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Rolly: Herbert wants to appease the right on Common Core

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Paul Rolly

By PAUL ROLLY

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 21 2014 01:01AM
Updated Jul 21, 2014 07:44AM

Gov. Gary Herbert’s call for an attorney general’s office review of the academic Common Core standards adopted by Utah and dozens of other states has the smell of a re-election campaign around it.

Herbert has come under fire from the right wing of his Republican Party since the state school board adopted the standards for language arts and math that were created by a consortium of education experts from dozens of states.

The governor’s education team has been largely supportive of Common Core in the face of opposition from crusading groups such as the Eagle Forum that clamor about the standards being a federal plot to control schools.

Herbert now wants a review. He wants input. He wants to appease his party’s right wing.

And Herbert is looking over his shoulder at House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who likely will run against him when he seeks re-election in two years.

Herbert had a meeting with Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka before the 2013 general legislative session. She hammered on the Common Core being a promoter of the "gay agenda," according to sources close to the governor.

The spread of such paranoia also can be a useful fundraising tool for these groups.

Take Cherilyn Eagar, for example.

A conservative activist, she often aligns with the Eagle Forum in various moral movements.

She unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for both the U.S. Senate and House and founded the nonprofit political-issues organization American Leadership Fund.

As that group’s leader, Eagar is probably second only to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in the proliferation of fundraising pitches.

A recent plea for contributions to her organization was quite creative. It was able to combine two boogeyman issues into one colossal evil that her fellow patriots are asked to slay by sending her money right away.

The fundraising letter warned that Common Core reforms were a plot to erode man-woman marriage and push children toward the LGBT agenda.

"What does the definition of marriage have to do with Common Core?" she asks. "A lot," she answers.

Eagar says she has uncovered the Common Core/same-sex-marriage cabal because the American Institutes for Research (AIR), "a behavior-modification assessment developer contracted with the Common Core assessment consortium," has adopted an LGBT-friendly mind-set.

She doesn’t elaborate or give examples. You just have to trust her. And the "behavior modification" label is Eagar’s, not the AIR’s.

That not-for-profit corporation has contracted with Utah to write its SAGE tests, designed to map students’ academic progress.

But Eagar’s lack of evidence to support her Chicken Little-type "Here Come the Gays" shout didn’t stop her from the letter’s main goal:

"Your generous contribution of $35, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more will help American Leadership Fund identify and support solid conservative candidates."

Herbert must be listening.

prolly@sltrib.com

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