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

Monday, July 15, 2019

K12 Inc. Data Breach Puts thousands of students at risk

It's hard to believe school districts are still contracting with this horrible company.

K12 Inc. is the largest for-profit online alternative to actual public schooling. Trump's Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts the company and other for-profit cyber charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. But her support for K12 Inc. and other private companies that run them, may have more to do with her and her husband's investment portfolio than with any positive results for students.

The company has been rocked with scandal and has long been under investigation for its shady business dealings. Here's the latest...
A K12 Inc. company database that included information for 19,000 students was available for anyone with an internet connection to see for at least a week, according to a report from Comparitech, which describes itself as a pro-consumer organization that offers security services.
It's not clear that anyone with ill intentions accessed the information during the data exposure, which lasted from June 23 until July 1.
The data came from the for-profit virtual education provider's A+nyWhere Learning System, a software package used by more than 500 school districts, according to K-12 Inc. Students' names, genders, birthdates, school names, and more were visible. In all, there were over 7 million records available. -- Digital Education
K12 Inc. says the breach is no big deal. Goes on about its business.

MEANWHILE...Ron Packard, the founder and former CEO of K12 Inc. who now runs Accel Charter Schools, is buying up closed public schools.

The Accel chain already has 41 schools in Ohio, including 14 in Cleveland, after starting business here just four years ago. Those include schools once run by the former White Hat, I Can and Mosaica networks, which Packard took over to launch Accel.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The 'end of Camelot'? Not quite. Rahm gives crooked company new lease on life.

Chicago Public Schools officials are digging out from another Barbara Byrd-Bennett scandal, three years after the former CPS CEO departed the district in disgrace.  -- Chicago Tribune
Camelot CEO Andrew Morrison said in a statement. “We are proud of our track record over the past seven years and of the achievements of our students." -- Unsolicited confession
The top line above is from a July 31st Tribune editorial called, "The end of Camelot at CPS". Camelot is a network of privately-run alternative and charter schools that serve "at risk" students. Their owners have fleeced Chicago Public Schools for more than $67M in bid-rigged contracts over the past decade.

Camelot's operators have long been criticized for their brutal, "prison-like" disciplinary policies directed nearly exclusively at African-American children.

But the title of the editorial is misleading. It's definitely not the "end of Camelot" at CPS. Despite the recent findings of illegal bid-rigging schemes by Camelot and now disgraced and imprisoned Byrd-Bennett that go back to 2014, it looks like the company will be given another run in Chicago at the cost to taxpayers of millions more.

Camelot Education, which still runs six schools for about 850 at-risk students, has agreed to pay a $1M fine. But they dodged a permanent ban on doing any business with CPS as the schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler had recommended in July when he released his report outlining the misconduct.

The excuse for not shutting down Camelot offered by CPS officials is that, "closing schools and transferring students elsewhere risks disrupting these students’ education. What hypocrisy! If you do the math, six schools for 850 students comes out to about 140 students per school. The board has closed dozens of schools with larger student populations for "underutilization". I guess "disruption" wasn't an issue back then, when it came to public school closings.

According to Lauren Fitzpatrick at the Sun-Times:
Schuler found that Camelot — in order to skirt the district’s procurement rules — paid Byrd-Bennett’s former employers and co-defendants Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas to work as lobbyists to help the company land big contracts to open publicly-funded schools for students who are close to dropping out or have already done so. The emails about the Camelot scheme came to light as Schuler continued to dig through the records that helped imprison Byrd-Bennett, or “B3” as Mayor Rahm Emanuel affectionately called her, along with Solomon and Vranas, in a separate contract-kickback scandal with a principal training firm.
As part of the slap-on-the-wrist $1 million settlement, Camelot will be granted a new CPS contract and submit to a monitor of CPS’ choosing “to ensure Camelot is held responsible for its conduct,” CPS officials said. But the fines under the settlement terms are limited to $1 million, with $700,000 paid directly to CPS and another $300,000 worth of “compensatory services.” A Camelot spokesman said the settlement will be paid over five years.

Camelot must exclude two unnamed officials (why not name them?) from any CPS work during the monitoring term, and subject its executives to training on the school board’s Code of Ethics.

According to Fitzpatrick, CPS also said in July that it would tighten ethics rules for anyone bidding on work, and would publish a searchable database of the additional disclosures on its website. It’s not yet clear whether either has taken place.

All this of course, begs the question. Why does CPS need to contract with privateers in the first place? There's lots of great CPS teachers and 38 boarded up school buildings sitting empty as a result of mass school closings five years ago. Why not provide public education in them for our neediest kids?

Closure of for-profit college campuses ECA long overdue.


No thanks to the do-Nothing U.S. Department of Education, which sides with for-Profit, predatory “colleges,” you know, the market.

For Immediate Release
December 6, 2018
CRL Statement on Closure of Education Corp. of America Campuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Birmingham, Alabama, based for-profit college owner Education Corporation of America (ECA) has announced that it is closing its campuses across the country after the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) suspended their accreditation. The closure of ECA’s campuses include those operating as Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College. More than 19,000 students were enrolled at ECA owned colleges.

Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Senior Policy Counsel Whitney Barkley-Denney released the following statement:

“ECA’s closure is long overdue. Their campuses, including Virginia College, has a long record of providing substandard education at exorbitant prices. For years, CRL and other education advocates have sounded the alarm to federal and state governments about the risks and harms associated with predatory, underperforming for-profit colleges. Students who were lured to an ECA campus should have their loans discharged as they decide their next education path—being straddled with crippling student loan debt after their college failed them shouldn’t be a burden that they have to carry.”


For more information or to schedule an interview with a CRL spokesperson please email: ricardo.quinto@responsible

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Merrow's book shines a light on Deborah Kenny's charter schools

Deborah Kenny

Former NPR and PBS journalist, John Merrow's book, Addicted to Reform, reveals how corporate reformers and greedy charter school hustlers, exploit the language of school reform to enrich themselves at the expense of the public.

