BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Director of Policy and Communications
and Cheramie Bills | CMM Policy Advisor
A hot topic across Mississippi with regard to education for over three years now has been Common Core. Few people knew or understood the issue back in 2012 when members of the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition began looking into it. What followed was a debate that awakened the parents, teachers and taxpayers of this state to the threat from outside forces working in conjunction with government educationists at the Mississippi Department of Education.
Since that time, conservatives have led an assault on the Common Core standards. These new untested, unproven standards would take away local control of education and reduce the parents to that of spectators in the education of their own children.
Our efforts have worked.
Legislators who knew nothing about Common Core found themselves quickly educated to the dangers thanks to the work of the MS Senate Conservative Coalition, Senators Michael Watson, Angela Hill, Melanie Sojourner, Chris McDaniel, and a host of parents and former educators. Many legislators unfortunately chose to stick their heads in the sand at first, then they tried to play politics and convince the public they were ending Common Core. But in the end the attempts to pass a bait and switch bill, SB 2161, earlier this year was vetoed by Governor Phil Bryant thanks to the pressure of thousands of Mississippians united and awake to the political tactic being used against us.
On Tuesday, the pro-government educationists in Mississippi, aligned with the same out-of-state forces that tried to give us Common Core, will try to give us Initiative 42. Initiative 42 has been rightfully referred to as a threat to Mississippians legislative representation in matters of education. But it is also clearly a back door threat to implement Common Core. The same “whether-you-like-it-or-not” forces at work behind Common Core are behind Initiative 42, and approval of the ballot initiative is another way to work around Mississippians control of public education.
One of the biggest supporters of Common Core is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the funding of the New Venture Fund. The New Venture Fund champions a variety of progressive causes including Common Core through a project called the Collaborative For Student Success.
The Gates Foundation poured over $10 million into Common Core through what they referred to as “comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy” in 2014 alone, and the largest single recipient of Common Core grant funding was the New Venture Fund.
“Better Schools Better Jobs”, the political committee supporting Initiative 42, received all but $6,500 of the $2.6 million raised by that committee from two charities: The Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta and the New Venture Fund in Washington.
Two other liberal foundations, The Kellogg Foundation and that of former Governor Democrat Governor Dick Molpus each gave money to both the Southern Education Foundation and the New Venture Fund, as did Initiative 42 supporter Jim Barksdale’s foundation. While Barksdale wouldn’t say how much he had given to the groups, the Kellogg Foundation reported giving $500,000 to the Southern Education Foundation and $900,000 to the New Venture Fund. Molpus who is also a board member of the Southern Education Foundation gave $100,000 each to the New Venture Fund and Southern Education Foundation, according to filings with the IRS.
All of the above organizations and foundations are also very strong supporters of Common Core.
In addition, the Gates Foundation gave the New Venture Fund project $378,000 “to support efforts to better engage and mobilize public support for educational policy and advocacy goals, especially around common core standards and effective teaching reforms within and among the faith community and faith leaders”.
Only one week ago the media issued the report “Jackson Religious Leaders Rally In Support Of Initiative 42 To Fund Public Schools” making clear the investment had made its mark.
These are only a few of the connections that show Initiative 42 for what it really is, a takeover of public education in Mississippi.
All opponents of Common Core should reject this type of takeover. As the Common Core fight showed, some of our legislators are easily manipulated by these shadow groups. We’ve worked hard for over 3 years to gain ground with our legislature in the battle against Common Core and this back door agenda. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be fooled now into thinking Initiative 42 is any different.