Archives for category: Fraud

Carl J. Petersen, a parent advocate for students with special needs in the public schools of Los Angeles, wrote here about the failure of the LAUSD school board to monitor graft in the charter sector.

He writes about the deliberate negligence of board members supported by the charter industry:

As Community Preparatory Academy (CPA) approached the end of its charter, it was $820,303 in debt. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was a major creditor, with invoices that were about two years old totaling $82,240. The school had not resolved the majority of the Notices to Cure that the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) had issued, some of which involved health and safety violations. “Since CPA [had] opened in 2014, the school [had] not earned a rating higher than a ‘2’ (Developing) in the area of governance” on its annual oversight visits. Despite all of these problems, CPA requested that the LAUSD renew its charter.

Speaking in favor of rejecting CPA’s charter renewal, I noted some of the financial irregularities in the school’s governance and asked: “Was this school [Executive Director Janis] Bucknor’s personal piggy bank?” Yesterday, Bucknor herself provided the answer when she “agreed to plead guilty to embezzling $3.1 million in school funds that she spent on her personal use”. These funds were stolen from students “to pay for personal travel, restaurants, Amazon and Etsy purchases and private school tuition for her children” along with “more than $220,000…spent on Disney-related expenses, including cruise line vacations and theme park admissions.”
Central to my comments before the LAUSD board was the assertion that CPA’s charter should have been revoked long before it was up for renewal. This opinion is now strengthened the serious corruption that has been exposed by Bucknor’s guilty plea. How much of the $3.1 million could have been saved for use in the education of students if CPA had been shut down from the moment the school refused to resolve the concerns brought forward by the district? Instead, the LAUSD allowed the charter to continue operating with Bucknor having unfettered access to public funds.

Ignoring the almost five years of misbehavior by the charter that was allowed to continue without interruption, Board Member Nick Melvoin mocked my concerns by claiming that “we need to point out and be consistent of [sic] people who are saying that this board doesn’t hold charters accountable at a meeting where we are closing two schools”. He also said the board should “look at themselves in the mirror” and they should “be thinking [about] how are we holding ourselves accountable both academically at the school level and fiscally.” A good start would be to ensure that scarce funds are not taken from students in order to finance a charter school administrator’s Disney vacations.

Melvoin stated that he thought that the LAUSD would not “be comfortable with [a] conversation” that compared public schools to privately run charter schools. This is an easy position to take when he and other charter industry-financed board members like Monica Garcia, Caprice Young, and Ref Rodriguez have ensured that this competition does not take place on a level playing field. Instead of demanding accountability as they allowed public funds to flow into private hands, they built a bureaucracy that ensures that charter schools do not have to follow the same rules as their public school counterparts. The charter school industry will spend millions more this year on the campaigns of Marilyn Koziatek and Tanya Ortiz Franklin to ensure that their underregulated operations continue without interference.

The charter school industry would like you to believe that the corruption that occurred at CPA is an isolated incident. They said the same thing when Vielka McFarlane of the Celerity Educational Group “agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds” and when El Camino’s former Executive Director David Fehte was caught charging personal expenses to his school credit card. Even after these cases of misconduct became public, the CCSA fought against measures that would make charter schools accountable. This makes them complicit when the corruption continues. The same can be said for politicians like Melvoin who have stood in the way of reforms.

Don’t board members have a duty to represent the people who elected them, rather than the California Charter School Association that funded their campaigns?

George T. Conway III is a lawyer and a Republican. He is a founder of The Lincoln Project. His Twitter feed is brilliant. He happens to be married to Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway. Imagine the dinner-table conversations at the Conway home.

He wrote this article for the Washington Post, where is is an occasional contributor. I did not insert the many links that verify each statement. It may be worth the cost of a subscription to see them.

Conway writes:

If there’s one thing we know about President Trump, it’s that he lies and he cheats. Endlessly. And shamelessly. But still, mostly, incompetently.

So it should have come as no surprise that Trump finally went where no U.S. president had ever gone before. In a tweet last week, he actually suggested that the country “Delay the Election.”

That trial balloon was a brazen effort to see if he can defraud his way into four more years in the White House. And why not try? After all, Trump has managed to swindle his way through life, on matters large and small, essential and trivial.

He paid someone to take the SAT for him, according to his niece Mary L. Trump. (He denies it.) A prominent sportswriter wrote an entire book, titled “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” on how Trump cheats at golf — golf! — through such methods as throwing opponents’ balls into bunkers, miscounting strokes and even declaring himself the winner of tournaments he didn’t play in.

