Gates’ Common Core Money and Kentucky

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core, and they did so before the final draft was even published.  I highlighted some of Lyndsey Layton’s article in the Washington Post on Bill Gates’ involvement with the Common Core earlier today on another blog.  The excerpt related to Kentucky I found fascinating and frankly outrageous as it shows education policy can be bought.

The first victory for Common Core advocates came on a snowy evening in Kentucky in February 2010, when the state’s top education officials voted unanimously to accept the standards.

“There was no dissent,” said Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s education commissioner. “We had punch and cookies to celebrate.”

It was not by chance that Kentucky went first.

The state enjoyed a direct connection to the Common Core backers — Wilhoit, who had made the personal appeal to Bill and Melinda Gates during that pivotal 2008 meeting, is a former Kentucky education commissioner.

Kentucky was also in the market for new standards. Alarmed that as many as 80 percent of community college students were taking remedial classes, lawmakers had recently passed a bill that required Kentucky to write new, better K-12 standards and tests.

“All of our consultants and our college professors had reviewed the Common Core standards, and they really liked them,” Holliday said. “And there was no cost. We didn’t have any money to do this work, and here we were, able to tap into this national work and get the benefits of the best minds in the country.”

“Without the Gates money,” Holliday added, “we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Over time, at least $15 million in Gates money was directed both to the state — to train teachers in Common Core practices and purchase classroom materials — and to on-the-ground advocacy and business groups to help build public support.

Armed with $476,553 from Gates, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s foundation produced a seven-minute video about the value and impact of the Common Core, a tool kit to guide employers in how to talk about its benefits with their employees, a list of key facts that could be stuffed into paycheck envelopes, and other promotional materials written by consultants.

The tool kit provided a sample e-mail that could be sent to workers describing “some exciting new developments underway in our schools” that “hold great promise for creating a more highly skilled workforce and for giving our students, community and state a better foundation on which to build a strong economic future.”

The chamber also recruited a prominent Louisville stockbroker to head a coalition of 75 company executives across the state who lent their names to ads placed in business publications that supported the Common Core.

“The notion that the business community was behind this, those seeds were planted across the state, and that reaped a nice harvest in terms of public opinion,” said David Adkisson, president and chief executive of the Kentucky chamber.

The foundation run by the National Education Association received $501,580 in 2013 to help put the Common Core in place in Kentucky.

Gates-backed groups built such strong support for the Common Core that critics, few and far between, were overwhelmed.

And they built that “strong support for the Common Core” with little knowledge of what was actually in the Common Core.  If I lived in Kentucky I would be extremely outraged.

Be sure to read the rest of the article.