A coalition of business groups are stepping up their campaign supporting President Barack Obama's education agenda, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, with national TV ads that began Sunday. The move highlights the split between pro-business Republicans and grassroots activists in the conservative movement.
The coalition includes the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, according to Politico. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit think tank, is also involved. While critics of the Common Core hail from the left and right of the political spectrum, these ads are specifically aimed at conservative critics. They will air on Fox News and other conservative media outlets.
Viewers of the ads will be unable to tell that they are backed by business lobbies. They feature teachers speaking in a classroom and say they are paid for by the "Higher State Standards Partnership." The ads are part of a coordinated effort with regional groups in key states where the Common Core has met the most opposition.
According to OpenSecrets.org, the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have both been contributors to the National Governors Association, a private group that developed the Common Core.
"It's a critical time," Dane Linn, vice president of the Business Roundtable, told Politico. "State leaders, and the general public, need to understand why employers care about the Common Core."
Prior to working at Business Roundtable, Linn worked for the NGA, where he was one of the architects of the Common Core.
The NGA received funding for the Common Core from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent $163 million on the project. Bill Gates has been interviewed several times over the past week defending the Common Core. It is unclear, though, whether the timing of those interviews were coordinated with the business group ads.
States first adopted the Common Core as part of a competition for federal education dollars called Race to the Top. In order to compete for that money, state education departments and governors agreed to adopt the Common Core standards before they even knew what the standards would be. This process ensured quick implementation by going around state legislatures.
Now that state legislators, teachers, education experts and parents have had a closer look at the standards, though, the Common Core is facing stiff resistance.
As Joy Pullman points out for The Federalist, much of this opposition is being led by mothers who are experiencing firsthand the results of Common Core. Pullman spoke with Kristin George, a Kansas mom who frequently drives five hours to speak to legislators at the state capital in Topeka.
"I look at my kids and I can't imagine not fighting back for what I see as their whole future in education," George told Pullman. "It's so much more to me than just standards. My son will tell me, 'Mom, I think you've had enough computer time today.' I feel like I'm fighting something because of them, and then taking time from them to do it."
The new ads would not be the first by businesses in support of the Common Core, but they are the first coming from a coalition of business groups. Previously, Exxon Mobil has paid for ads supporting the Common Core. Intel and Cisco Systems have also used their resources to promote the Common Core.
Some Common Core critics complain that the standards are more concerned with making good workers than good citizens. The standards, for instance, deemphasizes humanities, classical literature, art and music in favor technical manuals and modern works written by journalists.
Terrence O. Moore, assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College and author of The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core, argues that the Common Core fails to understand two important aspects of human nature: "Jobs do not make the human mind, the human mind makes jobs." And "children are human beings. They're not machines. The can be taught. They should not be programmed like machines."