Common Core Corruption: Pearson Publishing Investigated for Payoffs

Pearson is a huge player in textbooks in Tennessee

Paul Horton University of Chicago High School History Teacher

By Bill Korach

We recently did an article about a petition authored by Paul Horton, State Liaison Illinois Council for History Education, and History Instructor at the University High School The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools demanding an end to curriculum decisions made among Common Core, and Race to the Top power brokers in back rooms and out of public view. Mr. Horton is clearly committed to excellent educational standards and prefers to teach history from history books not textbooks.

Mr. Horton stated:

“The president of the College Board’s recent announcement that a new SAT will be created to measure Common Core Standards skills proficiency also alarms us. In addition, the Secretary of Education’s former press secretary has recently used the “revolving door” of public office to acquire a job with a company that is related to Pearson LLC.

We demand transparency and public accountability for decisions that are being made on the above issues without open hearings or public debate on the influence of corporate lobbying and marketing at local, state, and federal levels. We strongly suspect the existence of quid pro quo understandings between the current Secretary of Education and Bill Gates, The Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, The College Board and David Coleman, The Educational Testing Service (ETS), and Pearson Education LLC that amount to collusion between a Federal Public servant(s) and corporate interests that appear to be working together to limit competition in an open marketplace.”

A recent Pearson fully paid junket to Australia for school officials suggests that Mr. Hortons suspicion has supporting facts according to this January New York Times story:

In the summer of 2010, Lu Young, the superintendent of schools in Jessamine County, a Lexington, Ky., suburb, took a trip to Australia paid for by the Pearson Foundation, a nonprofit arm of Pearson, the nation’s largest educational publisheTen school superintendents went on the trip, which cost Pearson $60,000. While the foundation described the visit as a way “to exchange ideas on creating schools for the 21st century,” there was ample time for play. “Everybody’s highlight of Canberra was to get to see the kangaroos,” Ms. Young said on a video produced by the foundation.

Six months later, in Frankfort, Ky., Ms. Young sat on a committee interviewing executives from three companies bidding to run the state’s testing program. While CTB/McGraw-Hill submitted the lowest bid, by $2.5 million, Ms. Young and the other committee members recommended Pearson.

In April, Kentucky’s Education Department approved a $57 million contract with Pearson. And then, over the next six months, the commissioner who oversees that department, Terry Holliday, traveled to both China and Brazil on trips underwritten by — that’s right — the Pearson Foundation

Last month, the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued subpoenas to the Manhattan offices of the Pearson Foundation and Pearson Education. Mr. Schneiderman is looking into whether the nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation, which is prohibited by state law from undisclosed lobbying, was used to benefit Pearson Education, a profit-making company that publishes standardized tests, curriculums and textbooks, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation, wrote in an e-mail, “Our practice is not to comment about the existence of government investigations.” He added, “It just is not true that the Foundation’s support of conferences attended by education officials has the purpose of helping Pearson corporate to win contracts.” 

A concerned citizen, and former college English teacher Cristel Swasey supplied this information to Mr. Horton:


Dear Mr. Horton,

 I read your petition.  I wonder if you could use this for your next article.  I think it’s important to get more facts and stories about the problems with Common Core and its corporate ties, before the public’s eye. I’ve studied this conflict of interest (business and politics) phenomenon in my own state of Utah, with Senator (businessman) Aaron Osmond and his employment with Pearson company.  I see it with Indiana’s Todd Huston and the College Board.  I’m sure it’s widespread nationally.

There’s a fine line between watching a state leader hold multiple roles in business and politics that are a bit too close for comfort, and having a leader hold multiple roles that clearly create unwarranted favoritism.

I don’t know exactly where this line falls.

But I’ve noticed an uncomfortable “two-hats-wearing” pattern with some businesspeople-turned-politicians. And it’s harming the process of proper vetting, voice and vote of “We, the People.” The people’s debate never takes place. The business-side-of-education “experts” rise to positions of political authority and they then make the calls. I am not comfortable with it.

An Indiana example: Todd Huston, a Republican, a nice guy. –But employed by an education-product sales company while also serving in the state legislature in a position that influences decisions about which educational products will be needed, and will be purchased, using state tax dollars.

Huston works for the College Board, whose president financially contributed to his political campaign. In Utah, there’s a similar situation: Senator Aaron Osmond works for Certiport-Pearson which has huge contracts with the state.

The president of the College Board, David Coleman, recently gave Todd Huston a large (his second largest) campaign contribution, of $10,000. Other campaign contributers included Stand for Children, another controversial political group. David Coleman also hired Huston to be Senior Vice President of the College Board.

(Remember: prior to running the College Board, you will recall, Coleman served as chief architect of the ELA portion of the Common Core Standards. Coleman’s now working to alter the SAT to match his creation, the Common Core. Surely Huston has a role to play in that. David Coleman, Todd Huston and others nationwide are influencing governmental education policy despite the fact that they work for educational business companies.

Will we file this information under ”Things that must be exposed and changed” or just “Things that make you go hmmm”?

It’s more than corporate aggression that comes into play. The College Board’s president holds extreme views that many are uncomfortable with.

The College Board president pushes for the minimizing of classic literature and mocks narrative writing– and he doesn’t do it politely.

Both Coleman and Huston are businessmen, setting education policy.

This two-hat wearing circumvents the American process of representative government. We trust our leaders to be objective enough to weigh options openmindedly. Someone whose paycheck comes from an education company can not possibly be objective in making education policy over a state.

We should question the financial and philosophical motivations of our education leaders. How do we know they are doing what is actually right for our children and not harming our educational system irreparably?

Mr. Horton’s petition raises many questions about the integrity of the implementation of the Common Core Standard. According to the Cato Institute, America spends about $660 Billion on K-12 public education. There is a great deal of money to be made at the public trough, and American’s need to know that the money will spent on educating America’s young people and not enriching corrupt education bureaucrats and corporations like Pearson.

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