WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was supposed to be easier than this.
The powers behind Common Core thought they could overhaul the nation’s education system while no one was watching – during the chaotic aftermath of 2008’s Great Recession – and that when Americans finally discovered the change a few years later, they’d meekly fall in line and accept it.
That’s not happening.
It turns out that average Americans don’t like the fact their children’s education is getting a total makeover and they didn’t have any say in the matter. A growing number of these disgruntled Americans are raising hob with their local lawmakers to stop Common Core.
Supporters realize their experiment is in trouble. They also understand the Obama administration’s warm embrace of Common Core only adds to fears that the whole thing is a backdoor attempt to federalize public education.
That’s why some supporters are asking, in the nicest way possible, for the administration to stop talking about Common Core.
“I think it’s time for the Obama administration and (U.S. Education Secretary) Arne Duncan to take a back seat,” Michael Brickman, national policy director at the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told The Washington Times.
“They’ve tried to jump in and cheerlead. It’s time for the states to tell the administration that ‘we’ve got it from here,’” Brickman added. “They think it’s a good idea, but it’s not their place or any administration’s place to be pushing states on this. It’s something that started as a state initiative and it should continue to be a state initiative.”
Brickman is half-right. The Obama White House has been using the old “carrot and stick” routine to get states to adopt Common Core – ranging from offers of extra K-12 funding (Race to the Top) to the avoidance of federal penalties (No Child Left Behind waivers).
The aforementioned Duncan has also used ridicule to pressure state officials into action. Duncan’s recurring message to them has been that only members of the “black helicopter” crowd oppose Common Core. (The dozens and dozens of well-regarded academics and scholars who have spoken out against the learning standards would disagree with that characterization.)
But Brickman is flat-out wrong when he says Common Core is state led. It’s been extensively documented that this experiment is the work of two private organizations – the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers – and their allies on various state school boards, most of whom have zero name recognition among voters.
Mississippi, for example, adopted Common Core solely on the approval of the state’s nine unelected board of education members.
Even American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten – a Common Core supporter – acknowledges the top-down nature in which the standards were imposed on the states.
“The public wasn’t involved. Parents weren’t involved. The districts weren’t involved,” Weingarten admitted to reporters this week.
Even if Common Core supporters convince Obama administration members to button their lips, the damage has been done. One Indiana lawmaker recently noted that Common Core has become almost as politically toxic as the new health care law.
That’s not to say that Common Core is going to be repealed. But it’s not the sure bet it appeared to be just a year or two ago.