Aiding and Abetting: The Role of Parent Participants in #HB1490

Last week, I participated as a parent representative in the K-5 work group for History and Government established by HB 1490.  Immediately upon arrival in our meeting room, arranged by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), I was treated to what has become common behavior by DESE, and through them, school districts across the state.

They assumed power and authority they are not granted by law.

To this end, DESE committed a coup, thumbing their noses at the state legislature and the law they crafted in response to implementation of Common Core Standards.  Common Core Standards were adopted unconstitutionally to begin with.  Governor Jay Nixon signed Missouri onto them by illegally bypassing the state legislature, the only body with the legal authority to draft changes to Missouri’s education standards.  The legislature didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, a few short years ago thanks to DESE and corporate lobbyists, they voted to repeal Missouri’s higher standard for education to lay the ground work for Common Core.

missouri house

Literally, before my eyes, DESE and their agents completely ignored both the intent of HB 1490 and the language in the law that prohibited the organization’s involvement in the work groups convened to develop standards for districts statewide.  They shredded HB 1490 and danced with glee on the litter.

This complete and total disregard, for the state legislature and the parents, students and citizens of the state of Missouri was shocking.  The audacity shown by DESE and the contempt they have for those who would require they follow the law, was evident in every work group.  The fingerprints of tried and true tactics were evidenced in power point presentations and notes plastered on the walls of each work group.  Like a door-to-door salesman, DESE wasn’t taking no for an answer.  ‘Facilitators’ (fascists, for those keeping score at home) simply pushed on with the agenda handed down to them by DESE:  Ensure that the Common Core standards remain in place, at all costs.

Their illegal assumption of authority, of inserting themselves in a process they are legally excluded from, is the norm for the bureaucratic monster known as DESE.  It has been reflected in school districts across the state, as they rush to transform our schools from institutions of learning into incubators of failure, designed to produce children ready for factory assembly lines instead of prepared for universities.

The refusal for DESE’s ‘facilitators’ to step down resulted in my decision to leave the work group I was appointed to last week, rather than to willingly participate in committing a fraud against the people of Missouri.

There has been much debate among the parents appointed to these groups about whether to continue to participate in a process that has been marked by illegal behavior.  A growing number of these parent representatives have expressed the need to stand up, to stop the illegal process before it goes any further.  Other parent representatives and educators appointed to these groups believe that they should press on, even though they are well aware that DESE’s continued involvement is illegal.  These parents and educators believe that it is their duty to continue to participate and that there is some value in continuing to object, despite being repeatedly silenced through manufactured votes of contrived consensus.  They believe that by recording this fraud as it is taking place, the public will respond with outrage.

They are wrong.

Instead, what has been shown with each call for contrived ‘consensus’, is that these parents and teachers are simply the minority in what appears to be a ‘democratic’ process.  This is what DESE is counting on.  The participation of these parents in the work group meetings, under fraudulent terms and DESE’s iron fist, simply gives the appearance of legitimacy.

This is the biggest mistake these appointees could make.

By participating in a process that is illegal, they are giving it a legitimacy it doesn’t otherwise have.  Continuing to play by the rules as DESE has rewritten them makes these parents accessories to the very crimes they want to prevent.

For these and many other reasons, I have withdrawn from my appointment to this process.  To continue to participate with hopes that the rule of law will somehow be magically reestablished is a lie I am not willing to tell myself or my children.  As I said Monday, September 22, when I made the decision to leave the work group session, it is a moral choice to continue aiding and abetting this sham, one that I am not comfortable with.

It is a shame that so many of the other participants believe that it is justified to continue with an illegal process.  Wishing on a star won’t stop the DESE agenda.

Refusing to participate in an illegal process on the other hand, will force the legislators into action.  Thus far, their press releases have had little effect on DESE’s illegal actions and the show goes on…

I sincerely wish the parents, teachers and educators the best of luck in the days ahead.  It is up to them whether they move forward legally or not.

No one else is in the room.

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Why I Walked Out of The #HB1490 Work Group

I wanted to share the following reply to an email I received from a member of our work group. In it, I was asked about my motivation for objecting and subsequently leaving our session on Monday. After I wrote it, I thought it was appropriate to share with everyone, as I am sure many of the questions and concerns the author raised were echoed in the group, privately or otherwise. Certainly that is understandable. We don’t know one another. We come from different perspectives and, as the author said, we all have agendas or reasons for wanting to be a part of this important process. In that email, the author raised concerns about my actions Monday and wondered if my intent was to somehow sabotage or undermine the very task we are charged with performing: developing standards for schools that make sense for Missouri. The author also mentioned that they found it worrisome that there was a meeting of parent representatives Monday morning before our work groups were convened. They wondered if that spoke to an agenda that I might have been representing or pushing with my objections and ultimate decision to leave on Monday.

Those are valid questions and certainly reasonable concerns. My reply to that is copied below with no alterations, other than to remove any reference to the author’s name. I felt that perhaps it would be beneficial to share my response with the entire group, so that no one has to wonder what my reasons were for leaving on Monday or what they are in accepting the appointment to this work group.

My hope is that, by sharing this with all of you, perhaps you will have some insight as to my own personal motivations for participating in this group and to (hopefully) provide some insight into where I am coming from.

