by David Safier
According to recent polling, the biggest issues in the Arizona election will be education and the economy. It would be foolish to underestimate the power of immigrant bashing, but that could come in the guise of education and the economy as well.
The education debates can go in all kinds of directions, but Common Core is sure to be somewhere at the center of the battle. How that shapes up will be worth watching, since it could sway a significant number of votes in one direction or the other. Here are some of the variables in play, as I see them.
In the Ed Superintendent race, we've got a pretty dramatic split on Common Core. Diane Douglas is absolutely against it. Absolutely. At this point, that's her whole campaign. David Garcia has been painted as pro-Common Core by the media, but that's an oversimplification. He sees the actual standards as a good starting point, but he's against the overuse of high stakes testing as an assessment tool for students, teachers, administrators and schools, and Common Core has the potential of making testing even more dominant than it is now.
In the governor's race, Doug Ducey is against Common Core, but it looks like he's left himself some wiggle room so he can take different stances in front of different audiences ("I'm all for high standards, but ...."). Fred DuVal is basically for the Core, but he's been vague enough at this point that he can also play around with his message to suit the moment.
Then there's the voters.
The doctrinaire right wing of the Republican Party hates Common Core with a deep, abiding passion which is mirrored in Diane Douglas' position. However, the, for lack of a better term, "Jan Brewer Republicans" like the Core, though their views aren't locked-in enough that they can't be persuaded otherwise.
The left wing of the Democratic Party goes from an absolute dislike of Core to an acceptance of the idea that its standards are a good start but the high stakes testing and the linkage to Big Education Business are serious problems. The teachers unions, which originally signed onto the Core, have moved in a similar direction, as have many teachers. More moderate Democrats haven't really made up their minds, though they're more for the Core than against it.
The business community is a bit of a wild card here. Many of them tend to fit into the "Jan Brewer Republican" mold, and so they tend to follow her lead (I could as easily say she follows their lead) and support the Common Core. After all, Craig Barrett, the very rich ex-CEO of Intel and Brewer's go-to guy on education, was one of the creators of the Common Core, and he has lots of influence in the state. We could see business leaders and Chambers of Commerce backing David Garcia over Douglas for that reason, but will they dump Ducey for DuVal over education? That would be a tougher sell.
Everything I've said here is a vast oversimplification, obviously, a starting point for my thinking on how education will figure in the election. It's all subject to change.
The value of Common Core to Democrats and Republicans could come down to who wins the framing wars. The side that can make itself look like it's for the children will have a definite edge.