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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

NCRP calls for investigation of the Bremer Foundation

One of the philanthropic players on the Minn. charter school and public health scenes is the Otto Bremer Foundation. Among its charter school recipients is the scandalized Higher Ground Academy.

But it turns out that the foundation's trustees, while donating to many worthwhile causes, may have been helping themselves along with the privately-run charters. The watchdog group NCRP is now asking the IRS to investigate Bremer and take action if needed. NCRP’s executive director Aaron Dorfman sent a letter to IRS director for exempt organizations Tamera Ripperda detailing the many red flags among the trustees’ activities.

Dorfman writes:
Trustee compensation has increased by 1000 percent over the past 10 years, during much of which time the country was struggling with a recession. In 2013 alone, the trustees received more than $1.2 million from the foundation, compared to the $24,000 median trustee compensation among the country’s largest foundations. The foundation owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank, and the trustees also receive payment for their roles with the financial institution. Further, in recent years, the foundation has significantly increased its legal fees.
Recently, NCRP also called for an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General. Her office has yet to confirm whether she’ll be launching an investigation.

The Star Tribune's Paul Olson writes:
Somebody once described a foundation as a pile of money surrounded by people who want some. The Otto Bremer Foundation, and its three trustees, may be a shocking case in point for that cynicism...Unfortunately, Bremer is not the first Minnesota foundation to come under this kind of scrutiny."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Griffin's divorce. Think of it as a stock split.

The Griffins

SORRY TO HEAR THE NEWS (No, really) that right-wing billionaire power couple, Ken and Ann Griffin are splitting up. Whatever happened to "'til death do us part"?

The Griffins have been the money-bags behind both Bruce Rauner's and Rahm Emanuel's political ascendency. They have also bankrolled much of Chicago's union-busting and corporate-style school reform policies.

For this to happen right in the middle of the Illinois gov's race must be unsettling, especially to Rauner's people. Griffin was in the headlines last month because of his record-breaking $2.5 million contribution to Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign.

But don't worry,  Rahm and Bruce. Think of it as a stock split. Remember, corporations are people too. Besides, there's a pre-nup. Just in case Ann goes the wrong way, politically speaking.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Charles Schwab -- A core member of the 'charter cabal'

Brokerage firm founder Charles Schwab rode the emerging wave of online investing to amass client assets of over $2 trillion, and a net worth of $6 billion. He's now become one of the biggest patrons of corporate-style school reform, investing millions in privately-run charters schools like KIPP, Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, and Michelle Rhee's operation, Stand for Children. Schwab also helps bankroll right-wing ed think tanks like the Fordham Institute.    

From Inside Philanthropy...
We're not sure why charters and finance billionaires go together like peas and carrots, but we'll save the theorizing for another article. What's notable about Schwab is that he's deeper into this area than many of the more glitzy hedge fund donors who get so much attention.
A $1 million gift to the Charter School Growth Fund in 2011 stands out, not only because of the size of the gift but also because of its destination. Founded in 2005, the Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF) is a bit like the mother ship of the charter school movement, working to grow and professionalize this alternative ed sector. A lot of the major players in the charter school funding world have given to CSGF, including Walton, Gates, Dell, Bradley, and Fisher. Schwab 's investment here is yet more evidence that it's a core member of the charter cabal. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's Gates' company Microsoft that needs a good "turnaround"

Bill Gates is fond of blaming the schools for failing to produce enough highly-skilled workers to grow the economy or enough properly-trained workers for his company. As if that is truly the purpose of PUBLIC education. Gates claims it's easier to find cures for malaria and other diseases than to “fix” American education.

Now that the economy is growing and recovering from the global financial collapse of the passed decade, shouldn't Gates be crediting the schools for the upswing? Instead, we get the news today that Gates' company Microsoft, despite its huge profits and its spending of billions on new acquisitions, is preparing to fire 18,000 workers in order for the company to "become more agile and move faster." 

About 12,500 professional and factory jobs will be cut. FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said the cuts were about double what Wall Street was expecting. But he said they were necessary to streamline operations and clean up a "bloated management structure".
"Under the Ballmer era, there were many layers of management and a plethora of expensive initiatives being funded that has thus hurt the strategic and financial position the company is in, especially in light of digesting the Nokia acquisition," says Ives
That's right, it's Gates' company -- not the schools -- that's in need of a turnaround. There's plenty of talent coming out of the public schools. Maybe Bill should give Microsoft a Gates grant to restructure itself. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Revolving door from Rahm's City Hall to hedge-funder's office keeps turning

Matt Hynes
reported last month about Rahm's machine bagman Matt Hynes jumping ship to go spend "more time with his family." Remember Hynes, the son of former longtime Cook County Assessor, ward boss (19th) and big-time lobbyist Tom Hynes and brother of former state Comptroller Dan Hynes, was the guy who first put the great pension heist idea in Rahm's ear and got SEIU leaders to buy into it.

