TIME White House

White House Targets Methane to Slow Climate Change

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota
A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. Gas flares are created when excess flammable gases are released by pressure release valves during the drilling for oil and natural gas. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

It's 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The White House announced Wednesday morning a new plan to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% in the next ten years.

The reductions will come in part from fixing leaky equipment and the intentional “flaring” of gas at oil and gas production sites, said Dan Utech, the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change, in a conference call with reporters.

By stopping such waste, the White House said it will save enough natural gas in 2025 to heat more than 2 million homes for a year. The reductions will also be good for industry and the economy, Utech added, since businesses will be able to sell that saved gas on the market.

The U.S. oil and gas industry has grown enormously in recent years, making the U.S. the world’s largest gas producer. U.S. oil production is at the highest level in nearly 30 years. Current emission from the oil and gas sector are down 16% since 1990, Utech said, but with expanding production, those levels are expected to rise by more than 25% in the next decade.

The White House’s initiative comes on the heels of several other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emission in recent years, including stricter vehicle efficiency standards and proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. President Obama has vowed to reduce overall emissions in the U.S. by 26% (from 2005 levels) by 2025.

Methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas, accounts for just 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, but the gas is an estimated 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Both Utech and Janet McCabe of the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA, emphasized that the efforts to reduce methane emissions would be part of a larger economic and public health strategy. While Utech said that the administration is “not far enough down the track” to predict whether, and how much, new rulemakings would cost industry, he expressed confidence that costs would be minimal. If the administration’s proposal is realized, it would save 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025.

McCabe said both her agency and the White House have been working closely with industry groups and other stakeholders. New rules, she said will build on existing initiatives and include new and modified sources that were not covered by the EPA’s 2012 rulemakings.

TIME Education

New Liberal Rallying Cry: ‘Free Higher Ed For Everyone!’

college homework
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President Obama announced Thursday a new proposal to cover the cost of two years of community college tuition for any and all American students who maintain good grades.

While the plan seemed radical to some—and others wondered how the U.S. government would pay for it—the idea of providing access to free higher education has gradually become a mainstream talking point among liberal and progressive intelligentsia in the last few years. Now that healthcare is off the table, the next big liberal agenda item appears to be universal higher ed.

The argument is essentially economic: there is a gaping chasm between the level of education the American workforce has versus the level it needs to qualify for the jobs of today, and of the future. That’s largely because hundreds of millions of working class Americans, who were raised in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s, didn’t grow up with computers and didn’t get an advanced degree. Instead, they got manufacturing and factory jobs when they graduated from high school. But fast-forward to today and those manufacturing and factory jobs simply don’t exist anymore. The vast majority of jobs available in the current economy require at least associate’s degrees, and more often bachelor’s degrees—not to mention competency online.

It’s that economic reality that has lead people like Robert Shapiro, a former economic advisor for both Clinton and Obama, to suggest that community colleges should offer free, voluntary and regular Internet and information technology classes at night “to any adult in America” who wants it.

“There is a social responsibility and and a large aggregate economic benefit to upgrade all those skills,” Shapiro told TIME in an interview late last year. “And these are not skills for a particular profession; they are general purpose skills. And you could do it easily for under a billion dollars a year because the investment is already there. You’ve already got the computer labs, you’ve already got the computers. This a a traditional mission of the community colleges.”

William Galston, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former domestic policy advisor to Bill Clinton, has suggested that the U.S. government should come right out and create a nationwide online public university—the National Online University, he calls it—where anyone could get a degree, in their own time, for free.

Even conservative economists such as Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served as John McCain’s chief economic policy adviser in 2008 and is now the head of the right-leaning think tank, American Action Forum, have argued that access to higher education (although not free) and reformed skills-trainings to Americans would be a boon for the economy.

The problems, he says, are twofold. One, who’s going to pay for all this free education? And two, how do you explain to lawmakers and taxpayers today that they’re not going to see the immediate effects of this investment?

