Common Core Elections 2016

In 2014, the Common Core was one of the hottest issues of the elections. Analysts even predicted it would become one of the make-or-break issues of 2016. However, besides some early comments on Jeb Bush and his stand, Common  Core seems to have simply dropped  off the map for these elections. However, despite that, many still use education as a sort of “litmus test” for teachers.

What Are The Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards were formulated to have a standardized measure of what exactly a child should know in each grade, for English and Mathematics. In that way, being in each grade would mean something specific. For example, at Grade 1, a child should already be reading 1 to 2 sentences at a time. Any child in Grade 1 should be in that level of reading.


The picture reflects one of the arguments against the Common Core

Why Does The Common Core Come Into The 2016 Elections?

While the Common Core State Standards have been in development since 2007, they were aggressively spread by the Obama Administration. According to Joanne Weiss, the former chief of staff to Arne Duncan, Department of Education Secretary, Federal education funds were used to encourage–or rather, leverage–acceptance of Common Core standards per state. States were encouraged to align with the guidelines to receive additional funding.


Since the Common Core was spread heavily during the Obama Administration, it has sometimes been called the Obama Core. It was definitely a controversial measure, causing stress to students who took the nationally standardized tests, and the teachers who were rated by their students’ grades. Even the Obama Administration recently relented, giving more power over to states and unchaining teacher ratings from student grades.

How Does The Common Core Come Into The 2016 Elections?

The Common Core State Standards are a controversial enough standard that most of the Republican candidates can stand against it easily, as the interference of Federal power in state right. The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, are staying shy of the issue, focusing rather on college and university tuition.

What Are The Presidential Candidates Saying About Common Core Elections 2016?

Republican Candidates on Common Core Elections 2016

Ben Carson

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson sees education as one of the most important programs that can lower juvenile delinquency and the number of teenage pregnancies and unwed mothers. However, he is not a proponent of Common Core standards.


Carson says:

“[…] while I think it is very important to have standards, putting such a task in the hands of the federal government is naive.

“[…] While proponents of Common Core may see benefits in such a system, how can the initiative be effective if it imposes confusing experimental teaching methods that our teachers cannot adequately adopt and our parents cannot actively support?

“Children thrive on confidence and encouragement, neither of which exists in an environment where the education purveyors are uncomfortable with the standards by which they and their pupils are judged.”

Carson encourages, rather, the deeper involvement of families, schools, the local and state governments, and even the children in the education system. He feels the Common Core is too limiting for students, holding them to national standards that do not take each child and school into account.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz takes an even stronger stand against the Common Core. He believes that placing educational decisions at the Washington bureaucratic level is unfair to parents and their children. A national, standardized educational system only makes it harder for parents to get involved in their own children’s education.


Cruz states:

“I think we should abolish the Department of Education. And if you look at what’s happening in education, one of the greatest challenges we’ve got right now is Common Core.

“If I’m elected President, we will end Common Core. […] The whole point is education is so important that it shouldn’t be dictated by unelected bureaucrats in in Washington deciding what the curriculum is, deciding what the standards are. […]

“I think we should be looking for ways to to expand school choice to empower more and more parents and children to have the maximum choices possible.”

Even with the recent changes to the Common Core State Standards, Cruz still believes there is not enough state involvement in education. The changes still allow for national electronic testing of Mathematics and English, maintaining the interference of big government in education.

John Kasich

Ohio Governor John Kasich is now the only remaining Republican candidate to support Common Core State Standards, after both Chris Christie and Jeb Bush suspended their campaigns. He has even been the target of an ad that calls him an “Obama Republican” in an effort to diminish his lead after his New Hampshire success.


“We have higher standards. We want our kids to perform better and do better […]. In my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children, and those standards are set and the curriculum is set by local school boards. […] Barack Obama doesn’t set it, the state of Ohio doesn’t set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards.”

Kasich reminds voters of the fact that the Common Core State Standards were developed even before the Obama Administration began, a year before the 2008 elections. What caused the overall outcry about the Common Core was the selective Federal funding to schools that aligned with the standards. At the end of the day, according to Kasich, since the standards were agreed upon by state governors and school officials, there is no real reason to protest.

Marco Rubio

Rubio keeps it simple, saying, “I really believe that the federal government should do as little as possible on the education front and empower the states–that’s really a state function.” He adds that the selective Federal funding program was not a bad idea, since it encouraged schools to compete, thus raising standards. However, because of what he calls “unintended consequences,” he believes education is a state function.


“I respectfully ask that due consideration be given to options that have been advanced through Congress and provide genuine flexibility to states, so that state and local lawmakers–those closest to children and families–can focus on high-quality education policies that will benefit our nation’s children.”

On the campaign trail, Rubio’s tone became stronger.

“[…] what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless you do things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.”

Donald Trump

As might be expected, Donald Trump uses the strongest words against the Common Core State Standards. However, he remains vehement but vague. Recently, Trump released a Facebook video that states and reiterates his stand against the Common Core standards.


In the video, Trump says:

“I’m a tremendous believer in education. But education has to be at a local level. We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education. […] So Common Core’s a total disaster–we can’t let it continue. We are rated 28th in the world–the United States!–think of it!–28th in the world […]. So here we are, we spend more money, and we’re rated 28–third world countries are ahead of us.”

Trump’s words are having an effect, because he is actively voicing the concerns of parents and teachers at the state levels who oppose the Common Core. Trump has implied that he will close the Department of Education, and allow the power to devolve to the state and local levels.

Democratic Candidates on Common Core Elections 2016

Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a staunch supporter of the Common Core, and has been since its inception. While it is not one of her central policy platforms, she speaks in favor of the program when asked about it. During an education roundtable in Iowa in 2015, Clinton described her stand on the program.


“[The Common Core] was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across the country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor that family was, that there wouldn’t be two tiers of education.”

Clinton sees the Common Core as a way to better equip students for various careers, even those in the vocational track. Selective private universities, after all, are highly unlikely to change any of their standards or acceptance rates. What is more likely, for Clinton, is that more students will have a chance to move through the grades better equipped to enter the general workforce.

Bernie Sanders

Like Clinton, Bernie Sanders is mostly quiet on the Common Core debate. The thrust of his policy platform on education is free college tuition, ending burdensome college loan debts that students pay off afterwards. He says very little about the Common Core, which makes his position unclear to voters. So far, all that is known is that Sanders voted against an anti-Common Core amendment which allows states to forego the program. In other words, Sanders supports Federal oversight of the Common Core standards, rather than allowing state choice.

Common Core Elections 2016

The 2016 presidential elections have re-written themselves several times over. Immigration and foreign policy have become central issues after the entrance of Donald Trump and the incident of the Paris Terror Attacks. Social issues such as the Common Core and marijuana legalization have become quieter recently. As the caucus and primary results build more tension, however, the Common Core may make it back as a Republican point of contention; both against John Kasich and the Democratic candidates.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.