By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Lately, a single issue looms largely over the State’s political and educational landscape. That issue, is the Common Core State Standards.
For some, it is the next big thing in education; for others, it is a Federal takeover of the State’s authority over education policy. In between these two ideas there is a minefield of misinformation, propaganda and of course, money.
According to the editors of, Rethinking Schools the name Common Core State Standards, is misleading, because they are not State standards but, “National standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA).”
Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism, according to the organizations website. They claim that the standards were designed to “circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum,” and that the adding of the word “State” to the brand name is just propaganda to help sell the offering.
Conservatives across the Nation from the National Republican Party to the Alabama GOP have rejected Common Core, seeing it as a government takeover of education. After the decade long experiment with No Child Left Behind, many educators are still reeling from the hangover of “standards-based, test-driven school reform.” Even Governor Robert Bentley has expressed his reluctance to accepting Common Core standards for the State.
However, the leadership of the StateHouse supports Common Core, alining themselves with the Business Council of Alabama, (BCA) and the National Chamber of Commerce.
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn and Senate President Pro tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston have forbidden even a meaningful vote on Common Core.
Recently, a list of BCA candidates was circulated throughout the State and in each case the groups preferred candidate was PRO Common Core. This while conservative Republicans and most in the Tea Party have express their distain for the program.
Many question why men like Hubbard and Marsh have joined forces with those who want to implement the Obama administrations push for nationalizing K-12 education.
Jeff Bryant, Director of the Education Opportunity Network, may have the answer:
“For years, elites in big business, foundations, well-endowed think tanks, and corporate media have conducted a well-financed marketing campaign to impress on the nation’s public schools an agenda of change that includes charter schools, standardized testing, and “new and improved” standards known as the Common Core.”
According to the conservative group Eagle Forum, “Along with the federal government, private philanthropies and private companies have dumped money into Common Core in a manner unprecedented in American education. Arne Duncan’s appointment as President Obama’s Secretary of Education marked a new era of opportunity for private influence on public education, and under his watch public-private partnerships have flourished. There are also swinging personnel doors between the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education.”
Recently, big moneyed Common Core supporters have come out against Rep Todd Greeson, R-Ider,, who is running for the senate in District 8.
Billionaire San Francisco investor, William Oberndorf has recently given $50,000 to the Alabama Federation for Children, who is using the funds to spearhead a negative campaign against Greeson. Greeson, who has a perfect conservative record on Pro-life, Pro-2nd Amendment and other issues has committed the sin of being against Common Core and for public education.
Why are business elites in bed with the proponents of Common Core? Because there is big money in standardized testing, charter schools and voucher programs.
According to the Washington Post companies like Pearson, the largest education company in the world, stand to make untold millions designing testing materials and software for Common Core.
Advocates of Common Core have also joined force with those who want to privatize public school under the Tax-Credit or voucher system.
In Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “The voucher program’s top supporter, [is] Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley, [who] controls a political committee in Florida that spent nearly $2.4 million to influence races in 2010 and 2012. He plans to spend at least $1.5 million in 2014.”
Kirtley is former Gov. Bob Riley’s partner in Opportunity Scholarship Fund, the Alabama Scholarship Granting Organization ( SGO) that has raised around $20,000,000 since it inception.
Last legislative session Kirtley’s representative pushed hard to have legislators expand the amount of money the SGO could raise only to see their efforts fail because Hubbard and Marsh retired the legislative body prematurely to avoid allowing Gov. Bentley a chance to extend a pay increase to teachers.
In Florida, Kirtley has had his way with the State’s legislator, according to the Times, “Over the past decade, the Legislature has steadily increased the cap on tax credits available through the program. The current limit, $286 million, funds about 60,000 scholarships. That number is already set to grow over time. But lawmakers are considering adding another $30 million, or up to $120 million over the next four years, to reach a cap of $874 million in 2018-19, which is already allowed in law.”
In Florida, Kirtley’s operations are allowed to keep 3 percent of all money raised for operating expenses in Alabama it is 5 percent.
The Times also shows that Kirtley’s PAC, the Florida Federation for Children, “has channeled more than $2.3 million into political advertisements and direct mail to help favored candidates since 2010.”
This seems to be the pattern emerging with the Alabama Federation for Children.
It would seem that the nexus between big business, tax-credits, Common Core and Alabama politics is just too obvious to ignore.