Saturday, March 22, 2014

Big business takes on tea party on Common Core

Big business takes on tea party on Common Core 


Tennessee is considering a delay to Common Core implementation. | AP Photo/The Tennessean

By STEPHANIE SIMON | 3/14/14 5:00 AM EDT

Tea party activists have been waging war for months against the Common Core academic standards. Now, in a coordinated show of muscle, Big Business is fighting back — and notching wins.

The urgent effort stems from a sense among supporters that this is a make-or-break moment for the Common Core, which is under siege all over the country.

A coalition including the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch a national advertising blitz Sunday targeted at Republicans skeptical about the standards. Spots promoting the Common Core will air on Fox News and other conservative outlets.

The campaign — a major ad buy that could last months — aims to undercut dire tea party warnings that the standards amount to a federal power grab, akin to Obamacare. The TV spots and online ads will project a positive tone, featuring teachers praising the Common Core.

In a parallel effort unfolding mostly in deep red states, thousands of small-business owners and corporate executives have been bombarding state lawmakers with emails, calls and personal visits to press the point that better standards will mean a better workforce and ultimately, a better economy. They've been joined in some states by military officers who argue that not just the economy, but national security is at stake.

The strategy: Give conservatives reasons to support the Common Core — and make clear they will reap dividends if they do.

"We're telling the legislature that this is our No. 1 issue," said Todd Sanders, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. "We will be watching."

The tea party might be loud, but the chamber spends tens of thousands on local campaigns each election year. Sanders wants lawmakers to remember that. "They are going to have to make a choice in terms of which constituency is going to be the most important to them," he said. He said the chamber will have no qualms about dispensing its political funds to reward standards supporters, or punish dissenters. "My board is absolutely unanimous about this," Sanders said.

The business coalitions, working with allies from the education community, have scored some key victories in recent weeks. They blocked a bill that could have torpedoed the Common Core in Georgia. They derailed a similar bill in Arizona, too, though that fight is not yet over. They slowed a breakneck drive to get alternative standards approved in Indiana. And they blocked a bill in Wisconsin that would have empowered the legislature to shape new standards.

"It feels like there's a bit of a momentum shift," said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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