Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


March 4, 2014

WE THE PEOPLE: Reforming education? (Part II)

CROSSVILLE — Last month, I promised to enlarge upon the forces that are attempting to overthrow our locally-controlled public education system. “Following the money” helps, as it does with almost all issues of political importance.

Americans spend about 600 billion dollars per year on the public schooling of their children. Presently, that money flows fairly efficiently from taxes to our public schools. Many covet a slice of that pie.

Consider the “Thomas B. Fordham Institute,” which was founded in 2007 by Michael Petrilli and Chester Finn. It has no connection with Fordham University. Wikipedia describes it as an “ideologically conservative American nonprofit education policy think tank.”

The Fordham Institute promotes Common Core Standards. You can glimpse the concern Fordham has for the impact of CCSS on your children by watching a “YouTube” clip featuring Mr. Petrilli (go to YouTube and search for “What Does Gadfly Say”). I apologize to those of you who don’t have access to YouTube, but words cannot do this video justice. Perhaps you could use a public computer at the library.

The Fordham Institute “joined” the “Fordham Foundation,” a corporation that sponsors charter schools (promotes and funds startups). Mr. Finn is president of both organizations, and Mr. Petrilli is on the board of both. That’s correct. An outfit pushing “Common Core” for public schools is closely linked to a foundation interested in expanding the Charter School network.

Charter schools usually get at least as much taxpayer money (per pupil) as public schools, plus extra money from other sources. Some are “for profit,” others “not-for-profit,” but in either case their officers typically make far more money than public school administrators. You see, as corporations, charters are not as open to local accountability and the usual public scrutiny. They use the same (or more) public money without local, public oversight. Hey! What’s not to like?

To date, despite 15 years of effort and based on their own, preferred method of evaluation (standardized test scores), charters that serve equivalent populations of students have failed to show any advantage over the “failing” public schools they replaced. Those few charter systems that claim success “counsel out” or don’t accept students who are poor test-takers. Many charters have disappeared in the middle of the school year, leaving the local public school system (taxpayers) to pick up the poorly served students and clean up the mess.

Is disrupting the traditional public school system in order to reduce local control Fordham’s original idea? Fordham is only a tentacle, one of many similar “institutes” and “foundations” seeking the same goal. A look at Fordham’s funding allows us to get closer to the central nervous system.

The list of financial backers has some surprising members. Charles Schwab? John Templeton Foundation? The Hoover Institute? The US Chamber of Commerce? “Education Reform Now” (having a Board entirely composed of Wall Street financial guys)? Bill and Melinda Gates? The Walton Family and Eli Broad?

Those last big three sources control (together) almost 200 billion dollars in wealth, and they seem to be common funders of all “School Reform” organizations pushing Common Core.

Why do billionaires, Wall Street investment money and “Big Business” fund the rush to Common Core through front organizations like Fordham?

More next month.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at

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