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

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?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Making the case against power philanthropy

This is the second time I've posted excerpts from this 2013 article which originally appeared in Dissent Magazine.

Joanne Barkan is on the case of the new breed of muscle philanthropists who hide their obscene wealth in tax-sheltered foundations and use it to exercise unaccountable displays of power over public education and all aspects of public life. She makes the case that the super-rich don’t need billions of dollars in tax relief annually to exert their will in the public sphere.

Writes Barkan:
One hundred years later, big philanthropy still aims to solve the world’s problems—with foundation trustees deciding what is a problem and how to fix it. They may act with good intentions, but they define “good.” The arrangement remains thoroughly plutocratic: it is the exercise of wealth-derived power in the public sphere with minimal democratic controls and civic obligations.
Power philanthropists exercise greater control than ever over public ed. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation have taken the lead, but, says Barkan, other mega-foundations have joined in to underwrite the self-proclaimed “education reform movement.” Some of them are the Laura and John Arnold, Anschutz, Annie E. Casey, Michael and Susan Dell, William and Flora Hewlett, and Joyce foundations.

The so-called reforms include: privately-operated charter schools; "Parent Trigger" laws; using students’ scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and award bonuses; abolishing teacher tenure; and ending seniority as a criterion for salary increases, layoffs, and transfers.

Barkan proposes a list of reforms that would rein in the excesses of the giant foundations reduce their leverage in civil society and public policymaking while increasing government revenue.

Read her entire article, Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy, in the latest issue of Dissent.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Camp Philos at the Vineyard. My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.

Walton/Broad took their whole crew to Martha's Vineyard over the weekend to bone-up on marketing tactics for charter/privatization brand. How nice for them. What about me? I like the Vineyard.

Topics included: Doubling Down on Success or Losing It All: What’s At Stake in 2016;
How We Win: Strategies and Tactics to Combat an Organized and Vocal Opposition; 
What’s Next in the Edu Political Funding World?; and How to Tell the Pro-Reform Story Successfully.

The Philos "reform" crowd, mostly Clinton Democrats I'm told, includes the likes of -- Rahm Emanuel, Howard Fuller, Peter Cunningham, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senator Mary Landrieu, Eva Moskowitz, Charles Barone (DFER), Ben Austin (Parent Revolution), and so on.

Last year, Edushyster tried to go, but they wouldn't let her in. She obviously didn't have the proper security clearance. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Byrd-Bennett, 'a foot soldier in the march towards privatization'

Ian Belknap is a writer and performer living in Chicago. He hits the nail on the head with this opinion piece in Crain's, "Framing education as a business attracts the wrong people".

While the leading candidates in both parties spend their valuable debate time extolling the virtues of capitalism (...what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.” -- Hillary Clinton), Belknap points out what should be obvious by now. The push towards privatization of public education has been a disaster.

What got him going was the indictment of Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Byrd-Bennett's woes are rooted in her greed, yes (and her tone deafness to irony—"tuition to pay and casinos to visit?"... But she has also acted as a foot soldier in the decades-long march toward privatization and misapplying the precepts of business to the complex (and in many cases generations-long) problems facing our schools.
Her downfall, writes Belknap,  "may be read as the logical extension, and, one hopes, the last gasp, of a badly flawed and shortsighted approach: namely the fallacy that business principles are well suited for every aspect of society".
It is past time we abandon the demonstrated failings of such an approach. It is past time we reconceive of jobs like Byrd-Bennett's as "CEO"—doing so focuses wrongly on the "outputs" of the system they're meant to preside over, rather than the contribution they may make to it during the time it is entrusted to them. In short, it is past time we as a society stop misapplying a business-style conception of risk and reward to education.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

J.B. Pritzker and Goldman Sachs doing the special ed hustle

J.B. Pritzker
Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker may call it "philanthropy" but it's a profitable brand that includes their benefiting financially from cuts in special ed and from every child who's dropped from or pushed out of a SpEd program.

It's all because of the latest corporate scheme in which private firms foot the initial bill for public services and then are repaid with interest if those services reduce the number of kids in special ed. They call it "social impact" investing.

In Utah for example, GS and J.B. have committed $7 million to area pay-for-success programs through the United Way, which will fund preschool services for five cohorts of children. Even at a 5% rate of return, they still receive 95% of any special-education savings to the state until the investments are repaid with interest. After that, the firms will receive 40% of ongoing cost savings until the participating students complete sixth grade.

