Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin, is one of the bravest people in the resistance to corporate reform.

He was involved in the opt out movement long before others (like me) joined in.

He has used all kinds of media to refute the attacks on teachers and public schools.

Here he challenges the law that allowed the state of Wisconsin to take over some low-scoring public schools in Milwaukee.

Tim asks, now that the commissioner appointed to run the privatization district, Desmond Means, has resigned, what will County Executive Chris Abele do?

Now what? What will County Executive Abele do now? Will he continue to “uphold the law?” Or will he muster the courage needed to express solidarity with the parents, teachers, and children and execute his duty as a citizen to peacefully disobey an unjust and unethical law? Will he denounce a law that is founded on discriminatory assumptions about communities of color and animated disdain for people in poverty?

Or will he simply reappoint a new commissioner and “uphold” a law born out of privileged and contempt for our brothers and sisters that remain strangled by systemic racism and crushing poverty?

Tim is there. He knows what is happening. I listen to him. So should you.

I am still waiting for someone to give me an example of a successful state takeover of a low-scoring school, one that did something other than change the students to high-scoring students.

Surprise: I wrote the article.

Nothing I wrote will be a surprise to readers of this blog, but may be new to the readers of The Boston Globe.

I was moved to write it because the Globe published an editorial calling for the opposite.

A contact at the Los Angeles Times informed me that I got a faulty report about the Vergara decision. The California Supreme Court has not released its decision.

I apologize for misleading you.

The New York Times reported that Donald Trump was involved in another fleece-the-buyer scheme, aside from Trump University.

He also launched Trump Institute, which promised to teach naive customers his real estate secrets so they could get rich like him. As the Times article shows, some of its lessons were plagiarized word-for-word from other sources.


As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial — one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and had been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after paying their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier….

Together, the exaggerated claims about his own role, the checkered pasts of the people with whom he went into business and the theft of intellectual property at the venture’s heart all illustrate the fiction underpinning so many of Mr. Trump’s licensing businesses: Putting his name on products and services — and collecting fees — was often where his actual involvement began and ended.

Chalkbeat Tennessee has an excellent report on Tennessee’s testing fiasco. State officials knew that the testing company was in deep trouble before the testing began, yet they plunged ahead, wasting millions of dollars.

Grace Tatter describes Tennessee’s “worst case scenario”:

Tennessee education officials allowed students and teachers to go ahead with a new online testing system that had failed repeatedly in classrooms across the state, according to emails obtained by Chalkbeat.

After local districts spent millions of dollars on new computers, iPads, and upgraded internet service, teachers and students practiced for months taking the tests using MIST, an online testing system run by North Carolina-based test maker Measurement Inc.
They encountered myriad problems: Sometimes, the test questions took three minutes each to load, or wouldn’t load at all. At other times, the test wouldn’t work on iPads. And in some cases, the system even saved the wrong answers.

When students in McMinnville, a town southeast of Nashville, logged on to take their practice tests, they found some questions already filled in — incorrectly — and that they couldn’t change the answers. The unsettling implication: Even if students could take the exam, the scores would not reflect their skills.

“That is a HUGE issue to me,” Warren County High School assistant principal Penny Shockley wrote to Measurement Inc.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen speaks with reporters in February about technical problems with the state’s new online assessment.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen speaks with reporters in February about technical problems with the state’s new online assessment.

The emails contain numerous alarming reports about practice tests gone awry. They also show that miscommunication between officials with the Tennessee Department of Education and Measurement Inc. made it difficult to fix problems in time for launch.

And they suggest that even as problems continued to emerge as the test date neared, state officials either failed to understand or downplayed the widespread nature of the problems to schools. As a result, district leaders who could have chosen to have students take the test on paper instead moved forward with the online system.

The messages span from October until Feb. 10, two days after the online test’s debut and cancellation hours later. Together, they offer a peek into how Tennessee wound up with a worst-case scenario: countless hours wasted by teachers and students preparing for tests that could not be taken.

Parents and educators in Milwaukee have fought against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to take over Milwaukee Public Schools. Walker was relentless, and he persuaded the Republican-dominated legislature to create an “Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program” to begin the state takeover of low-performing schools. No money was appropriated for the program. A leader was hired, Desmond Means, to start the takeover district.

Desmond Means resigned.

Please bear in mind that no state takeover district has ever succeeded in improving schools. This game of changing the governance structure is a shell game. Tennessee did it. Michigan did it. Georgia and North Carolina are starting to do it.

