Since Congress passed a major education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), earlier this week, several members of Congress have been pushing the false narrative that the law constitutes a repeal of Common Core. In fact, the law does not and could not repeal Common Core.
The desire to describe the law as a Common Core repeal is understandable. While ESSA shifts federal education policy to the right, many conservatives have argued the law doesn’t go far enough. Since those same conservatives also mostly dislike Common Core, claiming the law constitutes a repeal may be an effort to win them over.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina was one of those to push the narrative. His Congressional website declares Burr had helped send a Common Core repeal to President Obama’s desk. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander did the same thing, using Twitter to say (4 different times) the law would eliminate the “Common Core mandate.”
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) December 8, 2015
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) December 9, 2015
The only problem: No “Common Core mandate” exists, so no federal legislation can “repeal” it.
Common Core is an initiative of the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were created without federal control or oversight, and the standards have all been adopted at the state level.
What ESSA does do is prohibit the federal government from using various tactics that encouraged, but did not require, the adoption of Common Core at the state level. For example, the Race to the Top program, which ran from 2009 to 2013, awarded federal money to select states that adopted various education reforms. States could improve their chances of receiving money by adopting Common Core.
More recently, states could improve their chances of receiving a waiver from various No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements if they followed Common Core.
But these federal initiatives never amounted to anything like a requirement that states follow Common Core, which is easily shown by the fact that not every state adopted it. Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, and Alaska never used Common Core, and Minnesota only adopted half of it.
Similarly, Indiana and Oklahoma were both able to repeal Common Core and still received NCLB waivers. The Obama administration encouraged Common Core, but it never required adoption.
By extension, it wasn’t federal requirements that were keeping Common Core held in place around the country. Instead, it was support from both Democrats and Republicans, who have defeated several repeal efforts around the country. (RELATED: Anti-Common Core Efforts Are Failing)
Alexander’s wording is particularly misleading, because as the chairman of the Senate’s education committee, he presumably knows the federal government’s actual involvement with Common Core. And in fact, a longer paper published by the committee frames the issue more truthfully, though it still inaccurately describes Obama as requiring the adoption of Common Core.
If activists want Common Core eliminated, then, they’ll need more than a new federal law. Instead, repeal must be done state by state across the country.
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