Parent Testimony Before Interim Joint Education Committee July 22, 2013 Little Rock, AR

Note the 16 questions that summarize the concerns at end of this document that need answering.

I would like to thank you for holding this Joint Committee meeting to provide us with the opportunity to voice our concerns regarding Common Core State Standards. My name is Grace Lewis; I am a mother of four and a Registered Nurse at White County Medical Center.

I can’t tell you in 10 minutes all of the things I find disturbing about Common Core, but I can point out the biggest issue I have. We the people of Arkansas, and you, our elected Representatives, were completely bypassed in this sweeping move to regulate education. Why is it that as a parent I didn’t even know what Common Core was until my son started struggling in 1st grade Math and then I went and did my own research? Shouldn’t something as monumental as common educational standards for our country have been presented to the American people in a more open, accessible way? Shouldn’t we have had a direct say in this educational development for our own children!

I could argue all day about the standards but the reason I’m fighting Common Core is much more lasting and goes much deeper.  I’m fighting for our constitutional right to make these decisions for ourselves!

So, if we weren’t involved, who was? The not so obvious answer is the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve Inc., Bill Gates, and more! Do you ever remember electing these agencies to represent the people of Arkansas?

The Common Core Standards were initiated by private interest groups in Washington, DC, by a few select individuals without any representation from the states. Eventually the creators realized the need to present a facade of state involvement and therefore enlisted the National Governors’ Association, which is a trade association that doesn’t include all governors, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, another DC-based trade association. The bulk of the creative work was done by Achieve Inc. a DC based non-profit that includes many progressive education reformers!

So what is wrong with involving trade associations in our decision processes for our state? These groups hold closed door meetings. Members of the public aren’t allowed to come; unlike the meetings that our legislators hold which are open to the public so that citizens are privy to the information. A mother in Indiana, Heather Crossin, asked if she could attend a 2012 Council of Chief State School Officers meeting in her Indianapolis hometown. She was told NO; she asked if she could see a list of the people on the Social Studies standards writing team; she was told that was not available for public release. So our government has given millions to these groups but we aren’t allowed to know what is discussed. There aren’t even minutes that we can review? Gov. Beebe and the State Board of Education made the decision that our State could outsource a core State function to an outside private organization that is then outsourcing to other organizations. I feel that such bold misuse of power is inexcusable; we the citizens of Arkansas have a right to be involved in this process.

If we sit back passively and let these private trade groups continue to circumvent our constitutional government, we are setting a precedence that we agree with that practice. I for one do not! I believe in our constitution and the way our government is set up. I’m sorry that Arne Duncan, our current Secretary of Education does not; in fact, he recently stated that our congressional government is flawed...Just last month on June 25th, he told the American Society of News Editors that:

"I have great, great respect for the men and women serving in Congress today, but the institution is fundamentally broken."  So what Mr. Duncan? If you can’t control Congress, your department just forges ahead with their own agenda with or without its approval?

In all fairness, maybe they really want Education Reform, or perhaps they truly feel that this is the best thing for the state of AR - but I feel that we as parents, teachers, and taxpayers collectively should make that decision!

When you hear someone touting how wonderful Common Core is I ask that you please look a little deeper. Who is funding them...some names will sound familiar: Bill Gates, Walton’s, besides the Federal Gov. and there are more. These people funding Common Core stand to make millions at the educational trough. It’s hard to take seriously those who praise Common Core while being paid to do so! No one is going to bite the hand that feeds them. So when you hear Jeb Bush or the Fordham Institute saying how great Common Core is, do your own investigation. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as well as the Fordham Institute have both received money from Bill Gates.

As I have studied, I see more clearly how all of these people are connected and how they all have the same objective. They have been working toward this purpose long before Common Core. Their meddling included No Child Left Behind, Goals 2000, School to Work and so forth. But Common Core is the final vehicle to get them to their end goal.

