Grassroots Conservative Activists Lead Way to Bring Common Ground to Common Core Fight
DALLAS, Texas--Finding common ground on Common Core is a task usually coveted by cavalier progressive left and establishment right ideologues whose education reformer remedies include overlooking imperfections, re-branding, and calling the implementation of the Common Core "botched." However, there are conservative grassroots activists who are taking a uniquely different approach. In Wisconsin, California, and Texas they are forging common bonds with political adversaries who also want to Stop Common Core. Together, they stand at the precipice of a whole new dialogue.
"Common Ground on Common Core: Voices from across the Political Spectrum Expose the Realities of the Common Core State Standards" is the title of new collection of essays coming out in late August from upstart Wisconsin-based publisher Resounding Books that brings together conservative and liberal voices in the fight against Common Core. Founder Kirsten Lombard told Breitbart Texas that this book was her way to make something that would cut through the noise and the bars created by partisan labels, empty talking points, and deceptive ploys coming from leadership who support Common Core.
Lombard, who is also a Wisconsin 9/12 Project group organizer, said, "If we don't fight that, Common Core goes on by this or some other name."
Lombard told Breitbart Texas that she set up the Resounding Books project as a PAC (Political Action Committee). It's goals are transparency and the opportunity to put book proceeds aside to establish mini-grants that education activists could apply for around the country. The contributing essayists have generously waived their fees to help get the message out to stop Common Core.
There are 19 contributors. A few are the experts -- Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. James Milgram and Ze'ev Wurman; Seton Hall professor Chris
Tienken, American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins, and Home School Legal Defense Fund attorney William Estrada. South Florida teacher Ceresta Smith will address high-stakes testing and its impact on minority students while Mary Calamia, LCSW, who testified against Common Core before the NY State Assembly, will cover the dangers of the impressionable mind under the influence of the Common Core. United Opt-Out co-founder Tim Slekar, "Children of the Core" author Kris Neilsen and education blogger Shane Vander Hart are also contributors of varying political viewpoints.
There's also "mom" who continues to be pigeon-holed as the suburban tin-foil hat wearer that Arne Duncan portrayed her. In "Common Ground," Lombard intends to bring the ladies in Common Core states from opposite sides of the political spectrum together and dispel that myth.
"In finding common ground, we can accomplish anything regarding Common Core. If people can find the truth of an issue together, they can more effectively act together," she said, adding, "My hope is that they will actually talk to each other. What does each side know to make us both stronger in this battle?"
This same principles apply to the one of the most successful anti-Common Core advocacy groups on Facebook -- Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards (PEACCS). Created in March 2013 by Northern California school board member and mother of three children all in public school, Angela Weinzinger, PEACCS has 19,670 members at the moment and keeps growing. That's a lot of diverse viewpoints to manage.
Weinzinger, also a grassroots conservative, opened a channel for right and left to dialogue. She told Breitbart Texas, "Those of us who are fighting Common Core do not have the financial clout that the education reformers who are pushing this have. We have the love of our kids, the love of education, and the desire to do what is right. If we don't fight this together, no matter what are our political affiliations, religious views, racial or professional backgrounds we won't win this fight. It is imperative that we stand shoulder to shoulder, with common sense and with perseverance and determination."
Weinzinger runs the online group around her day job with the help of a number of volunteer administrators who screen posts to make sure the group stays focused. "If it's not a specifically Common Core related issue, posts don't make the cut," she told Breitbart Texas, also crediting the group's success to policies of fairness, mutual respect and that focus.
"There have been several times that I have allowed
postings that I may not agree with 100% for a myriad of reasons, mainly if they are fair and contribute to the conversation without being disrespectful. It helps to open dialogue for our members to better understand each other's point of views and better solidify their stance on Common Core," she said.
Respect for differing viewpoints is a rule of PEACCS. Debate is encouraged, bashing will get a member bounced. "I am constantly reminding members that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It is not an issue of conservative vs. liberal. It is an issue of power and money. It is an issue of parents as the guardians of their children and those rights as parents need to be maintained. It's also about teachers who are being forced to teach the Common Core. They need to be supported," she added.
PEACCS happened out of frustration. Weinzinger was looking for a group to join. California had signed onto the Common Core officially in 2010. "I was already working on the fight against Common Core and only found two groups on Facebook, which I joined even though they were in other states. I was hoping to get some help and support to fight it in California," she said.
Then, a school board issue left school board member Weinzinger feeling powerless; it prompted her to start the group, which grew into a place to learn more about Common Core, plus support and cultivate online community ideas on how to fight it. Today, PEACCS has members from all around the country.
Meanwhile, in Texas, there is no Common Core technically. It's been banned yet those materials and philosophies of instruction continue to spill right across state lines into Lone Star classrooms. When Breitbart Texas spoke to Commissioner of Education Michael Williams in March, he confirmed
that Texas was no longer the top dog in textbook purchasing power. That distinction shifted to the Common Core bloc.
However, the Network of Enlightened and Education Women (NEEW) in North Texas is a new grassroots group working to empower parents "outside the noise of the media and politicians," much like "Common Ground."
NEEW came about through a conversation among Dallas area moms exploring education options for their children. This included friends from the right and the left. They realized that each had a deep desire to find the best schooling options to fit their children and families.
Having friends on both sides of the political aisle, NEEW wanted to bridge the education debate by "taking down the barriers of division and finding our common bond, our children," according to Golden Corridor Republican Women's Piper McCraw, also affiliated with NEEW.
In June, NEEW launched with the "Education Options Today" lunch summit in Plano. Fifty Dallas-Fort Worth area moms and dads, who mainly had children entering kindergarten in the 2014-15 school year, heard speakers from public, charter, private and home school professionals who shared the benefits of their option. Richardson ISD's Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs, spoke on behalf of the traditional K-12 track that touted diversity, Legacy Christian Academy admissions coordinator addressed Biblical and classical education benefits. Leadership Prep principal educated parents on open enrollment public charter schools, while the Director of Public Policy at the Texas Home School Coalition, covered the advantages of stepping outside the box completely.
This event did not belabor the federal intrusion on education but did introduce realities of Fed Led Ed rearing its head. Breitbart Texas has reported on numerous incidents where Common Core materials have shown up in public school classrooms. CSCOPE, which was renamed as TEKS Resource System, another controversial education management program, was also introduced in the hopes of educating without scaring parents.
NEEW wanted to empower attendees to better understand educational options -- public, charter, private, parochial, and home school. One NEEW team member commented, "All these choices can be a daunting task to figure out what's right for you and your family."
Education will be one of NEEW's priorities, though not its sole focus. The group plans to meet monthly and will introduce additional partners in the coming months. One of the topics they want to address is building a strong community. It's all part of this new wave of grassroots conservatives reaching out to find communality in the education debate on both sides of the aisle.
Follow Merrill Hope, an original member of the Breitbart Texas Team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.