Before Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) announced his bid for the 2016 presidential race, there was only one supporter of Common Core standards among more than a dozen candidates in the GOP field — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush’s enthusiasm for Common Core standards has been tempered at best as he struggles to find the right tone to speak on a subject that is popular to admonish among far-right conservatives, who argue they represent a “federal takeover” of education.
But there is nothing milquetoast about Kasich’s views on Common Core. In January, Kasich said that rejection of the standards represented an ignorance of the facts, and called it “hysteria,” according to The Blaze:
When you study the issue, you separate the hysteria from the reality … We have carried it out. We have higher standards. We want our kids to perform better and do better … The standards are determined by our local school boards. There is total local control.
In a later interview in January on Fox News Sunday, Kasich responded to Chris Wallace’s question on his Common Core stance and defended his previous “hysteria comments: “You say opposition to Common Core is hysteria. We had Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana on here a couple weeks ago and he said, ‘Common Core is a stalking horse for federal takeover of education.'”
Well these were governors who helped create Common Core, Chris. The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals. In my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children, and those standards are set and the curriculum is set by local school boards … Barack Obama doesn’t set it, the state of Ohio doesn’t set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards.
The Common Core standards efforts were led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The “federal takeover” argument from conservatives stems from the fact that states received funds from the federal Race to the Top program, which allowed states to compete for state education incentives that were part of the American Recovery and Restoration Act, but states did not necessarily have to adopt Common Core standards to receive money. States were in charge of deciding whether or not to adopt the standards.
He didn’t back down in February either, saying criticism of Common Core is “a runaway internet campaign, as far as I’m concerned in Ohio.”
In a town hall in New Hampshire last week, Kasich said of Common Core standards, according to The Daily Signal:
Now, on this whole business of Common Core, it’s like it’s radioactive, you mention that and everybody all the sudden doesn’t listen anymore … students in every state to be given the opportunity to compete with every other student.
Ohio pulled out of the Common Core testing consortium last month after outcry from teachers, principals and the general public. It replaced its Common Core test provider with American Institutes for Research (AIR).
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) did champion the Common Core standards in 2012. Until April when he announced firm opposition to Common Core, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) supported Common Core standards, although his statements grew less enthusiastic in the past few years. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced that New Jersey would review the Common Core standards (while keeping the same testing company) despite supporting them in the past. To make his support of Common Core more palatable to conservatives, Bush has made small changes in his rhetoric, saying the standards need to be “state-driven,” since the popular conservative argument against Common Core is that it is the result of federal overreach.
Sixty-five percent of registered Iowa voters said it was either totally or mostly acceptable for a candidate to support Common Core standards. According to Nate Silver’s breakdown of microdata files provided by the Associated Press and NORC, as much as 44 percent of Republicans said they believed the standards would improve the quality of education and only 13 percent said they would decrease the quality of education.
Even among “strong Republicans,” more of them said Common Core would improve education quality than decrease it, at 29 percent versus 22 percent. But there is a possibility that Republicans would oppose the standards even if they believe those standards will improve education.