New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has done an about-face on the Common Core Standards he once endorsed.
The shift comes only one month before the state starts the controversial testing associated with the standards, which his administration is currently promoting, according to John Mooney of the NJ Spotlight. During a presentation at a GOP event in Iowa, the governor shared his doubts about his state’s involvement because of the connection between states’ adoption of the standards and federal funding.
“I have grave concerns about the way this has been done, especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things,” he said. “And that changes the entire nature of it, from what was initially supposed to be a voluntary type system and states could decide on their own to now having federal money tied to it in ways that really, really give me grave concerns.”
Christie believes that education needs to be a local issue. But in the case of Common Core, adopting the standards is encouraged, but not mandated under federal funding guidelines. In 2010, the governor agreed to adopt the standards as a gateway to federal Race to the Top funding.
The only change since then is that the governor is wooing a national, more conservative audience because of his anticipated run for the GOP presidential nomination. The state Assembly education committee held a hearing last week on a bill setting procedures for parents who want their children to opt out of the new exams, and another that would postpone the use of test results to measure teacher and school performance.
“The State Board [of Education] still stands by the Common Core,” said Mark Biedron, the board’s president. “The governor’s task force is looking at it and PARCC, and we will review their findings when they become available.”
In his comments during the Iowa GOP event, Christie said that his state was in the process of re-examining of the standards, and an appointed commission would have a report for him in six to eight weeks. Still, these sentiments are a departure from his comments in 2013.
“We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue,” Christie said at a 2013 conference. “And this is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the President than not.
Christie appears to be fond of saying that he is a guy who tells it like it is, but his calculated reversal on Common Core seems to be a reaction to the GOP’s feelings concerning the standards. Republicans, for the most part, do not want Washington telling states what to do about education. Tom Moran of the New Jersey Star-Ledger compares Christie in his commentary to a weasel and says his flip-flop is going to cost him some credibility. Christie, now that principles have been set aside, says Moran, can attack Jeb Bush who is sticking with the Common Core and is leading Christie in the polls. All politicians do this dance, says Moran, but now it is clear that Christie is just as calculating as the rest.
In an article for The Washington Post, Robert Costa writes that Christie was less bluster and bravado and more serious, earnest, and calm at the Republican event in Des Moines. Christie spoke to the kind of moderate, business-friendly Republican voters he hopes to win over if he is to compete in Iowa and receive the Republican presidential nomination.
“I’m not too blunt and too direct to be in Iowa or any place else in this country,” Christie assured the well-dressed Republicans, who paid $25 per ticket. “I know there are times you may see or read something that I’ve said and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot believe he said that out loud.’ ”
His more reserved pitch got mixed reviews, however, which is something of a conundrum for the governor. The powerful, self-assured, tough-guy image is a bit less attractive in the wake of New Jersey’s credit downgrades, the bridge scandal, and other missteps in Trenton.
Christie is now behind the 2016 pack of potential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are the first two states where the nominating process will begin. So, Gov. Christie reminded the Iowa Republicans of his record, which he says stacks up well against other Republican hopefuls, and touts his ability to negotiate with a Democratic legislature in a Democratic state.
Many attendees were drawn to the Christie who spoke about his vision in a forceful manner. His dramatic, take-no-prisoners attitude was discarded this time and replaced by a simple, spare, pared down persona. And, the listeners’ reception was just as lukewarm, except when the governor said that President Obama was:
“… a man in a dark room struggling up against the wall, looking for the light switch of leadership.”
When asked about his visit to Iowa before boarding his New Jersey bound flight, the governor said:
“I have no reluctance about being here,” Christie said, ducking into a waiting SUV. “I like Iowa a lot. I’ve always done very well here in terms of the reception I’ve gotten. We’ll see what happens.”