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Rand Paul Seeks 2016 Spotlight at Common Core Forum in New Hampshire

Guest post by Evie Blad.

Lately, Kentucky senator and likely Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been like a little brother strapped into the middle seat beside former Gov. Jeb Bush on a long road trip. Paul's passing the time by poking, pinching, and generally annoying the all-but-declared-presidential candidate.

Case in point: Paul held a forum on the Common Core State Standards Wednesday in New Hampshire, which just happens to be the first primary state. The school choice advocate held the event after touring a charter school in Manchester.

A libertarian who has criticized the education standards in the past, Paul likely held the event to further poke at Bush, who is "actively exploring" (very actively exploring) the possibility of seeking the Republican nomination in 2016.

To extend the car trip metaphor: It was the pre-campaign equivalent of Paul grabbing Bush's wrist and making him slap himself with his own hand while saying, "Quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself!"

While candidates' education policy stances aren't typically make-or-break issues in presidential elections, some Tea Party Republicans have said Bush's history with the Common Core State Standards is a part of a list of policy positions, including immigration, that reflects more broadly on his views of the role of government. And Paul, who has favored eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, is happy to join the chorus of criticism.

As followers of education policy know well, the common core has a range of opponents, from those who don't think it's being implemented well to those who think the federal government exerted too much influence in encouraging states to adopt the standards.

Paul's RandPAC is all-in for the latter position and has already taken out a Google search ad against Bush. "We need leaders who will stand against common core," says the ad, which links to the PAC when Google users search Bush's name. Tweets from the event show Paul re-stated those positions at Wednesday's event.

Of course, no president could "repeal" the common core as the adoption (or "undoption") of the standards is up to the states. But a new administration could remove incentives (like No Child Left Behind waivers) for states to use rigorous "college and career ready" standards.

Bush, for his part, continues to defend his education positions. 

"Bush launched a spirited defense of common core last month, telling an audience his annual National Summit for the Foundation for Excellence in Education that it's fine if states don't want to adopt the standards, but if they don't, they should aim even higher," Politics K-12 wrote in December. "China, he said, isn't in the midst of a hot debate about whether 'academic expectations should be lowered to protect students' self-esteem.' "

For more on the future of the standards, see this great State Ed Watch post by Andrew Ujifusa.

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