Heartland Sanity

Ohio’s Kasich Stands Up to the Right on Common Core

The Ohio governor just took a bold stand against Tea Party hysteria about education standards. Call him the anti-Jindal.

01.30.15 10:45 AM ET

This past Sunday, Ohio Governor John Kasich did something surprising and important.

On Fox News, a mecca of misinformation about the Common Core academic standards, Governor Kasich expressed strong support for the thoughtfully developed standards for what students need to know and be able to do at each grade level in English Language Arts and math to ensure they’re prepared for college or career. “The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals. In my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children,” Kasich said.

Given the number of Republican politicians throwing the Common Core and students under the school bus to pander to the Tea Party, Kasich’s plain spoken support of the Common Core was impressive enough. 

But Kasich, who is often discussed as a possible Republican presidential aspirant, went further, lambasting fellow Republicans for turning on the Common Core learned standards for purely political reasons. “I’ve asked the Republican governors who have complained about this to tell me where I’m wrong,” Kasich said. “And guess what? Silence.”

Kasich went on to say that “part of the problem is today politicians are running to try and to get votes… We run out here trying to solve problems. And we have a problem with our education standards and our children’s ability to compete in the world…I don’t know how anybody can disagree with that unless you’re running for something.”

Other than a short National Review piece, there’s been no blowback thus far from conservatives on Kasich’s comments. And in Ohio, the Common Core standards were adopted in 2010 and have been implemented in classrooms statewide with strong receptivity from teachers and a majority of the GOP-controlled legislature continues to support the Common Core leading up to the legislative session.

Kasich’s common-sense stance on the Common Core state standards stands in stark contrast to the cynical Common Core flip-flopping of Republican Governors like Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. 

From 2010, when the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt the Common Core standards with his blessing, until well into 2014, Governor Jindal supported the Common Core for the same practical reasons Kasich supports them: they will help more students succeed academically and in life. 

But then, when it became clear that there were political points to be scored with presidential primary voters by attacking Common Core, Jindal changed his position, manufacturing a fictional federal conspiracy to nationalize curriculum as his rationale.

It would be one thing if Jindal was merely telling untruths about the Common Core to boost his approval ratings on the far right. But Jindal didn’t stop there. He supported efforts to revoke the standards through legislation; then he unilaterally and erroneously tried to pull Louisiana state out of the Common Core through executive order at the beginning of the school year; then he pushed to repeal or delay it with a lawsuit; and then he used his administrative authorities to approve contracts to try to throw a monkey wrench in the state’s efforts to implement an aligned assessment.

Fortunately, key Louisiana legislative leaders, State Superintendent John White (whom, ironically, Jindal recruited to come to Louisiana), a majority of members of the State Board of Education (including Jindal appointees who resisted his pressure for them to resign), advocacy groups, business leaders, parents, and educators have successfully advocated to to prevent one of the nation’s most powerful Governors from throwing out the higher learning standards and better assessment. Additionally, his attempts to stop the progress through lawsuits have failed. 

While the fight to protect the Common Core in Louisiana continues, teachers statewide in Louisiana are now teaching and students across Louisiana are now learning based on improved standards. And if the experience of early adopter Kentucky is instructive—and it should be—the result will be improvements in student achievement, graduation rates, and college readiness over time. 

But sadly, results aren’t primary for blindly ambitious politicians like Jindal. Appealing to Tea Party voters in Republican primaries is. That’s why Kasich’s decision to stand up for the Common Core and against deception and opportunism at the expense of children was both impressive and important.

Here’s hoping that other Republican presidential hopefuls see the appeal of Kasich’s position and follow suit.