“The big disconnect between the politics and the policy is the time scale,” he told TIME last year. “You go and talk to [policy] people and they say, ‘We gotta fix the K-12 education system, the higher education system…we have to create lifelong learning and genuine retraining programs.’ And that’s all true. But it won’t affect this core troubling economic phenomenon today.” Programs that provide 20-year-olds the skills they need to compete in the global marketplace are important, he said, “but you’re not going to see the effects of that until 2036.”

Obama’s announcement Thursday fell under immediate criticism from Congressional Republicans. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s spokesman dismissed it as “more like a talking point than a plan,” while Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate committee on education, decried creating a “new federal program.” Alexander suggested instead streamlining existing state programs.

“[I]nstead of creating a new federal program, the federal government can help in two ways. First, reduce federal paperwork for the ridiculous 108-question student aid application form which discourages 2 million Americans from applying for federal Pell grants that are already available to help pay community college tuition,” Alexander wrote in a statement. And second, pay for the millions of new Pell grants that will be awarded if states are able to “reduce federal paperwork” and therefore allow “students to use Pell grants year-round.”

On Thursday, the White House statement said its new plan would save the average community-college student $3,800 annually and benefit 9 million if fully realized.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Are Losing the Working Class

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Hint: they don't vote.

It’s true that wealthier Americans tend to vote for Republicans and that the less well-off tend to vote for Democrats. And it’s true that, in theory, such a demographic breakdown would be good for Dems. After all, in raw numbers, there are more—many, many times more—working-class Americans than there are folks at the top of the income pyramid.

The problem, as Democrats well know, is that it doesn’t much matter who the working class supports if they don’t show up to vote. And there’s the rub.

According to a Pew Research Center study released today, the “least financially secure Americans,” despite being significantly more likely to back Democrats, tend to “opt out of the political system altogether.”

While 94% of the the most financially secure Americans were registered to vote, only 54% of the least financially secure were, according to the study. Even fewer actually make it to their polling booths. While 2014 voting records are not yet available, in 2010, 69% of the most financially secure cast ballots, while just 30% of the least financially secure did, according to Pew.

The least financially secure Americans also tended to avoid other aspects of the political system as well, the study found. Working class Americans called and wrote to their representatives at much lower rates than their richer neighbors, and paid much less attention to basic facts in national politics. Roughly 60% of the most financially secure Americans could correctly identify the parties in control of the House and Senate when the study was conducted before the 2014 midterm; just 26% of the least financially secure could do the same.

These findings will not come as much of a surprise to Democrats, who were trounced in last year’s mid-term election in part because so few people—and particularly those at the lower end of the income spectrum—actually turned up to vote. In November, less than half of eligible voters showed up at the polls in 43 states, marking the lowest voter turnout on record in 72 years.

While voter turnout generally increases during presidential election years, and is therefore likely to tick up again in 2016, low voter turnout remains a huge problem for Democrats’ efforts not only to win over but also collect votes from the American working class.

That’s one reason they have been committed to making it easier for all Americans to vote. Working-class folks, who tend to have less flexible hours at work, vote disproportionately more in states that allow early voting and mail-in ballots—measures that are overwhelmingly supported by Democrats. In Colorado, for example, which began allowing mail-in ballots saw much, much higher turnout in 2014 than it’d had in 2010. Oregon and Washington, which also allow for mail-in ballots, had turnout rates that were higher than average in 2014, too. In North Carolina, where early voting measures allowed people to go to the polls over the course of seven days also helped increase voter turnout in that state by 35% from where it was in 2010.

The Pew study was based on data collected from a nationally representative panel of 3,154 adults, who were surveyed online and by mail between Sept. 9 and Oct. 3, 2014. The survey determined respondents’ financial security by asking about their difficult paying bills, whether they receive government aid, and whether they had access to financial assets and tools, like bank accounts and retirement savings.

TIME Congress

Republicans in Congress Just Made it Easier to Cut Taxes

Views Of The U.S. Capitol As Republicans Take Control Of The Senate
Nov. 5, 2014. Scaffolding surrounds the U.S. Capitol building while it undergoes repairs in Washington, D.C. Republicans roared back in the midterm elections on Tuesday, capturing control of the Senate from Democrats, winning crucial governor races and solidifying their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In one of the first items of Congressional business yesterday, Republicans gave themselves a new magic wand. When you wave it over a major piece of tax legislation, it has the effect of making the bill appear to be really good for the economy.

