Could Ben Carson be the Next U.S. Secretary of Education?

By Daarel Burnette II — March 11, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said during Thursday night’s GOP debate in Miami that he had spoken with former presidential candidate Ben Carson for more than an hour about education and that Carson would be “very involved with education, something that’s an expertise of his,” in a Trump administration.

He stopped short, however, of specifying exactly what role Carson would have if Trump were to be elected. Carson was expected to endorse Trump during a press conference on Friday.

Trump’s comments came in response to a question about the Common Core State Standards, which Trump said he wants to get rid of.

As far as Carson and education goes, “he has such a great handle on it,” Trump said, according to a Washington Post transcript. “He wants competitive schools. He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy. But charter schools work, and they work very well.”

My colleague Andrew Ujifusa wrote about Carson’s views on education here when the pediatric neurosurgeon was still a GOP candidate for the White House. (He dropped out of the race last week).

Meanwhile, education analysts surveyed by Education Week have said they are unclear about the direction a Trump administration would take on education policy.

Until recently, K-12 education as an explicit topic had been noticeably absent from the Republican debates. But Thursday’s debate offered several candidates another chance to weigh in with some specificity.

Candidates were responding to this question from CNN moderator Jake Tapper:

Education obviously plays a large role when it comes to jobs and the economy. The United States has long been falling behind others in the industrialized world. American students currently rank 27th out of 34 countries in math and 17th in reading. Mr. Trump, you've called the education standards known as common core a disaster. What are your specific objections to common core?

Trump and other candidates seemed to try to one-up each other over who hates common core the most.

Trump once again hammered the standards, and said he wanted to make education great again by getting rid of “education through Washington, D.C.”

“I want local education,” he said. “I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said if he’s appointed president, he will spend his first day getting rid of common core.

“Common core is a disaster,” he said. “If I’m elected president, I will direct the Department of Education that common core ends that day.”

Cruz went further by saying that President Barack Obama used Race to the Top competitive grant money to “effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt common core. Now, the one silver lining of Obama abusing executive power is that everything done with executive power can be undone with executive power, and I intend to do that.”

As we’ve noted before, the common core, a set of learning standards, is not an executive order, and the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act bans the federal government from incentivizing, coercing, or otherwise pushing and nudging states into adopting any set of standards, including the common core.

Candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich took his turn in the education portion of the debate to tout Ohio’s “high standards” and the fact that the state board picks standards and local boards pick curricula.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.