I appreciate your taking the time to craft such a thoughtful response. Thank you so very much for sharing your view, experience and perspective, as well as your reasons for participating in this group.

I am honest to a fault, I am afraid, and therefore will be as forthcoming as you were in your email.

Yes, there was a meeting in the House chambers before we convened in the Truman Bldg. I was there for that meeting. In it, we received information related to HB 1490, including discussions relating to how our work groups were to function. What I mean by that is that the bill clearly states that the only participants in our sessions, while open to the public, are to be those 16 people appointed to the group. The intention of the bill, in my mind, was to enable us to function independent of agendas that aren’t our own. Each of us appointed to the group has an agenda and all of them (hopefully) have something to do with making sure that our kids future, and the health of our school districts, is maintained.

When I arrived in our conference room, I saw our ‘facilitator’ and immediately balked. Not because I don’t believe we should have structure or leadership through our process, but because I didn’t believe (and still don’t) that person should be a representative of a bureaucratic organization.

To me, it creates the perception that we are being led to a predetermined result which, in my mind is contrary to both the intent and the language of HB 1490.

Additionally, I was quite sincere when I said that I believed that those appointees who weren’t yet seated should be present at the beginning of the process. That ensures that all of us who were appointed (honored, really….I believe as you do that this is an incredibly important charge we have received) were starting on this process in the correct way.

That, for me, is important. Not simply to do the work we are assigned, but to do so in a way that is both consistent with the bill that formed our groups and ensures that all voices are heard and can contribute. Moving forward without them, in my mind, short changes the process and, as I said in our meeting, immediately calls our legitimacy into question.

These concerns were not alleviated as the morning progressed. I am sure you remember hearing the request from one of our members that the facilitator give us a definition of ‘consensus’. I wondered if perhaps she would also provide the definition for ‘contrived’, as again, we were missing nearly a third of our group. Consensus, when you don’t have a fully seated group, is a hard thing to have. Particularly when we weren’t even sure at that time that all our members were informed of our meeting. I later found out that not all of the appointments have been made, which further raises questions in my mind about moving forward under those circumstances.

You spoke to the issue of agendas. I was rather clear about mine. I represent not only my kids in that room, or a school district. I represent an entire rural farming community. The heart of our town is our school, and moving forward with standards that appear to be designed to drive test scores down (as you mentioned with some of Common Core’s age appropriate issues will almost certainly do) is a very real concern for small districts like ours across the state. Smaller districts have unique challenges, as I am sure you are well aware. Accreditation is at stake for districts like ours….all districts for that matter, and our town’s livelihood depends on maintaining and preserving our school.

I understand your perception that I was perhaps trying to sabotage the process with my repeated objections, but I assure you, that wasn’t the case. I simply wanted to ensure that all voices that are supposed to be in our group were afforded the opportunity to participate. Video taped meetings are great, if you would rather dictate instead of inviting people to participate. Those videos will certainly help bring absent members up to speed, but they won’t allow them to contribute. That, for me, is a sticking point.

Alarm bells went off for me when that simple consideration for absent members of our group was ignored in favor of steam rolling ahead with the process. That smacks of the same tactics that were used to implement these standards in the first place, and were being led by a political subdivision of the Governor’s office….the same Governor who signed us up for these standards and bypassed the Constitutional role of our legislature in the process. It appeared to me that we were being led to a predetermined conclusion and, come hell or high water, we weren’t going to be allowed to go off script.

Local control of our school districts is the single most important aspect of government. Attempts to bypass or undue this is, in my opinion, the single greatest threat to students, parents and teachers that we currently face.

Truly, I wasn’t on a mission to create issues for the sake of it or because someone directed me to do so. I simply didn’t want to check my principles at the door for the sake of moving on just to move on.

I want to do this right, without influences over our direction and with participation by all of those appointed to do so.

I hope that helps to provide some insight into my actions. I cannot speak for anyone else, but those are some of the reasons I felt as strongly about this as I did, and still do.

I greatly appreciate the chance to share with you and am confident that we can work together to craft standards that make sense, even if we don’t all agree on every point.

Thank you again for the opportunity to exchange views and I promise you, I have no intention whatsoever of using your comments in any sort of negative way. I am guided by my principles, sometimes to a fault (as you witnessed for yourself on Monday), and I have no doubt that you have the best interests of our schools and kids at heart. That, is the most important quality any member of our group can demonstrate.

I look forward to sharing more with you and learning from you as we move forward. I hope that you have found that, contrary to popular belief and my wife’s opinion, I wasn’t trying to be a pain for the sake of it or because someone put me up to it.

Thanks again,
Paul

My decision to leave may well result in the Speaker of the House, Tim Jones, deciding to replace me in the work group I was appointed to. As it was explained to me, my boycott of Monday and Tuesday’s meetings didn’t reflect well on Jones, politically.

I would counter by saying the Speaker should be thrilled that someone cared enough about the bill his legislature crafted to want to see it followed, but that’s just me.

I’m a guy with Occupy Wall Street roots.

I’m used to being in the silenced majority.

