Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Monday, June 20, 2016

Privatization has become the standard conservative response

Privatization guru Milton Friedman
Donald Cohen at TPM gives us a good history of privatization and the current attack on public space and public decision making.

Today, after 50 years of attack on government, privatization is a standard conservative response to tight public budgets, a key pillar of attacks on government, and a lucrative market opportunity for domestic and global corporations. Large corporations operate virtually every type of public service including prisons, welfare systems, infrastructure, water and sewer, trash, and schools. For example:
In 1988 AFT president Al Shanker proposed a new idea: To create charter schools where teachers could experiment and innovate and bring new ideas to the nation’s public schools. Today, nearly 3 million children attend charters, and large corporate chains and billionaires are funding the rapid growth of privatized, publicly funded charters.
“Cities have been discovering that public services do not necessarily have to be reduced by government or paid for by taxes,” the Privatization Council’s David Seader told the Milwaukee Journal in 1986. Individuals can pay for what they use and private companies are ready to take their money.

Cohen on Bill Clinton
Perhaps Clinton’s most significant contribution to privatization was ideological. The NPR reports redefined government services in market terms – “citizens” became “customers” of public services and competition became a guiding management principle.
A new pro-public movement, with this history in mind, is growing quickly, says Cohen.

It has become clear that the 40-year conservative assault on government is enriching some and leaving more and more Americans behind. Groups across the country are organizing and starting to see success. Water systems are being remunicipalized, private prison companies are losing contracts (and both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to end for-profit incarceration), and a growing movement is focused on rebuilding our national commitment to public education.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What is the BIA and what the hell are they doing in Uganda?

Shannon May
Some might see it as the great white hope coming to save and fix the poor in Africa. I see it as cultural imperialism -- taking the worst aspects of American corporate-style school reform and spreading, with the might and power of power-philanthropy and the World Bank, to countries that can least afford to resist.

Bridge International Academies (BIA) is a for-profit organization active in privatizing public education in several African countries including Liberia, Kenya and Uganda. They have already built 412 for-profit schools in Kenya in six years. BIA co-founders, Shannon May and her husband, Jay Kimmelman, have raised more than $100 million from Bill GatesMark Zuckerberg, and the  Omidyar Network (eBay founder Pierre Omidyar) to push their "Education in a Box" model in Africa.

According to the Washington Post:
BIA — which is supported by the World Bank; Pearson, the world’s largest for-profit education company; and billionaire education philanthropists Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, among others — operates a chain of for-profit schools in a few African countries, charging what it says is an average of $5 a month to families for high-quality nursery and primary education in places where public education is poor or nonexistent.
Curtis Riep, a Canadian doctoral student, doing research about BIA, on behalf of Education International (a federation of 396 associations and unions) was recently arrested by Ugandan authorities. Riep was arrested on charges of "impersonating a BIA officer" and trespassing, but was cleared of all charges and released two days later. But the episode put a spotlight on BIA and how the company works.

According to Education International, the whole affair was a set-up by BIA in order to intimidate Riep and any other researchers from shining a light the group's operations.

The Bridge formula is designed to be replicable. Its 5,000 trained teachers read scripted lessons from e-reader tablets. Parents pay an average of $6 per pupil, and have access to a 24-hour hotline.

May, who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from UC Berkeley, explains the formula, referred to here as "Academies in a box" or "McDonaldization".

Instead of hiring expensive teachers with degrees, Bridge contracts experts to develop scripted lessons that instructors follow on computer tablets. Lessons are identical for each grade, down to the words of encouragement instructors give their pupils. It’s so streamlined that all the gears in the institution—lessons, attendance, time sheets, tuition payments, and teacher oversight—can be conducted with cheap mobile phones, cutting human administration to a bare minimum.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it. Not wonder Gates is enthralled.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Eye-opening interview with Arne Duncan at school privatizers summit.

Former Ed Sec. Arne Duncan and his former assistant James Shelton at NewSchools Venture Fund Summit. Now both work for billionaire Mark Zuckerberg at the Emerson Collective. 

It's that time of year again, when the hedge-funders, corporate reformers and power philanthropists gather at the NewSchools Venture Summit to strategize about school privatization, charters schools and how to get the biggest bang for their edu-investment dollars.
Among the regulars at NSVF is former Ed Sec. Arne Duncan, who is now working for billionaire philanthropists Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan at the Emerson Collective.

Duncan's interview with EdWeek's Alyson Klein regarding his legacy, is an eye-opener. Duncan's either self-delusional or skillfully trying to reinvent himself as if the last two decades of corporate-style school reform and testing madness hadn't happened on his watch (including his time as Chicago's schools CEO).

As you might expect from EdWeek, Klein's interview questions are pretty softball; i.e., "What are you most proud of over your seven-year tenure as Secretary of Ed?" and "What do you see as your three biggest failures?" I guess she forgot to ask about his favorite color or his pick in the NBA finals.

To the first question:
Duncan ticked off three things: pouring $1 billion into early childhood education, an all-time high graduation rate (fact check on administration's role in making that happen here), and increasing Pell Grants.
Not on the list: The two K-12 initiatives he's best known for, the $4 billion into Race to the Top initiative and the $3 billion School Improvement Grant, both of which have yielded mixed results so far.
To the second:
Duncan ticked off one he's mentioned a number of times before—not being able to get Congress to go along with an even bigger investment on early childhood education. The fact that so many of our children enter kindergarten behind means "we're just setting our kids up for failure from the start," he said.  
He also mentioned that the Obama administration failed to get immigration overhaul done and, therefore, didn't give immigrant kids a path to citizenship. "We could not get our Republican friends to back that," he said.
And he brought up another missed opportunity, the failure to get meaningful gun control legislation done: "In our worst nightmare we never imagined we'd have 20 babies killed and five teachers and a principal."
You see what he does here? It's an old politician's trick. Like when they're asked about their biggest weakness, they usually reply: "I'm much too sensitive to the needs of others" or "I work too many hours and neglect my own health."

