Robert G. Holland
Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (email@example.com) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
Political campaigns are becoming more expensive and that is demonstrated with reported fees paid to a top Republican consulting firm.
According to records filed by candidates in June with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, A.H. Strategies and a sister firm, Majority Designs, has been paid more than $548,267 (see chart) for consulting services, postage, mailing and other related campaign expenses.
That includes some high-profile candidates as customers, including former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon who lost his bid for the U.S. Senate. Oklahoma school superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister used that firm and won her GOP primary, as did U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo and political newcomer Michael Rogers in State House District 98 in Broken Arrow. Fred Jordan, also a client, came in second in the race for Tulsa County District Attorney. (It does not include work the firms performed for Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in his successful campaign.)
Fount Holland started A.H. Strategies in 1977 in Muskogee. He was press secretary for then-U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn from 1994 to 1997. He was a reporter for the liberal Tulsa World for six years.
Holland and Trebor Worthen are partners in Majority Designs. They have three listed employees, an art director and two associates.
Worthen is a former member of the Oklahoma Legislature and political director of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He was creative director and senior associate at A.H. Strategies.
Karl Ahlgren, a co-founder of A.H. Strategies, now is chief of staff for Mullin. Ahlgren is a former aide to Coburn and a former field director to former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles.
According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, the campaign of U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin has spent $13,359 with A.H. Strategies in 2014 and thousands more previously. That campaign spent thousands with Majority Designs in 2013.
Mullin also spent $16,135 with Grand Valley Consulting of Alexandria, Virginia, for fundraising consulting in 2014.
In a report filed on March 31, Friends of T.W. Shannon 2014 reported a year-to-date total of $84,583,05 to A.H. Strategies for consulting, postage, print design and other services. They also reported a total of $36,525.88 to Connect Strategic Communications of Atlanta, Georgia, for “voter outreach.” Majority Designs got $15,823 for campaign material plus printing.
The Shannon campaign also paid CLP Consulting of Oklahoma City $14,077 for consulting and CMA Strategies $7,500. Miller Spence Group LLC of Arlington, Virginia got $2,000 for fundrasing consulting. The Shannon campaign reported spending $174,300 with Strategic Media Placement in Delaware for media buys.
The James Lankford campaign for the U.S. Senate paid Harden Global LLC of Alexandria, Virginia, $51,558 for communications consulting and Harris Media of Austin, Texas, $4,500 for advertising. Red Maverick Media LLC of Harrisburg was paid $22,500 for marketing and communications.
Friends of Fred Jordan 2014 reported year-to-date payments of $38,092.81 to Majority Designs. Jordan’s campaign paid A.H. Strategies $28,036.85 for “campaign management.” Jordan also paid $130,000 to Strategic Media Placement, Inc. of Delaware, Ohio.
Acccording to a report filed June 9, Friends of Melissa Abdo spent $22,926.16 with Majority Designs, 4020 N. Lincoln Blvd., #100, Oklahoma City, for mailers/postage.
State Rep. Weldon Watson (Friends of Weldon Watson) on June 9 reported paying Majority Designs $12,599.01 in 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Brian Bingman of Sapulpa paid A.H. Strategies $15,733.58 this year plus $7,128.51 to Majority Designs.
Smaligo paid A.H. Strategies $4,000 this year, as reported on June 9.
Friends of Michael Rogers 2014 reported spending $8,000 with A.H. Strategies for consulting and Majority Designs $7,658.83 for “mail.” His opponent, Terry Cleveland, reported paying Valeska Littlefield $2,000 for consultation.
Hofmeister on June 9 reported spending $16,804.16 (year to date) with Majority Designs. She spent $325,000 with Strategic Media Placement of Delaware, Ohio. On March 31, Hofmeister reported paying A.H. Strategies $44,042 during the year up to that date for consulting fees.
School Superintendent Janet Barresi (Friends of Janet Barresi 2014) paid Anthem Media of Austin, Texas, $1,091,224 for media placement and production. The campaign paid CMA Strategies $26,649 this year for campaign consultation plus Jennifer Carter $37,585 (year to date).
Gov. Mary Fallin (Mary Fallin for Governor 2014) paid CMA Strategies $348,575.58 in a year-to-date figure filed June 9. She also paid Cardinal Insights of Austin, Texas, $10,010 for consulting. Red October Productions of Arnold, Maryland, got paid $49,169.27 for a television shoot in May and Mentzer Media Service, Inc. of Towson, Maryland, was paid $266,950 for media advertising. New Strategies Group of Houston, Texas, was paid $112,003.15 this year for campaign consulting.
And Fallin’s campaign paid Hockaday And Associations LLC of Newport, Rhode Island, $178,857 for online consulting and management.
Fallin’s campaign paid the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation $551 for “research” on May 30.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has paid CMA Strategies of Oklahoma City $8,582.93 for consulting services.
On June 9, (Cliff) Branan for Oklahoma – 2014 reported paying SRCP Media of Alexandria, Virgina, $251,445 for “media buys.” It also paid Seth Rott $4,000 for consulting services.
