Archives for the month of: March, 2019


Sally Yates was Deputy Attorney General from 2015-2017. In this article in the Washington Post, she argues that Attorney General William Barr should release the full Mueller Report as soon as possible, without redactions.

She writes:

“America’s justice system is built upon one thing — truth. When witnesses give testimony, they are sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The word “verdict” derives from the Latin term “veredictum,” meaning “to say the truth.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a public servant with impeccable integrity, was entrusted to find the truth regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and has spoken through a comprehensive report that details the facts that he uncovered.

“Yet a week after Mueller issued his report, we don’t know those facts and have only been provided with Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s estimated 400-page report. It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth. We need to see the report itself.

“First, as the attorney general’s letter to Congress notes, the Mueller report “outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.” Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our democracy. Without access to the full factual record of what the special counsel uncovered, it cannot fulfill that mandate. As you read this, the Russian government is undoubtedly hard at work to undermine our next election. Each day that passes without Congress having access to the full Mueller report is a day that Congress is prevented from doing its job of keeping our elections free from Russian espionage efforts.

“Second, Barr’s letter leaves important questions unanswered concerning what then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference, and how they responded to Russian overtures to assist the campaign. While Barr’s letter states that the investigation did not establish that the campaign reached an agreement with the Russian government to take actions to impact the election in Trump’s favor, it reveals that the campaign did field “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Yet President Trump and others have repeatedly claimed that they had no contact with Russians, or knowledge that Russians were acting to assist his campaign. Moreover, the Trump campaign did not bring the Russian outreach to the attention of law enforcement but secretly allowed a foreign adversary’s assistance. Remarkably, after the release of the Barr letter — which makes it undeniable that the Russians were seeking to help the Trump campaign — the president still denies it. Why?”

Nor can Congress or the public make an informed judgment about Trump’s role in obstructing Justice without seeing the report.

Barr should not take it upon himself to redact (delete) the passages of his choosing.

If you want to know why parents in New York have opted out in record numbers for the past few years, read testing expert Fred Smith’s account of the chaos and tumult inflicted on the children of the state by the State Education Department.

Disruption! Change! Instability!

Smith, who worked for many years as a testing expert at the New York City Board of Education, writes:

Latch onto this, folks:
Let’s look at the fundamental uselessness of the testing program–a plague visited annually on 1.2 million students, teachers and schools. Several transformative changes occurred over the course of the Common Core era that render efforts to understand the results from year to year a nullity:
· Revision of the testing framework between 2011 and 2012 as part of the “education reform agenda” leading to the imposition of “rigorous” testing;
· A transition period (2012) allowing the new publisher Pearson one year to familiarize itself with the scope of New York State testing prior to full-fledged introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards;
· Initiation of core-aligned tests in 2013 and establishment of a baseline against which to measure student progress in meeting the standards;
· A shift in the statewide testing population in 2014 and 2015, with 20 percent of the students opting out of the exams;
· Removal of time limits from the tests in 2016 taking away uniformity in their administration and making comparisons with previous years of (timed) tests invalid;
· Switch to a new publisher in 2017 (Questar) after a handoff from Pearson, which is an unaccounted for source of variation in the construction of the exams and the results they yield;
· Reducing the number of testing days from three to two and altering the scoring scale in 2018, defying attempts to make sense of results or draw conclusions about progress.
So, in virtually every year from 2012 through 2018 there have been differences in the publishers, the test population and the test parameters. And we’re not even talking about the mysterious derivation of the cut off scores that define student performance level on the exams. Such discontinuity is antithetical to the establishment of a coherent testing system. SED’s admonition about the inability to draw comparisons between 2017 and 2018 actually holds true throughout the unstable Common Core span. and USA Today New Jersey are publishing a five-part series of the abuse of taxpayer funds by charter operators. This is part 3 of an investigation called “Cashing In on Charter Schools,” written by Abbott Koloff and Jean Rimbach.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid was steered to New Jersey’s largest charter school management companies over the last decade, helping them to create a network of school buildings that are privately owned.

“In other parts of the country, the same aid programs provided interest-free loans to both traditional public schools and charters to construct and renovate buildings. But a much different model emerged in New Jersey as Gov. Chris Christie’s administration gave the state’s entire share of the federal aid — bonds worth more than a half-billion dollars — to charters and other non-traditional public schools.

“More than three-quarters of that money was awarded to the state’s two largest charter school operators, KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools, which used it in ways that strayed far from the intent of the aid programs.

