Big $$ Expected to Flow to 2015 Louisiana BESE Campaign

Reflecting on the 2011 BESE campaign in which I ran for the first time against my current opponent Atty. James Garvey, I found this report and thought it worth sharing with Louisiana voters.

Taxpayers should ask themselves which of the candidates this year will be most likely to continue squandering million$ to Teach For America run by BESE member Kira Irange-Jones for non certified instructors; New Schools For New Orleans whose former director now serves on the New Orleans School Board; RSD school contractors and engineers like BESE member James Guillot's company; charter schools like the recently closed Jefferson Community School whose founding member and chairman, BESE member James Garvey, contracted with Jefferson a Parish Schools to provide $85,000 per student for the 10 students enrolled at the time; BESE member Holly Boffy who has steadfastly promoted Common Core while employed as a full time "consultant" to the Council of Chief State School Officers with Supt. John White as governing board member making him her boss instead  of vice versa.  Then there is BESE president Chas Roemer whose sister, Caroline Roemer Shirley is Exec Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Watch candidates' financial disclosures and campaign reports leading up to the October 24 election.

Why Do Some of America's Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana's Education System?

Matthew Cunningham-Cook | October 17, 2012

Last fall, a coterie of extremely wealthy billionaires, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) into some of the most expensive [1] in the state’s history. Seven pro-education “reform” candidates for the BESE outraised eight candidates endorsed by the teacher’s unions by $2,386,768 to $199,878, a ratio of nearly twelve to one. In just one of these races, the executive director of Teach for America Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta, Kira Orange Jones, outspent attorney Louella Givens, who was endorsed by the state’s main teacher’s unions, by more than thirty-four to one: $472,382 to $13,815.

To support Orange Jones’s campaign against Givens, Eli Broad, billionaire head of the education reform organization the Broad Foundation and a major trainer and placer of school superintendents, chipped in $5,000. Reed Hastings of Netflix kicked in the same. Houston energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura gave a total of $10,000, as did Walmart heiress Carrie Walton Penner and her husband Greg. New York City’s second-wealthiest man, Michael Bloomberg, contributed $10,000 as well.

Kira Orange Jones wasn’t the only candidate for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who received previously unheard of levels of out-of-state cash. K12 Inc., an online education company, gave at least $12,000 to pro-reform BESE candidates and PACs. Siblings Alice and Jim Walton of the Walmart fortune gave more than $150,000 to candidates and PACs, and Michael Bloomberg gave a total of $330,000. In the end, only one candidate opposed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and education reformers actually won: Lottie Beebe, a public school personnel director who spent less than half of what her opponent spent. Compare this to the last BESE elections, in 2007. The total spent by all candidates in contested BESE races that year was just $258,596—roughly one-tenth of the 2011 total.

Why would out-of-state billionaires care about Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education? The state board must approve the governor’s nominee for the powerful state superintendent of education by a two-thirds majority, and the 2007–11 board would have been unlikely to approve Jindal’s nominee, John White. White had been in Louisiana for less than a year at the time, after coming from New York City to head Louisiana’s Recovery School District, which the BESE directly supervises. A Teach for America alum, White had previously spent five years working as a deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education under Michael Bloomberg. Louisiana’s education superintendent administers the state’s educational system, but of particular interest to wealthy donors, the superintendent recommends which schools should be eligible for accreditation and state support to the BESE, which ultimately approves. In the past decade or so, that has meant that the state superintendent and BESE discern which charter or voucher schools are eligible to provide instruction in the state of Louisiana.

* * *
Besides the efficacy of drone warfare, one of the most common areas of bipartisan agreement in Washington—and in state capitals across the nation—is that our public school system is broken, and the way to fix it is by ridding schools of costly hold-downs such as teacher tenure, seniority pay, training for professional development and traditional brick-and-mortar school buildings. These “reformers” push charter schools, punishment for failing schools and teachers and “school choice” in the form of vouchers for private, parochial and charter schools.
Nowhere has the school reform debate raged more passionately in recent months than in Louisiana, where earlier this year Jindal and his allies rammed two bills through the Louisiana legislature that drastically reduce local control of schools and teacher tenure. The bills, which went into effect in July and August, also dramatically increase the number of charter schools—both brick-and-mortar and virtual charters (despite the fact that the FBI is currently investigating an epidemic of online charter school fraud in Pennsylvania)—and potentially 380,000 new vouchers for low- and middle-income children in poor-performing schools around the state, which would create by far the nation’s largest voucher program. The vouchers can be used at 120 schools in the state, some of them parochial, some of them secular, some of them for-profit, some of them nonprofit—almost all of them private.

