Politics & Policy

Astorino Bets New Yorkers Want to Stop Common Core

Rob Astorino
Governor Cuomo's Republican challenger has created a ballot line against Common Core.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is hoping he can tap into New York parents’ frustration with the Common Core.

In his bid to unseat Governor Cuomo, Astorino wants to create a ballot line called “Stop Common Core.” It’s an attempt to unite voters “across party lines and across geographic boundaries,” Michael Lawler, Astorino’s campaign manager, told National Review Online. To run on the new line, Astorino must collect 15,000 signatures by August 19 from registered New York voters of any party affiliation.

This feat should not be too difficult to accomplish, as national ire against the Common Core standards continues to grow. Indiana repealed Common Core in March, and as National Review’s Joel Gehrke reported in June, a grassroots-led movement in Oklahoma dismantled the education standards there. Several prominent Republican politicians with 2016 presidential aspirations have come out against Common Core as well. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio recently signed onto Senator Chuck Grassley’s letter seeking to defund federal attempts to implement the standards. And Governor Bobby Jindal may face legal action after issuing a series of executive orders in an attempt to bring down Common Core in Louisiana.

But it’s not just Republicans who are against Common Core. Astorino has noted that the issue has “united liberals and conservatives.” Indeed, the heads of teachers’ unions, including the country’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, have expressed their displeasure with Common Core.    

Astorino “passionately believes that education and . . . curriculum should be set and controlled and implemented at the local level with the input of parents and teachers,” Lawler says. “Our children aren’t guinea pigs, Mr. Cuomo,” Astorino said in a video released in March, “and we want them educated by teachers — not faceless bureaucrats in Washington.” He has cited Common Core as one of the main issues he hears about from voters on the campaign trail. “This is an issue where you have a lot of parents and teachers and people who are not normally voting Republican or Conservative, who will want to vote on [the Stop Common Core] line,” Lawler says.

Astorino, who has three children of elementary-school age, has started calling the standards “Cuomo’s Common Core.” “New York is one of two states that accelerated the implementation of Common Core and they did so at the behest of the governor,” says Lawler, “and not until he saw the outrage did he say, ‘We have to slow it down a little bit.’” Governor Cuomo, worried about his reelection campaign, has attempted to walk the line between supporting Common Core and criticizing it, as demonstrated by his website that states: “The Common Core standards are a critical part of transforming New York’s schools, and the failure to effectively implement them has led to confusion and frustration among students and their families.”

The debate over New York’s implementation of Common Core is gearing up to be one of the main issues in the gubernatorial election, so much so that Lawler says he “expects several hundred thousand people will vote on [the Stop Common Core] line.”    

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.

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