Pence Disappoints on Common Core

by Stanley Kurtz

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a potential 2016 presidential run by Indiana governor Mike Pence. That is all to the good. Yet Pence is being touted, and is touting himself, as an opponent of Common Core and a defender of state and local control over education. That is incorrect.

Pence did preside over Indiana’s withdrawal from Common Core, yet he quickly turned this triumph into a charade. Instead of returning to Indiana’s superb pre–Common Core standards, Pence stacked the replacement committees to ensure the return of Common Core. Indiana’s new standards are nothing but a slightly mangled and rebranded version of what they supposedly replace.

Common Core opponents are deeply disappointed by this outcome. The plucky Indiana mothers who ignited the national rebellion against Common Core are wondering why Governor Pence seems to have betrayed their trust.

Word about Pence’s disappointing performance on Common Core hasn’t gone out widely, but it will. That creates an opening for potential presidential candidates like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who recently took a stand against Common Core.

Yet the Indiana fiasco is also going to put pressure on candidates who claim to oppose Common Core to prove their sincerity. Will they directly criticize Indiana’s rebranding charade? Will they specify the steps they will take to move away from Common Core? After Pence’s performance, a simple statement of suspicion about this ill-conceived attempt to nationalize American education isn’t going to persuade.

I don’t expect to agree with the next Republican presidential nominee on everything. There’s an awful lot to recommend Mike Pence, and despite this disappointment he deserves serious consideration by Republicans and conservatives. Yet Pence’s attempt to present himself as an opponent of Common Core isn’t acceptable and ultimately won’t fly. If anything, Pence has left himself vulnerable to a slashing attack during the Republican presidential debates by an opponent with the guts to convincingly oppose Common Core.