DESE and The Hijacking of HB 1490

Last Friday, I received confirmation from the Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives office that I was picked to be a participant on a work group established by HB 1490. This allows for groups of parents and educators to work together to develop standards for our schools. The language of HB 1490 is as follows, as related to the makeup of these work groups:

3. Work group members shall be selected in the following manner:
(1) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the president pro tempore of the senate;
(2) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the speaker of the house of representatives;
(3) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the professional teachers’ organizations of the state;
(4) One education professional selected by a statewide association of Missouri school boards;
(5) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by a statewide coalition of school administrators;
(6) Two education professionals selected by the president pro tempore of the senate in addition to the members selected under subdivision (1) of this subsection;
(7) Two education professionals selected by the speaker of the house of representatives in addition to the members selected under subdivision (2) of this subsection;
(8) One education professional selected by the governor;
(9) One education professional selected by the lieutenant governor;
(10) One education professional selected by the commissioner of higher education;
(11) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by nationally-recognized career and technical education student organizations operating in Missouri; and
(12) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the heads of state-approved baccalaureate-level teacher preparation programs located in Missouri.

This would be a total of 16 members for each of the designated work groups. Notice that nowhere in this language will you find a role for DESE or their designees.

When I arrived at the Capital this morning, I was energized to be a part of the process that would determine the future of our children’s education, while preserving the local control of our school districts set forth in our state Constitution. As a parent in one of the state’s smallest school districts, the opportunity to work with parents and educators to define our State’s path in education is an honor. The responsibility of being appointed to these work groups is one that I definitely felt as I walked through the halls of our State Capital.

As I told the fellow members of our work group (History and Government, K-5), this is the single most important thing I have ever done in my life. I felt a swell of pride when I made that statement, along with a rush of emotion.

It is a responsibility not just to my children, but to all children, and parents, in the state of Missouri.

When I made my way to the Truman Building to meet the members of our work group, I was ready to get about this serious work. Upon arriving, I found myself faced with a reality that was the anti-thesis of what I was expecting and completely contrary to the language in HB 1490.

I walked in to find a small group of people, considerably less than the full 16 member panel clearly defined in HB 1490. Only ten members of our group were assembled. This was the first disappointment of the day.

I was greeted by a ‘facilitator’ when I entered the conference room. This person had assumed the role of leadership over our work group and was flanked by two other representatives from the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary education. I was puzzled. DESE, according to HB 1490, was not supposed to be a participant in these work sessions. While they are open to the public (and I encourage anyone who can attend to do so), DESE is not supposed to have a role in these groups. The state legislature went to great lengths to determine who is supposed to participate in these sessions. They did not list DESE in the language above, defining the makeup of these groups.

I didn’t say anything at first. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was witnessing. Soon after I took my seat, it became abundantly clear.

I was witnessing the same assumption of authority by DESE that has become the standard in schools across Missouri. DESE’s ‘facilitator’ was lying in wait to execute a coup of the process set forth by HB 1490, perched behind her Power Point presentation like a Black Widow ready to devour any hapless fly who dissented from DESE’s darling, the Common Core Standards.

From DESE’s own website, http://www.dese.mo.gov:

The meetings are open to the public, but are not open meetings. Only members of the work groups may contribute to the discussion, again as specified in the law. However, three public hearings will be held during the development process to allow for comments from the public on the proposed standards.

When another parent and I questioned her role and participation in the group, it became immediately clear the room was stacked with DESE designees. Administrators from across the state leapt to her defense, eager and willing to give up their responsibilities under HB 1490 in order to follow DESE’s lead.

When I questioned moving forward without a full work group, I learned how determined DESE and its supporters were to thwart the entire process laid out in HB 1490. Over and over I was told that it didn’t matter that the other representatives were in attendance. The rationale that was given was that we ‘were already here’ so we should proceed with our work session.

As I pointed out, beginning any work without the full assembly of our group was problematic. Given the importance of the task we are charged with, it seemed imperative that we adhere to the process set forth by HB 1490.

Our work group is, after all, developing standards for History and Government. It seems laughable that we should disregard the legislature’s intent with HB 1490 because DESE and a few hell bent administrators say so.

These concerns also fell on deaf ears. A majority of the group that was assembled today were all too willing to ignore the fact that we were missing six members of our group. Their desire to effectively disenfranchise other members of our work group, by insisting we play ‘follow the leader’ and continue the charade was disconcerting. Those most vocal in wanting to press forward, without a full group and, as DESE themselves said, in violation of the law with the participation of a ‘facilitator’ set off several alarm bells in my head.

It made me thankful that my children aren’t in their districts.

The hit parade continued with objection after objection being voted down by a count of hands willing to continue a process that was very clearly flawed.

Finally, when the afternoon session resumed, I found that I could not, in good conscience, continue to participate in an illegitimate process. Too much is riding on what comes out of these work groups. To begin a process under the pretense that we are following the path laid out by HB 1490, would be to participate in a sham. I cannot, and will not, lend my name as validation for a process that is flawed from inception. I cannot and will not participate in the hijacking of our children’s future. To do so, gives the charade the pretense of validity and there was nothing valid, legal or legitimate about the coup I witnessed in today’s meeting.

In talking with several other parents, I made the point that our only leverage is our participation. If we, as parents and people who can read HB 1490, continue to lend our credibility to this process through our attendance, we are failing our children and become willing conspirators in a fraud.