It doesn’t work because it doesn’t improve schools or teaching. And it doesn’t help children.

Reformers try these stunts because they think that democracy is the problem.

When will they ever learn?

In a hotly contested lawsuit about whether to lift the cap on charter schools, the New England NAACP and the Lawyers’ Committee of Massachusetts intervened to oppose lifting of the cap.

The groups are getting involved because they say charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, but serve far fewer students with disabilities and who are English language learners, as well as impose harsher discipline on students of color….

Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, said the organization wants to see students provided with the greatest education that our resources will allow.

“We firmly believe that setting up a separate system is destructive to the notion of providing the best education for all students,’’ he said.

We had two separate systems of education in this country until the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. It took years of struggle to uproot that dual school system, but it is being revived under a new name today: public schools and charter schools.

I posted last night that Governor Pat McCrory plans to appoint a man to the state board of education who has little experience in public education, but is known for his strong support for removing a book taught in a high school English honors class.

North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan points out that the nominee has a conflict of interest. His wife ran/runs a school that receives state-funded vouchers.

This story is shocking. Former officials in the Obama administration, once in charge of regulating predatory the for-profit higher education industry, now want in on the action themselves. Their financier is Obama’s best friend. The story was written by Michael Stratford and Kimberly Hefling. Please read this report as background for what follows.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about it here.

She writes:


Obama’s close friend, Marty Nesbitt, and others are seeking US Department of Education (USDOE) approval to purchase the fiscally-troubled for-profit, University of Phoenix. Nesbitt and former Deputy Secretary of Education, Tony Miller, run a Chicago-based private equity firm, Vistria Group.

Vistria Group is part of a small collective that wants to purchase University of Phoenix, and the for-profit school’s parent organization, Apollo Education, is apparently all in.

USDOE approval would keep the student loan and Pell grant bucks coming to University of Phoenix– which happens to be the subject of three state attorneys general as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The price tag for Vistria et al. appears to be $1.1 billion. As it stands, University of Phoenix receives $2 billion annually in public money.

If University of Phoenix goes under, then all of those student loans are forgiven– which means taxpayers foot the bill. If Vistria et al. acquire University of Phoenix, then the goings-on at the school become private. No more requiring that that public be made aware of the salaries of the school’s executives, or that the public be made aware of litigation against the school, or that the public know about pending investigations.

The story was originally posted at PoliticoPro, which is an expensive subscription; fortunately, it is now available for free at politico.com. Here is an excerpt from the original story:

As the Obama administration cracks down on for-profit colleges, three former officials working on behalf of an investment firm run by President Barack Obama’s best friend have staged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the Education Department to green-light a purchase of the biggest for-profit of them all — the University of Phoenix.

The investors include a private equity firm founded and run by longtime Obama friend Marty Nesbitt and former Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller. The firm, Chicago-based Vistria Group, has mounted a charm offensive on Capitol Hill to talk up the proposed sale of the troubled for-profit education giant, which receives more than $2 billion a year in taxpayer money but is under investigation by three state attorneys general and the FTC.

What stands out about the proposed deal is that several key players are either close to top administration officials, including the president himself, or are former administration insiders — especially Miller, who was part of the effort to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges at the very agency now charged with approving the ownership change. For-profit college officials have likened those rules to a war on the industry, and blame the administration for contributing to their declining enrollments and share prices.

The proposed sale carries high stakes for taxpayers, students and investors: The University of Phoenix’s financial stability may depend on the $1.1 billion acquisition. If the company were to fail, more than 160,000 students could be displaced and the government would be on the hook for hundreds of millions in student loans.

But the investors’ effort to seek Education Department approval of the school’s ownership change also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“There is at least a taste of unseemliness involved in this,” said Mark Schneider, a former top education official under President George W. Bush. “They regulate it. They drive the price down. …They are buying it for pennies on the dollar.”

Vistria Group said it isn’t seeking special treatment. “We expect the Department to evaluate this proposed transaction on the merits,” the company said in a statement.

Vistria is part of a consortium of investors involved in the proposed acquisition, which has already won over shareholders of the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group. But now the investors need the Education Department and the school’s accreditors to sign off on the ownership change to keep the federal money flowing — most of it in the form of student loans and Pell Grants.

