U.S. Education Secretary: Common Core Isn’t Headed Toward National Curriculum Status

Common Core state education standards are not federal-level coercion, as some Republicans in Congress have characterized it, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told TheBlaze.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, left, looks on as Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, center, questions Education Secretary Arne Duncan, right, during the Education and Workforce Committee session of the National Governor’s Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (Image source: AP/Cliff Owen)

Duncan spoke Sunday at the gathering of the National Governors Association. Afterward TheBlaze asked him about a resolution proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and co-sponsored by eight other Republican senators. The resolution opposes tying federal education dollars with adoption of Common Core standards, which the resolution says could create a de facto “national curriculum.”

“I’m not familiar with that, but that’s simply not true,” Duncan told TheBlaze.

More than 40 House Republicans signed on to a similar resolution saying the Common Core standards were federal coercion.

Recently the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, has been critical of the implementation of the standards.

The Obama administration has supported the Common Core K-12 math and English standards developed by the governors association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. But Duncan said whether education standards are Common Core or something else, the administration backs high standards.

“We’ve always supported high standards,” Duncan said. “That’s the key thing…almost 20 states dummied down standards on No Child Left Behind to make politicians look good. It’s one of the most silly things to happen to education. What you see here is governors showing tremendous leadership to their approach in raising standards.”

“You see again across the country 38 percent of kids…going to universities taking remedial classes,” he said. “That’s not a good thing. The vast majority of states…are doing a good job of raising standards.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, the chairman of the NGA Education and Workforce Committee, praised Common Core.

“Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core standards,” Beshear, a Democrat, told TheBlaze. “We’re excited about it. We’re implementing it. Our whole education community, including our administrators and teachers have bought into it. We are already noticing a very positive effect of implementing those standards. So we’re going to be charging ahead.”

He stressed, however, that Common Core isn’t a national one-size-fits-all policy.

“You have a set of standards…then your local school districts take and develop curriculum and…their own ways of addressing those standards. So its working very well in Kentucky,” Beshear added.

The vice chairman of that NGA committee, Nevada’s Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, also rejected the idea of a national education standard.

“I can only speak for what’s going on in Nevada,” Sandoval told TheBlaze. “I know there are some who aren’t in favor of it. But the state is moving forward through the Department of Education. We don’t see it as top-down approach. In terms of what is going to be designed will be designed locally.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, supports the concept but said his state is cautious about federal encroachment.

“Common Core was designed initially by the states,” Herbert told TheBlaze. “It’s really just a common goal. It predates my time. Governors were upset about the progress of education. We’re falling behind. So states simply said, ‘Why don’t we have a common goal on language arts and math, and whoever you are in this country, when it comes to getting a high school diploma, you have some kind of minimal proficiency?’ That aspect of it was good.”

“We certainly don’t want to have the government overreaching and dictating to the states, certainly not to Utah, about our methodology, how we’re going to do it, what our textbooks are, what our testing is going to be,” Herbert said.

“In fact in Utah, we’ve passed a law to say that can’t happen. We have a law that says if any of this federal overreach somehow gets into our system, we are mandated to get out of it. I think our education, our state school board, our education leaders, we’ve always controlled our own curriculum, we’ve always controlled our own textbooks and testing. We’ll continue to do that in Utah.”

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