standards, on voucher students and schools in the name of “accountability.” Both Indiana, the home state of Mike Pence, and Louisiana have such restrictive voucher laws. The Indiana law is rated the second worst in the nation for private school autonomy and both states received “F” grades on Education Liberty Watch’s School Choice Freedom Grading Scale. Here are some other examples of this analysis:
The late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly wrote on this issue back in 2012:
The Obama Core advocates are even planning to impose their standards on private schools. As the school choice movement grows, the attempt will be made to force any private or charter school that accepts public funds to adopt Common Core standards and have their students take the national tests.
And APP president Frank Cannon stated in a recent press release:
What we can’t have is the components of Common Core and have it be rebranded as something else. We can’t have the testing, we can’t have the lowering of standards that is part of Common Core, we can’t have the one-size-fits-all and pretend because the words Common Core have been removed from the education lexicon, that we removed the content and substance of that. And that’s what worries me about the sense that people can argue when Common Core became Indiana Core under now-Vice President Pence – that was not a change in the elements of Common Core that were objectionable. And, so, I’d hate to see the Trump promise be really an obfuscation with the elimination of the words ‘Common Core’ without a true delegation to states and local government for the control of content.
So what can the president follow through on this campaign promise to grassroots parents that was so crucial to his 2016 election win?
The most straightforward way for President Trump to follow through would be to support, encourage, and promise to sign Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-Ky.) simple, one-sentence bill to terminate the U.S. Department of Education:
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 7, 2017
The president himself frequently discussed eliminating or drastically downsizing this unconstitutional department that has been the cause of so much harm and loss of freedom, including the Race to the Top grants that incentivized/coerced Common Core and the aligned state tests:
Q: “Would you cut departments?”
TRUMP: “We’re going to be cutting tremendous amounts of money and waste and fraud and abuse. But, no, I’m not cutting services, but I am cutting spending. But I may cut Department of Education– Common Core is a very bad thing. I think that it should be local education. If you look at a Jeb Bush and some of these others, they want children to be educated by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.”
Until USED is closed or significantly scaled back and now that the White House and Congress have repealed the Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability regulations, President Trump can direct Secretary DeVos to accept every state plan for standards and tests, including a parental opt-out of those tests, because the secretary should not have veto power over state education policy.
Considering that there are so many invasive, ineffective, expensive, over-reaching, privacy-robbing federal education programs that include related social emotional standards tied to Common Core, President Trump should direct his Budget Director, former House Freedom Caucus member from South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney, to decrease the federal education budget and especially root out some of these more invasive programs.
Trump could also do everything possible to work against invasive Common Core-related data mining and social emotional profiling such as with the Commission for Evidence-Based Policymaking and the mindset profiling in the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). Candidate Trump was significantly concerned about education privacy on the campaign trail as well.
Parents across the nation understand the many pressures with which the president is dealing, but they are also watching to see if he will remember and keep this critical education promise to the forgotten men and women of America that voted for him by the millions. Doing these things would help keep that trust.