While administrators across our state seem willing to move forward with this, I am not.

Our children’s future is far too valuable to be traded away for a DESE meal ticket.

Occupy Common Core: The Corporatization/Privatization of Education

Friday morning, March 28, an email was circulated calling for supporters of Common Core standards to rally in favor of the standards. In this email, it is stated that Missouri legislators are getting “pressure from right wing activists around the state”.

Right wing activists?

That, I must admit, caused me to actually laugh out loud. This is the latest in a run of empty assertions that have been made by the alphabet soup organizations of unelected educrats in Missouri in regards to the demographic of Common Core opposition.

I am not a conservative Mom. I am not a right wing activist. I am the antithesis of these things and unfortunately for MASA, DESE, MSBA, etc and et al, I also stand against Common Core. Let me shatter the illusion they would like to present to you, the one that identifies opponents of Common Core as right wing activists and conservative soccer moms.

My ‘political activism’ began after the tea party movement had launched, but my awareness of the corruption embodied in the implementation of Common Core began long before that. The rise of global corporatism and corruption, assumptions of power by branches and agencies of government in clear violation of Constitutional law and efforts to silence and marginalize dissenters drew me to an inevitable, inescapable conclusion: We, as a nation, are held in the grip of fascism. There is no clearer symptom of this condition than the government overreach exemplified by Common Core.

I have curated the website http://www.americanspring2011.com for nearly three years. My activism, such as it has been, was the direct result of the protests of workers in Madison, Wisconsin, the ‘Arab Spring’ and the for-profit police state that was rising around us. My education comes from years of schooling, common sense and practical knowledge. My beliefs spring from the moral code instilled in me by my family. My experience comes as a result of growing up in a small rural Missouri town, graduating with seven classmates. My views have been formed by the culmination of these and an endless number of lessons learned through the course of my life. My anger, my righteous fury, at those who would seek to implement ANY system that robs us of local control of our schools, is fueled by the love I have for my children and the hopes I have for their future.

I am neither a mother, nor am I a right wing activist. I’m a father who identified far more with the Occupy Wall Street message than the purchased political talking heads who hijacked the authentic grassroots movement, the tea party. The root message of the OWS movement was missed amid a flurry of symptoms of an ill society. What was lost in that movement’s translation, with its many signs and seemingly mixed messages, is that each of the messages displayed on the signs of the 99% were caused by the same root disease. Fascism. The levers of power of the most powerful military on the planet are in the hands of fascists. Their philosophy is a brutally simple one: enslave a population, through all means necessary. And now they have turned their sights on our schools.

By destroying wage protections, the door is open for economic slavery, as wages will be dictated by corporations like Wal-Mart. By increasing the militarization of police and constructing a data collection network, government and corporate powers have opened the door to tyranny. By extending the talons of government control to our schools, via the implementation of Common Core, the doors to our homes are not just opened, they have been kicked in. These conditions, each, describe fascism.

The threat of Common Core is not confined to schools, classrooms and education. It is much more personal than that and represents a greater danger. It is, in its base form, control. It institutionalizes a bully system through emphasis on student, teacher and district ‘performance’. It expands this ‘competition’ across our country, so that ‘failing’ districts become prime targets for replacement from private, for-profit educational warehouses, the kind of ‘education’ promoted by special interest groups like Fordham.

Fordham is subsidized not only by Bill Gates, but by the same Wall Street vulture who helped bankrupt the city of Detroit, by raiding the pensions of workers. John Arnold, former Enron executive, played a large role in that city’s demise. Now Detroit is being dismantled, with the goal of privatizing that city’s public services and turning it into a laboratory to conduct neoliberal economic experiments. This same mad scientist approach is now being made reality in our schools through Common Core.

Fordham certainly isn’t alone. A cabal of corporate interests and their representatives have their fingerprints all over Common Core. It has been supported by a consortium of players, united in this fascist takeover of education. Bill Gates is a major player. So is Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News with holdings in multiple private educational pies. So is Mike Huckabee. So is Jeb Bush. So are hundreds of others, scavengers all, each ready to take their bite out of the corpse of locally controlled education. All ready to fill their bloated bank accounts at the expense of our kids.

They support Common Core for precisely the same reason. It is a way to privatize what is public. It is a way to monetize our children’s future. It is a way to discourage learning, to control and monitor our children, to initiate them into a subservient way of thinking. It is a way to herd our children into the low wage jobs Chambers of Commerce have waiting for them. It is a way to discourage our children from seeking a college education that is becoming more and more unattainable through rising costs. It is a way to create a true life Idiocracy through bureaucracy.

Nor is Common Core the singular mechanism of this corporate takeover of education. Laws, some currently pending in the Missouri State Congerss, have been written and endorsed by ‘conservative’ politicians in this state that offers a clear picture of the handwriting on the wall. They have been debating, along with Common Core legislation, to allow a forty hour work week for children 14 and older. They have passed laws to expedite the process through which the state can ‘take control’ over districts that ‘fail’ accreditation tests. They have passed laws that have made it easier to fire teachers. They have set the stage for the next evolution in the transformation of education. It is a for-profit system, subsidized by parasitic interests that feed off each ‘failure’.

