Dear Utah Educators Association: From Renee Braddy   1 comment

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Renee Braddy, a Utah mother and a former elementary school teacher, has given permission to post this letter which she sent to the Utah Educator’s Association office.

As of this posting, she has still not heard back from the UEA.

  Thank you, Renee.

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To Whom it Concerns:

I am writing to you first and foremost as a parent and second as a former public school teacher in Utah.   I faithfully belonged to and supported the UEA the entire time I taught..  Today, I was sent an email from a friend. [Read it here.]   The letter was from the UEA and it was a request for its members to voice their support for the Common Core because of concerns being voiced by a “small vocal minority”. 

I would likely fit into that category.  It seems this emailwas an attempt to label, marginalize, and thus dismiss those who have voiced concerns or opposition.  I feel that my concerns, both as a parent and educator, are valid and are based on legal documents and lengthy research.  I am writing in hopes of working together. 

My experience has been that the large majority of citizens (including parents, teachers and administrators) are unaware of the big picture that comes with the adoption of the Common Core agenda.  It is so much more than a set of standards.  So, I would say that my experience has been that a large majority are silent on their like or dislike for Common Core.  Silence is not acceptance; it is most likely ignorance. 

I believe that as American citizens, we have a responsibility and a right to voice our opinions and to have questions answered and concerns addressed.    Unfortunately, this opportunity never happened with Utah’s adoption of common core.  Due process didn’t occur and the parents and teachers feel like a trust was violated.

I believe that Utah has some of the finest educators in the nation and my hope is to return educational decisions to the hands of parents, teachers and local administrators.   I don’t think the shift began with Common Core, but it is the current reform and parents and teachers aren’t happy now. The issues need to be addressed, not dismissed. 

Teachers have been told that “it will not bode well professionally to speak against Common Core.”   They have told me that they have been sent a clear message that they should not talk about their concerns –and definitely not while at school.  Local school board members are also being told to not speak out, and that they need to support the state board.

I am happy to meet and listen to your concerns and attempt to work together for a solution that is right for our state. 

Please let me know when is most convenient.

Renee Braddy

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While we wait patiently together to see if the UEA has the inclination to respond to Renee, I have a few thoughts.   I happen to be waiting patiently, too, for a response to my letter to Governor Herbert (see below).   But visiting or writing letters to any member of  the education establishment results in either: a)  silence or: b)  a ridiculous pat on the head.   Anyone who’s tried, knows.
This happens over and over and over– not only at the Utah state level, but also at the local school board level, and at the federal (unconstitutional) Department of Education level.
It does not stop us from writing, calling, and going to as many of their meetings as we can stomach.
I believe in the squeaky wheel theory, and I believe in Jesus’ parable about the woman and the unrighteous judge from Luke 18.  If everyone who wanted Common Core to go away would call, write, and pray repeatedly, weekly, persistently, patiently, unceasingly Common Core could not stand.  No legs.
Why not?  Because Common Core has no legs –except expensive marketing networks and lies– to stand on.  It has countless millions of dollars gambled on this takeover of American schools as a “uniform customer base” and more millions spent on marketing its unsupportable talking points.
And that is the simple,  incredible truth.  No legs.
It has no academic pilot testing, no written amendment process for states to retain local control, no privacy protections for its tests’ data collection processes, no actual international benchmarking, no chance of improving “global competitiveness,” no heart, no wisdom, no love for classical education,  no state-led history,  no hope of developing a real love of learning; no common sense.

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Remember the parable of Jesus from Luke 18:   There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:  And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.   And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;  Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”
There are people at the State Office of Education and at the State School Board who likewise “fear not God, nor regard man” yet because we trouble them, they may choose to “avenge” our cause, since by our “continual coming” we weary them.  And weary them we must because as a state, we are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence.
Spiral of silence is the name of a well-studied communications theory by Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, a phenomenon which happens when people fear separation or isolation (or job loss or even death) but perceiving or believing that they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.
Spiral of Silence theory arose as an explanation for why so many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s.  Parents, teachers and legislators who do not know enough about Common Core and the Common Data Standards, and who are told to “support” them, do not feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them.  The pressure is even more intense for state school board members and the UEA, which explains, in part, the repeated official stonewalling that we experience and the relatively low number of teachers and education officials who fight against the whole suffocating Common Core and Common Data Standards agenda.
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But I will admit that I laughed out loud when I saw the “official” silencing response sent to me by a clerk from the governor’s office, in response to my letter last week to our governor.  I would have received the same email had I sent the governor my favorite potato salad recipe.
Following my letter to the governor, I received this from constituentservices@utah.gov:

July 9, 2014

Dear Christel:

Thank you for your email to the Office of the Governor regarding Education (Common Core). I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Governor.

