Common Core Defenders Argue Politics Still Favorable

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Last week’s midterm elections are being hailed by foes of Common Core as a notable victory in their campaign to undo the multi-state education standards across the country, as several candidates for superintendent and governor who opposed them won office.

Supporters of Common Core disagree. Karen Nussle, the executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, an organization that promotes Common Core, has published an analysis arguing that professed enemies of Common Core remain on the political fringe.

Nussle reviewed the statements of every sitting or newly-elected governor and superintendent in states currently adhering to Common Core. Despite some wins last week for Common Core foes, she found, the vast majority are either explicit supporters of the standards, or at least have not called for their repeal.

Overall, according to Nussle’s assessment, the six states where Common Core is officially in use have governors who have expressly advocated repeal: Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. However, only three states, Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia, have school superintendents who explicitly back repeal as well. Since South Carolina already initiated a likely withdrawal from Common Core via legislation last summer, that leaves Arizona as the only state with Common Core fully in place and unified educational leadership willing to gut the standards.

Nussle told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the lack of states with leaders pushing to kill the standards shows that opponents remain an outlier. She even made the case that the signature electoral victory of Common Core foes — Diane Douglas’s win in Arizona’s superintendent race, for instance — is a sign of weakness rather than strength.

“She could have been Donald Duck with an R behind her name and she should have won by 10 points,” Nussle told TheDCNF. That Douglas instead squeaked out a narrow victory in a solid red state, handily underperforming other statewide candidates, shows that Common Core opposition is neither a big political winner nor a litmus test for Republicans, she said.

“What opponents have said is that this is a politically very important issue,” Nussle said. “If that were true, we believe you would have seen it become [more of] a factor.”

Nussle said the narrative has been distorted by a media happy to exaggerate Common Core’s vulnerability.

“There’s been so much more coverage of what the anti-Common Core folks are saying. It’s ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ reporting,” she said. She also said that many governors have already found that the reality of Common Core doesn’t mesh with claims made against it, even if some states have had notable hiccups in implementation.

“Policymakers are seeing there’s a difference between the red meat rhetoric and what the policy actually does.”

Nussle argued that the examples of Indiana and Oklahoma, which both left Common Core in 2014, will deter more states from hastily abandoning the Core in 2015. In Indiana, extensive debate and discussion over what standards to adopt resulted in new state standards that were extremely close to Common Core, and “left nobody happy,” she said. In Oklahoma, meanwhile, the state lost control over millions of dollars in federal funding when its failure to quickly shift to new standards deemed “college and career ready” caused it to have its No Child Left Behind Waiver revoked.

“Now the state is in complete disarray with regard to what its standards are…all while the school year continues to march on.”

Such difficulties in replacing Common Core, Nussle said, show the hazards of inserting “politics” into classroom standards, and the potential for a move against the standards to become a self-inflicted injury.

“I don’t know many politicians who want to have that on their heads.”

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