Described by conservative Brietbart News as the “King of Common Core,” Pearson announced it was closing its charitable foundation amid irregularities in relationships it developed with state education executives. Writes Dr. Susan Berry:
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 investigation began in 2011 when two New York Times articles from Michael Winerip revealed that Pearson was jetting around state executives to their conferences around the world, including then Florida education commissioner Eric Smith.
In recent years, the Pearson Foundation has paid to send state education commissioners to meet with their international counterparts in London, Helsinki, Singapore and, just last week, Rio de Janeiro
The commissioners stay in expensive hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore. They spend several days meeting with educators in these places. They also meet with top executives from the commercial side of Pearson, which is one of the biggest education companies in the world, selling standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.
Pearson would not say which state commissioners have gone on the trips, but of the 10 whom I was able to identify, at least seven oversee state education departments that have substantial contracts with Pearson. For example, Illinois — whose superintendent, Christopher A. Koch, went to Helsinki in 2009 and to Rio de Janeiro — is currently paying Pearson $138 million to develop and administer its tests.
Several who have participated in the international trips did not respond to requests for an interview, including the former commissioners Eric Smith of Florida (Helsinki); Kathy Cox of Georgia (Singapore); Susan Gendron of Maine (Helsinki); and a former deputy superintendent, Gavin Payne of California (Singapore).
Smith was one of the first Chiefs for Change named by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. The Pearson Foundation was also one of the early bank rollers of the Foundation and was listed as a sponsor on its website. Soon after Scathing Purple Musings publication of The Corporate Cash Which Fuels Jeb Bush’s Empire, the information was taken down.
Berry makes no mention of Bush in her story, but does paint a clear picture of the alliance among Common Core, high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations and all-things digital learning. It is indeed a worth read.
But such coverage in a conservative website as is Brietbart – and Berry writes extensively on education policy – is further indication that Bush will have trouble in the primaries with conservative voters who may turn to the most articulate voice against Bush’s education vision. While all GOP hopefuls will “me too” Bush on school choice – that issue belongs in another battlefield – look for one of those candidates floating in the tier below Bush to make the case.
The likeliest voice will belong to former Texas Governor Rick Perry. There is no love lost between Perry and the Bush family who threw their support behind Kaye Baily Hutchison in a bid to unseat him in the last election. Perry was among the very first republican leaders to be critical of common core and Texas opted out. Perry still effectively argues against Common Core in a way which republican primary voters will agree. Shane Vander Hart interviewed Perry last fall:
“It’s a 10th Amendment issue. If you want Washington, if you want to implement their standards, that’s your call. In Texas we had higher standards. We had higher standards than No Child Left Behind. We certainly had higher standards than (Common Core) so it was a very easy decision for Texans, myself and the Legislature included, to basically say we still believe that Texans know how to best run Texas. That the Texas Legislature, that the Texas School Boards, the Texas teachers, we collectively know best how to educate our children rather than some bureaucrat in Washington,” Perry said
Perry is also the anti-Bush on immigration policy and will be convincing to those who oppose Bush’s version of “amnesty.” He knows that he has an uphill battle as the conservative media came away from last week’s Iowa Freedom Summit swooning over another governor, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and smitten by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carli Fiorina.
Scathing Purple Musings currently sees the GOP front-runners to be Bush, Walker and Florida senator Marco Rubio. Perry probably does, too, and the way to the top is to draw Bush into a debate over education and immigration. Bush’s Hubris and ego won’t allow him to ignore Perry and the other top-tiers may let Perry do the heavy lifting for them and stay on the sidelines.