Republican Sen. David Vitter, currently running for governor of Louisiana, has made waves by turning against the Common Core standards he defended just months ago.
“After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don’t believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in and success I’m committed to if we stay in Common Core,” Vitter said in an email to supporters of his gubernatorial run.
Vitter cited several reasons for his change of heart. Above all, he said Louisiana’s citizens “legitimately fear” the potential for Common Core, which began as a collaborative initiative among several dozen states, to transform into a “federal government takeover of education under President Obama and his far-left allies.” Vitter also said he was influenced by the difficulties teachers have had in implementing the standards, and that he thought “an entrenched few” were using the fight over the standards to undermine accountability measures for teachers.
Vitter’s shift comes just a few months after an interview on C-SPAN in which he reaffirmed his support for the controversial multistate standards. At the time, Vitter minimized the threat of a federal education takeover by saying that, if he were elected governor, he would be able to protect the state’s autonomy without having to abandon the Core. Now, however, he says that if elected he would spearhead a state commission to create new, Louisana-specific standards.
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Political considerations potentially played a roll in Vitter’s decision. Common Core has become a major issue for grassroots activists on the right, and Vitter’s announcement makes him the only announced 2015 candidate to oppose it. By rejecting the Core, Vitter both picks up new supporters and also reduces the odds of an upstart opponent challenging him from the right.
Vitter’s shift won’t make everybody happy, though. The state’s business leaders have been supporters of Common Core, arguing that the standards are necessary to make sure the state’s high school graduates are able to compete with those in other states.
Vitter’s defection is the second major one to rock Louisiana politics. Current governor Bobby Jindal was also a supporter of Common Core as recently as 2013, before shifting violently against the standards last spring. Frustrated with his legislature’s failure to repeal Common Core, Jindal attempted to halt the standards through a series of executive order. However, state education secretary John White and the Louisiana school board, several of them Republicans appointed by Jindal, defied him, insisting that his orders were illegal. The clash has turned into no fewer than three different lawsuits, with a group of legislator suing the school board, the school board suing Jindal, and Jindal suing the federal government.
When Jindal began the political row last summer, Vitter criticized him for being “very disruptive” with his actions. Now, should Vitter be elected with Common Core still in place, the disruption appears poised to continue.
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