Education Reform Seen as Threat to Public Schools


What some call “Obamacore.” — officially named “Common Core” in the US — is another “national” set of K-12 school standards on which to base testing and curriculum — much like No Child Left Behind and Goals 2000 before it, in the Bush and Clinton administrations, respectively. Yet, Common Core’s tentacles reportedly reach into about 70 other nations under different names.

Common Core has been adopted by 46 of the 50 states. The only holdouts, as of this writing, are Texas, Nebraska, Alaska and Virginia. Minnesota accepted only part of the standards.

Critics charge that Common Core, which focuses on English and math, is a far-reaching internationalist scheme which has caused confusion about what constitutes good student performance. Moreover, conservative activist E. Orlean Koehle, a former public school teacher who heads California’s Eagle Forum chapter, adds that students under Common Core will be fed a corporate line that some may consider anti-American, and perhaps even anti-Christian.

And due to a lack of intellectual guidance, “truth” could become relative, since teachers would be reduced to being mere facilitators while the pupils spend a lot of time online.

Common Core reportedly kicked off in 2005, seeded with $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Another $50 million was soon added. And what Koehle describes as a “cartel” was formed to actually compose Common Core, heavily involving the Pearson Foundation. And Sir Michael Barber, chief education officer of this British-based foundation, who’s a former chief advisor to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been promoting Common Core globally.

“This is education by big corporations,” Koehle said. “They will make so much money with so many computers going into so many classrooms.” 

She is not alone in her assessment, nor are conservatives Common Core’s only critics.

Writing in the Washington Post Aug. 7, Carol Barris, award-winning principal of South Side High in Long Island, N.Y, noted: “... test makers, book publishers, data management corporations — all make tremendous profits from chaotic change. When the tests scores drop, they prosper. When the tests change, they prosper. When schools scramble to buy materials to raise scores, they prosper. There are curriculum developers earning millions to create scripted lessons to turn teachers into delivers of modules in alignment with the Common Core.”

Some 70 Common Core grants have been derived from Gates Foundation funding. Major recipients include: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, $4.6 million; the Aspen Institute, $3.6 million; the University of Arizona, $3.4 million; University of Michigan, $1.9 million; the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, $1,068,788; the Georgia Department of Education (DOE), $1.9 million; and Kentucky DOE, $1 million. Some entities received more than one grant.

The Obama administration’s key involvement, Koehle noted, came early in the president’s first term when some of the stimulus money allotted to “solve” the financial crash of that time was used to “persuade” most state governors to adopt Common Core at a time when most state lawmakers were on break.

Common Core has various backers, including USA Today’s editorial board, which recently wrote that under former schemes like the Bush-area No Child Left Behind Act: “[I]mpossible proficiency requirements ... were setting ‘low bars’ [and] dumbing-down tests.” So, when Common Core’s higher standards were tried in the high-performance Tennessee schools, the students did not perform nearly as well when faced with the more challenging Common Core material.

That supposedly proves that Common Core is a good thing, because it instills higher standards, as USA Today and other backers argue.

However, Koehle, who wrote a book on Common Core, says the basic agenda is to remove parental control from the public school system so corporatized schools can operate with tax dollars—yet without elected school boards in many cases.

On the Californians United Against Common Core website, she wrote: “In the majority of states, when a public school becomes a charter school ... it is now under the direction of [a] business, or a corporation that has taken over, but it still receives tax dollars to help run it. If parents have complaints, who do they go to?”

Emmett McGroarty, senior fellow at the American Principles Project in Washington, added in USA Today (in an op-ed to counter the editorial board): “[T]he Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ... financed the Common Core. Two private entities, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, direct the initiative ... Although Common Core is regularly described as ‘state-led,’ its authors are private entities, which are not subject to sunshine laws, open meetings or other marks of a state-led effort.”

And Joseph Rella, a superintendent in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., wrote in a letter about Common Core to N.Y. State Sen. Kenneth LaValle: “It is nothing less than the programmatic dismantling of the public schools.”

Of course, private schooling has long had its place in American life. Those who want it can pay for it. Another option is homeschooling, which can offer the best of all worlds — lack of bureaucratic control, lack of corporate control, and total parental control.

However, not everyone can homeschool, so democratically controlled public schools, while they should do a much better job academically and use resources judiciously, have their place as well. Corporate entities should not be permitted to convert public schools into quasi-private schools the way some corporate barons convert freeways into tollways. Yet,  privatization evidently knows no boundaries. And it appears the public schools, whatever their triumphs and faults, are on “the list.”

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at truthhound2@

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2013

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