In the last few months, Carly Fiorina has steadily attempted to stake out a position as a unique conservative voice within the Republican field. This effort has included drawing a contrast between herself and other candidates, such as Jeb Bush, whom she has chided for his support of Common Core on more than one occasion. On education policy, she has also been critical of the “heavy-handed” methods of “federal bureaucracies,” implying she would support a more decentralized, states-oriented approach.
However, what has seemingly been overlooked is that Fiorina has not always been so skeptical of federal education programs. As Alyson Klein at Education Week points out, during Fiorina’s 2010 run for U.S. Senate in California, she apparently supported the very programs which helped give us Common Core to begin with.
A one-page education policy brief still available on her Senate campaign website provides the incriminating evidence. For example, the Fiorina campaign lauded the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program as “put[ting] into place some critically important accountability measures” and “help[ing] improve our education system,” although we now know it in fact used federal funding to encourage states to adopt the Common Core standards. Under this heading, she also praised the affiliated “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments” (we can only guess what these were) as well as “robust data systems” which have now come under heavy criticism for infringement on student privacy.
Further on in the brief, we also find that Fiorina thought “No Child Left Behind helped us set a high bar for our students…” Unfortunately, it was poorly designed accountability standards in NCLB which allowed the federal government to coerce states into adopting the Common Core in exchange for the granting of waivers from the requirements.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and it is possible Fiorina may have learned from the mistakes of past federal education initiatives. Nevertheless, with NCLB set to be reauthorized soon and the Common Core fight far from over, it is important that Fiorina clarify in detail her stance on these important issues. What would the U.S. Department of Education look like under a hypothetical Fiorina administration? And would she still support Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind today? If she wishes to truly set herself apart from Jeb Bush and other pro-Common Core candidates, she will need to answer these questions.
Paul Dupont is a legislative assistant for American Principles in Action.