Those who have sought to defend the new Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) to create national standards for our schools have relied upon the appearance of unanimity in the adoption of the Standards to buttress their argument. These supporters often point out that “46 states have signed on” to the Standards. Of course the implication is that no supermajority of the states could be wrong (nothing to see here, move along). What the supporters don’t tell you, and often don’t know themselves, is how that unanimity was reached and how
truly fragile the coalition is at this point.
Capitalizing on the public dissatisfaction with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program and the tight nature of state budgets during the financial difficulties of 2009, the US Department of Education (USDE) was able to create a larger base of support among the states than the quality of the Standards warrants. The carrot-and-stick approach employed by the USDE gave states access to $4.35 billion in stimulus funds given out as Race to the Top (RTTT) grants when those funds were most needed.
The only requirement to apply was that the state had to demonstrate that they were making a substantial effort to move towards national standards in their curriculum. Of course the only program that met that standard at the time the states were applying for stimulus monies was Common Core (“You can have any color Model T you would like as long as it’s black”).