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Dan Rutherford Backs Tea Party Opposition to Education Reform

Dan Rutherford Backs Tea Party Opposition to Education Reform

Treasurer Dan Rutherford

Treasurer Dan Rutherford

(Chicago) – Insider: Last Friday, subscribers to The Insider e-newsletter learned first that Treasurer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford turned sharply to the right last week when he embraced the Tea Party’s latest fear mongering fad – the new national Common Core Standards for education.

In a little noticed interview with Bloomington WJBC radio last Tuesday, Rutherford, who is running in the Republican primary as a “moderate”, came out against Common Core and – in Tea Party-like style – mangled the basic facts about the initiative.

“I think that our local school districts, and particularly our state, Board of Education, is better versed at determining how and what we should look at here in Illinois rather than our friends in Washington, D.C. mandating to us,” Rutherford said.

There is no federal mandate and no national curriculum – except in the paranoid imagination that governs the GOP Tea Party fringe.

In fact, Common Core Standards were written under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The effort began in 2007 to overcome the weaknesses of the No Child Left Behind Act and was adopted by the National Governors in 2009. Illinois is slated to join 45 other states and the District of Columbia to implement the standards this fall.

Still, Rutherford insisted, “Are there some things that come out of the federal government that maybe we should look at and are good and helpful for us?” Rutherford said. “But, when you start to federally mandate certain types of standards for Nevada and Illinois or any other state…”

Clearly, Rutherford either failed to do his homework or is being deliberately misleading . The National Governors Association – the association to which Rutherford would like to belong – is the primary driver of Common Core.

Solid conservative establishment figures, such as William Bennett, President Ronald Reagan‘s Education Secretary, Mike Huckabee, the ex-governor of Arkansas, Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, for example, are defenders of the initiative. Conservative think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute and the Fordham Institute have written white papers defending Common Core.


Common Core has neither mandated textbooks schools nor prescribed reading lists, with the exception of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Oh, and some Shakespeare. Traditional phonics, times tables, and geometry formulas for areas and volumes are stressed. It aims for equally high academic standards and achievement throughout the U.S.A.

Radical stuff, huh?

Another key reason cited by its backers to support Common Core Standards is the simple fact that families move out of state and children lose their academic place in line. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 13 percent of children under 18 move each year. For military families the number is higher. Falling behind for students can be academically fatal.

The opponents?

Glenn Beck for starters.

Beck has railed against Common Core, claiming “this insidious menace to our children and to our families” and students would be “indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology.” Beck ally Michelle Malkin has said the standards are “about top-down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies.” And the Tea Party’s corporate sponsor, FreedomWorks, is on the bandwagon, attempting to stir opposition in the states.

And GOP opposition in Illinois to Common Core has extended beyond Rutherford.

On August 12, State Reps. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and State Rep. Sandy Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) filed House Resolution 543 that “urges the State Board of Education to delay the implementation of the new Common Core Standards…”

Kay is not a surprise. But Pihos is. Pihos has a reputation for being a more thoughtful lawmaker.

But the GOP is no longer dominated by thoughtful titans like Bennett, but by tin foil hats like Beck.

It’s Beck’s influence that is showing in Illinois.

And Rutherford? He is seeking to be the bearer of Beck’s standards, not Bennett’s.


Twitter @DavidOrmsby

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About David Ormsby

David, a Huffington Post blogger and an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party, is a public relations strategist in Illinois.

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