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Here's Why Trump Probably Won't Be Able To Repeal Common Core Nationally

There isn't a real path to repealing Common Core at the federal level, experts say, though state governors may be emboldened by Donald Trump's rise.

Posted on November 23, 2016, at 9:25 p.m. ET

Donald Trump supporters have a lot of demands for their president-elect and his education secretary appointee, Betsy DeVos.

Repeal #Obamacare, no replace. Privatize #SocialSecurity. End #commoncore, close the Dept of Ed. End bailouts. Build that wall. #2A forever!

U better! Or we will hold u accountable! Bye bye #CommonCore indoctrinating kids into liberal rhetoric

Throw out #CommonCore! It's Rotten & it Stinks! @realDonaldTrump & @Transition2017 PLZ #StopCommonCore! #NoRhee…

They really want Trump and DeVos to repeal Common Core, a set of achievement standards for primary school students in English and math subjects as they progress through each grade.

And Trump has promised to do it.

As recently as a Nov. 7 rally in Manchester, NH, Trump promised constituents that he would get rid of Common Core. He made similar pledges at multiple rallies in Florida.

DeVos' appointment complicates the demands, however. She's previously supported the standards and currently sits on the boards of several pro-Common Core organizations

But on Wednesday, she said that she unequivocally is not a supporter.

Many of you are asking about Common Core. To clarify, I am not a supporter—period. Read my full stance, here:

But there's a bigger problem with a repeal of Common Core

The federal government doesn't have much to do with Common Core any more, according to Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, and Kevin Carey, director the education policy program at New America.

"At this point, states have either adopted Common Core or they haven’t," Polikoff told BuzzFeed News. "There's no possibility of a federal repeal of Common Core."

The federal government and the National Governors Association devised the Common Core state standards starting in 2009, and, once the standards were published, states could adopt or reject them.

Forty-two states have adopted the standards, which were never federally mandated, though they was incentivized with Race to the Top grants to schools.

Race to the Top, though, is over and it isn't likely to come back, according to Carey, who said there is a clause within the reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act that prohibits the secretary of education and the Department of Education from mandating a set of standards across the country.

What will Trump and DeVos do?

The president-elect could theoretically enact a wholesale ban on Common Core. But Polikoff said that's unlikely because such a policy would break with decades of Republican orthodoxy.

The GOP has for years advocated for less federal involvement in education, a direction that Trump has supported. Federal overreach was one of the party's most pointed criticisms of President Obama, whose longtime education secretary, Arne Duncan, centralized power in his department to enact sweeping changes to national policy.

A federal ban on Common Core that required states to reformulate their standards and reorganize their curricula wouldn't fit with a turn towards a diminished Department of Education, Polikoff said, adding that it would also be a murky policy to implement.

"I don’t know how you would interpret such a law," he said. "Common Core is just a set of standards, so would the new standards have to be different? How different would they have to be?"

Carey does expect some sort of symbolic gesture against Common Core and rolling back regulatory oversight on education.

"How much discretion states get on education depends on how much the DoE cares," he said. "A Trump DoE will keep its hands off and just not do anything, which will give power to the states."

The Trump transition team did not return requests for comment.

States can still roll back Common Core, though

States with Republican governors may feel more empowered to reject Common Core and devise their own state standards because of Trump's promises, Polikoff said. But he added that states that reject Common Core often use the standards as a foundation for their own curricula and tests.

In New Hampshire, where Trump promised to eliminate the standards, Governor-elect Chris Sununu campaigned on a platform of removing the Common Core. His transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rick Scott, the incumbent governor in Florida, supervised the implementation of the standards in his state. In 2014, though, he declared he would push them out of his state, only to be met with the criticism that his newly devised Florida Standards were just the Common Core with some extra items added in. The state still uses the Florida Standards. His office also did not return requests for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.