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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll July 16, 2017

No progress on Trump's promise to kill Common Core

As a candidate, President Donald Trump demonstrated his Republican bona fides by promising to get rid of Common Core educational standards.

But halfway through his first year, the Trump administration hasn't made much progress toward this goal. Thirty-nine states still use Common Core or a revised version of the standards as of June 12, 2017, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In April, Trump ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to conduct a review of the federal government's education-related regulations to assess whether they unlawfully interfere with state and local decision-making.

The review asks DeVos to modify or kill any regulations that the department considers problematic, but experts told us that this won't necessarily chip away at Common Core.

"The review in and of itself doesn't actually do anything," said Kelly McManus, government affairs director at the Education Trust, an advocacy organization. "The department has almost a year to put together a report on this and at that point we will see what they find and then what they do about it."

Individual states choose whether to adopt Common Core standards for their schools, and the federal government actually doesn't have control over that decision. So there's not much Trump can actually do.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Barack Obama signed in 2015, bars the education secretary from incentivizing states to adopt any particular standards. So DeVos can't force states to adopt or reject Common Core or any other educational parameters, said Abigail Swisher, program associate with the Education Policy program at New America, a think tank.

Further, Trump's April executive order actually said that his administration's policy is to "protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum" and "program of instruction."

We'll see what happens after the Trump administration finishes its review. But until then, we rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

White House, "Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education," April 26, 2017

White House, "On-the-Record Press Call on the Education Federalism Executive Order," April 26, 2017

New York Times, "Trump Orders Review of Education Policies to Strengthen Local Control," April 26, 2017

National Conference of State Legislatures, "Common Core Status Map," June 12, 2017

Email interview, New America program associate Abigail Swisher, June 13, 2017

Email interview, Education Trust government affairs director Kelly McManus, June 12, 2017

Email statement, DeVos spokeswoman Liz Hill, July 14, 2017

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin January 19, 2017

Lack of federal authority will make this tough

Donald Trump railed against the nation's education system during his presidential campaign, expressing in no small measure his distaste for Common Core.

During a March 3, 2016, debate in Detroit, Trump said he'd cut government waste, fraud and abuse in part by paring down government agencies, starting with the Education Department.

"We're cutting Common Core. We're getting rid of Common Core. We're bringing education locally," Trump told moderator Chris Wallace.


The Common Core State Standards are a voluntary set of benchmarks for English and math created by state education departments and private, nonprofit groups. The idea was to create a common set of educational goals across the states to prepare kids for college in a comparable way.

State education officials in the Council of Chief State School Officers first discussed the idea in 2007. Two years later, the council and the National Governors Association used input from teachers, parents and education experts to create Common Core.

The final guidelines were released in 2010, and states could decide to implement them or not. Currently 42 states use the standards. While adoption was largely bipartisan, support is not uniform: Minnesota only chose to use the English standards, for example. South Carolina, Indiana and Oklahoma initially agreed to use Common Core but have since withdrawn.


Opposition to Common Core is a key issue among many Republican voters, who see them as an attempt by the federal government to impose standards in what they feel should be a local decisions.

Critics say Washington unfairly tried to tie federal funding to adopting Common Core when one of President Barack Obama's grant programs awarded points for having defined state standards (although not specifically the Common Core standards).

In the 2016 presidential race, several GOP candidates vilified the standards, accusing the federal government of overreach in trying to unify school boards under the U.S. Education Department.

Trump attacked the standards in debates, calling it "education through Washington, D.C." in a Miami debate, a statement we rated False.

Results of the new standards are debatable, but some research shows Common Core doesn't entirely meet the needs of college-bound students, and isn't being implemented uniformly.


It will be difficult for Trump to deliver on a promise to get rid of Common Core and make education policy a local decision, because that's already a local decision.

"Whether a state uses the Common Core State Standards is and always has been a decision in the hands of states," Council of Chief State School Officers spokeswoman Olympia Meola said.

Implementation is done at the district and school level. States are allowed to build upon those standards, but participation in the nationwide consortium is voluntary.

Because it's not a federal program, there is nothing for Trump to repeal, and the Education Department is forbidden by law to tell states what to do.

Obama in 2015 signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which specifically said the secretary of education "shall not attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards."

Theoretically, any state government could choose to drop the standards. The issue then becomes what states do after that.


It would be expensive and time-consuming to drop the Common Core standards, and the cost would depend on the state.

Because states make education decisions and not the federal government, states would bear the financial burden to make those changes.

A state would have to develop new standards, revamp its curricula and materials, create new annual state assessments, and pay for implementation and training for teachers.


There's a chance that every state could decide to drop Common Core entirely, but it's not likely.

Despite some concern over multi-state standardized tests, many states are still committed to the consortium. And even if a state leaves the compact, that doesn't mean the tenets of Common Core automatically disappear.

As governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence oversaw the Hoosier State's withdrawal from Common Core after the state was one of the first to adopt it.

The state replaced it with its own benchmarks, which some detractors said was a "warmed-over version of Common Core's standards."

Trump has nominated Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary. The businesswoman is an outspoken opponent of Common Core, but again, there's little she can do directly.

"While neither Trump nor DeVos have any clear legal avenue to mandate or coerce states into replacing their academic standards, they do have the power of the bully pulpit at their disposal," said Abigail Swisher, an analyst at the New America Foundation's Education Policy Program. "Ultimately, though, the bully pulpit alone can only influence local decisions so much."

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