Two Words You Won’t Hear Lamar Alexander Say Right Now: Common Core

Sen. Lamar Alexander speaks alongside Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky State Rep. Jim DeCesare, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. Paul and Alexander are sponsoring legislation that will make it easier for states to set up charter schools. Image: Bradley George/WPLN

Sen. Lamar Alexander speaks alongside Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky State Rep. Jim DeCesare, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. Paul and Alexander are sponsoring legislation that will make it easier for states to set up charter schools. Image: Bradley George/WPLN

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has been doing his best to avoid saying he supports Common Core education standards. The controversial benchmarks for what students should learn in each grade have become a campaign issue in several races, including Alexander’s.

In recent months, Alexander has appeared alongside Governor Bill Haslam as a show of solidarity for Tennessee’s use of Common Core. But the standards are also a political liability in the current climate, even for someone like Alexander who is expected to have a fairly easy time keeping his seat.

“I always choose my words carefully,” Alexander said Monday – with a laugh – when asked if he was being careful how he talks about Common Core.

The two-term senator and former Secretary of Education has carefully crafted how he talks about Common Core. He says he supports higher standards and that the state should have the final say.

“It’s up to Governor Haslam and the legislature what the standards are here. It ought to be 100 percent their decision. I think almost all of the problem that’s created by the new academic standards has come because of the perception and fact that Washington is involved in it.” – Lamar Alexander

While Common Core was developed by governors, the U.S. Department of Education has used grant money with Race to the Top and regulatory flexibility with No Child Left Behind waivers to entice states to adopt the standards.

WPLN asks if Alexander’s support for Common Core is less than it once was. Listen here:

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