Breitbart News Guide to the GOP 2016 Candidates: Common Core

Common Core
AP Photo/AJ Mast

The federal government’s “Common Core State Standards” education overhaul has provoked a huge wave of parental activism in children’s education like no other U.S. education policy issue has in the last half-century.

It is a major issue in the 2016 presidential primary race, and all the candidates’ views on Common Core have been closely watched in the key primary states.

Here, Breitbart News provides you with what you need to know about where the candidates stand on the federal Common Core policy.

First, some basic background on the Common Core:

Common Core was created by a partnership between private and education elites, acting through establishment politicians who sought to influence education policy in the United States. Ultimately, the plan was to set nationalized academic standards that would allow more low-income, minority children to appear “college- and career-ready,” so they could join the United States workforce and allow American businesses and industries – represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a larger pool of lower-level workers.

Common Core was quickly adopted by 46 states – sight unseen in most cases – primarily because state legislatures and governors have grown extremely lax over the decades in their duty to resist encroachment by the federal government in the areas that the Constitution reserves for them – such as education, for example.

The Obama administration dangled the carrots of federal cash and the promise of relief from the onerous demands of the prior federal education plan — dubbed the “No Child Left Behind.” The strategy manipulated states to accept the one-size-fits-all math and English standards and their associated testing, teacher evaluation plans, and massive student data-collection systems.

The reform spawned grass-roots groups of parents in the states – many of who became experts themselves in education policy, and trained not only fellow citizens, but also their state lawmakers in the nuts and bolts of Common Core. These smaller grass-roots groups developed into national organizations that have shaped public opinion and influenced major political candidates. In the summer of 2014, for example, governors attending a National Governors Association meeting told reporters the issue of Common Core had grown so “radioactive” and “toxic,” that few were willing to respond to questions about it.

Here’s where the GOP candidates stand on Common Core:

Donald Trump:

In his own inimitable style, Trump has called Common Core a “disaster.”

“Common Core – that’s a disaster – it’s bad,” he said as early as January of 2015. “It should be local and all of that.”

Trump has used the issue of Common Core to emphasize that he is not a member of the Washington elite.

“Common Core has to be ended. It’s a disaster,” he said last July. “It’s a way of taking care of the people in Washington that, frankly, I don’t even think they give a damn about education, half of them. And I’m sure some of you maybe do.”

Trump has stayed on point with that message. At the South Carolina Tea Party Convention last week, Trump told his audience, “We spend more than anybody else and to a large extent that’s Common Core, because these people in Washington – the bureaucrats – are making a fortune. They don’t give a damn about your kids in South Carolina.”

Actually, Common Core is the latest effort by progressives to federalize education and – as we have found in many other areas – President Barack Obama has placed federalization of education in high gear during his administration. Clearly Trump has given plain voice to the concerns of many parents throughout the country. What is not clear – at least for now – are the details of his education views. His website does not include an official position on education.

In November, a New Hampshire grass-roots activist asked Trump about the data collection aspect of the Common Core reform, and whether he would close the loopholes in the federal privacy law to ensure students’ personal information remained private.

“I didn’t know Common Core was so complicated,” he responded. “Isn’t this ridiculous? You could have local education, with local people, and local schools, and you don’t have a problem. But some bureaucrat in Washington just wants to make money.”

“I would close all of it,” Trump replied. “You have to have privacy. You have to have privacy. So I’d close all of it. But, most of all, I’d get everything out of Washington, ‘cause that’s where it’s all emanating from.”

That last statement suggests Trump would consider eliminating the U.S. Department of Education (USED), though he provides few details. The Wall Street Journal reported two weeks ago that Trump vowed to do “tremendous cutting” of the federal government, including the USED.

Last August, Trump received a grade of B- on the Common Core Report Card generated at The Pulse 2016. The report suggests that while Trump has shown he is willing to stand and fight, he needs to include more details of his plans.

“Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, something many would have thought unlikely a year ago,” wrote Emmett McGroarty, executive director at American Principles in Action. “Citizens view him as having the courage and will to stand and fight, something that many GOP candidates have seemed to lack in years past.”

“As the primary cycle wears on, the base will want to hear more detail from Trump as well as other candidates,” he added. “Trump would do well to blaze the trail on this.”

Ted Cruz:

Cruz has been crystal clear that he is opposed to the Common Core reform and federal intervention in education in general.

The senator supported Sen. Chuck Grassley’s effort to defund Common Core in both 2013 and 2014.