Republicans say the magic wand reveals the actual economic impact of the bill. But Democrats worry it’s nothing more than dangerous accounting voodoo that will have the effect of making fiscally irresponsible legislation appear good.

The magic wand at issue here is “dynamic scoring,” an accounting method for determining how a piece of legislation will affect the U.S. macroeconomy down the line.

As of yesterday, House Republicans voted on a rule change that requires the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation—both nonpartisan entities—to use dynamic scoring when analyzing the economic impact of major tax and entitlement bills. That means that from now on, CBO and JCT will analyze tax and entitlement legislation differently than they used to, and differently than they analyze other major legislation, such as education or infrastructure bills.

That could change the political calculus of upcoming tax reform legislation substantially. After all, depending on what economic models are used, the same bill could be seen to either cost the U.S. Treasury tens of millions of dollars, or save it billions. For example, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s comprehensive tax reform bill last year was slated to save U.S. taxpayers either $50 billion or $700 billion in the next decade.

Analysts agree that the Republicans’ rule change mandating the use of dynamic scoring is designed to help them push through major tax cuts by underscoring the most positive impacts such legislation could have on the future economy.

Republicans, such as Georgia’s Tom Price, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, insist that it’s just a common sense tweak. “We’re saying, ‘If you think a piece of legislation is going to have a big effect on the economy, then include that effect in the official cost estimate,’” Price wrote in a statement. “So if you think a bill is going to help or hurt the economy, then tell us how much you think it will increase jobs, tax revenue—and vice versa. We need to take that into account.”

Democrats like Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, have screamed bloody murder. Dynamic scoring, they say, is an accounting trick that exaggerates the real cost of some bills while masking the real cost of others.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said the rule change politicizes the accounting process. “What it means is the Republicans will be able to hide the true costs of tax cuts behind a debunked mantra that tax cuts pay for themselves. They do not,” he said on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, pointing out that deficit hawks should be up in arms, too. “This provision will allow them to explode the deficit, as they did the last time they were in charge.”

Several Democrats quoted Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration official who condemned “dynamic scoring” as a sneaky and conniving political move. “It’s not about honest revenue-estimating,” he said. “It’s about using smoke and mirrors to institutionalize Republican ideology into the budget process.”

TIME technology

Google Helps FCC Make Its Case on Internet Service Providers

Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have claimed for years that if the Federal Communications Commission lumps broadband service providers into the same legal category as other public utilities, like telephone companies, the Internet as we know it will cease to exist.

Investment in digital infrastructure will plummet. Download speeds will go down the drain. And digital innovation will be a shadow of its former self.

This week, Google begged to differ.

In fact, in a letter to the FCC on Tuesday, Google Director of Communications Austin C. Schlick wrote that stronger regulations could actually be a boon for Internet speeds and infrastructure investment.

That’s because reclassifying Internet service providers (ISPs) so that they fall under the legal umbrella of a “public service” would change the rules of the game in ways that could be beneficial for new Internet service providers (ISPs), Schlick wrote.

For example, reclassification would require telephone companies, like AT&T and Verizon, to allow new ISPs access to some of their existing infrastructure, including their utility poles. Telephone companies are already required to share that infrastructure with other telecom and cable providers, but so far have not been required to extend that access to broadband only services, too.

That rule-change could be huge for Google Fiber, the company’s highly-coveted lightning-fast broadband service. As of now, Google can’t depend on access to existing utility poles; instead, it has had to build its own infrastructure by digging up sidewalks and streets—which has proven slow, expensive, and politically problematic. Analysts say it’s one of the main reasons Google Fiber has been slow to expand outside of the three Western cities, Kansas City, Provo, and Austin, where it is today.

In the letter, Schlick cited an FCC report explaining that the “lack of reliable, timely, and affordable access to physical infrastructure—particularly utility poles—is often a significant barrier to deploying wireline services.” He added that, if ISPs were reclassified under Title II, the FCC “would have no reason to limit pole access rights that Congress conveyed precisely to ease this burden.”

