Archives for category: Obama

The Army Corps of Engineers informed the Standing Rock Sioux today that they must vacate the camp where they have stood up to the federal government by December 5 or be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing.

 

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux have been blocking the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which cuts through their tribal lands. The federal government has harassed them, using water cannon, rubber bullets, percussion grenades, and other forms of low-level violence. Protestors from across the country have joined them in solidarity.

 

The most comprehensive report on the dispute appears in the Washington Post, describing the long history of treaties broken by the U.S. government.

 

In the Dakota language, the word “oahe” signifies “a place to stand on.”

 

And that’s what the Standing Rock Sioux and its allies in the environmental and activist movements say they are doing: using Lake Oahe in North Dakota as a place to take a stand by setting up camps and obstructing roads to block the controversial $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

 

Their confrontations with police — who have responded with water cannons, pepper spray and rubber bullets — have steered attention to the 1,170-mile-long oil pipeline project and its owner, Energy Transfer Partners. But the real source of Native Americans’ grievance stretches back more than a century, to the original government incursions on their tribal lands. And those earlier disputes over their rights to the land, like the one over the Dakota Access pipeline, pitted the tribes against a persistent force, the Army Corps of Engineers.

 

The federal government has been taking land from Lakota and Dakota people for 150 years, tribal leaders say, from the seizure of land in the Black Hills of South Dakota after the discovery of gold in the 1870s to the construction of dams in the Missouri River that flooded villages, timberland and farmland in the Dakotas in the 1950s.

 

Through the ages, the warring tribes of the Northern Plains lived, hunted and fought across a sprawling expanse of land. Many were migratory, moving with the seasons. Each treaty with the U.S. government, most notably the 1851 and 1868 treaties of Fort Laramie, restricted their movement further, although they left them large areas west of the Missouri River and recognized them as sovereign nations.
Much of this was contested, leading to Gen. George A. Custer’s ill-fated military campaign to protect miners. Land was later taken to make way for homesteading.

 

In 1889, Congress passed legislation that created the modern reservation system, pushing the Sioux, also known as Lakota, into smaller areas. And later in the 1900s, a series of dams across the Missouri River rolled back the scope of those reservations, too.

 

“This government honors international treaties like they are the Holy Grail, but within our own homeland, they find ways to break them,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault, who, under the treaties and U.S. law, is the head of a domestic sovereign nation.

 

Lake Oahe illustrates his point. The lake, the site of the current dispute, exists because of a dam project built by the Army Corps of Engineers, the same agency that has been weighing whether and where the Dakota Access pipeline could be built.

 

Empowered by the Flood Control Act of 1944, the Army Corps erected the Oahe Dam in central South Dakota, forming a reservoir that extends about 250 miles upstream to within a short distance of Bismarck, N.D. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the dam, hailing it as a symbol of a free society tapping its natural resources.

 

But for the Lakota tribes, the dam didn’t exploit natural resources. It buried them.

 

The project inundated and destroyed the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s “most fertile bottom lands,” home to medicinal plants, wildlife and timber, said Everett J. Iron Eyes Sr., former water and natural resource director for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and now a water consultant. In the process, he said, the Army Corps acquired 56,000 acres of land and destroyed 90 percent of the tribe’s timberland.

 

As Ellen Lubic, one of our readers, commented: If this is happening under Obama, what will happen when Trump takes office?

Jeff Bryant noted that President Obama has been boasting lately about the success of his education policies, pointing to a rise in high school graduation rates as proof of their efficacy. Bryant says that the President’s education policies are nothing to brag about.

The emphasis on using outcome measures has been a hallmark of the Obama years in education. That has put unusual and often harmful pressure to get results, even when the results are meaningless. Take those rising graduation rates. Some schools have increased their graduation rates by assigning low-performing students to phony credit recovery classes, where they can guess the right answer until they pass and get meaningless credits.

The focus on test scores has warped education, in some cases, causing schools to cut time for recess, the arts, history, civics, and everything else that is not tested.

He writes:


For instance, according to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the nation’s report card,” academic achievement generally is declining under Obama’s watch.

As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, for the first time since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990, math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders declined. Reading scores weren’t much better: Eighth-grade scores dropped while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time the test was administered. Achievement gaps between white and minority students remain large.

