Mike Huckabee at 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Mike Huckabee at 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

The Common Core State Standards were introduced as a 2016 presidential election issue Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) and Citizens United at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, IA.  If there was a fan of the Common Core present among the speakers they didn’t speak out.

Donald Trump was the first to make mention of Common Core from the stage.  He did so when blasting Jeb Bush as a prospective presidential candidate.  Trump said, “He’s totally in favor of Common Core.  That’s a disaster.”

Trump told Caffeinated Thoughts later in the day, “I think Common Core is a very big issue.  It’s a local subject, and is should remain a local subject.”  He also said that he didn’t believe Bush’s support of it was a winning formula in the Republican primary process.

Ben Carson during a morning press conference voiced his support for local control in education.  “As you know I am a profound advocate of good education. Where is the evidence pointing.  The evidence shows that education that is closest to home, local education, seems to be the most effective education.  I would tend to be much more in favor of education that is controlled at a state level and by local municipalities and in which the parents have a much greater say about what is happening with their children’s education,” Carson said in response to Caffeinated Thoughts’ question on Common Core.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz mentioned Common Core briefly in his speech when he asked the crowd if they are looking for leaders who will fight Common Core which garnered applause.

Former U.S. Senator and 2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum took aim at Common Core during his speech.

“We have a top-down government-run education system that is failing our children,” Santorum stated.  “We need less Common Core and more common sense if we are going to make America a great and educated country.”

“What is common sense?  Talk to any teacher, any administrator they will tell you the same thing.  They will tell you the biggest key in determining the success of the child in school is the parent’s involvement with that child in school,” Santorum added.

“So what does Common Core say?  ‘Stay out parents, we got this!’  The federal… the state… whatever it is folks, the elites (say) ‘we are going to determine what is best for your child!’  When the schools and the elites should be saying ‘we are failing and we need you parents to come in because we know by having you here your child is going to do better.’  The elites are doing just the opposite,” Santorum explained.

Carly Fiorina told Caffeinated Thoughts that she was opposed to Common Core.  “I don’t think Common Core is a good idea.  I don’t support it, and by the way, I think the facts are pretty clear that the bigger the Department of Education becomes the worse our education becomes.  So, there is no connection between spending more money in Washington and a better school system, and there is every connection between giving parents choice and having real competition and having real accountability in the classroom,” Fiorina said.

Fiorina also said we really don’t want to emulate Communist China in our education system.

“I also think the argument for Common Core is frequently ‘oh we have to compete with the Chinese.’  I have been doing business with China for decades and I will tell you that yeah the Chinese can take a test, but what they can’t do is innovate.  They’re not terribly imaginative, they’re not entrepreneurial, they don’t innovate. That is why they are stealing our intellectual property.  One of the things we have to maintain about our school systems which comes with local control is to teach entrepreneurship, innovation, risk taking, imagination, these are things that are distinctly American and we can’t lose them,” Fiorina added.

Caffeinated Thoughts asked former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee about his statement, “I hate what Common Core has become” and wanted the Governor to clarify what he actually liked originally.

Huckabee pointed to American Diploma Project led by Achieve, Inc. that laid the foundation for the Common Core State Standards. In 1996 the National Governors Association and a number of business leaders founded Achieve, Inc. in order to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability in all 50 states.

“The only thing I liked before is when it was a state-controlled, specific standards of two things – language arts and math.  Which was the outgrowth of the Achieve movement back in the mid 90s that a number of people were involved in, expressly to keep the federal fingers off of education.  I have been very clear that I have been utterly opposed to what Common Core is.  I’ve said again in my book, I’ve said it on television, I’ve said it on radio, I’ve written about it repeatedly,” Huckabee stated.

According to Achieve, the American Diploma Project college-and-career-ready benchmarks defined the knowledge and skills in English and mathematics that all students must acquire in high school in order to meet the challenges awaiting them on college campuses and in the workplace.  “The ADP Core has become the ‘common core’ as a byproduct of the alignment work in each of the states,” Achieve wrote in their 2008 report Out of Many One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards form the Ground Up.

Achieve, Inc. wrote the Common Core State Standards in 2009 using the ADP Core as an initial framework and then expanded it.  ADP, like the Common Core State Standards Initiative, was a private-public partnership that lacked a state legislative grant of approval.