In November, President Obama called for the reclassification of ISPs under Title II of the federal Communications Act, which would put ISPs into the same regulatory category as telephone, electrical, and water companies. Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others in the telecom industry vehemently oppose such reclassification. They refer to it as a “nuclear option” that would impose burdensome and archaic regulations on broadband services that would send the American Internet back to the 1930s.

Google’s letter to the FCC this week, which provides qualified support for Title II reclassification, is therefore music to the Obama administration’s ears. Google enjoys fairly widespread support among Americans, whereas Comcast and other cable companies consistently rank among the bottom of the barrel. Google received satisfactory ratings from 80% of Americans, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index in 2014. The same survey found that just 57% of Comcast broadband customers and 54% of Time Warner Cable broadband customers thought their ISP was doing a satisfactory job. Google’s letter is also a dig at Comcast and other cable companies, with whom Google and other Silicon Valley giants have been at loggerheads over the issue of net neutrality.

Google Fiber offers 1 gigabit per second download speeds, which is usually about 100 times faster than other ISPs’ basic broadband package.

TIME 2016 Election

The 9 Times Hillary Clinton Has Taken a Stand Since 2013

USA - Hillary Clinton speaks at Iowa Senator Tom Harken'a annual Steak Fry
Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton gazes pensively into the distance at Iowa Senator Tom Harken'a annual Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on September 14, 2014. Brooks Kraft—Corbis for TIME

Like other presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton had an opinion on just about everything in 2008. How to reform the U.S. health care system? Check. What to do about climate change? Check. Even minor issues like how to lower the price of gas required her to come up with a plan.

But when she became Secretary of State, Clinton followed tradition and kept her opinions to herself, especially on domestic policy. And since leaving Foggy Bottom in 2013, she’s mostly avoided specifics.

She says she’s in favor of protecting the environment, for example, but has yet to stake out her position on fracking or the Keystone XL pipeline. She says she’s against eliminating net neutrality, but has yet to say what, exactly, the government ought to do to protect it. And while she’s talked a big game about U.S. military engagement abroad, it’s unclear how her positions on, say, Ukraine or Iraq would differ from those of President Obama.

That ambiguity is understandable. She doesn’t hold public office. She’s not officially on the ballot. And committing to a position publicly limits her future options, politically. But given how many times she hasn’t taken a position on the issue of the day, it’s worth noting the handful of times she has.

Here’s a look at the nine most substantive policy positions Clinton has staked out since stepping down as Secretary of State.

1) The U.S. needs serious immigration reform. When President Obama announced his controversial executive order in November shielding up to five million undocumented immigrants, Clinton tweeted her approval within minutes, and then followed up with a statement calling for immediate, bipartisan and comprehensive immigration that would “focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families.”

2) The U.S. should have armed the rebels in Syria. In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in August, Clinton blamed the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, on the U.S. not doing enough to support moderate rebels when the Syrian civil war first broke out. “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” she said. That said, Clinton’s ideas on how to rout ISIS now appear to be more or less the same as Obama’s.

3) Gay people should be allowed to marry. In March 2013, Clinton formally announced in her support for gay marriage, marking a major reversal of the position she’d held for decades. Her rivals criticized her for jumping on the bandwagon only after the issue of gay marriage had become widely acceptable, but she defended herself as a “thinking human” who is allowed to “evolve” on issues.

4) Americans shouldn’t torture people. At a human rights awards dinner in December, Clinton made her first public comments about torture since the Senate released its controversial report on the issue earlier this month. She said unequivocally that she is against illegal renditions and brutal interrogation methods. “The U.S. should never condone or practice torture anywhere in the world,” she said.

5) The federal government should raise the minimum wage. In a speech at a campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley in October, Clinton told the crowd not to “let anyone tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs – they always say that.” She then went on to defend raising the federal minimum wage. As a senator, Clinton repeatedly proposed legislation that would automatically increase the federal minimum wage anytime members of Congress saw their own pay increase.

