by Emmett McGroarty
Four years ago, Common Core was considered a “done deal,” uncontroversial and approved by Democrats and Republican leaders alike. It had been pushed into 45 states without notice to legislators and parents alike. Today, Common Core and related educational issues of local control of schools and family privacy have emerged as significant campaign issues for candidates and for a motivated network of grassroots citizens-turned activists.
ThePulse2016.com (a project of American Principles in Action) and New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Action are releasing our first formal report card to voters on how GOP candidates are doing in responding to the concerns of Common Core parents and the experts who have validated their concerns. We have carefully evaluated the candidates on three separate—but related—issues:
1.) Have they spoken out and acted against Common Core?
Statements opposing Common Core must acknowledge that the standards are of low-quality, fail to meet the expectations of high-performing countries, and contain language that controls the curriculum and instructional methods used in the classroom. Recognition of these deficiencies is central in determining whether a candidate’s actions have been a sincere effort to replace the Common Core with high standards or to simply rebrand it under another name.
2.) Do they understand and have they made a specific commitment to protect state and local control of education from further federal intrusion?
In particular, we are looking for candidates who understand how the federal government intrudes onto state decision-making and who advocate for structural changes to prevent such intrusions. Moreover, the candidate must understand that the intended division of power between the federal government and the state is meant to ensure that people can shape state and local policies. He must understand how the breakdown of that division destroyed the safeguards that could have, and likely would have, prevented Common Core.
3.) What efforts has the candidate made to protect student and family privacy interests against the rising demands of industry and central planners for more personal student data?
Such interests include the right of parents to control what type of information is collected (e.g., social and emotional information, behavioral history, family information), who may collect such information, and with whom that information may be shared. Reliance on the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect student data is no longer a sufficient argument for calls against expanding student-data systems. A 2009 executive order allowed regulatory changes to be made to weaken the law, such as the removal of language requiring parental consent, without Congressional consent. A candidate must understand how this is symptomatic of a larger issue: the federal executive’s continued abuse of the intended system of governance in order to push its favored policies and practices into the states.
With regard to the second and third questions, we give outsize weight to whether a candidate recognizes that a prohibition on the federal executive branch is often ineffectual if the intended beneficiary has no means of enforcement. Federal law prohibited the federal government from its activities to propagate Common Core and the Common Core testing. Moreover, the Race to the Top program itself exceeded the authorities in the Stimulus bill that funded it. And the Administration’s regulatory changes under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) were unfaithful to the underlying federal statute. Yet, none of those laws provided either states or individuals remedies or an accessible, or for that matter any, enforcement mechanism. Except for the quixotic hope of speedy Congressional oversight, that left the federal executive branch as the judge and jury of its own actions.
We have made allowances for what a candidate is in a position to do: governors have played a direct role in implementing, or refusing to implement, Common Core directly; senators have either seriously fought to restrict the federal intrusion in No Child Left Behind or have acquiesced to the federal power grab; and non-office holding candidates have only been able to make strong, general statements, which is a good first step. As the campaign marches on, however, this wears thin, and follow-on statements on the particulars are needed from all candidates.
The Common Core is a touchstone for Republicans, and they should be making a bigger deal of it. People are fed up with the Common Core and the terribly expensive and overbearing Common Core tests. They view the federal government’s involvement in education policy as a colossal failure that has harmed, not helped, children. The Common Core set of issues gives candidates a chance to impress the voter that they know what they are talking about, are serious about doing it, and will fight to get the job done.
Rather than championing the big issue and truly demonstrating their presidential mettle, some candidates are making it into a small issue. They are parsing out the issue in order to voice opposition to some aspect of the problem but fail to address the overall concerns of parents. These candidates actually favor Common Core, they do not understand the issue, or they hope that the small approach will save them from offending Common Core proponents.
We have evaluated the candidates on each of these issues and then averaged the score for an overall grade. In each case we have suggested what candidates could do if they wish to improve their grade.
We hope that this Common Core Report Card will serve as a helpful resource for voters, candidates, and political reporters.
ThePulse2016 covers and explains each candidate’s grade in the posts below:
A- … Ted Cruz
A- … Rand Paul
B+… Bobby Jindal
B … Lindsey Graham
B … Rick Perry
B … Rick Santorum
B- … Ben Carson
B- … Donald Trump
C+… Carly Fiorina
C … Mike Huckabee
C … Marco Rubio
D+… Chris Christie
D+… Scott Walker
F … Jeb Bush
F … John Kasich
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.