Common Core: The "State-Led" Myth

Common Core

Since its introduction in 2008, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or “Common Core” (CCSSI) has been touted as a “voluntary, state led” initiative to adopt a common set of academic standards for all states in the country. As it turns out, the development of Common Core was not state-led, and participation, while technically voluntary, was very strongly coerced.

Our research into the standards themselves is ongoing, but frankly that is a secondary concern. stands opposed to the process by which Common Core has come to be. Its creation and administration have violated constitutional principles and rob parents of the right to oversee the education of their children.

Common Core: Private Roots

In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation pledged $60 million dollars into a campaign to infuse education into the 2008 political racei. In May, 2008, the Gates Foundation awarded a $2.2 million grant to the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policyii which, one month later, hosted a symposium alongside the National Governors Association (NGA) on education strategies.

Later the same year, NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) began accepting federal grants with which to launch Common Core. In December, 2008, NGA, CCSSO and Achieve – their contractor in Washington, D.C. – laid out a vision for Common Core standards in a document called Benchmarking for Success. This report, like so much of the process leading to it, was funded by the Gates Foundationiii, and it was given to the Obama administration as part of his transition to the White House.

According to a 2012 white paper from the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project (upon which this article is based), “Through 2008, the Common Core Initiative was a plan of private groups being implemented through trade associations, albeit trade associations that have ‘official’-sounding names. Since 2007, NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve accepted more than $27 million from the Gates Foundation alone to advance the Standards and the connected data-collection and assessments.”iv

To this day, “the Standards are owned and copyrighted by nongovernmental entities unaccountable to parents and students in the individual states.”v

Common Core: Federal Coercion

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or “Stimulus Bill”) was enacted on February 17, 2009, and provided the next key component in the drive toward Common Core. Through this bill Congress earmarked $4.35 billion for states that make “significant progress” toward four education-reform objectives.

One week after the bill was passed, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rolled out the federal “Race to the Top” program through the Department of Education (DOE). In a C-SPAN interview, Secretary Duncan explained, “We want to get into this game…. There are great outside partners – Achieve, the Gates Foundation, others – who are providing great leadership…. I want to be the one to help it come to fruition.”vi

From there, the timing was tellingvii:

In March, 2009, the DOE announced that “Race to the Top” funding would be rewarded through two rounds of competitive grants.

On June 1, NGA and CCSSO officially launched their Common Core Standards Initiative.

“Race to the Top” required states to commit to a common set of K-12 standards by August 2, 2009 – at which time the newly-launched “Common Core” was the only such effort in existence. States that did not commit to the program stood no chance of winning any of the grant money.

Phase I applications were invited in November, 2009, with a due date of January 19, 2010. “[A]pplicant states were required to demonstrate their commitment to Common Core without having seen even a draft of the standards.”

On February 22, President Obama in a speech revealed his intent to tie all Title I funding to this same Common Core commitment, essentially cutting off nearly all federal education funding to states that opt out. A March, 2010, DOE report stated that this cut off would occur by 2015.

In March of 2010, two months after applications had been received committing states to the standards, the first draft of Common Core was finally released by NGA and CCSSO.

Phase 2 applications were due June 1 of 2010, and the final draft of Common Core was not released until the following day. Applicants of both phases committed to the standards without even knowing what they would be.

What is more, the Race to the Top application stipulates that states must adopt and implement Common Core word for word. They can add to it only provided the additions do not amount to more than 15% of the material taught, but they cannot take away from it by any means.

Common Core: Conclusion

In short, far from being state-led, Common Core was developed in such a way as to keep the states completely in the dark. It was created and is still owned and copyrighted by private organizations with no accountability to the parents or students of any state. Neither are they accountable to the states themselves. The federal government used tax-payer monies to coerce the states into adopting the standards sight-unseen, contrary to the interests of the tax-payers.

While proponents advertised Common Core as a “voluntary, state-led” initiative, the states have been following blindly from the start. Not one citizen-elected legislative body has had any input into the standards or the system of development by which those standards came to be.

What Is To Be Done About Common Core?

This initiative clearly violates the right of parents to direct the education of their children. As the Pioneer Institute’s report points out, “If the states no longer have control over education, neither can the parents in those states.” “The best way to stop this scheme,” the paper also asserts, “is for the individual states to refuse to participate.”

We will continue to push forward, first with our efforts to pass the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment will defend the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children.

We will also continue to shine light on this devious power grab. The more who know what is going on, the stronger the voice that will rise up to oppose it.

And we will continue to work with volunteers, organizations, and state lawmakers to pass statutes that would protect the rights of parents in the individual states. This will include supporting legislation that would roll back participation in Common Core, and resisting legislation that would formalize it, in any given state.

We trust you will stand with us in these efforts as they arise. Could you also make a generous donation today to help us continue our mission of protecting children by empowering parents, not only with the Parental Rights Amendment, but also with knowledge about threats like the Common Core?


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research


iii. (accessed 4/22/2013), p. 2
iv. (accessed 4/22/2013), p.4
v. Ibid, p. 2
vi. (accessed 4/22/2013)
vii., pp. 4-8