But the education numbers that have worsened the most are those associated with what’s being invested into the system rather than what’s coming out of it.

Drawing from a new report on government spending on children, Bruce Lesley president of First Focus finds, “Federal support for education has dropped from a high of $74 billion in 2010 to $41 billion in 2015, a decline of more than 40 percent in the last five years … Federal education spending remains 9 percent lower than in pre-recession 2008.”

Beyond the support for education at the federal level, the picture is arguably even worse.

In its most recent report on spending on education, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds, “Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year.” Even in the states where local funding rose, the “increases rarely made up for cuts.”

Local funding for schools, another significant share of education support, generally fell during the same time period. “In 36 states, total state and local funding combined fell between the 2008 and 2014 school years,” the CBPP finds.

This steep decline in education funding is arguably the most significant threat to our children’s education, and thus, the country’s future.

According to a recent review of the research on the systemic correlation between education spending and school quality and student achievement, William Mathis and Kevin Welner, of the National Education Policy Center, find, “While specific results vary from place to place, in general, money does matter and it matters most for economically deprived children. Gains from investing in education are found in test scores, later earnings, and graduation rates.”

In another review of research studies on the importance of adequate and equitable school funding, Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker writes, “To be blunt, money does matter. Schools and districts with more money clearly have greater ability to provide higher quality, broader, and deeper educational opportunities to the children they serve. Furthermore, in the absence of money, or in the aftermath of deep cuts to existing funding, schools are unable to do many of the things they need to do in order to maintain quality educational opportunities.”

What Obama Never Got About Education

Emphasizing education output, while generally leaving input unaddressed, has been a feature, not a bug, of the Obama administration’s education policy all along.

This was the administration whose signature programs, Race to the Top and the waivers to No child Left Behind, demanded states rate schools and teachers based on a “learning output,” which most states took to mean student scores on standardized tests. The president’s Education Department and Secretary Arne Duncan incentivized states to lift any restrictions on the number of charter schools in the system and provided significant grant money to expand their numbers. States were encouraged to spend vast sums of money on new systems to track output data and use them to sort and rank schools, evaluate teachers, label students, and force schools into turnaround efforts that would result in being subjected to even more scrupulous data tracking.

But while the Obama administration obsessed over output numbers, its attention to the inputs in the system was ad hoc and haphazard at best.

Obama’s Education Department never showed much interest in equitable and adequate funding, nor for that matter, in desegregation. The biggest change induced by Race to the Top was more funding for privatization, and more states authorizing privatization in order to be eligible for RTTT money. Imagine if Race to the Top had awarded millions to states that created policies to promote desegregation. It is important, it is measurable. It would have changed our schools and our society. But desegregation was not a priority.

And then there are his choices for Secretary of Education. Arne Duncan was a failure as Superintendent in Chicago, where he promised that there would be a Renaissance by 2010 (the name of his program, “Renaissance 2010”). He failed. He closed schools, he opened charter schools. He failed. And then came John King, who had been an embarrassing failure in New York state. He couldn’t speak to parents, because they were so angry about his heavy-handed promotion of Common Core and high-stakes testing. Governor Cuomo wanted him gone. And now he is Secretary of Education. Based on what?

Nothing to brag about here.

An object lesson in what not to do to improve American education.

Valerie Strauss writes about a visit by President Obama to a highly selective public school in Washington, D.C. He brought with him his two Education Secretaries, Arne Duncan and John King.

He said he wanted every school to be as great as the school he was visiting, Benjamin Banneker. But there was much he did not mention.

Strauss writes:

“There’s no denying that Banneker is a top-performing school in the nation’s capital, and that 100 percent of its seniors graduate. But it’s unclear if Obama knows that if every school did what Banneker does, the high school graduation rate might plummet. That’s because Banneker is a magnet school where students must apply to get in — but the only entry grades are ninth and tenth. And they must maintain a B- average to stay. Kids who can’t cut it leave, but that attrition isn’t counted against the school’s graduation rate.”

He did not talk about his administration’s preference for charter schools over public schools. He did not acknowledge how Race to the Top had promoted privatization and led to the closure of thousands of public schools, mostly in communities of color. He didn’t talk about Common Core or the $$360 million that Duncan spent to create two testing comsortia aligned to Common Core, nor about the slow collapse of both consortia. He did not mention Dincan’s obsession with “bad teachers” or his mandate for evaluating teachers by test scores, which has generated a widespread teacher shortage.

