Archives for category: Michelle Rhee

Dave McKenna of Deadspin writes here about the release under court order of emails written by outgoing Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about his efforts to take control of the National Conference of Black Mayors, bankrupt it, and open a new organization that would promote charter schools. Johnson is married to controversial Michelle Rhee, who has been a beneficiary and advocate for charters and vouchers.

This is a must-read.


The emails come mainly from the early days of Johnson’s hostile takeover of the National Conference of Black Mayors—the mayor and his minions described their mission against the historic Atlanta-based non-profit as a “coup” when they launched it in 2013—and reveal lots of no-goodnik behavior from Johnson and his coup team, a clique of civil servants on the Sacramento payroll, staffers from Johnson’s huge web of nonprofit groups, at least three public relations outfits, volunteer hangers-on, and lots of lawyers from the firm of Ballard Spahr. (At least a dozen Ballard Spahr lawyers have worked pro bono for Johnson on NCBM litigation.) The records indicate that at some point Johnson changed his goal from running the NCBM to ruining it. Johnson’s team, for example, is found dispatching secret agents to spy on NCBM board members at hotels and restaurants while conspiring to sabotage a potential $2 million windfall for the NCBM scheduled to come just a few months before he filed to have the organization dissolved through the bankruptcy courts. The documents also appear to support detractors’ long-leveled allegations that Johnson mingled the NCBM’s mission with that of Michelle Rhee, his wife and fellow school-privatization demagogue.

The city clerk’s release of the documents completes a request made under the California Public Records Act in the spring of 2015 by Cosmo Garvin, a reporter for the Sacramento News & Review. Unlike the rest of the media in the state capital, Garvin covered Johnson tenaciously and aggressively. He knew Johnson was conducting business using Gmail accounts rather than his assigned government address, so he requested any records on the city’s public servers from those personal email accounts. On July 1, 2015, Johnson sued his own city and Garvin’s weekly newspaper to prevent hundreds of emails from being made public, claiming attorney/client privilege….

The bulk of the unsealed documents deal with Johnson’s takeover of the NCBM, a clandestine and ultimately disastrous effort that peaked in May 2013 when he succeeded in being named president of the group, only to be deposed by the group’s board of directors two weeks into his term. It’s been a non-stop legal battle ever since between Johnson and NCBM elders, with suits filed by and against the group’s executive director, Vanessa Williams, and a controversial bankruptcy petition all still pending. After civil litigation in Georgia courts, Johnson was restored as the NCBM’s president in early 2014, but was still clearly at war with his constituents.

Johnson’s only meaningful act after regaining the presidency was a request, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia on April 30, 2014 to have the NCBM dissolved under Chapter 7 of the federal code. Then on May 1, 2014, just one day after the bankruptcy filing and before he’d even resigned as NCBM president, Johnson founded a clone non-profit group, which he dubbed the African American Mayors Association (AAMA). He named himself president of the new group, and brought many NCBM sponsors with him. He installed AAMA’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.—just three blocks from the White House. (The just-released documents indicate that AAMA’s prime real estate was originally offered by former NCBM board member Clarence Anthony for use by the NCBM.)…


As expected, the latest batch of documents—totaling several hundred pages—shows that Johnson’s misuse of attorney/client privilege staved off potential political embarrassments, many of them NCBM-related. He was, to give one telling example, preventing the release of his schedule for Sept. 9, 2013, which included preparation for a trip to Birmingham, Ala. The listed rehearsals included a “Students First Session” followed by “NCBM Prep.”

StudentsFirst is the charter school advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee. (Johnson is also a major player in the school privatization movement.) The email that Johnson tried so hard to hide provides a reminder that he and Rhee went to Birmingham together to exploit the attention being given the 50th anniversary of bombing of the 16th Street Church. Amid the solemn commemorations of that seminal moment in the American civil rights movement, they co-hosted a town hall meeting promoting charter schools.

