Archives for category: Fraud

Domingo Morel is a professor of political science at Rutgers University who has studied school takeovers across the nation. He is the author of Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy. 

In this post, he describes the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District as a hoax. 

It is a manufactured crisis. It is a theft of political power, and it is based on race.

If the state of Texas had its way, the state would be in the process of taking overthe Houston Independent School District.

But a judge temporarily blocked the takeover on Jan. 8, with the issue now set to be decided at a trial in June.

The ruling temporarily spares Houston’s public school system from joining a list of over 100 school districts in the nation that have experienced similar state takeovers during the past 30 years.

The list includes New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the U.S.

While the state of Texas claims the planned takeover is about school improvement, my research on state takeovers of school districts suggests that the Houston takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States fail to deliver

State governments have used takeovers since the late 1980s to intervene in school districts they have identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that takeovers will improve school systems, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers do not meet the states’ promised expectations. For instance, a recent report called Michigan’s 15-year management of the Detroit schools a “costly mistake” because the takeover was not able to address the school system’s major challenges, which included adequately funding the school district.

But while the takeovers don’t deliver promised results, as I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities, which overwhelmingly are communities of color. These negative consequences often include the removal of locally elected school boards. They also involve decreases in teachers and staff and the loss of local control of schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states have justified the takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district is in need of improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

By the state’s own standards, the Houston Independent School District is not failing!

Although the state has given the Houston Independent School District a B rating, it plans to take over the Houston schools because one school, Wheatley High School, has not met state standards for seven years. According to state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

The Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. It employs roughly 12,000 teachers. Wheatley High School serves roughly 800 students and has roughly 50 teachers.

So why would a state take over a school district that has earned a B rating from the state? And why base the takeover on the performance of one school that represents fewer than 1% of the district’s student and teaching population?

The takeover is nothing more or less than a bald-faced attempt to strip political power from black and Hispanic communities.

No one believes that software developer Mike Morath (the current state commissioner) has a single idea about how to improve Wheatley or any other school. He has never been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. He is there to carry out the rightwing agenda of Governor Gregg Abbott.

Count on it. This is a bald-faced power grab.

Last month, Betsy DeVos testified to Congress about her role in the student loan program. 

Her Department hounded students to pay back loans instead of canceling them because their for-profit college defrauded them. A federal judge ordered the Department to stop harassing the students, then fined the Department $100,000 for violating the court order.

Rep. Josh Harder of California grilled her for her failure to side with the students. He accused her of acting like a lobbyist for the for-profit colleges.

It’s a powerful segment. Worth watching to see her utter and callous indifference to the suffering of students who accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a worthless degree.

Rep. Harder said he understood why she didn’t care: a student’s debt of $40,000 represented a minuscule fraction of the cost of one of her 10 yachts.

 

The following statement was released on New Year’s Day by Community Voices for Public Education, a coalition of parents and students in Houston. As their statement demonstrates, the state takeover is a fraud intended to strip the school district of its elected school board and to replace it with a hand-picked governing board selected by a non-educator who wants to privatize public education.

 

It is New Years’ Day and public education is on our minds.

Will you make a commitment to fight the immoral, unAmerican and racist takeover of HISD?  Call your elected officials and then bring five friends with you to the January 9 rally opposing this takeover. 

Recently, the Houston Chronicle editorial board used misleading facts and misrepresentation to misinform its readers. The Chronicle seems mission-driven to legitimize the state takeover of HISD no matter the cost to its journalistic integrity or actual facts.

When they do this over three editorials, it is no longer an accident; it is propaganda. 

Here are some examples from the most recent editorials.

