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Mr. “Rebrand,” Mike Huckabee, Now Common Core “Killer”

August 31, 2015

On Monday, August 31, 2015, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee sent the following anti-Common Core appeal in an email to potential Republican supporters:

Sign my petition if you agree we must KILL Common Core and ABOLISH the Department of Education. Education is a family function – not a federal function. Period!

Across the country, the federal government has hijacked our education system by ramming Common Core down the throats of local governments. Washington bureaucrats are holding classrooms and kids hostage and threatening to punish those who reject their one-sized-fits-all big government mandates. 
This radical, recklessness must end! We must shift power back to state and local governments. In my ten years as governor, I fought for parents, students and local control.
As President I will kill Common Core and abolish the Department of Education.
Add your name next to mine if you agree we must kill Common Core and abolish the Department of Education. 
Let’s be clear: Washington bureaucrats and big-government central planners are out-of-control. Education decisions are best made by the most local government — Moms and Dads.
If you agree,  sign my petition to kill Common Core and abolish the Department of Education. 

Mike Huckabee

Paid for by Mike Huckabee for President

Mike Huckabee  Mike Huckabee

Huckabee is one of many Republican politicians who wants to be the next president, and he is one of many whose allegiance to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) obviously comes second to his political career. (See here where another Republican CCSS backpedaler, Jeb Bush, tries to compare the obviousness  “low standards” to pornography.)

Interestingly, in January 2015, Huckabee pretends that CCSS somehow “became” problematic because of some federal involvement that hovered all around it in some Huckabee-excusing “later.” As Brietbart’s Susan Berry reports:

At the Iowa Freedom Summit, Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) let Republican voters know that the Common Core standards are a huge electoral issue for the 2016 presidential election – and that he is anxious they will remember his support for the controversial education reform initiative.

“Folks, what Common Core may have originally been was a governor-controlled states initiative to keep the fickle federal fingers of fate off of education,” Huckabee said. “It has morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.”

“[A]nybody who tells you that I support Common Core is either incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be, or is just being plain dishonest because they really want to help somebody else, and not me, and that’s okay” he added.

However, at the National Governors Association (NGA) symposium in June 2009, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made clear his intention to tie Race to the Top (RTTT) money to those “common standards and assessments.” In addition, the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) that 46 governors signed outlined that active federal role connected to CCSS:

Federal Role. The parties support a state-led effort and not a federal effort to develop a common core of state standards; there is, however, an appropriate federal role in supporting this state-led effort. In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, and other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research.

Thus, those “federal fingers” Huckabee complained about in January 2015 were clearly detailed in the CCSS MOU that Arkansas agreed to in 2009 under Governor Mike Beebe. (See the Arkansas CCSS MOU on pages 191-193 of this Arkansas RTTT appendix 2, and see the Jun 04, 2009, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article announcing the signing of Arkansas’ CCSS MOU on pages 74-75 of this Arkansas RTTT appendix.)

In December 2013, Education Week reporter Andrew Ujifusa wrote of Huckabee’s chameleon commitment to CCSS:

One of the more prominent conservative defenders of the Common Core State Standards has been former Arkansas governor and one-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Just to use one example, Huckabee hosted former Michigan governor John Engler on his radio show May 1 to discuss why he believed the common core is important for the nation’s schools—Engler is now president of the Business Roundtable, a big supporter of the standards. Huckabee said on the show that conservatives in particular should be fans of the standards, not opponents. 

…[Next, consider] Huckabee’s monologue about common core that aired on his Fox News show Dec. 8 [2013].

Essentially, Huckabee is arguing that when common core started out as a state-led initiative to boost K-12 content standards, it was a great idea. But like barnacles latching onto a ship, the former governor says he doesn’t like how the standards are actually being implemented in schools and districts, and that he doesn’t like some of the “agenda-driven” curriculum….

“It’s been hijacked,” Huckabee tells his audience, referring to common core, “and I don’t support the hijackers or the destination. But I don’t blame the airplane for getting hijacked.”

