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How education may be dividing the Republican party

Published: Tuesday, July 1 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

In this Aug. 9, 2013 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Chicago. To say that new academic standards have yielded strange bedfellows would be an understatement. Republican-on-Republican fighting?

Associated Press

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The Republican civil war on education is over, said Libby Nelson at Vox. Now it's Jeb Bush and the Chamber of Commerce against the rest of the party.

The Deseret News noted a few weeks back that the Democratic party has been riven over the past several years between its traditional support for teachers' unions and a growing commitment to accountability and parent empowerment.

But just as there are competing perspectives among Democrats on how best to reform education, Republicans find themselves torn between those who want tighter standards and heightened accountability, and those who argue that the resulting centralization violates federalism and stifles innovation.

Nelson notes a new Pew poll that finds that 61 percent of both wings of the GOP oppose the Common Core standards. That includes both the Tea Party wing and the more traditional party, which she calls the country club Republicans.

Common Core is the set of national curriculum standards sparked most notably by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and once adopted by 45 states, though a few have since rescinded.

Overall, 45 percent of Americans now support Common Core, Pew found, while 39 percent now oppose.

"This is a huge failure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The group spent much of the past year making a case for the standards from a business perspective," Nelson writes. "The chamber argued that high, uniform expectations in math and language arts will produce better workers and a stronger economy. They made slick videos. They published op-eds. Yet they failed to convince even their core constituency — business conservatives."

This reflects a large shift in GOP attitudes, The New York Times notes, since George W. Bush was able to gain broad support for what amounted to a federal takeover of education with No Child Left Behind in 2001.

"It underlines the ascendance of a brand of conservatism notably different from that of the most recent President Bush," The Times notes. "Less than 15 years after No Child Left Behind passed with just 34 House Republicans opposed to it, the conservative center of gravity is shifting toward a state-centric approach to education."

The most dramatic evidence of the shift is the sudden reversal of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who just weeks ago announced that he was withdrawing his state from the Common Core program, although he had long been a vocal proponent of the new standards.

Many observers read this as an finger in the wind, attempting to get ahead of the GOP base ahead on 2016 presidential primaries.

Shortly after making the switch, Jindal spoke at the Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Washington D.C., using broadly anti-Washington rhetoric on numerous fronts, CBS News reported, including the education front.

"The federal government has no role, no right and no place dictating standards in our local schools across these 50 states of the United States of America," Jindal said.

Both Jindal and Jeb Bush have been widely seen at possible presidential contenders in 2016.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

Must read:

Blue on blue: the Democrats' education civil war

Jindal faces steep climb to pull Louisiana out of Common Core

New York parents, teachers and kids protest Common Core tests

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