With Duncan, it's more like, "I failed to get everyone else to do all the great things I wanted them to do." He's got a point. Even though he snuggled up to the Republican Congress, the racist and anti-union governors and the hedge-fund reformers, neither he nor his boss, President Obama, were able to reauthorize the national education law for seven years. And the Republicans refused to allocate the needed $75 billion for Obama's proposed universal pre-school program.

But, as Klein points out, Duncan is hush-hush when it comes to Race To The Top, his disastrous, autocratic move to force school districts into closing thousands of schools and replacing them with privately-run charters. Duncan also doesn't mention his role in doubling down on the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind testing/teacher evaluation mayhem, from which the nation's schools may never fully recover.

Or as Klein notices:
Not on Duncan's list of failures? Two things that many other folks would probably cite: requiring states that wanted flexibility from the mandates of No Child Left Behind to tie teacher evaluations to test scores at the same time that assessments and standards were changing, and hugging the Common Core State Standards so tight that they became politicized.
She might have also mentioned his failure to act on the widespread corruption among charter school operators. Or his abandonment of the fight against racial school re-segregation.

Klein must not have done her homework or maybe just forgot to ask Duncan about mayoral control of the schools. She should have remembered that when Duncan was first appointed, he made the expansion of mayoral control his number-one priority. He even threatened to withhold stimulus dollars from school districts that don't implement top-down mayoral control of the schools.

He went so far as to say:
"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed," Duncan said. He offered to do whatever he can to make the case. "I'll come to your cities," Duncan said. "I'll meet with your editorial boards. I'll talk with your business communities. I will be there."
Well, he's at the end of his tenure. The number of mayors in control has certainly not increased. Why not ask him straight-up? Arne Duncan, by your own standards, have you failed?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Power philanthropy rules the schools. Shelton moves to Z'berg.

From left, James H. Shelton III, a former deputy secretary of the United States Department of Education; Priscilla Chan; and Mark Zuckerberg. (N.Y. Times)

Power philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, and Mark Zuckerberg aren't content to offer funding to worthwhile education projects. For them, it's more a matter of leveraging their unparalleled wealth, through their tax-exempt foundations, to exercise direct power of public institutions like the nation's schools with little or no public accountability.

In the last 20 years, the U.S. Dept of Education has become little more than a conduit for power philanthropy with top bureaucrats moving freely between the DOE, the top ed-tech and testing corporations, ed-reform think-tanks, and the mega-foundations. Some, like Diane Ravitch, have called this growing mutualism the edu-industrial complex.

James H. Shelton III, a former deputy secretary of the DOE, is the prototypical edu-industrial manager. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced that they had hired Shelton to oversee their efforts in education, in the latest example of former federal officials who are taking up jobs in Silicon Valley.

The New York Times reports:
Mr. Shelton’s hiring is part of a stream of Washington officials going to work for tech titans. Among them are Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary, who is now senior vice president for corporate affairs at Amazon, and David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to President Obama who is chief adviser and a board member at Uber.
The trend is more recent in education. Former federal education officials often used to enter politics or take up positions at universities and research groups.
But in March, the Emerson Collective, an organization set up by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, said it had tapped Arne Duncan, the former education secretary, to lead an effort focused on young people in Chicago.
The advent of nontraditional philanthropic vehicles seems to be drawing new interest from veteran education officials. Both the Emerson Collective and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are limited liability companies, an organizational structure that enables investing and advocacy, as well as philanthropy.
In the past, I have referred to Shelton as "the man from Gates" because he was a key player in Bill Gates' successful push to drive Common Core as federal policy. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hired Shelton, a program officer at the Gates Foundation, to serve first as his head of innovation and then as the deputy secretary, responsible for a wide array of federal policy decisions. Shelton helped engineer Duncan's disastrous Race To The Top. He also led the Investing in Innovation Fund

Gov. Christie, Oprah Winfrey, Sen. Booker and Zuckerberg.
Shelton has previously worked for the NewSchools Venture Fund and co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools. Before entering the education world, he worked at McKinsey & Company advising corporate CEOs.

Investigations are still ongoing around Zuckerberg's previous "investments" in urban school reform. Nobody seems to know what happened to the $100 million Zuckerberg and Chan put into Newark in 2010.

Despite a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, we still don't even know exactly how that money was spent except that it was used to create a couple of new privately-run charter schools and that about a third of it was used to pay crony political and educational consultants and contractors through a slush fund set up by former mayor (now U.S. Senator) Corey Booker and Gov. Christie. We also know that it provided a nice tax break for Zuckerberg who has also pledged $120 million to schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more on the Newark mystery, read Dale Russakoff's book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Elizabeth Warren calls SEC's approval of Cohen's firm 'a mockery'. Corrupt hedge-funder, charter supporter.

Hedge-funder Steve Cohen
“The commission has permitted a recidivist hedge fund manager, well-known for his former company’s willingness to evade and ignore federal law, to once again profit from – and potentially exploit – investors.” -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Whenever I read about some crooked hedge-fund billionaire mired in scandal, I always check to see if and how they're involved with charter schools. I rarely come up empty. 

Billionaire hedge-funder Steve Cohen is one of the major underwriters of privately-run charter schools. The couple's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation is a top donor to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Achievement First, Families for Excellent Schools Cohen, whose SAC Capital paid $1.2 billion in a security fraud case last year. 