The best-known of these, of course, is New York's Eva Moskowitz, who pays herself $567K/year to manage Harlem's Success Academies with 11,000 students. When she lost out to Betsy DeVos in the race to become Trump's Secretary of Education, I referred to her as "charter schools biggest hustler", but apparently I was wrong.

Merrow says that Moskowitz pales in comparison to Deborah Kenny, the founder of Harlem
Village Academies who pays herself with public tax money on a par with Moskowitz to run her charter which enrolls only 1,400 students. Compare that to New York City's public schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, who presides over the largest school system in the nation, with 1.1 million students and is paid $345K per year.
Like Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies, this network loses a lot of students, but, unlike Success Academies, the students who stay perform poorly...This same charter network has famously high turnover rates among teachers. In the most recent report, 38 percent of teachers departed—nearly four out of every ten teachers. In another school, 31 percent left. One thing that students in high-poverty schools need is continuity, which they apparently do not get in this network. Oh, by the way, the CEO who makes all that money also has her own car and driver. 
 Somehow, writes Merrow,  I suspect she’s happy to have Eva Moskowitz taking all the flack in the media about harsh discipline and high turnover rates, because that means her network’s performance is not being scrutinized.  It clearly should be.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Bill Daley gets big money from school privatizer Finnegan

Paul Finnegan
Bill Daley, who recently jumped into the Chicago mayor's race just received $200,000 from Paul Finnegan, co-CEO of Madison Dearborn Partners investment firm (net worth $1.8B). Through his Finnegan Family Foundation, he's been a major underwriter of Chicago's privately-run charter schools and school privatizers.

He's been one of the biggest donors to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS). He sits on the board of Teach for America, Inc. and has given millions to KIPP, Noble and other Chicago charter school networks. He's also a big backer of the union-busting group, Stand For Children.

Madison Dearborn had been among Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s most reliable campaign contributors for years. Three executives, including Finnegan, dumped $705,000 into Emanuel’s campaign in June, three months before Emanuel chose political retirement over the uphill battle for a third term.

Finnegan's support for Daley could spell trouble for candidate Paul Vallas the other big charter supporter in the race.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth makes a killing in AZ charters

Arizona State Rep. EddieFarnsworth
Arizona Rep. Eddie Farnsworth is just the latest charter school operator to use charter schools as his own personal ATM – one that shoots out public funds, writes Laurie Roberts in the Sept. 11th Arizona Republic. 

 Farnsworth figured out a way to sell his Primavera online charter school business – the one built with taxpayer funds – and make millions on the deal and then likely get himself hired to continue running the operation. He's converted his charter to a non-profit and thus will no longer have to pay property or income taxes.

Sweet plan. Sickeningly so, says Roberts, when you consider that Farnsworth is making his millions off of tax money intended to be used to educate Arizona children.

The Republic’s Craig Harris has spent all year reporting on operators who are getting rich – or at least, making a tidy pile of cash – off publicly funded charter schools, aided by laughable state laws that require hardly any oversight or accountability.
It is a system that allows charter operators like Farnsworth to use taxpayer money to build their private businesses and then turn themselves into millionaires doing things that would send regular public school administrators to prison.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Amazon's Bezos jumps into the school privatization biz. Sees children as 'customers'.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, now considered to be the world’s richest man, took to Twitter Thursday to announce that he and his wife Mackenzie are investing $2 billion to launch new preschools in poor, black and Latino communities.

Bezos vowed to build an organization that will start and operate the preschools, adding that, “I’m excited about that because it will give us the opportunity to learn, invent, and improve.”

Yes, a great opportunity for Bezos.

In the new preschools, “the child will be the customer,” Bezos wrote, a rare use of the business concept about preschoolers. Bezos promised to apply the same principles that have driven Amazon—most important among them, “a genuine, intense customer obsession.”

In July, Bloomberg declared that Bezos was not just the richest man in the world, but the “richest man in modern history” when his net worth exceeded $150 billion.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Duncan cooling his political heels at DreamBox, Inc.

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

His billionaire patrons don't really know what to do with Arne Duncan. He left Obama's Dept. of Education in a mess. His snarky comments about the white suburban opt-out moms may have helped Trump win the election. His ill-conceived Race To The Top "reforms", underwritten by Bill Gateswere a flop by all measures of reform. And before resigning, Duncan feathered his nest by sending millions of dollars in federal funds to Chicago charter school operators.

When Duncan did arrive back in town, the city's elite immediately began a Duncan clean-up and rebranding operation to lay the groundwork for a Duncan run for political office. There was even talk of him running for mayor in place of Rahm Emanuel.

He was given a cushy, high-paying job at the Emerson Collective by heiress Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. There, he got help writing his requisite book, “How Schools Work,” in which he claims that public schools are "run on lies".

But as a one reviewer noted:
"Duncan spends hardly any pages embedded in schools or talking to teachers, principals or students...Duncan heads off to high-end addresses in the Loop, and later D.C., determined to roll out reforms that hold a mirror of truth to the broken system. But what, then? We don't learn how the surgical decisions being made at high altitudes end up impacting classrooms in cities like Chicago, Baltimore or Detroit...
As all around us swirls the fever for school choice, we don't learn much about the outcomes of pushing for options beyond traditional schools, such as charters, which Duncan championed when he ran Chicago's school system. And we don't learn how some schools in high-poverty neighborhoods beat such odds and send their Calvins to college — stories that really illustrate how good public schools work in the era of limited resources and vast income inequality.
As things have turned out so far, Duncan's return came too late for a run for governor and as you may have noticed, Rahm is still running for mayor. He hasn't dropped out to make room for Arne as was rumored only a month ago.

So where to next? The answer came this week when Duncan was named to the Board of Directors of Dreambox Learning, Inc.

