The Tennessean reports that the Koch brothers are going to spend more money hoping to stop Common Core in Tennessee. Note how the reporters still manage to get their digs into the bros.
Convinced of wins during last week’s elections, a group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers has vowed to continue to spend aggressively in Tennessee in pursuit of derailing Common Core academic standards here.
The Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity, a political and lobbying arm founded by conservatives Charles and David Koch, claims it spent $500,000 over the last six weeks targeted at “bringing the issues with Common Core to light” in Tennessee. “And this is just the beginning,” the group’s state director, Andrew Ogles, said in prepared statement Wednesday.
The organization, which set up shop in Nashville last year and has also taken aim at Mayor Karl Dean’s Amp mass transit project, pointed specifically to results in Williamson County’s school board and state legislative races as evidence the public is “opposed to this one-size-fits-all takeover of the education system.”
There, six new candidates were elected to the 12-member board, including four who ran on anti-Common Core platforms that countered the position of Schools Superintendent Mike Looney. Those victories came even though Williamson County Schools again boasted some of the highest test scores in the state.
Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) organization, says its efforts were all aimed at “education advocacy.” As such, the organization isn’t authorized to donate individually to candidates or required to file financial disclosures with the State Election Commission.
The group assisted Williamson County school board candidates without asking citizens to vote for the candidates. The primary tactic: Depict Common Core as a federal overreach of President Barack Obama’s administration, a message often shared and advanced by tea party sympathizers.
Efforts included mail pieces that mentioned Beth Burgos, a family doctor who defeated incumbent Eric Welch, and urged people to thank her for efforts to “stop Obama’s radical agenda.”
“Should Obama exert even more control over our schools?” another piece of literature distributed reads. Different versions had board candidates Burgos, Dan Cash, Susan Curlee and Candy Emerson each saying no. All four won their races.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Burgos said of the ads. “I caught some flack from that. Other people liked it. But I knew nothing about it. It was crazy when it hit my mailbox, too.”
Welch called the organization’s efforts “pretty preposterous” and not based in reality.
“It’s disappointing that those who have never lifted a finger in support of our schools now feel entitled to dictate how the highest-performing school system in the state is run,” Welch said.
In addition, Americans for Prosperity touted the re-election of state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who easily staved off a challenge from former Williamson County school board member Cherie Hammond. The organization, though, failed to note setbacks of Common Core critics such as Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who was soundly defeated in his re-election bid.
On issues besides Common Core, Americans for Prosperity also tasted defeat, most notably with the retention of three Tennessee Supreme Court justices targeted by conservative groups.
Tori Venable, communications director for Americans for Prosperity Tennessee, said she could not say how much of the $500,000 spent on anti-Common Core efforts statewide went directly to Williamson County. In a news release, the organization made clear that efforts are now geared toward January, when state lawmakers reconvene in Nashville.
Americans for Prosperity currently has a statewide radio ad running that is aimed at Common Core. She suggested more mail pieces could be on the way.
“The goal is to get it repealed,” Venable said.
Common Core critics in Tennessee failed to achieve that objective last spring. Instead, lawmakers struck a compromise with Gov. Bill Haslam, a Common Core supporter, that delayed state-administered testing on Common Core standards for at least one year. The state had been set to transition to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam this year but will soon reopen bids from other test makers.
Nationally, the political landscape for Common Core has only gotten rockier, with Oklahoma and South Carolina among the latest to repeal the standards. Tennessee has phased Common Core standards into classrooms gradually since 2011.
The nonprofit Koch Institute, a separate organization founded by Charles Koch, hosted an education forum in Nashville last month that touted the need for Tennessee to adopt a school voucher system next legislative session.