Search results for: "corruption"

Investigative journalists Ashton Pittman and William Pittman exposed a major scandal in Mississippi. The governor misappropriated millions of dollars intended for the needy and diverted the money to build a volleyball stadium to please NFL star Brett Favre. They gained access to text messages among the major actors.

They begin:

Between 2016 and 2019, the Mississippi Department of Human Services and nonprofits associated with it allegedly misspent more than tens of millions of dollars in federal Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds that should have gone to the poorest families in the poorest state. More than $5 million of those funds went toward a volleyball-stadium project at the University of Southern Mississippi favored by retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre and $1.1 million went to Favre himself.

This timeline focuses on that element of the welfare scandal, including text messages with Favre and others revealed in court filings by former Gov. Phil Bryant and by Nancy New’s nonprofit, the Mississippi Community Education Center. The text messages are not a complete record, however; Bryant’s texts include redactions; New’s texts do not indicate redactions, but nevertheless appear to leave out important exchanges. When necessary, text exchanges that were spread across multiple pages in the court filings have been stitched together.

Though New, former MDHS Director John Davis, and four others have faced criminal charges, prosecutors have not accused Favre nor Bryant of a crime.

The IDEA charter chain in Texas was one of Betsy DeVos’s favorite grantees. She handed over $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to IDEA to spur its expansion. With so much money, the management of IDEA indulged in luxuries. They planned to lease a private jet for $2 million a year but backed off because of adverse publicity. They bought season box seats at the San Antonio Spurs basketball games. When the founder resigned, he was given a $1 million golden parachute.

But the IDEA spending spree didn’t end there. The board of the charter chain received a whistleblower’s letter and commissioned an independent audit of its finances. When the audit was completed, the board fired the chief executive officer and the chief operating officer. Go to this link to read the board’s letter to the public and its recognition of the leadership’s corruption.

This scandal goes to the heart of the basic lie behind the charter industry: their lobbyists have waged bitter fights against transparency and accountability. They have sold the lie that private entrepreneurs should get millions and millions of public dollars without oversight. “Trust us,” they said. They lied.

In state after state, charter schools do not get better test scores than public schools, unless they choose their students carefully and kick out the ones they don’t want.

The IDEA scandal should bring renewed scrutiny to the federal Charter Schools Program, which currently receives $440 million a year. As the Network for Public Education documented in two reports (see here and here), about 37% of the federally-funded charter schools either never opened or close within a few years. There is now a campaign in Congress, led by the charter lobby, to increase its funding from $440 million to $500 million per year.

Let’s be clear: the charter school industry is amply funded by billionaires, mostly hedge fund managers as well as Silicon Valley titans and billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton Family. It attracts the support of libertarians and right wingers who want to privatize public schools.

The federal Charter Schools Program should NOT be expanded. It should be eliminated.

This article was written by Swedish teacher Filippa Mannerheim and translated by retired Swedish educator Sara Hjelm. It appeared in the Swedish publication EXPRESSEN.

Mannerheim expresses her outrage at the corruption and inequity that have flowed from the Swedish policy of privatization. Her articles are a warning to those of us in the United States, as many states are now considering legislation to copy the Swedish free-market model, allowing anyone–including for-profit enterprises–to supply educational services to student.

Politicians let schools sink into a swamp of corruption 

Published 8 Feb 2021 

High school teacher Filippa Mannerheim. 

The Swedish Parliament. 


Teacher Filippa Mannerheim sparked a great debate with her indictment against Swedish parliamentary politicians about the market school. 

All parties – except M and KD have responded – and Mannerheim is now writing her closing remarks. 

This is a cultural article, where writers can express personal opinions and make assessments of works of art. 


There was once a farmer who was terribly hard of hearing, something he was ashamed of. One day, while standing carving on an ax handle, he saw the surveyor coming walking on the road. “First he probably asks what I do and then I answer ‘Ax handle'”, the old man thought. Then he asks if he can borrow my mare and then I say: “The riders have ridden her back off”. And when he asks about my old echo, I answer “She is completely ruined and holds neither weather nor water.”  

– Good day! said the surveyor.  

“Ax shaft,” replied the old man.  

This story my father read to me when I was a child and I remember that we laughed a lot at the old man’s determined but damned answers. That the saga is now revived within me again, after 40 years, is no coincidence.  

