Common Core, Trumped: Ed Secretary Hopeful DeVos Aligns With Pence in Pushing Local Standards
Breaking news about Betsy DeVos today on :
—Kate Stringer: 6 important things to know about Betsy DeVos
—Exclusive: DeVos discusses why bipartisan support is crucial for school choice
—Mark Keierleber: DeVos has been a long-standing member of Team Pence
—Michael Petrilli: 20 questions for the nominee for the new education secretary
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Nominee for United States Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, wasted no time in clarifying her stance on the Common Core. In a tweet, she emphatically stated that she does not support it.
"I am not a supporter – period," DeVos said in a released Q&A. She then went on to express her favor for rigorous academic standards.
"I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When governors like John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence drove the conversation on voluntary high standards led by local voices, it all made sense."
The alignment of DeVos’s views with Vice President-elect and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is in charge of Trump’s transition team, provides further insight into what her views might mean in practice if she is confirmed by the Senate.
Back in 2010, Indiana, under Governor Mitch Daniels, was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core. However, when Pence became governor, he opposed the standards, claiming that they represented federal interference in local education. DeVos, a notable GOP donor who supported Pence, stated in her release that the Common Core had become a "federalized boondoggle."
By 2013, Indiana had withdrawn from the Common Core-aligned test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The following year, Pence and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz endorsed a new set of standards that received criticism for being too similar to the Common Core. Nevertheless, they were approved.
Pence insisted that the standards Indiana ended up with were "written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are of exceptional quality."
For President-elect Donald Trump, balancing choice, standards, and the appointment of an education secretary has been a delicate matter.
During his campaign, Trump appeased conservative supporters by repeatedly criticizing the Common Core State Standards, labeling them a "disaster" imposed by the federal government that should be abolished. (Fact check: The standards were developed by states and implemented locally.)
His other education priority before the election was school choice. In his sole speech dedicated to education, Trump unveiled a plan to allocate $20 billion to states that implemented school choice, including charter schools and vouchers.
"I have consistently opposed the Common Core. Remove the Common Core – let education be controlled locally!" Donald J. Trump tweeted on February 11, 2016.
Finding a well-known education reformer who both spoke out against the standards and supported school choice narrowed Trump’s pool of potential candidates for education significantly.
By selecting DeVos, who founded the pro-school-choice American Federation for Children, Trump made it clear that he intends to aggressively pursue his school-choice agenda. While it was less evident that DeVos would oppose the Common Core, Trump’s transition team stated after their meeting that they had discussed "the Common Core mission and establishing higher national standards, as well as promoting the expansion of school choice nationwide."
DeVos had not publicly expressed much about the standards, which aim to better prepare students for college and careers and establish shared benchmarks for math and English across states and school districts.
Critics used DeVos’s past alliances as ammunition to challenge her nomination. Breitbart, the online site formerly led by Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, used her alleged Common Core position as a fact in its headline: "Donald Trump Announces Pro-Common Core Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary."
DeVos seemed to respond to these critiques in her Q&A.
"Have the organizations that I have been a part of supported the Common Core? Of course. But that is not my stance. Sometimes it is not just students who need to do their homework."
One of the organizations she referred to is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, on whose board DeVos sits. The Foundation and Bush strongly support the Common Core, and Bush faced considerable criticism, particularly from Trump, for sticking with them before dropping out of the 2016 presidential race.
In 2013, DeVos co-authored an opinion piece with former New York City Schools chancellor Joel Klein advocating for grading schools on an A-F scale, a system championed in Florida under the Bush administration.
DeVos served as a delegate for Ohio Governor John Kasich at the Republican convention, where she was one of the few supporters of the widely criticized Common Core standards among the Republican candidates. She is also a member of the board for the Great Lakes Education Project, a Michigan-based organization that promotes school choice and supports the implementation of the Common Core standards.
In a statement from the Great Lakes Education Project Chairman, Jim Barrett, he expressed strong support for improving academic achievement and accountability in public schools, as well as empowering parents to make choices about their children’s education. He emphasized that implementing the Common Core State Standards is an important step towards achieving these goals and urged state policymakers to continue with this path.
President-elect Trump recently met with Michelle Rhee, a former D.C. Schools chancellor and vocal advocate for the Common Core. Despite being a Democrat, Rhee has shown support for Trump’s efforts in education and expressed her desire to see American school children receive a better education.
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation financially supports , an education news outlet. The site’s Editor-in-Chief, Campbell Brown, sits on the board of directors for the American Federation for Children, which was previously chaired by Betsy DeVos. It is important to note that Brown had no involvement in the creation of this article. The American Federation for Children also sponsored education summit in New Hampshire in 2015.
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