If only companies like Goldman Sachs didn't operate virtually fax-free, there would likely be adequate public funding for special ed and all other education funding. Instead schools are forced to operate on the largess of private investment firms who not only operate at a profit, but also influence important public ed policy issues -- like which child should be in SpEd and which one needn't be?

According to Crain's,
United Way of Salt Lake is betting that the savings from keeping kids out of special-education, which is much more expensive than providing standard instruction, will provide the repayment to the investors.
About 600 students enrolled in public and private preschool programs in 2013. Of those students, 110 4-year-olds were expected to need special education during their kindergarten year. But only one of the students — who are now in the first grade — has required special education, which translates to about $281,000 in cost avoidance for Utah's public education system with 95% kicking back to the investors.

What these type of private funding schemes do is create pressures on school districts to remove students with special needs out of individually designed learning programs.

Pritzer says:
"Im not in the business of investing for 5 percent returns" but, "there are portions of people's portfolios invested in low-return opportunities, like treasuries. If you can prove this out, Goldman, Fidelity and other investors who put large amounts of capital into bonds, they could put them into social-impact bonds."
While social impact bonds pay out a relatively healthy interest rate when they succeed — between 5 and 7 percent a year in the Utah program — the investors lose all the money when they fail.

According to Huffington Post:
The success of the program is Salt Lake is intended to provide a more replicable template for funding and implementing preschool programs.
Chicago operates in early childhood Head Start programs in much the same way. Instead of relying on public funds to expand the programs and keep the benefits for itself, Rahm Emanuel has turned to lenders such as Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust and the Pritzker Family Foundation to provide the upfront money, with promises of substantial profits for the lenders down the road if the program goes as planned.

Great hustle, J.B.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

SUPES IS BACK -- New names on the letterhead. Looking for more no-bid contracts from CPS

Joseph "Joey" Wise
“The primary leaders [Solomon & Vranas] of the former SUPES Academy have begun new endeavors and will not be joining us in this work ahead.” -- Joseph Wise
The federal investigation in Chicago of SUPES has obviously been sandbagged. Federal investigators have refused to comment on the investigation. Now even with Barbara Byrd-Bennett fleeing the scene and a grand jury supposedly in session, SUPES is trying to make a comeback.

After all, UNO did it with the feds on their trail, simply by shifting a few culpable leaders into different positions, changing the names on company letterhead, and relying on political powerhouses like Mike Madigan, Eddie Burke, and Rahm Emanuel to provide cover. So reported new SUPES owner, Joseph Wise figures he can pull it off as well, cashing in on the next round of no-bid deals CPS regularly hands out to connected consulting firms. Wise, whose companies have received at least $5 million in recent business from CPS, claims to have acquired "the best parts of the SUPES Academy."

Wise, who formerly worked for scandalized SUPES leaders Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, also wants to get more business from CPS by opening alternative schools under contract with the city school system. He runs a company called Acceleration Academies which hopes to open open eight campuses in Chicago, four of them starting next fall in Belmont-Cragin, Washington Heights, West Englewood and Bronzeville. Acceleration Academies describes itself as being run by Wise and partner David Sundstrom with two investors, Bryan Daniels and Steve King, who “have a deep interest in providing quality educational communities for underserved populations in Chicago.”

Obviously, deep pockets as well.

Wait, things get better. Wise is also "looking at the possibility" of Acceleration Academies working with Distinctive Schools, a Chicago charter school management company that he started with Sundstrom in 2011. Distinctive oversees the operation of four CPS-approved Chicago International Charter Schools campuses.

Actually, Wise is chairman of the board of Distinctive. He was the chief education officer for the company as of June 2014, tax records the company filed show. So I don't think he will have any problem "working with" them.

According to the Sun-Times, Distinctive Schools already gets about $18 million a year in taxpayers’ money to run the four charter schools as part of CICS. The charter network was headed until recently by Beth Purvis, who left after eight years to take a $250,000-a-year job as Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education secretary.

SUPES will now be called the National Superintendent Academy which is “wholly owned” by Atlantic Research Partners, a Florida company founded in 2007 by Wise and David Sundstrom.

According to the Sun-Times:
Wise said he first encountered Solomon in the late 2000s while working for what was then known as Edison Schools, a national operator of private schools that hired PROACT Search to help with hiring. Wise said they spoke by phone and met when he moved to Chicago...
...Solomon mentioned Wise in an August 2009 email to Byrd-Bennett when she was running Detroit’s public school system, where he was then trying to get business.“Joey Wise suggested to try again to connect with you”... Asked about that, Wise said, “I don’t remember that at all.
Wise likes to talk to the press a lot about "transparency". He tells S-T reporter Lauren Fitzpatrick, "You have to be really careful to make sure you’re transparent enough about what you’re doing. And we worked really hard to have that transparency and not misuse that relationship.”

