The Common Core and Gun Violence

Well the second debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney didn’t offer much in the way of a discussion on education.  That should be the case because their should be a minimal role, if anything, for the Federal government.  It was probably just cut out because of time and other considerations.

Both men discussed higher education linking it to the economy.  President Obama brought up K-12 education, oddly enough in his answer on gun control.

The question was directed at President Obama, “President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?”

I will share his entire answer for context:

You know, we’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment. And I believe in the Second Amendment. You know, we’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.

But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency where I’ve had to comfort families who’ve lost somebody, most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, actually probably about a month, I saw a mother who I had met at the beside of her son who had been shot in that theater.

And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer. And remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new. But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.

So my belief is that A, we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns.

And so what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity, that our schools are working, that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur. (emphasis mine)

Mitt Romney responded, again the entire answer for context…

Yeah, I — I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and — and taking guns away or — or making certain guns illegal. We of course don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.

What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things.

He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state, and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.

But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.

So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.

The — the greatest failure we’ve had with regards to gun violence, in some respects, is what is known as Fast and Furious, which was a program under this administration — and how it worked exactly, I think we don’t know precisely — but where thousands of automatic and — and AK-47-type weapons were — were given to people that ultimately gave them to — to drug lords. They used those weapons against — against their own citizens and killed Americans with them.

And this was a — this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration which I think the American people would like to understand fully. It’s been investigated to a degree, but the administration has — has carried out executive privilege to prevent all the information from coming out. I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence — thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords. (emphasis mine)

President Obama in a follow-up said:

But I think that one area we agree on is the importance of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we’ve got to make sure that they don’t get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms of ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.

And Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much. But I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We’re starting to see gains in math and science. When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting another chance — training them for the jobs that exist right now. And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers, and so we’re matching them up. Giving them access to higher education — as I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren’t able to get before.

So not only will the Common Core raise the standards it also will curb gun violence too?  AMAZING!  By the way any school success seen thus far can’t rightly be attributed to the Common Core
since it is just being implemented now in most states.

Education Has Come Into Sharp Focus in Presidential Race?

Opening two paragraphs of an op/ed at The Daily Caller by Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute says it all when looking at this presidential race through the lens of education policy:

Now that Mitt Romney has taken a stand for local and parental control of education and against federalized Common Core standards and tests, the issue of education has come into sharp focus in the presidential race.

The distinctions could become even clearer and education might even become a key issue, depending on how the Obama/Romney debates play out beginning Wednesday.

Key phrase – “depending on how the Obama/Romney debates play out.”  I wonder how much, if at all, education will be discussed tonight.  I’m on record not being a great fan of Romney’s education plan as it still exerts far too much federal control.  That said, his position still stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s position – especially in light of Governor Romney’s education remarks last week criticizing the Common Core.

Tonight will be interesting.

Obama and Romney Education Advisors to Debate

Edweek announced a debate taking place on October 15th.  Be sure to register to watch.  The information is below:

Exclusive Live Webcast Hosted by Education Week on

Teachers College, Columbia University, will host “Taking the Election to School: Making Education a Focus of the 2012 Election,” a debate between Jon Schnur, education adviser to President Barack Obama, and Phil Handy, education adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on Monday, October 15, at 7:00 pm Eastern. Teachers College President Susan H. Fuhrman will moderate the debate, which will take place at Teachers College’s Cowin Conference Center. The event will be webcast live by Education Week on


  • Jon Schnur is co-founder of America Achieves. Previously, Mr. Schnur co-founded and served as CEO of New Leaders for New Schools. He has also served as senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and co-chairman of the Obama for America Education Policy Committee.
  • Phil Handy is the higher education co-chair of Mr. Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Group. Mr. Handy is CEO of Strategic Industries; former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education; twice appointed by President George W. Bush as vice chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences; and a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

A panel discussion featuring education journalists and other experts will immediately follow the debate.

Register free to view the live webcast on

Mitt Romney on the Common Core

Mitt Romney was asked about the Common Core Standards at the Education Nation Summit yesterday.  Here is what he had to say when asked by Brian Williams, “what do you make of the Common Core?”

You know, I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states.

It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.

And I’m not wild about the federal government having some kind of agenda that it then compensates states to teach their kids. I’d rather let education and what is taught state by state be determined state by state, not by the federal government.

Later an audience member, who was a former New York City school teacher, asked him, “since so many states have already adopted (the Common Core), what resources would you give our states and our teachers to actually implement this successfully for our children?”  Romney responded:

Well, the states have adopted it and they’d one so on their own. And if they’ve adopted it freely and think it’s a good program, why, they should be able to implement it. We developed our own core in the state of Massachusetts. We implemented it on our own. And we’re able to outdrive our kids to be number one performing in the nation.

I don’t happen to believe that every time that there’s a good idea that comes along the federal government should now finance the implementation of that. We certainly didn’t. States have responsibility for the education of their children, their respective borders.

And I’m not looking for more federal spending. I mean, I know it is the nature of politics for someone in my position to promise more free stuff, to say we’re going to get more — we’ll send money, we’re going to do this, and people say, boy, he really cares about education. I really care about education.

I care so much about our kids that I don’t want to saddle them with trillions on trillions of dollars of debt when they come out of school. And so I’m just not willing to add more spending to get people happy with me.

I’m willing to say, say look, education is done at the state level, the federal government provides funding for special needs students and low-income students. But in terms of implementing the common core, if you’ve chosen it, congratulations, work on it and do it within the resources of your own state.

Romney, in my opinion, doesn’t go quite far enough when considering a Federal role in education (in that there should be no federal role), but he has been consistent in his answers on the Common Core.

