Disarming the Opposition
How do you make change in Georgia? Simple, you silence your opposition. For over two years now, opposition to the Common Core and linked testing has been fighting tooth and nail to stop detrimental changes to education in Georgia. They have been ignored by the press and called “crazy,” “hysterical” and lists of names not repeatable. They include teachers, parents, professors and mental health professionals. Opponents have been belittled, ignored and laughed at. They have been heckled, and even verbally attacked. Watch the Georgia HR550 hearings for several examples including one of the rudest treatments of an educational expert ever recorded (http://www.house.ga.gov/Committees/en-US/Government'sRoleInEducation.aspx). Teachers have been threatened to remain quiet even being denied permission to speak to parents. So rampant is the silencing of teachers it bears to question the reliability of ANY teacher surveys about Common Core done in the state. Many answer dishonestly, telling the GADOE what they want to hear, out of fear for their jobs and careers.
As Common Core continues to rout education in Georgia, the issue of cost is now coming into focus. Although warned early on, the state now finds itself once again passing outrageous costs for testing, books and technology on to every school district in the state. In four years, every child is mandated to test online. While simple to mandate, the cost associated with this is huge. Schools built before 2000 have had to retrofit technology infrastructure into existing buildings, often in an inexpensive, piecemeal pattern, as funds were available. Wifi signals are average at best in steel and concrete constructed buildings and the cost of a true Internet connected school system is daunting. Add to that the cost of devices for testing, ipads, laptops, desktops and Georgia schools are looking at spending billions of dollars to upgrade every school in the state. The taxpayers will of course foot the bill. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released its report this week showing a considerable deficit remaining in Georgia and predicted large class sizes and cuts to arts and music will remain. (http://gbpi.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/01/Overview-2016-K-12.pdf)
It would make sense to begin to smooth the transition for significant tax increases, and this week Cobb County took that first step. On January 28, 2015 Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale joined representatives from three Pro-Common Core and testing organizations: the ECCC PTA, GPEE, and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. All of these organizations have received significant money from the Gates Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core State Standards and provide support for district leaders.” (http://www.gpee.org/Economics-of-Education.47.0.html, http://www.gatesfoundation.org/)
“District leader” Ragsdale sat looking like a deer caught in headlights, the Common Core cheerleaders presented their PowerPoint push for more money. PTA moms clapped without fully understanding that Common Core alone will push the per- student spending from the current $9700 per student/year to an estimated $15,000 per student/year. That $5000+ difference has to come from local tax increases and cuts in current spending. This means a cut in many of the “extras” that drive parents to buy homes in a specific school district.
Question time at this meeting brought with it the standard silencing of opposition. Questions were written and deposited in a passed basket. The ECCC PTA ladies, led by President Anne Davidson and Legislative Committee Chair Chana Wade, read through the questions and reordered them. Several witnesses then observed, what those in this fight have seen all too often in Georgia, Ms. Wade deposited several question cards into her purse, preventing them from being read aloud. Opposing questions were removed from the stack. Parents with legitimate concerns over testing and the tremendous costs associated with it and Common Core were once again silenced. Congratulations must go to the ECCC PTA. As Stalin once said, “If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.” You successfully disarmed the opposition, this time.