Most of my school days as a student and as a public school teacher were spent in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). These days Indianapolis seems determined to sell out its public schools. So, when I heard Stand for Children (SfC), a repressive education reform group based in Oregon (where I now live), was pouring large sums into the campaigns of three particular school board candidates, I paid attention. Why would SfC care about a school board election 2,000 miles away? Why should Oregonians think the goals of SfC in Indiana are any different for our state?
Perhaps, foreshadowing the IPS results, glossy brochures and pamphlets barraged voters at the mailbox in the final days leading up to the election. All three elected candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley, and LaNier Echols, were endorsed by Stand for Children as well as other funders with deep pockets. SfC, in turn, receives much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over $100,000 was donated to the candidates who support for-profit charter schools, high stakes testing, and non-licensed school staff like Teach for America and Teach Plus. Incumbent opponents raised only about $6,000 among the three of them, and while that may sound dismal in comparison to the outside corporate support, it had previously been the norm.
Photo credit: Matthew Mayer
The ousted incumbents are current IPS board president Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, who all had been endorsed by the local teachers’ union.
Brown was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White, voted against his buyout and has been skeptical of some of the changes the board has embraced since 2012, such as partnerships with charter schools. He said during the campaign that smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents are the keys to improving IPS.
Maybe Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) members, who often consults with SfC on education issues, think Oregonians aren’t aware of its bad behavior in other states. Maybe Governor Kitzhaber and Education CEO Nancy Golden think that parents, students, and community members aren’t aware of SfC’s agenda of privatizing our public schools. They would be wrong. State politicians and the OEIB cannot expect Oregonians to act like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand on the very important issue of public education. We endorse smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents just like the ousted IPS board members.
Is SfC planning a coup to disrupt school board election here in Oregon? We’ll know soon enough in April, 2015, when Portland Public School board elections are scheduled. Attempts on the part of SfC and other reform funders to influence the outcome of the election will result in active protest. Oregon school boards are not for sale.
If there was ever any doubt about the cozy ties between the Oregon Business Alliance and Stand for Children, this event should remove any uncertainty. Stand for Children, once considered a real grassroots education advocacy group, has fallen prey to corporate predators that offer big bucks in exchange for legislative support on education policy. On October 17th, while Stand president Sue Levin was being recognized for her work and leadership throughout the session around PERS and revenue reform in a herculean effort to ensure a bright future for Oregon’s children, Oregon Save our Schools was hosting a dinner of its own. The menu at the people’s table included funding for more teachers, lower class sizes, libraries, art, and music. High-stakes tests were not on the menu.
Everyone is welcome at the people’s table.
Portland parent Susan Barrett recalls her experience as a member of Stand for Children before realizing she was being used by the organization.
The People’s Table
Steve Buel & Duncan Decker address a pro public school crowd at the OBA Statesman Dinner (parody and play)
Ahjamu Umi – Get yourself into a social justice organization
Elijah – Cleveland High School Chapter Member of the Portland Student Union
Emily Crum, teacher and event organizer, invites everyone to join us at the people’s table.
Indiana is being lambasted with Common Core commercials produced by the anti-public education group Stand for Children. Why? Hoosiers are wise to state politicians who are privatizing their public schools. The people need more convincing that national standards are a good thing. Enter Stand for Children to get the job done. Thirty-second spots are airing across the state to convince parents, teachers, and community members that Common Core State Standards are essential to providing students with an adequate education. Will indiana residents be able to influence legislators to stop the Common Core?
For years Indiana has had strong state standards supported by Frameworks that assist teachers in delivering the curriculum. To replace decades of work completed by the people of the state with national Common Core standards seems ridiculous to some.
Here are arguments from Indiana educators and parents reduced t “Myths” by Stand for Children. Many of these arguments can be made by any of the 45 states that have signed on to implement the Common Core. Just insert the name of your state for Indiana. Regardless of Stand’s “facts,” the point may be argues that Common Core legislation was ramrodded through state legislatures without adequate discussion or debate, and without public approval.
MYTH 1: COMMON CORE IS AN EFFORT OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO NATIONALIZE EDUCATION AND FORCE STATES TO TEACH ALL STUDENTS THE SAME WAY.
Fact: Common Core is a state-led initiative by governors, state superintendents, and nonprofit agencies to modernize education standards. It is research-based and molded with more than 10,000 comments from the public. The Indiana State Board of Education, to which the General Assembly has given the task of adopting standards, voluntarily adopted the Common Core in 2010. Indiana received no incentives from the federal government for taking this action.
MYTH 2: INDIANA’S STANDARDS WERE JUDGED SUPERIOR TO COMMON CORE, “EVEN BY COMMON CORE SUPPORTERS.”
