“Smart Options” & the Revolving Door of Common Core

Remember The Great Recession? Did you know that, while Main Street was struggling to stay financially alive, there was a group meeting to determine the “smart options” for our schools? These people were smart all right…in looking out for their own self-interests.

Relatively few people knew about this meeting. So it’s understandable that most people did not see Common Core as the weapon of mass destruction that it is. In pursuit of the truth, please read on.

The following is a revised and updated version of a 2014 DailyKOS post. The original details more of the people involved in the plot to take advantage of a hurting nation. …  This is where the Smart Options saga began. … D.C.

How smart people kicked public schools when they were down.

Washington D.C. is known for its revolving door of political influence. Behind-closed-doors deals are the norm. That made it the perfect place for this group to hatch a blueprint for spending our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education dollars.

But when this meeting took place in April of 2009, few people were talking about how a common core of standards could be used against public school children. After all, WE were in The Great Recession. And THEY were not feeling our pain.

The fact is that education “reformers,” philanthropic organizations, venture capitalists, and politicians followed the dogma expressed by then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”… They didn’t.

And their plan was written up as Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success. The Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad Foundations sponsored the publication (among other things). The Gates influence over education policy is well-known while Eli Broad probably requires a bit of introduction for many.

Eli Broad made his billions mainly through real estate dealings and SunAmerica, which was sold and re-branded as AIG (yes, the same AIG that was too big to fail).

The Broad Foundation focuses on governance of schools, management training of leaders, and hands out generous “prizes” to charter management organizations.

Opportunity knocked; the Smart Options group answered.

Open the door on this one meeting and you will see how the country was purposely duped into financially supporting the education and technology INDUSTRIES ahead of schools.

Entered —the Core support team — the Coalition for Student Achievement, Aka College and Career-Ready America.

These Smart Options participants set the spending priorities and claimed that if states focused on their collection of “big ideas” the country would see “real educational results” by 2012.

Priority #1 “A common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college-and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states…”

Priority #2 “More robust and user-friendly data and information systems.”

Priority #3  “A meaningful professional teacher evaluation system in every state and school district.”

Priority #4By 2012, states and districts should have shut down at least 500 of these [low-performing] schools and replaced them with new, higher-performing schools…including charter schools.” — That is a quote.

Priority #5 “Targeted interventions provided to the students who are at least two years behind academically in reading, writing, and mathematics.”

Priority #1 became Common Core Standards even though the claims of being “evidence-based” were never substantiated. Priorities 2,3, and 4 caused chaos.

It wasn’t just one district that used Recovery funds “inappropriately.” The scenario across the country was money spent on standards, testing, and technology. The statement above is from the largest district in Eli Broad’s backyard, LA. Source: Recovery Act & Chaos.

What about the last priority, helping students?

Usually the devil is in the details. But with this, the specifics were few and the Recovery dollars didn’t materialize into the promised “results.” But, despite Bill Gate’s claim that Common Core failed, it didn’t. The core federal plan did work.

Instead of fully stabilizing funding for schools, the “smart option” became a “race to the top.” The collection of data and establishment of state longitudinal data systems became the core priority. And the core system is close to completion. … How?…

Look at who was at this table set for 40.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation had three foundation employees there. Additionally, there were seven other people who were either graduates of the Broad leadership training, or had a role in governing the Broad training center.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had four representatives directly from their parent organization. But seated at this table, just about everyone else had connections with Gates. Plus, among those many Gates’ associates were three groups essential to launching the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI, as Common Core was originally called):

P-20W is Preschool through Workforce.

Data Quality Campaign: They proudly state, “In 2009, 8 states used state funds to support their P–20W data systems. In 2013, despite difficult economic times, 41 states committed state funds to ensure the long-term sustainability.

Council of the Great City Schools: With outreach to 67 of the largest urban districts, they had  received a Gates grant to assist in implementing Common Core.

Student Achievement Partners (Aka Achieve the Core): The lead writers of the Common Core Standards, David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, created this organization. David Coleman represented them at this meeting.

Common Core was central to the plot but a distraction from the bigger issue.

Now, the essential and basic question in need of answering is, after seeing how these people met and planned….

is this how we should govern the education of America’s children?

Let’s look closer at THEIR process for transforming OUR schools. Here are some of the other smart people AT THE TABLE.

KSA–Plus Communications, Inc. was present for their expertise in providing “education communications and strategic consulting to set education agendas in motion.”

