Advocates Try To Prop Up Common Core Standards As New States Mull Pull-Out

Though 45 states originally signed onto the Obama administration-backed Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the coalition supporting the standards appears to be unraveling.

Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and three other states have pulled back from Common Core, and Maine and Florida are also considering disengaging from the testing group.

The Athens-Banner-Herald reported Thursday that Andy Rotherham of Bellwether Education, a nonprofit consulting firm that supports the standards, believes Common Core is headed for trouble.

Rotherham told 100 school administrators and other professionals at University of Georgia’s State of Education in Georgia Conference, “Florida pulling out could have a big impact on Common Core.”

Rotherham refers to the fact that several states, including Georgia, are rejecting Common Core because of the high cost of the associated testing program that requires students to take the new tests online. Adequate Internet bandwidth, or computer capacity to administer the tests, is considered to be a major factor.

At this point, less than half of the administrators, policymakers, and others polled believe the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the testing system that was scheduled to be adopted by 20 states beginning next year, will be ready by then.

“No one thinks (bandwidth) is not a problem,” Rotherham said. “The biggest threat is the ability of districts to deliver it. This is really a sea change. The support is not going to be there.”

Though federal spending for education has increased steadily since the George W. Bush administration, Rotherham states the “long-term trajectory is not good for spending on public education.”

Millions of dollars, however, are still pouring into advocacy for Common Core, even though it was never supposed to be that hard to get Americans on board with the standards.

Politico reported Friday that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation remains a primary supporter of Common Core with more than $160 million having been funneled into development and promotion of the standards. Soon, the Gates Foundation will be pumping up to $4 million in new grants just to give the advocacy a new push.

In addition, dozens of the top CEO’s in the country have planned for a new national advertising campaign that could include radio, television and print.

Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and supporter of Common Core, said controversy over the standards was never supposed to be a factor. Initially considered to be a “done deal,” with little public debate, Common Core erupted when “opponents got themselves organized and funded,” he said.

Now, Finn said a war is on and the start of the new school year is like “the opening of a second front.”

Joining in support of Common Core are teachers’ unions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the Obama administration.

Opposing Common Core are grassroots and other Tea Party organizations supported by conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute, Concerned Women for America and FreedomWorks.

Politico observes that tax records indicate savvy conservative donors like the Pope, DeVos, and Scaife families are helping to keep these organizations funded, while Shirley & Banister Public Affairs runs the communication team of Common Core opponents.

An ironic twist is that the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida has found itself on the same side as Tea Party activists when it comes to Common Core.

“It’s hard to argue that Common Core proponents haven’t been caught flat-footed,” Rotherham said. “There was this overconfidence that the time had come…They forgot that in a democracy, you have to do the nitty-gritty work of persuading people.”

According to Politico, Bill Raabe of the National Education Association (NEA) said, “Everyone…has learned a lesson.”

Struggling to make up lost ground is David Coleman, often described as the architect of Common Core, who has even held a symposium for a dozen Christian educators. Coleman reportedly swayed some participants with his argument that Common Core would teach children how to read texts that, in turn, could help them understand Scripture.

Though opponents may not have the same level of Gates Foundation cash, their campaign, according to Politico, parallels the Tea Party’s movement to defund ObamaCare. Packed school board meetings, mobilizing on social media, and parents demanding public hearings are all working to get the message out.

Bob Luebke, senior policy analyst with the Civitas Institute, a conservative advocacy organization in North Carolina, said, “The more people learn about this, the more they come out against it.”


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