While much of the reporting on these bills has focused on the fact that they will significantly lower the quality of education in Louisiana—through the voucher program, the state has begun funding schools that refuse to teach evolution, teach that the Loch Ness Monster is an example of scientific proof that humans and dinosaurs once coexisted and claim that the Ku Klux Klan had some positive impact on this nation’s history—little attention has been paid to the influx of out-of-state money to advance the education reform movement in Louisiana. And although the media have presented the case of Louisiana as anomalous—Wonkette’s Kris Benson asked [2] “Is Louisiana not part of the U.S. anymore, or something?”—if one takes a longer view, it quickly becomes apparent that Louisiana is very much still part of the United States, and what has happened there is not anomalous but in fact is a test case for the privatization of education nationwide.
* * *
John White occupies a special place in the heart of education reformers around the country. After serving as a deputy chancellor of New York City schools for five years under Michael Bloomberg, where he autocratically created Quest to Learn, a middle school with a video game-based curriculum, and was one of the leaders of the DoE’s campaign to close schools the department classified as “failing,” White became superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in 2011. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the district rapidly expanded to include almost all New Orleans schools, in addition to other schools rated as “failing” throughout the state. Almost immediately after White’s appointment, his name was volleyed around for the position of state superintendent of education. And after five years of working with him in New York, Michael Bloomberg was going to do everything he could to make sure that his former aide would get the top job, donating more than $300,000 to pro-reform PACs and BESE candidates who would go on to approve White for the position. (The mayor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

The BESE must approve the state superintendent, but it is also the state’s regulatory body for K-12 education. The BESE is charged with crafting policy and overseeing the implementation of education laws in the state, meaning they approve contracts with private schools that will receive voucher funding and designate which nonprofit organizations can be “charter authorizers,” in addition to generally writing regulatory policy as it relates to the massive overhaul of education in Louisiana. A reform-friendly BESE would not only approve a pro-reform state superintendent, it would happily implement privatization plans.

The new reform-minded board was sworn in on January 9, and two days later the BESE called a special meeting to confirm John White as state superintendent. It wasn’t long before the state’s political class, led by Governor Jindal, began discussing educational privatization on a scale incomparable to anywhere else in the nation, save for what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As Naomi Klein detailed in The Shock Doctrine, post-Katrina New Orleans has been Ground Zero for efforts to privatize schools and weaken teacher unions—hallmarks of education reform. After the hurricane, the vast majority of New Orleans public schools were taken over by the states’ Recovery School District—the district that was subsequently headed by John White. Nearly all of the city’s 7,500 public school employees were fired, although a few were later rehired. The post-Katrina shock also saw the advent of a limited voucher program and a massive expansion of charter schools, many of them for-profit. Education Secretary Arne Duncan actually said [3] that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” and Michael Bloomberg repeated this position almost verbatim in a profile [4] in Fast Company in 2011. And yet, the Recovery School District received a “D” on the state’s evaluation system in 2011, making it the second-lowest-performing district in the state.

But as Bobby Jindal began his second term as governor in January 2012, he was convinced that the path blazed in New Orleans needed to be applied statewide. With a sympathetic state board and superintendent in place, Jindal outlined his reform plan in a speech [5] on January 17. The governor proposed limiting school boards’ right to give teachers tenure and expanding school administrators’ power of to hire and fire, in addition to a significant expansion of charter schools and the creation of a statewide voucher program.
Educators and activists were caught off-guard. “We didn’t have an inkling of what the governor’s education proposals were going to be until his speech on January 17,” said Steve Monaghan, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. “Education wasn’t even part of the debate during the 2011 elections.”

