The Associated Press aptly defined Republican 2016 contender Gov. Chris Christie’s position on Common Core as “shifting,” a description that could easily be applied to many Republican governors who signed their states on to the standards only to be met by irate parents and teachers once it was discovered what Common Core was all about.
While campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, the Quad-City Times reported that Christie said he “supports state educational standards over Common Core,” an ambiguous statement that does not exactly show strong opposition to the unpopular standards since 46 states—including New Jersey—adopted Common Core as their “state standards.” In addition, many Republican governors and state legislatures are claiming to have “repealed” the education reform, when all they have done is simply “rebrand” Common Core with a new name.
As NBC News reported in December of 2014, Christie, known for taking on the teachers’ unions, “enthusiastically adopted the Common Core educational standards,” just as did most other Republican and Democrat governors. In 2013, he even took to task Republicans who began to show resistance to Common Core, referring to their opposition as a “knee-jerk” reaction to an Obama policy.
“If the president likes something, the Republicans in Congress don’t, and if the Republicans in Congress like something the President doesn’t,” Christie said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It is this mindset in D.C. right now that says we have to be at war constantly, because to not be at war is to show weakness, and to show weakness is to lead to failure. And I just don’t buy that.”
In August of 2013, Christie was moving forward with Common Core, to which he had signed on in order to compete for Race to the Top federal grant money that had been stuffed into President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill. States that agreed to a set of uniform standards—the criteria for which could only have been met by Common Core—were eligible for federal funds and waivers from the onerous No Child Left Behind legislation.
“We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue,” he said. “And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”
However, in February at CPAC, Christie was speaking about his “regrets” for signing onto Common Core, acknowledging to conservative host Laura Ingraham that he agreed to have his state adopt the unpopular standards because it needed the federal cash.
“In New Jersey we’ve always been for the standards, for high standards, and we had standards beforehand,” Christie said, blaming his predecessor Gov. Jon Corzine in part for setting the table for his signature on the Race to the Top application. “My concern now as we travel toward implementation is not only the heavy foot of the federal government coming in, but it is not doing all that we need to have done in New Jersey.”
On the road, Christie began speaking about his “grave concerns” about Common Core, focusing mainly on the reform’s implementation “not working.” In his own state, he did what many governors did who would not break completely with Common Core—but still realized its unpopularity was not going away—he set up a commission to “study” its effects.
While some New Jersey lawmakers are moving to have the state exit Common Core test consortium PARCC, NJ.com reported several weeks ago that—with the state tied to “a four-year contract with Pearson, the test vendor for PARCC exams”—Christie said New Jersey would continue using the PARCC tests even though it may consider replacing the Common Core standards eventually.
Nevertheless, the governor did sign into law a bill that bans the state from implementing financial sanctions against schools for low test participation rates due to opt-outs from the tests.
Jan Lenox—who has headed a grassroots campaign against the standards in New Jersey—tells Breitbart News that, as recently as April, she and four other members of her group hand-carried written petitions to the state capital of Trenton.
We were sent to the law enforcement office and waited to be met by a very young and very arrogant aide by the name of Kia. She would not guarantee that the Governor would even read our certified letter or look at our petitions. We pleaded our case to her only to leave the office feeling very disillusioned. Our state senator, Jeff VanDrew, at that point, threw his hands up and said, “Nothing he could do.” We’ve been calling the Education Department ever since. The Governor re-invented his commission in September this year. However, we have no information, notification or indication that anything has been done. I tried two weeks ago to contact a Ms. Candace Kenyatta who is supposed to be heading up the new commission. No response!
Common Core has thrust the issue of education into the presidential campaign spotlight, and the parents who have organized against the education reform from small town groups into massive national organizations are well-informed voters, committed to ridding the states of the federal government’s presence in education, per the Constitution. GOP candidates strongly condemning Common Core will have an advantage with these parent organizations.
“My small but mighty group has worked hundreds of days and hours for three years trying to get Governor Christie to hear us,” Lenox asserts. “He would not let our legislation be voted on, knowing it would pass in the Senate, and then he would veto it. Sound like some else we know?”
Lenox says the governors with “no spine” are simply “rebranding” Common Core, tweaking the actual Common Core standards and renaming them to satisfy uninformed voters.
“Any name you call it still smells the same!” she adds.