Some of the payments to A.H. Strategies
Total – $272,429
$84,583 T.W. Shannon (U.S. Senate)
$44,042 Joy Hofmeister (School Superintendent)
$28,036 Fred Jordan (Tulsa County DA)
$25,000 Brian Winslow (Oklahoma City) Senate District 40
$19,912 Jason Smalley (Stroud) Senate District 28
$15,733 Brian Bingman (Sapulpa) Senate District 12
$13,359 Markwayne Mullin (U.S. Congress)
$12,599 Weldon Watson (Tulsa) House District 79
$10,000 Greg Childers (Del City) Senate District 42
$8,000 Michael Rogers (Broken Arrow) House District 98
$7,000 Stephanie Bice (Oklahoma City) Senate District 22
$6,000 A.J. Griffin (Guthrie) Senate District 20
$4,500 Scott Hayes (Elgin) House District 65
$4,165 Frank Simpson (Ardmore) Senate District 14
$4,000 John Smaligo (Tulsa County Commissioner)
$3,000 Judge Sheila A. Condren (Claremore)
$3,000 Angela Marsee (Weatherford) District Attorney
$1,000 Judge Don Andrews (Oklahoma City)
$1,000 John Pfeiffer (Mulhall) House District 38
Some of the payments to Majority Designs
Total – $275,838
$66,671 Brian Winslow (Oklahoma City) Senate District 40
$38,092 Fred Jordan (Tulsa County DA)
$25,786 A.J. Griffin 2014 (Guthrie) Senate District 20
$22,926. Melissa Abdo (Tulsa) House District 69
$16,804 Joy Hofmeister (State School Superintendent)
$15,931 Greg Childers (Del City) Senate District 42
$15,823 T.W. Shannon (U.S. Senate)
$15,521 John Pfeiffer (Mulhall) House District 38
$12,599 Weldon Watson (Tulsa) House District 79
$10,399 Stephanie Bice 2014 (Oklahoma City) Senate District 22
$10,125 Scott Hayes (Elgin) House District 65
$7,128 Brian Bingman (Sapulpa) Senate District 12
$3,921 Judge Don Andrews (Oklahoma City)
$3,112 Angela Marsee 2014 (Weatherford) District Attorney
Total for both companies – $548,267.00
Source: Oklahoma Ethics Commission for year-to-date candidate expenditures for 2014.
Jul 15 2014 | Posted in General
| Read More »
The votes have been counted; Primary Election 2014 is history and the dust is settling.
As usual, voters supplied the surprises, handing Congressman James Lankford an impressive, easy win over six others, including former House Speaker T. W Shannon, and pulling the rug from under Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, who finished third in her three-way race.
While lots of national attention focused on the Lankford-Shannon race, most of the local chatter focused on the Joy Hofmeister victory in the schools superintendent race, and Barresi’s crash. Most had expected a runoff between Hofmeister and Barresi, but few anticipated a clear Hofmeister win and only a few asked if Barresi could possibly finish third behind Hofmeister and Brian Kelly, who didn’t wage much of a campaign.
In that race, and in the Lankford race, there are those who will search for answers: What happened, and why?
In Barresi’s case, it appears a series of decisions, Common Core, A-F, and her own personality conspired to bring her down. Her management style seemed to offend many, but her defenders race to point out she’s simply an aggressive manager who doesn’t suffer fools gladly and believes in her own agenda.
In Lankford’s case, there’s no question the outspoken defense of him by outgoing Senator Tom Coburn over negative commercials was a huge help, especially in northeastern Oklahoma and the Tulsa area.
While Coburn said that he wouldn’t endorse in the Senate primary, he made it clear he would comment on negative advertisements and he did so. He did it twice, once for each candidate. But the tone wasn’t exactly the same, and it was his first comments, on behalf of Lankford, that drew the most attention. Some say Coburn did more than endorse Lankford with his comments. He leveled a blistering attack against the groups supporting Shannon while praising Lankford as one of the “most honest, thoughtful and sincere men I have met in my time in Washington.” By association, some believe, Shannon took a hit as did the superpac backing him.
As surprising as Lankford’s clear, substantial victory was, former Senator Randy Brogdon’s dismal finish was not. Many speculated Brogdon’s heart wasn’t in it and his lackluster campaign showed it. His failure to show even a modicum of competiveness in the race reflects also on those identified as Tea Party supporters in Oklahoma. They frequented social media sites, insisting the polls were wrong and the media was against Brogdon and he’d finish much stronger than indicated. A few even speculated he’d run a close second, not be relegated to a footnote as he is.
In the 5th District race, former Senator Steve Russell and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas now face each other in a runoff. Russell finished first with Douglas following by about 1,100 votes.
Former House Speaker Todd Hiett won the Corporation Commission race, besting Cliff Branan by about 4.5 percent.
The congressional races, aside from the 5th District, were non-contests with the incumbents winning easily. In the 4th District, Congressman Tom Cole trounced a Tea Party favorite and controversial GOP county chair Anna Flatt, 84.4 to 15.5 percent.
Governor Fallin and Insurance Commissioner John Doak danced to easy victories, blitzing opponents as if they weren’t even there.
GOP turnout was about 264,700, topping the 249,000 total in the 2010 primary turnout; Democrat turnout was pathetic given the party’s previous dominance of Oklahoma politics.