The Guardian reports:
On Thursday, [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] sent a missive to Mary Jo White, SEC chair, telling her she was making “a mockery” of the regulator’s core mission.
Warren, a scourge of Wall Street, is disappointed with the agency’s decision to approve Stamford Harbor Capital to act as investment adviser to outside clients. The reason? The firm is associated with Steven Cohen, former manager of SAC Capital Advisors, who pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2013 and paid a record $1.8bn fine.
Turns out, Cohen indirectly owns Stamford Harbor Capital. He is to receive as much as 50% of client profits, but won’t have any supervisory role, according to Bloomberg.
“Steve Cohen owns the entity, but consistent with his January agreement with the SEC he will not supervise the activities of anyone working on its behalf,” Jonathan Gasthalter, a Stamford Harbor spokesman, told Bloomberg.
 “The commission has permitted a recidivist hedge fund manager, well-known for his former company’s willingness to evade and ignore federal law, to once again profit from – and potentially exploit – investors,” Warren wrote in her letter on Thursday. “This is an unacceptable outcome from the nation’s primary enforcer of securities laws, and it is the latest example of an SEC action that fails to appropriately punish guilty parties, deter future wrongdoings and protect investors.”
Why is the White House covering for Cohen? While he has been a big contributor to conservative super PACs like Chris Christie's America Leads, he's also a big backer of Dem. candidates, including Connecticut Gov. Malloy.

The Hartford Courant's Jenny Wilson reports:
Wall Street billionaires who have invested heavily in the expansion of charter schools contributed more than $200,000 to Democrats in the 2013-14 election cycle, helping Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secure re-election.
The campaign contributors earned their fortunes as hedge fund managers and private equity investors before earning reputations as "education philanthropists." They have helped bankroll charter school movements throughout the country, spending to influence elections and to support advocacy movements.
Major U.S. hedge fund managers are on pace this year to more than double the amount they gave in the 2012 election campaign, with independent fundraising groups backing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Ted Cruz receiving the most so far.

Bernie Sanders has eschewed donations from Wall Street. He has racked up a string of wins in early state nominating contests with attacks on Wall Street and calls for a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Power Philanthropy -- The NRA of WA charter schools

Billionaire charter school power-philanthropists Bill Gates, Reed Hastings (left), Alice Walton, Paul Allen.

Joanne Barkan's power-structure research has been cited on the pages of this blog on several occasions. Now she's written another scathing expose of power philanthropy, "Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State, and the Nuisance of Democracy" in NPQ,

Barkan takes a deeper look in how Gates and fellow philanthro-billionaires leveraged their tax-exempt foundation money to force privately-run charters down the throats of Washingtonians after the leadership of both houses of the WA legislature opposed the 2012 charter bill. When it died in committee, the activist billionaires stepped in, with Gates in the lead, to finance yet another charter school ballot initiative—the state’s fourth.

According to the Washington Times, their lobbying campaign to save Washington’s charters spent nearly $1.9 million to influence the public and state lawmakers.

Writes Barkan:
Call it charitable plutocracy—a peculiarly American phenomenon, increasingly problematic and in need of greater scrutiny. Like all forms of plutocracy, this one conflicts with democracy, and exactly how these philanthropists coordinate tax-exempt grantmaking with political funding for maximum effect remains largely obscure. 
The Washington charter saga highlights the workings of charitable plutocracy. Multibillionaire philanthropists use their personal wealth, their tax-exempt private foundations, and their high-profile identities as philanthropists to mold public policy to a degree not possible for other citizens.
Among the biggest funders of the WA charter school push were, Gates ($1 million), Alice Walton (from Arkansas, $600,000), Mike and Jackie Bezos (parents of founder Jeff Bezos, $500,000), venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer ($450,000), Katherine Binder (chair of EMFCO Holdings, $200,000), Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. ($100,000), and Reed Hastings, from California (Netflix cofounder and KIPP charter schools board member, $100,000).

These guys are not "do-gooders".

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sleazeball U

“I really felt stupid that I was scammed by Trump,” Guillo said. “I thought that he was really legit.”
Don't feel so bad, Bob. The whole Republican Party is being scammed by The Donald.  
Students borrowed $36,000 to attend Trump University and all they got, according to Rubio, was a "picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.”

In three pending lawsuits, including one in which the New York attorney general is seeking $40 million in restitution, former students allege that the enterprise bilked them out of their money with misleading advertisements. their lawsuits, former students say they were given lessons that were useless or even illegal and that they were badgered into taking course after expensive course.

Trump University launched in the mid-2000s as an Internet venture owned by Trump. For several years, it also offered weekend classes in hotel ballrooms across the country to teach financial tips. Some students paid more than $30,000 for a chance to learn Trump’s investment magic and participate in mentorship programs, court records show. (Trump also sold Trump University merchandise, according to an archived website, including hats.)

It's not that Trump never had anything of value to offer. In a blog associated with his sleazy "university", he complained about Judith Miller’s reporting in The New York Times ahead of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

But students shouldn't have had to pay big bucks for that. They could have got that on my blog for free.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who's behind National School Choice Week?

Launched five years ago by the Gleason Family Foundation—which spent more than $4.3 million on the project in 2014, Nat'l School Choice Week has grown rapidly through the backing of advocacy groups and deep pockets of funders focused on promoting charters, vouchers, and tax credits that aid private schools, including religious and for-profit ventures. -- Dustin Beilke at PR Watch

According to the Center for Media and Democracy:
"The National School Choice Week website’s Partners page provides a who’s-who gallery of Koch network groups, corporations, and billionaires promoting privatization," said Lisa Graves, CMD’s Executive Director, adding: "although the week features many local events, it is backed by national entities, some of which are hostile to the idea of public schools and whose goals have included full privatization. No story about National School Choice Week is complete if it does not mention the special interests behind the choice agenda."
NCSW’s website lists numerous partners, including the Walton Family Fund, ALEC, SPN, the Freedom Foundation, FreedomWorks, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the James Madison Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—many of which have ties to the Koch brothers’ political network. David Koch ran for Vice President in 1980 on a platform that included privatizing public schools, and his brother Charles started pushing school choice in the 1960s. Together they have funded an array of groups that spread that agenda.