Trump posed as a nonexistent publicist, so he could lie about his wealth and plant stories about his supposed sexual exploits, including one with actress Carla Bruni, who denied a tryst and called Trump “obviously a lunatic.” And his life has been littered with myriad alleged financial cons, including Trump University, which resulted in a $25 million settlement, though no admission of wrongdoing, and his “charitable” foundation, which regulators ordered be shut down.

His presidency has been of a piece. By The Post’s count, more than 20,000 falsehoods in 3½ years, on subjects ranging from his inaugural crowd size to the coronavirus, from conversations with foreign leaders to forecasts of a hurricane track. The untruths have accelerated, from five a day in early 2017 to nearly two dozen daily this year and last. With the coronavirus, his untruths have finally brought him down: No, concern about the virus wasn’t a “hoax.” No, the disease won’t just “disappear,” “like a miracle.” No, we’re not in a crisis because we’ve done so much testing. No, Trump hasn’t done a “great job” fighting the virus, and no, we’re not on the verge of a “tremendous victory” over it.

So finally, Trump’s credibility, such as it ever was, is shot — and his poll numbers with it. He stands on the verge of electoral oblivion. He’s capable of no response other than his lifelong mainstays: shamelessly lying and trying to cheat. He tried once before, of course, to cheat in this election, by using presidential powers to try to extort Ukraine into propagating lies about his opponent — and was caught, although not punished.

Now he peddles a different lie: that somehow extensive “Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good)” would produce “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” Hence the supposed need to “Delay the Election.”

All untrue, of course. Voting by mail has a long, venerable tradition in this country, most notably the election of 1864, when 150,000 Union soldiers sent in ballots that helped ensure President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection, the preservation of the union and the abolition of slavery. Mailed votes leave a paper trail that renders them less, not more, susceptible to fraud. The fraud is Trump’s: He’s lying so he can buy more time — or so he can delegitimize the vote and blame someone other than himself for his defeat.

But Trump is apparently too inept, ignorant, desperate or deluded — probably all four — to realize or care: His suggestion is absurd. The electoral calendar is set in stone, by law. Title 3 of the U.S. Code makes clear that the election must be held on Nov. 3, that members of the electoral college must meet and vote on Dec. 14, and that their votes must be counted before a joint session of the new Congress on Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. sharp. And the 20th Amendment provides that, no matter what, Trump’s current term ends at precisely noon on Jan. 20, and that if no president has been elected, another provision of Title 3 would confer the presidency’s powers on … the speaker of the House.

Even the worst of Trump’s enablers in Congress dismissed out of hand the idea of delaying the election. But Trump’s suggestion was more than just imbecilic. Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor who was a founder of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers’ group of which I’ve long been a member (and a member of its visiting board), nailed it: Trump’s suggestion was “fascistic.” It was the ploy of a would-be dictator, albeit an inept one.

Calabresi added that Trump should be impeached and removed for his tweet, and if Trump ever acted on it, and were there time, I’d agree. Trump should have been removed already twice over, for obstructing the Russia investigation and extorting Ukraine. His effort to sabotage a democratic system he swore to protect only confirms his unfitness for the job. But it’s too late for impeachment now.

Trump’s sanction must come at the polls, and beyond. For the sake of our constitutional republic, he must lose, and lose badly. Yet that should be just a start: We should only honor former presidents who uphold and sustain our nation’s enduring democratic values. There should be no schools, bridges or statues devoted to Trump. His name should live in infamy, and he should be remembered, if at all, for precisely what he was — not a president, but a blundering cheat.

Carl J. Petersen, writer and public school parent in Los Angeles, writes here about a Los Angeles charter schools that took millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, then laid off employees anyway.

The purpose of PPP was to help small businesses and to ensure that they did not fire employees because they couldn’t afford to pay them. But charter schools, which had suffered no economic harm, cashed in on the program…because they could.

Petersen writes:

With unemployment rates reaching levels unseen since the Great Depression due to the problems caused by the failed response to COVID-19, every dollar from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) should be going towards helping small businesses survive. Unfortunately, the charter school industry found a way to double-dip into the government trough to supplement the money they are diverting from public schools with funds from this program.

Despite acknowledging that they could be taking money away from small businesses that needed it to survive the crisis, the governing board of Palisades Charter High School voted last month to accept a $4.606 million dollar loan from the PPP. They admitted at the time that they did not have an immediate need for the money and they failed to articulate a plan to spend the money or to pay it back. They simply felt that it was important to “get the money while the getting’s good.” Discussion of the moral and financial costs of receiving this money was swept aside.

