North Dakota Republican Candidates Promise to Eliminate Common Core

Published May 13, 2016

Candidates running for spots on the Republican ticket in North Dakota this election season are using anti-Common Core (CC) rhetoric to woo voters.

Leah Peterson, a member of Stop Common Core North Dakota, says opposition to Common Core was a prevalent message from would-be candidates at the North Dakota Republican Convention this year.

“I was there. We had many anti-CC activists lined up to be delegates,” Peterson said. “This is ultimately what put the gears in motion to come out against Common Core for some in the party. It’s an election year.”

Peterson says empty rhetoric won’t satisfy voters who are against Common Core.

“In the days ahead of us, the decisions [voters] make will show whether they feel the political winds of change and truly believe the things [candidates] are now saying,” Peterson said. “To date, there has been no action to remove North Dakota from Common Core or [Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.]”

Bill Failed in 2015

Twelve North Dakota House Republicans sponsored House Bill 1461 in 2015 that would have stopped the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a testing system aligned with Common Core, and would have created a committee to develop new, state-derived education standards.

The bill failed to pass the Education Committee by a vote of 9–4 in the Republican-dominated legislature.

This year, candidates for state office, including current Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, a former Common Core supporter, are attempting to assure voters of their commitment to remove SBAC testing and create state-specific North Dakota education standards. 

“Prior to the 2016 Republican Convention, the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction [Baesler] traveled to numerous GOP district conventions and told delegates she intended on getting the state out of Common Core,” said Steve Cates, former North Dakota representative to the Education Commission of the States and lead plaintiff in Cates vs. Baesler, a lawsuit to remove North Dakota from SBAC.

Peterson says Baesler was a staunch Common Core supporter for months prior to the convention and has only recently changed her tune.

Promises Accountability

Cates is not convinced the candidates actually intend to rid the state of CC or SBAC.

“[Baesler] said she would not do anything until the state standards are reviewed and the interim legislative Education Committee makes recommendations,” Cates said.

Cates says Stop Common Core activists’ objective is the state’s full withdrawal from the Common Core State Standards.

“Anything less, and we will do all that is in our power to ensure there are political repercussions for those that chose not to support ending Common Core in North Dakota,” Cates said.

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.