Wednesday, February 19, 2020
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Trump seeks ‘repeal’ of so-called Common Core

In addition to telling people to buy fashion from Ivanaka Trump, the president’s daughter, President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway told America on CNN that the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary meant Mr Trump could now move forward with his campaign promise to “repeal” the Common Core State Standards.

“He wants to repeal Common Core. He doesn’t think that federal standards are better than local and parental control, for example,” Ms Conway told CNN’s Jake Tapper, speaking, it seems, from near the White House.

First things first. The president cannot “repeal” the Common Core. That doesn’t even make sense. Not that the logic—or lack thereof—behind the promise will matter to most of the alternative-fact people who voted for Mr Trump, but every time Ms Conway says something cringe-worthy like that, we have to step in and explain it.

The reason the president can’t “repeal” the “Common Core” is that it’s not a law. Another reason he can’t repeal it is that the federal government has to stay out of learning standards, curricula, and so on, which are mainly local decisions. The president can’t, for example, tell Baltimore County Public Schools that they can’t use the Common Core. The feds can’t go to the Illinois State Board of Education and say, “Rescind your adoption of the Common Core now, or else.”

Notwithstanding the president’s berating of federal judges who were, it must be said, just doing their job, as they promised to do when they were sworn in, the president can’t just go bossing people around, and he can’t bully state or local boards of education into adopting a certain set of learning standards.

So what is Ms Conway talking about?

During the Obama presidency, there was considerable backlash over grants that went by the name of Race to the Top, which encouraged states and school districts to adopt the Common Core. It wasn’t required, but every state that received a RttT grant had adopted the standards.

But President Trump is free to do the same thing during his presidency. He can use the bully pulpit of the presidency to encourage states to rescind their adoption of the Common Core; he’s just probably going to fail to accomplish the mission in the majority of states, where the standards are being used effectively, following years of painful implementation disasters.

I too have been very critical of the standards themselves, especially the high school math standards and the elementary school English language arts standards. Neither of these sections reflect what is truly being taught in our schools, and revision is needed.

But regardless of critiques like mine, neither the president nor the Congress can, given current law, order schools to use a different set of learning standards. Once again, we find ourselves not able to take the president at his word, because word-for-word, what he says would violate federal law. Sometimes I wonder if he’s trying to get himself impeached. How quickly democracy can morph into tyranny!

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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