At His Own Peril, Jeb! Spurns Conservatives on Education and Immigration


Written by William Sullivan

We all know the famous Republican Jeb! (as his campaign seems eager to avoid use of his last name and believes an exclamation point will get people excited about him, I’ll indulge that wish) who is now an immediate heavyweight in the Republican primary after his long-expected announcement for president.

But don’t let the R that often makes its way in front of his name fool you.  Jeb! loves lots of things that Democrats and big government progressives love.

Jeb! loves Common Core, for example.  To be fair, a number of Republican heavies once advocated Common Core in its inception, only to later reject it when a groundswell of opposition arose — including Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Mike Huckabee.  The latter have all reversed course on Common Core due to largely (but not solely) conservative backlash.  Jeb! on the other hand, stands alone among the Republican field in his estimation that Common Core is about upholding sensibly applied state standards, and his aides suggest that since “[s]tates had to opt in, and they can opt out.”

George Will explains the danger with Common Core that Jeb! refuses to see:

It’s not about the context of the standards, which would be objectionable even if written by Aristotle and refined by Shakespeare.  Rather, the point is that, unless stopped now, the federal government will not stop short of finding Common Core a pretext for becoming a national school board.

Common Core advocates will argue that any such objections to Common Core standards are the ravings of conservative lunatics, of course.  Take this example from the website of the Common Core State Standard Initiative’s “Myths vs. Facts” page:

The federal government played no role in the development of the Common Core.  State adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory.   States began the work to create clear, consistent standards before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided funding for the Race the Top grant program.

Their point is, since it began as a coalition of states seeking to streamline standards amongst states, how can it be federal intrusion in local education?  (It seems pertinent to note that the left argues frequently, and has for decades, that federal intrusion in local education is necessary, so its half-hearted defenses of local administration for education should be suspect before any other facts are even observed.)

But here’s how it’s federal intrusion, in the clearest of terms.  The federal government has supported Common Core efforts with its “Race to the Top” initiative, which provides billions in taxpayer dollars to states that are, according to the Department of Education’s website, “leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform.”  What money goes to which states is ultimately decided upon by a “Top Assessment Technical Review Process” overseen by the Department of Education, which “provided funding to two consortia of states, The Partnership of Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced).”  So even if states initially sought to streamline educational standards in accordance with some equally-agreed-upon consensus by the states, a federal government entity has ultimately garnered power through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and with the Obama administration overseeing it, has distributed federal grants in accordance to an arbitrary review process and through a tribunal of its own choosing.

In no believable reality could it be construed that the federal government has not interjected its influence, through selectively awarded money, in educational standards at state and local levels.  So George Will is absolutely right, and having (hopefully) seen the error in their optimism, so are the former supporters of Common Core who have reversed their positions on the matter.

Here’s a fact that few on the left may care to know: Americans broadly prefer local governance to federal oversight when it comes to education.  According to a Gallup poll in August 2014, a full 84 percent of Americans polled prefer state or local jurisdictions having the greatest influence in education, as compared to a dismal 15 percent which believe the greatest influence should be imposed by the federal government.

But none of this is compelling evidence to Jeb! (Not my exclamation, again, it’s just how he’s chosen to identify himself).  Jeb! fights, as CNN rightfully describes it, a “lonely battle defending Common Core.”  And if he maintains his current position, that’s likely what he’ll continue to fight.

You may not like Common Core, but again, Jeb! seems to love it beyond all reason.  Here’s another thing you may not like that Jeb! loves.

Amnesty for illegal aliens.

Progressives love to point out that a “remarkably broad” swathe of Americans support a path to citizenship for illegal aliens.  And, well, that’s true.  “More than 60 percent of Americans back a path to citizenship for immigrants living here illegally,” according to a Politico report in June, 2014.

But that statistic alone is isn’t as powerful as the Democrats and the progressive left would like to have you believe, and it can easily be argued that it’s incredibly misleading.  For example, 83 percent of American adults support tightening security at the U.S. borders, according to Gallup’s ongoing tracking of public opinion on immigration.  84 percent of American adults support requiring businesses to check the immigration status of workers they hire.

Those polling numbers bode rather badly for the fast-track amnesty advocates of the Democratic Party who go to all that effort suggesting that border security and protection of Americans’ jobs takes a backseat to a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens, yes?  Well, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of Americans agree with conservative positions in these two instances, the left has hope.  According to the same Gallup report, if illegal immigrants meet certain requirements over an undefined period of time, and if they pay back-taxes and an undefined penalty, and if they pass a criminal background check, and if they learn English in an attempt to assimilate to American society, then 88 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship.

That is to say, regarding a highly partisan issue, Republicans have clearly defined and attainable goals that are extremely popular with the masses.  On the other hand, if the stars align in just the right kind of unspoken orientation where illegal immigrants are made to wait an unspecified time, pay an unspecified penalty, while made to pass a criminal background check and committing to learn English in assimilation to American society, progressives demanding amnesty at all costs will maybe, just maybe, hold equal or stronger support than the conservative position demanding border security first.  Jeb! is betting that these highly fractured elements can all fall into place, while remaining convinced that he can “persuade” conservatives to embrace an amnesty position.

Yes, Jeb! loves Common Core and amnesty at all costs.  But that’s mostly because he doesn’t align at all with the conservative base which will make or break his potential presidential run, and because he and his campaign don’t have a finger anywhere near the American pulse on these issues.


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