6) Negotiating with Iran is a good idea, so long as the U.S. gets a good deal. Much to the chagrin of many in the pro-Israel crowd, Clinton has not only expressed support for the administration’s negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, she has taken credit for initiating the secret talks back in 2012. In the past year, she has lightly tempered that unequivocal support by cautioning that the U.S. should be careful about what it concedes to, repeating that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

7) The U.S. shouldn’t trust Putin. At a speaking event this year, Clinton called the Russian President an arrogant bully. As Secretary of State, she said she was in favor of the Obama administration’s “reset” policy with Russia, but her opinion of the policy appears to have cooled. “I think that what may have happened, is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president,” she told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview in July. “And I think we’ve been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.” While those seem like fightin’ words, policy analysts point out that it’s less clear how Clinton’s distrust of Putin would translate to a change in actual U.S. policy—much less potential military engagement—in Ukraine.

8) All American kids should get free, high-quality pre-K. Anyone remotely familiar with Clinton’s resume won’t find this to be much of a shocker, but early-childhood education is one of the issues she’s been most outspoken about in the last two years. She’s advocated for everything from universal pre-K and free nurse home-visits for at-risk mothers, to expanding existing programs, like Head Start and paid family leave.

9) #Blacklivesmatter. Clinton took a shellacking this fall for failing to say much one way or an another on the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and about the Eric Garner case in New York. At an awards ceremony in December, she broke her silence—kinda. “Yes, black lives matter,” she said, but then failed to elaborate. She has yet to say whether she’s in favor of broad sentencing reform, body cameras on police, or how she might limit what military equipment is available to police forces.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Changed Their Minds on Cuba

It used to be that national politicians of both parties would diligently travel to Florida during every election cycle and compete, in speeches and town hall meetings, over who could be more in favor of the embargo on Cuba.

It was, after all, common political sense: Cuban-Americans were, for decades, a fairly monolithic voting bloc and their feelings toward the embargo were unequivocal. They were for it. No ifs, ands, or maybes.

But in the last decade, all that has changed. The reason is shifting demographics—the same trend that rocketed President Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012 and that will do more to influence the outcome of 2016 than perhaps anything else.

Younger Cuban-Americans are less into the embargo than their parents’ generation, and much more in favor of relaxing laws to make it easier to travel and trade with the island.

This shifting dynamic is going to play out in 2016, too. In fact, it already has. Jeb Bush, who announced yesterday that he is considering a run for the White House, takes the old-school hardline position. He’s in favor of the embargo, full stop.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s position has evolved over the years. In 2000, when she was running for Senate, and in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination, she too took the old-school stance. In December 2007, she said rather clearly that the embargo was the law of the land, and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move toward democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy,” she said.

But then, as Secretary of State, her position began to crack, and then soften, and then flip entirely. She called on Obama to take a second look at the embargo, which she argued was actually helping Fidel and Raul Castro, not Americans. “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” she said in a 2010 speech in Kentucky.

And in her 2014 book, Hard Choices, she backs up that view: “I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.” In July this year, in an interview, she came right out and called the embargo “a failure.”

Jeb Bush’s hardline position and Hillary Clinton’s evolving one is a reflection of the larger demographic shifts happening the U.S. today.

Bush, if he runs, will no doubt lock down the older, more conservative Cuban-American vote, while Clinton, if she runs, will be in a position to lock down the younger, hipper, more liberal Cuban-American contingent.

So who wins? Right now, it’s a toss up. According to a 2014 poll by the Cuban Research Institute, 53 percent of Cuban-American registered voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed the normalization of diplomatic relations. But if you bore down a bit on the issues, it seems to lean heavily toward the Democrats: 90% of young Cuban-Americans are in favor of reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba; 68% of older Cuban-Americans share that view too.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge majority for it to make sense to Democrats to change positions. It just has to be more competitive than it used to be, and it now is.

TIME 2016 Election

The One Issue that Will Complicate Jeb Bush’s Campaign

Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Hollywood, Fla. on Jan. 29, 2014. Wilfredo Lee—AP

Jeb Bush loves Common Core. The Republican base hates it.

Bush’s announcement this morning that he plans to “explore the possibility of running for President of the United States” means that the Republican Party is going to have to sort out where it stands on this tinderbox of an issue.