“The companies fashioned complex financial structures that allow them to exploit the bonds by tapping into the aid as a steady stream of income over decades, using methods that in some cases have drawn the scrutiny of federal investigators.

“The result is a string of school buildings that were built with taxpayer money but remain in private hands. The companies that own them were created to purchase real estate and renovate buildings for charter schools, but they are kept legally separate from the charter schools that send millions of dollars their way each year in rent.

“Charter schools rent these buildings indefinitely. Leases do not contemplate a time when rent payments would end or when the buildings would be turned over to the public charter schools, even after the debt is paid.

“The deals involve related companies that are created to lend money to one another — an arrangement that is not uncommon in the world of private finance. But in this case the arrangements steer tax dollars — federal aid that subsidizes the projects by covering the interest on the loans — to private groups that don’t have to share details with the public or the state about how they use the cash.”

























Thanks to Nicholas Kristof for writing these stories and for recognizing that the economic and social supports needed for the hero of the story should not depend on philanthropy and charity.

Nicholas Kristof wrote about an 8-year-old boy who won the New York State chess championship for his age group. He learned chess only a year earlier at his public school, PS 116, in Manhattan. He and his family, Nigerian refugees, were living in a homeless shelter. As a result of Kristof’s reporting, the family has been showered with gifts, including a rent-free apartment for a year and a GoFundMe collection of $200,000, plus scholarships for the boy, Tani, at elite private schools. The family accepted the home, is giving the money to help others, and turned down the scholarships because Tani likes PS 116.

From the first column:

“In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming.

“He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship…

“So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told me.

“Tani’s family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.

“So Tani, his parents and his older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor helped steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani’s class how to play.”

Knowing that his family had no money, the school waived the usual fees so that Tani could participate in the program.

From Kristof’s second column:

“Tanitoluwa Adewumi, age 8, skidded around the empty apartment, laughing excitedly, then leapt onto his dad’s back. “I have a home!” he said in wonderment. “I have a home!”

“A week ago, the boy was homeless, studying chess moves while lying on the floor of a shelter in Manhattan. Now Tani, as he is known, has a home, a six-figure bank account, scholarship offers from three elite private schools and an invitation to meet President Bill Clinton.

“I think I am still dreaming,” said Tani’s dad, Kayode Adewumi. “I hope I don’t wake up….”

“After my column about this hard-working family, a GoFundMe drive raised more than $200,000 for Tani, his parents and his brother. A half-dozen readers offered housing — in a couple of cases, palatial quarters. Immigration lawyers offered pro bono assistance to the Adewumis, who are in the country legally and seeking asylum. Three film companies are vying to make movies about Tani.

“Heartfelt thanks to all my readers for this generosity: I truly have the best readers…

“The Adewumis have decided that they will not spend a cent of the $200,000 GoFundMe money on themselves. They will take out a 10 percent tithe and donate it to their church, which helped them while they were homeless, and the rest will be channeled through a new Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help African immigrants who are struggling in the United States the way they were a week ago….

“I asked them how they could turn down every penny of such a huge sum….

“I’m a hardworking guy,” Mr. Adewumi explained. He has two jobs: He drives for Uber with a rented car and sells real estatethrough Brick & Mortar. Someone has now offered him a free car so that he can keep more of the money he makes driving, and Tani’s mom was just offered a job as a health care aide at a hospital…

“The family was tempted by the offers of full scholarships at top private schools. But Tani and his parents decided that while he might accept such a scholarship for middle school, he would be loyal and stick with the public elementary school, P.S. 116, that taught him chess and waived his fees for the chess club.

“This school showed confidence in Tanitoluwa,” his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, told the P.S. 116 principal, Jane Hsu. “So we return the confidence.” And then, overcome with emotion, the mom and the principal hugged.

“There’s a risk that a triumph like this leaves the impression that charity is the solution rather than a way to fill gaps: Fundamentally we need comprehensive systems in place to support needy kids. We would never build a bridge or subway with volunteers and donations, so why entrust an even more urgent cause — homeless children — to charity?

“Tani thrived because everything fell into place: a good school, a dedicated chess teacher and devoted parents committed to taking their son to every chess practice. The challenge is to replicate that supportive environment for all the other Tanis out there with public services and private philanthropy alike….”


Bill Phillis, retired deputy state superintendent and passionate advocate of equity and financial advocacy, has written many times about the absurd state takeover law. It gets more insane by the day.

