“WE’RE DOING Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the president than not.” So proclaimed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) just 18 months ago. So what’s to account for his recent change of heart about the K-12 academic standards?
Mr. Christie’s complaints about federal implementation or loss of local control are risible. Private nonprofit groups and state education departments cooperated to produce the Common Core standards, which are voluntary and were embraced by 43 states and the District. That leaves one likely explanation: Like a number of candidates on this issue, Mr. Christie is happy to abandon principle to curry favor with conservative Republicans as he campaigns for president.
In a Feb. 9 speech to the Dallas County Republican Party in Iowa — the state that will hold the first 2016 caucuses about a year from now — Mr. Christie spoke of his “grave concerns’’ about Common Core, alleging that “the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it” has changed “the entire nature of it.” As The Post’s Lyndsey Layton pointed out, the federal government plays no role in implementing academic standards and is barred by law from dictating what is taught or how it is taught.
It is true that the Education Department encouraged states to adopt rigorous college- or career-ready standards in awarding discretionary Race to the Top funds, with Common Core as the predominant choice. But nothing was mandated, and states had the option of developing alternatives. What makes Mr. Christie’s born-again criticism of Common Core so rich is how ferociously he promoted New Jersey’s adoption of Common Core in twice going after Race to the Top funds.
Mr. Christie’s political expediency is not unique among GOP presidential hopefuls. Similar hypocrisy has been shown by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. In contrast, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have not wavered in their support of carefully developed standards that spell out the skills and knowledge that students should have by the end of each year from kindergarten through 12th grade. They know the standards don’t dictate curriculum, teaching methods or instructional materials.
Of course, Mr. Christie, Mr. Jindal, Mr. Walker and Mr. Huckabee know that, too. They just don’t let the facts get in the way of their pandering.