Defending Education Policy in 25 States for a Bipartisan Coalition

THE CHALLENGE

In their early years, Common Core education standards were generally bi-partisan and non-controversial. However, in late 2013, the standards became the subject of coordinated, partisan attacks, which created and spread a false narrative that the standards were President Obama’s attempt to take over local schools. In state after state, think tanks, Tea Party groups, the religious right and activists began pressuring legislatures to back away from Common Core and repeal the use of the standards in their communities.

THE SOLUTION

In the face of this national wave of attacks, Common Core supporters from both political parties decided to band together and create a campaign to defend the standards in state capitals. These supporters turned to Hilltop to help create and manage the effort to build moderate Republican support that could counter attacks from the more extreme Right.

Since 2014, Hilltop has helped manage and coordinate state-based campaigns to defend education reform against attacks. Our work has spanned more than 20 states and led to multiple victories against pieces of legislation intended to roll back or weaken the standards and related education reforms, even in states where conservatives hold strong majorities like West Virginia and Ohio.

THE RESULT

Under Hilltop, the campaign has developed state-specific strategies that reflect the fact that no fight is ever quite the same. In some states, we have been able to advise and add capacity to existing coalitions doing great work on the ground, while in other states we have had to create and sustain a robust advocacy infrastructure by hiring and managing local Republican organizers, conservative lobbyists and public relations teams. Tactically, we have overseen everything from grassroots and grasstops, to state lobbying, to paid media and digital advertising.

As of 2023, regardless of branding or political claims about repeal, over 40 of the 45 states that originally embraced Common Core still use the standards despite the concerted effort to roll them back.

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