Jeb Bush and the Common Core Blame Game

American Enterprise Institute fellow Rick Hess remains one of the nation’s most important education policy voices. Writing in National Review this week, Hess takes a look at the reasons why the Common Core roll-out has been so problematic. Among them, this:

….it’s important to understand that Common Core has been pursued on a political timeframe, not an educational one. Whatever the technical merits of the standards themselves, the timeline for adoption and implementation has been driven by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program and its approach to No Child Left Behind waivers. Nearly all the states committed to a federal timeline in order to compete for federal Race to the Top funds and to get out from under NCLB’s most onerous provisions.

Yes, but Hess’ criticism is incomplete. Blaming the Obama administration is always red meat for conservatives. Why did Hess fail to mention Jeb Bush this time? Hess wrote this in August 2013:

…Bush made a crucial miscalculation: He failed to do anything that would signal to conservatives that he took seriously their concerns about federal overreach or potential Obama partisanship when it came to Common Core. This summer, when the House Republicans included a provision in their new version of No Child Left Behind that would have prohibited the federal government from meddling in state standards, Bush was nowhere to be seen. In contrast, Bush has often come across as Common Core’s emissary to the Right. He has pitched Common Core to the Right, but he has not publicly defended conservative concerns to his Democratic allies or incipient nationalizers. It would have been good politics and policy if he had publicly challenged the Obama team for politicizing and federalizing Common Core……Bush allies frantically worked back channels to try to dissuade the Obama camp from such public boasts, but Bush never followed through by calling out the president for politicizing the venture. Indeed, this summer, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the American Society of Newspaper Editors that only a lunatic “fringe” of conservatives could imagine that the federal government was a driving force behind Common Core, Bush said nary a word. In a crowded 2016 field, education could and should be a critical asset for a potential Bush candidacy. What happens with Common Core over the next 24 months will determine whether it is.

Hess’ omission of Bush in this week’s piece is curious as Bush deserves a share of blame for the disastrous Common Core rollout. He has essentially thrown a lot of republican governors under the bus for not coming to their defense on Core after he sold it as part of his reform package.

Bush’s silence deserves scrutiny: why did he remain silent when Core began taking on water and just allowed loyal members of his own party to get beat up?  Maybe he knows that conservative criticism of Core is fair, and oh, he’s running for president. Bush’s reticence is worthy of such cynicism. His airy dismissals of teachers who “don’t want to be held accountable” coupled with routine  demonizations  of opponents to his charter school-voucher agenda fairly subject him to suggestions of hypocrisy on Core.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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