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

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