When Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz became the first politician to officially announce his presidential campaign last week, he repeated a familiar mantra to his audience at Virginia's Liberty University.
"Instead of a federal government that seeks to dictate school curriculum through Common Core, imagine repealing every word of Common Core," the Texas politician said to roaring applause.
The only problem? The Common Core State Standards are not enshrined in any federal law, and therefore cannot be repealed.
Over the course of the past few months, Cruz has said over and over again that he wants to take Common Core off the books -- as shown in the video above. However, if Cruz were elected president, he would have no power to do so. The Common Core State Standards are a set of education benchmarks that have been adopted by state leaders in a majority of states around the country. Only states have the power to drop Common Core -- and in fact, some states have.
When asked by Bloomberg News for clarification regarding Cruz's stance on the academic benchmarks -- which are designed to make sure students around the country are being held to the same standards -- Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier provided more nuance.
"Common Core is a federally created curriculum that the state's 'Race to the Top' grants are tied to," Frazier told the outlet. "So if the state does not adopt the standards, it gives up the grant money. But since the federal government created this mess, there should be a way to undo it."
Cruz's campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment.
In reality, Common Core was not federally created and is not a curriculum. Education experts and academics developed the standards, with input from school leaders, teachers and state officials. The standards, which emphasize critical thinking over memorization, do not prescribe a specific curriculum, but rather outline what students should be expected to know by the end of each academic year.
But, as Frazier notes, the standards are technically tied to federal money. In his first term, President Barack Obama tied federal Race to the Top grant money to states' adoption of higher academic standards (without calling out Common Core by name).
So, in sum, it seems that when Cruz says he wants to repeal Common Core, what he probably means to say is something much more complex than that. But the entire national education landscape might still look vastly different under a Cruz presidency. If elected president, Cruz has also pledged to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.