As CMD has documented, the charter school industry has been fueled by more than $3.6 billion from the federal government over the past two decades in addition to billions from states and from wealthy choice advocates like the billionaire Walton and DeVos families. This surge in cash has created a league of lobbyists urging legislators to send more tax dollars to this industry.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Davos Blues

 Davos: ‘This week, some of the richest people on Earth will gather high up a snowy mountain in the world’s biggest tax haven.’ Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

"We’ve been conned by the rich predators of Davos", writes Aditya Chakrabortty in today's Guardian:
The great mistake made by the mainstream left and right, even by NGOs such as Oxfam, is in imagining that the super-rich, now enjoying such massive riches, are somehow playing by the same rules as the rest of us. That they are “wealth creators” providing jobs and investment for the rest of us, or that they might give up their tax havens. If that ever were the case, it isn’t now. A tiny minority has gained from massive tax cuts and legislative leniency about where they shove their money. They have siphoned off gains in salaries and profits wherever possible and enjoyed hundreds of billions flowing into their asset markets. Meanwhile, the rest of us who provide the feedstock for their revenues see our welfare states hollowed out, our wages frozen and our employers failing to invest. But none of that matters very much in Davos.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How Koch Bros. use their millions to buy influence over southern schools.

Charles Koch
A recent Facing South investigation revealed that right-wing industrialist Charles Koch gave more than $108 million to 366 colleges and universities between 2005 and 2014, with 85 percent of that money going to schools in the South.

The Koch money has funded academic programs, scholarships, professorships, conferences, lecture series, and economics centers, all for the purpose of promoting the free-market agenda embraced by Koch and his brother David, owners of the Koch Industries oil and chemical conglomerate. While other wealthy Americans, such as conservative businessman and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair and liberal financier George Soros, have donated big sums to universities, none match Charles Koch's sharp focus on promoting a particular ideology within the academy.

Read the entire Facing South report, here. 

The Koch's come by their power-grabbing piggery honestly. It seems that daddy was a German industrialist who helped the nazis on a giant oil refinery project. In the letter to company employees, David Robertson, president and COO of Koch Industries, said Fred Koch’s work for the Nazi regime was one of many international projects and predated World War II, according to Fortune Magazine.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What happened to the feds' probe of Chicago Public Ed Fund? Where'd everybody go?

Rahm and Griffin.
Back in April, 2015, we heard that the feds were in town, supposedly looking into the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPEF) and its involvement in the Barbara Byrd-Bennett/SUPES no-bid contract scandal. Remember? Subpoenas were flying and the names of some of the biggest players in corporate school reform were being dropped to the press.  Among those names were CPEF's billionaire board members, Bruce Rauner, Penny Pritzker,  Susan CrownMellody Hobson (wife of George Lucas), and the state's richest man, Ken Griffin

While the Fund wasn't the target of the investigation, and no-bid contracts with kickbacks are usually no big deal in Rahmville, it was reported that its board had given SUPES a $380,000 contract to train area network chiefs and their deputies. But when things started getting hot, they quietly discontinued their funding. 

Ace Catalyst reporter Sarah Karp, now with the BGA, made the point then, that if the Fund had been more transparent about its de-funding of SUPES, "taxpayers might have saved the $12 million of the more than $20 million SUPES was paid before its contract was cancelled".  But transparency is a no-no around CPEF's fancy downtown headquarters (nice view of the lake).  

As Karp puts it:
No one outside The Fund’s staff and board of directors knows how it decides which programs to support, what the results have been and how or whether the results are communicated to CPS.
So since April, there's not been a word in the media about CPEF or the investigation. Where'd everyone go? 

Griffin just sold his condo for $16M.
Rauner, now the governor, was at one time the CPEF board president. He denied any culpability in the SUPES affair, telling the feds that it was his pal Rahm Emanuel and not him, who brought SUPES, Gary Solomon, and Byrd-Bennett into town. 

Pritzker's off playing Obama's Sec. of Commerce, leaving Rahm holding the bag on school closings. She was a member of the school board that approved them along with the SUPES deal. 

And hedge-funder Griffin? (among Rahm/Rauner's largest campaign contributors). He took a bit of a hit when wife Ann divorced him. But he's still in the game, bigger than ever.

His most recent deal... Crain's reports that Griffin just sold his Chicago condo at the Waldorf Astoria for a mere $16M, the same price he bought it for 17 months earlier. The sale was the second-highest home sale in the Chicago area during 2015, after an $18.75M purchase at the Park Tower by an associate of Lucas and Hobson.

I'm sure this is all on the up-and-up, but it turns out that Griffin originally bought the place from ("an entity connected with") himself and then sold it to ("an entity connected with") himself. 

Sounds like a win-win. It always is for these guys. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Educator tells climate criminal Exxon: 'Hands off our kids and our schools'

“I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer,” said Tillerson during the panel discussion. “What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation.” -- Fortune Magazine

Rex Tillerson is chief executive of ExxonMobil, possibly the world's worst climate criminal and catalyst for war and social/economic instability in the Middle East and around the globe. It's a corporation that spends millions each year to run climate denial campaigns.

New York State's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is currently investigating Exxon to determine whether the corporation lied to the public about climate change, or to investors about the risks to the oil industry.

Yet somehow, Tillerson and Exxon still feel qualified and on moral enough ground to bash public schools and debase students as a way of promoting corporate-style reform, and particularly, Common Core and its testing regimen. 

To Tillerson and several other of the wealthiest corporate execs including Bill Gates, public schools are little more than a publicly-financed training ground for the corporate labor pool. Putting schools at the service of the global corporate race to the top, has also been the mantra of Arne Duncan and the D.O.E. for the past seven years. To them, schools are a business, preparing and marketing students to the corporations -- and, according to Tillerson, turning out an inferior product. This, even though Exxon and the 12 other giant petro-corps contribute little in the way of taxes to support public ed.
Exxon gets $600 million in annual federal tax breaks. Every effort to eliminate these breaks—recently pushed by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—can't get through Congress. Surprise, surprise. Exxon pays an effective corporate income tax rate of about 13 percent, just over a third of the nominal rate of 35 percent. (Daily Kos)
Tillerson's remarks have drawn a sharp rebuke from parents and educators. Ed activists are joining environmentalists in calling for a boycott of Exxon products. They make the point that the job of public schools is not to supply a workforce for Big Business, but rather to educate young people to participate fully in American democratic society.

