The Pearson Follies: An Ongoing Saga


Who wanted the Common Core?

Arne Duncan keeps prepping the press for talking points and trying to convince us all that, “the states wanted” Common Core. Well, how do we define “the states”?  If you mean the legislators who are lobbied by and bought and sold organizations like Pearson, then perhaps Arne is correct.

Pearson has an interesting lobbying history.  They are financial and political powerhouses with the some heavy hitters among their ranks and millions of dollars to get what they want.

From 2010 to May 2013, Pearson Education spent $3,200,000 on lobbying.

According to Ravitch:

As of May 2012, Pearson worked with eighteen states in the U.S. as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. In New York, Pearson held a $32 million, five-year contract to produce standardized tests. In Texas its contract was worth $500 million. In a statement issued ahead of its annual shareholder meeting in April 2012, Pearson said that education business accounts for more than 60% of earnings and sales and the company’s total revenue is up 12% this year to $1.16 billion.

In 2012 alone they put a lot of weight behind the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization, advocating for quality student assessments, literacy programs, data systems, utilization of education technology, electronic student records. They advocated against government funded development of open education resources in Dept of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Training Grants. They provided input to Department of Education and White House on implementation of Digital Promise and Learning Registry.

Maybe this is because they stand to reap billions of dollars from developing and selling the programs that will be initiated.

Their current lobbyists include:

Beth Ann Bryan, Steven Kingsley, Sandy Kress, Daniel Mullaney, Brandon Pollak, B. Alexander Kress,Susan H. Lent, Christopher Rorick, Krisann A. Pearce, and Bill Paxon,

Pearson also has a long standing relationship with the federal government. Many Pearson employees have served for the U.S. government in what’s called a “revolving door”  before or after their employment with Pearson.  Some of these individuals include:

Jankowsky, Joel Pearson Inc


Kingsley, Steven Pearson Education


Kress, Sandy Pearson Inc


Lent, Susan H Pearson Education


Mullaney, Daniel Pearson Education


Also add to that list:

Former House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler and Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, former chairwoman, House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee.

One of the big time lobbyists for Pearson, Sandy Kress, works for Akin Gump, LLC (which Pearson also uses) whose website states:

Our education practice has achieved considerable success serving a diverse client base ranging from established and renowned institutions to cutting-edge start-ups, education research organizations, major education publishers, K-12 schools, nonprofits, online public charter schools, community colleges and universities. Akin Gump has cultivated specific experience in online education; education technology; early childhood education; science, technology, education and math (STEM) education initiatives; English Language Learner activities; teacher quality standards; school productivity issues; financial aid efficiencies; after-school academic programming; and supplemental education services. Our clients seek to improve education in a transformative way, and we partner with them to accomplish their objectives.

Sandy Kress is known as one of the chief architects for NCLB (so is it any wonder that Pearson might use him to lobby for ESEA)?

It seems that, “George W. Bush plucked Kress from the Dallas School Board to help him apply the ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ mantra to public schools.”

In 2011 alone Kress earned between  $50,000 – $99,999.99 lobbying for Pearson.  This is just one of his many clients. He also was paid in 2011 between $10,000 – $24,999.99 lobbying for Teach for America. But wait…there’s more! He also received in 2011 between $10,000 – $24,999.99 lobbying for Wireless Generation.

Oh and by the way, “Akin Gump is proud to be the national pro bono counsel for the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)”

The other lead lobbying organization for Pearson Education is Bryan Cave, which is noted to be a member of ALEC.

Well, it seems that the business interests of “the states” certainly wanted the Common Core!

In 2008 Pearson lobbied to, “present information on Vangent contract with US Department of Education. Preparation for lobbying effort to support programs for reading and assessments, that will considered during the future reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (no bill number)

Lo and behold, in 2008 guess who won a contract with the US Department of Education?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has awarded an enterprise development support services (EDSS) development services contract to Arlington, Va.-based Vangent. “The Department of Education estimates that the 10-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a ceiling value of $300 million, if all options are exercised …The agreement will allow Vangent to continue its 30-year partnership with the Office of Federal Student Aid to support students’ pursuit of their educational goals. Under the terms of the agreement, Vangent will bid on task orders to provide software engineering services to support technology life-cycle management and procurement across multiple Federal Student Aid and Department of Education initiatives “ 

Oh, and by the way, prior to 2007 “Vangent was formerly known as Pearson Performance Solutions

Stay tuned next week for more of the Pearson Follies when we delve further into Pearson’s lobbying history.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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