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Christie: Reversal On Common Core Had Nothing To Do With Political Ambitions

BELMAR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The Common Core controversy in New Jersey has now taken on a political tone.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, Gov. Chris Christie supported the Common Core program two years ago, but on Thursday, he said the program is "not working" and should be done away with in New Jersey.

His turnaround on the issue has many asking whether he did an about face to gain favor within the conservative base of his party. But at a news conference in Belmar on Friday, Christie told Sloan that this claim was not true.

"No," Christie said. "It's recognition of what I've heard across the state for the better part of the last two years."

Christie's remarks disparaging the Common Core came as he prepared to announce he will run for president. The Common Core is a political hot-button issue, disliked by conservative Republicans.

But Christie told Sloan that his decision came after giving the program a chance.

"You've been many of my town halls meetings, Christine," Christie said. "And you know that at most of those meetings, someone stood up and complained about Common Core."

The Common Core program outlines skills every student needs at each grade level, and comes with a federal grant. Some said it is closely aligned with Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – or PARCC – exams that many parent also oppose.

But Christie did not advocate eliminating PARCC exams.

"The two are not connected, Christine," Christie said. "I understand (the parents) are frustrated, but here's the problem -- we will lose significant millions and millions and millions of dollars in federal education funding if we do not test."

That loss would not be acceptable, Christie said.

"I am not going to have our education in our state underfunded because some people don't want their kids to take a test," he said.

The New Jersey Education Association – the state's teachers' union – disagreed and said the Common Core and the PARCC test are aligned. But the state Department of Education will continue to roll out the online exams.

Christie said the state needs to give the PARCC test a chance.

Political science professor Krista Jenkins said while Christie has been hinting that he does not like the standards, it is a political move.

"He is a Republican trying to cater to the base, and there has been a groundswell of opposition, really, I think across the country -- particularly among Tea Party evangelical conservatives -- against Common Core," said Jenkins, director of PublicMind at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The governor's polling numbers compared to those of other Republicans is not so good – especially in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. But many said a lot can happen between now and the Republican primary.

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