Grassroots parents’ groups across the country who, through new media, have developed organizations around opposition to the Common Core State Standards are making the education initiative central to the 2014 mid-term elections.
Opposed equally by people on the right and the left, Republicans and Democrats alike, the Common Core initiative is poised to separate, perhaps like no other issue, the political candidates who reflect the will of “we the people” from big government bureaucrats.
Those who support the standards, in fact, are likely to be labeled “establishment” politicians, regardless of their party affiliation. They are the supporters of government intervention and encroachment upon both states’ and parental rights, and they advocate for the alliance of big business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and political elites.
The state boards of education of 45 states adopted the Common Core standards, a federally promoted education initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RttT). States could apply and compete for federal grant money as long as they adopted the Common Core, a set of uniform standards and aligned curricula and assessment programs 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 aligned with the standards.
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 and copyright owners of the Common Core State Standards. None of these groups is accountable to parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.
The 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.
There is no official information about who selected the individuals to write the Common Core standards. However, none of the writers of the math and English Language Arts standards have ever taught math, English, or reading at the K-12 level. In addition, the Standards Development Work Groups did not include any members who were high school English and mathematics teachers, English professors, scientists, engineers, parents, state legislators, early childhood educators, and state or local school board members.
A total of 34 states now have had some form of legislation raised against the standards themselves, the aligned testing, or the associated student data collection.
“You really have a populist reaction, and that’s true on the left and the right,” Tom Loveless, a senior fellow with the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., told Fox News.
“Those populist candidates are running against the Common Core, and they are going to say Washington is interfering with children’s schooling and that teachers, parents and principals at the local level are better equipped to decide on what kids learn,” Loveless said.
Similarly, Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute commented, “Common Core opposition is so completely grassroots, and support is so astroturf.”
As Pullmann states, Common Core as a political issue is “huge among mothers.” She adds, “It is already becoming a primary and general election issue in everything from local school board races to gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.”
Arkansas mother Karen Lamoreaux became famous on YouTube for her demolition of Common Core in just a few minutes as she cheekily presented a Common Core math problem to her state school board, asking its members to solve it.
Lamoreaux told Fox News, “We are now becoming active in the mid-term elections, pressuring candidates to take a stand on the issue.”
“It influences our vote because this reform is hurting our children,” she added. “It is cognitively inappropriate and violating our parent rights.”
The Common Core standards initiative is already influencing U.S. Senate races.
In Tennessee, incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), an establishment Republican, met with Common Core champions Jeb Bush (R) and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) in Nashville recently at an event sponsored by local Chamber of Commerce and business groups. Alexander is being challenged by conservative Republican candidate state Rep. Joe Carr, who has made an issue both of Alexander’s support of Common Core and his refusal to talk honestly about it.
“Let’s don’t talk about Common Core,” said Alexander when asked about the standards.
But Carr responded, “Unfortunately for Senator Alexander, our campaign and grassroots conservatives throughout Tennessee are going to continue to talk about – and continue to fight against – Common Core.”
In another example, Ben Evansky observes at Fox News that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who faces four candidates in a primary challenge, didn’t even know what Common Core was last year when asked about it at a Republican Party meeting. Recently, however, he sponsored a resolution that was critical of the standards.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) knows voters are unhappy about Common Core, but he is a supporter of the initiative and has repeated the popular theme among advocates of the standards that the problem has been the “implementation” or the “rollout” of the Common Core, not the standards themselves.
Many political, education, and union leaders have managed to make themselves appear both for and against the Common Core, by advocating for delays of the standards and formation of special panels to study them in order to appease voters, all the while they are supporting the initiative’s continued implementation. Other state lawmakers have attempted to manipulate voters by “rebranding” the standards, i.e., removing the words “Common Core” and replacing them with other names as they keep the standards themselves relatively intact.
The grassroots parents’ organizations, however, are not tolerating any political machinations. In fact, more parents are deciding to simply opt their children out of the Common Core assessments, or remove their children entirely from the traditional classroom to homeschool them instead.
Megan King of Kansas told Breitbart News that she is homeschooling her children because she is unhappy with Common Core.
“I noticed the dumb and confusing way math was beginning to be taught, and as I looked more and more into Common Core, I didn’t like what I was seeing on so many levels,” she explained. “My 4th grader had only read one literature book through the year. I asked his teacher about their reading and she said they had been reading small non fiction books (informational text).”
“I just felt my kids were not going to learn at a level I know they can and should be learning at,” King said.
Though homeschooling has been an adjustment for the entire family, King said the results have been worth it.
“I do recommend homeschooling,” she said. “It’s very rewarding, but I had to quit my job as a preschool teacher in order to homeschool, so we have had to really tighten our belt financially. But, even if a state finds its way out of Common Core, it will be years before things are what they were before No Child Left Behind and Common Core, so we, as parents, have to get creative and find new ways to educate our kids.”