Effects from 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill still being felt.
Leading the counter-attack and defending public education is veteran educator and director of the Network for Public Education, Carol Burris.

In a sharply-worded letter to Tillerson, Burris writes:
Please leave our children alone. We do not need you to develop them as products. They are neither kerogen nor shale.
Your Dickensian thinking has been “outed” and this holiday season, you are as welcome as the ghost of Christmas past. The common-folk for whom the Core you adore was designed, do not like it—only 24 percent of public school parents want it used in their school. And they certainly do not like to hear their children referred to as “defective products.” Mr. Tillerson, you have made the mommies and daddies mad.
I understand their reaction must confound you. In a world in which your corporation has been declared a person, one might mistake human children for products to consume.
When we humanize the inanimate, it is easy for the humanity of the animate to slip away.
But let me make this clear — our children are not products for your purchase. You, and the captains of industry (or whatever you call yourselves this century), are not “the customers.” School is not a training camp to work on oilrigs, to pump gas or design lubricants. There is just enough democracy left to make students know they have choices, and more than enough parental commonsense left to know that community control of schools is slipping away.
We are so sorry to disappoint.
The story line is not as simple as the one told by Peter Elkind. The resistance against the Common Core is far more than a push from the right. Come visit New York. Parents don’t like it because their kids are frustrated and confused—it has been, from start to finish, a mess. Business and colleges cannot define their own desired academic outcome and then use it to map learning backwards. Kids do not grow backwards; they grow forwards. Learning progress is uneven. It intersects with social, developmental and biological factors, none of which can be ignored. Those who don’t know sludge from shinola when it comes to teaching kids sold you junk science.
I do thank you for your candid remarks, however. The curtain has once again been pulled back to expose Oz, and the resistance to the corporate reform agenda will grow. Like Arne Duncan’s awful “white suburban mom” comment, your reasoning on why we need the Common Core will surely be repeated again, and again, and again.
Mommies and daddies don’t forget.
You can read Peter Elkind's Fortune Magazine piece in its entirety here

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The real force behind D.C. school 'reform'

She's the wife of a media mogul, a friend of the Washington Post’s Graham family. She’s a philanthropist, adviser to public officials, and conduit to private foundations and investors in what has become her life’s work. In D.C., likely no private citizen is more involved in public education than Katherine Bradley.

City Paper's Jeffrey Anderson has written a feature story on D.C. socialite Bradley, calling her a "force multiplier" when it comes to the district's corporate-style school reform.

To me, she sounds a lot like D.C.'s version of New York's charter maven Eva Moskowitz who uses her clout to build her personal charter school empire and assail public schools and teacher unions.

Bradley’s primary advocacy vehicle is CityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit that distributed nearly $25 million in grants, scholarships, and donations from 2004 to 2013—mostly to charter schools and groups like Teach for America, which received $2.5 million according to tax filings.

Writes Anderson:
Like Bradley herself, the foundation is at the center of a constellation of private interests that are promoting charter schools in D.C. and around the country. The organization partners with TFA, Friends of Choice in Urban Education, and Charter Board Partners, and counts among its “Thought Partners” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Two of the most politically challenging education initiatives in recent years have been public school closures and the effort to secure chartering authority for Supt. Kaya Henderson (Michelle Rhee's former deputy).
Rhee’s departure in 2011 did not faze Bradley. She embraced Rhee’s protege Kaya Henderson and co-chaired the education committee of the transition team for Fenty’s successor, Vincent Gray, who embraced Henderson as well. Bradley’s alliance with Graham, a fellow philanthropist and low-key civic force, provided a sounding board in the Post, which has heavily endorsed gains in math, reading, and science through charter schools such as KIPP D.C. Graham and Bradley sit on the KIPP board. 
GREAT QUOTE... Former Wilson High School teacher and activist Erich Martel says such coziness among philanthropists, the private sector, and public officials reminds him of Plato’s “Cave,” an allegory in which captives view shadows on a wall as reality, because it’s all they see. For your average parent, Martel says, in an interview last year for this story, it’s often impossible to tell how change comes about: “How does one determine who influences whom? It’s the same people talking to each other.”

Monday, November 30, 2015

Harvard News: 'Veritas'

Dean Minow
In the face of student protest following an outbreak of racist vandalism on campus, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has appointed a committee to consider “whether or not to continue” —the crest of the former slave-holding Royall family that endowed Harvard’s first law professorship in the 19th century.

The school’s seal, which features three sheaves of wheat under an emblem of “Veritas,” came under attack earlier this year when a group of students, calling themselves “Royall Must Fall,” demanded its removal in light of its connection to slavery. 

There is no truth to the rumor that the racist seal will be replaced by one featuring three dollar signs.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My 'plan' for funding CPS sports programs. So crazy it just might work.

Lease back the Skyway.
I just heard the news that CPS claims to be so broke that they're cutting elementary school sports programs out of the budget. As a former CPS coach, I'm horrified at the prospect. So I've come up with a funding plan that's so crazy, it just might work.

It came to me after reading about the Canadian consortium that just purchased the lease to the Chicago Skyway from the Spanish/Australian consortium which had originally leased it from us for 75 years, via former Mayor Daley. The original deal was all part of Daley's plan to solve the city's debt problem. It didn't. But it sure made a bundle in profits for the consortium.

That original Skyway concession company was a partnership of Cintra Infraestructuras of Spain and Australia’s Macquarie Group. Their $1.83 billion payment in January 2005 was nearly $1 billion more than the next highest bid, which prompted speculation that the investors had overpaid.

But this week, the Canadians agreed to fork over $2.8 billion to Cintra and Macquarie to acquire the company that holds the deal to run the Skyway until 2104. Do the math. The Spaniards and Australians walk away with a cool billion return on their investment. 

