Hidden Camera Footage Offensive to Educators, Reiterates Importance of Local Control

On Tuesday, conservative activist James O’Keefe released a hidden-camera video that purports to show that textbook publishers support Common Core State Standards only because of their profit-making potential. “It’s all about the money,” a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt account manager says in the footage. “You don’t think that educational publishing companies are in it for the education, do you?”

The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt employee later said her remarks were taken out of context. “None of those statements were standalone statements, and they were completely misconstrued,” she told the Washington Post.

In a statement on behalf of the Collaborative for Student Success, Blair Mann called the comments “offensive.”

“While there are bad actors in every profession, it would be wrong and irresponsible to suggest that a few isolated incidents are representative of the tens of thousands of dedicated teachers and educators who support high academic standards and devote themselves daily to ensuring kids are prepared for success after high school.”

Mann adds that the incident “underscores the importance of states and local school districts exercising fully their control over decisions involving books and curriculum.”

In a piece published in the Washington Times, former Alabama Governor Bob Riley explains that he ran into confusion about his grandson’s textbooks. He says the solution is in local control of curriculum and materials, which is what the creators of the Common Core State Standards intended.

“I have always believed that the government that governs closest governs best,” Riley writes. “[With Common Core] if an Alabama parent or group of parents has an issue with a specific book in their local school, they do not have to lobby Washington for change. They don’t even have to call Montgomery. All they have to do is tell their concerns to the local school administration.”

Likewise, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett explains that publishers’ marketing plans should not be confused with education standards themselves. “Textbook companies have marketed their books disingenuously, leading many parents to believe that under Common Core the government mandates particular textbooks. Also not true.”

Across the country, state and local leaders have largely taken on the responsibility of ensuring classroom materials align with the rigor of Common Core State Standards and meet their students’ needs. Nationwide, more than two-thirds of school districts report their teachers are designing curricula aligned to the Common Core, and half said the district is doing so, according to a Center on Education Policy study.