HISD at a crossroads: Looming State Takeover: The editorial compared HISD’s 81% graduation rate to Dallas’ 88% and Fort Worth’s 87% leaving the reader with the impression that they were better school districts.  The reality is Fort Worth has a TEA 2019 Accountability Rating of “C”(79) and only 53% of their graduates are college, career or military ready versus HISD’s “B”(88) and 63% graduate readiness. Dallas ISD has a “B” (86) rating and only 57% of their graduates are college, career or military ready. By the TEA’s own standards HISD is the better district. How did the Houston Chronicle and Mr. Morath manage to come to a completely different conclusion? Didn’t any of them bother to check the Texas Schools website? https://txschools.gov 

HISD must learn from others and our own past:  This editorial starts with the statistic of 56% of HISD students not meeting grade level expectations as measured by the STAAR test but it never mentions that Dallas ISD has the exact same STAAR performance rating as HISD. Once again, the Chronicle incorrectly leaves readers with the impression that Dallas is a better school district. (Source https://txschools.gov

HISD needs improvement, but where to start? How could the Chron fail to mention the Superintendent? The person who actually runs the district. The person who hires and places the all important principals. The person who would have to actually implement the LBB recommendations. This piece misleads the reader into thinking the Board of Trustees run the district. They don’t! They are a governing body elected by us and accountable to us. If the state takeover proceeds, our democratically elected school board members, four just elected, will be replaced with a board of managers serving at the pleasure of the governor and the TEA.

A call to all Houstonians to participate: In its final editorial in the series, the Chronicle asks us to put blind faith in TEA Commissioner Mike Morath as our unelected torchbearer. His educational experience is one term as Dallas ISD Trustee in which he unsuccessfully tried to turn Dallas ISD into a “home rule” giant charter using the same tactics he is now employing in Houston ISD. Truly, his resume is thinner than most substitute teachers. 

Throughout the series, the Houston Chronicle disregards overwhelming evidence that state takeovers harm students and communities. They also turn a blind eye to the fact that takeovers have been used disproportionately against school districts of color. Furthermore, they have ignored a preponderance of evidence that high stakes testing is a flawed method for evaluating students, teachers and schools. 

And the series pays the barest lip service to poverty/inequity and the effect on children and families. When seven children share one mattress, they do not need a state takeover to do better in school; they need six more mattresses.

If the Editorial Board wanted to facilitate meaningful change in HISD, their editorials should have been grounded in complete facts and they should have used data to inform, not obfuscate. There is no such thing as problem solving through propaganda.

Community Voices for Public Education
http://www.houstoncvpe.org/

 

On a flight yesterday, I watched a documentary that was a biography of Roy Cohn. It is called “Where Is My Roy Cohn?,” a phrase uttered by Trump when he was disgusted by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who apparently had some scruples about destroying the Justice Department on behalf of the man who appointed him.

The biography is short. The story is compelling. It portrays a man who had absolutely no scruples, no ethical core, no moral values. He was willing to lie, cheat, steal, twist words, anything to win. Winning was everything. He was a closeted homosexual who gleefully collaborated with his mentor Senator Joseph McCarthy to find and expose other homosexuals. He died of AIDS, but never admitted that he had the disease (he preferred to call it “cancer of the liver”).

The loathsome Cohn was Trump’s attorney and his mentor. He defended the Trump Organization against federal charges that the Trumps excluded blacks from their federally-financed housing projects. He helped to prosecute the Rosenbergs and assure that they got the death penalty. He was the chief lawyer for the Mafia and helped many of its leaders avoid long prison sentences. He was disbarred for stealing from his clients.

It is contemporary history. If you can find it online, watch it. It explains a lot about the world we live in now.

Angie Sullivan is a teacher in a Title 1 elementary school in Las Vegas. She regularly writes the members of the Nevada legislature to share her outrage about the underfunding of the state’s neediest schools and the state’s waste of money on charter schools, which dominate the state’s list of the lowest performing schools.

