Unions and tea party activists? Common Core yields odd political allegiances

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

"Right now, I would say, it's a draw at best," Bush added.

At the moment, his is a party that does not care for the benchmarks.

The Republican National Committee has branded them an "inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children." The California Republican Party said the standards are "national efforts at one-size-fits-all uniformity."

And conservative personality Glenn Beck warned his millions of listeners: "If you don't stop it, American history is over as you know it."

Democrats aren't spared the intra-party strife, either.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says critics of the standards engage in "political silliness." The head of the American Federation of Teachers, meanwhile, compares the implementation of the standards to the rollout of the federal health care law.

"You think the Obamacare implementation is bad?" said Randi Weingarten, who supports the standards' goals but has been vocal about the role of testing. "The implementation of the Common Core is far worse."

Such divisions are as common as unusual alliances.

Obama is getting a hand from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $36 million to help Republican candidates in 2012. For the chamber, the nation's largest business coalition, a skilled and educated workforce is good for the bottom line.

"We've been dishonest for years when we told parents that the standards were working," said Cheryl Oldham, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a former official in President George W. Bush's Education Department.

Energy giant Exxon, too, supports the benchmarks and is running television ads to introduce them to a public that isn't entirely sure what they are.

There have been efforts to roll back the standards at statehouses in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Voters in Maine could decide next year if they will keep the standards. And several states are revisiting the decision to partner with other states to develop tests.

Yet opponents have yet to be successful. Anti-Common Core legislation failed in conservative Alabama, Georgia, South Dakota and Kansas. Only one state, Indiana, has included a review of the standards in a successful education bill.

Some of the nation's most conservative states are not rushing to yield to anti-Common Core activists. Both Arizona and Idaho overwhelmingly voted against Obama's re-election but are sticking with the standards for now.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, issued an executive order renaming the new benchmarks "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards."

And in Idaho, the Republican chairmen of the state House and Senate education panels are urging colleagues to stick with the benchmarks, rebranded the "Idaho Core Standards."

AP Education Writer Kim Hefling contributed to this report. Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott

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