Common Core is the proverbial ‘no-win’ situation for parents. Without a vote and without consent, government has overstepped its authority and the citizens of the United States have been told they have two options for their children’s education: Government dictated corporate education via Common Core in our ‘public’, ‘locally controlled’ schools or privatized, for-profit corporate education via ‘failed’ districts. Each student who ‘fails’, each family whose child doesn’t ‘perform’ under this ‘educational’ model, are at risk of school/government led ‘intervention’. This ‘intervention’ is done not under the rule of law, but under the assumption of authority. It is the same assumption of authority that ‘supports’ arguments in favor of this transformation of eduction.

The state of Missouri used to have protection from this type of hostile takeover of Missouri school districts by the federal government. The statute, in an abridged, layperson form, set a higher standard for educating Missouri children than the federal government’s. This statute was used by Sherry Lagares to defeat the assumption of authority by the Camdenton school district. Shortly after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in her favor, Sherry was called to Jefferson City as lobbyists from DESE, MSBA and other special interest groups fought to repeal that same statute. She watched as both corporate-sponsored politicians and corporate-sponsored emissaries kicked down the door protecting Missourians from Common Core. Now, her family has been visited by unbelievable acts of retribution by the same entities and players standing in support of Common Core in Missouri.

Common Core is a system that is built to profit from each child’s failure, regardless of their parent’s political affiliations. Those who stand in support of the corporatization of education do so in spite of false party labels. So to, do those who stand in opposition to this gross assumption of authority. To claim otherwise is disingenuous, it is foolish and it speaks to the blind ignorance of those who would take control of our children’s futures.

Our schools are where we lay down our political banners and pick up the crests of our families. It is on this battleground, the first, the most personal, that we don armor made of ironclad truth and carry shields forged in the fires of American determination. We gather under the flags of our children in protection of their future and here, we all have common ground.

I am not a conservative mom, nor am I a right-wing activist. I’m a liberal father.

But when I see a threat like this leveled against my kids and their future… I’m a real mother.

Leaked DESE/MASA Email Reveals Spite, Common Core ‘Bigger Picture’

Today, in a Senate hearing on Common Core legislation a leaked email from DESE became public. The email from DESE, talks about the Common Core battle being waged in Jefferson City. This email contains observations from the private lobby organization MASA, or Missouri Association of School Administrators.

This email labels opponents of Common Core as ‘right-wing activists’. It also offers a variety of empty talking points, the kind typically issued from supporters of Missourians surrendering the illusion of ‘local control’ over our districts. This slanderous, outrageous and blatantly false characterization of Common Core opponents seeks to create fertile ground for the false narrative that opponents of Common Core are ‘tea party extremists and obstructionists’ or conspiracy theorists in need of tin foil hats.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who stand in opposition to Common Core do so because it is another step in the advancement of a fascist takeover of our local school districts and an assault on our rights. It is about re-establishing local control, accountability and transparency in our school districts for the sake of our children.

The leaked DESE email is reprinted below. In the interest of space, a list of state representative contact information was removed from the body of the message. This is the only alteration made to this email. It appears exactly as it was sent out by DESE.

From: curriclistserv-bounces@lists.mo.gov on behalf of Bates, Shaun
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 8:05 AM
To: ‘curriclistserv@lists.mo.gov’
Subject: [Curriclistserv] March 28, 2014

Your Contact With Senators Is Crucial in Common Core Debate

Your legislators need to know that the Missouri Learning Standards (which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards) are supported by yourself, your district, and your educators. They are getting a lot of pressure from right-wing activists around the state to pass legislation prohibiting the implementation of the new standards.

The threat to abandon four years of work that Missouri educators and schools districts have dedicated to this initiative is very real. As MASA has engaged with legislators at the Capitol, it is clear that they are only hearing from the detractors of the Common Core.

The time to contact your legislators is NOW! Administrators should consider not only emailing their legislators regarding this issue, but also calling or physically meeting in order to discuss the issue in greater detail.

If you email your legislator, please send a copy of your email to David Pearce, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee at david.pearce@senate.mo.us and a copy to Gary Romine, Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee at gary.romine@senate.mo.us

Please contact your House members as well on this issue.

Roger Kurtz
MASA Executive Director

Common Core Talking Points

The Missouri Learning Standards simply provide a framework by which Missouri will develop MAP tests; they are NOT curriculum. Districts maintain complete control of their ability to write their curriculum, while teachers are allowed the flexibility in how to teach their students.

The federal and state mandated testing footprint will be minimized under the new test schedule that the state will begin using with the Missouri Learning Standards in 2015, including giving the ACT to every student. This change was made due to concerns from educators and education organizations representing teachers, principals and MASA. We would support a further reduction in the federal and state mandated testing footprint, but we fully support the new test schedule to be used for the foreseeable future.

Repealing the Missouri Learning Standards would be an irresponsible and expensive action for the Missouri Legislature to take. Districts have spent nearly four years moving to these new higher standards. This represents MILLIONS of dollars and THOUSANDS of hours in professional development. Abandoning this work would have a devastating impact on teacher moral moving forward. DESE, the Missouri Legislature, school districts, and administrators would lose a ton of credibility for any initiative in the future.