President Obama is a brilliant man. Why is he so oblivious to the damage caused by Race to the Top, Arne Duncan, and John King?

Charles Blow writes a regular column for the New York Times. In this one, he excoriates Donald Trump’s serial lies, which never end.

He is not only a liar, he traffics in conspiracy theories.

His “retraction” of the Obama birther claim came after five years of cultivating a following of rabid Obama-haters.

He did not apologize for alleging that Obama was not born in the United States. Instead, he claimed falsely that Hillary Clinton had started the rumor and he was putting it to rest.

This world-class liar had the chutzpah to expect praise for acknowledging that Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

The President produced his birth certificate years ago, and Trump said it was a fraud. Newspapers in Hawaii reported his birth, but the Trump forces insisted that the conspiracy to hide Obama’s foreign birth began on the day he was born.

This man is a menace. He can’t tell truth from lies. If he can, then he simply loves lying, and he wants the rest of us to follow him down the rabbit-hole into TrumpWorld where facts are irrelevant and Trump is always right, no matter how much he lies.

The comments about the closing of ITT for-profit colleges by the U.S. Department of Education’s suspension of federal aid reminded me of another story that was published just a few months ago.

A group of men who are friends and former high-level officials in the Obama administration bought the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of “higher education.”

The purchase of University of Phoenix involved one of the President’s closest friends, financier Marty Nesbitt, and former Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller. Miller had been in charge of cracking down on the for-profit higher education sector. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said that the purchase raises the “appearance” of impropriety. On February 16, 2016, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial called “Regulating For Profit,” accusing the Obama administration of driving down the stock price, so that former officials could then pick it up at a bargain price. (Sorry, I can’t give you the link, as the WSJ is behind a paywall, but you can find it by googling the article name.)

What does this mean? Closing Corinthian and ITT, while Obama pals take over University of Phoenix. I don’t know.

Ken Silverstein slices and dices the “liberal” think tank called the Center for American Progress, in The Baffler.

Silverstein documents the ties between corporations and CAP. He also shows that its policies reflect those of the Obama administration.


To understand just how Thomas Friedman, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Gail Collins have been repurposed as purveyors of bold new ideas, it helps to see how the world of liberal think tanks has been upended, ever so gently, by a steady onrush of corporate funding—and corporate-friendly policy agendas. Think tanks have always reflected relatively narrow elite opinion and were never entirely impartial, but the earliest were modeled on academic institutions. Brookings, the first, began in 1916 (as the Institute for Government Research) and subsequently billed its mission as “the fact-based study of national public policy issues.” During the Great Depression, its scholars took sides both for and against the New Deal. The Council on Foreign Relations began in New York five years after Brookings and, as author Peter Grose later wrote, sought to “guide the statecraft of policymakers” with in-depth reports prepared by “groups of knowledgeable specialists of differing ideological inclinations.”

An emerging, more aggressive perspective was prompted by the specter of economic stagflation and the twin political crises of the early 1970s, Vietnam and Watergate. In 1974 and 1975, top corporate officials convened annually under the auspices of still another ideas consortium called the Conference Board—but this time out, they didn’t feel quite so dispassionate about the policy-debate scene. Feeling pressured by then-powerful labor unions and the demands of what they saw as an ungrateful citizenry, the assembled CEOs feared a popular revolt might be imminent. “We have been hoist with our own petard,” one executive said at one conclave. “We have raised expectations that we can’t deliver on.” Another executive complained, “One man, one vote has undermined the power of business in all capitalist countries since World War II.”

In order to recapture politicians, intellectuals, and the media, corporations increased their Washington lobbying efforts and jacked up campaign contributions as well. Just as important, corporations shoveled cash into existing think tanks and established dozens of new ones. The Heritage Foundation began in 1973, and within a decade its annual budget topped $12 million. The American Enterprise Institute, which began life as a fairly nondescript business advocacy group, became more politically emboldened and saw its budget triple between 1975 and 1985. New conservative think tanks founded in the post-Watergate period included the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Over time, corporations also provided major support for think tanks aligned with Democrats, especially moderate ones. The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) began in 1989 and received millions of dollars from sources such as the Tobacco Institute, Occidental Petroleum, and various Wall Street firms.

