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Where Do the Potential GOP 2016 Candidates Stand on Common Core?


“Anybody who tells you I support Common Core is incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be or is just being plain dishonest."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to the media on December 17, 2014, in Miami, Florida. (Image source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been surging in some recent Republican 2016 polls, but is rousing a new controversy in his home state, this time regarding Common Core.

Walker’s budget proposal calls for doing away with the Smarter Balanced test, the exam given to students in grades three through eight under Common Core, sparking objections from some school administrators in his state. However, for parents and teachers around the country opposed to the standards, Walker’s positions could bode well in Republican primaries — unlike those of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has reiterated his support for Common Core. Meanwhile, other likely Republican candidates have done an about-face on the issue.

An NBC/Marist poll earlier this month found that Walker and Bush are the only candidates polling in double digits in all three of the earliest GOP contests, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2014, file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago. Walker and his Democratic challenger Mary Burke were to debate for the first time Friday night in Wisconsin’s hotly contested governor’s race. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File) AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed doing away with one type of standardized test given to students under Common Core. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

The Common Core K-12 math and English standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Obama administration's Department of Education has tied its “Race to the Top” school grants to states that have adopted the standards. After initial widespread adoption of Common Core among most of the states, Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma last year dropped the standards altogether, while others are either reviewing them or making changes.

Here’s an overview of where the likely 2016 Republican candidates stand on Common Core:

Bobby Jindal's Aggressive Opposition

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, though not currently a top-tier GOP contender in most polls, has been the most active potential candidate in opposing Common Core. He led the state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education to stop making federal education dollars contingent on adopting the standards and has made several speeches about the controversial standards. Critics have been quick to point out, however, that Jindal was initially a supporter of the standards, though he has said that was before the federal government became involved.

Jeb Bush: Not Backing Down

Bush has thus far not backed down from his strong support for Common Core, though he has recently talked more broadly about some of the principles behind them, while avoiding calling the standards by their name.

Rand Paul: ‘Rotten to the Core’

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was one of the first potential opponents to warn Bush that his support for Common Core would be a problem in the Republican primaries. Paul’s political action committee was clear on where the senator stands, having sent out fundraising email blasting Common Core, with the subject line, “Rotten to the Core.” It also named Bush, Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as “prominent backers” of Common Core.

Scott Walker: From Repeal to Opposing Mandates

Walker initially called for a legislative repeal of Common Core in Wisconsin, but scaled that back in December after he was elected to a second term, saying his goal is to remove “any mandate or requirement that requires a school district to abide by Common Core standards.” The proposal on the tests is his latest action regarding the standards.

Chris Christie: New ‘Grave Concerns’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in 2013, “We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we're going to continue." But last week in Iowa, Christie revealed second thoughts, saying the “entire nature” of the standards changed when Obama began to tie education dollars to adopting the standards. Christie said Common Core should be a voluntary program and said he has “grave concerns” about how the Obama administration has handled the matter.

Mike Huckabee: Common Core ‘Morphed Into a Frankenstandard’

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has long been criticized as a supporter of Common Core, but last month in Iowa, he said the standards are not what they were intended to be.

“Folks, what Common Core may have originally been was a governor-controlled states initiative to keep the fickle federal fingers of fate off of education,” Huckabee said. "It has morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support."

Huckabee added, “Anybody who tells you I support Common Core is incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be or is just being plain dishonest because they really want to help somebody else.”

Ted Cruz’s Priority

Last month, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz released his list of the top 10 Republican goals, with No. 9, “We need to repeal Common Core.” He added that the federal government should not dictate education policy to states.

Marco Rubio: ‘Not Just With Common Core’

When asked about the topic, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News last month that whether it’s Common Core or another program, he is wary of federal intervention.

“My concern — not just with Common Core, it’s in general — is that we all of a sudden create some sort of standard that the federal government uses as a requirement to impose on the states,” Rubio said.

Ben Carson: Keep it Local

Dr. Ben Carson, when asked about Common Core, said education is better handled at the local level rather than remotely. He added that the Constitution does not give the federal government a role in education.

Kasich: No ‘Hysteria’ for Repeal

Aside from Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the only other potential GOP contender who is standing firmly behind Common Core.

“We have carried it out. We have higher standards. We want our kids to perform better and do better,” Kasich said.  “The standards are determined by our local school boards. There is total local control. I think there has been a hysteria about this that is not well-founded.”

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