According to Edweek's Marketplace K-12,
The digital math company DreamBox Learning has picked up a massive infusion of capital—$130 million—from an investment group, and it has added a big name to its board of directors: Arne Duncan.
DreamBox announced Tuesday that it is the recipient of that substantial monetary infusion from The Rise Fund, a global investment company that seeks financial returns from its support for social and environmental causes.
The $130M from Rise is its largest-ever education investment and allows it to take a majority position in DreamBox. The Rise Fund counts Jobs, Netflix founder and right-wing school privatizer, Reed Hastings, and Duncan's long-time Chicago ed-business mentor, John Rogers (Ariel Investments) among its investors.

As you might have guessed, DreamBox is Apple (IOS)-based, not PC.

So Duncan will have to cool his political heels at DreamBox, using his DOE connections to sell another bullshit math program to schools and districts that don't want it or need it and making sure his patrons get a good return on their investment.

It's kind of a flashback to the days when Pres. Bush's brother Neil used his connections to sell his Cow (Curriculum on Wheels) to public school districts.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

After being fired by KIPP for sexual misconduct, Feinberg is back in business.

Mike Feinberg was fired from KIPP in February over allegations of sexual misconduct with a child. Somehow, it took 14 years for KIPP to discover that one of its co-founders had been sexually involved with former students.

But now Feinberg is back in the school privatization swing. After a quick rehab job, underwritten by the the Texas School Venture Fund (Feinberg's own creation) he has teamed up with veteran school voucher warrior Howard Fuller to start a new consulting group whose stated goal is, "helping educators create new schools and assisting single-site schools and existing networks of schools in opening new campuses." Feinberg says, he wants to work at least in part with KIPP alumni who want to start their own schools.

Feinberg is launching the new organization with Texas billionaire, a self-described "conservative communitarian," and long-time charter school supporter, Leo Linbeck III.

Howard Fuller
This will also be Fuller's attempt at a comeback since his right-wing patrons pulled their funding from his anti-union, pro-voucher group, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).

Feinberg was fired after being accused of sexually abusing a student in the late 1990s, but the allegation didn't surface until 2017, according to KIPP.

KIPP Houston Public Schools and an independent law firm hired by the network investigated the claims, and found "the allegation to have credibility". During the course of the investigation, the law firm, WilmerHale, turned up two other misconduct allegations against Feinberg by adult employees of KIPP Houston, both of whom were former students of the charter network. One reached a settlement, while the other allegation could not be corroborated, according to KIPP officials at the time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Another flop for the Gates Foundation and for top-down reform

  "I was pretty naive about how long the process would take." -- Bill Gates
“I want the foundation to be the neutral broker that’s able to bring up the real data of what is working and what’s not working." -- Melinda Gates
Far from being an honest broker, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's biggest private foundation, has had the greatest influence on shaping the nation’s education policies.

During the past two decades the power philanthropy has leveraged billions of its tax-exempt dollars to inject reform policies into the public system with no public oversight or accountability.

Bill Gates, one of the top three richest men in the world, supports public education the way a rope supports a hanging man. When his imposed reform ideas fail to produce the desired measurable results, the mega-foundation does a few mea culpas and then pulls its funding, moves on to their next big reform idea and leaves school districts and even their own spawned reform groups hanging in the wind.

Last week, RAND, hired as evaluators by Gates himself, issued a massive and mostly negative evaluation of the Gates Foundation’s overblown effort to redesign teacher evaluation, compensation, and employment practices in three school districts and four charter school management organizations.

Now we're hearing reports out of their Seattle headquarters that a major shift in education investments is taking place, away from teacher evaluation to curriculum reform. What that means is anyone's guess.

This from teacher/blogger Larry Ferlazzo:
The Gates Foundation came out with a report this morning admitting that their heavy-handed, and expensive, focus on teacher evaluation was a failure. The report’s authors suggest that maybe other factors were more important for students which, of course, just about any teacher could have told Gates before the money was spent.
Back in 2016, the foundation promised there would be a major shift in its modus operandi. Melinda Gates, announced the fund was backing away from its support for Common Core standards in light of the political shift from federal to state mandates under The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

She claimed that she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, "learned an important lesson" from the pushback against CCSS in recent years after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting national education standards, claiming such a massive initiative could not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.
“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates told the Washington Post, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”
The term "buy-in", when used by corporate-style reformers, is revealing, not just in the way it portrays the school community simply as consumers of reform, but also in the way they see themselves as reform's progenitors. 

Like Donald Trump, for whom he's expressed affinity,  Bill Gates is a great believer in strong-man, autocratic leadership and finds democratic processes too messy, expensive and time consuming for someone with his economic leverage.

It seems like every couple of years faced with stinging criticism from those most affected by their reform interventions, Gates Foundation leaders go through similar "self-adjustments" with no public accountability, while sticking to their same wrong-headed theory of change.They tweak their top-down reform funding strategies, admit (or not) they've bet on the wrong horse, leave old projects hanging, and promise next time, to be "better listeners". But how real is their self-crit? It's usually limited being "too impatient" or "too naive" about great amount of time it takes to bring the uninsightful, unwashed masses to buy into their interventions.

Back in 2012, the line under the Obama administration and with Arne Duncan running the DOE, was that bad teachers were the problem, Gates shifted its focus to discovering who these thousands of bad teacher were and how to replace them with "good teachers".

This from Chalfbeat:
Bad teachers were the problem; good teachers were the solution. It was a simplified binary, but the idea and the research it drew on had spurred policy changes across the country, including a spate of laws establishing new evaluation systems designed to reward top teachers and help weed out low performers.
Behind that effort was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which backed research and advocacy that ultimately shaped these changes.
Remember when they ditched their $2B investment in high-school reform and small schools, claiming that their pet projects didn't produce fast enough results (standardized test scores)? Bill Gates' 2009 letter, which was posed as a self-critical evaluation, actually blamed the Gates-funded schools themselves for not being "radical" enough and indirectly, the teacher unions for not being faithful to his top-down model.

