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

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?