I posted this earlier, but I had not watched the entire video, just a snippet. I just watched the full video, and I couldn’t stop watching. This is the video of the Congressional grilling of the U.S. Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer Danny Harris and Acting Secretary of Education John King.

 

The entire discussion is startling. I won’t say anything more. Just watch it. If you stay for ten minutes, you won’t want to stop.

 

Rep. Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) grilling of John King is relentless. Despite his ethical “lapses,” Danny Harris received $230,000 in bonuses over time for his work, in addition to his $183,000 in salary, and $15,000 from Howard University. Plus, he ran two businesses on the side. And at one point, he consulted with the Detroit public schools. The point was made by Congresspersons again and again, that the Department of Education had one of the lowest ratings for its management of any federal department.

 

Rep. Maloney (D-NY) wanted to know why the contracts involved were not competitively bid. She did not get an answer. She wanted to know why Mr. Harris’s actions were not violations of law or policy. She did not get an answer other than the claim that DOE lawyers said there was no violation in not reporting income to either the Department or to the IRS. Astonishing.

 

One thing you learn: Acting Secretary of Education John King sees no violation of law, regulation, or policy in the behavior of the CIO, who ran two businesses on the side, did not report his income to the IRS, and oversaw a single-source contract to a friend. Mr. Harris was not sanctioned in any way; he received counseling; he received excellent evaluations. King makes endless excuses. King insists there was no violation of department policy or regulation to earn outside income and not report it. Really?

 

Where is the accountability?

The Republican field of candidates is scary on many issues. On education, there is no debate because they all agree with privatization of public education and getting rid of unions.

 

For some reason, the media has taken to calling Marco Rubio a “moderate.” He is supposedly the “establishment” candidate. If this is true, it shows how extremist the Republican establishment is.

 

This article in the Daily Beast describes Rubio’s views. The author John Favreau believes it will be easy to defeat Rubio because he is so extremist. I hope he is right.

 

Because Trump and Cruz have moved the goalposts on what it means to be bat-shit crazy in a primary, the press will confuse Rubio’s moderate temperament with moderate policies, of which he has none. Rubio was once described as the “crown prince” of the Tea Party. He has a 100 percent rating from the NRA. He’ll appoint justices who will overturn the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. He opposes abortion with no exception for rape or incest. He opposes stem cell research and doesn’t believe in climate change. He’d send ground troops to Syria and trillions in tax cuts to the rich.

 

Does anyone detect a difference between Rubio and Cruz?

 

Rubio’s ascent must be depressing for Jeb! Bush, because Jeb! was Rubio’s mentor.

As charter scandals multiply, as billionaire Eli Broad makes his move to privatize the schools of half the students in Los Angeles, some concerned citizens are organizing to repeal California’s charter law. The law allows unlimited expansion of charters. As we learned in the latest scandal, the law allows districts to open charters in other districts, even hundreds of miles away, and take a cut of its income.

 

With billionaires supporting the charters, it will be an uphill battle. But those are the battles that must be fought if we want to prevent privatization.

Superstar principal Troy La Raviere in Chicago steps back to assess the deadlock between the mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

He recalls a recent conversation with Paul Vallas. He writes:

 

“I’m not an admirer of his education policy, but Vallas was the last Chicago Public Schools CEO to leave the district with a structurally balanced long-term budget. He also left CPS with a fully funded pension system, and over $1 billion in reserves. When Vallas returned to Chicago this past August, I was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with him a few days before we both participated in a panel at the City Club of Chicago. During our conversation—and during the panel—Vallas outlined the financial rules that kept CPS budgets balanced during his tenure. Those practices included the following:

 

“He did not add programs without identifying additional revenue to pay for them.

 
“He did not borrow for operational expenses.

 
“He did not spend on new schools when there was declining enrollment. Building new schools should be based on demographics, not school reform ideology.

 
“He did not redirect funding for pension payments toward other spending projects.

 
“After Vallas’ departure, the mayor’s appointees to CPS lost all fiscal discipline and consistently violated every one of these sound budgeting practices. As a result of their mismanagement, CPS now claims they need “shared sacrifice” from teachers. Teachers union officials don’t seem to have the kind of consistent and concise messaging the Mayor’s office has, so the average news consumer may not notice that within CTU’s response are the keys to solving CPS’ fiscal crisis. I will take the liberty of fine-tuning CTU’s message and speaking as the Chicago public school teacher and union member I once was, before becoming an administrator nearly a decade ago.”

 

LaRaviere then describes what is necessary to fix the budget. And he identifies who must share in sacrificing to put the system in a sound financial footing.

 

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Teach for America, a reader sent me this spoof from The Onion.

