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Education rising as issue among 2016 GOP class; standards now a metaphor for government reach

FILE - This March 19, 2014 file photo shows former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaking at an education forum in Nashville, Tenn. Battling “the soft bigotry of low expectations” with national education goals was former Republican President George W. Bush’s campaign mantra. But many of his party’s would-be successors are calling for just the opposite of government-set rules, splitting the party over education policy as the GOP class of 2016 presidential hopefuls takes shape. Jeb Bush, who supports a national education policy, and Rand Paul, who abhors the idea, personify the divide. Forty-four states voluntarily participate in standards developed in part by GOP governors. (AP Photos/Erik Schelzig, File)

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FILE - This March 19, 2014 file photo shows former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaking at an education forum in Nashville, Tenn. Battling “the soft bigotry of low expectations” with national education goals was former Republican President George W. Bush’s campaign mantra. But many of his party’s would-be successors are calling for just the opposite of government-set rules, splitting the party over education policy as the GOP class of 2016 presidential hopefuls takes shape. Jeb Bush, who supports a national education policy, and Rand Paul, who abhors the idea, personify the divide. Forty-four states voluntarily participate in standards developed in part by GOP governors. (AP Photos/Erik Schelzig, File)

CHICAGO - The federal government's role in education is splitting potential presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party, with two prospective candidates personifying the divide.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush supports voluntary performance goals, called Common Core, in math and reading. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile, calls the standards shared by 44 states a national "curriculum that originates out of Washington." The statement stokes the conservative grass roots, but Republican governors were among those who shaped the standards.

The argument is a proxy for the larger debate within the GOP over the proper role of the federal government.

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