Common Core is a set of academic standards put together by a bipartisan group of governors and promoted by the Obama administration. While both Republicans and Democrats first embraced the standards back in 2010 and 2011, they have fallen out of favor in the last few years. Grassroots conservatives and Republican office-holders now regularly condemn it as “federal overreach” and parents have protested changes in how subjects like math are taught under states’ new Common Core-aligned curricula.

Common Core now represents a kind of shorthand among Republicans: if you’re a real conservative, you’re against it; if you’re a faker, you’re for it. As a result, Republican governors in Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina and Missouri have scrambled to get on the right side of that divide, angrily decrying Common Core as “shameless government overreach” or even smearing it as “Obama-core.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is often listed among the potential Republican presidential hopefuls, used to support Common Core, but now is so publicly against it that he has launched lawsuits against his own state and the U.S. Department of Education, claiming that the standards are a violation of state rights.

While most of that is shameless political theater, it still leaves Jeb Bush in a tricky position: in order to win the Republican nomination, he’s going to have to win over the Republican conservative base, which hates Common Core with the fire of a thousand suns. The easiest way to do that would be to disown Common Core. But that’s not likely to be in the cards.

For the past two years, Bush has been one of the loudest proponents of Common Core, among both Republicans and Democrats, boldly refusing to walk back his support—even when members of the Florida Tea Party called for his head, and even when the issue threatened to derail Republican Rick Scott’s tight race during this year’s midterms.

In late November, Bush told a crowd at a national education summit hosted by his group, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, that while he found the debate about Common Core “troubling,” he support was unwavering. He seemed to suggest that conservatives had been tricked into thinking that the Common Core was a federal program. “Education should be a national priority, not turned into a federal program,” he told the crowd, before urging them to keep fighting for reform and for Common Core.

This leaves Bush—and the Republican Party, too—with two basic choices. Bush can continue to embrace Common Core, but work with the Republican Party to rebrand it as an essentially Republican, states rights issue. Or he can walk back his support for the standards, which would be seen by many moderate Republicans, as well as his supporters in the education reform community, as a shameless cop-out.

Alternatively, Bush could take a page out of Mitch McConnell’s book, and do a little of both. After all, during the November midterm, McConnell angrily condemned Obamacare, while simultaneously supporting Kynect, which is Kentucky’s version of Obamacare. Voters didn’t seem to care.

While all of this politicking makes it seem like Common Core must be a wildly exciting—innovative! disruptive! far-reaching!—federal policy, it’s actually none of those things. It’s not even federal policy.

The Common Core State Standards—or CCSS, as they’re known in official documents—are a set of academic benchmarks. They list what students should be able to do, in math and English, after the end of each grade. For example, under Common Core, all kindergarteners should be able to count from 0 to 100; all eighth graders should be able to cite evidence for their argument in a text.

Common Core is not a national curriculum. It does not tell districts what books they have to buy, nor does it tell teachers how they need to teach. (Under Common Core, states and local school districts still have complete control over that stuff.) And perhaps most importantly, it’s not even a federal program. In March 2010, 40 state governors and their state chiefs of schools formally adopted the Common Core. By the end of the next year, a total of 46 states—led by both Republicans and Democrats—had signed on.

One reason that bipartisan moment didn’t last for long is that Obama’s Department of Education began to tie federal funding, though the Reach for the Top grants, to whether states had adopted either the Common Core standards or a state version that was equally robust. That gave the Common Core standards the sheen of being a top-down federal government program—which angered the Republican base.

The other main reason that Republicans turned against Common Core was that the program was poorly implemented. In some states, teachers were asked to teach to the Common Core standards before the states had even come up with an adequate curriculum or corresponding tests. In other states, new “Common Core-aligned” curricula were so confusing that teachers, parents, and students rebelled. According to an October Gallup poll, 58% of Republican parents now hold a negative view of Common Core—up from just 42% disapproval in April. Fewer than one in five Republican parents think the Common Core is a good idea.

If Bush wants the Republican nomination, he’s going to have to find a way to change some hearts and minds.

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