Accompanying the rising speculation that Jeb Bush is weighing a run for president in 2016 comes the question of whether an establishment candidate like Bush can survive being an avid supporter of the Common Core academic standards.
In an informal survey of former Mitt Romney donors, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post found that every Romney donor he spoke with named Jeb Bush as the top Republican candidate. While name recognition and the all-important “electability” were listed as important candidate qualities for Romney donors, Lowery also discovered:
The donors said that – like Romney – Bush’s time as governor proved he can be an effective leader and manager. His willingness to tackle (or attempt to, at least) tough policy initiatives such as education and criminal justice reform remind them of Romney’s work on health care at the state level.
However, as Anthony Zurcher wrote for the BBC, it may be Bush’s work on education policy – and, specifically, his support of the highly controversial Common Core standards – that could doom his chances as the Republican nominee.
Bush has been an unwavering supporter of the nationalized academic standards that his fellow Republican, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, recently referred to as “toxic” even as he urged the creators of the Common Core to simply “rebrand” them to the American people.
In an op-ed for National Review last year, Bush wrote that the nation needs high standards as a foundation for education reform:
Recognizing this need, state leaders have worked together to develop a set of rigorous academic standards in math and English language arts. These standards, known as the Common Core State Standards, set an ambitious and voluntary goal line. The states develop their own content or game plans to get into the end zone. State and local leaders call the plays.
“This is not the establishment of a national curriculum,” Bush claimed.
The problem for Bush is that just about everything he says about the standards is untrue. Common Core is a federally promoted, not state-led, initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RTTT). Common Core is a set of unproven and untested uniform standards and aligned curricula and testing that allows for a greater role of government in education, higher levels of social engineering, student data collection, and teacher evaluations based on student performance on assessments.
The National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and nonprofit progressive education think tank Achieve, Inc. were mainly responsible for the initiative, and both the NGA and the CCSSO are the publishers of the Common Core State Standards. The standards themselves were written by individuals who never even taught math or English. None of these private groups are accountable to parents, students, or teachers.
The 45 state boards of education, most of them unelected, that signed onto the unproven Common Core standards did so with little, if any, public or media scrutiny prior to even seeing the standards themselves.
The implementation of Common Core has been privately funded primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, underscoring the alliance of big government political elites and corporatists in this academic initiative.
Perhaps one of the most ironic aspects of Bush’s avid support for the Common Core is the fact that he has also always been associated with the school choice movement in the United States. The problem for Bush, then, is not so much “electability” as it is “credibility”; supporting both Common Core and school choice is like rooting for both the Yankees and the Red Sox.
As Ben Velderman writes at EAG News, “Over the years, Bush has courageously thrown his support behind various school voucher plans and parent trigger laws – both as governor of Florida and as a private citizen – all with the goal of helping families escape the K-12 public school monopoly.”
In addition, Bush has been a strong champion for more rigorous teacher evaluations and merit pay plans to ensure high quality staff in traditional public schools.
As Velderman says, however, “Bush is jeopardizing 20 years’ worth of hard-won school choice successes by stubbornly promoting and defending the Common Core math and English learning standards.”
“He doesn’t seem to realize that the one-size-fits-all standards are likely to have the practical effect of making instruction in all types of schools – public, public charter, private and even home schools – depressingly similar and mediocre,” he wrote.
Because college entrance tests and, ultimately, college curricula themselves will all be aligned with the K-12 Common Core standards, all students, regardless of their choice of elementary and high school education, will eventually be compelled to use Common Core-aligned curricula if they choose to go on to college.
What makes the question of Bush’s credibility even more pronounced is his insistence of the “rigor” of the Common Core standards when many astute educators who have worked at developing standards themselves and have reviewed Common Core predict the initiative will only serve to “dumb down” America’s students.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Hillsdale College Professor Terrence Moore described how the Common Core standards will put a nail in the coffin of an already suffering progressive education system.
Moore said the English Language Arts standards are serving to remove classical literature from schools and replace it with “informational texts.”
“It’s not till you start asking questions about what’s not in the standards that you realize the bias,” Moore said. “The texts from the standards are superficial, politically biased, and embarrassingly dumb.”
Similarly, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who was asked to be a member of the Common Core Validation Committee but refused to sign off on the standards, is herself credited with developing the Massachusetts K-12 standards – one of the country’s strongest set of academic standards.
“Everyone was willing to believe that the Common Core standards are ‘rigorous,’ ‘competitive,’ ‘internationally benchmarked,’ and ‘research-based,'” Stotsky told Breitbart News. “They are not.”
Of course, it’s possible that Bush and the Romney donors are counting on the fact that there are still many Americans who don’t know what Common Core is. Given what Bush has stood for in the past regarding education policy, however, why would he, or any Republican, support the Common Core standards?