But when asked, he won't say how much his company paid in the deal with Solomon and Vranas. He said the deal included a "confidentiality clause".

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mayoral control of schools? Consider Kevin Johnson.

K.J. with pals Arne Duncan and Arnold Schwarzenegger at a 2009 rally in Sacramento. Photo via AP
The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government—and some people are starting to notice.
If any city is still contemplating turning their schools over to mayoral one-man rule, this portrait of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson should provide the cure.

Dave McKenna writes in Deadspin about K.J.'s attempt to set up "a fake government".

According to McKenna, the mayor is replacing civil servants with cronies funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with "the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson".

McKenna writes:
Johnson is husband to Michelle Rhee, the controversial school-privatization activist, and there is considerable evidence that their shared desire to turn public schools into engines of profit for private actors is what has driven much, if not most, of Johnson’s more recent wrongdoing. Despite, or perhaps because of, this, he’s enjoyed the profile and appointments of a national figure on the make: public appearances with President Barack Obama, portrayal as a latter-day Metternich by The New York Times, and the patronage of serious players like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.
 McKenna has been on the trail of K.J. and Rhee for a while. Here's his piece from a year ago.
Kevin Johnson's Grifter Wife Returns To The Scene Of A Scandal

Rhee left her Stand For Children organization a year ago to go to work for a fertilizer company.  No Shit!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wizzards owner Leonsis underwrites D.C. charters. Then gets a new practice arena from taxpayers.

"...we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we're talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice." -- Alan Iverson
D.C. billionaire venture capitalist/philanthropist Ted Leonsis helps bankroll all of the district's privately-run charter schools through his Venture Philanthropy Partners. That includes more than $5.5 million to KIPP DC. But there's a catch to his generosity. 

You see, Leonsis has an interesting philosophy. He believes that instead of paying taxes on his investment profits, taxpayers ought to pay him. This year the payment comes in the form of a new $55 million basketball practice arena for his Washington Wizzards. Taxpayers are picking up most of the cost. 

According to CSN:
The project will cost an estimated $55 million... The Wizards' lease with the city is for 19 years and involves a $23 million investment from the government... Events D.C. [the city's official convention and sports authority] is contributing about half of the total cost for construction.
The latest on D.C. charters... The attorney general has filed two lawsuits alleging that D.C. charter school leaders used for-profit companies to divert millions of taxpayer dollars into their own pockets. The D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees all city charter schools, has no legal right to examine the books and records of those private companies, and says it therefore has little ability to monitor how those dollars are spent. -- Washington Post

As if KIPP DC needed the $$$... They just received another $4.2 million gift this week, from Joel Smilow, the president and chief executive of Playtex Products. Obvious connection there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Whatever happened to the Zuckerberg's $100M 'gift' to Newark schools?

The Hechinger Report carries an interview today, with journalist Dale Russakoff, author of “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” The book tells the story of Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million "gift" to Newark Public Schools five years ago.

HR wants to know how the money was spent? A question I've been asking since 2011. Despite a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, we still don't even know exactly how that money was spent except that it was used to create a couple of new privately-run charter schools and that about a third of it was used to pay crony political and educational consultants and contractors through a slush fund set up by former mayor Corey Booker and Gov. Christie. We also know that it provided a nice tax break for Zuckerberg.

Most telling part of the interview is when HR asks Russakoff about former superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark plan. She responds:
There are tremendous numbers of parents and teachers in Newark who felt that the schools needed radical change, but there was no acknowledgement that those people should be playing a role in this One Newark process. I asked Cami Anderson about the lack of communication and she said the One Newark plan is, as she kept calling it, 16-dimensional chess, which was a way of saying it’s incredibly complicated. She said if you brought families in, of course every family was going to have some issue and if you fixed that issue you would create an issue for someone else. She felt it was important to make the decisions that she thought were the best for the families and the kids. In doing that, she missed a lot of input that was critical.
Anderson's response to Russakoff goes right to the heart of corporate-style, top-down school reform's failure (even by its own standards of success), it's elitism and lack of transparency. The good news is that the very parents and community activists that Anderson held in such disregard, have run her out of Newark. The bad news is that her replacement is Chris Cerf who helped engineer the whole Zuckerberg affair.

