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Menage-a-trois in fed ed reform may backfire on the architects of Common Core

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Fed Ed meets Corporate Ed meets Non-Profit Ed

Those leaning left politically distrust corporations and those on the right distrust the government. The menage-a-trois of strange bedfellows in federal education reform may leave no one left willing to trust the federal reform leadership. And it has become a uniting force across the spectrum for the opposition.

The opposition to recent federal education reforms is the most diverse group I have encountered in a public policy movement. It encompasses far left to far right and everything in-between. It spans generations of people from students to grandparents, crosses all socio-economic lines, and ignores demographics. I have had conversations with people who couldn’t be more opposite from me politically, yet we find ourselves nodding in agreement and all but high-fiving each other’s points on education reform from implementation issues to assessment opt out to wasteful spending to federal intrusion to data collection. We are willing to ignore otherwise relationship-ending political and party differences in order to protect our children.

Corporate Ed
The corporate involvement in Common Core and other federal education reforms is undeniable. Select corporations are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in order to garner the profitable monopolies that government contracts offer. The corporate beneficiaries include Microsoft, Google, Pearson, and many chambers of commerce, just to name a few. Here’s a link to a list of corporations that formally endorsed CCSS.

Some hold the belief that corporations are taking advantage of our oblivious and well-intentioned government for their own benefit, while the government is merely a victim of corporate greed. The well-practiced reality is that the government is using the corporations and non-profits as much as they are using the government. A menage-a-trois is seductive because each member has something to offer that the others want.

Corporations cannot enact education reform by themselves. The government must enable reforms by making authorizations for funding, regulations, and statutory changes.

Fed Ed

The governmental and political involvements in fed ed reform are obvious. From the funding of federal reforms through the ARRA (stimulus bill), which was President Obama’s and the Democrats’ baby, to No Child Left Behind signed by George Bush and almost all of the congress, to Jeb Bush’s support for CCSS, there is a long-standing support for Fed Ed from both parties.

Locally, our elected officials fear permanent branding by the “education card”, which marks a legislator as “anti-education” for any vote against the agenda of the state or federal departments of ed, regardless of the merits of the bill, resulting in many unanimous education votes.

The federal government’s persistent push for increased control in state and local education decision-making violates the spirit of several federal laws designed to prevent just this. If nothing else good comes out of our fight, I pray it will at least result in a much-needed examination of the proper role and limits of government in education.

Non-Profit Ed
No one wants to believe that non-profits and charities perform anything but the most humanitarian and philanthropic functions. Unfortunately, the “Santa’s not real” truth is that government has long used non-profits and corporations as friendly-faced cover for unpopular and non-transparent political agendas and to launder money into political campaigns and parties. They also serve as Cover Your Ass agents by sharing the blame in the event of a PR blunder.

One example of how the government uses both corporations and non-profits is the following: the government passes legislation which gives tax incentives to companies to donate to certain non-profits which happen to support the agenda of the government. The companies then make campaign contributions while the non-profits do political and social reforms on behalf of those with the power to issue grants. So taxpayer money is being laundered through corporations to non-profits to campaigns with no direct trace. (See SB600 and SB601, both passed this session.)

Corporations also set up non-profit entities to function as political lobbying arms of their organizations.

Let me introduce you to a few non-profits and private foundations in the federal ed reform movement.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a private grant-making charitable foundation directed by the Gates’ and Warren Buffett. The Gates Foundation poured hundreds of millions of dollars into various organizations to develop, market, and implement CCSS and other fed ed reforms, including the NGA and CCSSO, which have been inaccurately credited with initiating CCSS. Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and the richest person in the world. Warren Buffett is the third richest.

Achieve Inc. is an national independent non-profit headed by David Coleman, the architect of CCSS, which partnered with the NGA and CCSSO in developing CCSS, PARCC, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

National Governors Association (NGA) is a DC-based national trade association comprised of governors from all the nation’s states.

Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a DC-based national non-profit trade organization comprised of education department heads in all the states.

Complete College America (CCA) is a national non-profit founded by the Gates Foundation. Maryland joined the CCA’s Alliance of States in 2011 in exchange for a $1M grant from the organization. In return, the MD Higher Education Commission (MHEC) submits student data to CCA annually. How much is a student record worth? For its $1M investment, the CCA gets data on potentially all of the 850,000 Maryland public school students indefinitely. Nice return on investment.

Student Achievement Partners is a national non-profit founded by David Coleman for the sole stated purpose of pushing CCSS.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a non-profit foundation funded in part by the Gates Foundation that lists Standards-Based Reforms including CCSS as its Policy Priorities.

Foundation for Excellence in Education is a national 501c3 non-profit focused on state-by-state education reform which includes CCSS.

Hunt Institute is a national non-profit foundation funded in part by the Gates Foundation. It’s focus is working with state and national policymakers “to transform American education”.

The College Board is an national not-for-profit trade association of educational institutions which develops standardized tests for which it receives fees, such as the SAT and AP exams. The president is David Coleman, the architect of CCSS and PARCC. It was funded by grants from various foundations, including the Gates Foundation, until 2009.

As citizens begin to wade through the web of symbiotic relationships among all three types of entities, the puzzle showing the origins and motivations of CCSS and federal education reform will begin to come together.

To get more info:
Baltimore County Coalition for Education Reform

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