Common Core and Race

The CW for some time has been that Common Core educational standards are facing growing opposition rooted in the political left and right, with the “center”–represented by politicians ranging from Barack Obama to Jeb Bush–still supportive. But as Emmanuel Felton points out at College Guide, the divisions revealed by public opinion research are more about race and ethnicity than ideology:

The NBC News State of Parenting Poll, which was sponsored by Pearson, a publisher of Common Core textbooks and tests, found that 50 percent of parents surveyed approved of the Common Core and 38 percent opposed the standards, which are grade level expectations in math and English in place in more than 40 states. But the plurality of white parents – 49 percent – opposed the standards, while 73 percent of Hispanic parents and 56 percent of black parents favored the Common Core.

Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, thinks some of this can be explained by partisan politics….

The poll did indeed find big differences among Republicans and Democrats. While 61 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents supported the standards, only 26 percent of Republicans did.

Hess says this interpretation, however, doesn’t fully explain the big racial differences.

“If it was purely partisan, you would expect blacks to be more supportive than Latinos,” added Hess. ”And a lot of these white families are liberals that feel Common Core is too focused on reading and math and is pushing things like art and music out.”

The high level of support among Hispanics doesn’t surprise Leticia de la Vara, senior strategist for civic engagement at the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic civil rights organization that supports Common Core.

“Whether you are a recent immigrant or a sixth-generation American, education is important,” said de la Vara. “Very few things are monolithic about our community but education is one of them.”

Andre Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University and a columnist for The Hechinger Report, isn’t surprised by the poll either.

“In poll after poll, we have seen that blacks and Latinos have always desired a higher education more than whites,” said Perry, who is black. “But they haven’t received the quality of education that would give them the access to higher education. So when things like the Common Core are proposed there is hope….”

Perry thinks that part of the difference in support between Hispanic and black parents can be explained by the fact that black parents may be more likely to be employed by the education system, and thus have more to lose.

Interesting. It’s not exactly news that minority parents are less likely than, say, teachers unions to defend “traditional public schools” to the last ditch and insist that more money for the existing system is the answer politicians keep eluding. But it is interesting that an initiative that was originally developed more or less by an alliance of business community types and Republican governors has wound up with its mass base being among Latinos first and African-Americans second.

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.