If Common Core were to be repealed, we would expect policymakers and politicians to stop utilizing unfair comparisons on performance with other states that have different levels of rigor in state standards. The Common Core State Standards were developed because policy makers and politicians that have continually attempted to compare one state to another without a set of standards that allowed the comparison to be fair.

The Common Core State Standards represent work that was done between policy makers, politicians, educators, business leaders, and the higher education community in order to ensure that students that graduate from high school are fully prepared for their post-secondary goals. Employers would be able to get a more accurate indication of the educational level of a student with a high school diploma, while higher education institutions can now begin moving to better place students in their class offerings, thus reducing the need for remedial courses.

With an ever-increasing population of students that are mobile, the Missouri Learning Standards allow for schools and students to smoothly transition from one school or district to another. Schools would be better equipped and assured of where a student is at in their educational career and thus have more time to focus on meeting the needs of that student without wasting as much time trying to figure out where to place new students.

DESE and MASA, in this email, show a complete disregard for the notion of local control of our school districts. They would paint those who stand in the way of their silent coup, their assumption of authority they aren’t granted, as troublemakers, rabble-rousers and plain old crazy. That’s because those who stand up for their rights and the rights of their children stand in the way of the DESE/MASA business model.

MASA is a private group with lobbying status and describes itself as follows, from their website, http://www.msaonline.org:

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) is the only statewide association in Missouri that exists for the purpose of serving the needs of school superintendents and central office administrators with an interest in the superintendency. MASA is a statewide professional association that has grown to include over 600 school superintendents and school administrators. In 2011-2012 MASA set an all-time membership record. The services provided by MASA to its membership have also increased as members have identified and approved long-range plans incorporating key services.

Paul Ziegler is President of this private organization. He serves as the superintendent at Northwest R-I in High Ridge, located in Jefferson County, just south of St. Louis. The organization he heads, MASA, is a private entity. It is supported by the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. It is also supported by ACI/Boland. Additionally, L.J. Hunt is listed as a sponsor of this private organization.

To provide complete context for the motivation behind the leaked email’s message, American Spring would like to invite you for a closer look at the Camdenton school district. For many reasons, Camdenton provides a clear picture of what ‘local control’ truly looks like under the DESE/MASA approved model.

This school district, located in central Missouri at the popular tourist destination, the Lake of the Ozarks, provides insightful context as to the motivations of the leaked DESE email. Camdenton offers an unobstructed, complete look at what is on the line with Common Core implementation.

To begin this dissection, a look at MASA’s sponsors and supporters is necessary. The list below is taken from the program for MASA’s Spring conference in 2011-2012. This conference was held at the Lake of the Ozarks Lodge of the Four Seasons.

Special Thanks To The Following For Contributions
To MASA Events And Programs During 2011-12.

PFM Asset Management, Inc. (MOSIP)
Forrest T. Jones & Company
Lawrence E. Smith & Associates
George K. Baum and Co.
Commerce Bank
Brian Cave Law Firm
Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, Inc.
Inter-State Studio and Publishing Co.
American Fidelity Assurance Company
Apple Computer
Mickes Goldman O’Toole, LLC
Chartwells
Piper Jaffray
Simplified Online Communication System (SOCS)
ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, Inc.
L. J. Hart and Co.
Sam A. Winn & Associates Architects, PC
Johnson Controls
Guin Martin Mundorf, LLC
OPAA! Food Management
SchoolWires
Tueth Keeney Cooper Mohan & Jackstadt PC

For residents of Camdenton, some well-known names appear on this list, including the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. This law firm has represented the district in several expensive, frivolous proceedings costing taxpayers of the district thousands in legal fees. Additionally, the firm and school administration have throttled the public’s ability to interact with board members, by placing themselves as intermediaries between taxpayers and their elected officials. They have presumed to do this under flawed legal arguments and fear mongering, encouraged by another private organization, the MSBA, who sent a lawyer to present the faulty logic that the board might be sued because of something a citizen said to them.

The origins of the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole reek of controversy, corruption and conflict of interest. As reported by American Spring last year:

Mickes was asked to resign from the firm he previous worked with due to his financial stake in a company that sold textbooks and manuals to the same school districts the firm represented.

From the St. Louis Business Journal:

Tom Mickes, known as one of the region’s leading attorneys on education issues, has been ousted from the law firm he helped start in April 2000.

His former partners at the 20-lawyer firm, now known as Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, took the action Aug. 25, and at the same time referred a report relating to Mickes’ termination to the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the state’s lawyer discipline system.

The actions apparently stem from a separate business Mickes owns that provides policy manuals to school districts and educators.

Tom Tueth, 56, one of Mickes’ former partners, declined to discuss the contents of the report but indicated in a written statement the report dealt with Mickes’ work for “several education clients.” The Tueth firm represents some 250 school districts in Missouri and more than a dozen in Illinois.

Mickes is the only lawyer who has left the firm, Tueth said.

The Tueth firm’s statement said in part: “We recently became aware of certain activities of Thomas Mickes relating to several education clients of the firm. We promptly conducted an investigation, both internally and through outside legal counsel….”

After the investigation the Tueth firm terminated Mickes. The statement continued, “Mr. Mickes acknowledged in writing conduct that raised our concerns. Our investigation has revealed that no other attorney or firm employee was involved, and each and every other attorney and staff member remains with the firm.”

