Johnny on the Spot: Ohio Gov. Kasich, Common Core, and the 2016 Campaign

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 17, 2015 2 min read
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You’ll find Jeb Bush connected with the Common Core State Standards quite a bit in recent news coverage about his now-official White House campaign. After all, he’s one of only two GOP presidential candidates, or presumed candidates, to back the standards in public. But who’s the other guy?

That would be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who hasn’t formally declared a 2016 run but is indicating he’s strongly considering a run in a very crowded GOP field. Although Bush’s track record with the common core has probably played out under a hotter spotlight, Kasich has arguably had the tougher job actually defending the common core.

After all, unlike Bush, he’s a sitting public official who has parried a variety of attacks on the standards from skeptical citizens, hostile lawmakers, and his own state Treasurer Josh Mandel, a fellow Republican. And the standards fight has bled over into a legislative dispute over common-core testing; there’s also a notable opt-out push in the state.

So what has he said about the standards? In February, during a visit to South Carolina, which holds the third presidential nominating contest after Iowa and New Hampshire, Kasich swatted down the idea that the federal government cooked up the standards and them jammed them down states’ throats. (Ironically enough, South Carolina officially repealed the common core and replaced it with new standards earlier this year that, in many respects, aren’t all that different.)

“That is not something that Barack Obama is putting together. ... It’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. I cannot figure out what’s wrong with that,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “To a large degree, it’s [the opposition] a runaway Internet campaign, as far as I’m concerned in Ohio.”

He used the same “runaway Internet” line to describe common core opposition in a March New Hampshire event, where he told the Wall Street Journal he’s been met with “profound silence” when he’s asked others to describe how his description of the common core is wrong.

“We don’t want the federal government driving K-12 education, and in my state—the state of Ohio—that is simply not the case,” Kasich told the paper.

But, as with Bush, anti-common-core conservatives are quick to knock Kasich for his position. Washington Examiner columnist Jason Russell, for example, took the governor to task for stating that the governors actually wrote the standards themselves in May. The governor hasn’t always been precise on this issue: Previously, Kasich had told Fox News that the standards were “written by state education superintendents and local principals.” See the video below.

Russell wrote in a May column that, “If Kasich wants to make the case for common core, he should focus on any academic gains made in his state instead of lying about the way common core was written.”

Bush might appreciate having Kasich around to help soak up some of the common-core questions that reporters will undoubtedly ask ... assuming that Kasich runs.

Photo: Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to an audience at a restaurant on May 6, in Nashua, N.H. Kasich, a two-term Ohio governor and former member of the U.S. House, is one of the lesser-known Republicans considering a White House bid. Steven Senne/AP

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