Opinion

‘Conservative’ Educational Expert Spins Republican Landslide In Favor Of Common Core

Karen Schroeder President, Advocates for Academic Freedom

Michael Petrilli, president of the ostensibly conservative educational think tank the Fordham Institute, spins the recent Republican election landslide as a win for school choice but a loss for those opposing Common Core State Standards. Last week, Petrilli posted on the Fordham Institute’s blog a piece with the title, “Last night’s implications for education reform,” to explain current efforts to support Common Core while overlooking the principles supported by the conservative community.

For many conservatives, the Fordham Institute lost its objectivity and credibility when it accepted millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the purpose of supporting Common Core.

According to Petrelli, Republicans deserve more credit for education reform than does Arne Duncan. Petrelli conveniently forgets that conservatives were opposed to the Bush/Kennedy No Child Left Behind Act for the same reasons they reject Common Core: both were federal programs which undermined state autonomy in education, both interfered with local control of schools, and both increased the size of the federal government.

The Republican Party and conservatives frequently battle fellow conservatives who are willing to compromise their principles. Conservatives understand that compromising principles results in a loss of those principles. As soon as educational leaders encourage more federal involvement, the conservative group becomes more progressive.

Nonetheless, Petrilli explains that “Those of us who support Common Core will win some and will lose some, but it won’t change the fundamentals: the vast majority of states will continue to move ahead with these higher standards.” Petrilli is refusing to hear the cries from Republicans who contest the quality of those federally shaped standards.

Dr. James Milgram, member of the Common Core Validation Committee, warns that the Common Core math standards will destroy America’s standing in technology. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, also a member of the Common Core Validation Committee and author of the Massachusetts English standards, warns that most of the Common Core English Language Arts standards are content-free and are not true standards.

Unfortunately, Petrilli tries to convince parents that the Republican election landslide will be good for school choice and voucher options even with Common Core in place. Petrelli has not been listening to the parents of students attending private schools that are being forced to implement Common Core Standards because the federal government has aligned accreditation tests, college entrance exams such as ACT and SAT, and advanced placement tests with Common Core Standards.

Parents who value choice options have explicitly stated that they do not want nationalized standards, they do not want federally aligned standards, and they do not want inferior academic standards in their schools.

Yet, thanks to Petrilli and his progressive spin, conservative parents are butting heads with the educational leaders of their choice options. For example: one thousand Milwaukee parents who petitioned their diocese to remove Common Core from their schools were shocked by the condescending response from their Archbishop.

The Milwaukee Archbishop stated that, “to think that parents are more qualified than our academic experts to select said curriculum is ridiculous.”

Fortunately, Reason.com takes a more objective view. Their piece, “How a Republican Congress can Kill Common Core,” agrees with conservative parents that Common Core Standards are synonymous with federal overreach and creeping nationalization of local education matters. It warns against Common Core national curriculum standards which are inferior, trendy, and often incomprehensible especially in math. Mr. Petrilli needs to stop ignoring the fact that the more federal overreach occurs, the more often parents are removed from the process.

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jon Kasich and others were touted by Petrilli as being legitimate vice-presidential candidates who strongly support Common Core. Of course, Petrilli would admire these three governors because they are not steadfast conservatives just as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute hardly seems to be a truly conservative educational think tank.

Again, Petrilli’s ears are so stuffed with Gates Foundation dollars that he is not hearing the public reject all three of these men as vice-presidential candidates because their support of Common Core standards stands between parent and child and between the conservative electorate and its principles.