One of the reasons Johnson would presumably want this played down is that the NCBM has historically opposed charter schools, and didn’t like Johnson using their group to further an education agenda that both membership and leadership vehemently opposed. Former NCBM president Robert Bowser told me in 2014 that the group had made their stance clear to Johnson after he proposed a resolution to get the NCBM to endorse charter schools. “We took a vote and said, ‘Hell no!’ to his resolution,” Bowser said. “The black mayors are not buying the charter schools, period.” Rhee, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly despised by Washington, D.C.’s black residents when she ran its public school system from 2007 to 2010; any hint that the NCBM was being used to serve her ends would likely be toxic to the group’s core constituency.

The Birmingham meeting, as it turned, didn’t provide any obvious payoff for Rhee. StudentsFirst, which was a cash cow—the Walton Foundation, one of many deep-pocketed benefactors, gave Rhee’s group $8 million just a few months before the Alabama getaway—quietly folded earlier this year, without donating billions of dollars to education projects or meeting any of the other megalomaniacal goals Rhee loudly predicted for her non-profit on Oprah Winfrey’s show at its founding. It’s rather fitting that while StudentsFirst’s website is now largely defunct, its fundraising page is still running and ready to accept donations.

Gary’s latest post has a smart title: “For Whom the Bell Tolls; It Tolls for Rhee.”

Having received Race to the Top funding, and being part of the (not so) great “reform” movement, the District of Columbia enthusiastically endorsed every reformy idea that involved high-stakes testing, or test-based accountability. Of course, D.C. school leaders Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson supported Common Core and joined the PARCC testing consortium (one of the few to remain in PARCC).

The scores were released yesterday. Gary has analyzed them and made some important discoveries. The scores overall were pretty awful, as you would expect from a test that was designed to fail most students. But, surprisingly, the much-abused D.C. public schools outscored the much-lauded D.C. charter schools. How could that happen? How embarrassing for the Walton Family Foundation, which has poured so much money into charterizing the D.C. schools, as well as to Eli Broad, who recently announced his intention to open more charters in D.C. to save more kids from the terrible public schools. And yet those “terrible” public schools got higher scores than the charter schools! Go figure.

Rhee used to say that she would turn D.C. into the best urban district in the nation. She used to scoff at the educators who preceded her, citing the fact that only 10% met the standards in math. Well, what percent do you think met the “proficiency” standard in math? 10%.

Gary writes:

So of course the ‘no excuses’ crowd begins making excuses. But rather than saying that the quality of the PARCC test could be an issue, they instead say things like, “We knew this was going to happen. We just need to adjust to the new more rigorous standards.” This may buy them a few years, but I have to wonder how long supposedly ‘data driven’ reformers can continue to ignore data that refute their agenda.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, writes that Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento (husband of Michelle Rhee Johnson) is caught up in a growing number of scandals.

Despite little national coverage, scandals surrounding former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson have been intensifying over past few months. Monday’s report at Deadspin is a good place to start — things have gotten so bad that Johnson’s allies are accusing a local paper that’s done a lot of damning reporting on Johnson of racism.

As Deadspin notes, there’s “a variety of sexual, financial, and ethical improprieties” swirling around Johnson. Among other things, the mayor is suing — and being sued — by the National Conference of Black Mayors. And Johnson is also accused of using public money and resources for his own personal benefit involving work done for the National Basketball Players Association.

That last scandal is particulary interesting, because it mirrors accusations made against him in 2009, when he was accused of misusing federal grants meant for the Americorps program by Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service….
Mr. Walpin made a referral to the United States prosecutor in Sacramento, recommending that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gonzalez face criminal charges and be banned from future contracts.

According to Walpin, the chairman of the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Alan Solomont, was a major Democratic fundraiser and was unhappy with his reports pointing out the misuse of federal money. Johnson was also said to be close to the Obamas, and shortly afterward the president abruptly fired Walpin from his job. The firing set off a flurry of inquiries from a bipartisan group of senators concerned that Walpin’s firing had been been politically motivated. There were also allegations that the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Lawrence Brown, filed an ethics complaint against Walpin to help lift a ban on Johnson receiving federal funds as well as curry favor with the White House. Brown was seeking a presidential appointment to become United States attorney for the Eastern District of California.