GOP Divided on ObamaCore

It is so good for EdWeek to point out that yes there is dissention in the ranks.  Not all Republicans have bought into Governor Jeb Bush’s vision of education reform, as far as, national standards are concerned.

On the one hand, there’s Jeb Bush, a key Romney surrogate and the former GOP governor of Florida. He points out that a majority of GOP governors have embraced the standards. And then you’ve got Gayle Ruzeicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, and a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

“We call it Obama Core,” she told me in an interview on the convention floor Monday, an obvious play on “Obamacare,” GOP activists’ name for the president’s landmark health care law. “It’s been co-opted by the Obama administration. They’ve done everything they can to tie us into these standards. We’re Republicans and we’re letting Obama take over our education system.”

They talked to S.C. State Senator Mike Fair:

Still, some state lawmakers—including Sen. Mike Fair of South Carolina, an attendee here—are trying to get their states to dump the standards, or at least delay their implementation, arguing that they’ve got too much of a federal stamp.

Another Utah activist was also interviewed:

The Republican party platform embraces high standards, but is silent on the common core, to the disappointment of some GOP activists. Christel Swasey, a former high school English teacher from Utah, submitted anti-common core language to a portion of the RNC website soliciting ideas for the platform from voters around the country. Swasey’s language was never formally introduced in the platform committee, she told me. But it made its way to the inboxes of delegates at the convention who are skeptical of common core.

She’s disappointed that Mitt Romney hasn’t come out against the standards. His position, as outlined in a white paper, is that states should be free to work together to create rigorous standards. But he doesn’t mention common core by name.

Swasey found that disappointing. “I thought that was really strange,” she said, noting that the standards are going to have a “transformative” impact on K-12. Then, she said, she found out that some of Romney’s campaign surrogates (including Bush) support the standards. “There’s a real divide in the Republican party over common core,” she said.

Branstad Looks to Place His Chips on Centralization of Education

Do you remember when Republicans used to be considered the party of local control?  I don’t think they can accurately be portrayed that way anymore, at least not when you look at the leadership within the party.  There has been a bipartisan assault at the federal level by former President George W. Bush with No Child Left Behind and President Barack Obama with Race to the Top, the Common Core State Standards, dictating school lunch menus and portions and the No Child Left Behind waivers.  Unfortunately Mitt Romney doesn’t look like he’s going to be much better especially since he’s been getting his education policy advise from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who has been a Republican cheerleader of the Common Core State Standards.

States have, by and large, allowed this to happen.

At the state level it isn’t much better.  Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s track record on local control has been abysmal, and this upcoming legislative session look for more of the same.  He’s going to keep trying to push through the changes that didn’t get passed, and add teacher pay on top of that wish list.

For the record, I’m in favor of merit-based pay, I think the step and level pay system does not make sense, and it is a system that those of us who work in the private sector never see.  That said, I also understand how you determine a teacher’s “merit” will be tricky, complicated, and controversial.  What I don’t agree with is it being determined at the state level because of how complicated it will be.  There can’t be any one size fits all pay system model for every school district in Iowa.  When a couple of my colleagues and I graded Governor Branstad’s initial education blueprint in November of 2011 we wrote:

Although everyone agrees that all education boils down to the teacher’s ability to connect with and educate kids, we have reservations about a one-size-fits-all pay scale. We are concerned that it will further burden the state budget.We believe it further erodes local control because it allows for no variance or flexibility regardless of differences in cost of living between urban and rural settings. It also lacks evidence of efficacy. We cannot find compelling evidence that teacher pay, in and of itself, increases a single child’s test scores or overall academic achievement. Simply taking more money from taxpayers to pay teachers more without knowing that other reforms and increased choice will follow is an irresponsible diversion of public funds.

They tabled their four tier teacher pay plan before the legislative session, but plan to pick it up in some form even though we don’t know what it will look like.  Back in November, Jason Glass, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, said “We absolutely are not moving away from the principles that are behind that four-tier salary structure, but we also recognize that it’s a big change from a fiscal standpoint.  We think this is a conversation we need to engage in when we’re at the beginning of a two-year budget cycle, so we have all the chips to play with.”

This coming legislative session will be the beginning of a two year budget cycle and they’ll have “all the chips to play with.”  Expect them to go all in for more centralization in education.

And Mitt Romney’s Education Plan Receives a D

By our own Shane Vander Hart

While there are some encouraging aspects to Governor Romney’s plan and I can point to specific improvements over what we currently see in the Obama administration.  The complaint that Obama has expanded federal education bureaucracy, (pg. 13) is countered with slightly less federal bureaucracy.  Given that the principles of federalism are still being ignored, the school choice measures are anemic and there is an over emphasis/reliance on standardized testing I have to give Governor Romney’s K-12 plan a D.  His position on teachers unions, reducing the amount of federal regulations with teacher certification, consolidating teach quality programs from NCLB, and focusing on choice spared this plan from receiving a failing grade.  Governor Romney’s involvement with the common core state standards is uncertain based on his ties with its supporters and his emphasis on standards.  I do hope we see a Romney administration back away from promoting the common core, but at this point I see little that would make me optimistic.

Read the whole thing.

Mitt Romney Flip Flops on Education at New Hampshire Town Hall

imageA new friend of mine, Ann Marie Banfield of Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire, during a town hall meeting in Manchester, NH, a little over a week ago was able to ask former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) his position on national education standards and the extending reach of the federal government into education. She said that he is uniquely equipped to address that having been the Governor of a state that is looked to as a model for education reform.

You can watch her question and his answer here. He basically calls for local control in education and rejected the notion of a having a national standards.

His answer in this town hall at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester is spot on. However, in an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto back in March 2010, Governor Romney said that the Federal government should be involved in “overseeing our schools or at least a portion of our schools.”

So which is it?