Oriole Park's 6th grade volleyball team facing cuts.
Side note -- Nearly a billion of that money came from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. So, in a weird way, Canadian teachers are maintaining their pensions with profits from their investment in a scheme that's bankrupting Chicago and its schools. 

So here's my plan. Rahm puts together a $3-billion package of loans from his Infrastructure Trust pals and Billy Daley over at Morgan Stanley and we buy back the lease to our own Skyway. If the profit margins from Skyway traffic could enrich the Canadians, Spaniards and Australians, why not Chicago? A billion or two in profits should even cover the high cost of the loans due to Chicago's lousy credit rating. A win-win for the banksters and the schools. 

And we can even set aside a tiny chunk of those super-profits to pay for the 5th and 6th grade girls’ volleyball team from Oriole Park Elementary School to get to the conference championship game next year.

You're welcome.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

UNO corruption just the 'tip of the iceberg'. Billions lost to waste, fraud and corruption annually in privately-run charters

UNO boss Juan Rangel was Rahm Emanuel's campaign chairman in 2011.  
Chicago's $80-million/year UNO charter scandal, adds significantly to the estimated $200 million which will be lost this year alone to charter school waste, fraud, and corruption. That estimate is only "the tip of the iceberg" according to a report issued last April, by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. It based on a study of only about one-third of the states with charter schools.

According to the report:
The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers, reporters, and investigations suggests that the fraud problem extends well beyond the cases we know about. According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.4 billion in 2015.
In 2014, the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged UNO Charter School Network with defrauding investors in a $37.5 million bond offering for school construction by making materially misleading statements about transactions that presented a conflict of interest. According to the SEC’s complaint, UNO failed to notify the state of two construction contracts totaling $12.9 million with the brothers of one of UNO’s top executives. Additionally, the charter school operator failed to notify bond investors that the state could take the loan that the bond was assured with back for the non-disclosure of the contracts.

Call it the charter corruption tax. We all pay it every year and it's money taken right out of our public school classrooms.

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 includes $375 million specifically for charter schools (a 48% increase over last year’s actual budget).

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Byrd-Bennett, SUPES & Harcourt's goal in Detroit: Loot and then burn.

Byrd-Bennett's inner circle, Tracy Martin, Sherry Ulery and Rosemary Herpel, followed her from Cleveland and Detroit.

I'm glad that Chicago reporters are finally uncovering the depth and breadth of the SUPES scandal. Today, the trail leads them back to Detroit where Barbara Byrd-Bennett was brought in to run the district as a high-paid consultant after leaving Cleveland. In the end, I predict the trail will extend even farther and higher up, as the edu-criminals begin rolling over to save their own skins.
According to today's Sun-Times:
An FBI agent believed corrupt former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett worked to “fraudulently steer” a $40 million contract to one of the country’s biggest educational publishers while she worked for the Detroit schools.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following the case or to those of us who have been writing about the takeover of Detroit's public school system, which smelled of corruption and mismanagement from day one.

With the help of three accomplices brought over from Cleveland, including Tracy Martin and Sherry Ulery, to rig the bidding process, BBB funneled big contracts to testing/textbook giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Turns out, she was on Houghton's payroll before and after Detroit. Martin, Herpel and Ulery then became part of BBB's inner circle at CPS and have now been named in the SUPES indictment.

Here's the FBI warrant on BBB from Detroit.

More from S-T:
The feds told the judge an “unusual financial transaction” took place about three weeks before the contracting process for the Detroit deal began. Records show the FBI’s “analysis of bank account belonging to Barbara Byrd-Bennett shows a deposit into her Money Market account on July 20, 2009 in the amount of $26,530.26 from ‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.’”
Before arriving in Detroit in May 2009, Byrd-Bennett had worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for three years for an annual salary of more than $155,000, according to court records.
 A couple of months after leaving the Detroit schools — where she was an independent contractor with the title of chief academic and accountability officer — Byrd-Bennett returned to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The company offered her $182,000 a year to work 21 hours each week, the FBI said.
The whole purpose of the Detroit takeover, as later admitted by BBB's successor Roy Roberts, in May 2011, was to, “blow up the district and dismantle it.” But to BBB and her SUPES friends, the goal was to loot first and then burn.

Before the succession of state interventions started in 1999, DPS had a $93 million dollar operating surplus, enrollment over 173,000, and academic gains. Six years of emergency management from Lansing since 2009 has widened the performance gap between Detroit’s students and their Michigan counterparts; enrollment has plummeted; and the district’s operating deficit and long-term debt have smashed all previous records.

Over the ensuing years, the Detroit Public Schools has been run into ruin, with over 200 schools closed, and many of the district’s buildings turned over to charter operators.

Note to Chicagoans: The BBB-HMH deal likely wouldn't have happened without the dismantling of the district's elected school board. That board regularly reported contract irregularities, but, stripped of their powers of oversight, they were neutered in the face of corporate "reform."

They call themselves a "global learning company."
As for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I have been writing about them for years. HMH is now one of the biggest text/testing publishers, right up there with Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

They have been among the most aggressive companies bellying up to the Common Core feeding trough. They have been buying up everything  even vaguely associated with Common Core. In April, they purchased Scholastic Corp.'s educational technology and services business for $575M. They've already acquired Channel One and Curiosityville. Last month they launched Netflix for Learning. They plan on launching HMH Marketplace, online tools and games for educators to use in the classroom, in 2016.

HMH was even intent on purchasing SUPES from BBB's indicted co-conspirators Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas.
Besides the Detroit deal, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was mentioned in September 2014 court records regarding the alleged kickback scheme at CPS. According to those records, there was a 2012 email in which SUPES co-owner Thomas Vranas told Byrd-Bennett: “If we are purchased by HMH [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], we will give you 5 percent of total amount we are purchased for.”
Nobody has been charged criminally in connection with the investigation of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Detroit deal. Why not?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Making the case against power philanthropy

This is the second time I've posted excerpts from this 2013 article which originally appeared in Dissent Magazine.

