More Fizzle Than Spark: GOP Efforts to Sink Common Core Are Failing

In the wake of last year’s midterms, Common Core standards appeared to be squarely in the crosshairs of newly-elected Republican majorities that swept into office in states across the country. But some three months into the 2015 legislative calendar, virtually none of the repeal threats have materialized. Since January, efforts to repeal the standards have fizzled in no fewer than a dozen states, two-thirds of which have legislative chambers and the governor’s office under unified Republican control: States with Republican governance (House, Senate, governorship):
  • Arizona – Legislature twice rejected repeal bills
  • Georgia – Repeal efforts failed to materialize
  • Idaho – Legislature failed to move repeal legislation
  • Kansas – Legislature failed to pass repeal legislation
  • North Dakota – Legislature rejected repeal bill in unanimous fashion
  • South Dakota – Legislature rejected repeal bill
  • Utah – Repeal efforts failed to materialize
  • Wyoming – Legislature failed to move repeal legislation
States with Republican House and/or Senate majorities:
  • Kentucky – Repeal legislation never came up for a vote
  • New Mexico – Legislature failed to move repeal legislation
  • Virginia – Governor vetoed bill prohibiting Common Core
  • West Virginia – Legislature failed to pass a repeal bill
These are among the most conservative-leaning states in the country. In the 2012 presidential election, for example, Mitt Romney ran better than Barack Obama in these states collectively by an average of 19.65 percentage points. Five years after states initiated the creation of Common Core State Standards and voluntarily adopted them, the debate over whether the standards will survive appears to be settled: Common Core standards are here to stay. How did this happen? First, there continues to be a sizable schism between public support for voluntary K-12 standards in math and English that are comparable across state lines, and the moniker “Common Core.” In Louisiana, for example, a recent poll measured a 16-point drop for Common Core, from 67 percent to 51 percent, depending on whether the descriptor “Common Core” was given to respondents. Among Republicans, support for Common Core more than triples, from 22 percent to 71 percent, when the Standards were polled without employing the moniker “Common Core.” Second, public policymakers intent on repealing Common Core invariably are confronted with the reality that the public fundamentally supports higher standards. Parents want their kids to be better educated, regardless of their economic status or political persuasion. Opponents of Common Core pushed for repeal of the standards without offering an alternative set of academic standards that will adequately prepare kids for success after high school. This has put lawmakers in the unenviable position of either having to revert to an inferior set of academic standards, or produce a new set of standards from whole cloth. It is virtually impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and career. Third, opponents of Common Core, to their detriment, have shown a remarkable propensity to inaccurately describe the Standards. For example, opponents have erroneously and misleadingly described the Standards as “a national curriculum” and “anti-American” and filled with “revisionist history that ignores the faith of our fathers.” They routinely claim Common Core was “forced” on states. As recently as yesterday, Common Core was preposterously described as an Islamic conspiracy created to inculcate children with Islamic teachings as part of a larger effort to transform American society. This cynical strategy was tremendously successful in fomenting rancor among party activists in the short term, but it now appears to be backfiring in the legislative arena as lawmakers are forced to separate facts from fiction. Although we’ve passed the halfway point, several months still remain in the 2015 legislative season. We expect a number of states may yet entertain debate and even vote on bills to repeal Common Core. But based on how resilient the Common Core State Standards have proven to be in the first three months of 2015, we’re unlikely to see any kind of mass movement away from this critically important initiative.
Karen Nussle is the Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success.
Karen is a veteran communications strategist with experience in the private, public, political and non-profit sectors. Her work has included strategic communications plans, public relations, advocacy campaigns, corporate communications, strategic planning, lobbying and advocacy and media training.

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