By Blake Neff, DCNF
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education vowed to end Common Core during a Trump “thank you” rally in Michigan.
When Trump’s transition announced billionaire GOP donor Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department, it provoked some skepticism among anti-Common Core activists in the GOP camp. While DeVos has a long history of activism on education, she has primarily focused on promoting charter schools and school vouchers, and has aligned with those who support Common Core for the sake of those causes. She also served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a non-profit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a major GOP backer of Common Core.
DeVos tried to stem this backlash by quickly releasing a statement declaring her opposition to Common Core, and she used Trump’s Friday night rally in Grand Rapids to double down on this position.
“It’s time to make education great again in this country,” DeVos told the crowd. “This means expanding choices and options to give every child the opportunity for a quality education regardless of their zip code or family circumstances. This means letting states set their own standards and finally putting an end to the federal Common Core.”
But despite her rhetoric, it’s not clear DeVos has to do anything about Common Core. States are already empowered to set their own education standards; Common Core itself was adopted at the state level and was never imposed by the Obama administration (though it strongly encouraged its adoption with the now-concluded Race to the Top program).
While more than 40 states follow Common Core or a set of standards inspired by it, several states (like Texas and Virginia) have never adopted it, while Oklahoma repealed it totally in 2014. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in late 2015, explicitly states that the federal government cannot coerce states into adopting a particular set of school standards.
Ironically, “putting an end” to Common Core would require DeVos to take a very interventionist approach, actively prohibiting states from following Common Core and ordering them to adopt a different set of standards.
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