After reading the six (non) answers from our parliamentary parties after my article “I accuse…!”, I am saddened by school policy. What is positive is that our Riksdag politicians have answers to all my questions. What is negative is that their answers rarely have to do with the questions.  

The Center Party proudly claims (after three months of reflection, while their formulations have gone back and forth between communicators and party leadership), that they at least want to increase freedom of choice and transparency in Swedish schools, but then make proposals that lead to the exact opposite – slippery as eels in their struggle to defend the corporations’ dividends. The Liberals write an answer so full of empty phrases that I have already forgotten what the message was. I think there was something about teachers being very important. 

The Social Democrats and the Green Party agree with me in substance but unfortunately can do nothing, “very boring, really.” The Western Party is outraged, the Sweden Democrats, as usual, blame the immigrants and the 

Moderates and Christian Democrats don’t bother to even put together an answer. Probably they have none.  

– Swedish schools are in deep crisis! Politicians, you must act! 

– Good day, ax handle, little friend. 

What exactly is politics for our politicians? I ask myself. Is it a polished, trembling index finger in the air, or is it a sincere description of the problem and a long-term and well-thought-out vision of what Sweden can become, based on knowledge, a sense of responsibility and an honest will to improve our society?  

Who knows? Not me anyway.  

In another fairy tale I recently read with my 

students, HC Andersen lets the little child 

shout the obvious: “The emperor is naked!” 

Many of us are shouting now, but without our 

rulers hearing us.  


But this is not a fairytale. This is 2021 in a  small but extreme country in the north, where the majority of our parliamentary parties have made it clear to us voters that the Swedish school market, with its destructive consequences, will remain. The limited companies’ expansion at the expense of the municipal school, the unfair school choice system, the extreme and skewed construction of school fees that are running Swedish schools at the bottom, grade inflation, a rejected principle of openness and an increasingly segregated school system – all this we must continue to live with.  

This was not what we thought of the free school reform!  

Nevertheless, the majority of our political parties are determined to continue on the path that has led Swedish, tax-financed schools deeper and deeper into the dunes of corruption. The partners’ profits are too important to be legislated away. At the same time, meaningless messages are drummed out to voters as pale, Orwellian mantras: “All schools must be good!” “Free schools are good!”  

– Good day, ax handle.  

The fact remains: We are the only country in the world with this school model. No party, neither right-wing nor left-wing parties in the rest of the world, pushes the idea of ​​free establishment for commercial companies, an almost unlimited profit, lack of democratic transparency about how tax money is used and free for profit companies to choose and reject which children to teach. The Swedish school system is rigged.  

Several bourgeois opinion leaders and leading writers have happily begun to raise their voices against the market school. Even the Liberals have very recently expressed concern about venture capitalists as school owners. It gives a certain hope. But the fact that an overwhelming majority of our parliamentary parties cannot unanimously express that they are prepared to take responsibility and do something about the problems is nothing but outrageous. They simply do not want to stop being the only country in the world that prioritizes foreign venture capitalists over the country’s children.  

But Swedish schools are not the private property of politicians or limited companies to milk money and power out of. The schools belongs to us. The Swedish people. We pay for the party.  

In the 2022 election, we voters have the opportunity to use our votes wisely with the socially important school issue in focus. If we vote for a party that does not want to change the school system but only pretends to poke at it for the sake of visibility, the system will remain. And it will leave huge traces in our Swedish society.  

Parliamentary politician: I have nothing more to add in the matter. 

My accusation remains.  

By Filippa Mannerheim 

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher of Swedish and history, as well as a writer and school debater.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island, gave a masterful presentation on the power of dark money at the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Please take 30 minutes and watch it. If we don’t put a stop to the power of dark money, we will lose our democracy.

Senator Whitehouse names names. He details the “Scheme,” the money trail, the big donors (where they can be identified) who are buying our democracy and choosing Supreme Court Justices.

Their three big legal goals right now: to overturn Roe v. Wade; to overturn the gay marriage decision; to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The Republicans are rushing through Judge Barrett’s confirmation so that she can be a member of the Supreme Court when Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is argued on November 10.

Three whistleblowers in the U.S. Department of Education filed complaints that Betsy DeVos overruled internal reviews to award $72 million to the IDEA charter chain.

This is not the way federal grants are supposed to work. Funds are supposed to be awarded based on peer reviews and staff reviews, not awarded as plums by political appointees. This is political interference at the highest level. This award should be revoked.

