AUGUSTA, Maine – When states began adopting Common Core in 2010, few Americans were aware of the new learning standards or the impact they’d have on public education.
The only ones following the Common Core discussion were education wonks, and most of them gave their blessing to the transition. That allowed many political leaders – including many conservative Republicans – to throw their full support behind the new math and English learning standards.
But now, three years later, there’s growing opposition to the nationalized learning standards, especially among Tea Party activists who helped elect many pro-Common Core Republicans.
This has many Republican lawmakers in a bind – none more so than Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who signed Common Core into law four months after taking office and is facing re-election in November 2014.
Just last week, LePage issued an executive order re-affirming Maine’s commitment to local control of education, even as the state moves forward with implementing Common Core, reports The Maine Public Broadcasting Network. The order also bars the state from sharing students’ personal data with the federal government.
The move was seen as a symbolic attempt by LePage to appease Common Core critics, but it apparently didn’t work.
That led LePage to ratchet up his attack on the controversial learning standards. He said in a recent interview “I don’t believe in Common Core. I believe in raising the standards in education.”
Those comments led the PressHerald.com to report the governor “now disavows” the standards.
We’re not convinced of that. It appears to us that LePage is simply playing word games. There’s no indication the governor wants to repeal Common Core – only that he reserves the right for Maine to direct its own education system.
Technically, all Common Core-affiliated states still have that right. State control of public education doesn’t require an executive order.
By the fact remains that beginning in 2014, everything and everybody in Maine’s public schools will be oriented toward teaching Common Core: teachers, administrators, student assessments, textbooks.
If Maine lawmakers decide to replace the standards in a few years, it will take a lot of money, time and political muscle to make it happen.
Even if everyone in Maine wants to scrap Common Core, who knows what kinds of “strings” the federal government will have in place by then to prevent states from straying too far from the one-size-fits-all standards.
LePage isn’t addressing those tough questions. He’s apparently hoping some anti-Common Core rhetoric will be enough to win back support from Tea Party activists for his re-election effort.