Nevertheless, Jindal’s reform plan hit the ground running. State Representative Steve Carter introduced two bills modeled after the proposals in Jindal’s January speech on March 12, the first day of the legislative session. The two bills, now known as Act 1 — Talent [6], and Act 2 — Choice [7], are multifaceted. Act 1 deals primarily with limiting school boards’ ability to give tenure to teachers, as well as increasing the usage of teacher evaluations in making hiring decisions and giving superintendents considerably more latitude to hire and fire without the approval of their school board. (It is for this reason, among many others, that the Louisiana School Boards Association vehemently opposed both bills.) Act 2 focuses on the expansion of charter schools and vouchers. Under this new regime, nonprofit organizations can be given the authority to become charter authorizers, bypassing elected and public bodies. And any child below a certain income level attending a school rated C, D or F can receive a voucher to go to a private or parochial school. Act 2 also allows Louisiana businesses to receive funding from the state to provide apprenticeships, and allows charter and private schools to recruit uncertified teachers.

The legislative action on the bill was short but hard-fought. An estimated two thousand teachers rallied against the bill on March 14 [8], but were not let into the committee room, which Karran Harper Royal, a leading activist who is a mother of a child with disabilities, told me was unprecedented in her years of advocating before the legislature. Michael Deshotels, a retired Louisiana educator, wrote on his blog [8] that he witnessed only one teacher testify in favor of the bills.

On the other side, advocacy groups popped up to lobby in favor of the bills. Stand for Children Louisiana, which advocated primarily for the bill limiting teacher tenure, was founded in January 2012, according to Westley Bayas III, the organization’s New Orleans Director. (Nationally, Stand for Children has been a leader in the education reform movement, but has laid low after a deeply embarrassing video of its founder, Jonah Edelman, boasting of his union-busting playbook surfaced in 2011.) The Louisiana Federation for Children, a project of the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, two national pro-voucher organizations, also advocated for the bills. Although the organization did not return a request for comment, it also seems to have been started just as the statewide reform debate began—the first blog post on the organization’s site was in April 2011, and its official headquarters on campaign finance forms is oddly listed as Virginia. The bills also gained crucial PR support from John White, who wrote an e-mail to educators dismissing concerns about the bills as “myths.”

Less than a month after being introduced, the bills passed the House and Senate with barely any changes. Act 1 passed the House by a vote of 64 to 40, and the Senate by a vote of 23 to 16. Act 2 passed 61 to 42 in the House and 24 to 15 in the Senate. By April 18, just over a month after the bills were introduced, Jindal had signed them into law [9].

John Maginnis, the editor of, told me that they passed so quickly that many legislators are finding out just now what provisions are actually in the bills. Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said that the way the bills had passed was nothing like he had experienced before in his more than twenty years of educational advocacy. Comparing this year’s legislative climate around education as opposed to past years, Monaghan said, “It was a difference between night and day legislatively. We had two major pieces of legislation, introduced in the first three days of the session, moved through the entire process in just about thirty days.” He continued, “We’re talking about massive bills with far-reaching implications, these were multi-faceted bills that never had real debate. What the big difference was that there was money coming from all over the country. It’s literally follow-the-money.”

The fallout was almost immediate. There was widespread antipathy in the legislature to Jindal and the BESE’s proposal of taking funding for the voucher and charter program directly from public schools, a measure that passed the House by only 2 votes, 51 to 49. (Part of this antipathy likely stemmed from certain lawmakers’ realization that vouchers could be used at private Islamic schools.) Teachers have filed multiple lawsuits challenging the legality of the bills. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators argue that the two laws actually contain multiple laws within them, making them unconstitutional in Louisiana. Another lawsuit weaving its way through the system claims that the funding mechanism should have had to pass by an absolute majority—fifty-three votes—instead of the fifty-one that it received. Significantly, one of the BESE members elected under the “reform” agenda, Carolyn Hill, has found the new policies so odious that she has now come out against the bills.

But the passage appropriation mechanism made it clear what the entire education reform project in Louisiana was about: the state spends $8.7 billion dollars annually on education, and some exceedingly powerful private business interests want a piece of it.

