The burst of activity marks the newest front for the tea party movement, which has lacked a cohesive goal since it coalesced in 2010 in opposition to Obama’s health-care initiative.
The movement has a renewed sense of purpose and energy following revelations that many of its groups were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and members consider dismantling what some deride as “Obamacore” their newest cause. Unlike the health-care fight, though, organizers say the Common Core battle is winnable and could be a potential watershed moment.
“This is the issue that could change things for the tea party movement,” said Lee Ann Burkholder, founder of the 9/12 Patriots in York, Pa., which drew 400 people — more than twice the usual turnout — to a recent meeting to discuss agitating against Common Core.
Lawmakers have responded by introducing legislation that would at least temporarily block the standards in at least nine states, including two that have put the program on hold. The Republican governors of Indiana and Pennsylvania quickly agreed to pause Common Core, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), a vocal supporter of the plan, is nevertheless expected to accept a budget agreement struck by GOP legislators that would withhold funding for the program pending further debate.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) — who, like the other targeted governors, is facing reelection next year — said, “We didn’t see it coming with the intensity that it is, apparently all across the country.” Deal has responded by signing an executive order “reaffirming state sovereignty” over education matters, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives from trying to undo the standards.
The White House has promoted Common Core, written by governors and state education officials in both parties and largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to create consistent math and reading standards from kindergarten through 12th grade. Academic standards vary widely among states, and that patchwork nature has been partly blamed for mediocre rankings of U.S. students in international comparisons.
The standards do not dictate curriculum. Rather, states decide what to teach and how to prepare children for standardized tests based on Common Core.
The standards have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District and are scheduled to be in place by 2014. Supporters fear that an eleventh-hour drop in state participation could dilute some of the potential benefits, such as the ability to compare student test scores across many states, while also creating logistical hurdles for school districts that are developing curriculum and training teachers.