Fact: While Indiana’s standards are high compared to many other states, children are still leaving school unprepared for what lies ahead. In addition to the students who do not graduate from high school or choose not to attend college, one-third of Indiana students who do attend college require remediation in math or English.The Fordham Institute, one of the organizations often cited praising Indiana’s standards even said some of the Common Core shifts “would benefit Indiana’s already-strong standards,” and the Common Core State Standards are quality standards for the nation.
MYTH 3: STATES MAY NOT ADJUST THE NEW COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS TO MEET THEIR STATE-LEVEL NEEDS.
Fact: Common Core allows states to add standards on top of the Common Core. This is known as the “15% Rule”, due to the amount of standards that can be added. Additionally, Indiana law allows Home Rule, which means school corporations can adopt standards above the state minimum.
MYTH 4: COMMON CORE STANDARDS REPRESENT A NATIONAL CURRICULUM AND IMPLEMENTING 100% OF COMMON CORE MEANS THAT THE STANDARDS TELL TEACHERS PRECISELY HOW THEY MUST TEACH.
Fact: Standards, by definition, are not a curriculum. Common Core defines the “what” rather than the “how” of teaching. Common Core is a set of standards that outline what students should know at a particular grade level in order to be on track to mastering skills and content to be prepared for college and beyond. Curriculum – the map, schedule, and method for teaching standards – will be a decision left up to school corporations and teachers to construct.
MYTH 5: REFERRING TO THE COMMON CORE AS “NATIONAL STANDARDS” IS THE MOST ACCURATE WAY TO DESCRIBE THEM.
Fact: Neither Congress nor the U.S. Department of Education was involved in the development of Common Core, nor have they mandated Common Core adoption. Not all states have chosen to participate. In fact, the Common Core are nationally aligned state standards because they were developed in collaboration between state and education leaders across the country.
MYTH 6: HOOSIER TAXPAYERS WILL END UP PAYING MORE FOR TECHNOLOGY AND CURRICULUM UPDATES UNDER COMMON CORE THAN THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO UNDER THE INDIANA STANDARDS.
Fact: Indiana currently spends $93.9 million annually on standards-related costs. And the costs of Common Core implementation have varied greatly. At least one estimate said a Common Core transition can save Indiana $23 million. Additionally, Indiana is in a better place than most states because the state allowed districts to make technology investments with textbook funds starting in 2009. (source) This means most – if not all – of Common Core implementation costs can be covered by existing spending.
MYTH 7: “UNDER THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, STUDENTS MAY GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL READING AT A 7TH GRADE LEVEL.”
Fact: The fact is that currently there are too many students graduating high school reading at a 7th grade level and even lower. This is a major reason why the Common Core were established in the first place. Common Core standards push students to read at even higher levels earlier in their school careers. For example, the current standard for a 9th grade reading level will become the new standard for a 7th grade reading level under full implementation of the Common Core.
MYTH 8: “UNDER THE COMMON CORE, ‘COLLEGE READINESS’ MEANS PREPARATION FOR A SELECTIVE TWO-YEAR COLLEGE, NOT A UNIVERSITY.”
Fact: An education rooted in the Common Core standards would actually prepare students to enter a university setting having spent the last 12 years building up to the complexity of material they will encounter at higher levels of education. Nowhere in the Common Core initiative or research do the authors define “college readiness” as readiness for a “two-year college” instead of a university.
MYTH 9: INDIANA ONLY CHOSE TO ADOPT COMMON CORE BECAUSE THEY WANTED FEDERAL RACE TO THE TOP (RTTT) STIMULUS FUNDS OR WERE INCENTIVIZED BY THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE A NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (NCLB) WAIVER.
Fact: Indiana did not adopt Common Core when it applied for the first round of RTTT funds, and the state did not apply for the second round. Indiana adopted the Common Core on its own terms in August 2010. (source) Indiana also adopted the new standards one year before the NCLB waiver was even an option for states.
MYTH 10: 70% OF THE TEXTS READ IN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ARTS CLASSES MUST BE INFORMATION-TEXT IN 12TH GRADE, WHICH PREVENTS STUDENTS FROM LEARNING CULTURE THROUGH HIGH QUALITY LITERATURE.
Fact: Common Core standards call for 70% of all texts (not 70% of English Language Arts texts) read in 12th grade to be nonfiction, which includes content area texts, such as science and history. (source) This was done to support literacy instruction in other content areas and underscore the role that all teachers must play in literacy efforts. (source) This will help ensure students are graduating high school adequately prepared to read rigorous college and career-level material, a majority of which are informational texts.
MYTH 11: THE COMMON CORE WILL BE ADOPTED IN PLACE OF ALL INDIANA ACADEMIC STANDARDS IN ALL SUBJECT AREAS.