While it's become the poster child for top-down reform, the problem goes way beyond the Gates Foundation. It goes to the very nature of power philanthropies, who use their concentrated wealth to erode public space and public decision making.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blackstone's Schwarzman tries to buy a public high school

Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone, and Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors, with President Trump at a Strategy and Policy Forum meeting in February. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times        
Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and chief operating officer of the global private equity firm the Blackstone Group, has amassed a $12.2 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine. As the largest alternative investment firm in the world, Blackstone specializes in private equity, credit and hedge fund investment strategies. Blackstone has around $434 billion under its management and is a big player in teacher pension funds.

A friend of President Trump, Schwarzman graduated from Abington (PA) Senior High School in 1965, and 40 years later, in 2005, donated $400,000 so the school’s football stadium could be renamed for him.

Billionaires have been involved for years in education, donating parts of their fortunes to schools and to education initiatives, raising objections from advocates who believe the wealthy should not be allowed to use their money to influence the conduct of public education.

But Schwarzman had more than a giant tax break in mind this time around, when he offered his alma mater a $25 million "gift". He also demanded the following in return:
  • The school would receive a new name — the Abington Schwarzman High School — and, “for the avoidance of doubt,” officials would make sure the name was displayed, “at a minimum,” at the front and above each of the six entrances.
  • Parts of the campus would be named after his brothers, former high school track coach and two friends on the track team.
  • Schwarzman’s portrait would appear “prominently” in the school.
  • Schwarzman would have input into the construction of the new campus, which is set to be done in 2022, including the right to approve contractors.
  • He would receive regular reports on the progress of a computer literacy initiative.
  • The agreement would be kept secret unless Schwarzman approved its release.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The board approved the pact without community input, and when residents learned that Schwarzman had essentially bought naming rights to the school, they pushed to get details, the story said. The board waited a few weeks after approving the contract to release it to the public — but by then, the board had rescinded the agreement and promised to vote on a new pact with most of the earlier demands stripped out.
 “When you’re that rich and giving those level of gifts, you’re really used to getting what you want,” said Maria Di Mento, a staff writer and expert on big philanthropic donations at the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all done without considering how bad it was going to look to outsiders,” Di Mento said. “This is a public school district. This is not Yale.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fuller calls BAEO's collapse, 'a magical moment'. Really?

The collapse of The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) raises some interesting questions. The right-wing funded, anti-union, pro-voucher group started 17 years ago by '70s civil rights activist turned Bush-supporter, Howard Fuller, has gone belly-up just at the moment in time when you'd think they would be rolling in dough.

With Trump-appointed Betsy DeVos sitting atop the DOE and billions of federal and foundation dollars flowing to astroturf  school "choice" groups, why does BAEO, the only such group specifically targeting African-Americans, suddenly find itself out in the cold?

Fuller started BAEO with heavy backing from the far right-wing groups, like the Bradley Foundation. Bradley became infamous for its underwriting of the racist "Bell Curve" book by Charles Murray. They hired Fuller as a token pitchman for school vouchers. He claimed them as an "underground railroad" freeing black students from the "slavery" of public education and teacher unions.

But with Trump in the White House, it appears the chickens have come home to roost so far as BAEO's foundation support is concerned.

Fuller is now offering muddled and confusing messages about his organization's demise. On his BAEO blog, Fuller tries to place the collapse in a positive light, calling it a "magical moment" and a "new path forward". But in an EdWeek interview, he complains that the school choice advocacy world has become too crowded, and that means more competition for visibility and funding.

According to EdWeek,
The writing has been on the wall. A year and a half ago, BAEO started shedding some of its state chapters and launched a national competition to reimagine and redesign the organization. But that fizzled out, said Fuller, when the effort didn't yield ideas that were "transformative" enough.
Aside from helping pass charter school laws in Alabama and Mississippi, and voucher laws in Louisiana and the District of Columbia, Fuller said BAEO's impact is seen in the pipeline of African-American talent it helped develop in the world of education reform advocacy.
Fuller talks about BAEO like it was a canned good or jar of peanut butter.
"Some organizations, and ours is one of them, have a shelf-life. And we just reached a point where we had done great work but didn't see the ability to continue to do that work going forward."
But that still doesn't really answer the question. Why has BAEO's funding dried up just at a time when school voucher and charter school advocates control the reins of power?

The answer may have something to do with...

  • The fear of many "choice" advocates and activists that they will be viewed as Trump/DeVos supporters and discredited if they back BAEO. This is especially true for black community activists and those tied to the Democratic Party, like Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).  
  • Support for charters is shrinking nationally in the wake of widespread financial scandal and more data showing that charters generally show little in the way of increased measurable student achievement. 
  • Pro-choice groups and think tanks have been thrown into a dither with some like BAIO endorsing DeVos while others, distance themselves for fear of being associated with the Alt-Right.
  •  An even wider divide in reaction to Trump/DeVos budget cuts for public education and shifting of resources over to charters and vouchers. 
  • Demoralizing power struggles within the organization itself, which may account for the mixed messaging. 

More food for thought...White, anti-union, charter and voucher supporters, from Nina Reese to Peter Cunningham are singing Fuller's praises and expressing sympathy over BAEO's fall from grace among the big funders. But none have offered to step up and offer the group financial support. 

No tears coming from me. I'm sure Fuller will have a soft landing somewhere in Trumplandia. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

DeVos had investments in cyber charter schools

Trump's Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts online learning and cyber charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. But her support for these virtual schools and the private companies that run them, may have more to do with her and her husband's investment portfolio than with any positive results for students.

This from Politico:
K12 is the company DeVos and her husband had an “investment interest” in, according to paperwork released in 2006 by her husband’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Michigan. A DeVos spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the size of the investment, which is not listed as current in her federal disclosure forms. 
She and her husband invested in virtual school powerhouse K12 Inc. before she became secretary. At least two of the school choice groups DeVos helped found, Great Lakes Education Project and the American Federation for Children, pushed for virtual charters — including in DeVos’ home state of Michigan.