Here is her latest:

 

Peter Greene in Forbes
Still Asleep At The Wheel 
What happened?  
Pile of fraud and graft.  
These charter titles got money and did what?   
This charter changed its name many many times.   It is difficult to follow its trail – 100, One Hundred, Imagine at different locations.   Is this graft? fraud?  Imagine still has a failing charter campus opened? What happened to the two additional campuses?  $300,000 disappeared with change in names and admin?   This is what lack of accountability and transparency does. 
What happened to the Montessori in Carson?   I believe it is still there – complaining about cash.  These charters worry me because they never have a testing year so zero data and zero accountability. This is what lack of accountability and transparency does.   They received funding but complain about no money and blame Vegas.  They may try to get the Silver State/Argent Building.   They do not serve the poor. 
Silver State Charter School changed its name to Argent and lost almost all its students.  Sounds like the receiver had concerns because no one attended the “distance” low performer school.  No one ever graduated.   As in zero.   Perhaps Joshua Kern knows where the $440,000 went?   No one graduated.  This is the first charter I have seen “closed” by the charter authority.  I do not think it had any students left and that is what actually closed it. 
School of the deaf went bankrupt.  Im surprised it did not go into receivership and just get more money like Quest, Silver State and others.  The Nevada Tax Payer pays millions to keep financially floundering  charters open. 
E-TECHS had a facebook and a twitter for $300,000.  This was in 2011 and they never opened?   What happened to the money? 
Gardnerville’s Sierra Crest closed in 2010.  Sounds like the local school board was not putting up with low quality.  What happened to the $172,000? 
Did Washoe Team A even exist at all?  Where did the $220,000 go?  
Nevada folks need to demand to see this money.   
If Nevada Senator Scott Hammond is hiding behind a non-profit management system – we need to know that too.    Managing 5 charters for free?  What kind of accountability and transparency is this?  
There needed to be a charter moratorium for good reason.   Rest in Power Tyrone Thompson who knew that.  Playing games like this with money when Nevada has none is crazy. 
We see you Gulenist Soner Tarim 👀 Agenda 4a.   How much money are you bringing to Nevada Strong?  Expert at getting grants and not opening?   Everyone should protest every Nevada Charter Meeting to close that Gulen Charter down.  Nevada does not need anymore scamming known bad actors. 
None of these December 2019 charter applicants should be granted anything.  These scams are too much. 
Asleep at the wheel and gone off the road and crashed into a ditch.  
This is bad. 
Angie Sullivan. 

Nancy Bailey explains here that if you are dissatisfied with your public school, blame the Disruption Machine, the ones who call themselves “reformers,” like Betsy DeVos.

They have run public schools into the ground for the decades.

They have imposed their malevolent ideas and policies on public schools, with no accountability for their mistakes.

She writes:

Frustrated by public schools? Look no further than the corporate education reformers and what they have done to public education.

Education Secretary DeVos and her corporate billionaire friends have been chipping away at the fabric of democratic public schools for over thirty years!

The problems we see in public schools today are largely a result of what they did to schools, the high-stakes testing and school closures, intentional defunding, ugly treatment of teachers, lack of support staff, segregated charter schools, vouchers that benefit the wealthy, Common Core State Standards, intrusive online data collection, and diminishing special education services.

Big business waged a battle on teachers and their schools years ago. The drive was to create a business model to profit from tax dollars. Now they want to blame teachers for their corporate-misguided blunders! It’s part of their plan to make schools so unpleasant, parents will have no choice but to leave….

I student taught in an elementary school in Detroit, in 1973. Schools were certainly not perfect, but my modest school did a good job.

The third-grade teachers were excellent reading teachers. They organized rotating small groups of students based on their skill needs decoding letters and words. There were no data walls. No child appeared to compare themselves unfavorably to other children.

Students were encouraged to read, did free reading, lots of writing, and had access to plenty of books. The school had a nice library with a librarian who often read beautiful and funny stories to the class. They spent time studying social studies, science, and art and music. Teachers worked closely with the PTA and reached out to parents.

There was no testing obsession. Students didn’t fear failing third grade. They were continually learning, and most liked school. There were twenty-two students in the class.

