Common Core Support Weighs Down Presidential Hopefuls

Published March 2, 2016

As the race for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination continued into March’s “Super Tuesday” primary on March 1, when 13 states held primary or caucus votes, advertisements targeting candidates for their Common Core support, such as those made against Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), were aired in key primary states.

On February 20, another vocal supporter of Common Core, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), suspended his campaign after placing fourth in the South Carolina Republican Primary, a state in which he was expected to perform well.

In 2015, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a former full supporter of the national curriculum standards created by academic experts, lawmakers, and educational materials companies, revised his state’s implementation of the federal education initiative, retaining most of the standards.

After finishing sixth in the New Hampshire Primary, a state in which he was expected to perform well, Christie suspended his campaign.

‘Liability’ with Voters?

Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, says education policy may not be a deciding factor in most voters’ minds, but it does contribute when voters decide who to support.

“Common Core could be a liability, but I don’t think it is at all a major factor in the campaign,” McCluskey said. “One reason it is not a major factor in the campaign is the only well-known supporter was Gov. [Jeb] Bush. I think there was some expectation that he would be the leading candidate for the Republicans, and he has never been in that position.”

McCluskey says Kasich’s embrace of Common Core may become an important issue.

 “It could be used as a powerful way to differentiate from small-government conservatives,” Said McCluskey.

Emmett McGroarty, education director for the American Principles Project, a public policy organization dedicated to promoting “policies and actions that protect children and secure their future,” says voters recognize the brokenness of the government school system in the United States.

 “The whole Common Core system was pushed onto the states and [was] developed by special-interest groups, and that was the strategy in getting it pushed across the country: using the federal government as a tool,” McGroarty said. “People are realizing that this Common Core is highly defective. It locks children into an inferior education that fails to prepare them for authentic university studies, and that’s really upsetting to people. I think people realize this dynamic between special interests and the federal government really enabled this to happen.”

‘A Threshold Issue’

McGroarty says voters believe Common Core is an important issue, but he does not think its voters’ top concern.

“I think Common Core is a threshold issue … but if [a candidate shows they have fought Common Core,] I think voters will tend to look at them further,” said McGroarty. “Everyone sort of claims their support of local control of education, so if you’re not going to stand and fight with parents on a clear cut issue [related to] their children’s education … it’s pretty significant.”

McGroarty says there is a pattern evident in the rise and fall of presidential candidates.

“What’s happened on this election cycle is that … those candidates who had been proponents of Common Core [early on] or were in office and failed to push back against it suffered tremendously,” McGroarty said. “You look at the order of things in this presidential race, and that rule of thumb pretty much holds true.”

McGroarty says Common Core will become more of an issue as time goes on.

 “I think Common Core has the makings to be a big issue in the general election, if not [more] so in this primary season,” McGroarty said. “I think that as the field narrows, the candidates are going to be called upon to add more specifics to their vision of America and to add more specifics as to exactly what they will do, so I think it will start to play out.”

Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.