Joanne Barkan is on the case of the new breed of muscle philanthropists who hide their obscene wealth in tax-sheltered foundations and use it to exercise unaccountable displays of power over public education and all aspects of public life. She makes the case that the super-rich don’t need billions of dollars in tax relief annually to exert their will in the public sphere.

Writes Barkan:
One hundred years later, big philanthropy still aims to solve the world’s problems—with foundation trustees deciding what is a problem and how to fix it. They may act with good intentions, but they define “good.” The arrangement remains thoroughly plutocratic: it is the exercise of wealth-derived power in the public sphere with minimal democratic controls and civic obligations.
Power philanthropists exercise greater control than ever over public ed. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation have taken the lead, but, says Barkan, other mega-foundations have joined in to underwrite the self-proclaimed “education reform movement.” Some of them are the Laura and John Arnold, Anschutz, Annie E. Casey, Michael and Susan Dell, William and Flora Hewlett, and Joyce foundations.

The so-called reforms include: privately-operated charter schools; "Parent Trigger" laws; using students’ scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and award bonuses; abolishing teacher tenure; and ending seniority as a criterion for salary increases, layoffs, and transfers.

Barkan proposes a list of reforms that would rein in the excesses of the giant foundations reduce their leverage in civil society and public policymaking while increasing government revenue.

Read her entire article, Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy, in the latest issue of Dissent.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Camp Philos at the Vineyard. My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.

Walton/Broad took their whole crew to Martha's Vineyard over the weekend to bone-up on marketing tactics for charter/privatization brand. How nice for them. What about me? I like the Vineyard.

Topics included: Doubling Down on Success or Losing It All: What’s At Stake in 2016;
How We Win: Strategies and Tactics to Combat an Organized and Vocal Opposition; 
What’s Next in the Edu Political Funding World?; and How to Tell the Pro-Reform Story Successfully.

The Philos "reform" crowd, mostly Clinton Democrats I'm told, includes the likes of -- Rahm Emanuel, Howard Fuller, Peter Cunningham, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senator Mary Landrieu, Eva Moskowitz, Charles Barone (DFER), Ben Austin (Parent Revolution), and so on.

Last year, Edushyster tried to go, but they wouldn't let her in. She obviously didn't have the proper security clearance. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Byrd-Bennett, 'a foot soldier in the march towards privatization'

Ian Belknap is a writer and performer living in Chicago. He hits the nail on the head with this opinion piece in Crain's, "Framing education as a business attracts the wrong people".

While the leading candidates in both parties spend their valuable debate time extolling the virtues of capitalism (...what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.” -- Hillary Clinton), Belknap points out what should be obvious by now. The push towards privatization of public education has been a disaster.

What got him going was the indictment of Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Byrd-Bennett's woes are rooted in her greed, yes (and her tone deafness to irony—"tuition to pay and casinos to visit?"... But she has also acted as a foot soldier in the decades-long march toward privatization and misapplying the precepts of business to the complex (and in many cases generations-long) problems facing our schools.
Her downfall, writes Belknap,  "may be read as the logical extension, and, one hopes, the last gasp, of a badly flawed and shortsighted approach: namely the fallacy that business principles are well suited for every aspect of society".
It is past time we abandon the demonstrated failings of such an approach. It is past time we reconceive of jobs like Byrd-Bennett's as "CEO"—doing so focuses wrongly on the "outputs" of the system they're meant to preside over, rather than the contribution they may make to it during the time it is entrusted to them. In short, it is past time we as a society stop misapplying a business-style conception of risk and reward to education.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

J.B. Pritzker and Goldman Sachs doing the special ed hustle

J.B. Pritzker
Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker may call it "philanthropy" but it's a profitable brand that includes their benefiting financially from cuts in special ed and from every child who's dropped from or pushed out of a SpEd program.

It's all because of the latest corporate scheme in which private firms foot the initial bill for public services and then are repaid with interest if those services reduce the number of kids in special ed. They call it "social impact" investing.

In Utah for example, GS and J.B. have committed $7 million to area pay-for-success programs through the United Way, which will fund preschool services for five cohorts of children. Even at a 5% rate of return, they still receive 95% of any special-education savings to the state until the investments are repaid with interest. After that, the firms will receive 40% of ongoing cost savings until the participating students complete sixth grade.

If only companies like Goldman Sachs didn't operate virtually fax-free, there would likely be adequate public funding for special ed and all other education funding. Instead schools are forced to operate on the largess of private investment firms who not only operate at a profit, but also influence important public ed policy issues -- like which child should be in SpEd and which one needn't be?

According to Crain's,
United Way of Salt Lake is betting that the savings from keeping kids out of special-education, which is much more expensive than providing standard instruction, will provide the repayment to the investors.
About 600 students enrolled in public and private preschool programs in 2013. Of those students, 110 4-year-olds were expected to need special education during their kindergarten year. But only one of the students — who are now in the first grade — has required special education, which translates to about $281,000 in cost avoidance for Utah's public education system with 95% kicking back to the investors.

What these type of private funding schemes do is create pressures on school districts to remove students with special needs out of individually designed learning programs.

Pritzer says:
"Im not in the business of investing for 5 percent returns" but, "there are portions of people's portfolios invested in low-return opportunities, like treasuries. If you can prove this out, Goldman, Fidelity and other investors who put large amounts of capital into bonds, they could put them into social-impact bonds."
While social impact bonds pay out a relatively healthy interest rate when they succeed — between 5 and 7 percent a year in the Utah program — the investors lose all the money when they fail.

According to Huffington Post:
The success of the program is Salt Lake is intended to provide a more replicable template for funding and implementing preschool programs.
Chicago operates in early childhood Head Start programs in much the same way. Instead of relying on public funds to expand the programs and keep the benefits for itself, Rahm Emanuel has turned to lenders such as Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust and the Pritzker Family Foundation to provide the upfront money, with promises of substantial profits for the lenders down the road if the program goes as planned.

