Common Core Critics Attacked in Texas

TEXAS--Concerned suburban Dallas dad Andrew Bennett spent the past three months raising questions about Common Core materials coming home from the Northwest Independent School District (NISD) middle school. 

Although Texas did not adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative, it shares textbooks and other learning materials with Common Core participating states as Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams told Breitbart Texas in a recent interview.  Among those books is the Sadlier Vocabulary Workshop, a product aligned to the Common Core, stating so on the front cover.  As a parent who was under the impression that Texas had no ties to the Common Core, Bennett was concerned. He was also troubled by a vocabulary question that read:

"There is quite a contrast between the FILL-IN-THE-BLANK administration that now runs the country and the 'do-nothing' regime that preceded it."  Bennett took these concerns of bias to the middle school teacher who then sent him to the principal.

Bennett said, "The principal told me that this vocabulary book is part of the Springboard supplemental materials used by the district."  The principal, who Bennett spoke of fondly and described as always cooperative and helpful, also told him that Springboard was aligning to the Common Core. Breitbart Texas contacted Tidwell Middle School assistant principal Steven Parkman for additional clarification but our call was not returned.  It remains unclear if this is or is not a supplemental product. Springboard is listed as in use on the district's website as a curriculum product without any identification of supplemental status.

"Not getting answers is frustrating," said Bennett, who has asked questions about other content.  He also created Northwest ISD Parents and Teachers against the Common Core on Facebook to reach out to other area parents with similar educational concerns.  According to Bennett, he began attending school board meetings to become more engaged. 

"It's very intimating," Bennett stated about NISD Parents and Teachers Against Common Core being  slammed as fringe group by local parents.   According to Bennett, the parent making false accusations is Kim Burkett, a PTA executive board member.  Bennett claims Burkett has accused outspoken parents with creating fear and confusion in the community. 

Breitbart Texas spoke with Burkett,who asked to be identified as a NISD parent and not as a PTA member.  She claims she has only spoken on her own and not as a PTA spokesperson.  Burkett told Breitbart Texas that she did not accuse Bennett or his local parent group of creating fear and confusion.

She said, "My words were clear, I indicated outside political activists with an extreme agenda are taking advantage of our NISD parents by promoting confusion and fear within our district." 

Burkett alleges that outside "interlopers" have infiltrated Mr. Bennett's Northwest ISD parent group and she claims they do not reside in NISD."  She clarified that these are the activists she referred to as the fringe group, believing they are forces who are taking advantage of NISD parents by spreading misinformation to create confusion and fear in our community."

According to Bennett, Burkett's claims are incorrect.  He said that the core local group is from the school district, although he included a few trusted friends on the social media site.

Burkett insists that the school district adheres to the TEKS and not Common Core Standards.  Given that information, Breitbart Texas asked her then why was it a problem for this parent to question Common Core materials?  Burkett restated her belief that this local concerned parent group has received bad information from outside political activists skirting around the original question: why was it a problem for a concerned parent to ask about Common Core materials being used in the school district? 

According to Burkett, Texas PTA does not have a position on Common Core Standards.  Texas PTA, however, is affiliated to PTA National.  PTA National supports the Common Core on their advocacy web page. Burkett blogs for Educate for Texas. Although Burkett did not want to affiliate herself with the PTA in addressing the matter with Bennett, she has done so in the past.  In October 2013, she wrote on her blog,"I love the fact that Wendy Davis is 'a trusted friend' to Texas PTA." 

Davis is the Democratic challenger to the favored Attorney General Greg Abbott in the Texas gubernatorial race.

Previously in Texas, the Vice Chair of the State Board of Education, Thomas Ratliff seemingly sought to silence dissenting opinion. In 2010, Watchdog Wire Texas reported that Ratliff "might also be considered a foe of citizens trying to obtain public records." This article referred to Ratliff's lawsuit against the Austin area Eanes School District in 2007. According to Watchdog Wire's report, he did so "saying its practice of responding to voluminous open records requests was an illegal expenditure of public funds," claiming that a small group of residents made nearly 1,000 requests for about 100,000 pages of record. The lawsuit alleged that the cost of complying with those requests had exceeded $500,000. The publication cited Austin American-Statesman as a source in saying, "Ratliff...once pushed unsuccessfully for a bill that would have limited the amount of information that people could request from government agencies."  

Again, in 2013, Ratliff filed two back-to-back ethics charges against Dallas area mom activist, Alice Linahan. Fox News originally reported this story in which they said Linahan had been outspoken about the controversial Texas Common Core-like product called CSCOPE and was educating parents by setting up communications teams. Ratliff accused her of behaving like a lobbyist although the Texas Ethics Commission rejected the ethics charges. Linahan was not a lobbyist.  She was a mom activist who sat in a non-paid board position at Women on the Wall, a citizen advocacy group engaged in Texas education issues. Linahan also hosts a weekly conference call that connects grassroots activists throughout the state, and a weekly blog talk radio show. Women on the Wall also held community meetings to address Texas specific education issues. Linahan participated as an unpaid volunteer.  Ratliff, according to a Watchdog Wire Texas, is a paid Microsoft lobbyist

"I was just a mom trying to get the word out to other parents about what was going on in Texas education," Linahan told Breitbart Texas.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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