As the June 3rd primary date dawns in Alabama, the Common Core standards have emerged as “the one issue every Republican must address,” writes Tim Lockette at The Anniston Star.
Anti-Core activists, who see the new school standards as a federal power grab, are mounting electoral challenges to key GOP incumbents. Sitting Republican lawmakers face the scorn of tea partiers for supporting Common Core, or simply for appearing to be on the fence about the issue. And a secretive group has funneled $700,000 into Stop Common Core PAC, suddenly vaulting the newly-formed political action committee into the ranks of Montgomery’s top political spenders.
Lockette explains that, once upon a time, Common Core, like most anything having to do with education policy, was “about as exciting as a warm glass of milk.”
Once President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former colleagues from the Chicago Public Schools, introduced Race to the Top competitive grants for states that adopted the Common Core standards, however, many parents, teachers, lawmakers, and activist groups began looking into what the standards were about. Since federal overreach has been a hallmark of the Obama administration, the president’s support for the Common Core standards – and the money he was willing to spend to lure states into adopting them – seemed to be calling for public scrutiny.
“Common Core has divided Alabama’s Republican supermajority for almost as long as there was a supermajority,” writes Lockette.
In fact, Common Core ignited a firestorm when former Alabama State Sen. John Rice’s (R) Alabama Foundation for Limited Government funneled almost $1 million into the state’s primary races through the Stop Common Core PAC, of which he is also the chairman. These funds mainly were donated to Tea Party challengers in races against incumbent, establishment GOP lawmakers and to other Republicans who have supported Common Core.
Rice told Sam Rolley at Personal Liberty that the $600 billion spent by federal and state governments before Common Core is fully implemented, coupled with the fact that the standards are unproven and untested, create a perfect opportunity for cronyism.
“All you have to do is look behind the curtain, and there will be the money,” Rice said. “The retooling of education to fit Common Core standards is a $600 billion industry over the next five years.”
“Many of the Republican establishment in Montgomery has not listened to the wishes of the state or national parties to throw Common Core down the drain,” Rice continued, adding that he believes the establishment Republicans’ resistance to stop Common Core is due to kickbacks related to state and federal contracts pertaining to the implementation of the nationalized standards.
Rice has been fiercely critical of two of Alabama’s most powerful Republicans, state Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. Stop Common Core gave about $130,000 to Hubbard’s primary challenger Sandy Toomer, who has advocated for a vote to repeal the Common Core in Alabama.
For his part, Hubbard has not brought Common Core to a vote before the state legislature and argues the standards are a non-issue. In turn, he has accused Rice of being a closet liberal who is really doing the bidding of the teachers unions in the state by propping up weak candidates in GOP primaries so that Democrats have a better chance of scoring victories in the general election.
Rice observes, however, that Hubbard is the subject of an ethics investigation into complaints that he neglected to properly report business deals on his Statement of Economic Trust, used his office for personal economic gain, and voted for legislation that directly helped his business clients.
Common Core is proving to be a major issue in the GOP primary race for incumbent Alabama state Rep. Mac Buttram’s seat. Corey Harbison, a 27 year-old mayor is running against Buttram.
“Common Core is a huge deal for a lot of the voters I’ve talked to,” Harbison said. “And judging by some of the materials that we’re seeing used in other States, I don’t see how anyone calling themselves a conservative would want to subject school kids to that.”
Rice asserted that Buttram, like many Republicans who vowed to become small government lawmakers after the Tea Party won many of the elections for the GOP in 2010, only served to move Alabama from Democrat cronyism to Republican cronyism.
Rice wholeheartedly believes the campaign against Common Core is worth fighting for as long as it takes to defeat the standards.
“I’ve got seven grandchildren, I can’t leave them to Common Core,” he said.