Now Johnson remains mired in scandal six years later and is being accused of allegations of corruption very similar to what was first alleged by Walpin. And in the intervening years, the Obama administration has acquired quite the reputation for selectively enforcing laws against compromised allies and for the vigorous prosecution of political enemies on dubious grounds. Johnson’s current troubles certainly suggest that the president was wrong to fire Walpin, and are an unpleasant reminder of the Chicago-style politics that have come to define this administration’s questionable uses of political power.

Georgia has an important run-off for State Superintendent of Education in the Democratic Party on July 22. If you care about the future of public education in Georgia, please vote.

Valarie Wilson came in first in the primary, with 32% of the vote. The runner-up, Alisha Thomas Morgan, received 26%.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, a strong supporter of public education. In reviewing her list of contributors, it appears that almost all of them live in Georgia. Wilson’s total contributions, after taking out loans, was $178,147. Of those, $174,572 came from supporters who live in Georgia; $3,575–or 2%-came from outside Georgia.

Valarie was elected to the local school board in Decatur in 2002 and served as its president from 2005-2011. She was elected president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2012-13.

Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, has been endorsed by the corporate reformers, the hedge fund managers and billionaires, who support privatization, charters and vouchers.

On Morgan’s website, she boasts that she has been endorsed by the Wall Street hedge fund managers group, Democrats for Education Reform; by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos of the Amway fortune, sister of Erik Prince of the infamous Blackwater security company); by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst; by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s daughter Emma Bloomberg; by billionaire Eli Broad; and by Frank Biden, brother of Joe Biden, who manages a for-profit charter corporation in Florida called Mavericks.

Most of Morgan’s funding comes from out-of-state donors. Morgan has collected $21,203 from citizens of Georgia. She has collected $70,675 from out-of-state donors.

Here is the list of outside donors to Morgan.

LastName FirstName Cash_Amount
Aluise Joseph 500
American Federation for Children Action Fund-Georgia PAC 3700
Arnold John 1500
Bender Benefits & Insurance 3000
Bing Jonathan 250
Blew James 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Michael 3700
Bloomberg Michael 6300
Bradley Katherine 1000
Bradley Sean 200
Broad Eli 3700
Broad Eli 6300
Conforme Veronica 250
Cunningham Peter 200
Deane-Williams Barbara 150
DeLaski Kathleen 500
DeVos Jr. Richard & Elisabeth 6300
Dostart Steve 250
Dostart Steve 250
Duncan Damon 250
Elisa Louis 100
Elisa Louis 100
Ferguson Wilkie 250
Fields Jarett 75
Fisher John 1000
Francis Gregory 200
Fuller Howard 250
Fuller Howard 250
Gaal Michael 250
Gordon Scott 250
Groff Peter 250
Groff Peter 250
Hilton Adriel 100
Hilton Adriel 100
Holifield Johnathan 250
Huizenga J.C. 2500
Jackson-King Carolyn 150
Johnson Alex 250
K12 Management Inc. 2000
Kihn Paul 250
Kihn Paul 100
Kirtley John 3700
Ledre Jr. Reo 200
Leslie Kent 200
Lomax Michael 250
Martin Rayne 100
McGriff Deborah 250
Nellons-Paige Stephanie 500
payton jr tony 150
Peabody Malcolm 500
Powell Jobs Laurene 6300
Rees Nina 500
Revenaugh Martha 500
Ritchie Daniel 3000
Rudall David 250
Russell Jerome 500
Schilling John 150
The Alex’s Group LLC 150
Thiry Kent 4300
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Tilson Whitney 250
Total 70675

USA Today was first to report the cheating scandal in the District of Columbia.

Here is the follow-up story by Gregg Toppo, about the memo first leaked to John Merrow.

Eventually, the allegations were investigated by the DC Inspector General, who decided not to look at the erasure analysis or to interview many people. It was not the kind of full-scale investigation carried out in Atlanta by professionals. The DC Inspector General decided the cheating, if it happened, was not widespread.

This was confirmed by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education.

But suspicions lingered, as did the cloud over the district, and the cloud refused to go away.

