A Chris Christie Cabinet Nomination That Could Affect His 2016 Ambitions

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s choice to run the state’s Education Department cleared one hurdle toward his confirmation Thursday, a nomination that could reach beyond New Jersey politics.

David C. Hespe, who now faces a vote by the full state Senate, is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards. With strong conservative opposition to Common Core, Christie’s pick could leave him with some questions to answer if he mounts a bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

ILE - In this Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, leaves the Capitol in Washington. A spokesman for the conservative group Citizens United said Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 that Christie, weighing a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24 in Des Moines. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

While Christie initially supported the K-12 math and English standards, he established a commission in July to study whether the standards are effective. The commission is expected to have an interim report by the end of December. Other Republican governors have similarly taken another look at the standards or have moved to do away with them entirely.

“It’s quite obvious that all around the country, many in the educational community are having second thoughts about their original support of Common Core,” Republican state Sen. Gerry Cardinale asked Hespe, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Is there any chance you’re going to rethink your support for that concept?”

Hespe hedged, saying, “The support for the Common Core is very broad in New Jersey.”

But he also said the Christie administration is “always re-examining our standards.”

Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Though it’s not a federal program, the U.S. Department of Education tied some federal “Race to the Top” grants to schools with the adoption of Common Core.

Common Core already seems to be an issue dividing other potential GOP 2016 contenders. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he will not back away from his support of the standards. Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an initial Common Core supporter, brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education regarding the funding ties to Common Core.

If approved, this will be Hespe’s second run as New Jersey’s education commissioner. He first served in the post in the 1990s under Gov. Christie Whitman, a Republican.

(H/T Philadelphia Inquirer)