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Anti-Common Core Bill Highlights GOP Pressure for Conservative NCLB Overhaul

By Lauren Camera — January 16, 2015 2 min read
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U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, introduced a bill Friday morning that would prohibit the federal government from coercing states to adopt education standards, like the Common Core State Standards.

The proposal itself, which you can read here, is not interesting or even new. Dozens of Republicans, including Roberts, introduced similar bills last Congress in an effort to roll back the common core.

But it underscores just how quickly this reauthorization effort could devolve into a partisan blowout, despite numerous pledges from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the education committee, that he’ll work to craft a bill that can muster 60 votes in the Senate and get the president’s signature.

Specifically, Roberts’ bill would forbid the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula, and assessments through the use of incentives, mandates, grants, waivers or any other form of manipulation.

Roberts, who sits on the Senate education committee, said in a press release that he plans to “fight” to include the language in the forthcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But here’s the thing: The discussion draft unveiled Tuesday by Alexander already includes language that would do just that. The only difference is that Alexander’s draft language doesn’t explicitly name the common core.

Here’s the language included in Alexander’s draft: “The Secretary shall not have the authority to mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervisions” over any of the standards.

It’s not a surprise that Republicans want to hone in on the common-core standards specifically, and Roberts’ bill isn’t likely to be the only one to do so. But, again, it highlights the amount of pressure Alexander will face from his own caucus to push the bill as far to the right as possible.

Case in point:

“Senator Roberts appreciates the Chairman’s draft and feels it is going in the right direction,” said Sarah Little, spokeswoman for Roberts, responding in an email to a question about how Roberts’ bill is different from the language currently included in Alexander’s draft. “However, Roberts’ approach is more explicit and contains references to common core and similar standards, which would leave no question as to the intent of the provision and would prohibit the administration from finding additional ways to promote a state’s adoption of common core.”

Roberts’ bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jim Inhoffe, R-Okla., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

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