Carly Fiorina: Common Core = Crony Capitalism

2016-01-27 12.08.17

Carly Fiorina holds a town hall meeting in Oskaloosa, IA.

At a town hall event in Oskaloosa, IA yesterday former Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was asked about the U.S. Department of Education and she discussed shrinking it’s size and sending that money back to the states and local school districts. She then addressed Common Core and other federal education programs.

“And all these programs, some of them have come out under Republicans too – Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, they are all bad ideas. Because guess what they are? They are big bureaucratic programs coming out of Washington and, by the way, there are a bunch of interests who helped write those programs.  In the case of Common Core guess who helped write it? Text book companies and the testing companies it’s all crony capitalism folks. It’s alive and well under Republicans and Democrats. We have to take our country back,” Fiorina answered.

This is consistent with what Fiorina has said during the presidential campaign.

In January of last year, Fiorina told Caffeinated Thoughts, “I don’t think Common Core is a good idea.  I don’t support it, by the way, I think the facts are clear, the bigger the Department of Education becomes, the worse our public education becomes.  So there is no connection to spending more money in Washington and a better school system.  In fact, there is every connection between giving parents choice and having real competition and having real accountability in the classroom.

“I also think the argument for Common Core is frequently ‘oh we have to compete with the Chinese.’ I have been doing business in China for decades and I will tell you that yeah the Chinese can take a test, but what they can’t do is innovate.  They are not terribly imaginative.  They’re not entrepreneurial, they don’t innovate, that is why they are stealing our intellectual property.  One of the things we have to maintain about our school systems comes with local control is to teach entrepreneurship, innovation, risk-taking, imagination, these are things that are distinctly American and we can’t lose them,” Fiorina added.

Paul Dupont at The Pulse 2016 points out that Fiorina has used her opposition to Common Core as a wedge issue.  “This effort has included drawing a contrast between herself and other candidates, such as Jeb Bush, whom she has chided for his support of Common Core on more than one occasion.  On education policy, she has also been critical of the “heavy-handed” methods of “federal bureaucracies,” implying she would support a more decentralized, states-oriented approach,” Dupont wrote.

She does have an asterisk by her name however. During her U.S. Senate campaign she expressed support for No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top which has earned her a C+ on the American Principles Project Common Core report card.

Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina campaign spokesperson, explained this to me in an email sent last May:

Carly does not support Common Core. As she has said, there is absolutely no evidence that the work of a big, centralized bureaucracy in Washington makes things better. In fact, there’s loads of evidence to the contrary. The Department of Education has been growing in size and budget for 40 years and the quality of our education continues to deteriorate.

Carly has always believed that choice and accountability are necessary to fix our education system. We can do that by having great teachers and by giving these teachers the ability and flexibility to teach the things that our kids need: risk-taking, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Her support for state-based accountability measures in 2010 was about implementing education reforms that encouraged more accountability and transparency at the state level. Common Core, which wasn’t implemented in California until this past fall, has been a set of standards created in DC and driven by the education-industrial complex seeking to commercialize our students. Frankly, the two aren’t even close to the same thing. Carly favors state driven accountability, which she did in 2010 and she does now. That is emphatically not what common core has been or become.

At the time that Race to the Top was proposed in 2009 and when Carly supported it in 2010, it was a funding program based on real performance metrics and opposed by the teachers’ unions. But like so many other government programs with worthy goals backed by flowery speeches, it hasn’t turned out to be what we were promised. Instead, Race to the Top is just the latest example of the federal bureaucracy caving to the powerful interests in Washington and abandoning its original goals.

If Fiorina was graded again based on what I’ve heard throughout her campaign she may be deserving of a higher grade.

Jeb Bush’s #1 Problem

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that 1 in 4 likely Iowa GOP Caucusgoers will not support former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

A recent Politico article citing insiders say Common Core is Jeb Bush’s #1 problem.

“This is the number-one issue Bush faces in Iowa with caucusgoers,” said a top Iowa Republican, who — like all 81 respondents — completed the questionnaire anonymously in order to speak candidly.

“Right now, it’s a big issue among suburban GOP women,” added a New Hampshire Republican, “which is a demographic that is central to him winning New Hampshire.”

Politico notes he’s backing away from it, trying to rebrand himself.

Bush, who cultivated a brand as an education-focused governor in Florida, has refused to back down from his support. Only a few months ago he mocked the program’s conservative critics and called the debate “troubling.” As he’s recognized the issue’s toxicity, he’s toned down his rhetoric and now stresses that he opposes federal curriculum mandates.

Opposing federal curriculum mandates is the least he can do.  That simply isn’t enough.  A recent NBC poll shows that only 26% of Republicans have a favorable view of Common Core.  This is an issue that can tank Bush not only in the Iowa Caucus, but New Hampshire Primary.  If he loses the first two contests his pathway to the GOP nomination is uncertain.