But while cyber school companies generally are reaping big profits, K12 Inc. stock has been a bust.

As for measurable student learning, the cyber schools' results in state after state, from Florida to Pennsylvania, have lagged far behind face-to-face public schools.

In Pennsylvania, where more than 30,000 kids are enrolled in virtual charter schools,  the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year.

K12 Inc. in particular, has been a sewer of corruption since it was founded by former GOP education sec William Bennett. The company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability.

K12 Inc. has been under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm.

Friday, August 18, 2017

CPS buys into the Covey Hustle

Reposted from Fred Klonsky's Blog

A parent wants to know why an expensive corporate training program is being implemented at his neighborhood CPS school.

Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School.

A few years ago there was some controversy over Steven Covey’s The Leader in Me program which was purchased by CPS. CPS had spent over a quarter of a million dollars on The Leader in Me by that the time.

Supporters of the program, started under former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard before he resigned in October, say it fosters a disciplined approach to education and helps with so-called social emotional learning. But some critics say there is not enough proof it works and argue it is costly at a time when the district is facing financial woes.

The program, called “The Leader in Me,” was created by the Utah-based Franklin Covey, a publicly-traded company that CPS has paid more than $263,000 since 2005, including more than $111,000 this year.

This year’s spending was for The Leader in Me, the brainchild of the company’s founder, Stephen Covey.

Covey, who died last year, is the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the centerpiece of leadership training programs run by Franklin Covey that have been used by Fortune 500 companies.

The Leader in Me is a version of Covey’s book adapted for younger students and used by more than 1,000 schools worldwide, though company officials admit evidence that it works is mostly anecdotal and say it’s still too soon to fully measure the impact of the program on the schools where it’s used.

Offered to all CPS schools before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Andrew Jackson, Walsh Elementary, Pershing West Elementary and South Loop Elementary were the only schools to sign on, a CPS spokesman said.

Brizard is long gone as CPS CEO.

But The Leader in Me is still around.

And a Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School parent and LSC member, Jeff Young, wonders why?

In a letter sent by Jeff Young to the other members of the Darwin LSC following a school walk-through.

I am concerned about a video we were shown, prior to the walk, in which students and teachers from Darwin appeared. This video, as it was explained to us, was produced by the FranklinCovey company for use with it’s “Leader In Me” program.

In a later letter Jeff Young lays out his objections to a corporate training tool being used at a public elementary school:

1) There is no objective, 3rd party analysis as to whether Leader In Me is any more effective than any other program with similar goals that doesn’t cost as much nor require as much from our school (see 3).

2) Principals in Kentucky and Missouri have been disciplined by their districts for consulting for Franklin Covey while implementing Leader In Me at their schools. Links to articles discussing these situations are below. It concerns me that this program has a financial incentive for it’s adoption with no proven, verifiable academic benefit.

3) Leader In Me contractually obligates our school to share student absenteeism and disciplinary data with Franklin Covey, as well as hold Leadership Day annually. Federal laws tightly controls the disclosure of student data outside of the school; I’m not certain the data we are providing is publicly available or not. By hosting Leadership Day at Darwin, we are essentially holding a sales event at our school for Franklin Covey during which our children help sell their product.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Confirms my critique of power philanthropy

I'm certainly not against philanthropic giving. I think the super-wealthy should do more of it. Not to get a tax break, they already get that just by being rich in a climate of regressive taxation. Not to increase their own unrestricted political influence over society. You already need millions or billions to get elected to higher political office. But simply because it's the morally and ethically right thing to do.

But the rise of what I call, muscle or power philanthropy has only served to increase social and economic inequality and weaken what's left our our democratic institutions.

A recent article in Quartz, quotes Rob Reich, director of the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, who pretty much confirms my apprehensions about the giant foundations.

Reich says:
A philanthropic foundation is a form of unaccountable power quite unlike any other organization in society. Government is at least somewhat beholden to voters, and private companies must contend with marketplace competition and the demands of shareholders. 
 Undemocratic philanthropy is a misuse of power, even if it is power attempting to do good. “At the very least, we should not provide tax benefits to further augment the private pursuit through philanthropic mechanisms of private means,” adds Reich.
After all, those very tax breaks afforded to philanthropists are depriving the public sector of further funds that should be used to provide public services.
What I've been arguing for years.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


I'm remembering back to 2015 when Arne Duncan's SUV took a wrong turn on the way to Ariel Community Academy in Chicago, and he was forced to get out and walk through a large group of anti-PARCC protesters, who were there to express their opposition to the new common-core-aligned exams. Duncan did not stop to speak to them.

Duncan had already launched tirades against parents who wanted their kids to opt-out of PARCC. Remember this one?
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” -- Washington Post
Fast-forward to today. Duncan's gone and apparently so is PARCC -- at least from most states. The PARCC consortium, apparently feeling the burn, has chosen a new nonprofit to manage the business of maintaining and administering its test: New Meridian Corp., a brand-new organization led by people from various strands of the assessment world.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, has lost most of its original state members. Only six states and the District of Columbia are using the test this year, and that number will drop by one more next year.

EdWeek reports: 
Its president and CEO, Arthur VanderVeen, who has spent the past 14 years at Compass Learning, the New York City Department of Education, and the College Board, told Education Week that he and his team interviewed the leaders of 14 states—current and former PARCC states, some who use Smarter Balanced, and some who haven't used either consortium test—to get a sense of their testing priorities.
 Sustainability has been an issue for both consortia as the end of their federal funding near drew. That $360 million was meant only to support the design of the tests. Once they made their operational debut, in 2014-15, financial responsibility for sustaining the tests shifted to the states. Both consortia have lost membership, but Smarter Balanced has maintained a larger stable of states using its test—14 this year—than has PARCC.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Billionaire hedge-fund fraud and charter school patron gave $1M to Trump inaug

Steven Cohen, chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, big Trump donor.
Scandal-ridden billionaire hedge-funder and charter-school bank-roller Steven A. Cohen is back in the news again. Turns out Cohen was among the million-dollar donors to the Trump inauguration, according to a federal filing. He wasn't the biggest donor. That honor belongs to right-wing creep Sheldon Adelson.

