By Ben Velderman
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – General Electric is one of America’s most powerful corporations, and its charitable foundation is one of the biggest financial backers of the new and experimental Common Core learning standards.
According to Pam Allen of BizJournals.com, GE Foundation has donated $200 million over the past seven years “to help develop a more standardized K-12 curricula nationwide.”
Allen is obviously referring to GE’s involvement with Common Core.
But to be clear, the Common Core learning standards for math and English only tell schools what they must teach students at every grade level.
Common Core does not mandate which curriculum schools must use. The term “curriculum” refers to the lesson plans and units that school districts use to teach those standards.
Allen continues: “Of that, $18 million was earmarked to help train teachers on the new Common Core” initiative that’s been adopted (in full or in part) by 46 states and Washington D.C.
Education Week adds that some of GE’s $18 million grant was used “to build a new website, www.achievethecore.org,” that will provide educators with sample “instructional units in math or English/language arts” and other teaching resources.
GE’s involvement with Common Core isn’t too surprising, considering that a number of powerful companies are promoting the education revamp.
What is a bit surprising is that GE leaders have the chutzpah to voluntarily fund Common Core – purportedly for the good of the nation – even as their company shirks paying its “fair share” of federal income taxes.
In a 2012 press release, the left-of-center Citizens for Tax Justice claimed GE “paid at most two percent of its $80.2 billion in U.S. pretax profits in federal income taxes over the last 10 years.”
According to the advocacy group, the nation’s eighth-largest company actually had a negative tax bill of $3.1 billion between 2006 and 2011.
Now Americans are finding out that during many of those “negative tax” years, GE was using some of its profits to develop and implement the one-size-fits-all education scheme known as Common Core.
A company official says GE has a valid reason for backing Common Core.
GE Foundation President Robert Corcoran told BIzJournal.com that the company believes the new learning standards will make American students more competitive in the world economy.
“Every business leader I’ve met has complained for a long time about our education outcomes, and the education system,” Corcoran said. “We need to be better. The more that business becomes global, the more you see that our competition outside the country is getting better and better, and we’re not.”
Corcoran’s concerns are understandable; most Americans agree that our public schools have been underperforming for decades.
What’s less understandable is why Corcoran and other Common Core supporters felt the need to coerce state officials into adopting the standards through the use of high-pressure sales tactics that would make a telemarketer blush.
If Common Core is the miracle cure for what ails our public education system, why didn’t supporters take time to explain that to the American people?
They didn’t do it because they couldn’t. The Common Core standards – which allegedly emphasize a deeper, more thoughtful approach to learning – have not been field tested anywhere. All of Common Core’s benefits are purely hypothetical at this point.
That raises a question: Might there be another reason why GE is spending millions to create and implement Common Core?
The education technology industry – which will use data generated by Common Core-related tests to create customized learning programs for students – is said to be a $500 billion industry in the U.S.
The GE website notes that the company is heavily involved in “data management and data analytics software solutions.”
Could it be the company has its eye on the growing K-12 technology market, which is joined at the hip with Common Core?
There’s no evidence to suggest that GE plans to compete with Microsoft for this lucrative industry – but it’s something for watchdog groups to keep in mind as they monitor Common Core and the powerful corporate interests that are pushing it.