Recently I was pointed in the direction of where one might look if they wanted to find details about state school boards and how they might have come to the decision to adopt Common Core. Let me tell you that there is a plethora of concerned people who handed me (and you, by extension) the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Hopefully, this information will spur you to look deeper into the decisions and motivations your state educational leaders have made regarding their support and praises of the Common Core.
This article will focus on Colorado, specifically, but it’s very important to remember that every state that has implemented the Common Core has a paper trail that probably resembles Colorado’s. In fact, while working on getting proper documentation to write this piece I stumbled on an article about Alaska and how the BOE in Alaska had motivation to accept the CC, too. Financial motivation.
First, let me introduce you to Dr. Sandra Smyser, 2012 superintendent of the year in Colorado’s Eagle County School District. Indeed, Ms. Smyser has an illustrious resume. Let’s take a peek, shall we?
Along with being named 2012 Superintendent of the Year, Smyser is also named as Board Member on page 7 of the Colorado Legacy Foundation’s 2012 tax return. Another seemingly prestigious position, indeed—but to understand the prestige behind the title of Board Member for the Colorado Legacy Foundation, we will have to delve into that foundation, itself, and see what it’s about.
From their website:
“The Colorado Legacy Foundation believes that increased student achievement for all Colorado students requires effective leaders in every school, effective educators in every classroom, and healthy and engaging environments that ignite a passion for learning in every student.”
The Legacy Foundation also aims to create effective teachers and develop “best practice” kits. Those are just 2 things this Foundation supports but I would be remiss not to also tell you that the Foundation is very heavily involved in seeing the implementation of the Common Core Standards. They’re involved in “implementation capacity” and organization of implementation. One of their goals is to see a Legacy member on every school board in Colorado.
They even have their own page on the Colorado Department of Education website.
If I have taught you nothing in this Common Core journey it is to follow the money. So let’s follow that Legacy Foundation money and see where it leads.
Since we know the Gates Foundation and the Colorado Legacy Foundation, or CLF, are both very largely involved in the Common Core, we’ll start with a Google search of the Colorado Legacy Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’ll even save you the trouble of clicking that link:
Colorado Legacy Foundation
Date: June 2011
Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Colorado Legacy Foundation related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Denver, Colorado
Grantee Website: http://colegacy.org
In case you don’t realize what you’re seeing, I will clarify.
The Gates Foundation has given almost $10 million dollars to the Colorado Legacy Foundation to implement the Common Core. In total, Gates has provided more than $11 million to The Legacy Foundation.
Dr. Sandra Smyser, as I mentioned above, is on the CLF’s board of trustees and was the 2012 Superintendent of the Year for her position in the Eagle County School District.
I realize this may seem like a rabbit trail, but we must beg the question, “What happened to the money the CLF received to promote Common Core? Where did it go?”
Let’s check Dr. Smyser’s district for which she was named Superintended of the Year 2012 to see if any of that grant money found it’s way there:
That’s right. Dr. Smyser, Superintendent of Eagle County SD, board member on the Colorado Legacy Foundation, which is funded by Gates, received $565,000 dollars for her school district in 2012.
Is it just happenstance that Dr. Smyser, who helps direct funding from the CLF to districts in Colorado, happened to award her own district with a half million dollars? Could be. I’m sure she was thrilled to be mentioned in Bill Gates’s Annual letter!
Possibly. But when looking at the amount in donations from the CLF to other school districts in Colorado, you see that the districts that received the most money are represented by Colorado State School Board members—and they also have ties to Gates’ money.
How does this implementation and organizational support mentioned in the grant above look? It looks like The Colorado Integration Project 13 school districts in Colorado, through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were to integrate, in 2013, key educational reforms under Senate Bill 191 into their schools before it rolls out statewide next year. SB 191 is a bill introduced by Michael Joshnston and also ties Colorado teacher’s evaluations to PARCC, one of the two Common Core assessment consortia. These 13 districts will be called “learning laboratories,” which will demonstrate “best practices” for other districts throughout the state. If that isn’t enough, Johnston is also on this School Finance Partnership Steering Committee with the Legacy Foundation. Read his interesting history here. Governor Hickenlooper signed SB191 into law in February of 2012.
As mentioned above, I had help putting this together. This article is only the culmination of many peoples’ work and my putting it all in order.
This document shows all of the committees that Colorado State School Board members are part of. It’s interesting to note that all of the state school board members that are pro Common Core are also getting paid by Gates. Coincidence? Conflict of interest?
If you didn’t open that document linked above, following is the information that is important to know. These are the committees that the members of the Colorado State Board of Education sit on.
Elaine Gantz Berman: Colorado Legacy Foundation Bd. of Directors, September 2008 to present; SBE Legislative Liaison, 2008 to present; NASBE Standing Committee: Governmental Affairs Committee, January 2010 to present; Co-Chair of NASBE Childhood Obesity Prevention Grant Fund, 2010 to present; The Denver Compact, January 2012 to present.
Angelika Schroeder: CASB Liaison; May 2009 to present; Southwest Comprehensive Center’s Measuring Educator Effectiveness; October 2010 to present; SLDS Executive Steering Committee, June 2011 to present; NASBE Study Group: Role of Technology in Schools and Communities, January 2012 to present; Public Education and Business Coalition (PEBC) Board, 2011 to present.
Marcia Neal: CLASS, February 2009 to present; Board of Governors for the Children’s Land Alliance Support School, July 2012 to present; SBE Legislative Liaison, 2012 to present.
