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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CPS is "broke" but money keeps flowing to Chicago tech consultants

LEAP CEO Phyllis Lockett chats with Gov. Rauner, venture capitalist Howard Tullman, and French Ambassador Gerard Araud.

Chicago is having trouble meeting next month's teachers payroll but that doesn't mean there aren't big profits to be made and consulting contracts to be handed out to company's with CPS ties.

THE LATEST...The Gates Foundation just awarded $5 million more to Phyllis Lockett's tech consulting group, Leap Innovations. I know, $5 million is a small piece of change for the world's richest man. But don't worry about Leap. They are getting plenty more from CPS contracts and from the likes of The Chicago Public Education Fund, Northern Trust, and the Joyce Foundation.

Leap is another of those education tech start-ups bellying up to the CPS trough. This one is run by Lockett, the former President and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, the group running charter school expansion is the city. While in the employ of CPS, Lockett was mainly a pitch woman for ed-tech companies.

Even though Leap just got started a year ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is already crediting the company with Chicago's miraculous school turnaround.
“In 1987, then Secretary of Education Bill Bennett called Chicago’s public schools the worst in the nation,” said Rahm. “Today, I am proud to say we are leading the country in education innovation. Thanks in large part to LEAP Innovations.”
But the last we saw of Lockett, she was standing with a group of so-called  “Democrats and Independents for Rauner”.

Sitting on Leap's board as you might have guessed, some of Chicago's richest and most powerful of the LaSalle St. crowd including, Michael Alter, president of the Alter Group; Leo Melamed, chairman emeritus of CME Group; John Rowe, chairman emeritus of Exelon; and Timothy Schwertfeger, chairman emeritus of Nuveen Investments.

Former LEAP Board Chair Mark Furlong, retired CEO of BMO Harris Bank was just appointed by the mayor to sit on the school board. And so it goes.

A year ago, when LEAP was started, Melamed, whose CME Group runs the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, noted that it only took his organization 4 minutes to commit the $1 million to support LEAP.

Lockett claims Leap will "analyze education software and pair it with the needs of educators". Translation -- LEAP will be a conduit for tech companies competing for public school business.

According the Crain's:
 “The grant will go toward Leap advising other cities to replicate and scale our model and will allow us to serve more schools in the Chicago area.” The organization operates in 15 Chicago schools, and Locket hopes to see that grow to 100 schools in the next five years.
Note to all you grant writers: replicate and scale are the magic words to Bill Gates' ears. Oh, did I mention, 21st Century learning?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Gov. Haley: 'No CEO's complained' about Confederate flag. But how many black CEOs were surveyed?

“I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.” -- Gov. Haley
Following the racist, terrorist attack by Dylann Roof which left 9 African-Americans dead in a Charleston Church, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the flying of the Confederate battle flag over the Statehouse. In response to the growing demand that the flag be taken down, Haley responded that the Confederate flag was a “sensitive issue.”

“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state,” the governor noted. “I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”

Her comment was revealing, not only about Haley's gross insensitivity to the victims and their families, but also about who the governor considers to be her constituents.

It also left me wondering just how many CEOs had Haley actually surveyed and if any of them were African-American. Or to put it differently, just how many black CEOs are there in the state? No, no make that the nation?

The retirement of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson last January left just just two CEOs who are African-American in the elite Dow 30. A broader sample shows an even more dismal diversity picture within the ownership society. A mere five CEOs are black at the nation's 500 largest companies.

None in South Carolina. This in a state with a population of over 4 million, 30% of them African-American. It has a rising rate of children under 18 living in poverty.  S.C. now stands in 45th place in the nation in the well-being of its children in the annual Kids Count report, with poverty and education being the main factors that kept the state five spots from the bottom for the second year in a row.

That's not too say there aren't some successful black-owned businesses in S.C. There are. But I doubt that Gov. Haley surveyed any of their owners about the flying of the Confederate flag.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gates $2.3B driving Common Core as a 'de facto and de jure national school curriculum'

The new curriculum driven into law by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Common Core Standards, is a product of massive spending on an unprecedented historical level by Bill Gates.

Guerin Lee Green at the North Denver News reports that Gates has spent $2.3 billion pushing the Common Core. More than 1800 grants to organizations running from  teachers unions to state departments of education to political groups like the National Governor’s Association have pushed the Common Core into 45 states, with little transparency and next to no public review.
The Common Core now represents a de facto and de jure national school curriculum, something theoretically prohibited by federal law. But the Common Core comes with common high-stakes tests and common textbooks, making the standards far more than standards.
The Gates involvement, profiteering by testing publishers like Pearson and the heavy-hand of federal coercion in the Common Core has aroused political opposition from right and left, as well as from education experts who have called the standards inappropriate developmentally, pushing young children into material they aren’t ready for.
According to NDN, private groups like the Aspen Institute, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Stand for Children received millions in Gates grants at a time when Colorado schools were facing massive budget cuts.

The Colorado Department of Education is one of the largest Gates recipients in the nation, receiving more than $22 million to push the new standards, text books, PARCC testing and charter schools.

*Also see Lyndsey Layton's Washington Post piece: How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Man from Gates navigates across the edu-corporate complex.

One of the key players in the Gates Foundation's Common Core drive was Jim Shelton. It was Bill Gates who placed Shelton as Arne Duncan's deputy at the D.O.E. in 2009. He followed a well-trod path from the foundation to the Obama administration.

Duncan’s first chief of staff, Margot Rogers, came from Gates; her replacement as of June 2010, Joanne Weiss, came from a major Gates grantee, the New Schools Venture Fund; Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali worked at Broad, LA Unified School District and the Gates-funded Education Trust; and general counsel Charles P. Rose was a founding board member of another major Gates grantee

But now Shelton's off to the corporate world, using his connections to sell technology to higher ed. He's been hired as 2U, Inc's (NASDAQ: TWOU) "chief impact officer" (whatever that is).

Pres.Obama had pledged to prohibit government employees from doing business with former employers. However, Shelton was granted a waiver to deal with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which he worked for more than five years prior to joining the Obama administration.

At the D.O.E., Shelton led the Investing in Innovation Fund and a number of other grant programs. Before that, he was education program director at the Gates Foundation where he oversaw a portfolio worth between $2 billion and $3 billion. He also 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.

Shelton's departure is just the latest in a wave of high-profile exits from the department as the Obama administration takes its final lap. Weiss, Ann Whalen, Carmel Martin, all of whom had a significant impact on the administration's education agenda, have moved in within the last year.

Whalen is off to join another Duncan deputy, Peter Cunningham at the Broad-funded Education Post. Weiss, who also came out of the NewSchools Venture Fund, was Duncan's Chief of Staff and directed his Race to the Top program. Now she calls herself, "an independent consultant". And Martin now serves as Executive Vice President for Policy at American Progress.