Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, is doubling down on his support for the Common Core education standards, despite the objections of many conservatives.
“In my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Bush said Thursday in the keynote speech at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington, the Washington Times reported.
An August Gallup poll found 59 percent of Americans said they oppose Common Core. In a party breakdown, 76 percent of Republicans oppose the standards, while only 17 percent of Republicans support them.
The math and English standards – developed by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers – were initially adopted by 44 states, but several have dropped Common Core altogether, while others are reviewing its implementation.
“For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: aim even higher,” Bush said. “Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system. Because I know they have the potential to deliver it. Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on.”
Though Common Core is not a federal program, the U.S. Department of Education tied “Race to the Top” federal school grants with adoption of the standards.
“We should be willing to experiment,” Bush said. “We should always look to improve our thinking based on the evidence. This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling.”
Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, has not announced plans to run for president in 2016, but is being nudged by some prominent Republican to do so. Other potential rivals for the GOP nomination in 2016 have staked out solid opposition to Common Core, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
During the Thursday speech, he was somewhat conciliatory with the other side of the Common Core debate.
“I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue,” Bush said. “Nobody in this debate has a bad motive."
But Bush stressed that actions need to take place to improve the nation’s education.
“Only a quarter of our high school graduates who took the ACT are fully prepared for college,” Bush said. “More than half who attend community college need to take some kind of remedial course. Six hundred thousand skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled because we haven’t trained enough people with those skills. And almost a third of high school graduates fail the military entrance exam. Given this reality, there is no question we need higher academic standards and — at the local level — diverse high-quality content and curricula.”