Matthew Di Carlo dissects the latest effort by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst to sell the idea that evaluating teachers by test scores is accurate, unbiased, and necessary.

Di Carlo analyzes the “myths” and discovers that some of them are facts.

This is embarrassing. Rhee really needs to hire a competent research department.

 

In this brilliant essay, John Prosser dissects Michelle Rhee’s attack on the teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle.

The teachers decided unanimously to boycott the MAP test for their students.

On March 6, Rhee wrote (or someone in her organization wrote) an opinion piece in a Seattle newspaper making false claims about the teachers and what they were doing and why they were doing it.

She first refers to them as “union members,” not as teachers, immediately suggesting that they are acting from selfish motives, to do something that their union wants, rather than acting as teachers, in the best interest of their students.

She claims that the teachers don’t want to give the test because they don’t want to be evaluated, but the tests don’t figure into their evaluation.

As Prosser shows, she engages in ad hominem attacks; she makes factual errors; she equivocates; she misleads; she uses the straw man argument and the red herring. Her article demonstrates how little she knows, how quick she is to attack teachers while pretending to praise them, and how little respect she has for teachers and students.

As the leader of a group called “StudentsFirst,” Rhee evidently thinks that what students need most is more testing. She thinks that she cares about students more than those who work with them every day in their classrooms. She, who pours millions of dollars into political campaigns for vouchers, charters, teacher-bashing, and high-stakes testing, has some nerve attacking the dedicated teachers of Garfield High School.

The teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle are our heroes. They have true courage. They truly put their students first.

Michelle Rhee will be speaking at New York City’s Cornell Club, to promote her new book “Radical”, on Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013 at 6 PM. (6 East 44th St (between 5th and Madison, map here.) ,

New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, Class Size Matters and other pro-public education parents and advocates will be there to protest Rhee’s destructive policies and proposals, including her push to eliminate ANY caps on class size. More on how Rhee wants to undermine and privatize our public schools, see the parent Rhee-port card here.

For more information about the rally by pro-education advocates, email info@classsizematters.org .

Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler is a watchdog of American journalism.

He regularly criticizes the media, and is especially good when he looks at education. He recently dissected the misleading and overly negative coverage of international tests.

In the past few days, he has been on a roll. He was incensed by the Washington Post‘s fawning coverage of our greatest “education celebrity.” Over the past weekend, trying to immunize Rhee from the renewed uproar about cheating, The Washington Post ran a long article about Rhee’s celebrity, an editorial defending her, and an opinion piece by her admiring biographer.

Here are a few choice comments by Somerby: “A true journalistic disgrace: Over the weekend, the Washington Post was at it again. It was doing the thing the Post does best. The Washington Post was peddling Rhee. This newspaper simply won’t stop.”

And this: “…she’s the dream girl of the world’s billionaires—and the Washington Post won’t stop peddling.”

Read The Daily Howler pieces here, here and here.

A word about the Washington Post. It continues to run Valerie Strauss’s invaluable blog, which has provided a voice and a platform for critics of corporate reform, including critics of Rhee. And an editor there invited me to review Richard Whitmire’s biography of Rhee. That said, the newspaper’s editorial board has been Rhee’s most unflinching defender and whatever she does and says.

 

John Merrow is still trying to get to the bottom of the DC cheating scandal.

During his investigation, he discovered that Michelle Rhee hired a data coach who lives in California to advise her at $85 an hour or $1500 a day when he visited DC. This data expert reported to Rhee’s assessment director.

Merrow heard from confidential sources that the data expert had written a four-page memo expressing his concerns about possible cheating. Merrow spent months trying to track down the memo. He knows that it exists but no one will let him see it. Rhee’s former assessment director won’t answer Merrow’s many calls.

What is in the memo? No one will say and Merrow can’t get his hands on it. But he makes the reasonable assumption that if the memo said “don’t worry, all is well,” the memo would be promptly released. It seems reasonable that someone has something to hide.

Note that Rhee is represented in this matter by a prominent criminal attorney in Washington, D.C.

Why?