The Common Core and the Public/Private Distinction

In a previous post, I noted that the Core are protected by copyright and “owned” by the NGA and CCSS. From the website of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: “The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (collectively, NGA Center/CCSSO), as the owners of the Common Core State Standards…”

Included in the list of “impermissible uses” is this: “any use that may be prejudicial to the Common Core State Standards, NGA Center, or CCSSO.” So if I use the Standards to reveal their flaws am I violating copyright law? Are members of the public not allowed to be “prejudicial” to the Core? (Now, while I suspect this language has particular meaning in its legal context — if you know, please post in comments — it still strikes me as inappropriate for something that is to guide the educational practice of the entire public school apparatus in the US.)

Up to this point in time, public school standards and curriculum were governed by explicitly public entities: local and state education agencies serving elected authorities. While many have long pointed to the publishing industry in establishing a “de facto” national curriculum, and while these companies certainly copyrighted their materials, official designations regarding curriculum or standards emanated from public agents and thus were publicly owned. Such entities must adhere to public disclosure laws: meetings, expenditures, etc. Thus, as public entities, specific legal standards must be upheld; private entities are not restricted in this manner.

Given that the NGA/CCSSO own and control the Standards, it is legitimate to be concerned regarding the apparent limited public status of these entities. What type of organization is the NGA? The CCSSO?

The NGA files with the IRS as a 501c3, according to the NGA website, and it thus appears as a private, non-profit organization. As such, it is not subject to the same statutes as a public school board or other public authority.

What is the status of PARCC — the institution crafted to construct and implement the assessment system tied to the Core? Like the NGA, PARCC appears to be established as a 501c3. While few appear to be especially concerned about the Core, focusing instead on various issues with testing, opinions will change once the tentacles of this assessment octopus are felt.

Thus a linked set of well-funded (e.g. Gates) private, non-profit organizations (with for-profits providing “technical assistance”) is taking over the governing functions of local and state education agencies. This of course has profound implications regarding the public accountability of these organizations and points to the emasculation of legislatures and elected boards as representatives of the people. It also indicates a governing philosophy that does not rely on the consent of the governed.

2 Comments The Common Core and the Public/Private Distinction

  1. Ray Peterson May 9, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Mark, now with the two Supreme Court decisions allowing “black money” to finance campaigns is private wealth legally entrenched?

  2. Mark Garrison May 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Certainly these court cases, and the other recent decision regarding prayer, suggest major alterations to both what is considered or meant by public and private, and how the distinction between the two is crafted in both law and social consciousness.

    But I think the issue is not that private wealth is now legally entrenched — private wealth has always been a protected class and given as the basis for and meaning of “liberty”.

    The issue is the change relative to “monopoly right” (even against private individual, non-corporate, wealth) and how this frames private corporate power as the only legitimate public. Only its interests should be served by government institutions, hence all the pay the rich schemes, including corporate charter scams, Pearson, with testing and the Core, etc.

    The issue is for the public to re-form itself as an entity, an agent, that secures the means to assert its interests on the basis of serving the common good.

    The level of usurpation and concentration of wealth and power, along side those who hold power being completely irresponsible to those they lord over, is both patently illegitimate, unstable and thus unsustainable.

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