Sara Pruzin, a state operations associate for the Council for a Strong America (CSA) and former communications intern for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, unwittingly contacted a Cardinal Newman Society leader to rally Catholic support for the Common Core. She sent an email on August 28 to Dr. Daniel Guernsey, director of the Newman Society’s K-12 Education Programs, at his office at Ave Maria University in Florida, asking him to consider writing op-eds and letters to the editor in support of the Common Core.
“We are concerned about the strident attacks coming from parts of the Catholic community, which we believe are inaccurate and meant more to divide than to inform,” Pruzin wrote. “We feel that it is important to respond to the negative statements about the Common Core, rather than let them go unanswered.”
Pruzin later confirmed that her criticisms were aimed at The Cardinal Newman Society, and her email was part of a major effort to build support among Catholic educators. She said the Gates Foundation grantee has reached out to about 50 Catholic educators and leaders, including superintendents in a dozen states and officials at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)—which is also a recipient of Gates funding to promote the Common Core.
CSA received $1.7 million from the Gates Foundation in July 2013 “to educate and engage stakeholders about the Common Core and teacher development through a range of communications activities”. These have included rallying retired military officers, police officers, business leaders and others to advocate Common Core in many states.
But the Council’s new initiative moves from the realm of public policy to the Catholic Church, which has sponsored or inspired education that significantly outperforms public schools. Catholic schools have none of the pressures for reform and are ineligible for the federal funding that motivated many state superintendents to embrace the Common Core.
Engaging in public policy debates is one thing, but to target a group because they started a “Catholic Is Our Core” Initiative for Catholic schools is absolutely over the top. This isn’t the only time Gates has meddled with Catholic education. Gates has provided funding for the National Catholic Education Association. Catholic schools which have promoted classical education for years and years have a solid track record for producing high-performing students. It just seems like Gates wants to wipe out competition that would make Common Core look even worse than it already does.