While even former Gov. Jeb Bush eases off his promotion of the Common Core national standards (at least semantically), Gov. John Kasich of Ohio seems headed in the other direction. No one will ever accuse Mr. Kasich of being wishy-washy in his opinions. The problem, as Ronald Reagan might have said, is that his opinions are sometimes based on what he knows that isn’t so.
Mr. Kasich again weighed in on Common Core at the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit last week. He declared that the “governors themselves” wrote the standards, and that “[t]he local school boards have adopted the standards, and now the curriculum is being written by local school boards.”
Of course, it is simply beyond dispute that “the governors” didn’t write anything. Although the standards were released under the auspices of the National Governors Association (a trade association which, by the way, won’t release its list of dues-paying governors), the Common Core standards were written essentially by five people. There were other “work groups” and “feedback teams,” as well as a rubber-stamp “Validation Committee,” but members of those groups have acknowledged that the real work was completed in a non-transparent process that marginalized their input. Perhaps Mr. Kasich could identify the governors – or even their staff members – who wrote one word of the Common Core standards.
As for the local school boards’ adopting the standards, in most states the adoption was done by the state board of education in support of the governor’s and the state school superintendent’s quest for federal Race to the Top money. (In most cases, the governors and state superintendents committed their states to the standards before they were even written.) Local school boards weren’t in a position to object; as one local board member in Georgia acknowledged, “We had a gun to our heads.”
And are the local boards writing the curriculum, as Mr. Kasich claims? Hardly. Mega-publishers such as Pearson have been involved in the Common Core State Standards Initiative from the beginning, buoyant at the prospect of one huge market for their curricular materials. Indeed, former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has testified that many of the Common Core creators candidly admit that a primary goal was to create a national market rather than have to sell to individual states or districts. And the Gates Foundation is funding an initiative to “vet” all curricular materials to see which ones really adhere to the sacrosanct Common Core standards. Realistically, local boards are mere bubbles on the tide of the Common Core empire.
To the thousands of Common Core opponents in Ohio, Mr. Kasich’s continued repetition of talking points that are manifestly untrue illustrates his indifference to evidence that contradicts his preconceived notions – and his disdain for anyone with an opinion different from his. Ohio activist Thea Shoemake also views his attitude as one of willingness to suspend conservative principles in pursuit of the almighty federal dollar. As Mrs. Shoemake observers, “Any candidate who either can’t recognize, or worse agrees with, the invasive, progressive nature of Race to the Top and Common Core won’t recognize – or worse, will agree with — the next progressive conquest that comes down the pike.”
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with American Principles in Action.