Now that Anderson's gone. Booker's gone, Zuckerberg's gone, Oprah's gone, and Christie's off running for president of the United States, we're all left asking: where did the money go?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Noble -- The Billionaire's Charter School Network

Former Exelon CEO John Rowe at his Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy. 
It was 2006 and Mr. Manderschied was president of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. He met with Mr. Rauner, then chairman of Chicago private-equity firm GTCR LLC, in a living room-like suite at the firm's Sears Tower office. But he was nervous because he had never asked anyone for such a large sum. After an hour's discussion, Mr. Rauner agreed to the $1 million donation that would make his name the first one emblazoned on a Noble school. -- Crain's
While parents and Bronzeville community activists had to go on an 18-day hunger strike to win an open enrollment high school at Dyett, all charter hustler Mike Milkie had to do was walk into billionaire Bruce Rauner's office with his well-connected pal Manderschied and ask him for a million bucks to open another in his chain of privately-run charter schools. Then it's over to CPS to win easy approval for another charter school to compete with underfunded neighborhood schools for area students.

Already the state's biggest charter network, Noble expects to teach 15% of Chicago public high school students by 2017.

How they call them public schools, I will never know.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools founded by Milkie, a former Chicago high school teacher, looks more like an ego-boosting tax haven for local billionaires than it does public, neighborhood charter schools. For a meager $1M "investment", billionaires like Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sec. of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Allan Muchin (founding partner of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP), former Exelon CEO John Rowe and former ComEd CEO and CPS school board president Frank Clark, had schools named after themselves.

According to Crain's: 
Mr. Rauner, a Republican from Winnetka, has backed a number of charter schools, including the UNO Charter School Network now dogged by questions of cronyism. But he has given the most to Noble, just over $3.5 million.
It was a nice boost for Rauner, who while locked in a tight race for governor,had hundreds of students moving around the city, wearing required school uniforms with polo shirts, jackets, sweats, and sports team jerseys bearing his name.

Now CEO of the Noble Network, Milkie says he understands how to talk to business executives.
“Their dollars are a great investment in terms of return,” he says, citing low administrative costs and the “tremendous impact on students' lives.” He provides dashboards of data to document progress on everything from student testing to detentions to teacher bonuses.
“Businesspeople like to measure things,” says retired Exelon Corp. Chairman and CEO John Rowe, who estimates he's given $4.5 million to Noble and for college scholarships to its graduates since 2007.
In its latest capital campaign, Noble has raised more than half the $50 million it's targeting for expansion. That includes $15 million last year from Glenview-based Illinois Tool Works Inc.'s foundation for the ITW David Speer Academy for a school built across the street from Prosser High School. ITW has already been contacting Prosser freshman and their families to recruit them away from Prosser.

But lately, Milke and his wealthy patrons have run into trouble when they tried to expand into more upscale north-side white communities. Parents rose up in opposition and local pols responded by putting the kibosh on Noble's expansion plans.

Big money talks, but doesn't always win.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The myth of Trump's business acumen. He's a fraud.

I'm surprised the rest of the media hasn't picked up on this story.

It seems that most everything Donald Trump touches, including his business dealings, turns to shit. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and worth $200M in 1982, Trump would be four to five times richer today is he had just let his money sit in an account instead of getting personally involved.

This, even taking into account that he has been exaggerating his net worth by 100% since he began his presidential campaign. His self-described net worth jumped from that $200M in 1982 to the $8.7 billion he estimated his net worth to be today. Even if you use the lower Forbes 400 estimate of $4.1 billion, it's still pretty impressive. Right?

Wrong...Eric Carter writes in Forbes:
If Trump had merely invested that $200 million in the S&P 500 (500 of the largest companies in the US), he would have averaged an 11.86% annual return and ended up with $20 billion. That’s without starting or managing any companies or employing his famed “Art of the Deal.” He wouldn’t even have had to pick the stocks. What this means is that anyone can beat Trump when it comes to making money.
A blight on the Chicago River.
His gigantic business failures and multiple bankruptcies have not only lessened his potential personal wealth but have hurt the overall economy and cost thousands of workers their jobs and livelihood. For example, he's among the high rollers who promised that his casinos would revitalize Atlantic City. Instead, Trump Atlantic City entities have filed four times for corporate bankruptcy, costing hundreds of layoffs and huge losses for his investors. Today, Atlantic City stands as a monument to corporate greed, concentrated poverty and human misery.