McKinsey & Co. provides services including data analysis and transformation — boasting about having the ability to “drive adoption throughout the organization.”

Last but not least in the area of transformation was Alvarez & Marsal. They are known for “restructuring” and “turnaround” for companies including Enron and the failed Lehman Brothers. “Mavericks” on the ready “when conventional approaches are not enough to activate change,” they promise to “accelerate results through decisive action.”

But for these smart, self-interested dictators of reform to succeed, they needed to dictate education policy. — They needed to direct our public dollars by directing our laws.

So also in attendance was a representative from Education Counsel LLC with their “track record of forging the kind of partnerships needed to bring about meaningful and systemic change.”

In addition, there were two representatives from Education Sector (Aka American Institutes for Research – AIR), a D.C. non-profit education policy think tank. And as they state on their website;

“The reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind) is the nexus of all of our K-12 work, including testing, accountability, teacher quality, finance, data, and school choice.”

COMMON CORE STANDARDS provide COMMON DATA. They were never JUST standards. The Core was always about their SYSTEM.

And No Child Left Behind became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as planned EXCEPT the name was supposed to be the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act.

Words have been changed but the core principles remain deeply embedded in FEDERAL law. Yet, the selling point for ESSA was the false claim of a return to state and local control. Or by the term “state” did Congress mean the Special Interest State?

Who governs our schools?

Did this system of exchange of COMMON student data evolve “IN A CLIMATE OF TRUST”? For “MUTUAL BENEFITS”?

Are we ready to put our trust in philanthropic venture capitalists to train our teachers, our leaders, and educate our children? Is the public even aware that the private education industry is already doing all these things? And do people know the extent to which children’s data is being gathered and tracked? Do you know why?

The system our Recovery Act dollars helped build is called a “human capital development data system.”

Now, do we close the door on what we have allowed to transpire and let the Smart Options dictators proceed with their plan?

Do we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to OUR public education system and let it become a casualty of the Special Interest State? Do we let it become their human capital development system?

Do we really think this is our smartest option?

Corporate-Elite Totalitarianism: Creeping or Leaping Toward a Totalitarian State?

Some people believe the United States is already a totalitarian state. If that is our reality, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain our status as a republic.

Corporate totalitarianism means total control by corporate interests…. What’s happening in the United States today is a corporate coup of the U.S. government, and anyone who isn’t grieving that must not be looking.”  Corporate Totalitarianism, or Not, Opinion by Marianne Williamson

Well, let’s look deeper because wecan’t beat back what we don’t understand.

Totalitarian power by definition is considered to be…

“…of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation…”

I’m sure that during the Kennedy presidency, foreign totalitarian regimes were the concern. But what JFK stated back then can be used in the fight we must take-on today. To win this battle, our citizenry …

“[It] requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline.”

Kennedy’s words were in reference to what he called “the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress “— education. Now, with corporate-elite totalitarianism being an internal threat to our nation, people must recognize and resist conforming to corrupted laws for the sake of conformity.

When the corporate-elite coup is focused on our lawmaking process, that is where it must be stopped.

We need brainpower? Not a problem. But, whom are we matching wits against? And how powerful is their discipline, their control over us?

That is where my passionate support for public education keeps me digging for answers. And I don’t like what I have found.

When the public education system is completely controlled and directed to focus on the “productive capacity of the nation,” then we are concentrating our manpower and money on one of the corporate-elites’ endpoints — the production of their labor supply. This is where we must focus our brainpower and consider what purposes we expect a public education system to serve.

Children do need to be employable. We all understand that.

But what I don’t get is the public’s willingness to let education be narrowed and controlled —made into a test-and-sort, data-collection system— to fill corporate workforce needs.

Who governs?

We know that currently, under the rule of law, corporations are considered people (people who never die). However, corporations alone can’t pull off this coup over control of public schools.

Organizations of all kinds, with a variety of political ideologies, have jumped on the “education reform” bandwagon. They are the ruling elite — ultra-rich individuals and foundations of all structures, sizes, and attractively deceptive names. And they are hiring people, just like you, to work on promoting and selling their agenda. (Recognize astroturf?)

Are we sure we want these groups — under the guise of philanthropic efforts and state control — in control of our productive capacity?

Consider this.

In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explains that—

“… propaganda articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of the recipients.”