Teachers did their own assessment, and they discussed the results with each other at their grade level meetings. The school had a counselor and I believe a nurse stationed at the school. We worried about the students and addressed concerns about issues like why some showed up without mittens in the cold weather.

Students did class projects to help remember what they learned in their subjects. For science, we created a rocket out of a huge cardboard box. We painted it and spent time studying the solar system. Children took turns sitting in the rocket pretending they were astronauts.

This school had an excellent Learning Center where teachers could share materials to cut down on costs. They had a nice collection of resources for every subject.

My supervising teacher was kind, well-prepared, and tough. She expected daily written lesson plans which she reviewed with me before I taught. She was an excellent mentor!

Where’s that school today? I wish I could go back and visit, but it closed years ago, razed and turned into a housing development. It was shuttered like 225 other public schools in Detroit!

For the fourth time in only five years, the leader of a charter school has been arrested for siphoning money away from the school.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

The founder of a now-closed Houston charter school network failed to properly disclose more than $1 million in payments to his brother’s companies and used taxpayer funds to cover costs associated with a timeshare in Hawaii, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Richard S. Rose, who served as superintendent, CEO and chief financial officer of Zoe Learning Academy, was arrested Monday after a grand jury returned an 18-count indictment against him. The charter school enrolled several hundred students per year at campuses in Houston’s Third Ward and Duncanville, a city south of Dallas, prior to its abrupt closure in 2017.

Rose is the fourth Houston-area charter leader in the past five years arrested on charges related to illegally taking money from a school.

The Varnett Public School founders Alsie and Marian Cluff were charged in 2015, and sentenced to prison last year for spending more than $4 million in campus funds to support their lavish lifestyle. Houston Gateway Academy Richard Garza awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in October to participating in a $160,000 kickback scheme involving an information technology contractor.

Investigators said Zoe Learning Academy paid bus service fees totaling more than $1 million over four years to companies owned by his brother, as well as about $60,000 to Rose’s wife and a company the couple owned. Rose failed to disclose the payments to the Texas Education Agency on annual governance forms, violating a state law that requires charter leaders to detail any school funds paid to their relatives, federal officials said.

Investigators also said Rose withdrew money from Zoe Learning Academy accounts and used the charter’s credit card to pay for a Honolulu timeshare, a $75,000 personal legal settlement and $30,000 in fees to a lawyer who represented him in matters unrelated to the school. Rose’s indictment did not detail the amount paid for the timeshare.

The charges against Rose include money laundering, conspiracy and theft from programs receiving federal funds. Rose did not have a defense lawyer listed in court records Wednesday. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

The charter elementary opened in 2001 and shuttered in September 2017, weeks after Hurricane Harvey landed in Houston. At the time, Rose said the school’s enrollment was too low to generate enough revenue to remain open.

Zoe Learning Academy received a failing grade on the 2017 state financial integrity rating scale for schools, one of four Texas charters to receive the designation. The charter district also failed to meet state academic standards in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Will Betsy DeVos and other charter cheerleaders claim that the parents chose Zoe Learning Academy and we should respect their choices regardless of its academic ratings or its founder’s financial practices?

After all, it is the parents’ choice and we should respect that choice, right? Even if the founder has been indicted and arrested.

Peter Greene writes here about the budget approved by Congress for the Department of Education.

There is good news and bad news. Peter Greene thinks it’s mostly good news. I’d say there is both.

Congress did not appropriate a penny for Betsy DeVos’s top priority, her $5 billion request for vouchers (aka “education freedom scholarships”). Sorry, Betsy, nada. Even Republican Congressmen and Senators represent public school parents.

