Mercedes Schneider, who teaches in a public high school in Louisiana and holds a Ph.D. in research methods, wrote a post about the transaction in which Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify bought the rights to Core Knowledge ELA for 20 years.

She wrote:

A quick summary: A 2012 American Educator article notes that CK materials are free for teachers both in New York and across the nation to download. The CK website has some (but not all) CK ELA free materials, but only to read, and these have been recently “updated” (according to the CK site record) but are amazingly outdated. So, for usable, truly updated CK ELA K3 materials, one can go to the CK website, but one is redirected to Murdoch’s Amplify, where one must purchase these now-certainly-not-free CK ELA K3 materials.

When she went to the Amplify website, “The cheapest item by far is $650 for a CK ELA kit to serve 25 children. That’s $26 per student– just a few dollars shy of the cost per student for a Jeb-Bush-promoted PARCC assessment.”

“As a teacher, I realize the importance of schools’ purchasing teaching materials that are reproducible. Most schools do not have the funds for substantial annual curricular purchases for all subjects. And yet, the Amplify CK ELA materials are not reproducible, which means that a school would have to pay some serious money each year in order to use materials that are deceptively publicized as “free.”

E.D. (Don) Hirsch, Jr., has never profited from the Core Knowledge materials or program. He has placed every dollar from the royalties of his books into the Core Knowledge Foundation, which exists to disseminate his ideas about the importance of content. Let me repeat: Hirsch has not profited from the selling of any CK materials.

I asked Hirsch to respond to Mercedes Schneider’s blog post above. This is his response:

Dear Mercedes Schneider:

I noticed from the latest update of your blog that you have found the site where you can download all the latest files and materials from Core Knowledge Language Arts pre-K-3, — available to all under a creative commons license, which means that anyone can print, amend or use in any other way for their school or personal use, so long as they don’t try to sell it. If you were a first grade teacher you could print up copies for yourself and any number of students, You would not be charged a penny by anyone, and Amplify would not earn a penny.

In your update you complain that this web address is hard to find. I’m not great on computers, but here’s the way I found it. I went to the Core Knowledge web site, which appears when you google “Core Knowledge.” Then I wrote “CKLA download” which brings you to a web page that has a “free download manager.”

One of the reasons we put this site up is our dissatisfaction with the New York State website. As you note it still has the old 2010 pilot version of the materials when they were first sites being worked on, and did not want them downloaded yet. The NY site also has the up to date current version . You are right that those old sites old are still live, and we have urged that they be taken down. Those old sites have all the “still under construction” warnings that discourage distribution. We continue to try to get those out of date sites taken down. But we have no control over the bureaucracy of NY state.

The only way Amplify can make money from CK Pre-K-through 3 is if a school or district doesn’t want to bother with printing, and therefore orders from them. But this also means that Amplify would need to offer the materials at an attractive price.

And there’s another twist you could not have known about. We were pretty good bargainers on behalf of the public in this deal. Amplfify helped pay for the development of grade 3. But we insisted grade 3 also got put up for free.

You need to consult with Amplify where they expect to make money from all this. They are underwriting the development costs of grades 4 and 5, and our contract with them is a regular 20 year publisher’s contract with royalties to CKF. They probably hope that having the whole pre-K 5 package, with pre-k 3 available for free will make 4 and 5 attractive. You’ll have to ask them. Our view is: we want the get these coherent, knowledge-based materials available to as many schools as possible. And for as many grades as possible for free.

Don Hirsch