The Right View: Beware the 'Community Schools' movement in Maine

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The further takeover by the state of traditionally family- and parent-held roles just keeps coming. The key is to create a problem, then control the approach to “fixing” it. Couch whatever it is you are trying to do in feel-good, politically correct language and you will find yourself sitting at the pinnacle of power.

The Coalition for Community Schools has done just that, and it is gigantic.

We have a local legislator in incumbent state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, who is on the front lines of the Fundamental Transformation of America. As a state senator, she’s using her powerful chairmanship of the Education & Cultural Affairs Committee to usher in a new era of socialism through the schools right here in Maine (if you see her out on the campaign trail, ask her how she became chairwoman of that committee as a first-term senator).

The Community Schools movement is something that every citizen needs to have on the radar. From their website: “The Coalition for Community Schools has been developing ways to more deeply embed an equity focus in existing community schools and to drive community schools forward as an equity strategy. This draft framework articulates our beliefs and plan of action towards an equity agenda.”

The Coalition for Community Schools is part of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. Having been around for 50 years, one of IEL’s strategies is “informing policy makers and thought leaders about policies and practices that will drive systems change.”

The coalition receives its funding from private foundations and philanthropies, as well as through federal taxpayer dollars. It has the support of the College Board, which administers the nation’s SAT and Advanced Placement exams, and is headed by David Coleman, architect of the Common Core State Standards. In fact, the College Board and President Obama have both announced partnerships with the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, to further this cause.

Last month, Millett, the York County Community Action Corp. and Penquis co-hosted events in Wells and Bangor pushing the Community Schools movement in Maine. Principal Joe Findlay of Noble High School in North Berwick was listed as a speaker for the event in Wells, so I reached out to the school to learn more. My call has not been returned.

At the federal level, a July 23, 2014, article in Real Clear Education by Emmeline Zhao revealed that H.R. 5168, The Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2014, seeks to offer five-year grants from the Department of Education to localities that implement the collaborative schooling model. Sound familiar? Race to the Top grants were also dangled to the states to coerce them to adopt Common Core.

“It’s a model that’s gained traction as other reforms to address achievement gaps and income inequality have sputtered,” Zhao wrote. “They are public schools that integrate in-house health and social services for children to better prepare them for learning by improving their physical, emotional, and social well-being. They produce children who are learning more, performing better, and can move into higher grade levels with more success.”

Wow. And all this time I thought families produce children that do those things.

The coalition itself is further lobbying to have the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 amended for the “development of a comprehensive accountability framework that goes far beyond test scores and improves access to data on multiple indicators of student well-being.”

You still want to argue that Common Core and Smarter Balanced testing aren’t collecting demographic data on your children?

This is Big Data on steroids. The coalition website boasts “data maps” that “pull together nearly a million economic, demographic, and education data points to reveal our nation is becoming increasingly global,” and “Diversity Data Kids; Explore hundreds of measures of child well-being and policy analysis that document diversity, opportunity, and equity among U.S. children.”

And how about one of the many coalition partners, the CDC, which this year “will make sexual orientation items standard on their high school Youth Risk Behavior Survey, providing first-of-its-kind national data on youth’s sexual identities, allowing for identification of same-sex sexual behaviors.” Um, no thanks. I think as a parent I will be the one to talk to my child about this, and you can’t have any “data” about it.

For the past 60 years, progressivism has destroyed cities, families and the American ideal. Now Millett wants you to believe that more progressivism in the schools, putting the school and bureaucrats ahead of you as a parent, is the way to fix it. But there is no moral courage in helping people living in poverty and chaos if you’ve been a part of the machine that put them there in the first place.

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Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and former chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.

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