The Common Core Pipeline
A June 7, 2014 Washington Post article is titled: “How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution.” It states: “The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes.
The Post reports: “Gates money went to state and local groups, as well, to help influence policymakers and civic leaders. And the idea found a major booster in President Obama, whose new administration was populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates.”
It is well-documented that many entities have fed off the Common Core teat. Some states won Race to the Top grants from the federal government. Publishing companies continue to roll out Common Core-aligned materials that schools must purchase in order to align with the new, untested national standards. The PARCC and SBAC testing consortiums were federally bankrolled in order to develop and administer Common Core tests. Since each student needs a computer to take the aligned tests, computer sales to schools have skyrocketed.
A Close Look at Idaho
Some individuals in state bureaucracies who invited Common Core (CC) standards into states and enthusiastically approved of them have gained financially and their careers have advanced. Using Idaho as an example, it can be noted that there is a pipeline between those in the state bureaucracy who supported Common Core and the non-governmental entities that promoted it. Employees in the Idaho Department of Education have gone on to lucrative jobs in the private sector after they supported CC implementation in that state.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna decided not to run for reelection to that office. Luna instead accepted a job at a nonprofit that sells STEM-based curriculum, which “is aligned to all of the Common Core Standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards.” Luna will oversee four regional directors and a team of policy analysts and researchers. He’ll work for Project Lead The Way, which reported $12.3 million in revenues on its 2012 federal tax disclosure form. Luna declined to disclose his salary. (Idaho Statesman, 8-19-14; PLTW.org)
Carissa Miller who was the Deputy Superintendent of the Idaho Dept. of Education 21st Century Classrooms Division is now the Deputy Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two unelected, private Washington, D.C. organizations that promoted CC in states and owns the copyright on the standards. (The other is the National Governors Association.)
The current CCSSO Communications Director is Melissa McGrath, who formerly held that position at the Idaho Dept. of Education and was a Luna administration senior staff member.
The Idaho education department’s former assessment and accountability director, T.J. Bliss, now works for the Common Core-promoting William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
In December, Luci Willits who was formerly the Chief of Staff for Superintendent Luna left that job to become the executive director of the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of the two federally-funded CC testing organizations.
In June, Roger Quarles left his Idaho Dept. of Education post as Supt. Luna’s chief deputy to work for a prominent CC proponent in Idaho, the Albertson Foundation.
These job changes were reported at the website IdahoansForLocalEducation.com on November 14, 2014.
By any standard, Idaho has seen an unusual number of state Department of Education employees moving to jobs with Common Core entities and proponents. Idahoans for Local Education asks: “As you look at what has taken place in Idaho you have to wonder, were these individuals working for what was best for Idaho’s children or what was best for furthering their careers?”