With those decisions looming, Miller and at least one other former Obama insider have met with staff to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), looking to reassure some of the loudest critics of for-profit colleges in the president’s own party, several Senate aides confirmed to POLITICO. Those lawmakers have pushed Obama’s Education Department to be even tougher on for-profit colleges.

Miller has also met with staff members working for other committee members, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as with Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee. Nesbitt was not part of those Capitol Hill meetings, according to the aides….

But the specter of former insiders pushing the sale of a company in an industry that has long been in the administration’s crosshairs is not lost on critics. For seven years, the Obama administration has waged a crackdown on poor quality and predatory practices at many for-profit colleges, with the president himself excoriating some schools for “making out like a bandit” with federal money, but saddling students with big debts and leaving them unprepared for good jobs. He did not name the schools.

“It’s ironic that a former senior official at the Department of Education — an agency that has intentionally targeted and sought to dismantle the for-profit college industry — would now take the reins at the country’s largest for-profit college,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s higher education subcommittee….

The sale price, which shareholders approved last month after initially balking at a lower price, is considered a bargain by some industry observers. The day Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, the company’s stock closed at $86.54 per share. Today, it’s trading at around $9, although a recovering economy, unfavorable media coverage and the for-profit industry’s general slump have also contributed to that drop.

Some Senate Democrats said they are also uneasy with the investors’ plan to take the university private, which means it would no longer have to publicly disclose information such as executive compensation, lawsuits or when it’s a target of investigations. Those details are useful to prospective students, they say, at a time when the school faces inquiries from both state and federal authorities.

“Essentially, a company that receives more than $2 billion annually from federal taxpayers — nearly 80 percent of its revenue — is going dark, and it’s happening at a time when the University of Phoenix has come under increased scrutiny from state and federal regulators,” Durbin wrote in a March letter to the Education Department.

Republicans think that the Obama officials drove the price down by their regulatory actions, then moved in to buy it at a bargain price.

This transaction is unsavory. It should be stopped. The conflicts of interests and self-dealing are abhorrent.

In 2012, Californians voted on Proposition 30, which raised taxes on the richest citizens in order to raise funding for public schools and charter schools. The measure passed, despite a well-funded effort to defeat it.

A group of unions and progressive activists released a list of nearly 80 wealthy Californians who secretly funded the campaign to defeat Proposition 30. One of them was billionaire Eli Broad, who publicly supported Prop 30 but donated either $500,000 or $1 million to the effort to defeat it.

The progressive activists–called California Hedge Clippers–dug into records to show where the money came from to fight the temporary tax to aid schools.

Individuals named in the group’s report include Silicon Valley tech and investment executive John H. Scully ($500,000), investor and Hyatt Hotel heir Anthony Pritzker ($100,000), developer Geoff Palmer ($100,000) and private equity investor Gerald Parsky ($50,000).

Donors, regulators concluded, contributed money to an out-of-state organization, which circulated funds through a series of other groups and eventually back to California. By then, the identity of the donors was beyond the reach of disclosure laws.

As the money was channeled to California, some transfers were not properly disclosed and therefore violated the law, officials said. Well after the election, a California investigation resulted in $16 million in fines to some of the groups as well as the disclosure of some donors, including Broad, who either gave $500,000 or $1 million, depending on how the source documents are interpreted. The donors were not fined….

Among the names to emerge in the California research is Nils Colin Lind ($50,000), who was at the time an executive at Blum Capital, the firm he co-founded with Richard Blum, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband. The larger contributions include $800,000 from machine-tool manufacturer Gene Haas. The researchers also uncovered additional money from the Fisher family, heirs to the Gap fortune and among the most generous supporters of charter schools; their revised total is $10 million.

The list also includes leaders of the charter school movement, such as Scully and Tony Ressler ($25,000), a former longtime board member of the charter group Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.

Like other public schools, charters reaped huge financial benefits from Proposition 30 after it passed in 2012. School officials across the state hope voters in the November election will extend the tax on the wealthiest 2% of earners….

The donors’ money traveled a circuitous path. They contributed to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia trade association. This outfit then passed the money to the Center to Protect Patient Rights in Arizona. The center next sent $11 million to a Phoenix group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, which provided it to the Small Business Action Committee. That committee spent the money on the California campaigns.

In another relay, the Center to Protect Patient Rights provided more than $4 million to the America Future Fund in Iowa, which passed the money to the California Future Fund for Free Markets, a campaign committee supporting Proposition 32.

Not all of the donated money made it back to California. About $10 million was captured by groups in other parts of the country, the researchers said.

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