Our office appreciates hearing from constituents and your comments and opinion regarding this issue have been noted.

Thank you for taking time to contact us regarding this matter.

Sincerely,

Tiffany Clason
Constituent Services

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I wrote back.
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Tiffany,

That was not a response to my letter.  Please contact your supervisor..  I feel that an honest and important letter deserves and honest and important response.
Thank you.

Christel
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Constituent services wrote back:
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Christel, 

Thank you for your follow up email. I regret that my response was not satisfactory. We receive hundreds of email, letters, and calls daily and aim to make sure every constituent gets confirmation that their correspondence was received and that their opinion is taken under consideration.
Common Core is a very important issue and the Governor is paying close attention to the feedback, opinions, and concerns he is receiving from constituents all over the state. Having said that, our office is appreciative of the initiative you took to thoughtfully email us with your experience related to Common Core and your concerns for the Common Education Data Standards.
Kind Regards,
Tiffany Clason
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I wrote back.
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Tiffany,

While I appreciate the fact that you are responding, I still request a substantive response from someone at the Governors’ office.  Noting that the Governor “is paying close attention” is not a response to the issues I raised but merely an acknowledgement that I wrote at all.
Please, forward my email, and the other emails you have been receiving, to those in office who are responsible to the people for these decisions.  Perhaps the lieutenant governor has more time to answer specifics than the governor?
Constituents deserve real answers, not pats on the head and thank yous for simply writing at all.
Thank you.
Christel Swasey
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I  am patiently waiting to see if anyone at the Governor’s office or anyone who I copied the letter to at the office of education has the time to respond with substance.
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Meanwhile, I sent a form of the same letter to the Daily Herald.    My state school board representative, Dixie Allen, decided to respond.  Dixie Allen’s response at the Daily Herald did not address my concerns although it was long.  It said that she was one those responsible for bringing Common Core to Utah, and she defended that decision.   I remain unanswered, by deafening silence by both the Governor’s office and my state school board representative, on these issues:
  • 1) Why are parents denied the right to opt children out of the state longitudinal database system (SLDS)  which tracks them almost for their entire lives without parental consent?
  • 2)  Why has there been no freedom of conscience, no open debate among educators when it comes to Common Core?
  • 3) How can we maintain the reins of local control of education when we are attached like siamese twins to the will of the D.C. groups that control Common Core?
  • 4)  Why doesn’t Utah have her own standards, instead of copyrighted standards coming out of unelected D.C. groups?
  • 5) Why has Utah agreed to Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) which align our private data with federal data standards?
  • 6) Why doesn’t Utah look to the example of South Carolina’s and Oklahoma’s governors, who have decried the Common Education Agenda, and get Utah out of it, as those states have so wisely, so importantly, done?
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Please make some time and join me and other teachers and parents this Thursday in Salt Lake City as we simply show up to show that we are aware of what is going on in education today.  We will attend the open state school board meeting.  Some of us will speak at the 2 minute public comment segment.  Most of us won’t say a word.  Please, just show up.  That day, they are to decide whether or not to renew the federal NCLB waiver which Utah received in part as a reward for agreeing to do Common Core instead of NCLB.
If you can’t be there, please DO SOMETHING ELSE.  There is so much we can do.   Here is the Utah State School Board’s address: board@schools.utah.gov.  We can write or call the board, the newspapers and t.v. stations. We can politely and persistently pester our governor: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (Utah’s Governor Herbert’s number). We can politely and persistently pester the principals and state and local school board members, who are supposed to REPRESENT US, not Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, or Sir Michael Barber of Pearson Ed.  (If you want to get 2 minutes to testify about these things any month, at the monthly state school board meeting, contact secretary Lorraine at: Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov)
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One response to “Dear Utah Educators Association: From Renee Braddy

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  1. Excellent letter, Renee.I hope more of us stand up and do something to speak out.

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