In a separate piece, Forbes contributor Tim Worstall adds that Trump doesn't understand the economics of currency markets.
Then again, I’m not all that sure that Donald Trump understands the economics of anything much other than real estate development. Which isn’t, when you come to think of it, all that much of a recommendation for someone who would become the chief executive of the nation.
To top it off, Trump brags about how little taxes he pays. Too bad for schools, roads, libraries, and social services. If you haven't read, "The America We Deserve" (I'm not recommending it), here's what Trump thinks of schools
"Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach."
You can see why he pays as little taxes as possible.

Joshua Engel posts on Quora:
Now he wants an opportunity to do for the country what he's done to many of his various properties and business partners.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Amplify in the dumper. Another Joel Klein/Chris Cerf loser.

Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein
"A lot of poor quality work passed off as final products, most everything is worked out in production leading to many hot fixes and more long hours. Little respect for teachers or end-users in many within the company.... No, I would not recommend this company to a friend."
-- A 2013 Review from a former Wireless Generation employee
What happened to Amplify? It's a bust. School districts who bought in are screwed. Thanks Joel Klein and Chris Cerf.

Rupert Murcoch's News Corp spent nearly $1 billion on its digital education business, In 2010, they paid $360 million for a 90% stake in Wireless Generation, a company based in Brooklyn that specializes in education software, data systems and assessment tools which was supposed to help teachers analyze student performance and customize lessons.

Once the Murdoch criminal scandal in Europe died down, former N.Y. schools Chancellor Joel Klein led the company’s aggressive push into the U.S. education market and New Jersey schools chief Chris Cerf left his job to become chief executive of Murdoch's Amplify Insight ed tech firm.

Murdoch, Klein and Cerf became the darlings of U.S. corporate school reformers and international criminal Murdoch, whose company is an ALEC supporter, even keynoted Jeb Bush's 2011 Education Summit.

Hundreds of cash-strapped public school districts (including Chicago) were encouraged to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and handed Murdoch's people control of all student records and family information. Amplify, became a top industry seller.

But News Corp. announced today that it would cease actively marketing Amplify’s Access products to new customers. It claims it will continue to provide service and support to its existing customers. But the Company is reviewing strategic alternatives with respect to Amplify’s remaining digital education businesses.

According to The Street:
Known as Amplify, the digital-education unit within Murdoch's News Corp (NWSA - Get Report)  has been hampered by the slow adoption of its mobile device known as the Tablet computer. 
The tablet's future was said to be riding on Amplify's ability to sell the device into districts for the 2015-2016 school year. That effort appears to have fallen short of expectations made five years ago after News Corp, with great fanfare, hired former New York City education commissioner Joel Klein and then paid $360 million for a 90% stake in Amplify's predecessor, Wireless Generation. 
The $1 billion Amplify tablet.
In May, Amplify Chief of Staff Justin Hamilton hinted that such plans might be in the offing when he said that "we will always be responsive to the marketplace."

You might remember Hamilton as Arne Duncan's former press secretary in charge of selling Duncan's Race To The Top. It seems he didn't do any better hustling Amplify.

Says Klein to school districts that bought in -- "Tough luck, suckers."

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Short-selling hedge-fund billionaire throws millions more at Moskowitz charters

Charter hustler Moskowitz & her billionaire hedge-funder Paulson
Clout-heavy Eva Moskowitz runs N.Y.'s Success Academy which is already one of the richest charter school networks in the city. Tax documents show the non-profit took in a whopping $34.6 million for the financial year ending June 2013.

Now John Paulson, the infamous scam-artist, hedge-fund billionaire from Queens, is throwing $8.5 million more her way. Moskowitz pays herself more than an half-million a year to run her network of charters.

Paulson's connection with privatization of public schools began with the notorious Boston Consulting Group in 1980. But he made his real fortune during the global financial collapse (which he helped cause, according to these economists), by betting against subprime mortgages using derivatives. His shady deals, including involvement in the Abacus scandal resulted in Goldman Sachs paying a $550 million penalty, the largest ever paid by a Wall Street firm.

This from Deep Capture:
It is not clear which banks ultimately participated in Paulson’s scam, but Fiderer quotes Bear Stearns trader Scott Eichel as saying that his bank refused. “It didn’t pass the ethics standards;” Eichel said, “it was a reputation issue and it didn’t pass our moral compass. We didn’t think we could sell deals that someone was shorting on the other side.” Bear Stearns’ moral compass was usually pointed towards the darker regions, but perhaps this is why Paulson subsequently became one of the more eager short sellers of Bear Stearns’ stock.
Paulson and Moskowitz make a great pair. Don't they?

