Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump criticized former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Public education made its first, brief appearance in Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate with an aside from Donald Trump during a back-and-forth over immigration with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“He’s weak on immigration,” Trump said, “and, by the way in favor of Common Core, which is a disaster.”

Then the candidates went back to debating immigration.

Education also came up only briefly during last month’s GOP presidential debate, when Bush sparred with Sen. Marco Rubio over the Common Core academic standards.

Bush is a longtime supporter of the standards, a stance considered unacceptable by many conservatives who say it amounts to federal overreach into education. Asked last month to explain his support for the standards, Bush emphasized that he is not in favor of federal control over public schools.

But then he quickly pivoted away from Common Core to his record as a proponent of school choice — a favored conservative policy — and an opponent of teachers unions as two-term governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

The Common Core aims to ensure that children are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school. Despite the criticism that it amounts to federal overreach — the Obama administration supports the use of the Common Core, and has offered incentives to nudge states to adopt it — it is not a federal program.

A bipartisan group of governors and state education chiefs created the Common Core in 2010 as a way to bring consistency into K-12 academic standards, which have varied wildly from state to state.