Now, think about this: How many parents have been frustrated at one time or another with something that happened in their public schools?

How many business owners have been frustrated at one time or another by hires who didn’t seem adequately prepared for work?

Same question, professors and college students, etc. … I’m NOT saying there is a HUGE problem; I’m saying there are some underlying unaddressed social tensions associated with public education. There has always been a constant desire to improve schools — as there should be. But that fact has been used against us.

Hoffer illuminates how leaders play on our emotions —

“…leadership articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated.”

Because of frustration, we are vulnerable.

With the illusions of education reform thrust upon the nation, the massive changes aren’t fixing the real problems. The pseudo-reforms are only feeding the corporate State. And, yes, that is state with an authoritatively capital “S.” It is the Special Interest State that we all recognize exists.

America was given a choice long ago, but it was an “either/or” choice. (America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages) That’s a propaganda technique that creates a false dilemma. You have only two choices and you MUST pick one. It looks like we did. But there is nothing wrong with admitting we made a bad choice. Good leaders do that and then work to set things right.

Where have all the true leaders gone?

The State — Big Money running what we used to call Big Brother (our government) — is no longer a republic. As Chris Hedges explains in Our Invisible Revolution,…

“Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. … The ‘consent of the governed’ is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could.”

However, WE can defy them. You see, I believe this because of what I see. I see a corrupted federal education law that must be stopped. It can be stopped.

The “new” education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a perfect example of persisting totalitarian creep into the education of the next generation. ESSA continues the marketable propaganda of No Child Left Behind — accountability, flexibility, and choice — with the promise of State control. All the while, it’s moving the corporate-elite agenda of privatization forward by leaps and bounds. The law furthers corporate-elite control over what is becoming their workforce development system.

Between the Koch Brothers outright contributions, the ALEC (American Legislative Council) laws they push, and their funding of astroturf groups, these brothers will be hard to contain.

And now, it is obvious that the public education system is being used for other purposes. Here’s how.

We bought the plan to focus education on standards and outcomes. Standards control what is taught. Outcomes determine what needs reforming. Sound too simplistic? It is. But it worked for those wishing to control the system.

As we focused on math and reading standards for two decades, civics education suffered. …  “Reformers” to the rescue!

The Koch Brothers Sneak into School. It’s real. It’s legal….and you are paying for it.

In addition, ESSA (a law pushed without the Consent of the People) establishes a Presidential Academy for civics instructors. Innocent enough? Perhaps. BUT when accountability for education is being left up to “the State,” who’s to say? How narrow will the civics instruction be? Who will be controlling the content? And who is training “our” educational leadership?

Convinced that this is some serious stuff?

Well, let’s look further at totalitarianism. It can be defined as…

“…tending toward monopoly.”

And there is no doubt; whether it is Bill Gates or the Koch Brothers, Big Money has monopolized education policy — from State to Federal and Federal to State — including local policies through the training of parents and school board members. This is the problem many of us have with Common Core National Standards. They aren’t just standards. They are based on a vision for a totalitarian workforce development system paid for by the public but privately controlled. The corporate-elite created the Common Core System. (America’s Choice?)

So, who is in control of the education of the next generation?

“Controlling information and controlling dissent are part of what goes into maintaining a totalitarian state,” said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.

See why the public education system is such a big prize?

The anti-Common Core groups are fighting hard. The anti-high stakes testing groups are still battling after over two decades. Anti-charter/voucher groups are on the rise. Their individual efforts deserve our respect and admiration, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the coup.

To date, federal education law continues under the control of the corporate-elites. We are still only minor players.

“Through their control of politicians, political parties and corporate media, they do everything necessary to make sure that political candidates who resist them get nowhere near the levers of power.” Marianne Williamson

We, the populace, are rising. But,…

“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites.” Chris Hedges

That is where the ideas and visions of JFK can still serve us well.

The fight for equal educational opportunity has been brought to the schoolhouse steps before.

Totalitarian discipline did creep into education law. But we don’t have to comply with it. Civil disobedience is needed at every opportunity.

Reinforcements are a must. All the groups out there saying they are fighting against corporate-elite rule need to recognize where their strength and numbers are needed most. We know the corporate-elite takeover is real. We have the brainpower to match theirs. What we lack is the collective manpower focused where we can make a huge difference right now…. and in the future.

Join forces. Help stop the escalating takeover of our public schools.