MERIDIAN, Idaho – Idaho Republicans will choose their gubernatorial candidate in next month’s primary election, and Common Core may be a deciding issue.

Russ FulcherCurrent Gov. Butch Otter is a staunch supporter of the nationalized learning standards, but his top GOP competitor, state Sen. Russ Fulcher, is a Common Core critic who is calling for the standards to be repealed.

Fulcher is a recent convert to the anti-Common Core struggle. He originally supported the learning standards in 2011 as part of the Senate Education Committee, IdahoStatesman.com reports.

The lawmaker says he believed Common Core would “bolster local control” of public education, but now sees that is not the case.

Fulcher writes in a recent op-ed for IdahoStatesman.com that he’s come to “realize that under Common Core, there is no ‘next step’ to improvement. The intent is for Idaho students to be ‘equal’ with everyone else, to be average, ordinary.”

He continues:

“Rather than encouraging innovation, leveraging the talents of our teachers and parents, and finding the best ways to propel students forward, Common Core seeks to make all students, their schools, and their education experience generic. Dull. Uninspired. … If Common Core works as advertised, schools in Idaho and the education achievement in those schools will end up the same as in Mississippi, New York, Missouri, or any other state. That’s not enough. Idaho students, teachers, and parents can and should do better!”

If he’s elected governor, Fulcher says he’d support legislation to repeal and replace the standards, as of Indiana recently did.

Gov. Otter – who is seeking a third term in office – defends Common Core as a state-driven initiative, and, in his own recent op-ed, reminds voters that “Idaho retains every right to change direction should the standards not deliver. The citizens of Idaho alone are in control.”

Idaho political observer Dennis Mansfield writes that primary elections typically involve “a relatively small pool of voters,” and that Otter’s support of a state-run healthcare insurance exchange (part of “Obamacare”) could hurt him the primary.

We’d add that Otter’s dogged support of Common Core may prove equally costly.

Idaho’s GOP May 20 primary is definitely shaping up as one to watch.

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