BUZZ: Pearson Foundation Pays $7.7M in Common Core Settlement

photo credit: sam howzit // Flickr

This week, Pearson Charitable Foundation and educational publisher Pearson, Inc. has agreed to pay a $7.7M settlement on an investigation in New York State.

Here are the basics:

  • New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman determined in an investigation that the Foundation had helped Pearson, Inc. develop Common Core products, and had found that the foundation also paid for prospective Pearson clients to attend educational conferences featuring Pearson, Inc.
  • To settle these accusations from the State of New York, Pearson Foundation will pay $7.7 million.
  • The money from the settlement will be directed to 100Kin10, a national effort for STEM and high-needs teacher training led by the Carnegie Corporation.
  • The PDF of settlement can be found here (12 pages).

Now, the buzz:

From Attorney General Schneiderman’s statement on Thursday:

“The law on this is clear: Non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations.  Moving forward,  funds for Pearson Charitable Foundation will be used exclusively for legitimate charitable purposes, beginning with millions of dollars to help ensure that every public school student has a great teacher in the classroom.”

From Pearson Foundation’s statement:

Pearson and the Foundation maintain we have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law. However, we recognize there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent. Over the past two years, the Foundation has taken several steps to strengthen its governance, beginning with the addition of independent directors to the board and the adoption of stronger operational systems. Under the settlement, these efforts will be further enhanced by the creation of a three-person audit committee.

The Foundation will also pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the Attorney General that will support the work of 100Kin10, an organization committed to placing 100,000 science and math teachers into U.S. schools in the next ten years. The work of 100Kin10 aligns with the charitable mission of the Foundation—supporting non-profits working to expand access to great teaching and learning in the United States and around the world.”

Commenters on news sites were rabid with criticism.  On EdWeek.org’s blog, reader Cooper JC Zale had this to say:

“These connections between corporate educational foundations and their for-profit businesses come to light in this situation. The non-profits are pushing policies that will improve the market for their for-profit arm. The education-industrial complex at work!”

Huffington Post’s Jason Stanford pushes further, asking for an investigation in Texas as well, saying:

“There’s a “you get what you pay for” quality to academic research that dovetails with the corporate interests that fund it, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. If the former had anything to do with the latter, the Pearson Foundation may have broken the law and is why the Texas Attorney General needs to take a close look at Pearson…there’s ample evidence that state officials have put the lazy in laissez faire when it comes to providing effective oversight of Pearson’s massive contract.”

There is a lot of chatter on social media, with tweets such as this one from edtech leader, Gary Stager:

Mercedes Schneider’s blog post lays out the issues surrounding the funding swirl around Common Core, and the role of Pearson’s for-profit and non-profit arms, ending with this stark statement about these education initiatives:

Forget the kids. It really isn’t about them, anyway.

Erin Osborne of Salon.com sums up all the sides of the conversation with her key issue about Common Core and the funding swirl around the problem—one that is not focused on the businesses, but instead focuses on the students caught in the middle:

“Here is the key issue. These companies see success in terms of dollars and profit, not academic success and achievement. Education start-ups fail all the time, including ones backed by the giants like Pearson. Once investors start to see diminishing returns or trouble on the horizon they will pull the plug regardless of how well students may be performing with their product. Vetting new teaching methods for success takes years of research, observation and review. Plenty of businesspeople, big and small, will have profited from Common Core even if all the states move onto the next education reform in five years’ time, but at what cost to students in school today?”

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