By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Out-of-state special interests spent tens of millions of dollars in meetings largely behind closed doors to get at Wisconsin’s most precious natural resource: its kids.
That’s not a conspiracy. It’s fact.
The Huffington Post ran an audit of organizations that have received money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote or develop Common Core State Standards.
The writer found:
“In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for (Common Core State Standards) – (National Governors Association), (Council of Chief State School Officers), Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners – have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.”
Eight organizations received $21 million from Gates in total for the purpose of advancing Common Core, including American Enterprise Institute, American Federation of Teachers and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Even the much-hated-by-the-left American Legislative Exchange Council received a Gates Foundation grant for $376,635 just days before a meeting on drafting model legislation opposing Common Core.
The model legislation was dropped.
State Democrats who decried corporate influence and secretiveness when the Republican-led Legislature passed mining regulation reform have backed away from the same kind of scrutiny on new national education standards on which upwards of 87 percent of school children in the United States will be tested.
Instead, state Democrats on Common Core Select Committees have taken aim at American Opinion Foundation, a nonprofit organization with ties to the conspiratorial John Birch Society, for paying for the flights, hotel rooms and meals of half a dozen speakers invited to testify in opposition to Common Core.
Alan Scholl, executive director of American Opinion Foundation, which founded Freedom Project Education, an online classical education homeschool that opposes Common Core, defended his organization after Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, questioned the motives of experts testifying against the standards.
“Parents and grandparents of Wisconsin students, more than 40 of them, collected the fund that was used to bring he and other witnesses hear at this hearing,” Scholl said at the Eau Claire hearing. “Not one dollar of AOF money went into the pocket of any of those witnesses.”
Scholl said AOF produced the check, but it was entirely funded by Wisconsin citizens. The total was less than $6,000.
Citizens testified to dropping $10 or $12 in the proverbial hat to help bring in expert testimony.
The witnesses include:
- Sandra Stotsky, a member of the Common Core validation committee credited with leading development of the widely lauded Massachusetts education standards
- James Milgram, member of the Common Core validation committee and Stanford mathematician
- Gary Thompson, a clinical psychologist at Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center
- Ze’ev Wurman, a U.S. Department of Education official in the George W. Bush administration who evaluated Common Core Standards for California
- Ted Rebarber, CEO and founder of AccountabilityWorks, a nonprofit education group.
Democrats haven’t been interested in posing the questions brought forth by these experts to the education bureaucrats that support Common Core.
But they did put out a press release Oct. 25 slamming the involvement of the Birchers.
“We are certainly disappointed that this fringe organization has been invited by you to represent theoretically “mainstream” opposition to the well-reasoned Common Core Standards,” Lehman and Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Middleton, wrote to the committee chairs.
Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, who hasn’t appeared at a Common Core public hearing since the first one held in Madison, wrote a letter asking committee chairmen to accept her resignation from the committee.
“It has become painfully clear that this committee and its activities are occurring at the behest of interested parties outside of this Legislature, and even this state,” she wrote.
In a letter Friday, tea party leaders called out lawmakers for their apparent double standards.
“It is David and Goliath — our tiny little sum against the Gates Foundation’s millions; the efforts of concerned parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens against a supremely wealthy foundation that has busily been buying a path forward for CCSS over the past few years,” wrote local tea party leaders Ruth Elmer and Ed Perkins in an open letter to the committee and news media. “Yet, somehow, we…are painted as the suspicious characters, the extremists…the bad guys.”
“We think Sen. Lehman, Rep. Pope, and Rep. Sinicki owe us — and the concerned citizens of Wisconsin — an explanation. Not the other way around,” they wrote.
Contact Ryan Ekvall at [email protected] or on Twitter @Nockian