* * *
The powerful interests who donated to the BESE races, including Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, John and Laura Arnold, Carrie and Gregory Penner and Alice and Jim Walton, are all major supporters and funders of these “school choice” reforms nationally, and stand to gain even more influence and power now that Louisiana has bought into and legislated their education reform plans.
Less than 2 percent of eligible students are participating in the voucher program this year, avoiding a massive funding crisis for Louisiana public schools for now. However, nearly $30 million in public funding has been distributed through the voucher program. Lincoln Parish’s school district has already had to lay off thirty teachers, at least partly because of [10] the voucher program, and the ability of many of these schools approved for vouchers to actually provide an adequate education is in serious question. For example, the Light City Christian Academy, which received [11] $364,400 in public funds through the voucher program for 2012-2013 school year, is run by a self-proclaimed prophet. The New Living Word School, which received [11] over $1 million in state funding for this school year, uses DVDs in place of teachers for the bulk of its educational content.

Lance Hill, executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University, says that despite the media focus on the voucher program, the bigger story is that of charter schools. “The pro-charter people, which include most of the research and advocacy interest groups, favor charter schools but were opposed to vouchers.” He explains, “Vouchers shift public funding into an already extant structure, but the charter schools open up an entire new market.… Every charter school in the state gets a facility for free, no rent. The old school is declared a failing school, they fire all the teachers, fires all students, and they have a whole new for-profit operation.”

The prospects for the expansion of charters was apparently so enticing that Kemal Oksuz, president of the Turquoise Council, a Texas-based group that is closely related to the rapidly growing Harmony Schools charter network as well as the Turkish Gulen religious movement, saw fit to contributed a total of $83,000 to the Republican Party of Louisiana after Act 1 and Act 2 passed in April. The contributions make Oksuz the largest single contributor to the Louisiana GOP this year. Anti-corporate education group Parents Across America considers Gulen-connected schools to be the largest network of charter schools in the United States.

Even further-reaching, the Course Choice program allows students to take courses outside of their public school and have the state reimburse them at 90 percent of the cost of a public school course. Looking to cash in on online course offerings, some of the vendors who have applied to provide these courses include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Apex Learning, K12 and Connections Education, a major subsidiary of Pearson. (The education reformers are a tight-knit bunch [12]—the other Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, bankrolled a pro-Bloomberg group in New York called Learn NY when the Mayor was attempting to win himself a third term. Eli Broad also contributed millions.)

Construction companies are also likely to gain much from these new offerings. The Associated Builders and Contractors in Louisiana spent $55,000 influencing the BESE races, and they now stand to be directly reimbursed by the state for the cost of their apprenticeship programs—massively expanding a significant part of their business. The very large and very well-connected Cajun Industries, a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors, even had a PAC headquartered in one of its PO boxes to distribute money to friendly BESE candidates.

There has also been widespread outcry about John White’s decision to hold public schools to a higher educational standard than private and charter schools: under new rules released in July, public schools must score above a C to avoid having vouchers suck money away from them, while private schools only need to score above an F to continue receiving public money. In addition, only about a quarter of the private schools covered by the new bill will be required to disclose whether or not their voucher students are failing—only schools with more than forty voucher students, or ten in a grade, are required to disclose the test scores of their students. White has also attracted criticism for his opposition to the teacher certification process, hiring a 27-year-old without a teaching certificate to direct the state’s teacher evaluation, and his decision to hire a highly priced PR staff.

As the BESE and John White continue the rule-making process in the new pay-to-play educational environment in Louisiana, White’s scheduled first evaluation by the BESE has been postponed until January 2013. And despite the fact that staff members at the state’s Board of Ethics recommended that Kira Orange Jones be forced to choose between a seat on the BESE and her position with TFA, largely because of potential conflicts of interest in approving contracts with Teach for America, the board overrode their recommendation and said that Orange Jones’s position was safe. The BESE is likely to approve a nearly $1 million contract [13] with Teach for America in October.

