Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz maintained their positions on Common Core in the Republican presidential primary debate Thursday, even after moderator Jake Tapper presented evidence their positions are built on falsehoods.
Both Trump and Cruz have repeatedly denounced Common Core on the campaign trail, and have promised to repeal it if elected. But Tapper pointed out that these pledges don’t seem to make sense, since Common Core was created and adopted at the state level, and there is no federal Common Core program to repeal or abolish. (RELATED: Trump’s Common Core Rhetoric Makes No Sense)
Tapper asked Trump what specifically distressed him about Common Core, and Trump quickly replied that it was “education through Washington, D.C.,” and that he’d prefer to have locally directed education.
Tapper quickly went after Trump’s statement.
“The Common Core standards were developed by the states,” Tapper told Trump. “States and localities voluntarily adopt them, and they come up with their own curricula to meet those standards. So when you say education by Washington D.C., what do you mean?”
“It’s been taken over by the federal government,” Trump said. “It was originally supposed to be that way [locally controlled], and it certainly sounds better that way, but it’s all been taken over now by the bureaucrats in Washington, and they are not interested in what’s happening in Miami or in Florida … in many cases, they’re more interested in their paycheck and their big bureaucracy than they are in taking care of the children.”
Trump’s reply won applause from the audience, but nonetheless doesn’t make much sense. Common Core has at times been promoted by the federal government (such as with the Race to the Top stimulus program), but it has never been controlled by it, and there are no Department of Education bureaucrats actively managing it. In fact, under current federal law, it would be illegal for the Department of Education to foist Common Core on the states.
Tapper then questioned John Kasich, the only remaining Republican candidate who supports Common Core, who pointed out that Common Core still allows states and school districts to set their own curricula.
A short time later, Tapper presented Cruz with a similar question.
“[Sen. Cruz,] you object to Common Core,” Tapper said. “Gov. Kasich says it’s local school boards dveloping local curriculum to meet higher standards. What’s wrong with that?”
Cruz provided only an indirect response.
“Common Core is a disaster,” he said. “And if I am elected president, in the first days as president, I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day.”
Cruz then offered an explanation of how the Obama administration had foisted Common Core on the states. “The Obama administration has abused executive power in forcing Common Core on the states,” he said. “It has used Race to the Top funds to effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt Common Core.”
“[But] anything done with executive power can be undone with executive power, and I intend to do that,” Cruz continued, before repeating his broader pledge to destroy the Department of Education entirely.
Cruz’s claim contained some truth: the Obama administration did use Race to the Top to encourage Common Core’s adoption. But it didn’t force states to adopt it (four states never did), and Race to the Top ended years ago, so there is no longer any federal money at all being used to keep states tethered to Common Core.
Several states, such as Oklahoma and South Carolina, have already tweaked Common Core or repealed it entirely. Cruz, meanwhile, could not force the remaining states using Common Core to repeal it without running roughshod over current federal law, which forbids federal meddling in school standards.
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