Letter to USOE / Sydnee Dickson about Deseret News article   Leave a comment

Dear U.S.O.E. / Sydnee Dickson,

I read Ben Woods’ well researched article in the Deseret News yesterday. You were quoted: “I have yet to hear any of the political comments [against Common Core] that are valid,” Dickson said. “It’s all steeped in fear and not fact.”

There is a teacher (me) who is not only against common core but who has been trying very, very hard to get an appointment with the USOE legal department to clear up some of the “misinformation that has been circulating.” I can’t get information from my own district; everyone’s caught up in the spiral of silence here in the Wasatch District.

I want to go over legal documents, line by line, with a USOE lawyer or any lawyer. But I’m not allowed to talk to the USOE until “public input time” April 23rd through 27th. I can’t get a face to face appointment to give educator input based on facts that prove Common Core does tie Utah educators to rules we didn’t make and can’t amend.

The USOE refuses to address legally binding issues, or to direct the USOE legal department to do so.

The USOE’s focus solely on the standards is a huge problem. It’s like focusing on not messing up your nail polish while the house is burning down outside the bathroom door. Standards have only temporary value or meaning without political freedom.

Power has been given away, by people who had no right to give it away, to a consortium of states: Utah will have to submit to Washington State’s will, when push comes to shove, on decisions that affect Utah’s school children, under the SBCA rules. Look it up on the SBAC’s website.

Power has also been given away to the federal government. Utah, as part of the SBAC, must give telephone conferences, written reports, status updates, must coordinate “across consortia,” and triangulate data with the feds that we teachers will be collecting on children to give to the feds. (Not aggregated academic data, but personal, psychometric, identifiable data, just as the government collects info on kids in China and other un-free countries). It’s a fact. Read the attached legal document: “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Dept. of Ed and the SBAC”.

Your top lawyer told me, when I referred to it, that she thought the “Cooperative Agreement” was a hoax.

That is how little she, or any legal mind in the state, has studied it. (The USOE lawyer was also unaware that our state never did a cost analysis on Common Core.)

I sent the USOE laywer the Cooperative Agreement PDF. Before she’d read it, she’d invited me to call the secretary to get an appointment to see her and Judy Park. But the next day, the appointment was cancelled. I have the emails to prove it.

USOE employees told me that they had been directed not to speak with me, but to pass me to the P.R. department, Brenda Hales. Who is afraid of me and why? Why not look at Utah’s educationally binding legal documents with a Utah teacher?

After Carol Park read the Cooperative Agreement PDF, she said, “I disagree with your interpretation.” (Read it. Attached.)

So I asked Dean Rowley, one of the nonvoting state board members from Nebo District, if he could get any lawyer to work on this. He directed me to Reed Park of Nebo’s legal team. Reed Park said these are complex legal questions that he does not have time to examine unless he is directed to do so. I asked the Nebo School District to give Mr. Park permission to study these issues. Then Dean Rowley said, on behalf of Nebo, Mr. Park doesn’t have the permission or time.

Why doesn’t Mr. Park have the time to study whether or not Utah’s given up her educational decision making rights to a consortium and to the federal branch?

Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy and I (two teachers and a mom) visited with the Governor two weeks ago. We gave him a binder of evidence and a jumpdrive.

We pled with our Governor to sever ties with Common Core, based on the evidence. We told him that The Emperor (of Common Core) is wearing no clothes: Utah didn’t need Common Core to raise standards. It’s all in the public domain. Nobody loses anything, no teacher is going to cry, when we sever ties to Common Core. We can do whatever we like in Utah– but only if we examine our sovereignty and how it’s been handed over to a consortium of states closely directed and controlled by the feds.

The governor said he’d have us back in his office later, along with Larry Shumway and his lawyers in the room, because the evidence we presented was confusing to him.

But there’s more evidence.

I took the time to write to the test writers (WestED) directly, because I couldn’t get a clear legal response from USOE’s P.R. woman, Brenda Hales. Adorable though she is, she tends to talk around, rather than answer, questions.

I asked: “Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test.”

West Ed responded: “state-specific 15%… is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards)”.

So WestEd realizes that there are two sets of standards. Only one set can be amended by Utah.

But the USOE does not realize this, or at least they aren’t transparent about it on the website.

There are the Utah Core Standards, which are slightly higher –at least in the amount of classic literature allowed in the English
classroom. Utah can amend them via our State School Board. Then there are the CCSS standards, which are a HUGE problem for state freedom. There is NO AMENDMENT PROCESS for the CCSS standards.


The USOE lawyer, before she was directed to not speak to me, cleared it up.

I asked: “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?”

She said: “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it. If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

So it’s not that there’s no lack of evidence. There is only a lack of willingness. The USOE and its legal arm will not defend our state’s legal rights and educational freedoms. Who will? I will. Will you?

Common Core is led by forces outside Utah. By adopting Common Core, Utah gives up her freedom to disagree. Utah gives up her freedom to ever raise or lower educational standards. Choice is over. State sovereignty is over. And that’s okay with Larry Shumway, Arne Duncan and the USOE.

But is it the right thing to do?

FERPA privacy laws are being clobbered; see what Davis County just rewrote in order to get around parental consent laws to align with Common Core’s data collection rules.

G.E.P.A. laws are being utterly ignored– not just by the feds, but by Utah herself!

The 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, which like G.E.P.A. laws, forbid the feds from controlling states’ rights, have been forgotten.

This is your moment of truth. Your decision, whether to turn a blind eye or look at the legal facts, will affect millions of kids and teachers and taxpayers for years to come.

You can call me misinformed. Or you can grab a lawyer and start doing your homework.

Christel Swasey

Heber City


 Petition signer: Petition to the Superintendent, Board and Governor at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com




Posted April 18, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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