 

As you know, the slogan of TFA is that “One day, all children will have an excellent education.” (Something like that.)

 

Well, 25 years later, we don’t seem to be any closer to that day. Maybe it is because TFA has sold politicians and corporations on the myth that having TFA’s “great teachers” matters more than funding the schools. Maybe it is because TFA sells the dubious idea that their young and ill-trained college graduates are better than experienced teachers. (Bring in TFA and save on pensions because they won’t stay around long enough to get a pension.)

 

But TFA does have a revenue stream of $300 million a year and is one of the most powerful corporate presences in DC. The organization is doing very well indeed. But the day that all children will have an excellent education is no closer. Indeed, TFA will probably have a 50th reunion and sell the same tired cliches about the awesomeness of their corps members.

 

In Wendy Kopp’s last book (A Chance to Make History), she pointed to three districts as exemplars of TFA success: Washington, D.C.; New York City; and New Orleans. She identified Chris Barbic of YES Prep as one of the best TFA graduates. We know from NAEP that DC has the largest achievement gaps in the nation among urban districts; New York City is in the middle of the pack among urban districts on NAEP; and New Orleans–well, if you think every city should wipe out public education, get rid of the union, fire all the teachers, and start over, that is a model. Not a very good one, according to the many researchers who have concluded that nearly half the charters are low-performing. As for Chris Barbic, he came to the Tennessee Achievement School District as a savior, and left four years later, with little to show for it. The schools in the ASD continue to be among the lowest-scoring in the state.

 

So, perhaps TFA will point to the districts that demonstrate the amazing transformational power of TFA. Not DC. Not NYC. New Orleans? Only if you believe that one of the lowest-performing districts in one of the lowest-performing states is a miracle.

Eclectablog reports that the Educational Achievement Authority will finally close–but not for 18 months. EAA was Governor Rick Snyder’s experiment on Detroit’s children. Broadie John Covington was hired to run it, and he ran it into the ground.

Detroit schools are under state control and so far the state has failed to improve anything.

The faculty senate of Eastern Michigan University voted no confidence in the university’s Board of Regents because it failed to withdraw from its sponsorship of Governor Rick Snyder’s Educational Achievement Authority, as it had promised a year earlier.m, based on its failure.
Here is the senate’s resolution: 

1 / 2

Faculty Senate 

Eastern Michigan University 
Resolution 2016-02-03 
Whereas the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents, at the behest of the Governor’s office, entered into an Interlocal Agreement with the School District for the City of Detroit creating the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) in June of 2011, and  
Whereas the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents passed a resolution on December 5, 2014 explicating their intent to provide notice of withdrawal from the EAA agreement in December 2015 unless substantial progress was made in four areas: 1) a stronger partnership between Eastern Michigan University and the Educational Achievement Authority; 2) demonstrated student achievement and progress in EAA schools; 3) fiscal accountability; and 4) complete transparency of all activity, including prompt and appropriate responses to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, and 
Whereas, the Faculty Senate provided a detailed report to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents a week before the Board’s December 8, 2015 meeting documenting the failure of the EAA to make any progress in the four areas outlined by the Board’s December 2014 resolution, and recommending immediate withdrawal from the agreement, and 
Whereas, the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents at its December 8, 2015 meeting, despite the Faculty Senate report and impassioned calls for immediate withdrawal from Eastern Michigan University’s faculty, students, and alumni as well as community members from Washtenaw County and the City of Detroit, failed to take any action on the EAA agreement, and 
Whereas, the decisions and actions of Board members on December 8, 2015 violated the following provisions of the Board of Regents’ Code of Ethics signed annually by each member: 
Preamble 
“We will consider the interests of all of its constituents in decision making, including students, administration, faculty, staff and other stakeholders.” By repeatedly ignoring the voices of students, staff, faculty, a sitting University President, alumni, and community members, the Board has failed in its responsibility to consider the interests of all of its constituents in decision-making.  
Article 1, Paragraph 1 (Public Trust)  
“Regents are expected to carry out their governance responsibilities in an honest, ethical and diligent manner.” This provision was violated when the Board did not follow through with its actions outlined in the December 2014 memorandum stating it would send notice of a withdrawal unless substantial progress was made by the EAA in four areas. When the Board was notified of the EAA’s failure in all four areas it changed the EAA discussion from an action to a non-action item on its agenda and would not discuss the agreement with the public on December 8, 2015.  
2 / 2
Article 1, Paragraph 2 (Welfare of Eastern Michigan University) 
“In carrying out their duties, however, Regents must keep the welfare of the entire University paramount over any parochial interests. Regents should refrain from actions and involvements that might prove embarrassing to the institution.” The Interlocal Agreement that established the EAA was formed at the behest of the Governor’s office, and the Board of Regents did not consult with EMU faculty experts during or after the process. The agreement has generated a great deal of negative and embarrassing articles in the popular press and in the scholarly literature; the agreement also has had a negative impact on EMU students. The Board’s adherence to the agreement in the face of opposition from all sides within and outside of the University demonstrates that the Board has failed in its responsibility to keep the welfare of the entire University paramount over any parochial interests.  
Article 1, Paragraph 3 (Duty of Care). 
“Consistent with their responsibilities as members of the Governing Board, Regents will discharge their duties, including any duties as a member of a committee, in good faith, with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances, in a manner the Regent reasonably believes is in the best interest of the University, and with the level of decorum appropriate to the office of Regent.” An ordinarily prudent person, in the face of multiple voices detailing the negative impact of the Interlocal Agreement—including a sitting University President—would NOT have made the decision that the Board did at its December 8, 2015 meeting. The Board has failed to follow the care an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances and thus failed to serve the best interests of the University.  
Article 1, Paragraph 5 (Due Diligence). 
“Each Regent shall undertake with due diligence a critical analysis of the risks and benefits of any matter coming before the Board for action. Regents shall promote a culture of constructive debate about major information necessary to carry out the Regents’ duty of care to act in the best interest of the University.” As noted above, the Board entered into the agreement without consulting faculty experts on the subject. Subsequently, the Board, on December 8, 2015, failed to consider the analysis presented by the Faculty Senate and the perspectives of many in attendance when it decided to not take action on the EAA agreement; the Board’s lack of response on the issue was antithetical to promoting a culture of constructive debate. The Board of Regents has thus failed in its obligation to undertake with due diligence a critical analysis of the risks and benefits of the Interlocal Agreement. 
Now, therefore, be it  
Resolved that the Faculty Senate, given the Board’s gross violation of its own code of ethics and failure to be a faithful steward of our University, has no choice but to vote no confidence in the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents. 

