This story originally appeared in Brookings.
Over the past year, the Common Core State Standards have risen from a topic of interest mainly to educators and school reformers to a top-tier issue in national politics. With likely Republican presidential candidates already staking out divergent positions, the standards and the federal government’s role in promoting them show strong signs of emerging as a key point of contention in the Republican primaries. How might this growing salience shape public opinion on the standards? A comparison of polls we’ve conducted nationally and in the state of Louisiana is instructive—and discouraging.
Several states have endured political battles over the Common Core State Standards, but none has matched the drama and intensity of Louisiana’s. Like most states, Louisiana adopted Common Core in 2010 without fanfare or controversy. The state began introducing the standards the following year with an eye toward full implementation this school year. At the time, the standards had the full-throated support of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal. Since then, Governor Jindal has positioned himself against the Common Core and his former ally, State Superintendent John White. In last year’s legislative session, Governor Jindal pushed bills to pull Louisiana out of the Common Core. When those efforts failed, largely due to the state’s powerful business lobby, the governor issued an executive order to pull the state out of a consortium of states using a Common Core-aligned test. After Superintendent White balked, arguing the governor lacked the legal authority to withdraw the state, Jindal joined a lawsuit against the state board of education (which has since been dismissed). The fray has been marked with recriminations and personal attacks befitting the political traditions of the Pelican State. Although a state court recently dismissed his lawsuit, Governor Jindal has announcedplans to go after Common Core again in this year’s session.