The Common Core Cabal has struck again, this time to the tune of 61 million Idaho tax-payer dollars, as was reported on the front page of the Morning News, March 25, 2015. This money was reportedly “wasted” on a student data tracking system which, incidentally, Idaho agreed to implement as a part of Governor Otter’s federal “Race to the Top” application. Idaho didn’t win the Race to the Top, but we did get a bill for a 61 million dollar Student Data Tracking System that didn’t really work.
The article conveniently blames this incredible waste, which comes at a time when many Idaho schools are struggling just to meet basic expenses, on the Luna administration, which is long gone. It then quotes Senator Tim Corder reassuring us that our new state superintendent, Sherri Ybarra, can count and spell (as if Tom Luna couldn’t) and so we can all feel secure that this fiasco will not be repeated. It appears, then, that this 61 million dollars is just water under the bridge.
There are a lot of angles to this story. I could write a whole book documenting concerns related to the Student Data Tracking System, which is intended to gather personally identifiable data on every student from pre-school up through college and career. These concerns include: the privacy issues, the lack of parental access and oversight, the significant likelihood that it will be a financially lucrative gold-mine for corrupt government cronies, etc. There are many reasons to oppose the creation of this system in the first place.
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Ignoring the Truly Significant
However, the thing that struck me about this story was the part that was minimized and NOT shared. The article very briefly mentions that, in addition to poor administrative decisions, the system we paid for was never designed to serve as a statewide system. It also briefly mentions that it was purchased from a company called Schoolnet, a New York company owned by British-based publishing giant Pearson.
Why is this significant? Pearson has partnered with the Gates Foundation as one of the primary corporate funders and promoters of Common Core reforms. I know — some will falsely claim that the student data tracking system has nothing to do with the Common Core standards. But the fact is that the authors of the standards — those who own the copyright — have published articles on their own web-site outlining a five step plan for education reform. These reforms include the adoption of the Common Core standards AND the implementation of a national student data tracking system as interlocked parts of a five-step reform package. Other steps include teacher training reforms, curriculum alignment, and new school accountability measures (testing, etc.).
Pearson and the Gates Foundation have been behind the Common Core wave from the start. They have learned to play corporate cronyism to the hilt and they are riding the American tax-payer hard, financially benefiting from almost every aspect of the five-step education reforms they are pushing. Pearson, the largest educational publisher and on-line book company in the world (how about some new Common Core aligned curriculum in every classroom?), also launched the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) consortium which is writing new Common Core testing (more money) and sells software for districts to use (and more $) in administering tests, and provides internet bandwidth (still more $). They also provide conferences and training to help states roll out Common Core (more profit). And they apparently sell Student Data Tracking Systems with price tags in the tens of millions.
News reports of Pearson rolling out inadequate products and receiving slaps on the hand for illegal corporate/non-profit activities are not hard to find. For example, in December of 2013, the Washington Post reported that Pearson had agreed to pay a 7.7 million dollar settlement after the New York Attorney General found them guilty of using their non-profit foundation to generate tens of millions of dollars for their corporate arm. Pearson’s non-profit foundation was used to develop products and curriculum aligned to new standards, all tax-exempt. These products were then being sold — for profit.
What’s more, their tax-exempt foundation was flying public officials to extravagant international locations for conferences where Pearson’s corporate employees would meet with them and assess the needs of the states the public officials represented — so that they could sell them Pearson products. When Pearson was called on the carpet for their illegal activities (bribery and extortion) they claimed ignorance and paid a measly settlement into a fund to train teachers (hardly a loss on their part).
When one understands the scope and nature of the corrupt cronyism which is the impetus and core of current education reforms, it seems ludicrous that this most recent 61 million dollar loss of tax-payer dollars is being chalked up to one ignorant public official who is nowhere around. Meanwhile the current administration is giving Pearson a free pass and continuing it’s love affair with Common Core reforms.
Surely the data tracking software was purchased with the understanding that it would perform as a statewide data collection system. Clearly it was not what it was marketed to be. Now, our public officials, evidently hesitant to challenge the corrupt system they have participated in, are mildly walking away.
It’s time to get educated about education reforms. Until the people, in general, become aware of and unwilling to tolerate the corporate/federal cabal that now has public education by the throat, we will continue to pay through the nose — not just in dollars, but in the quality and content of our education, and, ultimately, in the loss of our own personal liberty and the ability to have local control over the education of our own children.
Also by Julianne Young: SBAC Concerns Need a Fair and Open Hearing Now