Friday, July 31, 2015

McGraw-Hill folds it cards. Can't compete in current high-stakes testing market.

McGraw-Hill/CBT is pulling out of the $1.1 billion high-stakes testing market. The reason? Too much volatility. It seems that the wave of political protests and the parent opt-out movement have forced McGraw to move to greener more peaceful pastures. And, as the common-core tests have rolled out, the overall market for state assessments has largely flatlined

According to EdWeek:
The market has also proved volatile, fraught with legal protests, mounting opposition from parents and politicians to testing, and major disruptions in online assessments for which vendors, including McGraw-Hill Education/CTB, have been blamed.
“Let’s be clear—people in the assessment industry are not living in poverty,” said Scott Marion, the associate director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, which consults with states and districts on testing. Yet the profit margins, he said, are “thinner than a lot of people want to believe.”
McGraw-Hill apologized in 2013 for interruptions after its digital testing service disrupted exams in Indiana and Oklahoma. About 3,000 students in Oklahoma lost their connections to the testing provider’s servers. And nearly 80,000 out of a half million Indiana students who took the company’s tests in the spring had their testing postponed and about 30,000 were kicked off of the testing platform on a single day of testing. One Indiana charter school has said the errors are to blame for its F grade from the state.

Twenty years ago, McGraw-Hill Education, Harcourt, and Riverside Publishing controlled large portions of the summative-testing market. Today, all of those companies have either largely abandoned that market or been absorbed by other testing entities.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Svigos buys another closed Chicago school

Svigos Assets bought Peabody. Put a charter in it. 
After they sat as empty blights on the community for nearly three years, the sell-off of closed CPS neighborhood schools has begun in earnest. Board members on Wednesday approved the sale of three vacant schools that were shuttered in 2013, providing "a small windfall of cash for its struggling budget".

Liza Balistreri is in charge of real estate at Chicago Public Schools and is running the sales of Near North Elementary in Noble Square, Overton Elementary in Bronzeville, and Von Humboldt Elementary in Humboldt Park.

Among the developers looking to make a profit on CPS real estate is Svigos Asset Management Corp. based in suburban Buffalo Grove. Svigos specializes in developing and managing commercial and residential properties, and owns apartment buildings in Lakeview, Logan Square and Albany Park.

Svigos is buying Near North for $5.1 million and plans to turn the school into "residential and commercial development". His company previously purchased the old Peabody Elementary for $3.5 million in 2014 only to turn around and sell space back to Rowe Charter School. Previously, district officials had said no closed school would be used as a charter school. The former Peabody was also developed as market-rate housing.

Paul Svigos has been a regular campaign contributor to Rahm Emanuel. The well-connected Svigos family has also made big contributions to the Daley's and other Democratic Party candidates.

Svigos was a former top Merrill Lynch stockbroker who the firm fired in October 1992. He hasn't been allowed to practice brokering since. But he recently won a huge settlement in his court battle with Lynch over the firing.

Svigos also runs the Fresh Farms grocery chain.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Wall St. public school strategy: Loot, pillage, burn...

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va). - Reuters
The Senate has passed an amendment to new proposed federal legislation, which would steer hundreds of millions of dollars intended for impoverished school districts and classrooms, into the pockets of Wall Street consultants. The legislation, authored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) was tucked into the Senate version of a massive K-12 education funding bill currently up for congressional reauthorization.

Among the chief proponents of the congressional bill was the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington, D.C., think tank that is closely associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Bank of America, which made fees off of school district swap deals made in Chicago and Denver, has donated at least $50,000 to the Center for American Progress. Other major donors to the Center for American Progress include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given at least $500,000, and the Walton Family Foundation (of the Walmart fortune), which has also given at least $500,000 to the think tank. Both the Walton and Gates foundations have partnered with the Boston Consulting Group.