He calls for the term “common core” to disappear from the education policy lexicon, but that states shouldn’t back away from high education standards: “Common core is dead, but common sense should not be.”

Ujifusa then points to Huckabee’s remarks one month prior, in November 2013, to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of two organizations that formally own CCSS (the other is NGA):

Now, what did Huckabee tell a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers last month? Not quite the same thing. He was consistent on one point: In both his speech to the chiefs and on his Fox News program, he expressed concern that the name of the standards itself is now politically toxic. But his line to the chiefs on common core was, “Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat.” That’s different than “Common core is dead,” something he certainly did not tell the state education chiefs—remember, CCSSO, along with the National Governors Association, oversaw the development of the standards.

Ujifusa notes that Huckabee expressed no concern about implementation or curriculum to CCSSO.

Ujifusa also reported on the November 2013 CCSSO meeting alluded to above, and on how keynote speaker Huckabee advised that now-well-known “rebrand”:

Common core, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, dominated the CCSSO policy meeting last week. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, when thinking about how the public at large is perceiving the standards, seemed to be of two minds.

On the one hand, Duncan seemed to blame some of the negative reaction to the standards on a specific group of privileged parents, in remarks that have gotten a lot of attention from the press: “It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from white suburban moms who all of the sudden my child is not as brilliant as I thought they were and their school not as good … that can be a punch in the gut.”

At the same time, he also said that those trying to communicate to parents about the importance of the standards have failed as well in some respects when he told the chiefs, “I don’t think we’ve done enough to … convince parents that the competition is not next door or the next town over, it’s in India or China.”

The keynote speaker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also focused on the standards during his remarks. After pointing out that there was “nothing ideological” about the history of the standards’ development, he urged the state chiefs, he said that “the term ‘common core’ has become toxic” and that the states, rather than abandoning it, should change how they present it to the public, and even consider changing what they call it.

“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” Huckabee told the chiefs.

Rebrand, refocus, don’t retreat… unless you decide to run for president and realize politically created and marketed CCSS could blow your White House opportunity.  In that case, send an email in August 2015 stating that you want folks to sign your petition to “KILL Common Core.”

Public education policy to the likes of Huckabee is little more than a political football. Run with it when convenient; toss it away when it is not. It was so when governors signed on before CCSS in 2009 for both CCSS development and future adoption, and it is so as America approaches the next presidential election.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.

both books



  1. Aw-Shuckabee and his ilk are ever afflicted with conversion experiences and maybe one day they’ll see the hand in the corporate puppet our governments, state and federal, have become but for now they are too blinded by their worship of the golden calf to see straight.

  2. Lynn permalink

    I find this article unfair. Although I never liked common core and the testing that went with it, many in the school system were going along with it. Very few clearly saw how big a problem this grand social experiment of NCLB, CCSS, RTTT with extreme testing was to become. With hindsight we can now fault everybody involved. We all need to learn from the mistakes made. Faulting Huckabee as he has made this evolution in his thinking about CCSS seems shortsighted. Let’s welcome those who are waking up to the problems created and work together to end this era of extreme testing.

    • Huckabee wanted to “rebrand” CC to sell it even though he had just publicly expressed dissatisfaction with it. That’s not waking up. That’s manipulation.

    • If he wanted to rebrand it just a month ago when speaking to the CCSSO, before killing it now…well that’s some very swift evolution…to a typical politician.

    • Well said.

  3. Mary sauerbrey permalink

    Common core like new math of 1960’s will fall apart….every new reform throws out what has always worked…traditional curriculum is proven. Lower achievement levels for our children is related to reform movements and the soLution always goes with a return to the basics! Common sense will prevail for our children if parents keep demanding better!

  4. “Public education policy to the likes of Huckabee is little more than a political football. Run with it when convenient; toss it away when it is not.” <<< Isn't that the case with all public policy? The "political theatre" is valid, no?

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