This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Want to boil the blood of some Pennsylvania voters? Utter four words: "Common Core State Standards."
For those leery of all things federal, all things Obama, the push to align academic expectations on a consistent, nationwide basis causes heart rates to rise exponentially.
This week, Republicans in the Pennsylvania House are accusing Gov. Corbett, also a Republican, of preying on those fears in a political move during election season that they say undercuts sound policy.
On Monday, Corbett called for the state Board of Education to hold an "immediate, statewide" public review of state education standards in language arts and math, worrying that they too closely ally with Common Core.
"Common Core has become nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system," Corbett said in an official statement. "It is nothing more than Obamacare for education."
Yet, soon after Corbett’s official release, two Republican state representatives – Seth Grove of York and Ryan Aument of Lancaster – blasted the governor’s logic in a release of their own.
"It just doesn’t make sense," said Grove in a telephone interview. "Why would the governor do a review of his own standards?"
Here a lesson in recent history is needed:
In July 2010, during Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial administration, the state Board of Education adopted the federal government’s prescription for Common Core State Standards.
When Rendell left office in 2011, newly elected Gov. Corbett worked with the Republican-held state legislature to amend those standards in a way that ensured greater student privacy and guaranteed local control over curriculum decisions.
In 2013, those changes were unanimously enacted in House Resolution 338.
"We’ve already done the work on this," said Grove. "Revisiting what has already been revisited twice a year ago makes absolutely no policy sense."
As it stands, local school districts have the freedom to develop whatever coursework they wish; neither the state nor federal government has the power to mandate specific reading lists; and students do not take national tests.
‘Pa. already out of Common Core’
As House leadership spokesman Steven Miskin put it, "For all intents and purposes, Pennsylvania is already out of Common Core."
On Tuesday, at an event outside Philadelphia, Corbett further explained his rationale.