(Photo: Reuters/Christian Hartmann)
Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is spending millions to bankroll the Common Core education standards that have been embraced by the Obama administration.
Forty-five states, Washington, D.C. and four territories have adopted Common Core, a set of uniform math, English and other education standards that determine what students should learn in each grade, who teaches them, and what child and family information the federal government can collect and share.
Even though the Common Core website states that adoption of the K-12 standards is in no way mandatory, Jason Turesky and Charles Chieppo of the Pioneer Institute disagree.
"Regardless of how proponents defined it, Common Core is anything but voluntary," Turesky and Chieppo said. "In actuality, it's a $16 billion trickle-down mandate, the vast majority of which is unfunded."
"As part of the 2009 stimulus legislation, the federal government created the Race to the Top (RTT) Fund, $4.35 billion in competitive educational grants available only to states that adopt Common Core," Turesky and Chieppo said.
Although parents, teacher and legislators agree that education standards are necessary, many say that Common Core standards are not the answer, because they don't benefit students' education, and states cannot afford to fund the program.
"The solution is not more federal government, it's less federal government," Emmett McGroarty director of American Principles Project's (APP) Preserve Innocence Initiative, told the Wall Street Journal last May. "In order for states to compete for Race to the Top, they had to commit to the Common Core standards, even before they were able to review the program. … [Also] States were told that the standards were internationally benchmarked, but they are not."
Gates has spent $163 million to develop the Common Core and corresponding curriculum, and to get lawmakers and business leaders to support it, according to the Heartland Institute, which also states that Gates bankrolled the development of the Common Core through the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. And, since all three are nonprofit organizations, their policymaking happens in private meetings.
"It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation's agenda has become the country's agenda in education," Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2009.
For example, the Heartland Institute reveals that the Gates Foundation has "directly sponsored state departments of education and myriad groups who aim to influence policymakers. In 2012, it gave $1.9 million to the Kentucky Department of Education 'to examine the use of high-quality curriculum to accelerate common core state standards implementation.'"
On Jan. 16, Indiana's Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the Common Core, and 26 of the 32 people who testified against a bill to withdraw Indiana from the education standards are members of organizations the Gates Foundation funds.
Indiana Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis) is the author of Senate Bill 193 that would shift the state away from Common Core.
According to TheStatehouseFile.com, "Schneider said adoption of the Common Core standards has resulted in a loss of local input from parents, teachers and administrators. Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle, stay-at-home mothers from Indianapolis, urged him to do so. [Because] Tuttle said Common Core led her third grader to learn 'fuzzy math' taught out of sequence."
"Tuttle said one textbook teaches students to subtract by starting in the hundreds, tens and then ones – opposite of the traditional way. … after speaking with the teacher and principal about her issue with the curriculum, the Indiana Department of Education told her she would have to contact the national governance association to express her concern. She said she felt she did not have input on her child's education because of the national standards."
Turesky and Chieppo said that: "Because of parameters set by the federal government, states that opt out of Common Core are out of the running for both federal grants and the coveted waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law. From there, states exert the same kind of influence on local school districts. The districts don't have to implement Common Core, but the standards are the basis for state-designed standardized testing."
According to McGroarty, "It's time to recommit ourselves to the Constitution and return education policymaking to states and localities, where it is closest to parents."
Texas, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands are not signed on to Common Core.