But Congress appropriated $440 million for Betsy’s charter school slush fund, otherwise known as the federal Charter Schools Program. The CSP is a swamp of fraud, waste, and abuse, as the Network for Public Education demonstrated in its “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Still Asleep at the Wheel” reports, which showed that more than $1 billion in federal funds were wasted on charters that either never opened or closed not long after opening. The House (controlled by Democrats) wanted to cut CSP to $400 million (which is $400 million too much), but the Senate (controlled by Republicans) negotiated it back to level funding. The CSP was created by the Clinton administration in 1994 to help start-ups, mom-and-pop or teacher-led charters that needed some extra funding. Betsy has turned it into a big fat plum for corporate charter chains like KIPP and IDEA, which are not start-ups and which are already richly endowed with funding from billionaires, most of them right-wingers. At present, the federal government is the single biggest funded of charter schools in the nation, even in states that don’t want them or need them, like New Hampshire, where Betsy gave the state $46 million to double the number of charters, but the state legislative fiscal commission rejected the money. Congress showed its lack of concern for accountability; that’s for the little people.

Peter Greene writes:

Trump asked for a 10% cut to the department and the elimination of twenty-nine programs. That didn’t happen (though it’s worth noting that many Trump appointees like DeVos have figured out that you can cut spending in your department by simply letting positions stand empty).

There is more money for Title I. It’s about a 3% increase, while Democratic candidates are calling for increases of 200% to 300%.

The Charter Schools Program– the fund that has wasted a billion dollars on charter school waste and fraud– will stay art current levels, with neither the boost the GOP wanted nor the cut that Democrats called for.

And special ed funding will once again not be increased to its full, required level. This makes forever years for Congress to stiff the states on the granddaddy of all unfunded mandates. Thanks a lot, Congress.

Prominent groups that support public schools–not charter schools or religious schools–are meeting on Saturday in Pittsburgh to discuss the future of public education with Democratic presidential candidates.

The billionaire-funded charter industry is angry that they can’t control the event and they have released their plans to disrupt the event.

Contrary to the claims of the charter industry, charter schools are not public schools. They are private contractors that receive public money and are typically unregulated and fail to meet basic standards of accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, their leaders insist on minimal or non-regulation, assuring that grifters and entrepreneurs will be able to receive public dollars without any accountability.

The industry resolutely refuses to acknowledge, let alone curb, the waste, fraud, and abuse that has created a backlash against charter schools.

The Center for Education Reform, led by former Heritage Foundation education analyst Jeanne Allen, sent out this email:

 

 Charter Schools in Pittsburgh & Leaders

 throughout Pennsylvania Unite

 

Issue strong message to special interest sponsors of “Public Education Forum 2020” and the Democratic candidates ignoring parental demands

 

 

WASHINGTON – Charter school leaders in Pittsburgh, joined by others throughout Pennsylvania, and by key state democratic officials issued strong statements today challenging the Democratic candidates for president who will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this Saturday, December 14, 2019, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the “Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All.” Sponsored by unions and other interest groups, the Forum has sparked strong responses from the Pennsylvania charter school community, with its unfounded attacks upon the substantive work being carried out throughout the state and right in the city where the forum will be held.

 

“We call on the candidates to remember those who won’t be there: the thousands of parents from underserved communities tragically forced to watch their children suffer academically because of a failed system that refuses any real reform,” said representatives of 5 of the city’s charter schools in a statement, speaking on behalf of the state’s 143,000 charter school students and their parents.

 

“The Democratic Presidential candidates have been summoned to demonstrate their allegiance to the unions and special interests who they believe hold the key to their nomination,” said CER Founder & CEO Jeanne Allen. “Not invited were any charter or reform minded voices to participate in this nationally televised forum where Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is expected to attend and criticize the very charter schools he has tried to keep from operating.”

 

Many charter educators will be on the ground in Pittsburgh to make their voices heard, including Dara Ware Allen, PhD, CEO and Principal, City Charter High School; Dr. Tina Chekan, CEO/Superintendent, Propel Schools; Jon McCann, CEO, Environmental Charter School; Vasilios Scoumis, CEO, Manchester Academic Charter School; Brian Smith, Founder & CEO, Catalyst Academy Charter School; William C. Wade, Ed.S., CEO, Urban Pathways K5 College Charter School; and David Zeiler, CEO, Provident Charter School. They have issued the following statement in response to the Public Education Forum this Saturday.

