Jeb Bush’s Double Speak on Common Core in New Hampshire

jeb bush voters firstDuring the Voters First Presidential Forum Monday evening in New Hampshire moderator Jack Heath (Host of “New Hampshire Today” on WGIR-AM) asked former Florida Governor Jeb Bush about Common Core.

Heath: Governor Bush, Common Core curriculum has been controversial here in New Hampshire, standards remain controversial… Should state and local school boards reject any so called national educational standards?

Bush: They should.  They should.  States ought to create standards, they should be high, they should be state-driven and locally-implemented.  The federal government should have no role in the creation of standards, no role in the creation, indirectly or directly, in the creation of content or curriculum.

The federal government’s role in education ought to be to provide support for states that want reform. Governor Jindal has created some amazing reforms in Louisiana, but yet his Title I money can’t be used to enhance those reforms. So the federal government should not have any say as it relates to standards, but we need higher standards, we need robust accountability, school choice, ending social promotion, a comprehensive plan to make sure that more than just a third of our kids are college-and-career-ready.

Bush appears to be back-tracking and distancing himself from the Common Core State Standards, but he can’t run from his record.

Some observations.

  • The way he crafted his response shows that he knows Common Core is his achilles heel.
  • The moderator asked Bush about “national education standards,” Bush switched to discuss federal standards.  These are not the same thing and both are bad.  We don’t need top-down standards whether they come from the U.S. Department of Education or special interest groups in Washington, DC.
  • Bush said Monday that the feds should have no role in the creation of standards, but lauded the Race to the Top program in 2012.  He said Race to the Top helped “change behavior in places that people didn’t expect it would be changed.”  He also praised President Obama tapping Arne Duncan as the U.S. Secretary of Education. “Arne Duncan was a great choice. … It could have been a lot worse,” he told EdWeek.  I’m not sure how it could be worse… I shudder to think.
  • In 2012 Bush also stated he didn’t think the Common Core was “coercive.”  “I don’t believe that common core is a federal initiative,” Bush said to EdWeek. “A majority of the Republican governors support this. And we’ll see how the implementation goes. Romney’s view is that standards need to be benchmarked to the world. … Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to this. … I don’t think it’s coercive.”
  • In November of 2014 defended the Common Core, but said states should aim higher.  “(T)here is no question we need higher academic standards and – at the local level – diverse high-quality content and curricula. And in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher…be bolder…raise standards and ask more of our students and the system,” Bush said during a keynote speech at the Foundation for Educational Excellence’s National Summit.  Common Core, Bush stated just a few months ago, should be the baseline in the classroom. So even if a state rejects it, Common Core, in Bush’s mind, should be a template new standards are compared to.
  • While Bush states he doesn’t support the federal government creating standards (they didn’t create Common Core so that statement is meaningless anyway) he does support “robust accountability.” Bush supports the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. He even gave advice to the Obama administration about getting it done.
  • Bush’s view of limiting the federal role in education and mine are two completely different things.  He mentions a laundry list of items that “we need” these are issues that should be determined at the state and local level.  The fact he’s bringing them up in the context of presidential forum is disturbing.

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