He wrires:

Chairman of Lorain Academic Distress Commission (ADC) says he ALONE will complete the CEO’s job performance evaluation
The Chairman of the Lorain ADC lives 130 miles from Lorain. He was appointed chairman about a month ago. He recently announced that he alone would evaluate the CEO.
HB 70 is an irrational state policy. It permits the State Superintendent to appoint a non-resident of a school district to chair the governance committee. This is absurd. It is like a resident of Lorain leading the Columbus school district or a resident of Cleveland being appointed as the president of the Columbus City Council.
HB 70 should be repealed as quickly as it was enacted—in one day.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||



This is part 3 of the Los Angeles Times’ series about charter school dysfunction in California, written by Anna Phillips. 

Phillips traces many of the problems, especially lack of oversight, to state law.

She explains that the billionaires who fund the rapid expansion of charter schools have squared off against the powerful California Teachers Association, andthe two never agree.

The resultis That a badly flawed lawremains in place.

Phillips quotes several charter school advocates who want to eliminate the role of local school boardsin authorizing charter schools and transfer that power to a single state charter board.

What the advocates never mention is that the school boards have been rendered toothless by the law, which allows charters to appeal their rejection at the local level to the county board. If the county board rejects them, they can appeal to the state board, which has been extremely friendly to charters due to appointments by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown, both very charter-friendly.

Phillips quotes one charter advocate who points to New York as a model. New York hastwo charter authorizing Boards: the State Board of Regents and the SUNY Charter Institute. Neither supervises the charters they authorize. The SUNY committee consists of appointees of Governor Cuomo, who loves charters and receives big campaign contributions from the charter billionaires and Wall Street charter lobby. When billionaire Merryl Tisch was chair of the Board of Regents, it too was an ally of charters. She is now on the SUNY board. Even now, the Regents continue to endorse charter expansion,despite local objections.

The Network for Public Education, which is not funded by teachers unions, believes that charters should be authorized ONLY by local school districts to meet their needs, not because an entrepreneur wants a school of his own or because a corporate chain sees a chance to grow.

The irony is that the charter billionaires seem already to have captured Governor Gavin Newsom, even though they supported another candidate. Newsom promised charter reform, and he signed a bill requiring accountability and transparency and forbidding conflicts of interest and nepotism. But he may have shackled the charter reform agenda by appointing charter allies to a majority of places on the new state task force to recommend changes to the charter law. Phillips ends her article by mentioning the task force but fails to mention that charter allies were given seven of 11 seats, surely by Newsom.

So this otherwise great series ends for me on a disappointing note. It is far easier for billionaires to capture a single state board or two state boards than to deal with hundreds of local school districts. There is a limit to the number of elections and seats they can buy, even with their deep pockets. One thing has become clear about “Reformers.” They don’t like democracy. They like mayoral control and state control. Local school boards get in their way.




I was an enthusiastic supporter of Beto O’Rourke when he ran against Ted Cruz. I regularly sent him checks of $50, $100. I would have loved to see Beto beat Cruz. I heard that Beto’s wife Amy was connected to the charter school movement but decided that was less important than beating Cruz.

Now that Beto is running for President, it matters more. I don’t want another Democratic President pushing privatization of public schools and public money.

i won’t support any candidate who supports charters and/or vouchers. I also feel that he, like some other candidates, lacks the experience to be president.

Beto’s wife, Amy O’Rourke, is part of CREEED, an economic development agency that recruits charters to El Paso as part of an economic development plan (gentrification).

Amy runs the “Choose to Excel” Program, which recruits IDEA and Harmony charters to El Paso. Harmony is part of the Gulen Turkish network. IDEA bolsters its graduation rates by not allowing students to graduate until they have been accepted into a four-year college.

The Hunt Family Foundation gave $12 million to CREEED specifically to recruit more charters to El Paso. The local public school teachers were not happy. 

“Norma De La Rosa, president of the El Paso Teachers Association, said the donation is a slap in the face to public schools and teachers.

“De La Rosa added that charter schools don’t work as closely with special needs and limited English-speaking students.

“Public school is here to provide that education, that support, and prepare our students for the future,” De La Rosa said. “Charter schools do not have the interest of all students at heart.”

“However, Woody Hunt, chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation and vice chairman of CREEED’s board of directors, said he hopes the donation will show large charter school backers, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that the education community in El Paso is committed to school choice.

“This is a journey, and I think the reason for us to go public at this time is the opportunity we have with some external funders that are potential investors, and we wanted to send the message that the local community is financially supportive of the endeavor,” Hunt said. “

The Washington Post said that Beto and Amy had worked closely with local Republican businessmen on economic development, which some saw as gentrification.

