Mitch Daniels is a big reason my family moved to Indiana. We wanted to raise our family in the Midwest, in some state less indebted and regulated than the others, because we were going to have to pay for other people’s debt, and we wanted to assume as little of other people’s profligacy as possible. Daniels’ reputation for caring about these crucial but mundane-sounding topics made us look seriously at Indiana back when he was governor and a new job conducted remotely meant we could take our tax and social contributions anywhere in the country.
But Daniels isn’t perfect. The RealClearPolitics video podcast Changing Lanes recently released an interview with him, where he parrots false talking points in support of Common Core, which entered Indiana under his watch and still hasn’t left despite heroic efforts to defenestrate it from same citizens who gave Daniels the platform to be considered a presidential contender before he declined that opportunity.
The biggest falsehood Daniels perpetuates here is this: “[Common Core] began, not as a project of Washington, but as a project of governors and states, so at the outset it seemed to me like a worthy endeavor…especially when it was gonna be controlled by the states and governors. I think the wrong turn they took was when the U.S. government decided to co-opt the process and began conditioning some of its education funding dollars on acceptance of the Common Core.”
The truth is, governors and states did not create Common Core. Private trade organizations did. There is no legal avenue for governors to get together and make national policy. Any major policies governors support should become law through elected state legislatures. This is how a republic works. Governors cannot lawfully change law through executive action any more than President Obama can. In almost no case did Common Core become law through a bill that any legislature duly passed. And in the vast majority of cases, no institution comprised of elected officials approved Common Core.
Common Core’s Owners Invited the Obama Administration to Shove It Down Everyone’s Throats
The trade organizations that created Common Core in meetings closed to the public and conducted by unelected people chosen through unknown processes also specifically requested federal involvement from the outset. So the Obama administration did not “co-opt the process.” It had an open invitation to get involved, which it gleefully accepted. Federal involvement was part and parcel of Common Core from the very beginning.
Daniels should know this: Like all the other governors who participated in Common Core, he signed several documents that requested federal involvement. See p. 196 in Indiana’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant—that’s the one Daniels complains about in the above video as representing the federal government “co-opting” Common Core. It seems that, back in 2009, Daniels was complicit in the federal “takeover” of Common Core. His signature sits directly below a paragraph that explicitly says the Obama administration should “incentivize” states to adopt Common Core using Race to the Top grants and other measures.
In this very same document, by the way, Daniels and other state officials commit Indiana to replacing its world-class academic standards with Common Core approximately two months before even a draft of Common Core was available and five months before its final version published. In other words, the Obama administration told Indiana they had to pass Common Core to find out what was in it, and Daniels dutifully complied.
Methinks Daniels’ mild backtrack in the RealClearPolitics video—”a camel’s nose for a national curriculum, to the extent that’s a real risk, I agree with those who worry about it”—nowhere near presents the mea culpa Daniels owes Hoosiers. Neither can he truthfully pretend Obama somehow distorted Common Core’s intent. Obama merely fulfilled it, and Daniels helped him.
Daniels also signed a contract to secure federal involvement in Common Core through federally funded national tests. See pages 629 through 652 of the 1,609-page application for these federal funds, which Daniels signed one week after the 640-page Common Core was published. Here’s his signature inside that application, on page 647:
It is not clear that any of this is legal. In fact, a federal judge in Missouri recently ruled that this same contract between states and the federal government for the other Common Core testing group represents an unconstitutional interstate compact. The U.S. Constitution says no states can make agreements with each other outside Congress except in emergencies.
There’s more. For one, Daniels says he supported Common Core because “I very much believe we need a common yardstick. I always wanted to know in my last job [as governor] how Indiana students were doing compared to elsewhere,” not just across states, but also across the world. Then, just a few minutes later, he notes: “It’s not hard to find out how students in State A versus state B do in mathematics.” That’s right. Comparing students across state or international lines has never required Common Core. The Nation’s Report Card has been comparing U.S. kids in every state using the same benchmarks for about 25 years now, and Common Core has no international component.
So maybe Daniels has decided to do a memory wipe about having further subordinated Indiana’s kids to the federal government for no good reason. But the reasons he’s giving now contradict his own signatures.