(Update: Moskowitz says she will remain as head of Success Academy schools)
When Donald Trump was running for president, he said repeatedly that the Common Core State Standards initiative has been a “total disaster” and he would get rid of it if he landed in the White House.
And when he was duking it out with a gaggle of Republicans for the GOP presidential nomination, he went after former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a key Core supporter and a leader of corporate education reform, by calling him a “very, very low-energy” person who could put to sleep the people watching him speak.
Yet on Wednesday, asked during an interview on MSNBC to name women and people of color being considered for the Trump Cabinet, Trump spokesman Jason Miller offered the names of two women who have been allies of Bush and who have been Core supporters: Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz.
Rhee is the former D.C. schools chancellor and founder of the StudentsFirst education advocacy group who, along with Bush, was a leader in the corporate reform movement. Several years ago, she and Bush traveled around the country urging states not to abandon the Core. She has called herself a lifelong Democrat.
Moskowitz, also a Democrat, is the founder of the Success Academy network of “no excuses” charter schools in New York and is also a supporter of Bush, who has given speeches at benefits for the Success schools. Last week, after Trump’s election victory was clear, someone posted on the Success Academy’s LinkedIn site a Langston Hughes poem titled “Let America Be America Again.”
Sean Spicer, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Wednesday night that Trump had met with Moskowitz, who is a former member of the New York City Council. Then, on Thursday, Moskowitz said she would not serve in the Trump Cabinet but would work with the administration, presumably in promoting school choice.
The fact that she was interviewed by Trump, however, shows that he is looking at unconventional choices as education secretary.
It is worth noting that wherever the Common Core State Standards are now in use, it is because individual state legislatures approved the initiative. While the Obama administration did coerce states to approve the Core by dangling federal funds as well as waivers from the No Child Left Behind law, states didn’t have to. But no U.S. president or education secretary can force a state to abandon them.
There have been a number of names floated as potential picks for education secretary under Trump, including Williamson Evers, a former assistant secretary of education and fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University; and Kevin Chavous, a school choice advocate and former head of the D.C. Council’s education committee who helped bring charter schools to the nation’s capital. And there’s this: Some conservatives have suggested Jeb Bush — who publicly declared he wouldn’t vote for Trump — as a candidate for education secretary.
Meanwhile, other conservatives have urged Trump not to fill the job at all. That, they say, would signal his intention to eliminate the Education Department, an action he said during the campaign that he would consider. Brian Darling wrote in this piece in the Conservative Review:
It would be a bold move for President Trump to refuse to nominate a new head of the Department of Education to show that he is committed to abolishing it. For years, abolishing the Department of Education was part of the Republican platform until President George W. Bush teamed up with a liberal icon, the late Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, to pass No Child Left Behind that expanded federal intervention in education.
An article urging Trump to pick an anti-Common Core education secretary was published Wednesday on Breibart.com, the website that has for years been run by Stephen K. Bannon, who became the chief of Trump’s campaign in its later months and was named by Trump as his chief White House strategist. The article quotes Jane Robbins, education fellow at American Principles Project, as saying:
“Trump’s most consistent education-related commitment during the campaign was to end Common Core and restore local control, and that won’t happen if the Department of Education is run by someone who has supported or protected Common Core in the past. Mr. Trump needs to listen to the grassroots forces who are relying on him to restore local autonomy in education.”
Would Trump, a Core opponent, really pick a Core supporter as his education secretary? Stay tuned.