There’s a fine line between watching a state leader hold multiple roles in business and politics that are a bit too close for comfort, and having a leader hold multiple roles that clearly create unwarranted favoritism –or even corruption.
I don’t know exactly where this line falls.
But I’ve noticed an uncomfortable “two-hats-wearing” pattern with some businesspeople-turned-politicians. And it’s harming the process of proper vetting, voice and vote of “We, the People.” The people’s debate never takes place. The business-side-of-education “experts” rise to positions of political authority and they then make the calls. I am not comfortable with it.
Two examples: Todd Huston of Indiana and Aaron Osmond of Utah– both are Republicans and both are youngish family guys, seeminlgy “nice guys”.
But each is employed by education-product sales companies while also serving in the state legislature in positions that influence decisions about which educational products will be needed, and will be purchased, using state tax dollars.
Huston works for the College Board, whose president financially contributed to his political campaign. Osmond works for Certiport-Pearson which has huge contracts with the state, and would probably have more if Osmond’s recent bill had passed.
The president of the College Board, David Coleman, recently gave Todd Huston a large (his second largest) campaign contribution, of $10,000. Other campaign contributers included Stand for Children, another controversial political group. David Coleman also hired Huston to be Senior Vice President of the College Board.
(Remember: prior to running the College Board, you will recall, Coleman served as chief architect of the ELA portion of the Common Core Standards. Coleman’s now working to alter the SAT to match his creation, the Common Core. Surely Huston has a role to play in that. David Coleman, Todd Huston and Aaron Osmond, are each influencing governmental education policy despite the fact that they work for these educational business companies.)
Will we file this information under “Things that must be exposed and changed” or just “Things that make you go hmmm”?
It’s more than corporate aggression that comes into play. The organizations (Pearson, and now Coleman’s version of the College Board) hold extreme philosophical positions that many are uncomfortable with.
For example, Pearson pushes the idea of having not just every state, but every country using the exact same educational standards, and Pearson pushes public-private-partnerships, which means having business and government collude over education policy and funding. These ideas are promoted in the very public speeches of Pearson’s CEA, Sir Michael Barber.
These people are not educators. They are businessmen– setting education policy.
I remember watching Senator Osmond, in a Senate Education Committee meeting last summer when Ted Rebarber and Jim Stergios testified that Common Core was set to harm Utah education. Senator Osmond was visibly agitated by their testimonies, and said that “the train had left the station” concerning Common Core, and he said that people should stop talking about the problems with Common Core.
His company sells Common Core implementation products. It wouldn’t do for him to side with Rebarber and Stergios, would it?
This two-hat wearing circumvents the American process of representative government. We trust our leaders to be objective enough to weigh options openmindedly. Someone whose paycheck comes from education technology and testing can not possibly be objective. Osmond, Huston and others in similar career paths should not be in roles of education policy making over a state.
We should question the financial and philosophical motivations of our education leaders. We should not allow the niceness of these individuals to wilt our resolve to make sure we are doing what is actually right for our children and not harming our educational system irreparably.