Common Core hasn’t turned out to be the big-time 2016 issue some predicted, but the issue keeps popping up at the state level, and with another wave of standardized test boycotts possibly on the way, it could still influence some primary and general election votes.
Here’s how the five remaining presidential candidates stack up on Common Core.
Cruz has been a vocal opponent of Common Core ever since he entered the Senate in 2013, and he’s frequently denounced it on the campaign trail as well. He’s said that as president he would “repeal every word” of Common Core, and during the March 10 GOP debate he said he would order the Department of Education to end Common Core the very first day he took office.
It’s not clear whether Cruz’s pledge actually makes sense. Common Core cannot be “repealed,” because it is not a product of federal legislation (it was created through the combined efforts of several states). At one point, the Obama administration encouraged its adoption with federal funds, but that program has since stopped. There is nothing technically for Cruz to order the Department of Education to end. (RELATED: Cruz, Trump Double Down On Baffling Common Core Promises)
He could potentially use the Department of Education to discourage Common Core and push states towards adopting something else. If Cruz did so, he would be engaging in the exact kind of executive meddling with state education for which he faults the Obama administration. Also, using the Department of Education to do anything may be difficult for Cruz, since he also said he wants to eliminate the Department entirely.
Trump, like Cruz, has loudly and frequently denounced Common Core, describing it as a “disaster” that he would “repeal” as president. And like with Cruz, it’s not clear how Trump actually will eliminate Common Core, short of trying to ban it, which would go flatly against Trump’s position that education should be locally controlled.
Other than sundry comments, though, Trump hasn’t really fleshed out his Common Core position. Education in general isn’t included on Trump’s campaign website, and his views have mostly just come out as side comments during speeches and press conferences.
Like many other Republican governors, Kasich supported Common Core when he became Ohio’s governor in 2011. Unlike many of those governors, though, and unlike Cruz and Trump, Kasich has sustained that support even on the campaign trail, despite the grassroots backlash against it among conservatives.
Although he has adjusted his rhetoric a bit to avoid alienating grassroots conservatives. Back before he began his presidential campaign, Kasich was often openly dismissive of Common Core critics. In January 2015, he accused other governors like Bobby Jindal of cynically turning against Common Core for political gain, and he even described attacks on it as a form of “hysteria.”
Now, Kasich hasn’t changed his position, but his tone is considerably less sharp. Kasich generally avoids mentioning Common Core by name (“I don’t know about the term,” he said in August), and he has emphasized his view that Common Core is not a form of federal control and gives local communities substantial leeway on what curriculum to use.
“All I’m in favor of in Ohio is high standards,” Kasich said at the March 10 GOP debate.
Clinton, like most establishment Democrats, has been solidly supportive of Common Core from the start. During one of her first campaign stops, at an Iowa college, Clinton gave the standards a strong endorsement, and she hasn’t backed off from that, even though some Democrats have started to show skepticism. Clinton has praised the Core as a “nonpartisan” endeavor and has characterized the backlash against it as “painful.”
That support isn’t surprising, because Clinton has in the past supported federal interventions in education far stronger than Common Core. In 2007, she introduced a bill that would have formed a national panel to create uniform math and science standards for the whole country, paving the way for national curricula and tests. This position makes education standards one of the few areas where Clinton seems to favor a bigger government than Bernie Sanders does.
Compared to other candidates, Common Core hasn’t been on Sanders’ radar at all. He has no explicitly stated position on it, and he doesn’t seem to have mentioned it on the campaign trail even once.
But while some on the left have joined the anti-Common Core bandwagon, Sanders doesn’t seem to be among them. A statement from his Senate website in 2011 regarding a failed education bill touted it for providing support to Common Core adopters. In early 2015, Sanders voted against an education bill amendment (which eventually passed anyway) that prohibited the federal government from coercing or encouraging states to adopt or keep Common Core, suggesting he is, at the least, not opposed to it.
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