DES MOINES, Iowa – Dear Governor Huckabee,

Last Friday you told the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference that conservatives should “stop the fight” over the Common Core State Standards.

commoncoreappleIt seems to me that, as you consider a run for President in 2016, you intend to straddle the fence on this issue. This is a strategy that rarely, if ever, works.  As an observer of presidential politics in Iowa I’ve seen too many politicians trip up trying to play both sides. You are not any different.

Governor, by calling the Common Core “toxic” and “radioactive” you apparently still believe that the only problem with Common Core is a branding problem. This, you have said in the past, is due to the Federal involvement in promoting the standards through Race to the Top and ESEA flexibility waivers.

Governor Huckabee, Common Core was toxic before the standards made it into the public eye. Once again, the name of the standards is not the problem, the standards are.  We have a problem with this particular set of standards, and you are correct sir that we do not want to “dumb down” our schools. This is exactly why we are fighting for quality standards.  The Federal involvement into Common Core is just one of several problems with the standards. You also fail to acknowledge that it was Governors, through the National Governors Association’s report Benchmarking for Success, who encouraged federal involvement.

Governor Huckabee, if you want to fight for students you need to recognize that top-down education initiatives never work. I challenge you to name one that has worked.  Fighting for students we recognize that our students are not “common” and our states are not either.  As Texas Governor Rick Perry would say, states are “laboratories of innovation,” and this top-down approach will kill innovation at the state level, and most certainly at the classroom level, once the accompanying assessments roll out.

If you do not want to listen to me then please listen to teachers who oppose the Common Core. Support for the Common Core among teachers has plummeted because they have moved past the talking points to implementation.  There is research that you can read that addresses not only the problems with federal involvement, but the standards’ quality, consequences of the standards on college preparation, the cost to the states, and the potential loss of student privacy.  You can also listen to expert testimony on the subject as well. It’s clear that you’ve listened to those who support the standards.  It’s time that you actually read and listen to what those who oppose the standards have to say.

It’s obvious to me that you’ve not really progressed beyond talking points. You may not like the debate we are having, but it is one that should have occurred in 2010 before 45 states’ executive branches adopted these standards without giving “we the people” a voice through our elected representatives. Education policy will be, like it or not, shaped in the political realm because we live in a constitutional republic.  Bureaucrats and Governors alone can not make these decisions for our nation’s children.

All the parents I know who are fighting Common Core are fighting for students, their students, and the fight has only begun.

Sincerely yours,

Shane Vander Hart
An Iowan who endorsed and supported you in 2008.

Update: Someone accused me of not doing my research, so here is the video.  His comments related to the Common Core came during the press Q&A.  Did he say some things I agree with?  As a former pastor I wholeheartedly agree with his comments about parents being the ones who are ultimately responsible for educating their kids.  I also agree (even though some of my friends in this fight would disagree) with his comments on school choice.  It is plain as you listen to the video that he defends the math and ELA standards.  I get what he is saying about other items that attached to Common Core.  I’ve written recently about that myself, but what he doesn’t seem to understand is that the math and ELA standards are bad, that the NGA invited federal involvement in the standards, and that federalism (It seems that he doesn’t believe in it anymore) does not support a top-down approach to education whether it is from the federal government or special interests.

Authored by Shane Vander Hart

Published with permission

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