While he has been a big contributor to conservative super PACs like Chris Christie's America Leads, Cohen has also been a big backer of Dem. candidates, including Connecticut Gov. Malloy.

Cohen is not in jail. But he should be. Federal prosecutors in New York decided against criminally charging Cohen for fraud. Instead, they charged his investment firm (remember, corporations are people now) SAC Capital. SAC Capital pled guilty and paid a total of $1.8 billion in fines.

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.

He has also given $40 million to support his six charter schools operating in the Bronx. The Cohen's are sponsors of the Amistad Academy in New Haven, which is described here as, "a charter school serving minority students...using chants, rewards, and consequences."

I'm not sure what it is about hedge-funders like Boykin Curry of Eagle Capital, Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, Michael Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group, Carl Icahn and the rest that attracts them to the charter world. But I suspect it has more to do with free-market ideology than anything to do with teaching and learning.

According to the Hartford Courant:
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.
If you want to know more about Cohen, read New Yorker writer Sheelah Kolhatkar's book, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (Random House, 2017).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rahm's Infrastructure Trust, a failed privatization scam.

Rahm Emanuel flew in Randi Weingarten  to support the Infrastructure Trust. 

The BGA's Alejandra Cancino writes in Crain's, that Rahm Emanuel's grand PR stunt, known as the Infrastructure Trust, has done nothing to rebuild Chicago's infrastructure nor to build any trust. In short, it was a sham and a humbug, a facade under which to carry out even more failed privatization deals.

Writes Cancino:
...the infrastructure trust that Mayor Rahm Emanuel once hailed as a model of out-of-the-box thinking to jumpstart public works has proved anything but.
 Launched five years ago this month, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust has accomplished little and done so at a snail's pace. None of the $800 million in financing that Emanuel claimed he had lined up from institutional investors to bankroll city projects ever materialized, with resources so tight that the trust on several occasions has been late by more than a month in paying staff and once by several months.
What's more, city records reviewed by the Better Government Association show trust operations and projects have been largely dependent on public financing even though Emanuel sold the idea as an innovative financing scheme to free taxpayers from cost and risk.
As of October, the trust still owed money to some former employees, consultants and contractors, according to its most recent audit report.
Sounds like one of Trump's deals. Doesn't it? And there were more. Like the the failed privatization of Midway Airport.

I warned about the Trust back in 2012 when Rahm first touted it as a model for other cities to follow and claimed that it would bring thousands of jobs to Chicago. And I wasn't alone.

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, (yes, there are a few honest ones on the council) opposed the trust's creation pushed for more transparency and City Council oversight.

Ben Joravsky, writing in the Reader, called Rahm the "trust fund mayor" and warned of the lack of transparency around IT.

But warnings fell on deaf ears. Why? Because there were the big banks, like Citibank and big Democratic Party backers singing the Trust's praises. Namely, Bill Clinton who stood shoulder to shoulder with Rahm when IT was rolled out. .

And then there was AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten who Rahm flew to Chicago so she could offer her union's support of the Infrastructure Trust at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative Conference.
“People want to work,” Weingarten said. “And what we’re seeing, whether it’s the mayor’s infrastructure program here in Chicago or everything else we’re doing around the country, is that when labor and business start working good together on trying to put people back to work with good jobs, when we start building things again, it builds huge hope around the country.”
To her credit, Randi had been in town a few weeks earlier to support and march with thousands of rallying union teachers. If you followed my blog at the time, you know that I gave her props for that.  But now, here she was rallying support for Rahm's great privatization scheme, cheering it on with the very forces that were attacking the CTU in a massive media campaign.

She wasn't alone among union leaders either. The Mayor had put Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, on the board of the Trust. The promise of jobs, no matter how illusory, is pretty enticing. Just ask the sell-out union leaders who have drunk Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" kool-aid.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Former CPS Liar-in-Chief lands on her feet at Midway

I doubt you are, but if you're worrying about the fate of former CPS Liar-in-Chief, Becky Carroll,  you can stop now.

After serving as J.C. Brizard's and prison-bound Barbara Byrd-Bennett's Kellyanne Conway and then as the head of Rahm Emanuel's Super PAC, "Chicago Forward", Carroll has hit it big as a Midway Airport contractor. In other words, she's landed (see what I did there?) on her feet. Take heart Kellyanne. There's life (and profit) even after a failed career of mendacity and prevarication.

The Sun-Times reports:
A 15-year, $75 million makeover of Midway Airport concessions was cleared for takeoff Wednesday on a runway crowded with clout-heavy contractors. The contract with a group known as Midway Partnership LLC was approved at an action-packed City Council meeting dominated by business legislation.
 The $248 million Midway overhaul will give the Southwest Side airport 1,400 more premium parking spaces, a Taste of Chicago-style concession makeover with more space, and 27 security lanes — up from 17 — to unclog a notorious passenger bottleneck.
Did you know that "broke Chicago", where school budgets are being slashed to ribbons, had $248M laying around to put at the service of wealthy airport concessionaires? This, after years of failed Rahm attempts to sell off poorly-run Midway to any taker who wanted it.

And as I scroll through the article, I come upon Becky's name. She's hit the jackpot as a member of the "winning team" of contractors -- all Rahm political loyalists of course.

And here, I thought Becky's area of expertise lie in school closings and CPS corruption cover-ups. How was I too know she was an airport food concession maven as well?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Billionaire charter backers clash. Broad vs. DeVos

Billionaires DeVos vs. Broad
Power philanthropist Eli Broad is urging senators to vote against confirming fellow billionaire and right-wing school "choice" advocate, Betsy DeVos.