*Debora Scheffel : on CSEAC (Colorado Special Education Advisory Board), February 2011 to present; SBE Legislative Liaison, February 2011 to January 2012; Read to Achieve Advisory Board, February 2011 (Not on the board at the time of the CLF [Gate’s] grant in 2010.)
*Paul Lundeen: Alternative School Finance Models Advisory Committee, February 2011 to present; Licensing Educators for Academic Development Compact Working Group, August 2013 to present.
(*Author’s note: Ms. Scheffel and Mr. Lundeen were not members of the board in 2010.)
Jane Goff: Gifted Education State Advisory Committee Liaison, March 2008-present; Colorado School Counselors Association Advisory Liaison, November 2010 to present; Colorado Teacher of the Year Selection Committee, August 2009 to present; Milken Family Foundation Educator Award Nomination Committee, August 2009 to present; National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), Board of Directors, 2010-present 1. President-elect, 2013 2. President, 2014; Education Leadership Council, August 2011-present (Governor Appointment); Remedial Education Policy Review Advisory Board, August 2012 to present.
Elaine Gantz Berman: Governor’s P-20 Council Transformations Sub-Committee, January 2008- December 2009; Alternative School Finance Models Advisory Committee, August 2010 to present Governor’s P-20 Council Transformations Sub-committee, January 2008- December 2009; Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission, September 2010 to September 2011; Hickenlooper-Garcia Transition Committee for Education, November 2010.
Angelika Schroeder: NASBE Study Group: Preparation, Evaluation, Continuation and Compensation: A State Policy Agenda to Enhance the Teaching Profession, January to October 2010; NASBE Study Group: Developing the 21st Century Educator, January 2010 to October 2011; Teacher and Leader Evaluation Multi-State Networks, July 2010 to January 2012; Quality Teacher Commission, February 2009 to 2012.
Jane Goff: Read to Achieve Board, March 2009 to January 2011; Governor’s P-20 Council Preparations and Transitions Sub-committee, March 2008-December 2009; Hickenlooper-Garcia Transition Committee for Education, November 2010; NASBE Board of Directors, Western Region Director, 2010-2012.
Now pay attention to these notes. I don’t expect you to have read everything I just shared, but if nothing else, look at the names and see how they’re tied to Gates money as outlined below.
We’ll start with Colorado’s Commissioner of Education, Commissioner Hammond. Commissioner Hammond and his assistant Nina Lopez are on Legacy Foundation Board. Nina Lopez was paid $126,000 by Legacy last year.
Goff is NASBE -funded by Gates.
Berman is Legacy Foundation, which received $11.45 million to promote Common Core. She is also on 2 NASBE boards, and as you remember, NASBE is also funded by Gates.
Shroeder is the SLDS (statewide longitudinal database system) executive and also PEBC. (Interesting side note: their featured speaker is Marc Tucker this month–AKA “Dear Hillary Letter”. In case you’re not familiar, click here. If you have time, come back to this link. VERY interesting the ideas this man has. He pushed the 90’s version of Common Core.) Southwest Comprehensive Center at WestEd; WestEd is paid for by Gates and the NASBE technology in schools committee.
Neal has been vice chair of CLASS since 2012. Although there isn’t any obvious link to her, CLASS gets $5.4 Billion from US Department of Education – Arne Duncan.
If I’m doing the math right, that’s 4/6 or 2/3 of the Colorado BOE plus the Commissioner of Education receiving funds from the Colorado Legacy Foundation/Gates.
And then we have the repeated mention of Governor Hickenlooper and Lieutenant Governor Garcia’s Transition Committee for Education in the description of Colorado’s state board members’ other committee interests. Governor Hickenlooper has done nothing to stop or help in pausing Common Core in Colorado. In looking at Lt. Governor Garcia’s website we can see he is very heavily involved in education in Colorado and The Legacy Foundation.
This article shows the love affair between Gates and Hickenlooper and Garcia. Throw in The Legacy Foundation being so appreciative of the Hickenlooper/Garcia plan to reform education in Colorado and you will find me wondering what makes the Governor and his Lieutenant so eager to be a part of this reform.
Does Governor Hickenlooper take his cues on education from Garcia? Where does Garcia get his motivation for supporting The Legacy Foundation and Common Core so wholeheartedly? Does he also receive funding in some way from TLF or Gates?
In investigating the Colorado Legal Ethics pertaining to this seeming conflict of interest, here are some key points that need to be made and that stand out.
Superintendents of schools are government employees. State board of education members are government officials.
Here are some particularly helpful points that are highlighted in the Legal Ethics document about Conflict of Interest:
1.11:110 Federal Conflict of Interest Statutes and Regulations
“…branch or any independent agency from participating personally and substantially as a government employee in any particular matter in which he, his family, partner or an organization with which he is affiliated has a financial interest.”
1.11:120 Colorado Conflict of Interest Statutes and Regulations
“The statute also prohibits the acceptance of gifts that would tend to improperly influence a reasonable person in his position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of his public duties or which are known to be given for the primary purpose of rewarding official action taken.”
“performing an official act directly and substantially benefiting economically a business or undertaking in which he has a substantial financial interest or for which he is engaged as counsel or agent.”
Now I know why Colorado State Board of Education adopted the Common Core despite the six hundred emails sent to the Colorado Department of Education in July of 2010 when the Standards were being voted on. Only a dozen or so of those emails were FOR the adoption of the Common Core. All else were against.
You can see the very real connections these elected government officials have with the Gates Foundation, which is a big player and is responsible for a lot of funding tied to the Common Core and its other nefarious initiatives.
I suggest you go on a treasure hunt in your state and see what you dig up.