Letter to Governor Herbert (1) and (2)   Leave a comment

This letter is a plea for our governor to set Utah free from the restraints and expenses of Common Core.   Alisa, Renee, Kevin and I shared it with the governor last week, in person, as we showed him our findings and he promised to get his legal department working on answering these issues right away.

I share it as a summary of findings.  The next letter, to the Governor and his Education Assistant, Christine Kearl, is equally important.



April 2, 2012

Dear Governor Herbert,

Utah’s adoption of  the Common Core Initiative and its accompanying SBAC membership are a set of federal agendas and entanglements that represent liabilities rather than assets for our state. With burdensome, unfunded mandates, a system of nationalized testing and centralized data collection, and the marginalization of Utah’s own educational innovations, standards and values, the initiative stands to lower, in important ways, rather than to raise, Utah’s own standards of college readiness –as the testimonies of top educators and independent think tanks clearly witness.

You, our Governor, hold the power that we don’t hold, to set Utah’s educational future free and to keep Utah a free, sovereign state standing firm in the shadow of what you have aptly called “the ever-encroaching hand of the federal government.”

There’s no substantiated benefit to membership in the SBAC that makes membership and its compliance regulations worth sticking around for, but there is much to run from; the tests and the multitude of implementation requirements have untold costs to add to our state’s regular educational funding costs; the tests will make Utah’s own educational values a moot point.  The test developers have affirmed that the test will be written solely to the specifications of the national CCSS, toward which our teachers will undeniably have to teach. Utah’s educational standards will not be taught as soon as teachers that they are being assessed on the national, common test.  That the test will contain nothing from the consortium states’ input and will be solely written from the national standards is a fact verified by WestEd senior researchers and written in the appendix of the SBAC document itself.

There’s nothing in the CCI that is not in the public domain; if Utah educators like CC, nothing prevents them from adopting similar –yet sovereign– state standards.

We are four individuals from Heber, yet we represent the voice of people, who, when educated fully about all aspects of Common Core and the SBAC, will see with great clarity that the correct course to take is in the direction of state freedom and preservation of liberty.  Common core and its testing consortium will take us in the opposite direction.  We ask you, our elected Governor of the great state of Utah, to move forward with courage to:

1. Contact Governor Haley of South Carolina and observe what she is doing to set South Carolina free of Common Core’s federal entanglements. Contact Texas and find out how the state maintained its educational sovereignty.  Contact Virginia’s School Board  and find out how they saved hundreds of millions of dollars and saved their Standards of Learning (SOL), choosing not to abandon the SOL program.  Look to the great examples of all free-thinking states that are leading the way out of the Common Core movement.

2.  Create a bill that severs ties with Common Core and the SBAC.

Only by a miracle –you, acting fast– can we prevent our state from spending so much time, money and curricular investment in Common Core that we would find it nearly impossible to withdraw.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Alisa Ellis, parent

Renee Braddy, educator

Kevin Braddy, state delegate

Christel Swasey, educator and grant writer


Letter 2:

April 5, 2012

Dear Governor Herbert and Christine Kearl,


Thank you for having Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy, Kevin Braddy and me, as Heber City citizens concerned about Common Core, to your office on Wednesday.

I contacted the legal department of the U.S.O.E. yesterday and found out that they have not conducted a legal analysis of Utah’s entanglement in the Common Core Initiative and SBAC membership.  Lawyer Carol Lear told me she did not even have a copy of the document “Cooperative Agreement Between U.S.Department of Education and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.”  I sent her the PDF and the link: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

It is clear from the document that the federal government has trampled G.E.P.A. laws as well as the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, by asserting authority, and without authority of law but via grant money and the dictates of  Arne Duncan, to set terms upon Utah and the SBAC, including requiring ongoing assessment status reporting, telephone conferencing, responses to requests from the U.S. DOE for information, written updates, and mandating that “across consortia” the testing methods and data collected from the tests will be coordinated.  This triangulates information and creates centralized data collection not only of math and reading scores, but of personally identifiable and unique student information.  I am sure the citizens of Utah would not vote for that.  It slipped under the radar, like so many other aspects of the Common Core initiative, because it was never brought under public or legislative scrutiny.  Superintendent Shumway, the State School Board, and the Governor, signed the documents that have bound us to this loss of sovereignty.  No one else knew it was happening.

