Rejection of Anti-Common Core Model Legislation a Sad End to a Bizarre Process

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American Legislative Exchange Council Board acts after model legislation approved twice by ALEC’s education task force

A decision by the board of directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) not to endorse model legislation opposing the so-called Common Core State Standards and testing after its own education task force’s public and private membership twice approved the model legislation is a sad ending to the highly flawed process directed by the organization.

ALEC is a conservative non-profit made up of state legislators and policy organizations that provides forums for those legislators to share policy ideas and model bills.

“ALEC has long played a leadership role on important issues that affect multiple states,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios. “With new leadership, I hope the organization can recover from this sad chapter in its history and resume that useful role.”

During its summer 2011 meeting, ALEC’s education task force voted to table its review of model legislation opposing Common Core until December because many members were not yet familiar with the national standards, even though their states had adopted them.

The lack of familiarity was not surprising given that state Legislatures were largely bypassed in the process by which 45 states adopted Common Core. The Obama administration made adoption a condition for receipt of federal grant money and waivers from the “No Child Left Behind” education law.

ALEC planned to host a debate on the topic at the December meeting and at different times asked each side to come up with amounts between $25,000 and $40,000 to sponsor the debate. While the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone has invested more than $100 million in developing and disseminating the standards, Common Core opponents couldn’t afford the sponsorship.

ALEC then announced that the State Farm Insurance Company would sponsor the event.

When Common Core opponents registered their concern due to the fact that a top State Farm executive sits on the board of Achieve, Inc., one of Common Core’s leading proponents and developer of one of the national tests, they were assured the debate would be fair and balanced.

Just days before the December meeting, the Gates Foundation gave ALEC $376,635 to support education public policy and advocacy efforts.

The December debate was to include two proponents for each side and a neutral moderator. But the debate sponsor, State Farm, initially rejected former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Williamson Evers and then-Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, who were to present the case against Common Core.

The lunch that preceded the debate was sponsored by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a leading Common Core proponent. The lunch’s keynote speaker was Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, another prominent supporter. Bennett’s speech included advocacy for Common Core.

The education task force’s public and private membership nonetheless voted overwhelmingly to endorse the anti-Common Core model legislation, and the recommendation was sent to ALEC’s board, which was to vote on it in May of 2012.

Commissioner Scott and Superintendent Bennett were each asked to present their positions at the May 11th board meeting, and Common Core opponents were asked to prepare materials for the board packets.

But as late as the night before the meeting, there was confusion about what time the board would meet. Scott was ultimately told the meeting would be at 10:30 a.m. But the board actually convened at 8:30 a.m. Scott was able to attend only because an alert Pioneer staffer noticed the ALEC board members gathering. None of the materials prepared by Common Core opponents were included in the ALEC board’s packets, even though they were sent well in advance of the meeting.

Proponents for either position were not to be allowed in the room after Commissioner Scott and Superintendent Bennett made their presentations. Common Core opponents were indeed banished, but a staffer from the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, which is funded by Gates to provide public relations support for national standards and tests, was permitted to mingle with board members prior to the meeting.

According to then-ALEC Education Director Adam Peshek, the board decided it just “wanted too make sure that the language was tightened up.” Changes suggested by the Board were incorporated into the model legislation and once again approved by the Council’s education task force’s public and private members by even larger margins than in December.

The Board decided to take up what is normally a routine approval of task force decisions just prior to the departure of then-Chair Indiana State Rep. David Frizzell, a close confidant of Indiana School Superintendent Tony Bennett, who was just voted out of office.

The Board voted to remain neutral on the model legislation opposing Common Core. This is the first time we know of that ALEC has not adopted positions approved by issue task forces.

In this case, it did not advance model legislation twice approved by the education task force. “If Common Core were truly a state-led and voluntary initiative there would have been no need to involve the U.S. Department of Education and the various DC-based “reform” groups to coerce states to participate,” said Robert Scott. “It is truly sad that any conservative organization would sanction the violation of federal laws in the name of a deeply flawed nationalizing reform effort.”

“The model law is in furtherance of preserving federalism, supposedly one of ALEC’s founding principles,” added Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project, one of the model’s sponsors and its original drafter.

ALEC’s action comes at the conclusion of a year of controversy created by accusations of pay-to-play sponsorships and the organization’s support for “Stand Your Ground” legislation after unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a community watchman.

Pioneer has co-authored and produced four research papers that crosswalk the academic quality of the CCSSI against the state academic standards in Massachusetts, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, and California, and other high-standards states.

“I’m proud of the fact that we have conducted more independent research on Common Core than any other think-tank in the country,” said Jamie Gass, director of Pioneer’s Center for School Reform.

Other Pioneer research includes a study from the former general counsel and deputy general counsel of the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. ED), which concludes that Common Core violates at least three federal laws that prohibit U.S. ED from directing, supervising, funding, or controlling any standards, curriculum, or instructional materials, or testing.

A Pioneer cost analysis found that states and local governments aligning their standards and testing to Common Core amounts to an unfunded mandate of over $16 billion, which will be paid for by the states and municipalities.

Pioneer’s research has received wide media coverage from columnists like George Will and Jay Mathews to publications that include, Education Week, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Indianapolis Star, The Washington Times, and MSNBC.


Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government