And now, in the races for the Orleans Parish School Board, which serves New Orleans, the money-drenched process seems to be repeating itself. Teach for America veteran Sarah Usdin has already outraised incumbent Brett Bonin by four to one, and activist Harper Royal by more than twenty to one. Usdin’s donors include Reed Hastings, who has given $2,500.

The initial results of education reform in Louisiana carry significant parallels to education reform initiatives around the country: in Philadelphia, the city-contracted Boston Consulting Group has effectively recommended the elimination of teacher tenure; Congress and President Obama recently agreed to a deal to expand the District of Columbia’s voucher program; the state of Indiana just doubled the size of their voucher program, and in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is attempting to shutter more than eighty public schools and replace them with charters. As other experiments in wholesale privatization have indicated, the likely result of this is an acceleration of wealth and power into the hands of the 1 percent, while violence and political exclusion characterize the lives of everyone else. The same forces that have initiated this process in Louisiana are hard at work implementing their agenda elsewhere, and they have nearly unlimited resources at their disposal. There comes a time[14], however, when enough is enough [15].

Read Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s reporting on the Chicago teachers’ strike of earlier this fall here[16].

Helping Profits - Hurting Children

Media gets an "A" for finding false negatives in U.S. Students winning math Olympiad.  Just 10 minutes of my research gives media an "F" for facts.  I suppose if I were a PAID journalist I could have saved 10 minutes. 

Here is the good news with the media touch - headline: 

They're No. 1: U.S. Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years

Here is just one of many examples of how comparisons of standardized test scores skew reality: 

China and PISA 2012 scores report by Brookings Institute Oct. 9, 2013:

And yet, just two months later NPR spins the 2012 PISA scores: 

NPR's  PISA report Dec. 3, 2013:   Media can't or won't get it right?

Even more interesting is the further distortion when comparing PISA, TIMSS and NAEP: 

PEW Research Feb., 2015 including PISA, TIMSS and NAEP commentary: As always, read the comments (from educators in the classroom for God's sake).

BOTTOM LINE - a stand-alone standardized test score is worse than useless for analysis and reflection if the purpose is to improve educational outcomes.  It is VERY useful for the political and corporate agenda to capitalize for profit on the backs of children. 

Misguided Fight for Standardized Testing on behalf of Civil Rights?

Why are we all pushing against the same problems but pushing against each other in the effort?

