Mike Huckabee’s “Common Core is Dead” Line Not What He Told State Chiefs

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 11, 2013 2 min read
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One of the more prominent conservative defenders of the Common Core State Standards has been former Arkansas governor and one-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Just to use one example, Huckabee hosted former Michigan governor John Engler on his radio show May 1 to discuss why he believed the common core is important for the nation’s schools—Engler is now president of the Business Roundtable, a big supporter of the standards. Huckabee said on the show that conservatives in particular should be fans of the standards, not opponents.

With that in mind, watch Huckabee’s monologue about common core that aired on his Fox News show Dec. 8 (hat tip to Andrew Rotherham at Bellwether Education Partners):

Essentially, Huckabee is arguing that when common core started out as a state-led initiative to boost K-12 content standards, it was a great idea. But like barnacles latching onto a ship, the former governor says he doesn’t like how the standards are actually being implemented in schools and districts, and that he doesn’t like some of the “agenda-driven” curriculum that’s been developed for the standards (he doesn’t specify what kind of agenda is being driven). He also says that common core has been used inappropriately to justify collecting student data, although beyond general allusions to fears about federal government getting its hands on that data, he doesn’t specify what’s been inappropriate about that data collection.

“It’s been hijacked,” Huckabee tells his audience, referring to common core, “and I don’t support the hijackers or the destination. But I don’t blame the airplane for getting hijacked.”

He calls for the term “common core” to disappear from the education policy lexicon, but that states shouldn’t back away from high education standards: “Common core is dead, but common sense should not be.”

Now, what did Huckabee tell a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers last month? Not quite the same thing. He was consistent on one point: In both his speech to the chiefs and on his Fox News program, he expressed concern that the name of the standards itself is now politically toxic. But his line to the chiefs on common core was, “Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat.” That’s different than “Common core is dead,” something he certainly did not tell the state education chiefs—remember, CCSSO, along with the National Governors Association, oversaw the development of the standards.

He also didn’t tell the state chiefs that he was dissatisfied with the actual implementation of the common core at the state and local level, such as curricula being used with it.

Huckabee’s comments leave some room for interpretation as to his exact level of support for the standards. But the phrase “Common core is dead” is a stark contrast to what he talked about with Engler on his radio show back in May.

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