“I’ll tell you this, as President, I will instruct the Department of Education to end Common Core on day one,” Cruz said last week at the South Carolina Tea Party convention.

“We should repeal every word of Common Core,” Cruz states on his website. “And, as President, I will direct the Secretary of Education to immediately end the federal government’s mandates that seek to force states to adopt this failed attempt at a universal curriculum.”

Cruz lists the U.S. Department of Education (USED) as one of his “Five for Freedom” – i.e., five federal cabinet positions that he would fight to abolish if elected president. In his stump speeches, Cruz generally states the USED “should be abolished,” but it appears from his website statement he may not eliminate the department entirely:

A Cruz Administration will eliminate the programs in the Department of Education that are wasteful, ineffective, and fail to achieve better student outcomes. We will perform a careful review of remaining programs to assess how best to return those responsibilities to state and local communities.

Cruz voted against advancing the No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – which still requires state standards to be approved by the USED – but was not present in the Senate to vote against the final bill.

In a statement about the ESSA, Cruz said:

The Every Student Succeeds Act unfortunately continues to propagate the large and ever-growing role of the federal government in our education system—the same federal government that sold us failed top-down standards like Common Core. We should be empowering parents and local school districts instead of perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our nation’s children. In many ways, the conference report was worse than the original Senate bill—removing the few good provisions from the House bill that would have allowed some Title I portability for low-income students as well as a parental opt-out from onerous federal accountability standards. The American people expect the Republican majority to do better. And our children deserve better, which is why I cannot support this bill.

Cruz earned an A- on the Common Core Report Card.

Marco Rubio:

Rubio has consistently opposed the Common Core reform and federal intrusion into local K-12 education. He has also questioned the need for a USED. In New Hampshire recently, Rubio said, “I don’t think the federal government has any role to play in local schools…and I don’t think you even need a Department of Education… There’s no federal role in local schools. We don’t need a national school board.”

Rubio has said he views Common Core as a tool of the Obama administration to further federalize education.

In the Fox News GOP debate last August, Rubio said:

Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate.

In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless do you things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.

Rubio skipped the vote on the federal ESSA bill, but sent the following statement to Breitbart News:

While the Every Student Succeeds Act takes important steps in restoring some control over education decisions back to the states, it does not go far enough.

Unfortunately, the bill does not grant states autonomy in all education decision-making, expands the federal government’s role in Pre-K, and fails to include important measures that broaden school choice. Due to these shortcomings, I am unable to lend my support to this bill.

The main concerns grassroots activists have about Rubio in the realm of education is his promotion of a vocational education program, his plan to reduce student loan debt, and the federal intervention and data collection involved in both of those endeavors.

In New Hampshire recently Rubio explained his vocational training proposal and said that, “as president, I’ll be able to help with this,” a statement that suggests he would invite some federal intervention in a vocational education program.

This idea raises a red flag since Rubio’s stance on illegal immigration remains an issue for conservatives.

Promoting a vocational education agenda – if he is also promoting amnesty in some form – begs the question of whether Rubio’s plan for voc ed federal financial aid will give priority to American students.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has championed both the Common Core standards and amnesty for illegal immigrants – as a means to keep inexpensive labor within the United States. The Chamber also promotes “work-study” programs similar to one Rubio often discusses.

“Rubio has publicly asserted his desire to be the ‘vocational education president,’ to reform higher education, and to ensure broad public acquisition of ‘21st century skills,’” Kirsten Lombard, editor of Common Ground on Common Core: Voices from across the Political Spectrum Expose the Realities of the Common Core State Standards, said in a statement to Breitbart News.

She continues:

Whether he realizes it or not, he’s signaling a belief that government has a key role to play in meeting the workforce interests of private business and industry. That role necessarily involves using public levers—policy, agencies, and institutions–to steer people into particular fields or careers deemed useful by favored private partners. In a phrase, it’s career-tracking that Rubio wittingly or unwittingly advocates. Unfortunately, it’s a tactic that directly departs from the free-market principles that he so assiduously claims to champion. Along with the workforce development aims it serves, career-tracking is a tactic that actually belongs to the onerous and deficient machinery of planned, or managed, economy.

Rubio earned a grade of C on the Common Core Report Card.

Ben Carson:

On his website, Carson observes, “The 2015 Math and Reading National Assessment of Educational Progress scores showed a continuation of the achievement gap between white and minority students, even after the implementation of Common Core Standards in 42 states and the District of Columbia.”

