North Carolina’s Governor and Common Core

Photo credit: Mr. TinDC via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: Mr. TinDC via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

North Carolina was one of the many states to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Similar to other states, implementation in North Carolina occurred with little to no training or resources the following year.  

When Common Core first came on the scene in the state, Governor Pat McCrory had not yet been elected. Former Governor Beverly Perdue was in the Governor’s mansion at the time and it is her signature that was on the Race To The Top application a full six months before Common Core was even released, much less adopted by North Carolina.

After being elected in fall of 2011, Governor McCrory took up Perdue’s mantle on Common Core. In various engagements, McCrory praised the standards and regularly delivered some of the now familiar Common Core talking points.  

But in McCrory’s first year as Governor, the Common Core push back began as citizens began flooding the legislature with complaints. There were online petitions, many groups drew up resolutions opposing the standards, and parents were angry. The media was starting to take notice as well, but McCrory stuck to the script – Common Core is a set of ‘high standards’, it’s ‘good for business’, it has ‘rigor’.  

Echoing these sentiments was McCrory’s aide on Education, Eric Guckian.

When asked about the mounting opposition to the standards, Guckian at one point made the blanket statement that Common Core ‘would not be going anywhere’ under McCrory’s watch. Guckian has since left the McCrory administration to take a post at Teach For America’s political arm, Leadership for Educational Equity.

By 2013, a legislative research committee had been formed to investigate. After multiple hearings, public comment and testimony over a six month period, the research committee found that Common Core was inherently flawed. Something needed to be done. A bill was written and passed which formed a commission to review the standards and suggest a replacement.  

In 2014 Governor McCrory signed the bill to create the commission, yet his continued support for the standards was noted by local media. McCrory blamed implementation for the complaints instead of the standards themselves and was quoted by local media at the time:

“The reading and math standards in Common Core are high, relevant and can be applied internationally,” McCrory said, reserving criticism for how the state is approaching them. “It’s not the standards that are bad, it’s the execution that must be improved.”

The governor also expressed concern that any changes suggested by such a commission could lower the state’s standards – the same argument made by the North Carolina Chamber, which opposed the initial legislation.  

It is worth noting that the Governor’s appointee to the review commission, IBM executive Andre Peek, had extensive ties to Common Core supporting groups and was a vocal supporter of the standards. In fact, video from a 2014 business community event shows Peek and McCrory spending time praising Common Core.

Common Core was taking center stage in both education and political arenas in 2014. Candidates backing the standards were coming under heavy fire, yet McCrory continued to support Common Core, but tempered his language somewhat, saying that he didn’t care about brand name standards and that he just “supports higher standards.”

By late 2015, The governor appeared to be preparing for his upcoming reelection campaign. The governor’s office released a video that captured his accomplishments. While education was mentioned, there was not a word about standards or Common Core whatsoever.  

The commission had finished their work and predictably bowed to pressure from pro-Common Core special interest groups, education non-profits and various other foundations. The commission ended up watering down their recommendations and gutting the much needed math recommendations.

Again, Governor McCrory was silent on the commission’s findings. Clearly, the national furor over the standards is playing a factor in Governor McCrory’s silence.  However, while McCrory is now largely silent on Common Core, actions often speak louder than words.

In the January meeting of the North Carolina State Board of Education, a resolution was presented by the State Superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson. The resolution, which was signed by both Governor McCrory and Dr. Atkinson, contains much troublesome language, starting with the title — “To Align The Talent Pipeline To Meet The Needs Of The Economy” — which implies that the purpose of education is to provide for the needs of Big Business.

Furthermore, while the resolution does not state Common Core by name, the implication of the continued use of the standards is evident in several paragraphs using the terms ‘career and college ready’ and speaking of increasing data collection and tracking.

If history and recent events are any indication, Governor McCrory appears to still be supporting Common Core despite campaigns by major players like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker being effectively killed by the standards.

Should Governor McCrory have loftier ambitions beyond North Carolina, such as positioning himself for a vice presidential role, perhaps the governor should review what has already happened on the national stage to those supporting Common Core.

What will 2016 bring for North Carolina’s governor? The voters will decide.

A.P. Dillon is a wife and mother of two young children, the founder the conservative blog LadyLiberty1885.com, and a leading voice of Common Core opposition in North Carolina.