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Opinion: Columnists

Get to know the Common Core marketing overlords

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Opinion,Education,Michelle Malkin,Columnists,Common Core

They're everywhere. Turn on Fox News, local news, Animal Planet, HGTV or talk radio. Pro-Common Core commercials have been airing ad nauseam in a desperate attempt to persuade American families to support the beleaguered federal education standards/testing/technology racket. Who's funding these public-relations pushes? D.C. lobbyists, entrenched politicians and Big Business interests.

The foundational myth of Common Core is that it's a "state-led" initiative with grassroots support that was crafted by local educators for the good of all of our children. But the cash and power behind the new ad campaign tell you all you need to know. For parents in the know, this will be a refresher course. But repeated lies must be countered with redoubled truths.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is one of the leading Common Core ad sponsors. It's a self-described nonprofit "think tank" founded by a pantheon of Beltway barnacles: former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell.

"Lobbying tank" would be more accurate. The BPC's "senior fellows" include K Street influence peddlers such as liberal Republican Robert Bennett, the big-spending Utah senator-turned-lobbyist booted from office by Tea Party conservatives; former Democratic Agriculture Secretary and House member-turned-lobbyist Dan Glickman; and liberal Democrat Byron Dorgan, the former North Dakota senator who crusaded as an anti-D.C. lobbying populist before retiring from office to work as, you guessed it, a D.C. lobbyist.

Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education is also saturating the airwaves with ads trying to salvage Common Core in the face of truly bipartisan, truly grassroots opposition in his own home state of Florida. As I've reported previously, the former GOP governor's foundation is tied at the hip to the federally funded testing consortium called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), which pulled in $186 million through the Obama administration's Race to the Top program to develop Common Core tests.

One of the Bush foundation's top corporate sponsors is Pearson, the multibillion-dollar educational publishing and testing conglomerate. Pearson snagged $23 million in contracts to design the first wave of PARCC test items and $1 billion for overpriced, insecure Common Core iPads purchased by the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is leading the $13.4 billion edutech cash-in catalyzed by Common Core's technology mandates.

In December, you should know, the state of New York determined that Pearson's nonprofit foundation had abused the law by siphoning charitable assets to benefit its for-profit arm in order to curry favor with the Common Core-peddling Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Pearson paid a $7.7 million settlement after the attorney general concluded that the company's charitable arm was marketing Common Core course material it believed could be sold by the for-profit side for "tens of millions of dollars." After being smoked out, the Pearson Foundation sold the courses to its corporate sibling for $15.1 million.

Then there's the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has joined the Clintonite-stocked Center for American Progress to promote Common Core and has earmarked more than $52 million on D.C. lobbying efforts.

Two D.C. trade associations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, continue to rubber-stamp Common Core propaganda. They are both recipients of tens of millions of dollars in Gates Foundation money. NGA employed Democratic education wonk Dane Linn to help shepherd through the standards; Linn now flacks for Common Core at the D.C.-based Business Roundtable lobbying shop, another leading sponsor of the ads now bombarding your TVs and radios.

Despite its misleading name, the NGA does not represent all of the nation's governors, holds only nonbinding resolution votes, and serves primarily as an "unelected, unrepresentative networking forum," as Heartland Institute scholar Joy Pullmann put it, with funding from both taxpayers and private corporations. NGA's Common Core standards-writing meetings were convened in secret and are protected by confidentiality agreements.

Direct public input was nil. Of the 25 people in the NGA and CCSSO's two Common Core standards-writing "working groups," EdWeek blogger Anthony Cody reported in 2009, six were associated with the test-makers from the College Board, five were with fellow test publishers ACT, and four were with Achieve Inc. Several had zero experience in standards writing.

Achieve Inc., you may recall from my previous work, is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit stocked with education lobbyists who've been working on federal standards schemes since the Clinton years. In fact, Achieve's president, Michael Cohen, is a veteran Clinton-era educrat who also used to direct education policy for the NGA. In addition to staffing the standards-writing committee and acting as lead Common Core coordinating mouthpiece, Achieve Inc. is the "project management partner" of the Common Core-aligned, tax-subsidized PARCC testing conglomerate.

Who's behind Achieve? Reminder: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has dumped $37 million into the group since 1999 to promote Common Core. According to a new analysis by former Georgia State University professor Jack Hassard, the Gates Foundation has now doled out an estimated total of $2.3 billion on Common Core-related grants to thousands of recipients in addition to NGA, CCSSO, the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Achieve.

As they prop up astroturfed front groups and agitprop, D.C.'s Common Core public relations blitzers scoff at their critics as "black helicopter" theorists. Don't read their lips. Just follow the money. This bipartisan power grab is Washington-led and Washington-fed. It's not a conspiracy. It's elementary: All Common Core roads lead to K Street.

MICHELLE MALKIN, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

ADDENDUM, April 24: An official from Achieve wrote the following in response to this column.


In her recent opinion editorials ("Get To Know The Common Core Marketing Overlords," March 21, and "Pushing Back Against PARCC/Achieve Inc. Lobbyists," April 4) attacking education standards, Michelle Malkin makes a number of absurd and misleading claims that demand correction.


Despite her assertion to the contrary, the education reform non-profit Achieve is not "stocked" with lobbyists. Achieve did not employ Ms. Sullivan or Mr. Robinson, the two people mentioned in the column, as lobbyists and neither has worked at the organization in seven years! The fact that Ms. Malkin could only find two former employees from years ago who had lobbied for other entities at some point in their careers refutes her own claims. In essence, and without realizing it, Malkin fact-checked herself. Out of the many employees Achieve has had since our founding in 1996, none have ever lobbied on behalf of Achieve. Malkin is severely misinformed.

More importantly, the higher standards Ms. Malkin rails against were developed and adopted voluntarily by states and serve a critical need for parents and teachers to ensure that students are on the pathway to success in their academic careers.

Chad Colby, Director of Strategic Communications, Achieve

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Michelle Malkin

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The Washington Examiner