Hillary Clinton Defends Common Core

hillary-clinton-education-roundtableWell it didn’t take very long for us to get our answer on where Hillary Clinton stood on Common Core.  Clinton’s campaign arranged an education roundtable at a satellite campus of Kirkwood Community College in Monticello, Iowa.  Toward the end one of the participants, Diane Temple, who is a high school teacher and adjunct instructor at the college said, “I think that we are very blessed to live where we do where education, starting very young through high school, this community college, we have all these opportunities and we are so fortunate here.  I worry that not all of America gets to experience this treasure that we have. I think Common Core is a wonderful first step in the right direction of improving American education and it is painful to see that attacked.

“And I am just wondering what can you do to bring that heart back to education in the United States?  You know what can we do so that parents, communities and businesses believe in American education and that teachers are respected and our colleges are respected and we offer a quality education to all Americans throughout the United States?” Temple asked.

“Wow, that is a powerful, touching comment that I absolutely embrace.  You know when I think about the really unfortunate argument going on around Common Core it’s very painful because the Common Core started off as a bipartisan effort, it was actually non-partisan, it wasn’t politicized, it was trying to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, there wouldn’t be two tiers of education.  Everybody would be looking at what was to be learned and doing their best to try to achieve that,” Clinton responded.

“I think part of the reason why Iowa may be more understanding of this… You had the Iowa Core for years.  You’ve had a system of plus the Iowa Assessment Tests.  I think I am right in saying I took those when I was in elementary school.  You know the Iowa tests so Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time, and you see the value of it.  You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system.  And a lot of states, unfortunately, haven’t had that so they don’t understand the value of a core, in the sense, a common core that then you can figure out the best way to try to reach,” Clinton added.

She then responded to Temple’s actual question.

“But your question is really a larger one.  How did we end up at a point where we are so negative about the most important non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation which is how our kids are educated?  There are a lot of explanations for that I suppose, but whatever they are we need to try to get back into a broad conversation where people will actually listen to each other again and try to come up with solutions for problems because the problems here in Monticello are not the same problems that you’ll find in the inner city of our biggest, you know, urban areas. That’s a given,” Clinton stated.

“We have to do things differently, but it should all be driven by the same commitment to try to make sure that we educate every child.  That’s why I was a Senator and voted for Leave No Child Behind because I thought every child should matter and should be (told) ‘you are poor,’ ‘you got disabilities so we are going to sweep you to the back so don’t show up on test day because we don’t want to mess up our scores.'” Clinton added.  “No!  Every child should have the same opportunity and so I think we have got to get back to basics, and we have got to look to teachers to lead the way on that.  You are the ones (looking at the teachers in the group) who have 21, 15 and 46 years of experience.  So I think you make a very important observation about what we need to be doing and what I hope I can do in this campaign and as President.”

I’m curious what exactly about the argument is painful?  The fact we’re having an argument?  Is she upset with the plethora of New York Democrats who are against it?  Calling something “non-partisan” doesn’t mean it lacks ideology or that it is good.  Does Clinton even understand why parents oppose Common Core?  I doubt it or she doesn’t care.

Another question how has “Leave No Child Behind” (you’d think she’d get the name right) helped to educate our kids?  Apparently she forgot to tell her Iowa audience that she opposed No Child Left Behind in 2008.

Also, she needs to explain her comment calling education the most important “non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation.”  She said that teachers need to be involved in developing education policies.  What about parents?

Chris Christie in Iowa Backs Away From Common Core

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Dallas County Republicans at an event in West Des Moines, IA yesterday that he has grave concerns over Common Core.

“I have grave concerns about the way this has been done and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying it to federal funding… That changes the entire nature of it from what was initially supposed to be a voluntary type of system that states could decide on their own,” Christie said responding to an audience member’s question.

You can watch the video from The Des Moines Register here or below.

Christie’s comments is a sign of the direction that the Republican primary race is going to go. Polls in Iowa and in New Hampshire have demonstrated that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s support of Common Core will be a drag on his prospective campaign.

Cross-posted at Caffeinated Thoughts.

Where’s Bobby Jindal? Mum on Common Core


As an Iowan I’m blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective) with the ability to trip over Presidential candidates when the presidential-year Iowa Caucus rolls around.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) has visited my state several times, and he is presumed to be a presidential contender, especially in light of term-limited.

He’s going to have much to answer for should he decide to run.  While the Common Core may not be the top issue in a Presidential primary, it will be a issue and possibly a wedge issue among Republicans who are seeking the nomination.  Governor Jindal, along with any other Republican governor who decides to run, will have to answer for their Common Core support.  Governor Jindal is especially in a tenuous situation having been the Governor who presided over his state’s Race to the Top application and adoption of the Common Core.

