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Bolin: Fighting Common Core Trumps Running for School and Public Lands

Took ya long enough, Jim!

David Montgomery reports that Rep. Jim Bolin is abandoning his campaign to become School and Public Lands Commissioner to focus on fighting the Common Core education standards. Bolin emphasizes that taking up the Common Core fight full time is the "sole reason" he's quitting the School and Public Lands race. He was not driven out by the Ryan Brunner campaign juggernaut, but by popular demand:

Since March 2013 when I announced my candidacy, public attention, concern, and outright opposition to the national educational standards movement known as Common Core, has increased exponentially. Due to the fact that I was an early and vocal skeptic of the Common Core, I have been deluged with requests to comment on this subject from all over the state. I have concluded that I cannot run an effective statewide race and at the same time be heavily involved in efforts to oppose Common Core [Rep. Jim Bolin, quoted in David Montgomery, "Bolin Abandons Public Lands Campaign," Political Smokeout, 2013.10.03].

I wondered how long it would take Rep. Bolin to come to his senses. School and Public Lands may be the most boring job on the statewide ballot. Candidates for that job don't get to talk about education, which is what really fires Bolin's passions. I can't imagine Bolin mustering nearly as much give-a-darn about managing mineral leases as he can about education and liberty and the fate of the Republic.

Rep. Bolin may also realize what a jam his fellow Common Core opponents are. They got flummoxed at a public meeting on Common Core two weeks ago, where all the press (and even one advertised opponent) went pro and Bolin sounded like the only con voice willing to wage a real fight. The Common Core opponents are outfunded and outgunned by organized education industry professionals. If opponents are going to get anywhere in jamming this latest retread of the perennially time-wasting education reform churn, they will need a strong voice in the Legislature raising heck during session with bills and during the 2014 campaign with rousing stump speeches. Rep. Bolin will have much more fun in that role.

Related: The Office of School and Public Lands is so boring—

how boring is it?

—it's so boring that state web techies fall asleep working on its website. Seven weeks after Vern Larson's appointment as the new commissioner, most pages of the office's website still features ex-commissioner Jarrod Johnson's face.

School and Public Lands news webpage, screen cap, 2013.10.03
School and Public Lands news webpage, screen cap, 2013.10.03

Even Larson's bio page is still titled "Commissioner Johnson."

Tangentially related: Much less boring: land agent Mike Cornelison.


Checked on plaid! That mischievous smile! That vital map! That picture screams that he would liven up any discussion of grazing leases and WPA dam inspections. Stand him next to aspiring Deputy Brunner, and Cornelison would win a vote any day! And his name has corn in it! Cornelison for Commish!


  1. Nick Nemec 2013.10.03

    Mike Cornelison is undoubtedly the smartest guy in the office.

  2. Steve 2013.10.04

    Common Core opponents do not need strong voices - they need a credible message to ever be effective. The conspiracy/Big Brother/UN take over rhetoric is not persuasive (as most works of fiction are not persuasive).

    If opponents want to show Common Core is a bad movement, how about address what Common core IS: a set of standards to guide the teaching of our students. By all means show the comparison of what teachers teach now - to what teachers will be asked to teach under Common Core. Compare standards to standards to make the argument one is better than the other - but get on topic. It is that very comparison that is missing from the opponents assault.

    Before too much is made of "local control," I would remind all that as of now, teachers are teaching to STATE standards set for local schools to teach toward. "Local control" is relative at best in this discussion. Were were these opponents when the state set up standards for locals to follow years ago?

    As with many discussions of this nature, they seem to have a partisan political flavor: it's WRONG when the democrats do it (the current fed), but sound policy when the Republicans (our state or even GWB's No Child Left Behind) does it.

  3. Donald Pay 2013.10.04

    I wonder if Bolin's change of heart has more to do with getting a big check from some righty groups to go around and lie about Common Core. There's a big push in many states, and it's pretty transparently being funded by some far-out nutcases.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.04

    Donald, I'm inclined to side with Kal Lis in ascribing honest motives to Rep. Bolin, until presented with evidence to the contrary. That said, I can see where outside parties would find it a lot more fun to pour their money into an anti-Common Core crusade than into a School and Public Lands race.

  5. Donald Pay 2013.10.04

    Most of the money against Common Core is from the usual suspects: those who want to privatize public education. This includes the Pope, Scaife and De Vos families working through the usual righty think tanks and institutes. They fear that Common Core will improve public education, thus taking away their arguments for continued privatization. In Wisconsin you see a nearly complete overlap in the privatizers and the right wing opponents of Common Core because they are funded by the same folks.

    It has been just recently that the privatizers, which fund the Republican Party in Wisconsin, have started to dump large amounts of money into the fight. Until then the opposition was mostly an ineffective bunch of religious fanatics and anarcho-leftists/liberatarians. The money dump was indicated by an immediate shift in Governor Walker's position. Walker is a big toady for the privatizers, starving public education while giving tax money to the private schools (ie., his campaign donors). Since Walker wants to run for President, he has been collecting money from them for his campaign as well.

    Let's be clear about this. Most of the people funding this don't care about Common Core. They care about being able to cripple public education.

