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October 22, 2013

Education fight erupts among N.H. Republicans

Business and Industry Association at odds with conservative groups

A public disagreement over education is playing out among groups traditionally allied with Republicans in New Hampshire.

The Business and Industry Association is at odds with leading conservative groups, Americans For Prosperity and Cornerstone Action, over adoption of new Common Core education standards.

The BIA is endorsing Common Core. AFP and Cornerstone recently hosted a forum highlighting concerns, including costs and loss of local control.

"I think this is a reflection of the fundamental split in the party among the tea party and libertarians and the traditional Republicans," said Bill Duncan, founder of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education. "This will be a challenge for Republicans in the next election and Common Core is part of that."

Republicans acknowledge the disagreement, but see it as healthy.

"It's bringing up spirited debate on the subject," Windham Republican Committee chairman Bruce Breton said. "This has been going on for months."

While expressing disappointment over the BIA's position, Cornerstone executive director Ashley Pratte downplayed the disagreement.

"I really don't think this will be a large issue that will split Republicans in 2014 or 2016," she said.

Cornerstone, announcing a forum last month with AFP at St. Anselm College, said many parents, teachers and legislators are questioning and opposing Common Core.

"How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students? What about all the data collection on students and their families? What will this cost taxpayers?" Cornerstone asked.

Pratte said a standing-room crowd of more than 250, including some Republican state legislators, attended.

State director Greg Moore said AFP opposes Common Core over the expense and because it undermines local control.

"We believe that education choice, whether in a public or private environment, will drive up achievement and provide a better learning environment for our students, leaving them better prepared to enter the workforce," Moore said.

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