The growing grassroots resistance to Trump's choice for Ed Secretary has split the charter/voucher movement and its wealthy backers. Pro-choice groups and think tanks have been thrown into a dither with some like BAIO's Howard Fuller endorsing DeVos while others, distance themselves for fear of being associated with Trump and the Alt-Right.

According to EdWeek:
In comparison to DeVos' philanthropic work, the Broads belong to a class of donors that prefer a much more managed approach to school choice, investing in charter school models that can scale up and measure their performance. They are strong supporters of charter management organizations—nonprofit networks of charter schools (think KIPP)—whose rapid growth has been propelled by the federal government and a handful of wealthy donors. 
Eli and his wife Edythe Broad are among some of the most influential backers of charter schools nationwide. Their foundation has given over $150 million to charter schools nationally. Of that, $79 million has gone to charters in Los Angeles. He's also used his money to influence local school board elections in favor of pro-choice, anti-union candidates.

He's also a big Democratic Party campaign donor who personally bankrolled many of Arne Duncan's ed initiatives and currently is underwriting Education Post, the pro-charter, anti-teacher union project run by Duncan's former assistant, Peter Cunningham.

But Broad has no real problems with Trump or the Republicans. In 2013 he was exposed for secretly funding a right-wing, anti-union group connected with the Koch Bros. He formerly helped run the failed giant AIG Corp., once the world's biggest insurer, into the ground.

DeVos and her husband Richard on the other hand, are free-market evangelical conservatives who favor vouchers and for-profit charters as opposed to, what she calls, "government schools". Her appointment has far less to do with her competencies or lack thereof as a department head, but rather as an ideologue and an important piece of the Trump/Bannon move to take over and demolish the institutions of government, including the Dept. of Education.

Broad's letter to McConnell and Schumer urging them to dump DeVos, came on the same day as two Republican senators announced that they plan to vote against DeVos' confirmation. Both Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska hail from rural states. Both raised concerns over DeVos' hyper-focus on school choice and her overall knowledge of public schools.

Only one more Republican needs to break with the party to sink DeVos' nomination, but GOP leaders say they are confident DeVos will ultimately be confirmed as the next secretary of education.

We'll soon see if Broad has enough juice to swing one-more Republican vote away from DeVos. I doubt it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The language of reform. Corporate 'Collectives' for the Elite.

Collective Pres. Laurene Powell Jobs
Over the years I've gotten used to the way corporate reformers appropriate the language of radical social change to give themselves a progressive facade.

Take the word, collective, for example, as in socialist collectivism, collective bargaining, collective farming, anarchist or Marxist collectives, which is usually associated with the left-wing, labor movements. In the late 60s and early 70s you also had the rise of feminist collectives and so on. In other words, grassroots organizations synonymous with social change.

Can top-down, corporate reformers now take ownership of the terminology? You bet they can.

Sign of the times... Crain's Chicago Business recently launched its CEO Collective. No, it has nothing to do with socialism, street-protest affinity groups, or going off the the country to start a commune.

Listen to the way they describe it to potential recruits, using lots of ed reform jargon.
An exclusive year-long program for Chicago CEOs and founders, Crain’s CEO Collective offers participants an opportunity to work alongside their new professional network and dive deep into their most pressing challenges – empowering them to transform their organization.
This facilitated peer-learning program will include modules on issue resolution, leadership development, strategic thinking and innovation. Plus, members will be introduced to guest speakers that will enrich, inspire and energize their journey. CEOs will also gain a renewed awareness of issues and opportunities in Chicago.
Wow, peer-coaching, professional development, innovation -- this sounds like it came directly out of the school reform movement of the 1990s.

What they don't offer in their ads, but I'm sure is included in the Collective's membership fee, are workshops of how to undermine unions and get rid of, or around collective bargaining.

Another new corporate collective that caught my eye is the so-called Emerson Collective, started by Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. After reading the Collective's mission statement, I'm ready to join up, if they'll have me as a collective member. But I doubt it.
We are an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential. Established by Laurene Powell Jobs, we center our work on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. We use a wide range of tools and strategies—partnering with entrepreneurs and experts, parents and policymakers, advocates and administrators—to spur change and promote equality.
Unlike her husband Steve, who didn't believe in philanthropy, Powell Jobs is president of the Collective, which doubles as an LLC of course. That means, instead of a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), like the Gates or Walton Foundations which bankroll privately-run charter schools, the Emerson Collective can make grants, for-profit investments and political donations — and does not have to publicly report its donations as a foundation does.

Get the picture. If you call your personal tax shelter a "collective" and give it social -justice window dressing, you can operate free from public accountability or oversight.

Yes, better to operate in the shadows, or as the collectivists might say, "with flexibility".

Duncan joins the Collective
Latest to join the Collective is none other than the king of corporate school reform, Arne Duncan. Well maybe join isn't the proper term. He's not called a collective member but rather, a "managing partner". Duncan will oversee the XQ Institute and the XQ Super School Project, a $50 million national grant competition  that proposes to "re-imagine" high school.

One can only imagine what he and his collective are re-imagining. A new race to the top, perhaps? More testing madness? Unregulated and re-segregated charters?

I couldn't find out Duncan's salary at the Collective or how much Jobs pays in taxes. No public accountability, remember?

Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, have done something similar. Except that they don't call their power philanthropy a collective. Rather, it's the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Yes, it's an initiative rather than a collective. And their LLC focuses on --wait for it-- "personalized learning and underserved communities".

Zuckerberg's version of Duncan is former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary and Gates Foundation refugee Jim Shelton.