I respectfully request that your legal team contact the U.S.O.E.’s legal team as soon as possible to discuss the educational sovereignty of our state and the financial obligations under which we will be burdened by remaining legally bound under CC and SBAC.   Have them read the Race to the Top Applications one and two; have them read the Cooperative Agreement between U.S. DOE and SBAC; have them read the WestEd Letter, which is in the binder of information we left with you, as well as being in the possession of Carol Lear.  That will be a good enough start to make it clear that these are not the assertions of fearful people but facts that actually bind Utah to sobering Federal controls.

I have been counseling with Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, a non-federally funded Massachusetts think tank.  I asked him this: if Utah were to pull out of Common Core and the SBAC, would the consortium have to return any of Utah’s portion of the consortium’s assessment development money and other rewards, incentives and waivers to the Federal Government?

Stergios called this question is a good one, because it shows how confused and confusing the federal role has gotten on Race to the Top, the money, and commitments.  He said that if states have done what they promised they would do with the Race to the Top money received, then once it is spent there is no hook for the federal government to enforce reimbursement to the feds. If the money flowed to those purposes, the state cannot be forced to return money for a change in policy on standards.  The problem of irreversibility comes with adoption of the tests and/or acceptance of a federal waiver from NCLB.

He said that states that have not adopted the CCSS have come under much heightened scrutiny by the feds and also pressure from some foundations.  But he told me, too, that once the national tests are adopted, which happens in 2014, it will become incredibly hard to pull back out.  Also, if Utah or any state accepts an NCLB waiver, which comes with the requirement that states adopt national standards and tests, then pulling out will lead potentially to federal oversight of a vast number of districts in one’s state.

Please have your lawyers look into these questions of irreversibility.

On another topic, I wanted to answer the Governor’s question about the letter he had received from Arne Duncan.  It is correct that the letter sounds innocuous.  However, a few concerns I have with the letter include these:  1) The Common Core Initiative has taken great pains to repeatedly claim that this movement has nothing to do with federal controls, is not a federal initiative, and is state-led.  This they claim despite the fact that they funded the whole movement, from funding the NGA and CCSSO, the groups who “started” it, funding the developer of the common standards and curriculum itself, Achieve,Inc., and funding the grants associated with the movement, notably ARRA-based Race To The Top.  Even the letter itself uses the words “not a federal initiative.”  Arne Duncan chooses his words very deliberately.  Because he paid the NGO and CCSSO to do what he was not legally authorized to do, he can truthfully say the feds did not initiate this movement.  But they funded and directed it from the beginning and continue to do so. There is a difference between the phrase “federal initiative” and the phrase “federal control”.  That is a very significant choice of words.  2) Secondly, the fact that Arne Duncan, not a group of state governors, clarifies policy, sends letters like this to you and to Superintendent Shumway, and sets the terms of cooperative agreements, reveals the fact that the U.S. Department of Education, not the NGA or CCSSO, is in control of and behind this initiative.  Otherwise, state leaders would be directing their questions about Common Core, and getting answers about Common Core, from the NGA and the CCSSO, the “state-led” leaders of this movement.

It would all make more sense if we had ever received educational funding for our memberships in these movements.  It would all make sense if we received anything at all from memberships in these movements; but all academic values in Common Core are in the public domain and we did not benefit academically from joining this movement.

We look forward to meeting with you, Superintendent Shumway and your legal team together again next month.

Thank you.


Christel Swasey

Heber City, Utah






Posted April 6, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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