While Carson clearly is opposed to the federal intrusiveness of Common Core, he has not discussed in detail the constitutional problems with the reform. He has, however, stressed the importance of local control of education.

“We need to recognize education is the great liberator in our country. No one has to be a victim,” Carson said last year at CPAC. “The best education is the education that is closest to home and I’ve found that for instance homeschoolers do the best, private schoolers next best, charter schoolers next best, and public schoolers worst.”

“Common Core is not school choice,” Carson continued. “I do believe in standards, but those standards obviously are set by parents and people who do homeschooling or they wouldn’t be doing so well. Our public schools need to learn how to compete with that, but they don’t need some central government telling them how to do it.”

A problem conservatives may have with Carson’s “school choice” advocacy is that he states he will “actively support school choice programs, such as school vouchers and charter schools, so every student has the opportunity to fully realize his or her God-given potential.”

However, school voucher programs – which involve the transfer of taxpayer funds from the public sector to a private school – are more likely to bring along with them higher levels of regulation as well for the private and religious schools that agree to accept them. Other means of school choice – tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts – have been shown to be more in keeping with constitutional principles.

Carson also stresses the use of “public-private partnerships” in his education plan “that offer flexibility and resources that cannot exist in the public sector.”

Common Core, however, is also a “public-private partnership,” and while some of these arrangements may have value, they easily invite corporate cronyism if they are not adequately supervised – as has been the case with some charter schools.

Carson earned a grade of B- on the Common Core Report Card.

Chris Christie:

The governor – who rose to national prominence when he took on the teachers’ unions – had been an ardent supporter of Common Core – even to the point of taking to task other GOP governors who resisted the reform – before he became a presidential candidate. Christie did admit, however, at CPAC last year that he pushed to have his state adopt the unpopular standards because New Jersey needed the federal cash.

Since then, Christie has stated he “regrets” how Common Core has been implemented. During the last GOP debate, the governor said he “eliminated” Common Core in New Jersey – a statement that was fact-checked by news outlets and grassroots education organizations. said about Christie’s statement:

That’s not accurate.

Christie, once a Common Core supporter, did denounce the academic standards last year. But it’s not accurate to say Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey.

The panel of educators and parents Christie ordered to review the standards recommended keeping 84 percent of New Jersey’s existing math and reading standards intact and suggested tweaks and clarifications to the remaining standards.

A side-by-side comparison of the current math standards and proposed changes shows several suggestions involve simply changing or adding a word to the standard’s description. Though state education officials said the changes mark a departure from Common Core, New Jersey’s largest teachers union characterized the suggestions as “relatively minor.”

Those proposed changes still have to be approved by the state Board of Education and wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year, according to state officials.

Additionally, New Jersey is still keeping the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments for the time being, so any changes to the Common Core standards must be minimal with PARCC still in place. In other words, a “rebrand” is in the cards for New Jersey.

Christie earned a D+ on the Common Core Report Card.

Jeb Bush:

Jeb Bush has been an ardent champion of the Common Core reform, one of the two issues – along with amnesty for illegal immigrants – that are considered to be the cause of his plummeting popularity in the polls.

At the end of 2014 and prior to his announcing as a 2016 candidate, Bush scolded Common Core opponents, asserting he had “lost patience” with them and declaring that conservatives were not needed by establishment Republicans to win the White House.

The former Florida governor has been a major figure spreading the myths that the Common Core standards were “state-led” and that the standards themselves were “rigorous.” Bush had developed the groundwork for an “education empire” during his tenure as governor and later extended it in support of the Common Core initiative across the country, claiming he could do for the entire country what he did in his home state.

As the unpopularity of Common Core has grown – and his poll numbers have declined – Bush stated the reform had become “poisonous.” Still, while he has distanced himself from the initiative’s name, he continues to speak favorably about the policies associated with it, and even has attempted to “retrofit” the facts about Common Core to turn the reform into a stronghold of federalism.

Bush received a grade of F on the Common Core Report Card.

“Bush uses the phrase ‘high standards’ to paint a false picture of the Common Core Standards, and he has stated that he thinks the Standards should be the ‘new minimum in classrooms,’” wrote McGroarty in August. “He has denigrated opponents as being motivated by politics. As recently as last year, he was explicitly urging state lawmakers to support the Common Core and described the opposition as resting on ‘myths’ of federal involvement.”

Most recently, Bush declared that education is a “civil rights issue,” a statement that underscores his support for the stated goal of Common Core, which is to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.

