The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush.
It underlines the ascendance of a brand of conservatism notably different from that of the most recent President Bush. Less than 15 years after No Child Left Behind passed with just 34 House Republicans opposed to it, the conservative center of gravity is shifting toward a state-centric approach to education.
“When I arrived on Capitol Hill in 2001, not only was the Republican administration not devolving power to the states, the No. 1 priority of the administration was a massive expansion of the federal Department of Education,” recalled Mr. [Mike] Pence, who, as a congressman, opposed No Child Left Behind.
The opposition to the Common Core also captures another shift since the Bush administration: While long contemptuous of an expanding federal government, some Republican activists are growing wary of big business, too, including figures like Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder whose foundation supported the development of the standards.
“There is a legitimate concern about large institutions, be they government or others, who haven’t really delivered the America everybody thought we were on our way to,” acknowledged John R. McKernan Jr., a former Maine governor who leads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. But, he said, that fear is “totally misplaced” when it comes to the Common Core.