After months of hinting at an about-face, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is officially forswearing Common Core, a controversial set of K-12 academic standards he welcomed into the state five years ago.
Christie finalized his slow-motion flip-flop on the issue Thursday, aligning himself with most of the other 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls.
“It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents,” he said. “And has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work. Instead of solving problems in our classrooms, it is creating new ones.”
In place of Common Core, Christie called on New Jersey’s Department of Education to create “higher” standards that are more “New Jersey-based.”
Christie is the second major presidential candidate to publicly change his mind on this issue, a fractious one for the GOP. Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, once an ardent supporter, announced that he would be pulling his state out from Common Core.
In August, Jindal filed a lawsuit accusing the Obama administration of overstepping its constitutional powers in promoting the standards.
Other presidential candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are also Common Core opponents.
Now, former Florida governor Jeb Bush remains the only high-profile candidate who supports the controversial standards, which many in the GOP regard as an infringement on states’ rights. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is also a supporter.
Bush has said that he would not oppose a state that wanted to depart from Common Core, as long as it imposed more stringent standards.
In 2010, Christie agreed to implement Common Core as part of the state’s bid for federal Race to the Top money. These are math and English benchmarks designed by a consortium of governors and educators to ensure that students in different states are held to the same standard. So far, 43 states have adopted Common Core, including New Jersey.
As recently as August of 2013, Christie remained a prominent booster for the standards. “This is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the president than not,” he said at an education summit in Las Vegas.
Last year, in response to backlash against Common Core, Christie established a commission to review the standards. “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it,” he said in November.
In February, he said that he had “grave concerns” about Common Core implementation, and blamed the Obama administration for “tying federal funding to these things.” Many states believed that adopting the standards would give them a competitive advantage while applying for the $4 billion in federal education grants from the Race to the Top program.