I have often referred to the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program as DeVos’s private slush fund, and this grant proves that my hunch was right.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post:

A U.S. congressman is demanding answers from the U.S. Education Department, alleging department employees complained to his office about political interference in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to the controversial IDEA charter school network.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the department Monday asking for details and records related to the awarding of the grant.

In an interview, Pocan said “three whistleblowers” told his office that professional staff evaluating applications for 2020 grants from the federal Charter School Program had rejected IDEA for new funding, deeming the network “high risk” because of how IDEA leaders previously spent federal funds.

But according to these whistleblowers, Pocan said, professional staff was overruled by political appointees who ordered the funding be awarded to IDEA. The identities of the whistleblowers were not revealed to The Post, nor were the names of the political appointees.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.

IDEA, a Texas-based charter school network with nearly 100 campuses in Texas and Louisiana serving nearly 53,000 students, said in a statement:
”Peer reviewers from education and other fields evaluate grant applications independently from Department of Education staff. In three of the last four Charter Schools Program competitions, spanning two administrations and including the most recent round of grants, the independent reviewers who evaluated applications gave IDEA Public Schools the highest scores of any applicant in the country. (In 2017, IDEA received the second-highest score.) All of the outside reviewers’ scores and comments are public on the Department’s website, and we encourage anyone doubting the strength of IDEA’s applications and our 20-year track record with students to read those reviews.”

Earlier this month, the Education Department announced it was awarding millions of dollars in new grants to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. IDEA was the top recipient, receiving $72 million over five years.

IDEA had previously received more than $200 million in funding over the past decade through the program.

But the network has been dogged by controversy. This month, IDEA chief executive Tom Torkelson resigned after publicly apologizing for “really dumb and unhelpful” plans that included leasing a private jet for millions of dollars and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on San Antonio Spurs tickets.

The Texas Monitor reported last month that Torkelson had flown on a private jet to Tampa to meet with DeVos to discuss “education philanthropy,” records show. The Monitor reported he was the only passenger on a jet that can hold nine people.

Last November, the Education Department’s inspector general criticized IDEA in an audit of data IDEA included in annual performance reviews it submitted to the federal government, required as part of the grants received from the federal Charter Schools Program.
The inspector general concluded that IDEA Public Schools “did not provide complete and accurate information” for all performance measures on annual performance reports over three years and did not report any information for 84 percent of the performance measures on which it was required to report over two years.

Still, IDEA had certified its annual performance reports were “true, complete and accurate.”
The audit also found IDEA “did not always spend grant funds in accordance with federal cost principles and its approved grant applications.”
IDEA acknowledged some of the findings, took issue with others, and agreed with all the recommendations from the inspector general to improve internal procedures.

That inspector general report, together with the suggestion that political appointees pushed through more grant money, should spark an even deeper inspection of IDEA, Pocan said in an interview.
“There needs to be an investigation,” Pocan said. “This would be completely improper to take a program that has to have inspector general reports and a lot of media attention about bad decisions they’ve made, and then to get a grant that wasn’t approved by the professional staff and instead given for political reasons.”

In this post, Carol Burris lays out a devastating bill of indictment against the charter industry in Pennsylvania. Technically, it is run by “non-profit” Boards, but most of the time those words are fig leaves for for-profit corporations that are growing rich with the help of the state legislature.

Governor Wolf recently announced his determination to hold charter schools accountable, and the charter industry howled with rage. They don’t want any of their cushy deals to be jeopardized.

The people of Puerto Rico are in the streets demanding the resignation of Governor Rosselló, following the release of emails revealing his bigotry and contemptuous comments about those who elected him. Former Secretary of a Education Julia Keleher was brought to the Island to privatize public schools, adopting the Trump-DeVos plan of charters and vouchers. She was recently arrested on fraud charges.

Weingarten: Puerto Rico Gov. Rossello’s Tenure of Corruption and Failure Centers on His Mismanagement of Public Schools

Governor and Former Puerto Rico Education Secretary Keleher Created a Perfect Storm of Indifference and Incompetence 

For Release:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Michael Powell

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement on the mismanagement of Puerto Rico’s public schools by Gov. Ricardo Rossello and former Secretary of Education Julia Keleher:

“Nearly 1 million people took to the streets yesterday to call for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign. His tenure of corruption and failure includes his mismanagement of the public schools.