John Kasich:

Along with Jeb Bush, Kasich has been a champion for the Common Core standards and has denigrated grassroots parent activists who have fought the reform, declaring them to be nothing more than a “runaway internet campaign” and their efforts to eliminate the initiative as “hysteria.”

In February of last year, Kasich perpetuated the myth that Common Core is a local education initiative.

“That is not something that Barack Obama is putting together…it’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards,” he said. “I cannot figure out what’s wrong with that.”

Kasich has also dismissed concerns of parents about student data collection and sharing, and, last fall, his campaign was hit by a charter school data-rigging scandal.

The Ohio governor earned a grade of F on the Common Core Report Card.

Rand Paul:

 The U.S. senator from Kentucky has consistently sought to defund Common Core and has spoken forcefully against the initiative, articulating its conflict with the Constitution.

McGroarty wrote in August:

Paul has paid more attention to the Common Core issue than most other candidates and has spoken forcefully against it. In a fundraising email entitled, “Rotten to the core,” Paul condemned the Common Core Standards as “anti-American propaganda, revisionist history that ignores the faith of our Founders and data-tracking of students from kindergarten on.”

Paul supported Sen. Chuck Grassley’s effort to defund Common Core in both 2013 and 2014.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Paul said, “When Ronald Reagan won in 1980, it became part of the platform that we were actually opposed to the Department of Education. I still am. I think it ought to go back to the states.”

Perhaps more than any other GOP candidate, Paul has validated the concerns of parents about student data collection and sharing.

Paul received a grade of A- on the Common Core Report Card.

Carly Fiorina:

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has said – since announcing her candidacy – that Common Core “is a really bad idea,” noting the reform is a “giant bureaucratic program” and that the USED has grown larger with each decade since its inception. She has stressed the need for more “creativity” in the classroom.

McGroarty observes, however, that when Fiorina was running for a Senate seat in California in 2010, her campaign released a document that praised the Race to the Top stimulus program – the vehicle that was used by the Obama administration to incentivize states to sign onto the Common Core. Her presidential campaign, however, said the plan that was initially proposed – and that won Fiorina’s support – was not as promised and was simply more federal bureaucracy.

Fiorina earned a grade of C+ on the Common Core Report Card.

Rick Santorum:

Santorum has been very consistent and articulate in his opposition to Common Core and federal intrusion into education.

“I am very much against Common Core, against any kind of federal intervention into our schools,” he told Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe last week at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention. “That’s the big problem.”

Asked about the major issues surrounding Common Core, Santorum further replied:

The elites in our culture who want to indoctrinate our young people into a certain way to think, a certain belief structure, and it’s all spread out through Common Core. I believe the best and safest way to maintain our values in this country is to leave it up to the people at the grass roots level.

Santorum’s website includes a thorough discussion of the constitutional problems with the Common Core reform:

From its beginning, the Common Core State Standards initiative has flown under the radar. Its funding, its implementation, and the substance of the standards it proposes have received little public attention, but all of them are wrong for families, wrong for students, and wrong for our teachers.

Rick is most concerned by how fast these standards were adopted and how little transparency there was in the process. Not one state legislature voted on the Common Core standards. In the forty-five states where they have been adopted, it was by an act of the governor, the state secretary of education, or the state board of education. The people most affected by this enormous policy change—parents and teachers—never had a chance to weigh in.

Santorum also admitted his vote for No Child Left Behind while a U.S. Senator in 2001 was a “mistake.”

Santorum received a grade of B on the Common Core Report Card.

Mike Huckabee:

Like Christie, Huckabee’s position on Common Core has shifted since he decided to run for president. In December of 2013 – when Common Core had begun to be on the public’s radar – Huckabee encouraged the Council of Chief State School Officers – one of the owners of the copyright of the Common Core standards – to “rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

At the end of his tenure as a Fox News host, Huckabee said Common Core had grown “toxic,” and later in January of 2015, Huckabee asserted:

Folks, what Common Core may have originally been was a governor-controlled states initiative to keep the fickle federal fingers of fate off of education. It has morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.

[A]nybody who tells you that I support Common Core is either incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be, or is just being plain dishonest because they really want to help somebody else, and not me, and that’s okay.

On his website, Huckabee states:

I also oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.

The rising cost of college also threatens middle class families, students and the American dream. For too many, college is where students discover mountains of debt — but not a lifelong career. We must tackle the establishment and reform our colleges and universities so they make sense for the jobs of tomorrow.

Huckabee earned a grade of C on the Common Core Report Card.


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