During his many, well-publicized appearances on the campaign trail, Donald Trump has repeatedly declared Common Core to be a “disaster” that will be repealed as soon as he is elected. There’s just one problem: Feds can’t “repeal” Common Core.
“Common Core is a disaster … We’re going to repeal Common Core,” says Donald Trump in some variation at almost every rally he holds. Pledging to get rid of Common Core is a staple of Trump’s rhetoric almost as much as building a border wall. He’s savaged Common Core in his campaign announcement speech, at a GOP debate in September, in a January Facebook video, and most recently at the same Thursday rally where he ripped into Mitt Romney for publicly denouncing him.
There’s not really any further detail from Trump on the “disaster” that should be “repealed”; education doesn’t even have a position page on Trump’s campaign website. Trump’s basic pledge regarding Common Core is more or less an impossibility, because it doesn’t reflect the reality of what Common Core actually is.
Common Core was never a program of the federal government. While it aspires to have a national scope, it was the work of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, working at the state level. It’s not possible for Trump, as president, to repeal or otherwise get rid of it, because there’s nothing to repeal.
Oddly, Trump doesn’t just seem to believe that Common Core is a federal mandate, but also that it is a federal program with substantial implementation costs. At Thursday’s GOP debate, Trump said eliminating Common Core would be a big part of his approach to the $500 billion deficit.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the Trump campaign to clarify his calls for repealing something that isn’t a federal law and received no comment in response.
In its early days, Common Core was promoted indirectly by the Obama administration. The administration incentivized the Core’s adoption by making it a component of the Race to the Top program, where states that adopted certain reforms could pick up hundreds of millions in stimulus funds. Later, states could improve their chances of having federal No Child Left Behind regulations waived if they were using Common Core. These various incentives encouraged the idea that Common Core was imposed by the Obama administration. But this was never the case, a fact shown easily enough by the fact Texas, Virginia, Alaska, and Nebraska never adopted Common Core at all.
And now, those various incentives have disappeared. Race to the Top ended years ago and hasn’t had a sequel. No Child Left Behind is gone entirely, replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which generally reduces the federal government’s influence over states in education.
In particular, ESSA bans the federal government from doing anything to promote Common Core, or any other set of education standards. Some Republican lawmakers mistakenly thought this meant ESSA repealed Common Core, but it did not. It merely strengthened the status quo of states being allowed to choose their own standards.
The decision of keeping, revising, or repealing Common Core is entirely a state matter, and states have already taken action on it. In Oklahoma, Common Core was repealed entirely. In other states, like New Jersey, Common Core has been tweaked but largely left in place. In other states, the standards remain untouched.
Ironically, Trump’s pledge to bring back local control of education actually clashes with his pledge to obliterate Common Core. To abolish Common Core outright at the federal level, Trump would have to run roughshod over the state and local governments that have chosen to adopt it and have, by and large, stuck with it despite substantial opposition.
Trump isn’t the only one who has pushed Common Core rhetoric with a dicey relationship to reality. Ted Cruz also frequently suggests he will repeal Common Core, though that promise largely serves as a sub-component of his broader pledge to simply axe the Department of Education entirely.
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