“The governor and Puerto Rico’s former secretary of education, Julia Keleher, caused significant and lasting damage to children and prevented their access to a high-quality education. Rossello and Keleher’s arrogance and neglect created a perfect storm of indifference and incompetence.

“For two years, Rossello and Keleher ignored repeated requests from the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and the AFT to use federal recovery money to fund and restore public education on the island. By ignoring our requests, they clearly showed their collective antipathy toward public education and how little they cared about the children and teachers in Puerto Rico’s public schools.

“Instead, they chose to grossly underfund public schools, leaving children with outdated textbooks, no school nurses and school buildings in disrepair. They shortsightedly closed more than 430 schools, one-third of the island’s public schools, and left families struggling to find alternative schools for their children to attend, often many miles away. They diverted much-needed funding from public schools to start charter schools, despite the growing evidence showing that many charters underperform compared with traditional public schools.

“To add insult to injury, we now find out from a recent U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General audit that Rossello and Keleher, to date, have spent $24.1 million—only 4 percent—of the $589 million in disaster relief funds provided by Congress to help fund and repair schools.

“Both knew full well that Congress stipulated in the recovery funding legislation that the money had to be spent in 24 months. Tragically—with the governor mired in a corruption scandal and Keleher being forced to resign after her arrest by the FBI for engaging in a kickback scheme—this federal recovery money will be largely unspent or spent unwisely.

“The governor and former secretary’s lack of commitment to the children of Puerto Rico is appalling. And their disrespect to the teachers on the island who threw their heart and soul into trying to teach and comfort these kids in the months after the storms is unforgivable. The sad chapter of Rossello and Keleher will forever be a stain on Puerto Rico.

“The next governor must not just repair the damage done to the public schools by the hurricanes, but must eliminate the utter contempt that Rossello and Keleher brought to their handling of public education.”



# # # #




Writer Christopher Rim asks a reasonable question in this article in Forbes: Did Betsy DeVos’ passion for school choice enable the corruption in administration of federal education funds in Puerto Rico? I was particularly pleased to read this article because Rim is a brilliant young man who does not usually write about education.

He begins:

Yesterday, the former education secretary of Puerto Rico, Julia Keleher, returned to the island to stand trial after being arrested by the FBI on July 10th on fraud charges. Specifically, she and a government official in the insurance sector have been charged with using their government positions and connections to misdirect federal funding and award bloated, fraudulent contracts to their personal connections (several of whom were also arrested on the 10th). Some see this as vindication for the Trump administration, which has cited potential misuse of funds as one of their reasons for repeatedly trying to hold back much-needed funds, most recently funding for food stamps. However, this alleged fraud actually has more to do with policies of reducing public school funding in favor of private and charter schools, a shift made popular by Education Secretary Betsy Devos. 

This scandal comes as a shock to many, but those who have been paying close attention to Keleher’s salary and budgeting, as well as the state of education in Puerto Rico during her two-year tenure, saw her arrest as a vindication of what they have been protesting throughout her time in office. Keleher assumed the responsibilities of Puerto Rico’s education secretary in early 2017. There was immediate controversy over her salary— at $250,000 annually, she was already Puerto Rico’s highest-paid public official, earning ten times more than the average Puerto Rican teacher, three times more than Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Roselló, and 25% more than Secretary DeVos. She maintained this salary even after Hurricane Maria—in fact, she attempted to use a foundation’s donation to the Puerto Rican education system to raise it to $400,000, the same salary as the US President. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, she had to spearhead the education-related relief efforts. Keleher used this tragedy as an opportunity to try her own plans to redesign Puerto Rico’s school system. She led wide-scale education reform efforts and referred to the island’s education system as a ‘laboratory’ to test the Devos model, as she pushed to adopt private school vouchers and charter schools while closing hundreds of public schools. While schools were struggling to recover from the hurricane, Kelleher worked to permanently close over 20% of them—263 public schools were shut down during her time as education secretary. Because of these closures, 5,000 teachers lost their jobs and 75,000 students were displaced. 