“Before Beto O’Rourke became the darling of liberal online donors, his top financial backers hailed from a different set entirely — wealthy businessmen who have sought political influence by collectively donating millions of dollars to Republicans.

“Several of El Paso’s richest business moguls donated to and raised money for O’Rourke’ s city council campaigns, drawn to his support for a plan to redevelop El Paso’s poorer neighborhoods. Some later backed a super PAC that would play a key role in helping him defeat an incumbent Democratic congressman.

“For his part, O’Rourke worked on issues that had the potential to make money for some of his benefactors. His support as a council member for the redevelopment plan, which sparked controversy at the time because it involved relocating low-income residents, many of them Hispanic, coincided with property investments by some  of his benefactors. a congressman he supported a $2 billion military funding increase that benefited a company controlled by another major donor. That donor, real estate developer Woody Hunt, was friends with O’Rourke’s late father. Hunt also co-founded and funds an El Paso nonprofit organization that has employed O’Rourke’s wife since 2016.

“We shared a common goal,” said Ted Houghton, a local financial adviser and longtime O’Rourke donor who raised money for former Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, and helped steer millions in state transportation funding to the city. “The common goal was we needed to move El Paso in a different direction.”…

”In contrast to the aspirational image he has fostered in recent years, however, O’Rourke’s political career traced a more traditional path for a Texas politician — winning support from a typically pro-GOP business establishment interested in swaying public policy. Born into one politically potent family and married into another, he benefited repeatedly from his relationships with El Paso’s most powerful residents, including several nationally known Republican moneymen….

“Once O’Rourke got to Congress, he made cleaning up corruption in government a priority. He stopped taking money from political action committees after his first term, promised to support term limits for members of Congress, and sponsored bills to provide partial public financing for campaigns and limit donations to national party committees.

“At the same time, O’Rourke continued to receive large amounts of money from employees of companies run by major donors. Employees of one of his father-in-law’s former companies, Strategic Growth Bank, including Sanders himself, gave $57,400 during O’Rourke’s 2014 and 2016 House campaigns. Employees of El Paso-based Western Refining, including its chairman, Foster, gave $10,600 in 2014.

“Hunt Companies’ employees, including Hunt, gave $60,300 to O’Rourke in the 2014 and 2016 cycles, more than the employees of any other business, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“O’Rourke worked in Congress to promote a military funding issue that directly affected Hunt’s business. Hunt Companies boasts of being the nation’s largest builder and manager of privatized military housing in the country. In 2015, the Obama administration persuaded Congress to cut troop stipends for those units.

“Until then, troops who lived in the privatized units on bases would receive a monthly stipend equal to their projected rent. But when the cuts became law in 2014, the stipend was to be gradually reduced. As a result, providers of base housing were faced with either reducing their rents and losing revenue or risking the loss of tenants by asking soldiers to pay out of pocket.

“In response, Hunt Companies’ lobbyists billed $380,000 in 2017 and 2018 for work that included contact with Congress on military housing and defense appropriations issues. During this period, O’Rourke’s office listed restoring the money for privatized housing as the 13th of 15 priorities in an internal database shared with Republican leaders, according to a person familiar with the work of O’Rourke’s congressional office.

“With the support of Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee, who had opposed the initial housing stipend cuts, the defense spending bill that passed in 2018 included an increase in funding for privatized housing that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost taxpayers an additional $2 billion between 2019 and 2023. O’Rourke voted for the bill, which President Trump signed.

“O’Rourke’s spokesman said Hunt played no role in O’Rourke’s support for the measure.”

Forbes took up the question of whether Amy Sanders O’Rourke is a billionaire heiress. It disputed that characterization and concluded that her father was worth “only” $500 million. 

Whatever her father is worth is irrelevant.

What bothers me is that she is deeply tied to the charter ideology, with charters used as a tool to transform the economy while drawing funds from the local public schools.

The Intercept wrote here about Beto’s charter school problem. Frankly, I hope that every Democratic candidate realizes that charter schools are an albatross and that real Democrats support public schools. Charter schools are part of the Republican ideology of consumer choice andthe superiority of free markets. Charter schools and vouchers are points on the same spectrum.

That’s why I won’t support Beto in the primaries.

If he is the candidate, I will support him against Trump. and USA Today New Jersey are posting a five-part series about how taxpayers are being taken for a ride by the charter industry. 

Part 2 is about the millions of state dollars spent to bailout a low-performing charter school.

Reporters Jean Rimbach and Abbott Koloff write:

“By 2010, four years after it opened, the Central Jersey Arts Charter School in Plainfield was in trouble.