The article doesn’t say much about CAP’s education initiatives. Too bad, because it has been a reliable mouthpiece for corporate reform. Peter Greene roasted CAP in “The Progressive” for supporting charter schools, high-stakes testing, and every other right wing idea.

Before readers point it out, please note that the founder of CAP was John Podesta, now managing Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

I think there is only one genuine liberal think tank in D.C., at least where education is concerned, and that is the Economic Policy Institute.

In an interview published in The Hechinger Report, Randi Weingarten expresses her belief that Hillary Clinton will change course from the Obama education policies. She expects that a President Clinton would select a new Secretary of Education, one who shares her expressed belief in strengthening public schools and supporting teachers.

Emmanuel Felton, who conducted the interview, writes:

While teachers unions have long been a key pillar in Democratic Party, they’ve been on the outs with President Barack Obama’s education department. The administration doubled down on Republican President George W. Bush’s educational agenda of holding schools accountable for students’ test scores. Under the administration’s $3 billion School Improvement Grant program, for example, struggling schools had options to implement new accountability systems for teachers, remove staff, be closed or converted into charter schools, the vast majority of which employ non-unionized staff.

These policies devastated some local teachers unions, including Philadelphia’s, which lost 10,000 members during the Obama and Bush administrations. Weingarten expects Clinton to totally upend this agenda, and hopes she won’t reappoint Education Secretary John King, who was just confirmed by the senate in March.

From the day he was elected, President Obama decided to maintain the punitive policies of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and made standardized testing even more consequential. He and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pressed for higher standards, tougher accountability, and more choices, especially charter schools. They used Race to the Top to promote the evaluation of teachers by their students’ test scores, a policy that cost hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars, with nothing to show for it.

Let’s all hope that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will recognize the damage done by the Bush-Obama education agenda and push the “reset” button for a federal policy that helps children, educators, and public schools.

Anthony Cody, co-founder of the Network for Public Education, strongly supported Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Like Bernie’s many millions of followers, Anthony was deeply disappointed when Bernie lost the nomination and thoroughly disgusted when he learned that the Democratic National Committee had undermined Bernie’s campaign.

What to do now? Anthony will vote for Clinton, but not with enthusiasm.

He writes:

How will education reform be handled by a Clinton administration? We know that big money held sway over education policy under President Obama. Candidate Clinton has been vague and inconsistent, offering both criticism and praise for charter schools and high stakes tests. Tim Kaine has shown a better understanding of education issues. But in 2008, many of us thought that Obama would be better than George W. Bush on education, especially with Linda Darling-Hammond advising him. But then the hedge fund money talked, Darling-Hammond walked, and we got seven years of Arne Duncan. So the only thing that will keep Clinton from going the way Obama went is intense grassroots pressure.

All of this brings us to the great challenge this election presents to us. We have a balancing act to perform. While I plan to vote for Clinton, we cannot simply “get on board” the DNC campaign train. We cannot unsee the corruption, the deep flaws in Clinton and her corporate allies. There IS something wrong with taking big money for speeches from Wall Street financiers, especially when they invite you back time after time – and you refuse to share what you told them.

We must continue to uncover the corruption of both corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans. If grassroots organizing can reclaim the Democratic Party so it fights for working people, then that would be excellent. Such a reclamation is under way over in Britain right now and is worth watching. If corporate Democratic Party leadership clings to power and will not allow this to happen, then a third party alternative should be strengthened. I respect those who have already made this leap, but I cannot do so while Trump looms. I have joined Bernie Sanders effort to continue his political revolution and defeat Donald Trump, and look forward to the continued growth of this movement.

Dana Goldstein, veteran education journalist, reports that Hillary Clinton is striking a very different note with teachers and their unions than Obama did.

Obama’s education policies were shaped to cut the power of unions and to reduce teachers’ job protections. His administration was openly hostile to public schools and teachers. In response to the hedge fund managers at Democrats for Education Reform, whose favorite he was, and to the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, the Obama administration invested heavily in privately managed charter schools and forced thousands of public schools to close, based on their test scores. The burden of school closings fell mainly on poor communities of color, which were destabilized by his punitive policies.