Emily Talmadge, who teaches and blogs in Maine, noticed that her blog was being followed by a private investigator firm.

She had written two columns about high-powered consultant Robert Marzano. She received a letter from him, warning that she had slandered him. She said he had never taught; he had, for a few years. She said he had a $6 million contract with the Detroit Public Schools. He denied it. She then obtained a copy of the contract from a reporter in Detroit.

Her point? Why is a district that has no money paying $6 million for professional development?

She writes:

“Across the country, parents and teachers are growing angrier at the disconnect between the real needs of school districts and how funds are being spent. In the case above, the money would have been enough to pay at least 22 teachers for five full years.

“Instead, students in Detroit are now attending classes with 40-50 students, while teachers are wrestling with a development program that many feel is interfering with their ability to teach.”

Kudos to Emily for her investigative work.

If you want to see our Acting Secretary of Education John King deflecting any responsibility or accountability for the ethical lapses of senior officials in the Department, here is a link to the full hearing. 

 
King finds a variety of ways to shift responsibility. He insists he is not accountable. Not me. Someone else said it was okay to have outside income and not report it to the IRS. Does the ED still give ethics briefings to political appointees? Apparently not.

 

To be fair to King, he has only worked at the Department for a year, understudying the role of Secretary. Who appointed Danny Harris as chief information officer? Who supervised him? Who reviewed his disclosure forms? Call them to testify too.

 
Who is accountable in this Department that has made “accountability” its watchword?

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

 

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students. Perhaps Malloy forgot that the charter sector was rocked by scandal less than two years ago.

 

Malloy broke his promise to legislators and the public.

 

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

 

“But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

 

“Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

 

“In order to secure the votes needed to pass the two-year budget last June, lawmakers reached a deal to appease both the urban legislators upset that state aid for neighborhood schools was not increasing and the governor, insistent on increased state funding so two new charter schools could open. The budget agreement upped funding for both charters and traditional public schools in each of the following two years.

 

“Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford, one of the more than dozen concerned legislators last spring, is upset that the governor is now backing off the increase for neighborhood schools but keeping the increase for charter schools.

 

“This was bad-faith bargaining,” said Vargas, a former teacher and union leader. “We swallowed this bitter pill of spending millions to open new charters and the sweetener was the additional money for the local districts. That was the way many of us could bring ourselves to support the budget.”

 

“It was a very close vote,” he continued, “and had people known that they were going to renege on part of the deal, it might have affected some of the votes on the final budget.”

 

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

 

“Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000). These increases would have ensured that every district receives at least 55 percent of what the state’s education funding formula says they deserve when factoring in town wealth and student need.”

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166,927 other followers