In the Camdenton school district, the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole have a long, sordid history. They have provided the legal cover for administrators in Camdenton to create a toxic climate for teachers and students alike. A pervasive, vindictive bully system has been institutionalized in the Camdenton school district under the guidance of superintendent Tim Hadfield and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.

This bully system has been directed at teachers, as the cases of former educators Jan Michaelree, Kathy Egyabroad, Sean Kirksey and others clearly demonstrate. Good teachers and educators have been forced out of the Camdenton school district for not going along with the program, as dictated by the law firm through their puppet superintendents.

Teacher suppression in the Camdenton school district is a way of life. It comes with the job.

Earlier this year, a thirteen year teaching veteran turned in her resignation after less than three months in the district. Fearing retribution, she hired a lawyer to deliver the letter to school administrators.

Nor has the law firm’s bullying been confined to teachers and students. It has been directed at parents who have dared defy their assumed authority. The firm filed a law suit against the Fitzgerald family in the Camdenton school district.

The Fitzgeralds home schooled their children. The law firm, in a case that was laughed out of court, made unfounded claims of abuse as basis for the school’s attempt to reach into their home and take control of the Fitzgerald children. In reality, this suit was filed in an act of retribution. It was filed against Sherry Lagares’ sister. Sherry Lagares had previously beaten the Camdenton school district in Missouri Supreme Court. The firm however, in its blood lust for revenge, didn’t stop there.

The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, through the Lebanon school district, rewrote a court ordered custody agreement for Sherry Lagares’ grandchildren. Through actions condoned and legally ‘justified’ by the law firm, Denny Lagares, Sherry’s son, has had his parental rights stripped from him.

This is particularly disturbing when we look at this presentation, given by the firm, made to MASA at the aforementioned spring conference in 2011-2012.

Successful OCR Investigations from Beginning to End

3:30 pm to 4:30 pm Marbella A

Presenter: Tom Mickes and Teri Goldman, Mickes Goldman O’Toole

In recent years, OCR complaints have far exceeded the number of due process cases involving special education issues. The OCR has seized upon bullying issues and statutory changes in an attempt to expand their reach into school districts. Teri will help you navigate through the OCR bureaucracy.

This is the very door the law firm stepped through in order to literally “kidnap” Sherry Lagares’ grandchildren, as promised by Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole attorney Ernie Trakas through the Lebanon school district. This is not a door unfamiliar to Mickes’ firm. They have represented private youth facilities, such as CALO, at the Lake of the Ozarks. Mickes has also been tied to multiple other interests profiting off of the most vulnerable of our children, including those with autism.

With the number of school districts represented by the firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, and the number of administrators listed in MASA’s membership, it would appear the MASA is a private club for Mickes’ approved and endorsed administrators, and a collection of profit hungry vultures.

L.J. Hart & Company

One of these is L.J. Hart and Company. L.J. Hart, in addition to sponsorship of MASA, also serves on the Board of Advisors for MARE (Missouri Association of Rural Education). The company is an associate member of the MSBA, the Missouri Association of School Business Officials and the Chamber of Commerce in Chesterfield.

L.J. Hart has a long association with the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. They are tied to most bond initiatives in the districts represented by Mickes. Mickes has introduced Hart in school districts around the state for bonds and loans. This is significant, considering the way L.J. Hart has conducted business.

From Bloomberg.com:

L.J. Hart & Co., a St. Louis-based municipal-bond underwriter, agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to settle charges that it violated pay-to-play rules by giving tickets to sporting events to win work from schools and counties.

L.J. Hart gave school and county officials more than 2,000 tickets to attend games played by the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals and other teams, according to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority documents. The tickets were valued at $183,546.

The gifts show that securities regulators haven’t eliminated underwriters’ practice of giving gifts to public officials from whom they seek business in the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market. This year about three-fourths of the $233.4 billion of municipal debt sold has been through negotiation, instead of competitive bidding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Recent changes made by the Missouri legislature has increased the debt limit for school districts. As a result of this hike, school districts across the state have put ballot initiatives in front of taxpayers this April.

In the Lake of the Ozarks area, several ‘no-tax increase’ proposals are on the ballot. Many of these are tied to, in part, federal grant money from FEMA for the construction of bunkers or ‘safe rooms’ in our schools. Two, in Eldon and Warsaw, raised eyebrows in Camdenton.

Last year, Camdenton passed such a ‘no-tax increase’ measure. What voters were not told by superintendent Tim Hadfield, pitch man for the sham, was that while no tax increase would take effect with that vote, the ability for raising the levy without a vote of the people was handed over to the school board.

This week, during a forum for Camdenton school board candidates, school administration was overheard saying that Camdenton was also getting a ‘safe room’ or bunker installed in the district. This came as a shock, considering no such measure has ever been put in front of the taxpayers. The statement was made with certainty, although construction cost overruns are already plaguing the Camdenton school district and the district is operating in the ‘red’ financially.

ACI/Frangkiser-Hutchins is also listed as a proud supporter of MASA. ACI/Frangkiser-Hutchins is better known however, for their parent company. In Camdenton, ACI/Boland is both well-known and well-represented on the school board. Selynn Barbour, an incumbent running this spring, is related to the interests in ACI/Boland, the architecture firm that has attached itself like a parasite to the Camdenton school district.