Ignoring the reason for their $4,606,000 windfall, the governing board of Pali voted this month to lay off five members of their staff and reduce the hours for 18 other employees. Even as students throughout the country struggle to transition to distance learning, these cuts included an IT Tech assigned to helping parents, students and teachers navigate the technology needed in this new learning environment. They also eliminated a Tutoring Center Coordinator whom a member of the public and a board member credited with “helping hundreds of kids pass classes and graduate from Pali during e-learning”. A Library Media Technician, Copy Clerk, and Office Assistant will also join the unemployment line in 60 days.

The federal government should “claw back” the wasted $4.6 million.

Peter Goodman is a long-time observer of education politics in New York State and New York City.

In this post, he asks a reasonable question: Why, at a time of fiscal stringency and uncertainty, is the Board of Regents of New York State rubber-stamping the expansion of charter schools?

Charter schools, as he shows, cherry-pick their students to inflate their test scores. Despite state law, their doors are not open to all.

He writes:

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The Buffalo charter was out of compliance with state law. Why did the Board of Regents approve a five-year renewal of a charter in Buffalo when the Regent from Buffalo proposed a three-year renewal? Buffalo schools face a large deficit, but its charters are on track to take $108 million out of the city’s public budget.

Why did the Board of Regents approve the renewal of a low-performing charter school in the Bronx?

Goodman writes:

Later in the [Regents’] meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions.

The whole business had what Goodman called “a noxious aroma,” a polite way of saying that the Regents’ rush to approve charters of dubious quality in the midst of a fiscal crisis stinks to high heaven.

Why incentivize privately run charters to divert funding and the students of their choice from the public schools.

Why are the Regents betraying the state’s public schools?

That noxious aroma is the smell that is released when politics seeps into decisions about school funding. Someone’s friends are being taken care of, at the expense of the public schools.

Peter Greene explains here how Trump came to Betsy DeVos’ rescue when Congress tried to stop her from punishing students who had been scammed by predatory colleges.

DeVos wanted to withdraw an Obama-era program that helped students who incurred debts to fraudulent colleges. A court intervened to stop her. DeVos considers the students buried by debt to be free-loaders. Congress rebuked DeVos in a rare bipartisan vote. Trump issued his very first veto, simultaneously supporting DeVos and rejecting the thousands of students who had been defrauded.

This is outrageous.

Back to court.

In 2016, John Oliver presented a shocking episode about charter schools.

It has been viewed by 12 million people.

Oliver was the first and possibly the only major media figure to discover that charter schools had some serious problems.

Some close in the middle of the year.

Watch his clip with John Kasich comparing education to getting more pepperoni on a slice of pizza.

Watch his clip of a charter operator quoting Scripture to excuse her criminal behavior.

Watch the clip of the owner of the for-profit White Hat charter chain, who says that “education is first, last, and always a business.”

Give John Oliver credit for being first to expose waste, fraud, and abuse in a new and very profitable industry.

The advocacy group called Public Funds a Public Schools gathered a useful archive of research studies of vouchers.

The studies were conducted by nonpartisan academic and federal researchers.

The findings are broadly congruent.

Voucher schools are academically inferior to public schools.

Voucher schools divert funding from public schools, which enroll most children.

Voucher programs lack accountability.

The absence of oversight promotes fraud and corruption.

Voucher programs do not help students with disabilities.

Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against certain groups of students and families.

Voucher programs exacerbate segregation.

Voucher programs don’t work, don’t improve education, and have multiple negative effects.

Robert Shepherd writes comments on the blog frequently, and he also writes his own blog. He is a recently retired teacher in Florida who spent decades as a writer, editor, and developer of curriculum and assessments in the education publishing industry.

Since he has often expresssed his views of the current occupant of the White House, I invited him to assemble a Trump glossary.

He did.

Some people respond to crises with focused, quiet intensity. Not our 73-year-old President in the orange clown makeup. He can’t stop tweeting and blabbering randomly and profusely. And what does he tweet and blab about? Well, he suggests holding events at his resorts, he attacks perceived enemies, and he praises himself. And then on Memorial Day, while others are laying a wreath on the grave of Uncle Javier who died in Vietnam, Trump accuses a journalist of murder and goes golfing.

This demonstrated lack of concern for others (for victims and survivors of natural disasters and war and disease, for example) shows that Donald Trump doesn’t give a microbe on a nit on a rat’s tushy about anything but Donald Trump. Obviously, he cares only about money (sorry, Evangelicals, his only God is Mammon) and about himself.

But hey, Trump’s a romantic figure, a man in love. This must be his appeal. And when he speaks, in his toddler English, about the love of his life, Donald Trump, you can be certain that he will use terms like “a winner,” “the greatest,” “the best,” and so on. He will tell you about his “great genes” and his uncle who was “a super genius [which is a lot better than an ordinary genius] at MIT.”

