- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2015

Likely GOP presidential contenders’ calls to scrap Common Core are evoking frustration among Republicans who support the education initiative at the state level: They say the learning standards are not a power grab by the federal government and express concern that the political aspirations of a few could thwart educational improvements for millions of children nationwide.

The K-12 education standards increasingly have rankled conservatives, and nearly six in 10 of the more than 3,000 voters who took part in The Washington Times/CPAC straw poll over the weekend said that they “would never vote for a Republican nominee that supports Common Core.”

Accordingly, Common Core was a top target for almost all of the potential GOP presidential contenders — including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, neurosurgeon and columnist Ben Carson and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — who appeared at the annual conservative confab.

“We object to Common Core because the federal government has no right imposing curriculum, imposing content standards in local classrooms when these decisions have always been made by local parents, by teachers, by local leaders,” Mr. Jindal told the CPAC conventiongoers, sparking applause from the crowd.

Mr. Jindal, who, like some others in the emerging 2016 field, was for Common Core before he was against it, said the standards are part of a pattern of government overreach by the Obama administration.

“There is a Tenth Amendment to the Constitution specifically to prohibit the growth of the federal government into areas like K-12 education,” Mr. Jindal said. “We’ve seen under President Obama the federal government get more involved, more expansion, more expansive, more intrusive. It must stop. It must stop here. We must repeal Common Core.”

SEE ALSO: Bobby Jindal: Common Core supporters stand with D.C. bureaucrats

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the outlier at CPAC, arguing in favor of the standards in math and English, which were developed in 2010 by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The anti-Common Core rhetoric runs counter to what some state GOP lawmakers say they see at the local level.

“I have not seen any evidence that this is a veiled attempt by the federal government to overtake state education,” Louisiana state Rep. Chris Broadwater, a member of the House Education Committee, told The Washington Times.

Mr. Broadwater said some of the backlash is a bit far-fetched, including that the localities lose control over curriculum. “It doesn’t square with what I believe is the truth,” he said.

Louisiana state Rep. Thomas G. Carmody Jr., a fellow member of the House Education Committee, said Mr. Jindal might benefit from playing to the party’s base on the issue, but that his stances hurt the state, which has spent millions on developing the initiative.

“What I find interesting now is that some people have taken it as gospel that this is a federal program that Barack Obama implemented and came up with, and that can’t be further from the truth,” he said.

SEE ALSO: CPAC 2015: Jeb Bush stands ground on immigration, Common Core

Mr. Carmody said he feels duped by Mr. Jindal, for whom he voted.

“It is like when you buy a book, and when you open it up and realize that there is nothing between the binders,” he said. “That is just part of life — you get fooled. I don’t think the country is as gullible as the state of Louisiana has been.”

The Common Core Standards were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, though Oklahoma has since pulled out, according to the Collaborative for Student Success.

They are supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business leaders in states.

Opponents say the standards are poor and shape curriculum, and worry that the government is collecting data on students.

They say the Obama administration has coerced states into adopting the standards through the way in which it has awarded waivers to No Child Left Behind requirements and the Race to the Top program, which has awarded more than $4 billion in grants to states that vow to undertake ambitious education reforms, such as Common Core.

Mr. Cruz expressed some of those frustrations in his speech at the Club for Growth’s annual winter meeting Friday, describing Common Core as “national standards being dictated from Washington.”

“There is no remedy when they are dictating what’s being taught to your kids,” Mr. Cruz said.

New Hampshire state Rep. James Grenier, who sits on his chamber’s education committee, told The Times that he is concerned about the way that many of the 2016 candidates are talking about the issue.

“You have to understand that, for the last 40 years, the nation has been spinning its wheels on education, and saying we don’t need to have the federal government push us along is not necessarily true,” said Mr. Grenier, a Republican. “There was a big need for something to be done.”

Less than a year out from the GOP nomination race, the battle over Common Core is intensifying.

Ahead of CPAC, the Collaborative for Student Success told reporters that the standards are needed to compare students across state lines and said most of the state-based repeal efforts have failed because “there is this huge difference between how the standards are being described and defined, and what they really are.”

They said that most of the pushback is fueled by the idea that the Obama administration is leading the effort, and they marched out Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican and a Common Core proponent.

“We feel very confident that we’re on the right track, that we’ve overcome most of the resistance,” he said.

At CPAC, however, resistance was alive.

Emmett McGroarty, director of the American Principles Project Education, went as far as to say that the GOP will be doomed in the 2016 election if it fields a pro-Common Core candidate against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, who he said doesn’t have much baggage on the issue.

“That is going to make the Republican candidate, I think, unelectable at that time,” Mr. McGroarty said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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