David Sirota at IBT is hot on the trail. He writes;
As budget-strapped Chicago follows a mass school closure with a new plan to layoff more than 1,400 teachers, one set of transactions sticks out: the city’s moves to refinance $1 billion in debt through complex financial instruments called swaps. The deals were spearheaded over the last few years by financial advisory firms brought in by the city to help find money saving efficiencies. Instead of saving money, though, the Windy City took a big hit: The school system has lost more than $100 million on the transactions and has paid millions in fees to its financial consultants.
 Chicago is not alone. School districts across the country have been increasingly relying on high-priced consultants and Wall Street firms for financial and management advice. While proponents say many of the ensuing consultant-driven initiatives have resulted in cost savings, critics note that other initiatives have resulted in investment losses, layoffs and school closures. What is clear is that school districts’ reliance on outside advisers has created business opportunities for the financial industry. And now, thanks to an amendment to federal education legislation moving through Congress, that lucrative market for financial and consulting could become even more flush with cash -- specifically, with federal money meant for impoverished school districts.
The amounts that consulting firms can earn for work on public school policy can be eye-popping. In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group was reportedly paid $230,000 per week for its work pushing for privatized education services and closures of up to 88 schools in the city. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

No wall left between corporate world and venture philanthropy

“There’s a reason why corporate America exists, and there’s a reason why philanthropic organizations exist,” said David Cornfield, a professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford University. “When that distinction becomes invisible, it becomes very difficult to know where philanthropy ends and venture capital begins.” -- Washington Post

Cornfield was responding to the rise of venture philanthropy in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals where non-profits like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation have earned billions through their investments in drug companies. While such investments have sometimes led to research breakthroughs, the trade-offs raise serious question about the power and politics of big philanthropic organizations.

Robert Beall, now in his fourth decade at the CF Foundation and one of the top-earning chief executives in the nonprofit world (Beal makes more than $1 million/year), says he is aware of the concerns and criticism prompted by his $3.3 billion Kalydeco deal last fall. Among them: that such a financial bonanza might discourage future contributions from supporters; that the foundation should be sharing its billions more directly with patients; that the group should have pushed harder to lower the price of Kalydeco and subsequent drugs.

There's no bigger player in the field of venture philanthropy that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has used its public investments to unduly influence public education policies. But it's the foundation's' profitable private investments in giant global corporations, many of which have done great harm in the world, that have drawn the greatest scrutiny.

HERE'S THE LATEST... The Gates Foundation is under investigation in a 2014 India Supreme Court case for funding Merck’s HPV vaccine trials of Gardasil, despite knowing the serious adverse reactions, injuries and deaths caused by treatment. According to a report by published by Narayana Kumar in The Economic Times of India, several tests had been conducted in 2009 on 16,000 school girls between the ages of 9 and 15 in Andhra Radish, India. Through the vaccine trials, 120 girls became seriously ill and seven died. Those who fell ill suffered from adverse reactions to the vaccination and experienced symptoms including seizures, severe stomachaches, headaches and mood swings. Consent forms to oversee the HPV vaccination were illegally signed by wardens from the hostels where the young girls resided or by illiterate parents via their thumbprint. Many young girls and their parents did not understand the tests or the risks entailed until they were significantly involved in the trial.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

At the D.O.E., Shelton led the Investing in Innovation Fund and a number of other grant programs. Before that, he was education program director at the Gates Foundation where he oversaw a portfolio worth between $2 billion and $3 billion. He also previously worked for the NewSchools Venture Fund and co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools. Before entering the education world, he worked at McKinsey & Company advising corporate CEOs.

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

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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

How Wall St. billionaires built charter movement in Conn. Bought a governor.

Gov. Malloy speaks at charter rally paid for by hedge-funders
The recent pro-charter school rally in Hartford was organized by ConnCAN and Families for Excellent Schools — two of the top lobbying spenders this year. Tax filings and donor reports reveal that both groups receive funding from people who spent on Connecticut Democratic campaigns in the past election cycle. Also, Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter school political action committee primarily funded by hedge fund managers contributed heavily to the campaigns. 

Gov. Malloy’s insistence on increasing funding for charter schools has more than a dozen Democratic legislators questioning whether they can support the next state budget if it means their neighborhood public schools are flat-funded or cut.

Malloy's campaign is already under state investigation for misuse of campaign funds. The State Elections Enforcement Commission has issued subpoenas to the Democratic State Central Committee as it investigates the committee using money from a federal fund to pay for a mailer benefiting Gov. Dannel Malloy’s re-election race.

The Hartford Courant's Jenny Wilson reports:
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.
The campaign contributions last cycle came from board members at and top donors to pro-charter school groups such as the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Achievement First, Families for Excellent Schools and others that have spent nearly $800,000 lobbying the legislature this year.