OK, over the years, I’ve had my disagreements with the man to whom I variously refer as Moscow’s Asset Governing America (MAGA); Don the Con; IQ 45; The Don, Cheeto “Little Fingers” Trumpbalone; Vlad’s Agent Orange; the Iota; our Child-Man in the Promised Land; our Vandal in Chief; Dog-Whistle Don; The Man with No Plan and the Tan in the Can; President Pinocchio; Trump on the Stump with His Chumps; Jabba the Trump; Don the Demented; King Con; Donnie DoLittle; the Stabul Jenius; Scrotus Potus; The Mornavirus trumpinski orangii; Ethelorange the Unready; our First Part-time President, now become, in his nonresponse to the pandemic, Donnie Death. However, I do agree with him that in descriptions of Trump, SUPERLATIVES ARE IN ORDER.

The British writer Nate White wisely observed, in a post that Diane Ravitch shared on her indispensable blog, that Donald Trump’s “faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws.” Trump is a one-person compendium of human vices and failings. In this respect, truly, HE HAS NO EQUAL. And so I offer here an ABECEDARIUM of adjectives, each of which demonstrably describes the occupant of the now Offal Office in the now Whiter House, the fellow who has shamed us before the world, made us a laughing stock, and led the now Repugnican Party in an unprecedented Limbo Dance (“how low, how low, how low can we go?).

Trump is. . . .

abhorrent, amoral, anti-democratic, arrogant, authoritarian, autocratic, avaricious, backward, base, benighted, bloated, blubbering, blundering, bogus, bombastic, boorish, bullying, bungling, cheap, childish, clownish, clueless, common, confused, conniving, corrupt, cowardly, crass, creepy, cretinous, criminal, crowing, crude, cruel, dangerous, delusional, demagogic, depraved, devious, dim, disgraceful, dishonest, disloyal, disreputable, dissembling, dog-whistling, doltish, dull, elitist, embarrassing, erratic, fascist, foolish, gauche, gluttonous, greedy, grudging, hate-filled, hateful, haughty, heedless, homophobic, humorless, hypocritical, idiotic, ignoble, ignominious, ignorant, immature, inarticulate, indolent, inept, inferior, insane, intemperate, irresponsible, kakistocratic, kleptocratic, laughable, loathsome, loud-mouthed, low-life, lying, mendacious, meretricious, monstrous, moronic, narcissistic, needy, oafish, odious, orange, outrageous, pampered, pandering, perverse, petty, predatory, puffed-up, racist, repulsive, rude, sanctimonious, semi-literate, senile, senseless, sexist, shady, shameless, sheltered, slimy, sluglike, sniveling, squeamish, stupid, swaggering, tacky, thick, thin-skinned, thuggish, toadying, transphobic, trashy, treasonous, twisted, ugly, unappealing, uncultured, uninformed, unprincipled, unread, unrefined, vain, venal, vicious, vile, and vulgar.

Aside from those peccadilloes (we all have our faults, don’t we?), I have no problem with the guy.

ProPublica dug up a shameful story, just one more for an era of shameful stories. I wrote previously that the Trump presidency will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party. For those of you who don’t know, Teapot Dome was taught in the textbooks as the prime example of political corruption.

The following is a textbook case of profiteering at the expense of vulnerable people.

A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.

The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said.

What’s more, the masks Fuentes agreed to provide — Chinese-made KN95s — have come under intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid concerns that they offered inadequate protection.

TIME magazine has a depressing expose about the $160 billion in tax breaks that the CARES Act awards to the real estate industry, including the family business of Jared Kushner.

The CARES Act is the coronavirus relief package of $2 trillion intended to save mom-and-pop businesses and other small businesses at risk of failing due to the prolonged shutdown.

When Democrats realized that the real estate moguls had pulled a fast one, they wrote repeal legislation that has no chance of passing in the Senate.

TIME’s analysis of drafts of the bills and lobbying disclosures, along with interviews with half a dozen staffers and lobbyists, show that the provisions originated with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s office, which was working with other Republicans on the committee, and were lobbied for heavily by the real estate industry, including a prominent real estate trade group, of which Jared Kushner’s family’s company is a member…

Jared Kushner’s family’s company, Kushner Companies, is a member of NMHC’s advisory committee, according to the organization’s website. That membership appears to be the lowest level of membership and requires an annual fee of $5,000. The NMHC website also lists Avi Lebor, Kushner Companies’ director of acquisitions, as the contact for the company on the membership directory. Lebor was in prison with Kushner’s father and joined Kushner Companies after they were both released, according to Bloomberg. The Trump Organization, which will also benefit from the tax provisions, is not publicly listed as a member of NMHC.

War profiteers.