From designshare.com:

ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, Architects & Planners, is the educational division of ACI/Boland. ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens is a nationally recognized educational design firm that has been in business since the early 1950’s. In the fifty years since its founding, the firm has concentrated on programming, planning, design, and construction of educational facilities. We have been involved with over 750 such projects.

ACI/Boland has been happy to spend the tax dollars of Camdenton residents. They were in support of the ‘no-tax increase’ pitch delivered by Camdenton superintendent, MASA member and part-time snake oil salesman, Tim Hadfield. They have pocketed thousands of dollars through their incestuous, seemingly never-ending relationship with the district.

The context behind the message revealed in the leaked email from DESE/MASA cannot and should not be overlooked. MASA is simply doing what its membership is trained to: act on behalf of the special interests and attorneys who are usurping local control in our schools and assuming that power for themselves. Common Core implementation is simply another brick in the walls they are constructing for parents and children. It allows not only for greater profit margins with its endless data collection, it also allows for this assumption of authority to continue into our homes.

A look at MASA’s 2013-2014 legislative priorities, from its own website, provides insight into the future this organization envisions for our schools.

3. Support For High Standards

MASA supports the implementation of the Common Core. In recent years, school districts have put an enormous amount of time and energy adjusting curriculum to improve student learning. Stopping implementation of the Common Core standards at this point would be extremely counterproductive for the students we serve. Missouri schools receive no assistance with technology funding and they cannot be among the top education states in the nation without providing students with the modern tools they need in the classroom.

MASA Supports:

Providing specialized training for administrators, teachers and staff who work in high poverty areas or with diverse student populations that focus on the unique situations children face in their communities and culture;

Replicating programs that have been proven to be effective in meeting the needs of students and specifically those that live in poverty or those who are considered “at-risk”.

Increasing the bonding capacity for school districts;

Allowing voters to approve bond issues with a simple majority;

MASA, no surprise, opposes the following:

Limiting the ability of school districts to seek civil, equitable and other legal remedies; and

Transforming the early childhood special education program from a required to a voluntary program.

MASA, and the special interests they represent, want nothing more than complete control of our children, as early as possible, so as to turn them into profit centers. The unspoken threat, leveled against our children, is that they will come into our homes and snatch our children if we dissent. This is the door opened by Common Core, the next evolutionary step in the march toward fascism. It is also the door through which the boogymen of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole have made a practice of walking through.

Sherry Lagares witnessed the determined, combined, coordinated effort by lobbyists for DESE, MSBA, MASA and the alphabet soup of educrats rushed to repeal the Missouri state statute that, in part, allowed for her victory in the Missouri Supreme Court. She watched as the statute that Missouri had in place, holding the standard for our children’s education above the standard set by the federal government, was repealed despite efforts by Sherry and dozens of state representatives. It was through the repeal of this statute that Common Core implementation was made possible.

Sherry Lagares and her family have paid the highest of prices for daring to oppose fascism in education. She has been forced to watch while her grandchildren have been ripped from their home and placed into an unsafe environment by the sponsors of the leaked DESE/MASA email. They have been targeted by an insidious, vindictive bully system, the type designed, installed and promoted by Mickes, his law firm and puppet administrators.

Attempting to dismiss opposition to Common Core by marginalizing them as ‘right-wing activists’ is nothing more than a futile effort in the campaign to marginalize all parents, taxpayers and citizens of Missouri and the United States who dare stand up for their Constitutional rights. It is precisely the kind of arrogance one has come to expect from those who seek to assume power and authority they are not granted under law.

Stay tuned to http://www.americanspring2011.com for the very latest in news from Camdenton to the Congo. Follow on Twitter @AmericanSpring or on the Facebook page Guerrilla Radio with American Spring. Guerrilla Radio is on Monday through Friday from noon until two in the afternoon. Tuesday’s Prime Time edition of Guerrilla Radio is live at 8. All shows are archived on line for easy access.

Missouri State Senators Concerned About Teacher Suppression

Wednesday, Missouri Senators heard testimony from a growing coalition of parents, teachers and educators who oppose the implementation of Common Core in our districts. During this testimony, the Senators were stunned to hear of the suppression tactics being used against teachers in districts across the state who chose to speak out in opposition of this transformation of education.

The State Senators called a sidebar Thursday, about testimony regarding teacher suppression efforts, taken by administrations around the state, against teachers who aren’t in favor of the corporate model of Common Core standards. They witnessed this type of behavior and suppression of teachers first hand in Jefferson City, courtesy of Lt. Governor Kinder. The Senators also had concerns about the veil of secrecy surrounding Common Core and lack of answers from DESE.

Debate continues in Jefferson City on several pieces of legislation regarding Common Core.

Stay tuned to http://www.americanspring2011.com for the very latest in news from Camdenton to the Congo. Follow on Twitter @AmericanSpring or on the Facebook page Guerrilla Radio with American Spring. Guerrilla Radio is on Monday through Friday from noon until two in the afternoon. Tuesday’s Prime Time edition of Guerrilla Radio is live at 8. All shows are archived on line for easy access.