Since his presidential campaign announcement Monday, the White House press corps has been fascinated with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
On Wednesday, that Cruz attention turned to the senator's position on Common Core education standards. A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, "Senator Ted Cruz -- I know you’ve been fielding a lot of questions about him. He recently said that he wants to repeal Common Core, every word of Common Core. Am I mistaken? I didn’t think Common Core was a federal law? ... I mean, Common Core -- is that correct, Common Core is not something that can be repealed?"
Earnest declined to address the substance of the reporters question, instead promising, "We can look into that for you."
So is Common Core a federal law that can be repealed? The answer is yes.
While it is true that Congress never passed any law that made Common Core the official national education standards for all 50 states, President Obama has been creating brand new federal laws without Congress long before his 2014 executive amnesty program.
Specifically, in August of 2011, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that he was going to use President Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind waiver process to make states an offer they couldn't refuse: Either they must all adopt Obama's Common Core education standards, or many of their schools would be deemed as "failing" under the NCLB law and would be subject to an avalanche of federal regulation and paperwork.
"It is one thing for an administration to grant waivers to states to respond to unrealistic conditions on the ground or to allow experimentation and innovation," Brookings Institution Director for Education Policy Russ Whitehurst wrote at the time, "It is quite another thing to grant state waivers conditional on compliance with a particular reform agenda that is dramatically different from existing law."
That "particular reform agenda" was Common Core and many states adopted the Common Core standards in large part because of the pressure Obama applied through NCLB.
So, if a President Cruz were to repeal "every word" of the NCLB law, he would functionally be repealing the existing federal Common Core regime by giving states back the freedom to choose their own education standards.