Reblogged from Steve Singer- 

Screen shot 2015-07-19 at 12.34.34 AM
Civil Rights groups have long championed the needs of people of color, women and minorities.
Segregated schoolsvoting rightspolice brutality – all of these have been the subject of long and brutal fights for equality.
Perhaps the strangest turn in 2015 has been the fight for standardized testing.
That’s right. Organizations that you’d expect to see fighting against racism have been clamoring for access to multiple choice bubble exams.
The law – currently called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – is a testing corporation’s dream filled with policies that have been failing our children for 13 years. Unsurprisingly, teachers, parents and students are demanding relief.
But do Civil Rights groups who fought against unfair testing as a prerequisite to votenow really demand unfair testing as a prerequisite for a high school diploma?
The answer is yes and no.
SOME Civil Rights groups have demanded more testing, and others have demanded LESS.
The Journey for Justice Alliance (JJA), a group made up of 38 organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states, wrote Congress an open letter in July asking for an end to high stakes testing. And the JJA wasn’t alone. The alliance was joined by 175 other national and local grassroots community, youth and civil rights organizations who signed on to the letter to “…call on the U.S. Congress to pass an ESEA reauthorization without requiring the regime of oppressive, high stakes, standardized testing and sanctions that have recently been promoted as civil rights provisions within ESEA.”
However, the JJA’s call has been largely ignored by lawmakers and the media. A much smaller coalition of Civil Rights organizations in favor of testing, on the other hand, has been given so much press you’d be excused if you thought they represented the entire activist community.
Yes, 19 Civil Rights organizations wrote to Congress in January, 2015, asking lawmakers to preserve annual testing.
What happened in less than 3 months, to change their minds?
It’s hard to say, but in October the prospect of rewriting the ESEA – the federal law that governs K-12 schools – seemed impossibleNeither Democrats nor Republicans could find any common ground. It looked like the law – which was last reauthorized in 2007 – would be pushed aside until at least the next president was sworn in.
But then like magic when the political situation changed and reauthorization seemed like it might actually happen, suddenly a coalition of Civil Rights organizations found their love for standardized testing.
It seems highly unlikely that these two events are unrelated.
But why would these organizations change their tune so quickly?
One very real possibility is money.
Most of the groups now backing standardized assessments accept huge sums of money from one of the richest men in the world – Bill Gates. And Bill loves standardized tests.
In many ways, his business profits from themCommon Core State Standards (CCSS) wouldn’t exist without his backing, and they depend on standardized tests. Moreover, most states give these assessments on computers – many of which have Microsoft emblazoned on the hard drive. And this doesn’t even count the test preparation software sold to help students get higher test scores.
The sad fact is that standardized testing is big business in this country. Everyone from book publishers to software manufacturers to professional development providers to for-profit prisons depend on the continuation of the testocracy.
And many of these Civil Rights groups would be crippled without that Gates funding. Others seem more like think tanks that really have nothing to do with Civil Rights.
Take Education Trust – an advocacy group that helped create NCLB and CCSS. It should be no surprise the organization took $49 million from Gates and thinks bubble tests are just wonderful.
However, even laudable groups like the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) owe Gates a debt.
UNCF took more than $1.5 billion from Gates. Ostensibly that money is supposed to go to scholarships. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But how could the organization go against the wishes of perhaps its biggest donor? The consequences could be disastrous for UNCF’s entirely worthy mission.
One can imagine administrators stuck between a rock and a hard place having to compromise their stance against testing in order to continue helping people of color fulfill their dreams of going to college.
Other suddenly pro-test organizations taking money from Gates include: La RazaThe Leadership ConferenceNational Urban League, and Children Defense Fund.
And that’s only the half of it.
To make matters worse, standardized tests don’t enhance students’ Civil Rights. They violate them.
Test scores are used as an excuse to continue spending less money on poor schools who serve mostly minority populations.
Proponents say these assessments hold schools accountable for providing children with a quality education. But how can you provide an education of equal quality with a rich school when you don’t receive even close to the same amount of funding to begin with?
Moreover, test scores have been shown countless times to be poor indicators of academic success. They are, however, excellent predictors of parental income. Poor kids score low. Rich kids score high. So when we take away funding based on low test scores and increase it based on high test scores, we only reinforce the status quo and compound the hurt against people of color.
But this sudden public mea culpa from some Civil Rights organizations is being used by political pundits to justify continuing the practices that would make Martin Luther King, Jr., turn in his grave.
And it’s not over. As Congress continues to hobble together a new version of the ESEA, politicians – mostly Democrats – are bound to lobby for as much federally mandated testing as possible. Even Obama has promised to veto the bill if it doesn’t contain enough love for the testing industry.
It’s up to education voters to educate themselves on the subject and demand real Civil Rights reforms.
End the system of Test and Punish.
Remove or reduce standardized testing from our schools.
Provide equitable funding for schools serving impoverished children.
And give our students of color a fighting chance to achieve the American Dream.