Among the missing from these top-down reform collectives, initiatives, innovators, and school re-imaginers, are the teachers themselves. After all, what would they know about personalized learning in underserved communities?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From Davos to DeVos

As the world's super-wealthy and super-powerful gather this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the spotlight is once again on the widening chasm of wealth inequality. It's virtually impossible to talk meaningfully about education reform, privatization, charter schools, testing, deseg, etc... without taking the growing wealth gap into consideration.

Oxfam reports that the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, or half the world.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, says:
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.  Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.  
“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”
Public anger with inequality is already creating political shockwaves across the globe. Inequality has been cited as a significant factor in the election of neo-fascists and populists like Donald Trump in the US, President Duterte in the Philippines, and Brexit in the UK.
The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:    
  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)
To make the point about wealth inequality and public education, consider this. Except for the Spaniard Ortega and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, all are directly or indirectly involved in U.S. corporate-style school reform, charter schools, and in various projects and in policy setting. All have graced the pages of this blog. 

Ironically, one of the strongest voices on education at Davos, comes not from the mighty 8, but from singer Shakira, suggesting an antidote for violent conflict and divisive populism: Get more kids in pre-school.

The Colombian singer is using her distinctive voice to lobby the world's rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum for more spending on early childhood education.

Asked if she had a message for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, she urged solid education policies that instill "inclusiveness and tolerance" for future generations.

Recalling a childhood in Colombia marred by war, she said: "If we really want peace, we need to invest in education."

While the high and mighty gather in Davos, the Senate is holding hearings to consider the appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos.

If you're confused about DeVos and Davos, this, from brother Fred, might help...

Monday, December 26, 2016

New for-profit ed management company won't pull Ohio charters out of the muck.

Few states rely so heavily on for-profit management companies as does Ohio. Lately, corporate reformers at the Cambridge Education Group, have formed a new charter school network in to try and clean up the mess created by their former notorious company, for-profit White Hat charters. But Cambridge's new name is not enough to pull them from the muck and corruption of "free market" education.

The company was formed in 2012, founded by Marcus May, a former White Hat executive.

Beacon Journal staff writer, Doug Livingston writes:
The Akron company and the 20 Ohio charter schools it manages are seeking to disentangle themselves from the likes of White Hat Management, a primordial force in Ohio’s charter school movement.
 But Cambridge claims to be different. It has no interest in owning school assets or signing property leases that make it hard for school boards to fire the management companies they hire.
But, writes Livingston, "Cambridge, for all its promise, can’t shake a past rife with questionable business relationships."

Summit Academy, White Hat, Concept Schools of Illinois and Imagine Schools of Virginia and other for-profit charter networks, all like to buy the school buildings they manage, drawing revenue from rent and putting school boards at a disadvantage if they wish to shop around for a new operator. Cambridge school boards — starting with Towpath Trail High School on Market Street — are collecting property deeds, eliminating their use as bargaining chips.


Ohio’s charter schools ...
Drawing state dollars from local school districts, charter schools presented a cheaper, market-driven alternative to government-run schools.
■ Ohio law allowed for the first charter schools in 1998.
■ Nearly 40 percent of the 595 charter schools that ever opened in Ohio have closed. Financial difficulty is cited three times as often as academic failure. More than half the time, closure is voluntary, according to a state directory of shuttered charter schools.
■ Ohio’s charter schools rank among the lowest in the nation in advancing student learning.

May founded Rearden Capital and d’Anconia Development to provide financing and line up private investors to purchase school property, often with an option for the schools to buy the property later. “Rearden” and “d’Anconia” are the neoliberal protagonists in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s ode to an unfettered free-market capitalism. Such is the philosophy May and others bring to public education.

A grand jury in Florida indicted School Warehouse and Newpoint Education Partners, May’s version of Cambridge in Florida, on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white-collar crime.

And so it goes. It's White Hat without the hat.

THE FALLOUT... The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, one of Ohio’s leading charter-school lobbying and advocacy organizations is disbanding after a decade of shaping the state’s charter-school policy. Some say its demise stems from Ohio’s poor charter-school record, which is causing national funders to pull their support.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Did Moskowitz cut a deal with Trump?

Last month, charter schools' biggest hustler, Eva Moskowitz, who pulls down a half-million/year as the operator of N.Y. Success Academies, was in the running for Trump's Sec. of Ed post. She didn't get the job. Trump gave it to fellow plutocrat and religious zealot Betsy DeVos instead.

The Trump transition team may have been frightened off by the spate of negative press about her schools' discipline practices and internal workings and the ongoing federal investigation conducted by the Office of Civil Rights, as well as mounting criticism from local elected officials. It is unclear whether Moskowitz could have even been confirmed as a cabinet official of an agency that is investigating her schools.

But that didn't stop Moskowitz, a Clinton supporter, from swearing loyalty to Trump and his plan for market-driven public schools.

Moscowitz bought space here for $68M.
Then, no sooner had she plopped down $68M in school money for the purchase of ground-floor classroom space in a glitzy Midtown tower, when the auditors caught up with her.

Today she is under fire for financial mismanagement and allegedly ripping off the taxpayers and even her own Success Academy schools for millions of dollars, including thousands that were supposed to have been spent on services that were never delivered to students with special needs.

The Observer reports: 
An audit  by city Comptroller Scott Stringer discovered rampant inaccuracies in the financial reports of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school chain—including internal assessments that created the appearance of lower administrative costs, bills to the city for special education services the company could not prove it ever provided and duplicative payments that the chain’s management arm collected from its schools.
 The audit found that in fiscal year 2015, Success Academy schools paid the Success Academy Network an extra $624,342 for services that the Network should have provided in exchange for its $18.3 million management fee. Those services include staff training and professional development, printing, copying and student assessments.
All this has me wondering if this was the real purpose of the Moskowitz's flirtation with Trump. Was she running to him for cover, offering fealty and rendering unto Caesar in exchange for protection? Was she looking at a possible job in the Trump administration as an escape route from the arms of city prosecutors?

We'll soon find out if her gambit worked.

Cross-posted at Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk blog.