Now we know who Hynes meant by his "family".

Crain's reports:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's departing chief lobbyist has a new gig and, metaphorically, it isn't far from City Hall. Matt Hynes, who last month announced his departure as the the mayor's director of legislative counsel and government affairs, will be joining Grosvenor Capital Management L.P., the firm run by Emanuel confident and kitchen-cabinet member Michael Sacks.
Sacks is one of the biggest money-bags patrons feeding Emanuel's campaign trough. He was part of the Emanuel team that negotiated City Council's parking meter deal with operator Chicago Parking Meters LLC. Former mayor Daley now works for that firm. Sacks reportedly talks with Rahm several times daily.

Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, one of Rahm's potential opponents in next year's race, voted “no” on the meter deal and says unpaid mayoral advisers are one thing. “It's another thing when you have them as active participants in a government function,” he says. “We want government-business partnerships, but not these types.”

Sacks is a big promoter of charter schools and serves as a mayoral adviser on the topic. He also sits on the board of After School Matters, Mayor and Maggie Daley's cash-cow after-school program which was used as back entrance to the old City Hall patronage system.

Hynes is not the first Chicago politico recruited by Sacks. Earlier moves to the firm include Kurt Summers, former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Mr. Emanuel's chief information officer, Brett Goldstein.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tri-Star charter hustlers banned in N.J., welcomed with open arms in Florida

Gallon, Kemp and Kelly in 2010 court hearing where they are banned from operating charters in N.J.

Former Plainfield superintendent and current charter school hustler Steve Gallon III's company, Tri-Star Leadership has been banned in the state of New Jersey. That in itself is no easy task to accomplish in the state where Gov. Christie has never met a corrupt charter operator he didn't adore. But not to worry for old Steve. Five months later, he and his company were welcomed with open arms in Florida where anyone with a pulse, no matter how corrupt or incompetent, can operate a chain of charter schools and receive millions in support from crony-corporatist Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott's regime.

In May 2010, Gallon was arrested and charged with hiring unqualified friends Angela Kemp and Lalelei Kelly and then lying about their residences so their children could attend schools outside their district. The charges brought against Gallon, Kemp and Kelly were dropped in January 2011 after the three agreed to serve probation and to never work in the New Jersey public school system again.

Just over a year after Gallon was hired to operate schools in South Florida, he rehired Kelly to work as a consultant and then hired Kemp to be the principal at Excel Leadership Academy in Palm Beach County.

Gallon then took up where he left off in N.J., making payroll decisions without prior authorization from the charter schools’ governing boards, drawing rebukes from the schools’ financial consultants. He hired a $40,000-a-year consultant who listed her residence as a Georgia home owned by Gallon. He launched a business venture with one of the volunteer board members responsible for overseeing Gallon’s work for the charter schools. The venture was later deemed a conflict of interest by Miami-Dade school district investigators. At least three consultants contracted by the governing boards warned their bosses of inappropriate actions under Gallon, records show. Yet Gallon stayed on as those who complained quit — or were fired.

Excel Leadership Academy in Palm Beach
Success Leadership Academy in Ft. Lauderdale and Excel Leadership Academy in West Palm Beach closed in the summer of 2013. Stellar Leadership Academy in Miami faced financial struggles but rebounded and continues to employ Gallon’s company. All three high schools for at-risk students were already reeling when their boards hired Gallon. The schools opened in 2005 under a private management company that selected the original board members and handled all school operations, from real estate and payroll to busing and curriculum. That company, White Hat Management, the most corrupt of a host of Ohio-based charter management companies, had operated a number of charter schools throughout Florida until they began pulling out of the state in 2011.

According to the Sun-Sentinel:
State statutes governing the conduct of public officials do not apply to the private operators that often gain power at charter schools, even though public money is at stake.
Both traditional public schools and charter schools receive public dollars based on their enrollment, and don’t charge tuition. Administrators at traditional public schools are accountable for every penny spent. But the private companies hired by many charter school governing boards don’t have to open their books.
And so it goes.