“I still have people come to me and say, ‘you know Mike Huckabee supports Common Core.’  I don’t know how else I can say it.  Common Core is a disaster.  It should be killed off, but states should not abandon high education standards, certainly conservatives should never abandon high education standards.  But they should not embrace Common Core because it has become a federally controlled in terms of funding that is tied to it, data collection, getting into issues of curriculum which it was never supposed to do, and for all those reasons I don’t really know of anyone who really loves it that much any more.  And in fact, I find this interesting liberals hate it as much as conservatives,” Huckabee added.

“Each state has to take a look at it.  Look, education should always be at the most local level, and if a state’s constitution leaves that at the local school board that is where it should be.  If it is the state, then the state should do it.  It should never be a federal issue.  Ultimately education decisions, and this is something I have said repeatedly so let me say it one more time, it ought to be a mom or dad decision.  It ought not be a government decision,” Huckabee answered when Caffeinated Thoughts asked how states should then deal with Common Core.

Huckabee gave the last speech of the event where he also addressed Common Core, echoing much of what he said during his earlier press conference.

“Why is the federal government getting involved, pray tell, in an issue where there is no mention in the Constitution?” Huckabee asked.

“There is no federal role in education.  Instead of Common Core, we need to apply some Common Sense and a good dose of constitutional law and end it,” Huckabee stated.  “I know some of you have heard that ‘Mike Huckabee supports Common Core.’  Folks what Common Core may have originally been which was a Governor-controlled and a state’s initiative to keep the fickle federal fingers off of education.  It has morphed into a frakenstandard that nobody can support.”

He then took aim at those who have questioned his support of Common Core.

“And I want to make it clear that anyone who tells you that I support Common Core is incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be or is just being plain dishonest because they really want to help somebody else and not me and that’s ok.  But for heaven’s sake be honest because I’ve written about it a hundred times.  I’ve said it on TV.  I am saying it to you,” Huckabee explained.

Critics have questioned his past support of Race to the Top which was used to push Common Core onto the states.  In his book Simple Government he wrote, “although I believe education should be left to the states, I fully endorse the new federal program Race to the Top, which has states compete for additional education funds, allowing them to decide what reforms to enact rather than having specific reforms imposed on them from above…. it’s a very clever way to prod states to embrace much needed reform just out of the hope of getting federal money, without actually promising any particular state anything.”

Also in 2013 he spoke to the Council of Chief State School Officers and encouraged them in dealing with Common Core to “rebrand them, refocus them, but don’t retreat.”  Several states have simply changed the name of their standards, while others like Indiana and Florida have added some additional standards simply creating Common Core +.  Activists in those states have balked at talk of “rebranding” standards rather than repealing and replacing them.

“Education is not a federal function it is a local function.  But let’s get to how local it is.  Ultimately it ought to be a decision of a mom and dad, not the government.  And it is your choice whether you want to home school, send to government schools or to a private school,” Huckabee added.

2 comments
  1. Thank you for a more complete interview and response of Common Core and educational issues from a few potential candidates in Iowa.

    1. There are still a couple of things I would like to clear up with Gov. Huckabee on this issue. There are some folks I heard from today in Oklahoma that would like to know why he was against their repeal bill last Spring/Summer. Activists would like to know why he told CCSSO to rebrand Common Core when there are states who are just renaming their standards to try to fool people. Also people are confused about his past support for Race to the Top when he says there is no role for the Feds in education that appears to be inconsistent. If he’s changed his mind or if he regrets writing that in Simple Government just say so. Also since I’ve been his loudest critic in Iowa on Common Core, I’m just a tad offended by his remarks about those who say he’s in favor of Common Core. I’m not making stuff up. It’s his record. Perhaps he’s communicated things unclearly. Instead of saying “I don’t like what Common Core has become.” He should have said, Common Core is not what I as a Governor had in mind when Arkansas participated in the American Diploma Project. He would have taken far less heat for that. Instead of saying “rebrand” Common Core he should have said “repeal” and “replace.” If he doesn’t support a federal role in education he should have never, ever touted Race to the Top. Take responsibility for your comments instead of basically calling your critics liars. I will hold him accountable (and other candidates as well) on their record. I didn’t do it because I was supporting somebody else.

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