Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s think tank is hosting its annual education symposium this week. The conference is bringing attention to his potential 2016 presidential bid and his support for the Common Core State Standards will be front and center.
Common Core advocates try to diminish the potential impact of the increasingly unpopular standards on the 2016 race. In fact, The Wall Street Journal quoted Karen Nussle, the executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, downplaying Common Core as an issue. She said in light of mixed results with the midterm elections, “Common Core is not the litmus test issue that the conservative right wants us to think that it is.”
Races in which Common Core was raised as a campaign issue in the midterm election produced a mixed verdict. School superintendents who raised concerns about the national standards won in Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. Arizona also elected an anti-Common Core governor, Republican Doug Ducey. On the other hand, Democratic governors criticized by their opponents for supporting Common Core, including Andrew Cuomo in New York and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, won re-election.
Midterm elections were, first and foremost, about the economy, Obamacare, etc. Education played a very small role during the general election. Look at the races where education was the primary focus, the state superintendent races, Common Core opponents won overwhelmingly. I challenge any Common Core advocate to show me a candidate who won because of their support for Common Core. Even New York Governor Cuomo gave in to pressure and announced that he would delay using Common Core test scores for five years. The Stop Common Core Line, 3rd party line in New York, received over 50,000 votes to maintain its ballot status. Republican challenger Rob Astorino had a tall order in defeating Cuomo, an incumbent governor in a very blue state. Those who chalk that up as a win for the Common Core is simply being delusional. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper won by a narrow margin over his Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. That victory had to do more with a late surge among Democrats in Denver than Hickenlooper’s support of Common Core. Matter of fact, Common Core is absent in the education section of Hickenlooper’s campaign website.
So perhaps Karen Nussle can come back to a place I call reality. Common Core will be a litmus test issue in 2016 because it was a litmus test in 2014. Common Core’s potential as a litmus test was greater during primaries. In the Iowa U.S. Senate Republican primary all candidates, but one touted opposition to the Common Core and even Mark Jacobs spoke against the Federal involvement in educational standards.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has spoken out against Common Core. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has. Huckabee has tried to back away from past support of the Common Core. Santorum has spoken out against Common Core. Texas Governor Rick Perry has been a critic. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has criticized the standards. U.S. Senator Rand Paul is against them.
Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman, Tamara Scott, weighed in on the issue in the WSJ piece I cited. “They are detrimental to academic excellence and local control. Anti-Common Core activists have had plenty to celebrate with several states working to repeal it, and the 2014 election added a few more victories.”
I’ve stated before that Common Core is an issue that helps voters find daylight among candidates who may be very similar on various issues. It will help separate the wheat from the chaff, and Jeb Bush when he comes to Iowa will find himself playing defense on this issue. Perhaps this is why Bush is hiding his support as well.