Dr. Bill Bennett, secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan, told attendees at the Values Voter Summit Friday that President Donald Trump’s Cabinet is a “more conservative cabinet” than Reagan’s Cabinet was.
Bennett – now a radio host and author – specifically named current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “my friend … who is fighting to empower parents,” as an example of conservatism, and defended her signature policy of school choice.
However, both Bennett and DeVos have come under fire from many conservative parents throughout America for their support – mentioned or otherwise – for the Common Core standards. The movement to eradicate the federally funded and supported Common Core has been led by one of the most significant “populist” grassroots efforts in decades.
As Breitbart News reported in 2014, Bennett drew the ire of anti-Common Core parents throughout the country after penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that made a “conservative case for Common Core.”
In his column, Bennett reiterated all the “talking points” of the pro-Common Core education establishment. His remarks – especially from one who served in Reagan’s Cabinet under a president who had desired to eliminate the U.S. Education Department (USED) – led to an uproar. Ultimately, Bennett admitted that public relations, lobbying, and business consulting firm DCI Group had paid him to write the column.
Though states had to sign on to the Common Core standards, the federal government incentivized them to do so with a competitive grant known as Race to the Top – which was funded by former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill. More federal force was employed with the promise to states of waivers from the onerous No Child Left Behind law if they adopted the common standards.
In his column, Bennett even appeared to be condoning Common Core “rebrands” – which many state legislatures have adopted in an effort to simply avoid use of the now “toxic” title of “Common Core”:
Call it Common Core or call it something else, as Arizona has done by renaming its standards “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” but public schools should have high standards based on a core curriculum that is aligned with tests that are comparable across state lines.
DeVos has also been widely criticized by the conservative base of the Republican Party for her open support for Common Core champion Jeb Bush, who announced he was “excited” once Trump nominated her for her current post. DeVos ultimately became an at-large delegate at the Republican National Convention last year for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another supporter of Common Core.
Though once nominated by Trump, DeVos announced she was “certainly … not a supporter” of Common Core, she made contributions of both her time and personal wealth to support pro-Common Core organizations that fought repeal of the controversial standards, including the Great Lakes Education Project in her home state of Michigan and Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.
DeVos has since angered conservative parents further by her statements that because of the new massive federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) “there isn’t any Common Core anymore” in the country’s schools. Most states, however, have continued to use the controversial standards, including those that have changed the name or “rebranded” them.
Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project, writes at Truth in American Education, that Jeb Bush has given DeVos every reason to be proud:
DeVos … populated USED with bureaucrats from the Bush wing of education policy, including Democrat and Black Lives Matter supporter Jason Botel (since departed, after angering DeVos’s Michigan friends over that state’s ESSA plan). Conservative activists were disappointed and mystified by these choices, especially since there’s no shortage of solid, highly qualified Common Core opponents who were available.
While DeVos has come out strong in her decision to scrap the Obama-era Title IX campus sex policies that forced colleges to conduct “kangaroo courts” in dealing with accusations of sexual assault, Robbins says she remains lacking in issues concerning elementary and secondary education because of her choices of department personnel.
“Too many of the people selected for K-12 policy can be expected to continue the trajectory launched by progressive educators a century ago and reaching new heights under Obama and his secretaries,” she asserts.