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Conservative Defenders of Common Core Push Back

Common Core opponents wave signs and cheer at a rally opposing Mississippi's continued use of the Common Core academic standards on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Both Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have vowed that the state will quit using the standards. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)AP

With Common Core set to be one of the political flashpoints in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and with it a topic at the upcoming CPAC conference (a Thursday panel is entitled “Common Core: Rotten to the Core”), conservative defenders of Common Core briefed reporters on Wednesday to begin pushing back against critics.

Karen Nussle, executive director of Collaborative for Student Success – and wife of former GOP Rep. and Bush OMB Director Jim Nussle – said the Common Core are K thru 12 standards in math and English developed by the states. They aren’t CURRICULUM standards, she maintained.

Nussle also said that despite all of the opposition to Common Core, only one state out of the 45 that adopted the standards – Oklahoma – has repealed that support.

And she adds that only another six Republican governors – 2016ers Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, plus Arizona’s Doug Ducey, Maine’s Paul LePage, Mississippi’s Phil Bryant, and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley – oppose Common Core. All other GOP governors support it. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is one of its biggest champions.

Opponents of Common Core, Nussle said, “are pretty much the political outliers.” (That said, a recent NBC/Marist poll of potential GOP Iowa caucus-goers found that 47% said they supported Common Core.)

So why the opposition to Common Core? “It comes down to two words – Barack Obama. This is what this is about,” added Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas Fordham Institute. While the Common Core standards were created by the nation’s governors, the Obama administration tied its “Race to the Top” education money to the standards – and hence the association with Obama.

Given that symbols and words (like “Common Core” and “Obamacare”) can be more powerful in politics than the actual underlying policies, how else do conservative supporters of Common Core fight back beyond briefing reporters? “It is hard,” Nussle answered.

But Nussle said that what she another Common Core defenders want to do is hold 2016 opponents accountable: How else would you create educational standards and accountability? What is your better solution?