“The state had just put it on probation for a host of deficiencies, ordering it to limit spending, develop a curriculum and address problems with its board and student achievement.

“Yet little more than three weeks later, a state agency voted to issue bonds that allowed a fledgling nonprofit called the Friends of Central Jersey Arts Charter School to borrow $8.2 million to buy and renovate a building for the school to rent and, one day, potentially own.

“It was a loan whose repayment was based on the tax dollars flowing to the public charter school.

“The Friends quickly ran out of cash, and about six months later approached a different state agency seeking millions of dollars in additional financing to finish the project without explaining why they had come up short. The next year, another $1.7 million in bonds were issued, this time with the federal government picking up most of the interest.

“While the Friends were permitted to borrow nearly $10 million, the school itself was floundering. A financial report covering the 2010-11 school year stated that Central Jersey Arts was “not in good financial condition” and raised “substantial doubt” about its survival.

“The building opened with fanfare as contractors went unpaid. The next year, the school was back on probation, where it stayed until the state shut it down in 2015 for weak finances and “dismal” academic performance — but not before dumping more taxpayer cash into a now-defunct for-profit management company in the hope of turning it around.

“This is the story of a charter school that failed, and a building that used up millions in public dollars and continued to receive federal aid long after it was left vacant. It’s a story about dubious decisions by multiple state agencies, one that raises questions about the use of public money and the oversight of private groups that own real estate for public charter schools.”

The school “churned through teachers and business administrators at an alarming rate…At one point, a janitor was doing the books.”

It became difficult to know whether to attribute the school’s failure to fraud, theft, or incompetence.

Ultimately, the public money was lost and the education of hundreds of students was squandered.

In this brilliant article, the wisest comment came from a woman who had served as Board president for a time. She said, “You know, the bottom line is greed should not supersede education.”


This has been possibly the very worst week in the history of charter schools, which have existed for almost 30 years. It is fitting that this week coincided with Public Schools Week, reminding us of the importance of public schools, which are democratically governed, open to all who apply, and accountable, financially and academically, to the public.

Consider the trajectory of the charter idea.

What began as in idealistic proposal–experimental schools-within-schools, created and operated by teachers with the approval of their colleagues and local school board, intended to reach out and help the struggling and turned-off students—has turned into a libertarian’s dream of deregulated, even unregulated industry replete with corporate chains, entrepreneurs, billionaire backers, highly segregated schools, and a battering ram against collective bargaining.

Charter schools in the initial version were supposed to collaborate with public schools to make them better or to learn from failed experiments. That was charter 1.0.

That didn’t last long. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to profit from guaranteed public funding while skimping on teacher pay. Grifters saw a chance to get rich with land deals and leases. Ideologues like the Waltons and the Koch brothers saw a way to get rid of teachers’ unions.

Democrats were duped by the rhetoric of “saving poor kids from failing schools,” which was spouted by Obama, Duncan, Romney, Trump, and DeVos.

But this week, all the flowery rhetoric melted.

First came the report from the Network for Piblic Education, revealing the waste of nearly $1 billion in federal funds awarded to charters that never opened or soon closed.

Then began a three-part series in the Los Angeles Times by Anna Phillips on charter corruption and a state law that invites charter waste and abuse.

Then began a series jointly sponsored by and USA Today on the ways that charter operators use public funds to build charter facilities that are privately owned, not public. Legal theft, you might call it.

Even the Onion chimed in, with a satirical piece about an innovative charter school that accepts no students.

Will the charter spin machine recover or are we seeing a new boldness on the part of the press?

Perhaps the new attention to charter scandals was encouraged when a team of reporters at the Arizona Republic received the prestigious George Polk Award for its exposes of charter scandals in that state.

The mask has fallen away.

Lets give credit where it’s due. Betsy DeVos has made crystal clear that she loves charters, hates accountability, and welcomes profit making. Thanks, Secretary DeVos, for explaining the end game of privatization.


The Providence Journal published 20 articles about Governor Gina Raimondo and Sackler contributions to her campaign. It was only $12,500, nothing in the world of hedge fund managers, Raimondo’s former occupation. The publicity finally got to her, and she announced she was donating the money somewhere. 

Sackler owns Purdue Pharma, major manufacturer of OxyContin, the highly addictive opioid responsible for more than 200,000 deaths. There are more than 1,600 lawsuits against Purdue and the Sacklers, whose net worth exceeds $14 Billion.

Sackler is a major funder if charter schools and charter advocacy groups, such as Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN.