The News Is Fit to Print But Are Major News Organizations Fit to Report It?

Geoffrey Lysaught /

Former investigative reporter and producer Lowell Bergman observed, “You can have all the information you want in the world. If you don’t have the people raising questions and looking beneath the surface, and people being paid to do this, you’re not going to find the answers.”

Over the past several months, a variety of polls and reports have documented the declining trust of the American people in the news media. A starting point for reversing this trend is for the heads of major American news organization to look in the mirror and ask whether their organizations or their journalists are part of the problem.

In the case of NBC News, ground zero for earning back the trust of the American people in news organizations is congressional correspondent Luke Russert.

Last week, The Daily Signal reported on an after-hours operation at the State Department to “separate damaging documents related to the September 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi” before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board. In that report, former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Ray Maxwell said he not only witnessed and took part in these events, but that top Hillary Clinton officials were present.

Courtesy of Sharyl Attkisson

Former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Ray Maxwell speaks with Sharyl Attkisson about witnessing an after-hours operation at the State Department involving Benghazi documents. (Photo: Courtesy of Sharyl Attkisson)

In response to this story, a deputy spokeswoman for the State Department responded with a series of non-denial denials that evoked the same feeling of carefully crafted evasiveness as Bill Clinton’s now-infamous grand jury utterance “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” How did America’s major news organizations follow-up? Did they raise and ask the important, relevant follow-up questions? Did journalists seek to look beneath surface and find the answers?

Shortly after The Daily Signal published this report, Brit Hume, senior political analyst for Fox News, tweeted, “If this is confirmed, it’s a big deal as it points unmistakably to the Benghazi cover-up many have long suspected.” The source relied upon by The Daily Signal is credible and well-respected and has firsthand knowledge of the events reported. Hume’s journalistic instincts quickly moved in the right direction – toward how to collect additional information that moves us toward the truth.

Luke Russert proved the American people are right to be skeptical of the news media’s ability to accurately report even basic facts.

Likewise, CBS News reporter Stephanie Condon reported: “Lawmakers may have a whole new line of questioning from a report published this week by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson on The Daily Signal …”

Again, the instinct is to follow the evidentiary trail. To seek the facts. To get the truth.

Now the American people would be right to ask whether Brit Hume or Stephanie Condon have done anything to ask the follow-up questions. Time will tell whether Fox News and CBS News have the courage to develop and report additional information on the State Department and Hillary Clinton’s activities in the wake of the Benghazi attack.

In stark contrast to The Daily Signal’s investigative reporting is the non-journalistic journalism of Russert and NBC News. In an exchange with anchor Jose Diaz-Balart on MSNBC, Russert proved the American people are right to be skeptical of the news media’s ability to accurately report even basic facts.

Russert misrepresented the entire story with mind-boggling imprecision, not managing to get even one fact correct about the allegations. Then, he declared it unsubstantiated. Russert told Diaz-Balart, “There have been a lot of media reports about that regarding this one official who says that [Hillary Clinton] was basically shredding documents.”

Russert misrepresented the entire story on MSNBC to host Jose Diaz-Balart. (Photo: MSNBC Screengrab)

Russert misrepresented the entire story on MSNBC to host Jose Diaz-Balart. (Photo: MSNBC Screengrab)

The problem is, nowhere in Maxwell’s allegations did he say Hillary Clinton was shredding documents. Nowhere did he allege she was present. Nowhere did he say documents were being shredded.

Apparently, Russert did something the most novice college journalism student knows not to do: He commented on a story he hadn’t even read. The only other conclusion one could reach is that Russert did read the story and then fabricated an entirely different set of facts.

Russert went on to declare in his report, “That hasn’t been substantiated by any credible news sources so far.”

Since nobody actually accused Hillary Clinton of shredding documents, it should be no surprise that the claim was not “substantiated.” But if what Russert meant to say was that nobody credible substantiated Maxwell’s claims in the article that Russert didn’t actually read, the obvious should be pointed out: nobody but those in the room at the time — those allegedly taking part in the improper activity — can provide first-hand substantiation of Maxwell’s observations. Russert’s idea that they would readily step forward and publicly declare their guilt is the notion of a novice. Yet, ironically implicit in his statement, is that he is somehow a credible news source.

The First Amendment provides important protections to our individual liberty, going so far as to specifically identify “the press” as protected. Implicit in this guarantee is that the press will not become complicit in the government’s narrative. Such complicity could arise from intentional bad deeds or a desire to advocate. In the case of Luke Russert, it seems that complicity is derived from poor journalistic training and a lack of interest by NBC News in putting out a good news product.

The next time a poll documenting the American people’s lack of trust in the news media comes out, we know who should be looking in the mirror and taking blame.

This Millennial Mom’s Incredible Sacrifice for Her Daughter - Daily Signal

This Millennial Mom’s Incredible Sacrifice for Her Daughter

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko /

When then-pregnant Ashley Bridges found out she had bone cancer, she refused to have an abortion in order to have the recommended chemotherapy treatment.

“There’s no way I could kill a healthy baby because I’m sick,” Bridges told the Los Angeles CBS affiliate.

Bridges, who is 24, found out when she was eight months pregnant that her cancer had spread. “And that’s basically when they told me it was terminal,” said the young mother, who also has a six-year-old son.

She delivered daughter Paisley, now two months old, and has been having chemotherapy treatment since, but doctors say she has less than a year left.

“I tried so hard to keep Paisley safe and do the minimum to keep her healthy … The thought that I’m not going to see her grow up is really hard,” Bridges wept.

Bridges’ fiancé, who serves in the military, is taking care of Paisley during the night. She’s also been getting help from family. “She’s a real life superhero,” Jessica Bridges, her sister, said while crying.

cancerbaby-1

Bridges said she doesn’t regret her decision.

Paisley, she said, is “my little sunshine.”

Mom-and-Pop Restaurants Feel Pinch of Minimum Wage Hike - Daily Signal

Mom-and-Pop Restaurants Feel Pinch of Minimum Wage Hike

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney /

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J.—As far as Rob Pluta is concerned, New Jersey lawmakers who say they want to help restaurant workers by raising the state’s minimum wage for tipped employees have it all wrong.

“This will cripple the restaurant industry,” Rob Pluta says of New Jersey’s minimum wage hike.

If Trenton wants to help these workers, says Pluta, who owns and operates Leonardo’s II, an Italian eatery in Lawrenceville, it needs to promote the state, not enact even more mandates.

There is Revolutionary War history everywhere around Lawrenceville, population about 4,000. It’s not too far from Trenton, where Gen. George Washington launched his famous Christmas night surprise attack on Hessian soldiers garrisoned there. The Battle of Trenton and Battle of Princeton were fought during the “Ten Crucial Days” that reinvigorated the colonists and to this day are the subject of elaborate re-enactments during the Christmas season.

Rob Pluta owns and operates Leonardo’s II, an Italian eatery in Lawrenceville, N.J. (Photo: Leonardo’s II Facebook Page)

Rob Pluta owns and operates Leonardo’s II, an Italian eatery in Lawrenceville, N.J. (Photo: Leonardo’s II Facebook Page)

“There’s so much rich history here and so much potential for our business community,” says Pluta. “But the price of doing business keeps going up, and it makes New Jersey less competitive than it should be with neighboring states.”

Pluta wasn’t wild about the constitutional amendment New Jersey voters approved last year that raised the state’s overall minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 and linked annual increases to the Consumer Price Index.

But he’s even more concerned about legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, D-Paterson. Sumter’s bill, A857, which passed in the Assembly’s Labor Committee on a party-line vote last March, calls for an increase in the minimum wage for tipped workers. It would increase the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour to $3.39 by the end of this year and $5.93 by 2016.

For restaurant owners, that’s even worse than it sounds, Pluta said. Under current law, if employees don’t make $8.25 counting tips and base, the employer makes up the rest. Pluta said he’s never had to pay—his employees routinely make $15 to $20 per hour or more.

If this legislation passes—a companion bill in the state Senate has not moved, and it’s unclear if Republican Gov. Chris Christie would sign it if it did reach his desk—Pluta would have to pay out up to $24,000 more per year, plus payroll taxes. His employees, however, would see little difference in their paychecks.

“This is not a logical proposal,” he said. “It’s an additional cost and an additional burden.”

Sumter told The Daily Signal she is sensitive to the concerns of businesses, but other factors must be considered. She said waiters usually must share tips with bartenders and other employees. Women, she noted, make up such a large percentage of this group.

New Jersey’s neighbors already have enacted higher minimum wages for tipped workers, which is one reason Sumter dismisses concerns about the competition. Delaware requires $2.23 per hour, Maryland $3.63, New York $5, Pennsylvania $2.83 and Connecticut $5.69.

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Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter wants an increase in the minimum wage for tipped workers from the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour to $3.39 by the end of this year. (Photo: New Jersey Assembly Majority Office)

“We haven’t touched this rate for tipped workers for over 20 years now,” she says. “This is a high-cost state and many of the tipped workers have to be in two or three jobs just to make ends meet.”

Sumter said she told members of the restaurant industry in April that the current minimum wage was only enough for tipped employees to cover their taxes and that the business leaders “said they didn’t realize this.”

Higher Menu Prices?

Pluta’s customers understand what this will mean. Kevin and Eve Connelly are regulars. They like to order a shrimp platter with cocktail sauce. It’s not on the menu and is supplied only by request.

“If the restaurant suddenly has to pay for something it didn’t have to pay before, one way to cover that cost is to raise menu prices,” Kevin says. “So we are probably going to have to pay more for that shrimp.”

And that, says Eve, will have a ripple effect. Higher prices mean people go out less often, which means less in tips for the wait staff at Leonardo’s II. “I wonder if this is something the politicians understand,” she says.

Photo: Leonardo's Restaurant Facebook Page

The front of Leonardo II’s restaurant. (Photo: Leonardo’s Restaurant Facebook Page)

Jon McMahon, who owns a special-events concession company in northern New Jersey, says this helps his competitive situation. He has to pay more than the minimum wage anyway because of the type of business he has and the type of employees he needs. This forces his competitors to match his labor costs and him to charge more.

Will New Jersey bankrupt neighborhood bars with another minimum wage hike?

“I’m glad to pay more for people with experience who fit into my business plan and to share this cost with my customers,” he says. “There’s no question that capitalism is under attack. But this is still America, and this is still the land of opportunity for people who are willing to innovate. It’s up to you to take care of your business. So think differently, innovate and stay one step ahead.”

It’s not that simple, Pluta says.

“What I keep trying to drive home is that we are forced into paying costs we never had to cover before in addition to the minimum wage increase that is already in motion,” he says. “This will cripple the restaurant industry. This is especially true for start-ups and other borderline businesses operating at the margins.”

The Death of Neighborhood Bars?

T.C. Nelson, who owns the Trenton Social on South Broad Street in Trenton, told The Daily Signal the winners will be chain restaurants, which “have the economy of scale to absorb these costs.” The losers, he said, will be neighborhood bars that can’t survive the extra expense.

Photo: Trenton Social Facebook Page

Trenton Social, a neighborhood bar, might not survive a minimum wage hike. (Photo: Trenton Social Facebook Page)

“What this proposal does is take the art of service and hospitality out of the hands of the small business,” he says. “Right now, it’s hard to know how much this will cost. But you can be sure some of the smaller, local neighborhood places will go under.”

He also agrees the area should do more with its history.

“There is so much untapped potential here given where we sit between Philadelphia and New York,” he says. “I’m glad we have the re-enactments, but we could be doing so much more with our history.”

Pluta is not optimistic.

“This is an easy issue to demagogue,” he says. “If this bill does go through it will mean higher consumer costs and less business in restaurants, which works to the disadvantage of the very workers the politicians say they are trying to help.”

Independent Voters Hold Key in Maine Governor’s Race - Daily Signal

Independent Voters Hold Key in Maine Governor’s Race

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward /

AUGUSTA, Maine—Outspoken and under fire, Republican Gov. Paul LePage is in danger of losing his re-election bid.

One of the most conservative governors in the country, LePage triangulated his way to victory in 2010 with 38 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who siphoned enough Democratic support to give LePage the victory, is running again this year. But the Georgetown-educated lawyer is not drawing the numbers he did four years ago.

The latest polls show Democrat Rep. Mike Michaud holding a slim lead around 40 percent.

Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics lists LePage as one of the nation’s three most vulnerable GOP governors up for re-election, along with Rick Scott of Florida and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

Ascendant Democrats—who regained control of the legislature in 2012—have dogged LePage from the beginning of his term. He hasn’t backed down.

The former Waterville mayor has told the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” called the IRS “the new Gestapo” and said he wouldn’t be afraid to tell President Obama to “go to hell.”

Shattering any notion of bipartisanship, he turned a traditional welcoming speech at the opening of the 2013 Legislature into a full-frontal attack on Democrats.

LePage vetoed a record 38 bills that session, mainly on fiscal grounds. Among his vetoes, he cut state spending and blocked higher snowmobile fees.

LePage’s pro-business and tough-on-crime agenda plays well in the small towns and rural sections of Maine.

Robert Norton of Rockland said he supports LePage’s decision to quit the National Governors Association. LePage called the $60,000 annual dues a waste of state money.

“They are too politically correct and everybody is lovey-dovey and no decisions are ever made,” LePage declared.

Taxpayer groups, meanwhile, applaud LePage for curbing welfare spending and putting a five-year cap on benefits. Before 2010, Maine was the only state to rank among the top six in per-capita use of food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Michaud, now representing Maine’s 2nd District, would become the nation’s first openly gay governor. He’s banking on center-left independent voters to abandon Cutler, whose fiscal and social agenda virtually mirrors Michaud’s.

Read more at Watchdog.com.

Kentucky Senate Candidates Want You to Know They Care - Daily Signal

Kentucky Senate Candidates Want You to Know They Care

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn /

Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates have stopped the mudslinging–for now–and are tugging on the Bluegrass State’s heartstrings with ads aimed to show Kentuckians they care.

Incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, released an ad yesterday telling the story of Noelle Hunter, a Morehead, Ky., woman whose daughter, Muna, was abducted and taken to Mali in 2011. Hunter’s ex-husband kidnapped the young girl.

“I reached out to Sen. McConnell, and he took up my cause personally,” Hunter says in the ad. “I can’t even talk about him without getting emotional. He cares.”

According to The Washington Post, the spot hit the airwaves in the Bluegrass State yesterday with an ad buy in the six figures.

>>> Fowl Fight: Could Four Chickens Sway Iowa Senate Race?

“No matter how negative a campaign is — and this one has been very nasty for a very long time — the final ads that campaigns usually run are positive in hopes of leaving a not-so-terrible taste in voters’ mouths,” Post reporter Chris Cillizza writes of the Kentucky Senate race.

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes countered the ad with a series of her own, titled “Alison Cares.”

Andrew Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state’s husband, kicked off the campaign with a commercial detailing “why Alison cares.”

“She cares about the middle class. She cares about the women of Kentucky,” Andrew Grimes says. “She cares about our students. She cares about all those people that feel like they get left behind.

In a second ad, a Kentuckian named Sylvia Burns discusses Grimes’ commitment to raising the minimum wage and securing equal pay for women.

McConnell and Grimes are facing off in one of several races that could tip the balance of power in the Senate. According to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, McConnell, the Senate minority leader, maintains a lead over Grimes.

>>> 9 Senate Races That Could Tip the Balance of Power

Reporter Forbidden to Speak to Crowd at Michelle Obama Event - Daily Signal

Reporter Forbidden to Speak to Crowd at Michelle Obama Event

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon /

Meg Kissinger, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, covered first lady Michelle Obama’s Milwaukee campaign stop Monday for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke. But, Kissinger says, she was barred from speaking to members of the crowd.

Kissinger, a veteran of covering political events, said of the request that she’s  “never seen anything like it in 35 years as a reporter.”

At the event, Kissinger noticed that members of the media were “cordoned off” from the crowd at the event.

Kissinger reports that she was forbidden from speaking to the crowd by Burke and White House aides, writing in her report co-authored by Erin Richards that “Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event.”

Kissinger posted more details on Facebook:

In a separate post, she added that “in America, that’s our job.”

Both Burke and Obama’s offices have yet to make a statement about the accusations.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has angered members of the press by denying them access.

Q&A: Everything You Need to Know About Hong Kong Demonstrations - Daily Signal

Q&A: Everything You Need to Know About Hong Kong Demonstrations

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Mike Gonzalez /

Q: Why are thousands of people demonstrating in Hong Kong now?

Because when the former colonial master Britain handed Hong Kong over to China, the latter promised universal suffrage in the choice of their leader, or chief executive, and, under the formula of “One Country, Two Systems,” that their separate way of life would be respected.

China appears to have backtracked on both fronts, saying recently that Hong Kong people could only vote for their leader from among a handful of candidates picked by Beijing and beholden to the Communist Party. Hong Kong is a sophisticated financial center with a high GDP per capita, and its 6.8 million people know they can make their own political choices. Ultimately, of course, they are protesting because freedom is elemental to the human condition: we’re all born free and it’s only bad governments that check our liberties. Our instinct is to constantly break free.

Q: Who are some of the key leaders and figures in the demonstrations?

Martin Lee is the father of the Hong Kong democratic movement, a soft-spoken septuagenarian legislator who has worked indefatigably for freedom since the 1980s. Another is Anson Chan, the former head of the civil service and the most popular and trusted political figure in Hong Kong. Jimmy Lai, the owner of Hong Kong’s last independent newspaper, Apple Daily, supports freedom not just in Hong Kong, but also in the mainland. A new leader that is emerging in these latest protests is Joshua Wong, a bookish 17-year-old Christian student who is inspired by his Christian faith and America’s Founding Fathers.

Q: How is China responding?

By overreacting and not permitting Hong Kongers to have the liberties to which they are entitled. China could very easily have this experiment in democracy in Hong Kong, a city that is closed off from the rest of the Mainland, to see how democracy functions. That Beijing won’t even countenance this limited experiment shows that the Communist Party is intent on holding on to the grips of power.

Q: Is this a surprising turn of events? Was there any belief that the people of Hong Kong were restless prior to this?

No, it’s not surprising. All China watchers have been waiting for this for months.

Q: What are the possibilities about what could happen in the days ahead?

It’s hard to predict. This stand-off is looking to too many of us like the buildup to Tiananmen Square in 1989, which as we know ended in the tragic massacre of thousands of Beijingers after supreme leader Deng Xiaoping and Prime Minister Li Peng called in troops from the countryside. We all pray that this will not happen and China knows that it will pay a heavy price. Some 60,000 American expatriates live in Hong Kong, which is one of our largest markets for many products and home to some 1,400 offices of U.S. companies.

Mike Gonzalez lived in Hong Kong for eight years and is the former editor of Wall Street Journal Asia editorial pages.

 

Political Strategists Plot How Libertarians and Conservatives Can Unite to ‘Take Back the White House’ - Daily Signal

Political Strategists Plot How Libertarians and Conservatives Can Unite to ‘Take Back the White House’

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel /

Doug Stafford says he and his boss, Sen. Rand Paul, got into politics the same way: through their church, which inspired them to develop pro-life principles.

Stafford, the executive director of RAND PAC and a close adviser to Paul, sat on a panel this past weekend at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., a gathering of social conservatives.

Stafford was there to sell Paul, the Kentucky Republican with a libertarian streak, as a potential 2016 presidential candidate who can bridge the divide between conservatives and libertarians.

>>>9 Senate Races That Could Tip the Balance of Power

“If we want to remove Democrats from the Senate and take back control of the White House in 2016, these are two groups that have to finally make sure that the overwhelming nature on which they agree ends up being the driving force and end up being something that really can push the left out of their position of power,” Stafford said. “Too often we don’t do as good a job as the left does in uniting for a victory for those things that we do share by arguing about things that we don’t.”

This week, Paul will travel to North Carolina to appeal to libertarian-leaning voters in a state with a hotly contested Senate seat.

@SenRandPaul will stump for Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis in North Carolina this week.

Republicans are worried that third-party candidate Sean Haugh, a libertarian running for Senate in North Carolina, could siphon votes from Thom Tillis, the Republican who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan.

If Republicans are to take control of the U.S. Senate, experts say, they will likely have to overcome third-party candidates, many being libertarian, who could play spoiler and take away votes.

The best way to do that, Republican strategists say, is to project the similarities of conservatives and libertarians, so as not to give voters a reason or alternative to vote outside of the two major parties.

“All of the tensions that social conservatives and libertarians have comes from the perception that social issues are holding the Republican Party back,” said Maggie Gallagher, an author and conservative commentator. “But social issues are being scapegoated. The Republicans [in 2012] had a poor economic message.”

>>>‘It’s the Culture, Stupid’: Bobby Jindal Sounds Personal Notes at ‘Values’ Venue

Below, Stafford and other panelists from the event offer their opinions on how conservatives and libertarians share similar values.

1. Preference for small government

“Value voters and libertarians have a lot in common: Respect for the Constitution: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They also share the view that more expansive government upends self-reliance and diminishes self-worth. They both reject unelected judges. You see one judge upending the will of the people.” –Kellyanne Conway, Republican strategist and president/CEO of the Polling Company, Inc.

“The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference with less centralized authority with more individual freedom. This is a pretty general description also for libertarianism.” –Doug Stafford, executive director, RAND PAC

2. Support for “religious liberty”

“Libertarians may be less religious. But both share a distaste for an assault on religious liberty.” –Conway

“Libertarians tend to get less percent of the ballot when Republicans are less open to the idea of liberty.” –Stafford

“There are way more libertarians who are pro-life than people realize. Ronald Reagan once said, ‘The heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.’” –Stafford

3. Belief in a strong, stable family structure

“[Rand] Paul says you could fix a lot of problems if people finished school, got married and had children, in that order.” –Stafford

This Amazing Video Shows Thousands of Demonstrators Flooding Streets of Hong Kong - Daily Signal

This Amazing Video Shows Thousands of Demonstrators Flooding Streets of Hong Kong

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Video Team /

In Hong Kong, the streets have been filled with huge numbers of demonstrators.

School Board Tells Homeschool Family Their Curriculum Must Be ‘Guided’ by Common Core Standards - Daily Signal

School Board Tells Homeschool Family Their Curriculum Must Be ‘Guided’ by Common Core Standards

Geoffrey Lysaught / Katrina Trinko / Kevin Mooney / Kenric Ward / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Video Team / Chris McNutt /

For many public school students, Common Core national standards and tests are being implemented in their classrooms this school year. Yet parent opposition has been vocal over the past few years, 60 percent of the public opposes Common Core, and teacher support for the standards has dropped precipitously over the past year from 76 percent in 2013 to just 46 percent in 2014, according to a Harvard poll.

But it appears students in public schools aren’t the only ones who are feeling the impact of the standards. A family in New Jersey has learned it must follow the Common Core curriculum even though the parents have elected to home-school their child.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, Margaret Dolanthe, superintendent of Westfield Public School District, sent the family the district’s home-school policy which “required them to submit a letter of intent [to home-school] and an outline of their curriculum which must follow New Jersey Common Core content standards.”

HSLDA senior counsel Scott Woodruff responded on behalf of the family, arguing the state’s home-schooling laws say no such thing.

Dolanthe consequently dropped demands the family follow the policy but did inform the family their curriculum should still be “guided by the New Jersey Common Core State Standards.”

HSLDA’s Woodruff responded by explaining that home-school families have “no duty to follow or be guided by Common Core.”

“It does show a rather troubling mindset—almost an assumption that ‘since we have to follow common core, so should you,’” Woodruff told Heritage in an email.

Critics of the Common Core push already had been voicing concerns about the effect Common Core may have on the home school and private school community as a result of the alignment of college entrance exams, such as the SAT and various high school advanced placement exams, to Common Core. As Heritage has written,

“Proponents of the standards have tried to argue that Common Core is optional for states. But alignment of tests like the SAT, ACT and GED poses new questions about the extent to which states, private schools and homeschooled students will be compelled to accept national standards and tests.”

The homogenizing nature of Common Core limits options for students. Whether through the alignment of college entrance exams such as the SAT, ACT, GED, Advanced Placement exams, or through questionable interpretations of school policy, one-size-fits-all school policies threaten choice in education. These changes increase the likelihood that private-school students and home-schooled students will have to follow the Common Core regime, calling into question the ability of states—and families— to opt out of the national standards.