Common Core is more than the issue du jour for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. His evolving opposition to the national education standards has become his signature cause and one that may help differentiate him in a potentially crowded Republican presidential field.
Jindal, whose second term ends this year, has embarked on a national tour calling for the end of Common Core standards. The issue is politically potent among a cadre of conservative primary voters who will play a critical role in choosing the Republican presidential nominee.
Jindal, who is known for his in-depth knowledge of policy, especially around the issues of health care and education, released a national education reform agenda Monday. Central to his plan to expand school choice and limit the power of teachers’ union is the dismantling of Common Core.
“Perhaps no better example of … unrepresentative government exists in education than Common Core national curriculum mandates,” Jindal’s report states.
The release of Jindal’s report was coupled with a speech to reporters in Washington, D.C., at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor and a panel discussion on education hosted by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. And last week, Jindal told another conservative audience that Common Core “involves the federal government in local decisions where the federal government has no business being.”
Jindal was once a proponent of Common Core, instituting the standards in 2010 and supporting them as recently as 2012. He has since switched his position since it became a hot-button issue among conservatives. He then aggressively worked to dismantle the requirements in his state.
“Perhaps no better example of … unrepresentative government exists in education than Common Core national curriculum mandates."
He sued the Obama administration, saying the federal government unconstitutionally forced the requirements on the states in exchange for federal education funding. He has tried to remove the education requirements in his state and is now urging parents to opt out of the program’s required testing.
With Jindal polling in the single digits against a crowded Republican field with as many as a dozen potential challengers, the Louisiana leader is hoping that his battle with national education standards can be his path to conservatives’ hearts.
Common Core is detested among some conservatives. For instance, in a June NBC poll, 58 percent of tea party Republicans oppose Common Core compared to 31 percent of the general public. And a September Gallup Poll found that 58 percent of Republicans view Common Core negatively compared to just 23 percent parents who identify as Democrats.
Jindal is using the issue as a means to highlight the overreach of the federal government. “The question is: Do you trust bureaucrats or do you trust parents? I trust parents,” Jindal told reporters Monday morning.
But Jindal is not alone in his opposition to Common Core. Many potential Republican candidates are or have also switched their position. But one potential candidate supports it. And that’s another reason to latch onto the issue. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a fellow Republican presidential candidate who has the name recognition and the network for a serious run, ardently defends his support for it.
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Reed Galen, former Deputy Campaign Manager for John McCain in 2008, said Jindal’s focus on education might be because the issue “is the only hook he’s got” to make a dent in the race.
“I can only assume he’s using Common Core because he sees that as the best to hit Jeb over the head and put himself in that small government (group) that he believes appeals to Republican primary voters,” Galen said.
Timmy Teepell, longtime adviser to the governor, said Jindal is focused on the issue not because of politics but because it’s “extremely important to him.”
“That’s why he spent a lot of time and political capital on it,” Teepell said.
While opposing Common Core could be politically advantageous in the Republican primary, his opposition is highly contentious in Louisiana. The state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support the standards and have blocked Jindal’s effort to
The New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote a scathing editorial Monday, calling him “irresponsible” and “not smart” for urging parents to opt out of the Common Core-based test.
“Despite the governor’s efforts (to rid the state of Common Core), there is broad support among Louisiana business, civic and education leaders for Common Core,” the editorial board wrote.
With a $1.6 billion budget deficit at home, however, Galen said Jindal is probably going to have to start explaining his state’s finances to Republican primary voters. “He has some serious financial troubles at home,” Galen said.