In recent interviews, Carly Fiorina has denounced the Common Core State Standards as a "a giant bureaucratic program" and "a really bad idea." In her master's thesis, however, Fiorina advocated for a "consistent, long-term role" for the federal government in determining education policy, including the development of recommended curriculum guidelines.
In her thesis, submitted in 1989 at MIT's Sloan School of Management and made available on Fiorina's 2010 California senate campaign website, the Republican presidential candidate wrote that the federal government "can provide curriculum 'guidelines' for consideration by local school districts and state legislatures."
She emphasized that such guidelines could be used as "powerful supportive rationale for recommended decisions" when faced with pressure from politicians or businesses with opposing interests.
Her argument for the federal government to play a centralized role in developing education standards is one of the reasons Fiorina today says she opposes Common Core -- a set of recommended guidelines developed by state governors and education leaders that indicate what knowledge students should acquire at each grade level.
In an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace Sunday, Fiorina criticized the program as "a nationally driven set of bureaucratic standards that teaches teachers how to teach" and "teaches children how to learn."
She told CNBC in May that, "I think Common Core is a really bad idea. It is a giant bureaucratic program and we have demonstrated over 40 years that the Department of Education can get bigger and bigger and bigger and the quality of education continues to deteriorate. I think it's pretty clear based on those facts that giving more money to the Department of Education doesn't improve learning in the classroom."
Many Republican presidential candidates, with the exception of Jeb Bush, have criticized the Common Core program, accusing the federal government of encroaching on a state and local matter.
While the standards were not, in fact, developed or implemented by the federal government, the Obama administration has embraced them, pushing states to adopt the standards through a competitive grant program called "Race to the Top." The standards have been adopted in part or in full by 44 states and the District of Columbia.
Fiorina more recently has advocated for expanding school choice policies and local control of education. In her thesis, Fiorina wrote that "pro-choice" school proposals are not a "panacea," and would still require federal support -- and federal funding -- to succeed.
A spokeswoman for the Fiorina campaign dismissed similarities between recommendations made in Fiorina's thesis and Common Core, telling BuzzFeed News that the candidate has always favored "state driven accountability. "
"Common Core, which obviously wasn't around when she wrote her thesis 25 years ago, has been a set of standards created in DC and driven by the education-industrial complex seeking to commercialize our students," a spokeswoman for the Fiorina campaign told BuzzFeed News. "What she is referring to in her thesis isn't even close to the same thing."
"Carly favors state driven accountability, which she did in her thesis, did in 2010 and she does now. That is emphatically not what Common Core has been or become."
Fiorina's paper calls for a "consistent, long-term role" for the federal government on education issues.
More specifically, she said "the federal government can provide curriculum 'guidelines.'"
She also questioned the "state's rights" conception of education as an issue more broadly.
Fiorina called school choice proposals "welcome innovations" but said they don't "relieve the federal government of responsibility" for educational issues.
Fiorina also pushed the federal government's role in acting as a "balance" against business interests "that may undermine the important role of schooling."
You can read the whole thesis here:
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Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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