  6. Donald Pay 2013.10.04

    The battle against Common Core is being funded by "some of the wealthiest and most politically savvy conservative donors in the U.S., including the Pope, DeVos and Scaife families, according to tax records and annual reports," they write. "A spokeswoman for the Charles Koch Foundation said it hasn’t made any grants specifically aimed at the Common Core, but tax documents show the Koch brothers have supported many of the advocacy groups working against the standards."

    Read more:

  7. grudznick 2013.10.04

    Mr. Pay vs. Mr. Bolin in a roast beef eat-off / debate of common-core education theory.

    I think we should hold this event in Wall and that tickets should be sold and profits go to a good cause. The DQ in Wall will agree to gear up and cook a load of corn dogs and fries to feed the attenders.

  8. Kal Lis 2013.10.05

    The Koch brothers must have the same sort of bet that Mortimer and Randolph Duke had in the classic Trading Places. Maybe they're operating under Ferengi rules of acquisition. For the Ferengi, both war and peace were good for business. For the Kochs both supporting the Common Core and fighting the Common Core are

    "Morna McDermott mapped the Common Core State Standard Initiative's corporate connections in a new flow chart, which reveals how corporations and organizations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funded and perpetuated Common Core standards throughout the states.
    ALEC has been funded for decades in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, about 98 percent of ALEC's funds come from corporations such as Exxon Mobil and corporate foundations like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation."

  9. interested party 2013.10.05

    "For years, Diane Ravitch was a big voice in hard-nosed school reform. Working under President George H. W. Bush and after, she wanted teacher accountability. She wanted school choice. She wanted charter schools. In the years that followed, we got No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core — and lots of charter schools. But Diane Ravitch has jumped ship. Reform has become an attack on public education itself, she now argues. A Trojan horse for privatization. And the real problem is poverty."

  10. Donald Pay 2013.10.05

    See, my problem is I have mixed views about Common Core. I think Common Core standards are mostly OK, but the standardized testing is very questionable. Also, I don't think it makes sense, fiscally or educationally, to do an immediate switch in curriculum. It has to be a gradual phase in.

    The standards are supposed to serve as a base, not a ceiling. The right really didn't have a lot of problems with the standards as long as they stuck to reading and math. Maybe they had a little problem with "critical thinking," because the right prefers rote learning that develops followers who are unused to questioning what the oligarchs and Christian mullahs want them to believe.

    However, the next phase of Common Core, if their is a next phase, is to look at science/technology standards. Here's where South Dakota could actually have some good input into national standards, because South Dakota students have for years been doing very well in science. But one thing the righty oligarchs don't want is good science curriculum that might lead students to question in any way their interests.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.05

    People can come at Common Core with good intentions, Donald. There are ideas within it that could do some good. But how about this alternative approach: instead of the state dragging every school district through a curriculum overhaul and new tests and all the busy work involved, how about implementing Common Core entirely in the teacher training programs? Say to every prospective teacher, "You don't get your license unless you are an expert on these standards and how they relate to your field." (Question, fellow teachers, to what extent do we already do that?) Make sure you have top-notch professionals going in, and you woin't need a whole bunch of school-based assessments and curriculum modifications; those professional teachers will use their skills and training to turn out excellent graduates. Investment at the front end saves a whole lot of expense later.

  12. Donald Pay 2013.10.07

    Here's the issue boiled down to what is now becoming more obvious. There are two sets of oligarchs/interests groups causing the good in the Common Core initiatives to be subsumed into a fight over which of these oligarchs/interest groups are going to win. Essentially this is exactly the same fight that is happening right now in the Republican Party. Thus, the fight over Common Core is essentially a fight of the moderate center with the fascist right.

    The first group is the educrat/techie industry/ed consultant/corporate syndicate. These include mainline conservative groups who have long been involved in the education reform movement, as well as many corporate folks who view education as a non-partisan issue. Some of the businesses have a desire to profit off Common Core through new curriculum and standardized testing. Other businesses (Exxon Mobil is advertising for Common Core in Wisconsin) view Common Core as a way to get more/better students interested and up to snuff in STEM. These folks support Common Core.

    The second group involves the wealthy crypto-fascist oligarch families that fund a lot of the righty infrastructure, and the most kooky of the religious right. They include most of the righty privatizers, who want to destroy public education, though they may have different reasons for wanting to do so. Many want to funnel all students into righty education institutions, some prefer religious schools, others prefer righty propaganda institutes. What they do not want is a functioning public education system that is superior to the privatized system.

    The moderate forces are more correct, even if they are typically after too much corporate welfare out of the Common Core. The monied fascists' manipulation of this issue has just begun, even as their efforts to distort the health care debate seems to be exploding in their faces.

    My own view is that both of the interest groups have lost site of what is necessary and good about Common Core. This ought not be about which group of interests are going to profit. It ought to be about what is best for students. In my view the standards are an improvement, but we don't need any increased standardized testing, and curriculum changes need to be gradual and phased.

  13. grudznick 2013.10.07

    They have lost sight indeed, Mr. Pay. Lost sight indeed. All the oligarches have lost sight.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.08

    Donald, is there any chance that some of that ultra-right opposition to Common Core rises from a concern that Common Core might actually strengthen public education and make it harder for them to make their case against it?

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