Coalition Tries to Block Parent Group’s Common Core Ballot Question

Published March 25, 2016

A coalition of business organizations and government school leaders supported by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his nonprofit organization are suing to prevent a proposition that would repeal Massachusetts’ Common Core curriculum standards from being placed on the ballot in November.

In January, members of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) and members of the Massachusetts Parent-Teacher Association (MPTA) sued state Attorney General Maura Healey and Secretary of State William Galvin. MBAE and MPTA are demanding the removal of the ballot initiative. The complaint argues the ballot question, certified by Healey in 2015, is unconstitutional because it “is not in the proper form for submission to the people” and includes subjects “not related or mutually dependent” with the proposition.

To be listed on the November 2016 ballot, the organization collecting signatures to put the question before voters, End Common Core Massachusetts, must collect an additional 10,792 signatures before July to reach the required 80,000-signature threshold.

Voter Suppression

Robert Holland, a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, says organizations shouldn’t try to thwart people’s right to vote on important issues.

“I do believe it is wrong for business interests, or others with vested interests, to try to prevent the people from having a vote on this important issue, given that parents and their allies have worked so hard to gather signatures and present the papers in proper order to be on the ballot,” Holland said. “If the Business Alliance and other interests wished to put resources into urging a ‘no’ vote in November, that would be their right. Trying to suppress a vote is another matter.”

Pushing ‘a Utilitarian Education’

Holland says “big business” is heavily invested in Common Core.

“Elements of the big business community have decided that a utilitarian education suits their interests better than a well-rounded liberal arts preparation,” Holland said. “They want schools geared to entry-level workforce preparation for the masses, rather than education to help each student individually reach his or her greatest potential. It is a selfish and short-sighted attitude on the part of business, which surely would be better served by having fully literate employees who can think through issues and adapt easily, as opposed to ones who have been conditioned to be worker bees in a managed environment.”

‘Follow the Money’

Donna Colorio, president of End Common Core Massachusetts, says the lawsuit is intended to protect MBAE’s investment in promoting Common Core.

“Like so many things in politics, follow the money,” Colorio said. “It is well-documented the MBAE has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. MBAE has no credibility as an objective authority on Common Core.”

Colorio says her organization’s fight against Common Core is in the best interests of Massachusetts’ children.

“The movement to end Common Core has come from … everyday people who work hard, play by the rules, and want to provide a better life for their children and grandchildren,” Colorio said. “When special-interest elitists reveal their disdain and content for hardworking Americans, it is noticed, and frankly, it motivates us even more to pass this initiative. It gets more and more people involved in this crusade.”

Kimberly Morin ([email protected]) writes from Brentwood, New Hampshire.