Connecticut Chips Away at Democracy

From Jonathan Pelto - A Democrat from Connecticut 

Malloy, Executive Power and the Politics of Appeasement

In preparation for the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 constitutionally required veto session, Democratic legislative leaders announced yesterday that no votes would be taken on whether to sustain or override the nine bills vetoed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy during this year’s legislative session.
The most noteworthy of the bills that the Democrats are unwilling to bring up for a vote is PA 15-176, which was House Bill 6977, AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.
The legislation requires that any person serving as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have an appropriate education degree and teaching experience.
The legislation arose in response to Governor Malloy’s decision to name Stefan Pryor, a charter school founder and corporate education reform industry advocate, to be his first commissioner of education, despite the fact that Pryor had no educational experience.
Stefan Pryor’s performance as Malloy’s Education Commissioner led both Democrats and Republicans to call for legislation requiring future leaders of the state department of education to have the requisite education experience.
The General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill #6977 and went on to pass the legislation by a vote of 32 – 0.
At no time did Malloy or his administration testify against the bill or publicly announce any opposition to the concept.
The bill went to pass the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138-5.
In the end, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill.
With its passage, HB6977 become Connecticut Public Act 15-176.
But despite the overwhelming level of support displayed for the bill by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy vetoed the legislation.
And now, in a disturbing and rather pathetic effort to appease Governor Malloy, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House has announced that, after speaking with the Democratic members of the two chambers, there will be no vote to override or sustain Governor Malloy’s veto.
Instead, the bill will simply die.
The Democratic legislators’ lame and unsettling decision to  not even allow a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto of AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION (PA 15-176) came as a shock to Connecticut’s two teacher unions (the CEA and AFT-CT) who claimed ownership of the bill and used its passage as some strange indicator that their endorsement of Malloy’s re-election effort was acceptable because he was now being taken to the “wood shed” for his historic abuse of teachers and the teaching profession.
But the underlying issue isn’t about Malloy vs. the teacher unions or about whether Dannel Malloy’s temper and thin skin led him to veto a bill, out of the blue, despite its nearly unanimous support.
The issue really isn’t even about whether state government should or should not require that the commissioner of education have appropriate teaching experience.
The fundamental issue at stake is the result of the decision by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly to prevent a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto.
The decision by the legislative branch to walk away from its duty to check and balance the executive branch reflects the growing politics of appeasement that has enveloped our political system and it is a situation that should be of concern to everyone across the political spectrum.
The foundation of the United States’ system of government is the inclusion of the system of checks and balances to guard against unwarranted authority.  It is an inherent part of both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47,
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
In a 2006 Washington Monthly article on the danger of executive power, Bruce Fein wrote about Madison’s concept explaining,
The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: ‘The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.'”
“The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.”
Governor Malloy is wrong to have vetoed the bill requiring that the person responsible for running the state department of education have educational experience.
But the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly have done a far greater disservice by refusing to even vote on Malloy’s veto.  Their unwarranted decision to appease Malloy means that they have handed their constitutionally mandated legislative authority to the executive branch of government.
And that is something every Connecticut citizens should be very concerned about.
An excerpt worth repeating - 
The decision by the legislative branch to walk away from its duty to check and balance the executive branch reflects the growing politics of appeasement that has enveloped our political system and it is a situation that should be of concern to everyone across the political spectrum.
The foundation of the United States’ system of government is the inclusion of the system of checks and balances to guard against unwarranted authority.  It is an inherent part of both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47,
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
In a 2006 Washington Monthly article on the danger of executive power, Bruce Fein wrote about Madison’s concept explaining,
The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: ‘The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.'”
“The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.”

Deutsch29 Picking on Campbell Brown's Carcass

Researcher and teacher extraordinaire Dr. Mercedes Schneider is "picking on" Campbell Brown again and this time she leaves only the bones from the carcass of Brown's inevitably fatal attempts to boost the charter market for her benefactors. For more read Schneider's most recent expose reposted here:

