If you listen to that 40 second long YouTube video embedded above, you’ll hear visiting exert Dr. James Milgram – who is from California – stammer about how he doesn’t know who has paid for his passage to the Common Core hearing held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin October 23rd.
Later in the hearing it’s revealed that the America Opinion Foundation (AOF), which
is an arm of the John Birch Society is close to the John Birch Society, paid his way.
How close? Very, very.
From the web site of AOF: “the Board of Directors and officers of AOF have been drawn from the officers and staff of the JBS, and AOF is housed within the headquarters buildings of the JBS in Appleton, Wisconsin”.
The executive director says — as you can hear in this brief audio recording I’ve archived – - that AOF bundled donations from WI parents and grandparents to pay for the expenses of experts to fly in.
Oh yes! More than 1 expert was flown in!
This is a very brief audio recording of another expert – Gary Thompson from Utah who said he got a phonecall from “some guy”.
(I never get calls like this.)
Rep. Sinicki’s letter of resignation from this committee, which I located this morning on Blogging Blue, explains the bigger picture:
This letter is sent to you to tender my resignation from the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards (SCCCS). While I respect my fellow Democrats’ stamina in remaining on the Committee, I believe it is time for me to end an association with what is sadly a deeply biased hearing process, not an objective policy review.
It has become painfully clear that this committee and its activities are occurring at the behest of interested parties outside of this Legislature, and even this state. I believe that this SCCCS is primarily a roadshow, in conjunction with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its April 2013 resolution, to distract from that party’s recent national failures. The general criticisms of the Common Core Standards here in Wisconsin echo the extreme statements coming out of the RNC, which is a campaign organization, and other Republican sources in Washington, D.C. and around the country.
This extremism about common standards, not to mention public education in general, seems to emanate from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. And in turn, they have attracted another extreme and very rich ally in the national John Birch Society (JBS), which is conveniently headquartered here in Wisconsin. Each of the SCCCS’s informational hearings have featured speakers suggested to the SCCCS chairs by the JBS, and whose travel expenses from distant parts of the country have been paid for by the American Opinion Foundation (AOF), a proud arm of the Birch Society. On Wisconsin Eye video of the Eau Claire SCCCS hearing, these invited speakers from other states say, bizarrely, that they don’t know who it was that called and invited them but that, upon arrival, they were handed expense checks issued by AOF (which they then show the committee members). In the meantime, actual Wisconsin educators who have attended the hearings on their own initiative have often been turned away from testifying due to the bulk of attention and time being reserved for invited speakers.
On top of the above, the last straw for me as a Milwaukee legislator has been the omission of Milwaukee Public Schools in the SCCCS’s hearing schedule. MPS is the state’s largest school district and its educators have already spent thousands of hours designing curricula for hundreds of different classrooms under the guidance of the Common Core Standards. These experienced staff should have had the chance to talk about their successful efforts with the CCS without having to drive hours away to do so.
I cannot in good conscience sit on a committee that has involved the most extreme national interest groups on education in planning and executing official Legislative hearings, all the while completely ignoring the voices of my district. At such time in the future that the Committees decide to start paying attention to the experiences of and often overwhelming support of Common Core standards of the actual teachers, administrators and people of Wisconsin, I would be glad to participate.
My Note: It goes far beyond Common Core
This is the way things are done in this state now.
I have for a while been having it up to motherf***ing here with lobbyists and legislators getting their hours and hours at the mic at public hearings at the Capitol while citizens who drove for hours sit and often NEVER get a turn at the mic. The notion that some man – expert or not – from California gets to have a front seat at the testimony table, taking hearing time away from ANY CITIZEN from Wisconsin – be he or she conservative, libertarian, liberal, or what-have-you – - this disgusts me and it should disgust everyone who is forced to witness the sham of Wisconsin government.
The kicker is we have all paid for these public hearings through some form of WI taxation – -unlike Dr. California.
Footnote on the legality of paying to fly in experts
It’s possible that paying to fly in experts IS legal but that depends upon how this has been handled by A.O.F. and G.A.B. I did inquire with Reid Magney, G.A.B.’s information officer. He kindly emailed a non-answer answer to me, which follows:
Thanks for the links. I can’t comment on this specific situation, but I can point you to the statutes on lobbying, and when an organization is required to register as a lobbying principal: http://gab.wi.gov/lobbying/register-report/registration. In essence, it says:
Wisconsin law requires your organization to register with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board if your organization employs at least one individual:
· who for compensation (other than reimbursement of expenses)
· communicates with state officials
· to attempt to influence state legislation or administrative rule-making on its behalf, and
· that individual communicates with state officials on five or more days during either the first or last six months of the year.