New Candidates Join Field of GOP White House Hopefuls

By Alyson Klein — May 12, 2015 3 min read

A trio of new Republican candidates tossed their hats into the ring for the 2016 presidential contest last week.

Mike Huckabee’s K-12 Record in Ark., Common-Core Views Hit Main Stage

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who last week joined the ranks of Republican presidential contenders, can point to a record on education dating back to his time as the chief executive in the Natural State from 1996 to 2007, when he boosted spending on K-12, even raising taxes to do so. And since leaving office he’s been a proponent of the power of arts education, including at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., in 2012.

Mike Huckabee

But Mr. Huckabee’s most significant education move of late might be his “evolving” position on the Common Core State Standards. He started off as an ardent supporter, even (unsuccessfully) prodding lawmakers in Oklahoma back in 2013 to stick with the common core. But, after big pushback in conservative circles, he began to back off his support, saying that the words “common core” should disappear from the lexicon, but that the standards themselves were probably OK.

In January of this year, Mr. Huckabee went even further, saying in a speech at an Iowa event for conservatives that he could not support the common core, which he said had become “a Frankenstandard.”

Education issues figured in Mr. Huckabee’s 2008 run for the Republican presidential nomination—he won the Iowa caucuses with a big assist from home schoolers, for example. And, as a candidate that year, he won the endorsements of some state affiliates of the National Education Association, including its New Hampshire chapter. The national union stopped short of making an endorsement in the GOP primary, but Mr. Huckabee appeared at the union’s annual convention, and he was attacked for it by other Republican contenders.

During the 2008 season, he was also criticized for his support of in-state tuition and scholarship aid for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Sporting Business-World Credentials, Carly Fiorina Weighs In on Ed. Issues

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who last week announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, appears to have shifted her position on the Common Core State Standards over the years.

Carly Fiorina

In 2010, as the unsuccessful Republican nominee for a California seat in the U.S. Senate, Ms. Fiorina praised the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program—which encouraged the adoption of the common core—on her campaign website. Without mentioning the common core by name, she lauded the Race to the Top program for championing “internationally benchmarked” standards and assessments that would help prepare students for the 21st-century job market.

But more recently, she has tweaked others in the current GOP presidential field, especially former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for their support of the standards. On a conservative talk radio show last month, for example, she said Mr. Bush’s record suggests “he is a big-government Republican,” and went on to say, “I don’t tend to agree with common core. ... Bureaucracies only know one way: It’s called heavy-handed. So if you get a federal bureaucracy, or in some cases even a state bureaucracy, involved in anything, it will become heavy-handed.”

Ms. Fiorina has also argued in favor of school choice and has said that education is a key vehicle for economic advancement.

Ben Carson, Favoring Local Control, Wants Common Core ‘Overturned’

Ben Carson, a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon who last week said he is making a GOP bid for the White House, has taken aim at the Common Core State Standards on the website for his nascent political campaign.

Ben Carson

“In recent years, there has been a troubling trend of the U.S. Department of Education increasingly trying to dictate how children are educated in our primary and secondary schools,” he states. “This must stop, and common core must be overturned.”

Mr. Carson, whose website talks more generally about the importance of local control in education, is also a school choice fan. He also is the founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which provides scholarships to students in grades 4-11 that go toward their college education, and he started the Ben Carson Reading Project, which aims to encourage child literacy through leisure reading.

A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2015 edition of Education Week as New Candidates Join Field of GOP White House Hopefuls


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