Opinion: If You Believe in State Sovereignty, Help us Block these Confirmations [+video]

At no other time in Alaskan history has it been more critical to block the nomination of two individuals for ANY position in Alaska’s government. I am writing you today in the hopes that you will contact every legislator, especially your state senator, to block the nominations of Mike Hanley for Commissioner of Education and Esther Cox for State School Board. Please call, write, and if possible, show up in person and dig in to block their appointment.

If you believe in State Sovereignty, you should oppose their confirmation. As Commissioner, Mike Hanley led the move for Alaska to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia. The move was supported by Esther Cox, School Board President.

Had there not been a significant grassroots backlash and threats to take action under Alaska’s procurement laws, Alaska would have lost control of education matters to this California-based consortium. The consortium agreement would have dictated that the state of Alaska obey rules and regulations passed by a group of other individuals that Alaskans did not elect and were not accountable to Alaskans.

If you believe that public officials should be honest to the state legislature and to the people of Alaska, you should oppose the nominations of Mike Hanley and Esther Cox. Even if you like the Common Core Standards, Alaskans should have an honest and open discussion on these standards. This has never happened because Mike Hanley has continued to misrepresent the truth to the Alaskan people and the legislature, with the blessing of Esther Cox.

•January 23, 2013, Mike Hanley told federal race to the top officials at the US Department of Education that Alaska’s standards are identical to the Common Core.

•June 3, 2013, Mike Hanley told the House Education Committee that the standards were 95% Common Core.

•On June 20, 2013, in written answers to the House Education Committee he stated that Alaska’s standards were close enough to the Common Core for a Common Core test to be valid.

•January 7, 2014, Mike Hanley testified to the State Senate that Alaska’s Standards are not Common Core.

•March 25, 2014, Mike Hanley stated it was false that Alaska’s Standards were 95% Common Core.

•February 4, 2015, Mike Hanley stated that the standards were “common core in outputs but not in inputs.”

The standards are not the only issue upon which Mike Hanley has played fast and loose with the truth. Hanley has repeatedly insisted that there was no money tied to the ESEA flexibility waiver. For example, on February 4, 2015, Mike Hanley reiterated that there was no money tied to the Elementary and Secondary Act Waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. However, Deputy Commissioner Les Morse indicated in his testimony before the House Finance Subcommittee Committee on the Department of Education and Early Development a few days later that all the Title funds were connected to testing, a requirement of the waiver, and that several full time positions at DEED were 100% federally funded due to the waiver.

On February 4, 2015, Esther Cox told the House Education Committee that she approved the Alaska Standards after she read them. She further indicated that she had no idea how much the standards would cost because she didn’t live and breathe education matters.Yet, she is the President of the Alaska School Board; shouldn’t she have a ballpark estimate?

Commissioner Hanley also was the motivating force behind joining Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC), the Race to the Top consortium based out of California. In that agreement, Hanley committed the state to digital investment that still have local district budgets reeling. He committed the state to an assessment schedule that have cost the state millions of dollars. Further, he had indicated to the House Education Committee that SBAC was only a test, but his presentation five days later on June 7, 2013 highlighted the opportunity to use curriculum provided by them and cost benefits of that digital content to Alaska’s administrators. This again, was with the approval of Esther Cox.

It was Commissioner Hanley who supported Alaska’s P-12 student data to be used in a P-20W database by ACPE. This is a federally funded project with federally funded positions that meet monthly with the U.S. Department of Education. ACPE’s claim is that there is no right of opting out of this database and that parents consented when they enroll their children in public school in Alaska. Plans continue on the part of ACPE to market Alaska’s K-12 data through their Data Mart project with the consent and approval of Commissioner Mike Hanley and School Board President Esther Cox.

As revealed in the Hearings before the House Education Committee on February 9, 2015, not one family is known to have consented to their child’s data being shared or marketed in this project. Data from Alaskan students from the Online Alaska School Information System (OASIS) are being combined with the Permanent Fund data for cross referencing with other state databases and bundled into marketable items. This is what the Hanley-Cox regime has allowed to occur. It may seem inconceivable, yet, Hanley and Cox approved this project, and the Data Mart project to sell your child data, including test SBAtest scores, as well as the data on school employees, from the teacher to the lunch room monitors that would ordinarily be part of their personnel file.

What home school family can possibly forget that it was Commissioner Hanley and Esther Cox’s push for home school families to buy only curriculum that aligns with the Alaska Common Core Standards? What home school family can forget Hanley and Cox’s support of Senate Bill 9 in 2012 that would have criminalized home school?

Never, in the history of all of Alaska has any education administration been more against the rights of parents and against the privacy rights of Alaskans.

More recently, school board members came to Juneau to attempt to get many of the unfunded mandates of the Hanley/Cox regime off their plate. Legislators listened intently, but the Alaska Department of Education turned a deaf ear as did Alaska School Board President Esther Cox.

What district educator or principal can forget that it was Mike Hanley and Esther Cox who supporting the adaptive testing and the costs associated with these tests? What property tax payer can forget the impact on local budgets these measures are having as well as the loss of state and local control over education?

Recently Commissioner Hanley, with the support of Esther Cox, has attempted to expand the Alaska Department of Education’s authority to preschool and college. Perhaps once they were about education, but their actions since they have been in office suggest they are far more concerned about their own political power.

Soon it will be apparent that the measures undertaken by the Alaska Department of Education under the Hanley-Cox regime will consume over 50% of Alaska’s state budget. This isn’t my view; this was the conclusion of the Sustainability Task Force Chaired by Rep. Lynn Gattis and presented in the waning days 2014.

Please, for the sake of Alaska’s sovereignty, for the sake of honest government, for the sake of fiscal integrity, for your privacy rights, write and call your legislators and block the nomination of Mike Hanley for Commissioner and Esther Cox for Alaska School Board. Follow up with a letter to Governor Walker and let your voice be heard.

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