Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are the NGA and CCSSO Lobbyists Who are Funded by Corporations?

I have a friend on FaceBook who has been on a tear about Common Core.  It all started with discussions about Common Core Math.  At first he refused to talk about anything but the Common Core Math which he is in favor of.  That is a whole other story for another time though.  What I want to focus right now is on the funding for Common Core.

He posted the link to this article by Phyllis Schlafly.
“So the Obama Administration has latched onto a national education curriculum called Common Core that was launched by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009. Those organizations have very official names as though they are government agencies, but they are actually private groups financed by foundations such as Gates and various corporations.”

He is taking issue with the fact that the NGA and CCSSO are lobbyists with corporate donors.  The question he posed was "Is Mrs. Schlafly being honest?"

His claim is that since the NGA is comprised by governors and they control it, then those of us who say that Common Core is not state-led are not being honest.  In fact, he says that the CC opponents aren't to be trusted.

Let's start out with the definition of a lobbyist.  According to a lobbyist is "a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest."  According to their own websites, both the NGA and CCSSO fit that definition.  First off, both of their offices are in Washington D.C.  Secondly, both organizations have lobbying divisions or offices.

This is the description from the NGA website about their  Office of Federal Relations.

"The mission of the National Governors Association (NGA) Office of Federal Relations is to ensure that governors’ views are represented in the shaping of federal policy. NGA policy positions, reflecting governors’ principles on priority issues, guide the association’s efforts to influence federal laws and regulations affecting states."

Let's look at the CCSSO website:  They describe themselves as "The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nationwide, nonpartisan, and nonprofit membership organization."

This is what the CCSSO says about their Legislation and Advocacy for their members.

"As the national voice of the Chief State School Officers in all 50 states and U.S. Territories, CCSSO represents its membership by coordinating consensus on federal education matters before the Administration, Congress, and the U.S. Department of Education.

"CCSSO provides thoughtful, pragmatic, analysis of the implications and opportunities federal education policies, including all major federal laws and grant opportunities, have on state education agencies. CCSSO prepares testimony for congressional committees, analyzes proposed federal regulations, form coalitions with other national education organizations, and educates federal policy makers on the education policy needs of states.

"CCSSO regularly hosts informational discussions with its membership updating chiefs on policy. Additionally, CCSSO hosts an annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. providing its members the opportunity to meet with federal elected officials, discuss state education challenges, and formulate the Council's stance on federal issues.

"Through encouraging collective state action, CCSSO strengthens the influence and impact each state has over federal education by unifying states around common principles, themes and policies."

I don't know about you, but that sure sounds like lobbying to me.

Next let's look at the corporate sponsors or funding for both the NGA and the CCSSO.  They are not self-sustaining from their membership of governors and school officers.

You can find the list of NGA Corporate Fellows at this link

What is a Corporate Fellow? So glad you asked. "As a Corporate Fellow, your contribution supports the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and positions you and your colleagues as intellectual resources for providing governors ideas that work. "

Unless I don't know what the word contribution means, I think that means monetary funding from the Corporate Fellows.

Here is information on the CCSSO's Business and Industry Partnerships.
"The Council's mission is to assist chief state school officers and their organizations in achieving the vision of an American education system that enables all children to succeed in school, work, and life. This mission cannot be met without forging new collaborations. In today's environment, success derives from working with and learning from diverse constituencies.

"One such constituency is the business community. The Council has engaged this community by developing a corporate sponsorship program for interested partners, who have provided support for Council meetings throughout the year. To ensure appropriate representation, the Council offers tiered levels of partnerships. The tiered partnership approach provides businesses with a menu of options from which to choose and enables the Council to receive sponsorship support to operate its meetings, conferences, and forums."

Apparently the CCSSO has 3 different tiers of Corporate partners. Just glancing thru their list, several jump out. Microsoft, inBloom, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson Education, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Both  the NGA and CCSSO have received funding from the Gates Foundation.  The NGA has received over $25 Million from the Gates Foundation.  The CCSSO has received $84 Million from the Gates Foundation.

My question is does being run by governors or school officers negate the fact that these organizations are lobbyist influenced by their corporate donors?

My friend has also accused me of being anti-capitalist because I object to our kids being treated like units whose information is being tracked for marketing.  I reminded him that there is a difference between capitalism ~which I am all for~ and corporatism, but again that is a discussion for another time.

What do you think?  Are the NGA and CCSSO lobbyists or are they as the Common Core proponents claim, state led?


  1. I'd say that they are organizations who support their members who are either governors or education commissioners for each of the states. The members join the org because the org provides a service they want/need. The corporate sponsors or partners want access to the governors or commissioners to work their business/product/service into whatever plan, innovation, or legislation is on the horizon. None of the states have to participate but they do because they recognize that there is value in sharing information and bring things as a collective.

    1. I'd say you just gave a great definition of lobbyists.