Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is the latest Republican elected official to back off from support of Common Core multistate education standards.
Corbett issued a press release that calls for “continued public review” of the standards and ordering the state’s education department to carry out just such a review.
Prior to Monday’s declaration, Corbett had argued the Pennsylvania had already sufficiently defended its educational independence by implementing a modified Pennsylvania Core rather than the standard Common Core.
The new release, however, described Corbett’s decision as “the final phase in his nearly three year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell.”
He dubbed Common Core as “nothing more than ObamaCare for education,” and made no mention of Pennsylvania Core at all.
Corbett is only the latest of many governors to defect on Common Core in 2014. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Pat McCrory of North Carolina all signed bills that repealed or significantly modified Common Core in their states after previously defending the standards.
Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has launched a series of lawsuits against the federal government and his own school board seeking to abolish the standards in his state, while Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gary Herbert of Utah have called for a second look at the standards as well.
Possible political calculations are a common thread in several of these position shifts. Walker is in a tough reelection battle, while Jindal is widely seen as angling for a possible presidential bid.
In Corbett’s case, the possible political motives are even stronger than usual. The governor is running for reelection, and his position is among the most precarious of any incumbent in the country. Polling thus far has him trailing Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by double digits. His announcement may in part be an effort to scrounge up support from a dispirited base.
Corbett may also be trying to shift the narrative on what has been a major weakness for him. Democrats have repeatedly attacked Corbett on education, arguing he implemented budget cuts that have drastically curtailed programs and led to the elimination of thousands of teaching positions. Corbett’s weakness on this issue has played into Democrats’ hands, as polls have repeatedly shown voters view education as the campaign’s top issue.
The announcement has done little to win renewed love from the state’s education establishment, though. Easton Area School District superintendent John Reinhart told The Morning Call that he was frustrated to have the governor call for new standards after schools had spent years transitioning to Common Core.
“Districts do not have the money or the time to invest in the constantly changing political debate on standards,” Reinhart said. “Someone should decide what they want us to teach in our schools and let us go about the business of teaching it.”
Even some of Corbett’s fellow Republicans were unimpressed. State representatives Ryan Aument and Steve Grove released a joint statements saying they were “puzzled” by the governor’s announcement. Pennsylvania Core, they said, had already resolved any concerns that existed with Common Core.
“We are extremely disappointed the Corbett administration is considering reversing its own policy and opting to further convolute public understanding of our statewide academic standards,” the representatives said. “As a result, we have lost total confidence in this administration’s ability to manage implementation of these state-specific academic standards.”
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