The Utah Education Coalition sponsored a luncheon at The Cheesecake Factory in City Creek on Tuesday exclusively for legislators and their guests to ply them with free food and right-wing propaganda against a multistate effort to upgrade standards in language arts and math.
There is only one problem.
It wasn't the real Utah Education Coalition and probably, to avoid any legal problems, will soon need to change its name.
Alisa Ellis, who distributed the invitations to legislators, told me that the Utah Education Coalition is a group of citizens concerned about the Common Core, which the Utah State Board of Education has adopted, along with dozens of other states.
But the Utah Education Coalition since 1991 has been an association, with bylaws, made up of the State PTA, the Utah Office of Education, school district associations, teacher groups, nonteaching school employee associations and just about every other organization that is involved with public education.
And that group, the real Utah Education Coalition, likes Common Core, academic standards adopted by the states that join up.
The group had not registered its name with the State Commerce Department, but after learning the anti-Common Core group was using the name it had used for 21 years, it registered Wednesday.
Tuesday's luncheon was a pile-on against Common Core, featuring speakers from traditional right-wing organizations. Several speakers claimed it was the beginning of a federal takeover of our schools, a claim adamantly disputed by education officials.
Given the research the sponsors of the luncheon conducted on the name they chose for the luncheon's sponsor, one can only guess the quality of the research presented against Common Core.
Rocks from a glass house? • Two of the speakers at the anti-Common Core luncheon, whose theme was tyranny of national agendas usurping states' rights in formulating education policy, were officials in the U.S. Department of Education during the George W. Bush Administration, according to their bios in the program.
That was the administration that gave us No Child Left Behind.
Know your audience • One of the speakers at the luncheon was Emmett McGroarty, attorney and senior director of the American Principles Project in Washington, D.C.
During his talk, he quoted former Republican Attorney General Ed Meese as saying that progressives are people who despise the Constitution.
After the lunch, Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, one of the few Democratic legislators who attended the lunch, approached McGroarty and told him how offended she was. She told him she considered herself a progressive and that her father lost his life in World War II.
Her husband is a former Marine. She said she loves the Constitution and is as patriotic as anyone.
McGroarty apologized and said he would not say that again.
At least until he makes sure his audience is right-wing pure.
Keeper of the gate • Standing at the door of the lunch with a clipboard and making sure only authorized people entered the luncheon was none other than Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka.
Old money bags • The luncheon was paid for by the American Leadership Fund, a PAC controlled by tea party faithful Cherilyn Eagar, a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and for Congress, and a champion of the Utah Eagle Forum.