Why have some extremely wealthy Tennesseans who have never attended, nor sent their children to, public schools been so involved with pushing education "reform" and Common Core? The following are facts of how some of these very wealthy individuals are making money big bucks:
Orrin Ingram of Ingram Industries is a Tennessee State Collaboration on Reforming Education (SCORE) Board Member. SCORE is nonprofit group established by former senator Bill Frist and it strongly supports the new Common Core standards. In an effort to promote the standards, SCORE established the "Expect More, Achieve More" campaign that includes a snazzy website, glossy brochures, and fliers that are sent home from school with students. And, not surprisingly, Ingram Industries signed on as a "coalition member" for the Expect More, Achieve More campaign. (Side note: Just a few months ago, SCORE received a $250,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help promote the CC standards. Hmm.....)
Here is where it gets very interesting: Ingram Industries is making money off of developing and distributing Common Core products. For example, a press release from Ingram Content Group stated that, "the New York State Education Department has selected Vital Source Technologies, Inc., in collaboration with SchoolWorks® LLC., to develop a comprehensive library of professional development videos to support the implementation of Common Core Learning Standards throughout New York State." According to the press release, "Ingram Content Group Inc. is a subsidiary of Nashville-based Ingram Industries Inc. The company provides books, music and media content to over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners in 195 countries." (Vital Source Technologies, which was awarded this contract, is one of "Ingram's operating units".) This video project, interestingly, is being funded by a $3.7 million dollar Race to the Top (RTTT) Grant. (Click here to see the press release.)
But that's not all! Apparently Tennessee is also using VitalSource Technologies (i.e., Ingram Industries) videos for teacher training on Common Core: The Ayers Institute at Lipscomb University received a grant from the state of TN (i.e., the Tennessee Higher Education Commission) "to create resources for university faculty to use when preparing new teachers to employ the national and state-adopted Common Core Standards." At a subsequent Common Core training seminar at the Ayers Institute, it was noted that, "VitalSource Technologies, a division of Ingram Content,
produced the video series” they will be using to train new teachers (pg.10). (Click here to see a link to the presentation.) And, just as in NY, the Common Core training project being developed at Lipscomb and, subsequently, the videos produced for the project by Vital Source Technologies are funded by Race to the Top monies (pg. 8).
FYI: The Ayers Institute was founded in 2012 "as a partnership between the Ayers Foundation and Lipscomb University’s College of Education." (As you can guess, Jim Ayers was the founder of Ayers Foundation.) Jim Ayers and his wife, Janet, donated an initial contribution of 1 million dollars to the Ayers Institute at Lipscomb. Mr. Ayers is a former board member of SCORE and Mrs. Ayers is a current board member of SCORE and a member of the TN State Board of Education. [Please note that Rep. Harry Brooks (Chair of the House Education Committee), Rep. John DeBerry (Member of the House Education Committee), Sen. Delores Gresham (Chair of the Senate Education Committee), and Rep. Beth Harwell (Speaker of the House) are all on the SCORE steering committee.]
Now how did the Ayers Institute receive the grant to develop the Common Core training program for new teachers in TN? We do not know. But we do know that Ayers Asset Management, which is owned by Jim Ayers, donated the maximum allowed amount to Haslam's inauguration fund. According to a Chattanooga Times-Free Press article on the donations, "Corporations are banned from making direct contributions to candidates in elections, but are allowed to give up to $7,500 to inaugurations." Janet and Jim Ayers also personally donated $53,000 and $19,500 to Haslam in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Now back to Ingram Industries: Ingram Industries also donated the maximum amount to Haslam’s inauguration fund. In addition to this business contribution, Orrin Ingram--CEO of Ingram Industries--donated $7000 to Haslam for his 2010 Gubernatorial campaign. (He also donated $5000 to Haslam in 2012.)
A short list of Ingram Industries executives and subsidiaries who also recently contributed to Haslam:
- Martha Ingram (Chairperson of Ingram Industries) = $10,303 (2010)
- John R Ingram (Chairman of Ingram Industries Board of Directors & Chairman/CEO of Ingram Content Group)= $7500 (2010)/$2800 (2012)
- David Ingram (Chairman and President of Ingram Entertainment)= $17,000 (2010)/$4000 (2012)\
- Ingram Barge Co. = $3500 (2010)
We want to know how the state chose Ayers Institute and VitalSource Technologies to receive these RTT grants/contracts. Given Haslam’s past history with approving no-bid contracts, we would not be surprised if the RTTT money was divvied out with little regard for a fair bidding process. We also strongly suspect some members of SCORE—such as the Ingrams and Ayers—may not be part of the push for education reform for purely philanthropic reasons.
Ask yourself: Why do the Ingrams and the Ayers support Common Core and SCORE? Is it because they truly believe they are helping our students? Or is it because they see Common Core and other SCORE-endorsed reforms as new money making or "prestige-earning" opportunities? What better way to position yourself to make taxpayer money and/or accolades from these reforms by imbedding yourself into the middle of the push for these new nationalized standards--and by donating 100s of thousands of dollars to the governor who arguably controls the RTTT purse strings?
We, as taxpayers and consumers of public education, deserve to know.