Putting Education Reform To The Test

Republicans Have Made Up Their Minds About Common Core

Former Gov. Jeb Bush visited a Hialeah charter school for National School Choice Week.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

Former Gov. Jeb Bush visited a Hialeah charter school for National School Choice Week.

The national Republican fight over Common Core math and language arts standards is over, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others supporting the standards have lost.

That’s the conclusion of Vox writer Libby Nelson, based on a new Pew Research Center poll from last week.

Pew Research Center data shows “business conservatives” and “steadfast conservatives” — two designations Pew assigns in its poll — both oppose the standards equally. More than 60 percent of both groups said they oppose the standards.

This is very bad news for the standards’ supporters. Right-leaning supporters of Common Core say the standards are a state issue, created for states and by states (and that they wish Education Secretary Arne Duncan would stop talking about them). Opponents argue that the US Education Department’s efforts to get states to adopt the standards are an example of federal overreach.

Pew makes it clear: The opponents won. No matter how much supporters talk about state-led initiatives, the standards have been defined…

But now Bush’s support for the Common Core can’t be waved away as picking a side in an active intraparty controversy. Bush is backing an initiative that his party broadly opposes. Jindal didn’t turn on the Common Core to burnish his credentials with the most conservative Republicans. He did it to win over the mainstream.

Those results echo a University of Connecticut poll from May. The UConn poll also reaches a troubling conclusion for supporters: The more people know about Common Core, the less likely they are to support it.

As the New America Foundation’s Conor P. Williams wrote last week, Common Core supporters have an enthusiasm problem. That’s because people who see the standards as a reasonable idea aren’t likely to work as hard in support of Common Core as opponents are against the standards.

Florida Republicans have managed to fight off opposition to the standards. State leaders have renamed the standards, but kept nearly all of Common Core. The new standards will be used in every classroom starting this fall.

But how long will that support last if more states join Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma in dumping Common Core for something else? What if there’s a backlash to the new Common Core-tied exams next year?

The Pew Research Center poll also shows that support and opposition for Common Core is more closely aligning to party affiliation than in the past. The Pew Research Center designated three groups as “left” or “liberal,” and a majority of each said they support the standards. A plurality of two centrist groups — “young outsiders” and “hard-pressed skeptics” — also supported the standards.

Conservatives and liberals toward the ends of the political spectrum have teamed up in the past to oppose Common Core, such as defeating former Indiana education chief Tony Bennett at the polls in 2012.


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