 

“As eight potential future presidents gather here in Pittsburgh this Saturday and are hosted by some of the nation’s most powerful special interests, we call on the candidates to remember those who won’t be there: the thousands of parents from underserved communities tragically forced to watch their children suffer academically because of a failed system that refuses any real reform. It is a cruel irony that the tagline of this weekend’s forum is ‘equity and justice for all’ when all the candidates being celebrated each oppose the very policies that help our schools give such words real meaning. Thanks to school choice, our public charter schools prevail at giving life-altering opportunity to children for whom educational success – and the more hopeful and secure future that comes with it – would likely be denied.

 

Today in the Washington Post,  Eric Holder criticized Bill Barr for his aggressive, partisan support of Trump.

Holder was Obama’s Attorney General. Barr is Trump’s Roy Cohn.

Barr has professed his belief that the president’s powers have no limits; Congress must bow to the president.

He has joined the “culture wars” by attacking “liberals,” which is an opinion, not an expression of the law.

Republican moderates, a nearly extinct breed of person, once hoped that Barr would be a stabilizing force in this administration.

They were wrong.

Whatever and whoever Trump touches dies or loses their reputation.

As a former U.S. attorney general, I am reluctant to publicly criticize my successors. I respect the office and understand just how tough the job can be.

But recently, Attorney General William P. Barr has made a series of public statements and taken actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office.

Last month, at a Federalist Society event, the attorney general delivered an ode to essentially unbridled executive power, dismissing the authority of the legislative and judicial branches — and the checks and balances at the heart of America’s constitutional order. As others have pointed out, Barr’s argument rests on a flawed view of U.S. history. To me, his attempts to vilify the president’s critics sounded more like the tactics of an unscrupulous criminal defense lawyer than a U.S. attorney general.

When, in the same speech, Barr accused “the other side” of “the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law,” he exposed himself as a partisan actor, not an impartial law enforcement official. Even more troubling — and telling — was a later (and little-noticed) section of his remarks, in which Barr made the outlandish suggestion that Congress cannot entrust anyone but the president himself to execute the law.

In Barr’s view, sharing executive power with anyone “beyond the control of the president” (emphasis mine), presumably including a semi-independent Cabinet member, “contravenes the Framers’ clear intent to vest that power in a single person.” This is a stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests. It is also revealing of Barr’s own intent: to serve not at a careful remove from politics, as his office demands, but as an instrument of politics — under the direct “control” of President Trump.

Not long after Barr made that speech, he issued what seemed to be a bizarre threat to anyone who expresses insufficient respect for law enforcement, suggesting that “if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.” No one who understands — let alone truly respects — the impartial administration of justice or the role of law enforcement could ever say such a thing. It is antithetical to the most basic tenets of equality and justice, and it undermines the need for understanding between law enforcement and certain communities and flies in the face of everything the Justice Department stands for.

It’s also particularly ironic in light of the attorney general’s comments this week, in which he attackedthe FBI and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General — two vital components of his own department. Having spent the majority of my career in public service, I found it extraordinary to watch the nation’s chief law enforcement official claim — without offering any evidence — that the FBI acted in “bad faith” when it opened an inquiry into then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. As a former line prosecutor, U.S. attorney and judge, I found it alarming to hear Barr comment on an ongoing investigation, led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the Russia probe. And as someone who spent six years in the office Barr now occupies, it was infuriating to watch him publicly undermine an independent inspector general report — based on an exhaustive review of the FBI’s conduct — using partisan talking points bearing no resemblance to the facts his own department has uncovered.

When appropriate and justified, it is the attorney general’s duty to support Justice Department components, ensure their integrity and insulate them from political pressures. His or her ultimate loyalty is not to the president personally, nor even to the executive branch, but to the people — and the Constitution — of the United States.