Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal compared Common Core opponents to “barbarians at the gate” May 13 and vowed to fight them to preserve the educational standards, setting off a Twitter attack by conservative blogger and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin.
Malkin urged the “Arizona tweeps” in her Twitter following of 703,000 to support his Republican opponent and rattle his gates.
“You ain’t heard nothing yet, pal,” Malkin tweeted.
Huppenthal, speaking on a panel at the Arizona Capitol Times’ Morning Scoop breakfast, said Arizona cannot allow a repeat of what happened in Indiana, which pulled out of the association of 45 states that adopted the standards. The U.S. Department of Education has warned the state it is at risk of losing waivers from No Child Left Behind, which effectively means fewer federal dollars.
“I have put my career on the line to stave off the barbarians. I very likely could lose this election,” Huppenthal said. “I’m OK with that because I felt I did the right thing for this education system.”
Malkin, who calls the learning standards a product of big government and big business cronyism, urged followers to support Huppenthal’s primary opponent, Diane Douglas, against “pro common core bully SPI Huppenthal.” She went on to call him a “smug common core peddler,” in a series of tweets.
Douglas’ platform is based on abolishing Common Core, a set of math and English standards the state Board of Education adopted in 2010. The standards, known in the state as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, pitted Democrats and moderate Republicans against the more conservative wing of the GOP in the 2014 Legislature and promises to be a litmus test in the primary election in August. The standards were incrementally implemented by grade level and all grades were learning under them in the 2013-14 school year.
“I think it’s very sad an elected official would think so little of the people he represents,” Douglas said.
Douglas, a former member of the Peoria Unified School District governing board, said Malkin’s support generated a few contributions to her campaign, although she had yet to tally the amount.
Huppenthal’s chances of losing the election do not appear high: He said he conducted his own scientific poll of 417 highly-likely voters from his home on May 11, and it showed he is ahead of his primary election opponent, 72 percent to 28 percent.
“Our polling shows me with a very comfortable lead, but in this game you just don’t know, you just don’t know,” he said.
Matt Benson, a public affairs consultant and former spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer, said Malkin’s tweets and support for Douglas won’t matter when voters go to the polls in August because Huppenthal’s position on the standards is well known among Republicans.
“If there are Republican voters who intend to oppose him for that reason, they’ve already made that decision and Michelle Malkin can tweet all she likes, it’s not going to change the dynamic of the primary race,” Benson said.
Opponents, who describe the standards as a federal takeover of the education system and an insidious mandate from the Obama administration, didn’t take kindly to Huppenthal comparing them to barbarians.
One woman with a screen name of Rachel #Dude wrote: “So I’m a #barbarian for PROTECTING my children from socialist ideology?! YOU, sir, are a barbarian for ABUSING our children!”
Another Common Core opponent, Eric Pedersen, whose profile photograph is a direct view of a gun barrel, wrote that Common Core is “communist propagandized indoctrination of children by progressives (communists) PERIOD.”
Supporters say the opposition is based mostly on misinformation. They point out that the Common Core standards are not mandatory, and that they were developed largely by states working within the framework of the National Governors Association. States and school districts, supporters say, are still the ones that control curriculum, not the federal government.