All of this led to protests on local, national and international scales. In March 2018, thousands of educators marched to the capitol in protest of the voucher and charter school program. On twitter, critics started the hashtag “#JuliaGoHome” in order to publicly decry her unjust policies. In April of 2019, after she had resigned, Keleher attended an education conference at Yale to speak about leadership. At the conference, a student circulated a letter about the shortcomings and negative repercussions of Keleher’s so-called “reform” efforts. After her arrest, both of the island’s teachers’ unions issued statements that theyfelt vindicated in their longstanding disagreements with and protests against Keleher and her policies. One of these unions, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR) had filed a lawsuit in April of last year to protest Keleher’s reforms, arguing that “the new law and separate fiscal reforms will cost teachers jobs, hurt students, and dismember the island’s public education system.” By that point, 179 schools had already been closed, and 263 would soon face the same fate. 




Arthur Camins writes here about two different worlds, two different perceptions of reality. 

On one side is money and power, defending privatization, promoting disruption, and ignoring corruption.

On the others are the defenders of the common good, who do not have money and power.

In recent years, people associated with the hedge fund industry, technology titans such as the Gates, Zuckerberg, and Jobs families, and right-wing foundations have all invested financial and political capital to promote charter schools. Their predominant ideological lens– no matter their political party affiliation– is competition and associated risk. That is why the liberal Gates and the conservative Walton families find common cause on charter schools. Long- and short-term triumphs and failures are essential features of their entrepreneurial worldview. Through that lens “start-ups” come and go, IPOs rise and fall, businesses merge, and divisions divested.  Lost jobs and careers are collateral damage–especially when the victims are poor and/or not White. That is their normal. It is the world in which they have triumphed.  They look at the world through the lens of their personal success. The losers in the process are, well–just part of how things get done. They have wealth and power and seek to impose and extend their will and perspective on everything within their reach. The public sector–including schools–is in their way. Increasingly democracy, and with it, government regulation is in their way too. Hence, they favor private over elected school boards. They are a tiny minority, but their perspective has gained bipartisan political and mass-media traction.

Another lens is the common good and its explicit companion, cross-racial unity. It has no wealth and power to extend its reach. However, it has a distinct advantage.  It represents the vast majority of Americans.  The questions you ask frame the answers you get.  Let’s ask, “Do you favor single a democratically-governed, high-quality public education system for every child or two taxpayer-funded systems: One privately-governed and another democratically governed?” I haven’t seen such a poll, nor have I seen any that ask: “Is it fair to drain money from public schools to fund charter schools?” or “Is it acceptable for schools to frequently open and close?” My best guess is that the stability, the common good, and racial unity will win hands down over the disruptive, market competition, and racially-divisive perspectives.

Read on to see where Camins is going as he explores the two perspectives.

A crack investigative team at the Arizona Republic won the prestigious George Polk Award for their fearless expose of charter school corruption in the state.

Now we might wonder where are the think tanks like the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution, which never utter a critical word about charter school corruption and malfeasance. CAP and Brookings are supposedly “liberal” think tanks, but for some reason they are unwilling and unable to say anything about the scams in charter world. My guess is that they are still protecting Obama’s education legacy, unwilling to admit that they are also protecting George W. Bush’s education legacy, which was identical.

Through their investigative work, reporters Craig Harris, Anne Ryman, Alden Woods and Justin Price revealed how Arizona’s school funding system and permissive legal structure allow charter-school operators to make huge profits off public education dollars. The team, led by investigative editor Michael Squires, published the five-part series “The Charter Gamble,” which examined how Arizona committed 25 years ago to the then-untested concept of charter schools and what the program has meant for the state.

The George Polk Awards in Journalism were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate CBS correspondent George Polk, who was murdered while covering the Greek civil war, and are presented annually to honor special achievement in journalism, especially investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results. The Republic’s team was recognized at the 70th annual Polk Awards announcement ceremony for “initially disclosing insider deals, no-bid contracts and political chicanery that provided windfall profits for investors in a number of prominent Arizona charter schools, often at the expense of underfunded public schools.” 

Greg Burton, executive editor of The Republic and, said the reporting team “unspooled miles of red tape to reveal what had been hidden during a decades-long push to funnel public money to privately run public charter schools — oftentimes with noble intent. But, where regulators and politicians fail as watchdogs, local reporters are vital. In this case, politicians and businessmen who could have pushed for reform made millions by ignoring warning signs. This is where Republic reporters worked to protect the public’s trust.”

In response to the reporting by the Arizona Republic, the legislature is considering charter reforms but none of those reforms will affect the worst abusers, some of whom are members of the legislature.