Common Core Is Now A Common Enemy of Conservatives

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

It is no longer polite to talk about the Common Core standards in many conservative circles.  Just as any proposal for immigration reform is immediately labeled “amnesty”, any talk of setting a national standard so that K-12 education can be portable as students move around the country or attend colleges out of state is now labeled a “federal takeover of education”.

When discussing Common Core do not bring up that compliance is voluntary.   Please omit the fact that it was largely based on Georgia’s newly adopted curriculum.  Don’t dare bring up the fact that former Governors Sonny Perdue, Jeb Bush of Florida, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and Governor Bobby Jindal of Lousiana championed the initiative upon its rollout, as was done by Jay Bookman in a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution Op-Ed.  The fact this issue was once a Republican initiative for states to improve their education systems is now lost to the fact that it is being pushed by a Democratic President.

Much like health care exchanges prior to Obamacare, the party of the President in the White House swings a pendulum on which programs are considered conservative and which are lib’rul Trojan horses.  With President Obama now over the Department of Education, the Common Core standards are to some the embodiment of anything from asserting progressive reeducation camps to instituting Sharia Law.

Yes, these are actual charges made by opponents to Georgia’s adoption of national standards for Math and English standards.  Note that a standard for social studies does not exist, and that science standards are open for public comment but have neither been finalized nor adopted.

Pity Dr. John Barge, Georgia’s State School Superintendent, who appeared before the Cobb GOP a couple of Saturday’s ago to defend his agencies adoption of the curriculum – though he was quick to note that happened before his tenure.  With the tone of the many activists in the room – many from places far away from Cobb – Barge’s defense quickly turned to a message to call state school board members and legislators if they didn’t like it and wanted it revoked.

And yet, for those listening to his actual words to engage in dialogue, the issue of Common Core isn’t as black and white as those who see it as this week’s poster child for federal intrusion would have it seem.  After all, state participation is voluntary and Barge himself noted that the 5 states which have not adopted it have not lost any federal funding.  States have flexibility in adopting the core and altering  it to meet local needs.  And, as occurs in Georgia, entire school systems have applied for and been granted charter status which allows even more flexibility from the state established standards.

And yet, those defending this national standard should also be mindful of pitfalls to this flexibility.  The assessment tests required under common core would double Georgia’s current testing budget, adding roughly another $25 Million to testing costs from the current level.

Then there is the issue of “what is tested is what gets taught.”  Even if Georgia decides to deviate from the national norm and exercise its right to make changes, the national test used under this program would stay the same.  Thus, teachers are likely to teach toward the “national” standards than to Georgia’s modified version.

There is also the issue of federal funding.  Just because no state has yet to lose funding doesn’t mean Congress, the Department of Education, or the President couldn’t initiate this in the future.  The matter of “race to the top” dollars and other carrots that the Federal government uses from time to time to “encourage” conformity adds to this concern.  After enough dollars become involved, flexibility often only exists as a stated illusion.

These issues deserve a high minded debate.  After all, making sure students that graduate from Georgia’s K-12 schools are prepared with an education that is at least as good if not better than their peers in any other state is a worthy goal.  Preserving the state’s and county’s prerogative for local control is an equally important concern.  How best to balance these ideals is how the debate should be framed.

But instead, those who are paranoid and loud have filled the vacuum left when too many leaders appear to be backing away from an initiative championed here just three years ago.  Back when it was a Republican initiative – But before it became associated with a liberal President.  And that, unfortunately, appears to have ended the debate over Common Core in Georgia before it ever even started.


  1. Ghost of William F Buckley says:

    There will be noise, there will be Senate leaders that will make a stand, and there will be unhelpful rhetoric.

    The GOP in Georgia will to have it’s damage control mechanisms fully deployed to come away from this week without further alienating moderate Conservative voters (squishy middle), and the even more elusive potential new voter.

    If the discussion is honest and adult, our Conservative values shall remain protected and if the conversation turns to noise, we will further shrink the tent.

  2. John Konop says:

    This debate misses the core issue…….standards should be based on aptitude not one size fits all…..we do need national standards on core subjects like math, science…….for obvious reasons like kids moving from state to state, colleges across the country…….yet when I hear comments that claim a mean standard not based on aptitude is ahead or behind, I am amazed how far off we are on this debate…..

    This from Sen. William Ligon:

    ……….The claim that the Common Core is more “rigorous” than Georgia’s previous standards does not hold up well……..

    This crazy one size fit all mind set has students in massive student debt getting or attempting to get degrees with very little value…..many would of been better served with a vo-tech/ internship option, that does not punish the school system, students……via how we measure success……

    Because of this crazy concept, of a one size fit all system, kids are being pushed into colleges above their ability via aptitude and or maturity level…..The affirmative action approach to education via economics, one size fit all standards…. has hurt many students, who would of been better serve by not shooting for a program not matching with their aptitude.

    The student does not keep Hope, and now the lower to middle class income students are left with massive debt options to continue their education. Would not the student being matched correctly form the start via advanced education options be better served? Would not some students going to the military or taking a year or so off working, to mature be better served? This one size fit all education concept being pushed is hurting more kids than it helps.

    …… One of the study’s more startling statistics is that 170 of the 853 schools studied — or an astounding one in five colleges – had a negative return on investment.

    Sometimes, the study found, graduates of unimpressive schools, or those who majored in low-paying fields, earned less than people with only a high school education……….,0,723490.story

  3. gcp says:

    States can voluntarily adopt common standards (call it Common Core if you want) without a Federal Dept. of Education. Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind were created to maintain and enlarge the Federal Dept. of Education. If states want common education standards let them do it without the useless Federal Dept. of Education which has done nothing to improve education.

    • Lea Thrace says:

      What part of this was a state led effort is not coming across? The states did this on their own. Fed DOE did not initiate it.

      • gcp says:

        Sec. Duncan in 2010 concerning Common Core ” The Department plans to support state implementation efforts by providing federal funds for high quality assessments, professional development to help teachers enhance the knowledge and skills needed to help students master the standards, and research to support continual improvement of the standards and assessments over time.”

  4. NorthGeorgiaGirl says:

    I have been opposed to national “standards” and outcome-based education for about 20 years. It is hard to articulate what is wrong with the way we are doing things, because everything you hear sounds great: higher-level thinking skills, internationally benchmarked, continuity across the nation. The problem is this: when someone puts standards (complete with examples) down on paper in an official capacity, no matter how many times they may say it is just a minimum or a starting point, that is as much as you will get schools to teach. It isn’t the fault of the teachers, but they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure kids pass the tests that are mandated. I have a degree in education from a top teachers’ college, I thought I knew what constituted good education, and then I started studying educational philosophies. I was extremely surprised to learn about classical education. It was never taught in our teacher prep programs. I have one of my freshman level education texts from college. It gives one paragraph about education before 1900, then spends the rest of the text extolling the virtues of the fluffy but meaningless philosophies of John Dewey and his Chicago lab school. It is his philosophies that have been fully implemented today as outcome-based education.

    The only way to fix education is to cut the government out of the process of managing what children learn, let everyone choose the school his or her child goes to, and let the teachers teach. One thing that bugs me about the way we educate is that we require teachers to continue taking classes lifelong as if education changes (this isn’t rocket science, humans have been learning the same since time began) but yet the bureaucrats insist on telling people with masters degrees or higher exactly what to teach and how to teach. Not everyone is the same, and education cannot be designed as a one size fits all program. A teacher’s job is to take children from where they are to as far as they can get them by the end of the year, and trying to make sure everyone is the same causes the standards to be lowered for all. Why is it that none of us likes socialistic programs unless we are talking about education?

    People learn everything the same way….from simple to complex…and asking teachers to teach “higher level thinking skills” to young children before they have the knowledge necessary to start true reasoning is just wrong and will fail in the end, just like everything we have tried in the past. I firmly believe most of us know when our children are learning and when they aren’t, and it is parents who need to decide whether their children have learned properly or not, not the National Governors’ Association or the Federal Dept. of education.

    • Bucky Plyler says:

      Your thoughts are refreshing on the subject of education & are almost absent from any public discussion. Thank you !

    • guest says:

      Thank you NorthGAGirl! Best response I have seen on the subject of Common Core / government intrusion in local education.

      Charlie, you cite the names Perdue, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, and someone that wrote an OpEd to the AJC as your defense for the Republican side. Really? Sorry, but those guys just don’t scream republican to me. RHINO? Yes, that’s more like it. It’s not as simple as Republican or Democrat anymore. You were correct in your 1st sentence. It’s Conservatives that are concerned about this massive government take over of education. Any Republican that supports massively growing the Federal Government, especially where it should be under local control, is not a true republican. Personally, at this point, I think they are only able to see the dollar signs. Whether it is in line with the Constitution, Republican principals, or the best thing for the people doesn’t seem like a deciding factor anymore.
      I just can’t buy into your narrative that Republicans only started to disagree with the program once it was taken over by a Democrat Administration. It was our Republican Governor, along with many others, who accepted the Race to the Top (D) grant to get a waiver from the No Child Left Behind (R) standard testing which has in turn attached us to the Common Core. Of course they got lots of money when they signed on (I guess that’s what you mean by ‘compliance is voluntary’…….they weren’t forced to take the grant. And Dr Barge is right, the states that did not sign on did not lose any federal funding but they also didn’t receive the extra grant money that the states which adopted the program did). But if the Georgia standards were already so close to the Common Core standards why did Perdue take the estimated $400,000,000 federal funds when it will cost an estimated $700,000,000 to implement? Why not just stick to what we had and have 100% flexibility of what is taught instead of signing on and having 15% flexibility AND not be on the hook for the extra cost of implementation? Sorry, the numbers just don’t add up.

      Also, a note to your note….. the Social Studies criteria are being worked on and just like the Science that is currently ‘open to public comment’ they will both be finalized and adopted. The states adopted Common Core before the Math and English standards were finalized. Why should Science and Social Studies be any different?

      • Charlie says:

        Perhaps if we had national standards, the ignorant among us would know the difference between a rhino and a RINO. Of course, most would still have difficulty identifying either.

        • guest says:

          That’s your response? How about a response to the facts instead of my grammatically incorrect acronym? Maybe I meant RINO or then again, maybe it was a Freudian slip.

          • Charlie says:

            Yes. When you put “RHINO”, or even “RINO” early in your second paragraph you have shown yourself to be someone more interested in fostering ignorant name calling than political debate. As such, I quite reading there, as anything else you have to say is not worth my time. Please make a note of it.

            • guest says:

              The irony of you calling me ignorant while calling me a ‘name caller’.

              WOW! Peach Pundit, now that’s something ‘not worthy of my time’.

          • griftdrift says:

            I have on good authority he isn’t. It’s so much worse. He’s part of the secret cabal of not-true conservatives for Agenda Core 21. He’s the chair of the Bicycles And Textbooks committee.

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    If so many conservatives are so misinformed about Common Core, it’s logical to conclude many conservatives did not know that the state could already approve charter schools when presented with the ballot question:

    “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

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