Fact: The Common Core standards provide new standards for English Language Arts and math only, not social studies, science and technical subjects. Nor will these other subjects be evaluated on the new PARCC assessment test. Current Indiana Academic Standards will be used for these subjects.
It’s no secret that ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has an education agenda. The templates for policy can be accessed at ALEC EXPOSED. However, transforming a template to policy doesn’t happen instantaneously. How does the ideology translate into law? Could it be with a little help from Teach for America? Bear with me while I connect the dots.
Last summer, quite by accident, I met a group of about six young adults on the MAX here in Portland who were traveling from the airport to train for their new jobs. They were talking about having just finished their teaching jobs and how happy they were to be done with it. Being an unemployed teacher myself, I listened for a while and then struck up a conversation. They identified themselves as Teach for America corps members who had just completed their obligatory two year stints in the classroom. They were headed to the Stand for Children offices to be trained in writing education policy. Most had been hired to work as legislative assistants in state houses around the country. I asked a few probing questions about their education expertise, especially in policy. Turns our none of them had any education credentials. Some had worked on their masters degrees during teaching, but none had studied education or education policy. They really didn’t get my point. The arrogance was palpable. I finally asked one of them point blank, “Don’t you think you should have some education and experience before writing education policy?” They assured me that over the next two weeks (I think, anyway, short time) they would be trained to do it.
I hadn’t thought about that encounter much since. But when I read Diane Ravitch’s latest article in the Answer Sheet, Ravitch: A Primer on the Group Driving School Reform, it occurred to me that Stand for Children could be the conduit to the uniformity in education legislation using Teach for America “leaders” as the delivery system. Last summer ALEC was barely a blip on my radar so I hadn’t make a connection back then.
Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures? I know Oregon legislators aren’t savvy enough to develop language and coordinate ideas that mesh with those in other states, but their Teach for America, Stand for Children trained assistants may well be. With a little help from a persistent friend, this is what I found out.
Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit organization that was launched in 2007 to inspire, train and support Teach For America alumni and corps members to pursue public leadership by providing or connecting them to high impact volunteer and career opportunities in politics, policy, advocacy, and elected office. Over the years, Teach For America alumni and corps members expressed a growing desire to engage more with the policy and political contexts that so impacted what they saw happening at the school and classroom level. Recognizing that Teach For America’s ability to engage in or to support advocacy and political work is quite limited as a traditional 501(c)(3) organization, LEE was born.
Translation: Legally, Teach for America can’t write or influence education policy, but by creating a faux nonprofit, it can.
On the LEE home page, a job posting for ALEC is listed.
Education Task Force Director
Company: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Type of Position: Full-time; Non-Profit
Location: Washington, DC
After an exhaustive search no financial records for this organization were found. Funding sources are also scarce.
Teach for America’s influence reaches far beyond the damage its recruits do in the classroom. It produces “leaders” whose mission is to privatize public education under the guise of astroturf organizations like LEE and many others that only give lip service to education equity. Through this seemingly innocuous network, TFA has been able to infiltrate every facet of education by placing former corps members in positions of power. With an infrastructure like that, it’s no that wonder ALEC has been so successful in moving its education agenda forward.
My name is ********. I am a teacher in the ******* School District. You’ve probably heard, but last night our union voted to strike. Our neighboring school districts are in similar situations. Not a good thing. I have been feeling that something was very strange with this negotiation. Something was up. A colleague and I started to dig a little. We thought perhaps the “Tea Party” might have influenced our school board, but there seemed to be little there. Then we stumbled upon you (Oregon Save Our Schools of which I am a member) and Stand for Children.
The three districts have ties with the ******** law firm. Perhaps you know of them. They specialize in busting unions and defending school districts. Our board members seem to be involved with Stand For Children.
. . .
Our associations have been at a loss to explain where these new ideas have come from, and so far, they have been outmaneuvered by the professional negotiations and tactics being employed by our administrators. And so, we are being forced to strike. I feel like we are being led into a trap.
In response we have updated the Stand for Children EdWatch page to include the most recent financial statements, annual reports, and articles about Stand’s shenanigans around the country. Stand executives, board members, and wealthiest supporters are arrogant enough to think that Oregonians aren’t aware of its dirty dealings including teacher and union bashing and outright election buying in other states. They don’t seem to realize that what happens in Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington doesn’t stay there. We hear about it in Oregon, too, and we don’t expect to be treated any differently.
Great Schools for America examines issues of public education policy and advocates for the protection of our poorest and most vulnerable students against the rich and powerful who aspire to usurp their rights. We are committed to democratic, not corporate, education ensuring all students access to great teachers, facilities, programs, and projects.