Semantics Aside, Ted Cruz Wants to End Common Core

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a piece yesterday for Bloomberg Politics, David Weigel wrote:

For at least five months, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been punctuating his speeches with a demand to “repeal Common Core.” He previewed the line in a pre-midterm column, published by USA Today in October 2014; Common Core needed to be repealed, “so that local curriculum is not mandated by Washington bureaucrats.” When Cruz took this on the road, audiences dutifully clapped and cheered; reporters dutifully noted the applause. (Most reporters, not all.)

It took until March 16 for a progressive voice to ask what the heck Cruz was talking about. At ThinkProgress, Judd Legum reported on a Cruz tweet—”We need to repeal every word of Common Core!”—with the headline “Ted Cruz Makes Impassioned Plea For Repeal Of Federal Legislation That Does Not Exist.” Matter-of-factly, Legum explained that “Common Core is not, in fact, a federal law,” that its standards were “developed by the states,” and that the federal government played “no role” in writing them.

The left is using Cruz’s statements to attempt to portray him as “pander-prone” or simply “befuddled” as he “didn’t realize that Common Core was not a bill to be repealed.” However, Weigel notes, as The Pulse’s own Shane Vander Hart has also observed, that Cruz is merely trying to simplify the complex issue of Common Core for the campaign trail:

Cruz does not punctuate his orations with calls to “untether the grant money for Race to the Top from Common Core standards.” He condenses the matter into a line that fits lego-tight with his calls to “repeal every blasted word of Obamacare.” But he’s already on board with a proposal to shake off the standards. Cruz has co-sponsored the Local Control of Education Act, penned by Louisiana Senator David Vitter, which would strip Common Core mandates and “allow states that do not accept these standards to continue to qualify for federal grants and waivers currently limited to states that are in compliance with the standards.”

While that doesn’t technically constitute a repeal of Common Core, it does achieve the end goal, which is the end of Common Core. Weigel does note, however, that the complexity of the issue could allow pro-Common Core candidates a chance to re-frame the debate:

[T]he reality is confusing enough to allow politicians some muddle room. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who since his 2007 retirement has advocated for Common Core standards, has tried to calm Republican voters by saying the standards should not be federally mandated. “The federal government shouldn’t have a role influencing—directly or indirectly—standards or curriculum or content,” he said at one recent Iowa question-and-answer session. Did that mean he wanted to uncouple the standards from education grants? Luckily for Bush, the issue’s just confusing enough that he wasn’t asked to explain that. It was enough to say that he said that the states should decide their own standards—an answer that sounds like a concession, but is totally compatible with Common Core advocacy.

Joshua Pinho works for American Principles in Action.