Publishing giant Pearson Inc. is set to rake in billions of dollars in profits related to the implementation of the Common Core standards, but the corporation is now dealing with legal problems exposing some of its suspicious methods that have led to its status as the King of Common Core.
The Pearson Charitable Foundation states it is closing following “a decision by Pearson plc to integrate all of its corporate responsibility activities and functions into its business as a way to maximize social impact and to no longer fund the Foundation as the primary vehicle for its philanthropic and community activities.”
The truth is, however, that corporate Pearson is closing down its charitable foundation following problems with the law that have exposed some of its methods in acquiring business.
As Breitbart News reported in December of 2013, the Pearson Foundation agreed to a $7.7 million settlement with the state of New York after accusations by the state’s attorney general that the foundation helped develop Common Core-aligned courses for Pearson, Inc., its corporate parent.
The settlement describes the nature of the conflicts:
Pearson and the Foundation have a close working relationship. The Foundation’s staff has consisted of Pearson employees; the Foundation’s board was comprised entirely of Pearson executives until 2012; select Foundation programs have been conducted with the advice and participation of senior Pearson executives; and the Foundation continues to rely heavily upon Pearson Inc. for administrative support…
From 2008 through 2011, the Foundation provided grants to an independent organization of school officials in the U.S. for a jointly sponsored International Summit program, a series of conferences on education that were held abroad and attended by state school officials. The Foundation and Pearson also worked with the organization to plan and organize the International Summits, to identify speakers and presenters and in some cases to recommend school officials from participating countries. Since Pearson offers products and services throughout the U.S. and in many other countries, the school officials who were invited were from jurisdictions where Pearson actively did business and sought to do business. The travel and lodging of state school officials from the U.S. were paid for by the organization of school officials, with the use of Foundation grant funds. The Foundation independently sponsored the travel and lodging of guest speakers, presenters, and summit delegates, including school officials, from foreign countries. In some cases, the non-U.S. delegates who were invited to attend the International Summits were nominated by Pearson personnel.
In October, Breitbart News also reported a scandal in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in which Superintendent John Deasy, former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, resigned after pushing a $1.3 billion iPad buy for every child in his district from joint sellers Apple and Pearson, the latter of which had designed a companion iPad curriculum. The program was a huge failure and led to further scrutiny of Deasy’s close personal ties with Apple and Pearson.
The Los Angeles Times further noted earlier this month that the FBI was conducting a criminal investigation into the failed LAUSD iPad program and had seized 20 boxes of records related to the matter. A federal grand jury is reportedly studying the situation.
According to Alan Singer at the Huffington Post, a Washington Post interview with Marc Harris, former chief of the public corruption and government fraud unit at the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Attorney, said that such irregularities in the bidding process would be considered a federal crime if federal funds were involved or the case was a matter of fraud against taxpayers by public servants.
Singer indicates that email records point to improper contacts between Deasy and an assistant superintendent, with Apple and Pearson executives before the bidding process opened. In addition, it is believed that Pearson officials may have actually fashioned the final proposal.
The LAUSD request for proposals was not issued until six months later in March 2013. However, there are a series of emails between Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino and LAUSD officials starting in May 2012 and September 11, 2012; Sherry King of the Pearson Foundation emailed John Deasy, Superintendent of Los Angeles schools, setting up a lunch meeting at a restaurant in Santa Monica that included Judy Codding, a Pearson Education corporate field representative. According [to] School Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, who replaced John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, the bidding process for the iPad contract had been plagued by “innuendoes” and “rumors.”
In a thorough overview of the nature of the tight relationship between Pearson and the Gates Foundation – the primary source of private funding of the Common Core education initiative, Nancy Thorner of Lake Bluff, Illinois wrote in a letter to the editor of the Madison-St. Clair Record, “[T]he Gates Foundation joined forces with the Pearson Foundation, a British multi-national conglomerate, representing the largest private business maneuvering for U.S. education dollars. Pearson executives saw the potential to secure lucrative contracts in testing, textbooks and software worth tens of millions of dollars.”
Thorner continues with a description of the Gates-Pearson partnership in the creation of digital instruction resources for teachers that would demonstrate how to teach the new Common Core standards. Additionally, she notes how the Gates-Pearson association has provided support to the Education Development Center (EDC), Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts, a company that designs teacher evaluation programs, a major component of the Common Core standards.
EDC is funded not only by the Gates Foundation and Pearson Education, but has also received federal funding and donations from UNESCO and the World Health Organization. Its board of trustees includes Anne Bryant of the National School Boards Association and Judy Codding, Managing Director of the Pearson Common Core Initiative.
Pearson VUE, the corporation’s assessment services wing, has also acquired Exam Design, a company that develops examination software.
From training teachers in how to instruct in the Common Core methods, to student textbook and digital learning materials aligned with the standards, to evaluation of teachers, to student assessments, Pearson’s partnership with the Gates Foundation has led to its place as the King of Common Core. The increasing unpopularity of the education reform, however, will likely lead to further scrutiny of Pearson’s already questionable practices.