A common claim among Tea Partiers and the right-wing fringe is that the Obama administration is engineering a “federal takeover” of the public education system through its support for common, national academic standards. During a townhall in New Hampshire a few days ago, 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney played into this nonsensical fear, responding to a question about a “national takeover” of public education via national standards by warning about the Obama administration’s “so-called experts taking over the rights of people, states and local governments”:
If Barack Obama says I’m going to take that and impose it on the nation I will fight it to the ‘n’th degree. We do not have the federal government stepping in with their so-called experts taking over the rights of people, states and local governments. It’s against the Constitution and it’s wrong for America. […]
I can’t imagine in America where you’re going to have a White House, Republican or Democrat, or a Congress, a Republican or a Democrat, laying out what our kids have to be taught. That is unacceptable.
Education Week’s Michele McNeil sets the record straight:
First, the Common Core, as most of our readers know, is a state-led effort launched and maintained by the organizations representing the state chiefs and governors. The Common Core started before Obama even became president. Certainly, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have used the bully pulpit — and Race to the Top — to cajole states into jumping on board. The feds also put up money for states to develop common tests. […]
Second, the teachers’ unions—who are undeniably a key part of the Democratic base — haven’t exactly been the ones driving the train when it comes to the Common Core or common tests. And third, neither Obama nor Duncan say they plan to have anything to do with school curriculum, which is messy business.
Romney is turning a common-sense, bipartisan effort designed by the National Governors Association into an Obama-led socialist takeover. It was a Republican governor — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue — who co-chaired the development of the standards. National standards also have the support of Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN). These two are hardly raging socialists. But Romney, to placate the right-wing of his party, has to turn the common standards effort into a plot by the Obama administration to circumvent the Constitution, even if that portrayal is completely absurd.