Governors from around the country are coming to Nashville for their annual conference this week, and one thorny topic is missing from the agenda: Common Core. Governor Bill Haslam has become an outspoken advocate for the standards just as other states are backing away.
When the National Governor’s Association met in 2009, in Washington, D.C., a group of state leaders set in motion what would become Common Core public education standards and the tests that accompany them. Back in 2010, some 40 states expressed interest in adopting Common Core. Yet as the 2014-15 deadline approached for new Common Core testing — and with re-election bids on the horizon — states like Indiana, the first to accept the standards, are opting out.
Years later, as Haslam continues to defend Common Core, governors in Indiana, Louisiana and other states are distancing themselves.
NGA chair Mary Fallin of Oklahoma signed legislation repealing Common Core in her state just last month. There have even been online petitions from conservative political groups calling for her to end Common Core nationally.
Walking away from the standards can make states ineligible for federal education funding. Still, even Tennessee’s actions are far from a full embrace. State lawmakers passed a bill that slows the implementation of the test aligned with Common Core, and Haslam signed it.
Thad Kousser, a political science professor who studies governors at the University of California in San Diego, says even though Common Core isn’t an official topic this week, it will be unavoidable.
“Well, I think anything that’s as politically controversial as this is sure to make its way on the agenda formal or informal at a meeting of governors, but it’s hard to see a way forward.”
The reason is because Common Core has become a political football. Kousser says some states say they feel like they’re being force-fed by Washington, even though the National Governors Association, a group of states, helped come up with the standards.
“This is a story we’ve seen played out over and over again in federalism,” Kousser says. “Where something comes out of the states, and Washington, D.C. expands it, and suddenly a lot of governors say, ‘Hey, that’s not what we had in mind. We don’t want your free federal money.'”