Denny Taylor, a professor emerita of literacy studies at Hofstra University, here comments on the recent exchanges among Marc Tucker, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao about high-stakes testing and education reform. The key issue, she believes, is not so much about policy as it is about money, power, and control. When big money takes control of public policy, what is at risk is not only children’s lives and their education, but democracy itself.
Taylor has written a scorching analysis of Marc Tucker’s finances and his role in education reform.
“I have read with interest the dialogue between Marc Tucker, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao on the establishment of an American test-based public education accountability system. Forty years of research on the impact of political structures on social systems,,  in particular public education, leads me to categorize Marc Tucker’s rhetoric as nothing more than political cant to protect the lucrative profits of poverty “non-profit” industry that is bent to the will of the powerful rich donor groups that are dominating education policy in the US and UK.
“It is the PR discourse of big money that shapes the lives of teachers and children in public schools, and confounds the lives of families with young children struggling with the grimness of developmentally inappropriate instruction in public schools – instruction that rejects all that we have learned as a society about child development, how children learn language, become literate, and engage in math and science projects to both discover and solve problems. Knowledge gained from the sciences and the lived knowledge of human experience, the very essence of our human story, no longer counts.
“Tucker’s view of education is economic. Children in, workers out, could be the mantra of National Center on Education and the Economy. The NCEE website toots the familiar horn of the rich non-profit educational organization stating that: “Since 1988, NCEE has been researching the world’s best performing education systems to unlock their secrets.” Nonsense, of course. What NCEE has actually been doing is making money.
“In 2012 the total assets of NCEE were $93,708,833, with total liabilities of $1,572,013, and net assets of $92,136,820. This highly lucrative “non-profit” fiefdom receives substantial funding from a long list of “donors” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad, Walton, and Walmart Foundations. NCEE has also received substantial funding from the US Federal Government…..
“NCEE was the majority shareholder of America’s Choice, Inc. (ACI), which was established in November 2004 as a taxable for-profit subsidiary of NCEE. NCEE reorganized its internal America’s Choice program as a separate subsidiary to attract the capital investment and management talent to expand the implementation of the America’s Choice comprehensive school design program and related offerings for struggling schools. 
“In addition to his lucrative salary [$819,109 in 2012], Tucker was awarded stock options in ACI. In the 2010 Federal tax return for NCEE it further states:
“While any growth in the value of ACI would benefit these optionees, it was anticipated that such growth would also benefit NCEE’s charitable mission.
“NCEE then sold off ACI to Pearson. Here’s what is written on the next page of the 2010 federal tax return:
“The work of NCEE going forward will be funded in large part by the $65.9 million in proceeds that NCEE received as a result of the sale of ACI to Pearson…”
“Local control has been eviscerated through the enactment of laws and policies that have ensconced the Common Core in the new business driven public education system, which is centrally controlled through mandatory, highly lucrative, commercial accountability systems, that drain the coffers of local communities and diverts funds from essential programs and services that are no longer available for children in public schools.
“The new report on the American accountability system is just another example of big money writing private policy and sugar coating it to make it palatable. Zhao took the plan apart piece by piece, and Tucker might indeed counter Zhao’s arguments, but there is another problem, a little known fact, that cannot be explained away, not by the educational non-profits serving the needs of the big money backers who make public policy, or by the federal government that benefits.
“The basic research on which the economic system of public education was founded has no scientific legitimacy. This is not unsupported opinion; it is fact.
“At the beginning of the 1990’s, a well-orchestrated effort in state-corporate cooperation was initiated to disenfranchise the growing influence of teachers at the local level across the US, who were creating and using developmentally appropriate teaching-learning materials and activities in public schools that limited the influence of corporate curriculum producers. 
“School districts were spending money on real books instead of artificial, commercially produced programs, and there was concern about the growing rejection of commercial text-book producers, including McGraw-Hill, in the five big adoption states – Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and New York.
“Billions in revenues and profits were at stake. Profits dropped. Not a whole lot, but even a slight dip could be counted in the hundreds of millions. Worse, the growing teacher-led democratic movement was taking hold, causing concern about displacement of the powerful elites in government and big business. From studying the teacher movements of that time, I can write that teachers really believed that through the ways in which they were teaching children in school, society could become more equitable.….”
After a lengthy analysis of the power of big money to capture education policy at the federal and state levels, Taylor writes,
“Again, to ensure that this is not seen as unsupported opinion or that NCEE is an aberrant anomaly, one of the platforms on which big money is falsifying facts is the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has an Advisory Board that includes Pearson International, The Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and Murdoch’s News Corporation. The assessment of the syllabi of reading courses in US schools of education by private groups with a commercial agenda is not only political, it is predatory. The assault on faculty and students in colleges of education by NCTQ is also an aggressive act against teachers and children in K-12 public schools that impacts the academic development of the nation’s children, and also their health and well-being.
“When an ideological elite joins with the economic and political forces that control what human beings do, it is important that we confront our illusions and expose the myths about what is happening in K-12 public education. The very existence of NCTQ is a clear indication that we live at a time when the pressures on educators and children in K-12 public schools are reaching a tipping point.
“It is the nightmare scenario that so many of us dread, when the escalation of the causes and conditions that have such a negative effect on the lives of teachers, children and their families become self-perpetuating, and reach a point beyond which there is no return from total disequilibrium. When this happens, at our peril, this nation will no longer have the smallest hope of becoming democratic. Self-aggrandizing private groups with corporate power will overwhelm the system and our struggle for democracy will flounder.
“But there is more than democracy at stake. Once again, to quote Eisenhower:
“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
What Tucker or many of his contemporaries don’t seem to get is that there is no time left for big money to mess around. The problem is that the redesign of our public education system based on “meeting today’s economic needs” is getting in the way of the transformation of schools which is urgently required to meet the real needs of our children tomorrow. The assessment system that he is pushing on teachers and children is designed to prepare children to work for the corporations that are using up Earth’s resources, contaminating the planet, causing the climate system to adversely change, and making Earth an unsafe place for our kids to be.”
“….. In public education we need big money to change everything. Tucker must alter course, save face before it is too late, and help get his contemporaries – the men with money, power, and privilege – to acknowledge that under their leadership the public education system has floundered, and that if, we are going to prepare today for tomorrow, we need to support the courageous teachers who were and are making a difference for children and society before big money got in the way. , “