Malloy pushes charter expansion in CN legislature.
They include hedge-funders and Wall Street-ers like:

•Jonathan Sackler, an investment manager from Greenwich, the founding chairman of ConnCAN, and an Achievement First Inc. board member. Sackler, his wife, and his mother and father gave a combined $91,000 to state Democrats last cycle in contributions to various party and political action committees.

•Greenwich hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel, the founder of Lone Pine Capital, and his wife gave a combined $40,000 to the state Democrats' federal account in the past election cycle. Mandel, a Teach for America board member, is a top donor to local and national charter school advocacy groups through his Lone Pine Foundation. The Lone Pine Foundation funds three public policy fellowships in Malloy's office; it also has awarded grants to Families for Excellent Schools.

•Alexandra Cohen gave $20,000 to state Democrats in the past cycle. Cohen is the wife of embattled hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, whose SAC Capital paid $1.2 billion in a security fraud case last year. The couple's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation is a top donor to ConnCAN.

•Arthur Reimers, a former Goldman Sachs partner who is on the ConnCAN board of directors, gave $20,000 to the state Democrats' federal account.

•Another ConnCAN board member, Andrew Boas, gave Democrats $10,000 last year to the state Democratic account.

•Petra Real Estate CEO Andrew Stone, a board member at the Success Academy, a New York-based charter school management company, gave $10,000. The Success Academy has worked closely with Families for Excellent Schools; it closed all of its schools in New York earlier this year to bus students and parents to a rally.

•ConnCAN donor Mariana McCall, a trustee in the McCall-Kulak Foundation, gave Democrats $10,000.

Connecticut is not the only target of these lobbying efforts: Some of the same donors contributed to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign prior to a record-expensive charter school lobbying push they helped fund in that state.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Charter billionaires buy L.A. school board election

Charter billionaires Walton, Hastings, Bloomberg & Broad buy school board election in L.A. 
"We've sunk to a level where there is no viable discourse and no moral conscience when it comes to public education and control of the school board." -- LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer
It's happened again. A PAC of billionaire charter patrons spent millions and virtually bought a school board election. This time in L.A. According to the L.A. Times,
Contributors to PACs that took part in the campaigns on behalf of charter supporters included Netflix founder Reed Hastings, $1.5million (to the charter group only); former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, $550,000; Walmart heir Jim Walton, $375,000; and philanthropist Eli Broad, $205,000.
The victory of charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez over progressive Bennett Kayser, gave charter privateers the seat they needed to open up the district to what they hope will be unfettered charter expansion. Rodriquez also had the backing of anti-union groups like Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst. His endorsement list includes the operators of charters that L.A. Unified tried to close because of low test scores and other problems. The charters appealed to other agencies and were able to remain open. No district in the nation has more charters, or more students enrolled in them, than L.A.

But despite spending millions on L.A. board campaign, they fell short of a clean sweep. In the west San Fernando Valley, incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who had been a close ally of disgraced former Supt. John Deasy and had the support of charter advocates and other well-funded groups, lost to challenger Scott Schmerelson, an ally of the teachers union.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In L.A., Deasy gone but leaves in his wake, feds, grand juries, and litigation

This is getting to sound repetitive. Post-Deasy L.A. is sounding a lot like post-Byrd-Bennett Chicago. 

Former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy is gone. They've provided a soft landing for him at the Broad Leadership Academy. That's where school superintendents like Barbara Byrd-Bennett learned how to dole out no-bid contracts to companies like SUPES and Pearson. It's also where public education and democracy go to die. 

But look at Deasy left behind when he got out of Dodge.

Governing reports:
Today, LAUSD is exploring possible litigation against Apple and Pearson, the world’s largest education publishing company, to recoup millions of dollars; a criminal grand jury is investigating possible ethics violations by district officials; the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched their own inquiries into possible wrong-doing; and Deasy resigned... 
...The SEC in April also launched an inquiry into whether L.A. school officials complied with legal guidelines in the use of bond funds to finance the iPad deal. Using construction bonds to purchase Internet infrastructure is common, but the LAUSD also used money from the bonds to purchase the iPads, which break down after a few years. Some critics of the plan have said LAUSD should have set aside a sum from its operating budget to purchase the tablets...
...Meanwhile, LAUSD took action of its own in April, announcing it would seek to recoup millions of dollars from Apple because it was “dissatisfied with their product.” The district’s demands for a refund stem from materials that didn't adapt well for students who weren't proficient in English and a lack of software tools to analyze how well the curriculum functions.
How many more urban districts will be stuck with the tab of corporate reform after the Broad superintendents flee the scene?