But as Politico reported last week, it’s big-dollar conservative donors who’ve come to the financial aid of groups formed to oppose the the nationally-crafted academic standards.
A draft action plan by the advocacy group FreedomWorks lays out the effort as a series of stepping stones: First, mobilize to strike down the Common Core. Then push to expand school choice by offering parents tax credits or vouchers to help pay tuition at private and religious schools. Next, rally the troops to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Then it’s on to eliminating teacher tenure.“This is going to be a huge campaign,” said Whitney Neal, the group’s director of grass-roots activism. She plans to kick it off within weeks with a series of videos that will “connect the dots” between killing Common Core and enacting other conservative priorities.
The campaign will build to a march on Washington this summer, perhaps in partnership with radio host Glenn Beck. “This is definitely an institutional priority for us in 2014,” she said. “We’re putting a lot of time and resources into it.”
Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, is pressing similar themes in town hall meetings across the country.
At least one supporter of the standards says the general “left-leaning bias” of organizations who’ve advocated for the Common Core has hurt their own cause.
“The reform community’s response to the Common Core backlash would have been much more effective had our leading groups been more politically diverse,” writes Bellwether Education’s Andy Smarick on TNTP’s blog. “Instead of understanding what was happening, we disparagingly dismissed it all as Tea-Party craziness, which made things worse.”
And they’re not happy that conservative political strategists are seeking to harness the opposition to their own ends.
“I would be very concerned if opposition to Common Core became a vehicle to promote vouchers and charters,” said education historian Diane Ravitch, a prominent critic of the standards.
While national right-wing groups have gotten on board with Common Core rollback, the political picture is different at the state level.
At the beginning of last session, Republican political heavyweights at the Indiana statehouse remained on board with the new standards. It took an end-run around powerful House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, to get a Common Core pause to the floor.