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D’Juan Hernandez
D’juan Hernandez, a New Orleans attorney and businessman, spent less than a year as head of a struggling local charter school called Milestone Academy. But he managed at least one significant accomplishment before resigning last month: racking up $13,000 worth of expenses on a school credit card, including $4,000 in payments to Tulane University, where his daughter attends, and $500 for plane tickets to Florida, where his family vacationed.
On the night of the Zulu Ball — his daughter was a maid in Zulu’s court — he racked up a $687 bill at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club on St. Claude Avenue. Other big-ticket items included a $224 bill at the Smith & Wollensky restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, and hundreds of dollars on upgrades to first-class flights.
Tessa Jackson, president of the nonprofit board that governs Milestone, says that Hernandez obtained an American Express card in the school’s name without getting approval from the board.
Meanwhile, a spat has broken out between Jackson and the Louisiana Department of Education over who is to blame. Jackson claims that state education officials, including the department’s head of monitoring, Patrick Walsh, foisted Hernandez on the school’s board after threatening to shut the school down.
In response, department spokesman Ken Pastorick sent a statement pointing out that Milestone has struggled academically and churned through principals in the past few years. “These are serious issues that affect children and need to be addressed,” he said. “This is no time for playing the blame game.”
Whatever the case, Milestone was in a jam when it hired Hernandez as an interim CEO in July of 2014.
All sides agree that state officials began to work solely with Hernandez — bypassing the board — after his appointment as interim CEO. While Jackson doesn’t believe the Louisiana Department of Education knew about the questionable charges, she says that well-connected Hernandez – a former candidate for Orleans Parish School Board superintendent and the brother-in-law of state senator Karen Carter Peterson – felt like he was above the rules because of the favored treatment he received from big players at the education department.
The dispute raises broader questions about what the role of the state should be in the administration of charter schools, and who ultimately calls the shots: the state department of education or the board — especially at schools like Milestone with less-than-stellar performance.
The school’s board had just parted ways with Sabis, the for-profit school manager that had been running Milestone since its inception a decade ago. The school itself was hopscotching from one building to the next, from Uptown New Orleans to Gretna to Old Jefferson. Its academic performance had been hovering at a “D” for years, and state officials were threatening to revoke the school’s charter. That would have given its 350 students little time to find a new school.
There had been talks aimed at joining the Algiers Charter Schools Association, so the school could remain open, but they had fallen through.
At the time, Hernandez was serving as attorney for Milestone’s board. He was also on the board of the Algiers charter group. His name came up at one point on a short-list of candidates to serve as superintendent for the Orleans Parish School Board.
On July 15, 2014, Milestone brought Hernandez on to serve as interim CEO on a contract basis, agreeing to pay him $12,500 a month. He signed an agreement promising to secure the school a building and set up a hiring process for a new principal, among other things.
Jackson said state officials were keen on the Milestone board hiring Hernandez, though she acknowledged that he was on their own list of potential interim leaders.
In November, according to emails provided by Jackson, Hernandez had the school’s business manager provide the financial statements necessary for him to open the American Express account. By the close of the January statement, Hernandez had racked up a $6,000 bill.
Jackson says she found out about the American Express when the credit card company called the school and demanded to talk to “the person who pays the bills.” She said the business manager got the statements on the morning of June 10, 2015 and that they forced Hernandez to resign that day, then told state officials about the spending.
Both Milestone and Hernandez said the American Express card was paid off with money withheld from Hernandez’s pay.
Hernandez says he won’t comment on the appropriateness of the expenses until he sees the credit card statements. “I haven’t seen the bill so I don’t know what’s on it or what’s not on it,” Hernandez said. “But I can say I have paid for all of my personal expenses.”
Hernandez says he resigned for other reasons.
“I had intended to resign months earlier, there was some fighting between the board and the school staff and I had been asked by the staff to stay,” Hernandez said. “I had stayed longer than I needed to, I don’t know if the school needs a CEO unless they are expanding into a charter management organizations”
At a meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last month, John White proposed that his department conduct an independent audit of Milestone’s board policies and procedures, citing Hernandez’s spending.
“We continue to see a pattern of repeated problems at Milestone that stem, I believe, from leadership that has not set a clear course for the school,” White said. “My hunch is that this financial problem that has emerged can be traced back to that.”
The action was taken up last minute and Milestone wasn’t notified that BESE would be taking any action against the school. Jackson says that this is another example of the state undermining the authority of the Milestone board.
Jackson argues that state officials are unfairly laying blame on the board, and that they should have stepped in with help sooner if they thought Milestone was struggling.
“The state never came and asked us what our concerns were, Jackson said. “If the state thought we are rookies, why didn’t they help us?”
One of the major issues with charter school scandals in the US is that there is not sufficient oversight to stop the scandal before it becomes, well, a scandal.
Perhaps Brown’s gracious advocacy for the remaining 74 million (those not already shafted by Brown’s associates) could help.
And Campbell’s PR guy, Stefan Friedman, is right: The public will “see for themselves” whether reports on the proliferating charter school scandals make any beyond-cursory appearance on The Seventy Four.
It’s a challenge, Campbell. Will you swing your highly-publicized, for-the-children indignation in the direction of your native Louisiana?
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Not as telegenic as Brown but still pretty good looking, Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books