Politico ran a piece earlier this week on Jeb Bush’s education legacy in Florida, wondering whether the former governor’s support for the “Common Core” national education standards would be a liability to him in a 2016 presidential run:
Long viewed as a potential contender in the 2016 presidential race, Bush has taken considerable heat from activists on the right in recent months for his support of the Common Core, academic standards that have been promoted by the Obama administration and adopted by 45 states and D.C. Several of his potential rivals for a GOP nomination, among them Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, have outflanked him by coming out against the Common Core, which many tea-party activists see as a heavy-handed federal intrusion into local control of education.
I hope endorsing the Common Core becomes a liability for every politician. National standards run counter to a central argument for school choice, which is that parents should be able to pick a curriculum and learning environment that best matches their children’s abilities and interests. The standards would not be binding on private schools, of course, but centralizing standards is a move away from the flexibility and local control that is at the heart of the school-choice movement.
Much of the debate over the Common Core standards has focused on their academic rigor or lack thereof. But even if the Common Core is an excellent set of standards, why is the common-ness so important? Arguments that a uniform standard would help students who move between states, or that it would make textbooks easier to produce, strike me as pretty thin gruel with which to justify more centralization of our education system.