And what is that goal? Arne Duncan clearly stated it in his 2010 speech to UNESCO, the United Nations branch over Education, that: "Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy..." The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role..." so here we see that he plainly states that the Federal Government desires more control over Education!

"President Clinton made a speech on January 22 of 1997 to a suburban Chicago audience. His audience was so friendly that it interrupted him with applause 29 times. One line in his speech, however, was greeted by stony silence. That's when he said, '"We can no longer hide behind our love of local control of the schools.'" - Phyllis Schlafly                                

Clinton’s 1997 unfavored outlook is today’s Common Core’s byword and the very issue why we should fight and not blindly standby while our rights and freedoms are being usurped from beneath our very noses.

Here are some questions that I would like answered:

1.    Why are the standards copyrighted by the CCSSO and NGA and not by the State of Arkansas if this is really State Led?

2.    Who gets to change or update these standards? I have been told that they can’t be changed since they are copyrighted and we can only add up to 15%

3.  Which international standards specifically served as the benchmark for CCSS, and what is the evidence that supports these international expectations?

4.   The 2007 Grade 8 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) revealed that, 30 of the 39 countries that ranked lower than the US also had national standards (McClusky, 2010 appendix C). Based on these results, what evidence exists that national or common standards lead to better results?

5.    Why didn’t Arkansas perform a cost analysis before implementing CC? Pioneer institute estimated it will cost the US $16 billion over the next 7 years.

6.      One question that specifically applies to my son is, if I teach him the standard algorithm to do Math can he use that method to answer multiplication questions on the PARCC exam and school work or if the test requires for the lattice method or partial products method, will he have to use that instead? To me as long as a student can show his or her work and has the correct answer then I feel the problem shouldn’t be counted incorrect regardless of which method they use.

7.     I would like to know the costs of the PARCC assessment compared to the costs of previous testing. (Georgia says it is$22/test/child compared to their previous testing which was $5)

8.     Earlier this year, Oklahoma and Alabama withdrew from assessments associated with CCSS. Maybe we should ask them why. [Note: George and Pennsylvania have also withdrawn from CCSS assessments]

9.     Other states have put a pause on Common Core, why? So they can have time to answer their constituent’s questions before more taxpayer money is invested.

10.  If this truly is about having better Standards then why not just adopt Massachusetts standards which are superior to CC and save tax-payers the additional $16billion dollars

11.  What are the additional side costs for all of the technology? The Computers, IT support, bandwidth, and so forth? (local superintendent says it will cost $700/mo for enough bandwidth)

12.  A) What impact will our state aligning to the CCSS have on our private, parochial, and home school students?  B) The ACT, GED, and SAT are being redesigned to align with CCSS. Will these schools and students have to align with CCSS in the future?

13.  As of January 3, 2012, the DOE enacted new regulations pertaining to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA governs the use and release of educational and personal records in all public K-12 schools. The new regulations do not change the purposes for which this protected data can be used, however it does change who can share such information. I would like to know why the changes were made to FERPA by the Dept of Education and not by Congress. There is currently a lawsuit by EPIC regarding the changes to specific phrases, one of which is reducing parental consent to a "best practice only."

14.  Which of the over 400 data points will be collected on each student and shared with "contractors, consultants and volunteers"?

15.  Can parents and students "opt out" of the collection and storage of personal information in education databases associated with the longitudinal database

16.  When Arkansas applied for RttT phase 1, we agreed to adopt the standards before they were officially published. Why did we agree to standards without knowing and vetting them first? At the time of adoption of CCSS, were there any discussions that the standards were not field-tested or proven effective?

We your constituents of Arkansas are coming to you, our elected representatives, pleading with you to stop this bold usurpation of power and put the decisions back in the hands of the people and preserve the rights of our Constitution. Please lead us in this vital issue. I appreciate you listening to my concerns. Thank you! I will now take any questions you may have.

Grace Lewis