The Crumbling of Common Core Begins

Watching opposition to the state-developed, business-supported Common Core Standards for K-12 schools steadily increase has sort of been like watching an earthquake shake a mountain: it could produce a calamity or just a bad memory. But now that Indiana has become the first state to formally withdraw from the initiative, it’s going to be interesting to see if and when other states follow.

As AP’s Bill Barrow notes in a good summary of where the initiative stands, there has long been bipartisan opposition to Common Core, with some conservatives calling it an impingement on local control of schools (even though it’s not a federal initiative), and anti-testing activists supported by some teachers unions on the left opposing it for very different reasons. But it’s conservatives who are now taking the lead, in state after state, to take down Common Core. So given the business community’s central role in supporting Common Core, and the heavy involvement of Republican governors in developing it, it’s inevitably going to be a big deal in intra-GOP politics, up to and including the 2016 presidential race. Some very familiar names on the national scene are already choosing up sides and going at it:

[Rand] Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, has joined seven colleagues, including Texas’ Cruz, to sponsor a measure that would bar federal financing of any Common Core component. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t among the eight, but he had already come out against the standards. So has Rick Santorum, a 2012 presidential candidate mulling another run.

On the other end of the spectrum is [Jeb] Bush, the former Florida governor and Rubio’s mentor. “This is a real-world, grown-up approach to a real crisis that we have, and it’s been mired in politics,” Bush said last week in Tennessee, where he joined Republican Gov. Bill Haslam at an event to promote Common Core.

This sure looks like a minefield for Jebbie if he does decide to run for president. But beyond that, governors from both parties probably won’t be too happy to see Common Core become a football in a presidential campaign. The standards, it seems, are being implemented just a year or two late to escape the political cauldron.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.