Common Core Is Corporate Welfare for Textbook Giants

Opponents of Common Core have plenty of ammunition by now: The standards erode local autonomy, are costly to implement, and some experts dispute their rigor.

But an underexplored aspect of this problematic national education reform is the massive financial incentive that certain textbook and standardized test companies have to keep the U.S. on board with it. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss provided a good example of Common Core's crony corporatist side in a recent article.

There are two large, multi-state partnerships tasked with implementing Core-aligned standardized tests, and one of them—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—recently invited curriculum companies to compete for the contract to design the tests. Textbook giant Pearson won the contract, surprising no one. Pearson, a British company, is the largest publisher of education materials in the world.

A PARCC press release described the selection of Pearson as the result of a "competitive bidding process." But it's hard to tell whether the process was truly competitive, given that Pearson was the only company to even submit a bid.

Now, another corporation is alleging that the process was unfairly biased toward Pearson from the start, according to Education Week:

A protest of the contract was made by the nonprofit corporation American Institutes for Research, which alleged that that the bidding process conducted by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was biased in favor of Pearson and that is why AIR did not submit a bid which it otherwise would have done, Education Week reported. The protest was made to officials in New Mexico who were serving as a representative of PARCC in making the call for proposals from companies to win the contract.

Judge Sarah M. Singleton of the Santa Fe First Judicial District issued a ruling last week putting the Pearson contract on hold while officials reviewed the contract bidding process.

Keep in mind that the contract is worth so much money that officials haven't even attached a formal price tag. Instead, they have used the phrase "unprecedented in scale."

Common Core's most fervent defenders might not see the problem with any of this. They might even say it's a good thing that the biggest testing company on the planet is the one designing the exams for Common Core.

But it certainly undermines the notion that this is a "bottom up" education reform when state and federal lawmakers are colluding with mega corporations to dictate the tests to local school districts. Students in some states are already serving as guinea pigs for the new testing regime.

Keep in mind that many teachers will need to be retrained so that they can prepare their students to pass the Core–aligned tests. Schools across the country will have to purchase new computers before they are even logistically capable of administering the tests. Taxpayers are going to feel the pain, and Pearson is going to reap the profits.

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  • Free Society||

    Why it's almost as though if you centrally control the teaching of children, you can rewrite history and reality. Who could have seen that coming?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    How surprising.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Common Core's most fervent defenders might not see the problem with any of this. They might even say it's a good thing that the biggest testing company on the planet is the one designing the exams for Common Core.

    BIGGER IS GOODER.

  • Idle Hands||

    The only problem I have as a common core hater is most of the people I come across who actually care about the issue are teachers who don't want any standardized testing at all and are against the privatization of the school system. The type of people who if you see on your side of any issue your probably in need of self-reflection.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I've come to look at it as a form of a "baptists and bootleggers" coalition. We have different reasons for not wanting Common Core to infest the schools, but the current goal is a mutual one. The coalition will self destruct after the threat is gone, and the fight will go on, but that's no reason to assume everyone against this abomination is there for selfish, ulterior motives.

  • Idle Hands||

    Oh I agree. It just sucks I have to have my views represented on every tv network by a group of shrill rent seekers who are against any type school reform that involves any kind of accountability at all, because of course that's the group that gets the most air time on this issue.

  • ||

    Wherever you go, there you are.

    We came to a certain book, part of a set of three supplementary books published by the same company, and they asked me what I thought about it.

    I said, "The book depository didn't send me that book, but the other two were nice."

    Someone tried repeating the question: "What do you think about that book?"

    "I said they didn't send me that one, so I don't have any judgment on it."

    The man from the book depository was there, and he said, "Excuse me; I can explain that. I didn't send it to you because that book hadn't been completed yet. There's a rule that you have to have every entry in by a certain time, and the publisher was a few days late with it. So it was sent to us with just the covers, and it's blank in between. The company sent a note excusing themselves and hoping they could have their set of three books considered, even though the third one would be late."

    It turned out that the blank book had a rating by some of the other members! They couldn't believe it was blank, because [the book] had a rating. In fact, the rating for the missing book was a little bit higher than for the two others. The fact that there was nothing in the book had nothing to do with the rating.
  • datcv||

    LOL, competitive bidding process. Just like most defense contracts, they are written to heavily favor the company they want to "win" the contract. Having only one submission kind of exposes this fraud for what it is. I assume their competitors looked at it and said "we'll never get a chance, don't even waste the resources trying".

  • TommyHudson||

    Everyone who is concerned wit da future of aur nation should reed The Contract On The Government. It is the book the politicians and bureaucrats DO NOT want you reading. Find out more here: www.thecontract.us

  • Rob Power||

    The only reason Obamacare exists is because John Roberts decided that the penalty for violating the individual mandate is a tax -- a direct federal income tax, in line with the 16th Amendment, to be specific.

    There is no such direct federal income tax that is a penalty for violating Common Core.

    Instead, the "teeth" behind Common Core are the same old teeth that Congress has had forever -- the power of the purse. If your state doesn't want Common Core, the answer is simple -- don't have it in your state. The only price is your state giving up federal education money.

    Libertarians who want to call for their state to opt out of all federal mandates whatsoever, stating that such mandates are not worth the federal money granted to the state in exchange, have my respect.

    But libertarians who act as if Common Core is like Obamacare -- something the states can't simply opt out of -- are missing the point.

    Obamacare is corporate welfare for health insurance companies, because we all must buy their product. Common Core is not corporate welfare -- it's merely accountability for federal money, and any state that doesn't like that accountability can turn down the federal money.

    Libertarians, stop talking about Common Core, and start talking about removing education from the federal budget altogether.

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