Not every Governor has that issue, but all have the opportunity to act.  The actions (or lack thereof) of Governors who run will be watched, and in a caucus state like Iowa where the grassroots pretty much decides who the winner will be it will make a difference.

They’re all going to talk about Obamacare, the 2nd Amendment, the life issue, marriage, etc.  Where you really start to see daylight between presidential candidates, in particular Republican ones, are on issues like the Common Core.

Governor Jindal could make a statement.  He could respond to parental concerns within his state, but so far nothing.  He could admit his error and lead on the issue, but we get silence instead.  He had an opportunity during his speech at CPAC last week when he talked about education, but he was mum on the topic instead focusing on his voucher program which has helped to bring the Common Core into Louisiana’s private schools.

He had another opportunity this week when he gave his speech marking the opening of the 2014 session of the Louisiana Legislature again nothing but silence.

Is he somehow hoping the issue will go away?  That would be a mistake.

And this Iowan is watching what he will do.

Rick Santorum Opposes and Would Repeal Race to The Top

In an interview I had with former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) on Monday we talked specifically about Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standards.  He said that he opposes and would repeal all of the Obama education executive orders, including Race to the Top.

You can watch the entire interview here.

Iowa’s Myopic Vision for Education Reform

imageLast week, Jason Glass, Director of the Iowa Department of Education, and Linda Fandel, Governor Terry Branstad’s Special Assistant for Education, rolled out their vision for education reform.  The Des Moines Register highlighted the key points.

  • Adopting a four-tiered salary system that would include apprentice, career, mentor and master teachers, instead of basing pay on experience and college credits earned.
  • Handling layoffs in districts by considering teacher credentials and school needs, rather than using a “last in, first out” procedure.
  • Continuing to refine the Iowa Core, which outlines expectations for what students should know at each grade level.
  • Expanding the presence of charter schools.
  • Requiring that all 11th-graders take the ACT college entrance exam and that all students take a high school exit exam.

I have supported Glass’ desire to change up the step-and-level pay that most (if not all) school districts in Iowa use.  I believe merit pay is the better way to go as it provides incentives for growth in the teaching profession and to work toward results.

However, the devil is in the details so to speak, Glass proposes starting apprentice teachers at $40,000/year.  I suppose that is on top of their salary.  A 22-year-old with zero experience making $40,000/year.  Yes I know there are plenty of jobs that start college graduates out at far more than that.  A couple points to make.  First, It isn’t that I don’t believe some new teachers are worth that kind of salary.  I do.  However this speaks to a local control issue once again.  Do I think every new teacher in the state of Iowa needs to be making that much money?  No, some districts provide a greater challenge than others.  Some schools have greater class sizes, etc.  How will this be paid for will the school district continue to pay the same amount they are paying or will the state completely augment the difference?  How will that get paid for?  If the state doesn’t increase their aid they’re again imposing their will on local school districts some who may not be able to afford paying teachers that much.

Which leads me to my second point; college graduates in other fields go into the private sector which is largely for-profit.  If a company chooses to pay their new employees at a higher rate it comes out of their profits.  If a school chooses to pay their teachers more; then we as taxpayers pick up the tab.  I understand that some teachers are poorly paid, but when you choose to teach you choose to enter public service and you’re not going to get rich.  I’ve seen pay scales for numerous school districts, and quite frankly if you’re a teacher (especially in a large district) for a number of years you are getting paid pretty well.  Then include the fact that teachers typically work only 9 1/2 – 10 months out of the year.

I know somebody out there will say, “but Shane, It’s for the children.”  Well last time I checked DHS caseworkers, youth service workers in juvenile placements and juvenile court officers also work with children, work year round and work with the most challenging kids.  Some get paid pretty well, but not when they’re just starting out.  Anyway, talk about increases sure, but have a plan to pay for it and tailor it by district.

Then there’s the fact that we spend hand over fist on education, and there are several countries who spend far less per student than we do yet perform better.  Private schools tend to pay their teachers less, and yet their students by and large perform better.  Then you look at homeschoolers, anyway if you look at the problem objectively you’ll see that teacher pay isn’t really the problem.

I think handling layoffs in the way Glass and Fandel suggest makes sense.  I’m not a fan of the Iowa Core, and currently it appears that “refining” means aligning the Iowa Core with the Common Core State Standards.  This I believe and have said on numerous occasions that takes a bad situation and makes it worse.  I won’t belabor the point.

Expanding the presence of charter schools.  I’m not going to knock charter schools and I think they can be extremely effective.  However charter schools alone can not be the answer.  All venues for education must be explored.  Private schools, home schools, and online education should be part of the solution to true education reform.

Regarding the ACT test for juniors and having an exit exam prior to graduation, the inherent danger is teaching to the test which I believe would make classroom instruction even worse.  That coupled with the Iowa Core usurps local control.

A good discussion starter, but far from finished.

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts