After a long absence, education policy has reclaimed a prominent role in the national and state campaign discourse. What’s more, parents — not a particular party or candidate — are driving the debate. For their part, the GOP presidential candidates are struggling to grasp what’s going on. Apparently, understanding that numerous governors and ex-governors (e.g., Mike Pence, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush) doomed their presidential aspirations by failing to push back against Common Core and the federal government, these candidates now routinely denounce Common Core in their stump speeches. But do they really understand how federal law continues to promote Common Core? Do they understand the fight?
As we’ve reported, just-resigned Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went public after the passage of the mammoth Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to crow about how he and the Obama administration got everything they wanted by conspiring with Republican leadership. (See here and here to find out how your House member and senators voted on ESSA.) Duncan especially lauded the federal mandate for “high standards,” which is federal/progressive code for Common Core.
But doesn’t ESSA, as all the bamboozled congressmen insist, bar the Secretary from mandating Common Core? True, some provisions purport to do that. But as Duncan chuckled in a separate interview, those provisions are merely “surface-y soundbites” rather than substantive restrictions on federal power.
Within the other 1,060 pages of ESSA lurk the provisions that will put downward pressure on states to keep Common Core, or something that looks very much like Common Core. Continue Reading