There’s leading. And then there’s leading with your chin.
Candidates for statewide and legislative office would be wise to know the difference as they meet with
voters and attend forums this summer and fall.
As an example, I’ll point to Common Core, now known as Arizona’s College and Career Readiness
Standards (ACCRS). The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has strongly endorsed these more
rigorous standards because employers know how critical an educated workforce is to businesses and
our larger economy. But we also recognize ACCRS has, often unduly, become a lightning rod on the far
right and left.
How does a candidate who supports these higher standards cope? Below are a few suggestions:
• Know your audience
Are you meeting with local tourism and business officials? Or party precinct committeemen? This
isn’t about pandering. It’s about understanding your audience and speaking their language. The best
communicators do both.
First and foremost, get with the current lingo. Always use the term “Arizona’s College and Career
Readiness Standards” – ACCRS, for short – which most accurately reflects the direct involvement of
Arizona education leaders and teachers in developing these standards and their uniqueness from
standards being implemented in other states and promoted by the federal government.
• Fight on your strongest ground
There has been a lot of talk about eroding support for ACCRS, but did you know recent polling found
that better than two in three likely Republican primary voters believe Arizona’s academic requirements
should be raised? Virtually the same percentage support implementing a new, statewide assessment
test that will be aligned with the stricter standards. There’s no mood to go back to the old AIMS exam.
Also, nearly 60 percent of Arizona Republicans found convincing the notion of a consistent assessment
across school district and state lines so that students can be measured against their peers.
The lesson: the term Common Core may be unacceptable to primary voters, but they strongly support
its key elements of high standards for students and school accountability for use of taxpayer dollars.
• Define yourself
Don’t wait for your opponent to label you. Let voters know you want Arizona to have world class schools
with students held to the highest standards. You insist upon local control of curriculum, school funding and want an Arizona solution for our education challenges. And you’ll fight any attempt by the federal government to substitute its judgment for that of parents, teachers and local administrators when it comes to what’s best for Arizona schools. Period.
The Arizona State Board of Education adopted the ACCRS in 2010. These standards continue to enjoy the
strong support of business and education leaders across our state. They’re in our classrooms today. It’stelling that opponents have offered no viable alternative.
I’m proud of the slate of candidates endorsed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. We may not agree
on every issue, but these men and women are united by the common thread of leadership.
Now get out there and campaign!