Great hustle, J.B.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

SUPES IS BACK -- New names on the letterhead. Looking for more no-bid contracts from CPS

Joseph "Joey" Wise
“The primary leaders [Solomon & Vranas] of the former SUPES Academy have begun new endeavors and will not be joining us in this work ahead.” -- Joseph Wise
The federal investigation in Chicago of SUPES has obviously been sandbagged. Federal investigators have refused to comment on the investigation. Now even with Barbara Byrd-Bennett fleeing the scene and a grand jury supposedly in session, SUPES is trying to make a comeback.

After all, UNO did it with the feds on their trail, simply by shifting a few culpable leaders into different positions, changing the names on company letterhead, and relying on political powerhouses like Mike Madigan, Eddie Burke, and Rahm Emanuel to provide cover. So reported new SUPES owner, Joseph Wise figures he can pull it off as well, cashing in on the next round of no-bid deals CPS regularly hands out to connected consulting firms. Wise, whose companies have received at least $5 million in recent business from CPS, claims to have acquired "the best parts of the SUPES Academy."

Wise, who formerly worked for scandalized SUPES leaders Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, also wants to get more business from CPS by opening alternative schools under contract with the city school system. He runs a company called Acceleration Academies which hopes to open open eight campuses in Chicago, four of them starting next fall in Belmont-Cragin, Washington Heights, West Englewood and Bronzeville. Acceleration Academies describes itself as being run by Wise and partner David Sundstrom with two investors, Bryan Daniels and Steve King, who “have a deep interest in providing quality educational communities for underserved populations in Chicago.”

Obviously, deep pockets as well.

Wait, things get better. Wise is also "looking at the possibility" of Acceleration Academies working with Distinctive Schools, a Chicago charter school management company that he started with Sundstrom in 2011. Distinctive oversees the operation of four CPS-approved Chicago International Charter Schools campuses.

Actually, Wise is chairman of the board of Distinctive. He was the chief education officer for the company as of June 2014, tax records the company filed show. So I don't think he will have any problem "working with" them.

According to the Sun-Times, Distinctive Schools already gets about $18 million a year in taxpayers’ money to run the four charter schools as part of CICS. The charter network was headed until recently by Beth Purvis, who left after eight years to take a $250,000-a-year job as Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education secretary.

SUPES will now be called the National Superintendent Academy which is “wholly owned” by Atlantic Research Partners, a Florida company founded in 2007 by Wise and David Sundstrom.

According to the Sun-Times:
Wise said he first encountered Solomon in the late 2000s while working for what was then known as Edison Schools, a national operator of private schools that hired PROACT Search to help with hiring. Wise said they spoke by phone and met when he moved to Chicago...
...Solomon mentioned Wise in an August 2009 email to Byrd-Bennett when she was running Detroit’s public school system, where he was then trying to get business.“Joey Wise suggested to try again to connect with you”... Asked about that, Wise said, “I don’t remember that at all.
Wise likes to talk to the press a lot about "transparency". He tells S-T reporter Lauren Fitzpatrick, "You have to be really careful to make sure you’re transparent enough about what you’re doing. And we worked really hard to have that transparency and not misuse that relationship.”

But when asked, he won't say how much his company paid in the deal with Solomon and Vranas. He said the deal included a "confidentiality clause".

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mayoral control of schools? Consider Kevin Johnson.

K.J. with pals Arne Duncan and Arnold Schwarzenegger at a 2009 rally in Sacramento. Photo via AP
The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government—and some people are starting to notice.
If any city is still contemplating turning their schools over to mayoral one-man rule, this portrait of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson should provide the cure.

Dave McKenna writes in Deadspin about K.J.'s attempt to set up "a fake government".

According to McKenna, the mayor is replacing civil servants with cronies funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with "the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson".

McKenna writes:
Johnson is husband to Michelle Rhee, the controversial school-privatization activist, and there is considerable evidence that their shared desire to turn public schools into engines of profit for private actors is what has driven much, if not most, of Johnson’s more recent wrongdoing. Despite, or perhaps because of, this, he’s enjoyed the profile and appointments of a national figure on the make: public appearances with President Barack Obama, portrayal as a latter-day Metternich by The New York Times, and the patronage of serious players like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.
 McKenna has been on the trail of K.J. and Rhee for a while. Here's his piece from a year ago.
Kevin Johnson's Grifter Wife Returns To The Scene Of A Scandal

Rhee left her Stand For Children organization a year ago to go to work for a fertilizer company.  No Shit!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wizzards owner Leonsis underwrites D.C. charters. Then gets a new practice arena from taxpayers.

"...we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we're talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice." -- Alan Iverson
D.C. billionaire venture capitalist/philanthropist Ted Leonsis helps bankroll all of the district's privately-run charter schools through his Venture Philanthropy Partners. That includes more than $5.5 million to KIPP DC. But there's a catch to his generosity. 

You see, Leonsis has an interesting philosophy. He believes that instead of paying taxes on his investment profits, taxpayers ought to pay him. This year the payment comes in the form of a new $55 million basketball practice arena for his Washington Wizzards. Taxpayers are picking up most of the cost. 

According to CSN:
The project will cost an estimated $55 million... The Wizards' lease with the city is for 19 years and involves a $23 million investment from the government... Events D.C. [the city's official convention and sports authority] is contributing about half of the total cost for construction.
The latest on D.C. charters... The attorney general has filed two lawsuits alleging that D.C. charter school leaders used for-profit companies to divert millions of taxpayer dollars into their own pockets. The D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees all city charter schools, has no legal right to examine the books and records of those private companies, and says it therefore has little ability to monitor how those dollars are spent. -- Washington Post

As if KIPP DC needed the $$$... They just received another $4.2 million gift this week, from Joel Smilow, the president and chief executive of Playtex Products. Obvious connection there.