Goldstein says that Hillary is taking a very different tack:


Clinton’s speech to the NEA was notable both for what she said and, perhaps even more so, for what she didn’t say. She promised to expand access to child care and pre-K, pay teachers more, forgive their college debt, construct new school buildings, and bring computer science courses into K-12 education. While a brief mention of successful charter schools (most of which are not unionized) was met with scattered boos, for the most part the audience of activist teachers greeted Clinton ecstatically, chanting “Hillary, Hillary!”

Following eight years of federally driven closures and turnarounds of schools with low test scores, which have put union jobs at risk, it was music to the NEA’s ears when the presumptive Democratic nominee promised to end “the education wars” and “stop focusing only on quote, ‘failing schools.’ Let’s focus on all our great schools, too.” And in a big departure from the school-reform rhetoric of President Barack Obama, the only time Clinton referenced “accountability” was to refer not to getting rid of bad teachers, but to giving unions a bigger voice in education policy. “Advise me and hold me accountable,” she said. “Keep advocating for your students and your profession.”

This speech, the first big moment for K-12 education in this general election, signals a potentially meaningful shift in Democratic Party education politics. The Obama era has been, often, a painful one for teachers-union activists. Obama launched his presidential campaign in 2007 as an ally of Democrats for Education Reform, a group of philanthropists (most with ties to the financial sector) who support weakening teachers’ tenure protections, evaluating teachers according to their students’ test scores, and increasing the number of public charter schools.

Obama held many positions with which teachers’ unions agreed, like helping teachers improve through peer mentorship programs and pushing states to embrace the Common Core national curriculum standards. Still, he represented a wing of the Democratic Party that thought unions held too much sway over education policy, and in 2008, the NEA chose not to endorse in the Democratic primary, while the other national teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Obama’s primary challenger, Hillary Clinton.*
As president, Obama followed through on his promises to union critics. He created a $4 billion program, Race to the Top, that tied federal education dollars to policies like evaluating teachers according to student test scores and weakening tenure protections, so underperforming teachers could more easily be fired.

Goldstein’s conclusion is premature:

It’s safe to say it is a new day for the Democratic Party on education policy. But here’s hoping that Clinton’s turn toward the unions doesn’t mean she lets go of some of the Obama administration’s more promising recent ideas.

It is too soon to say whether it is a new day for the Democratic policy on education policy. DFER has not gone away, nor have the billionaires who want to crush teachers, unions, and public schools.

And I wonder what the Obama administration’s “more promising recent ideas” are. I haven’t heard them. John King was known in New York for his zealous embrace of Common Core, high-stakes testing, opposition to opt out, and commitment to evaluating teachers by test scores. His brief tenure as Education Secretary does not show any disposition on his part to abandon those policies.

So, as the saying goes, time will tell. We should all give Hillary Clinton a chance to change direction. Heaven knows we can’t continue with the federal government making war on public schools and their teachers. If that’s what she means by ending the education wars, I am all for it.

This story is shocking. Former officials in the Obama administration, once in charge of regulating predatory the for-profit higher education industry, now want in on the action themselves. Their financier is Obama’s best friend. The story was written by Michael Stratford and Kimberly Hefling. Please read this report as background for what follows.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about it here.

She writes:


Obama’s close friend, Marty Nesbitt, and others are seeking US Department of Education (USDOE) approval to purchase the fiscally-troubled for-profit, University of Phoenix. Nesbitt and former Deputy Secretary of Education, Tony Miller, run a Chicago-based private equity firm, Vistria Group.

Vistria Group is part of a small collective that wants to purchase University of Phoenix, and the for-profit school’s parent organization, Apollo Education, is apparently all in.

USDOE approval would keep the student loan and Pell grant bucks coming to University of Phoenix– which happens to be the subject of three state attorneys general as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The price tag for Vistria et al. appears to be $1.1 billion. As it stands, University of Phoenix receives $2 billion annually in public money.

If University of Phoenix goes under, then all of those student loans are forgiven– which means taxpayers foot the bill. If Vistria et al. acquire University of Phoenix, then the goings-on at the school become private. No more requiring that that public be made aware of the salaries of the school’s executives, or that the public be made aware of litigation against the school, or that the public know about pending investigations.

The story was originally posted at PoliticoPro, which is an expensive subscription; fortunately, it is now available for free at politico.com. Here is an excerpt from the original story:

As the Obama administration cracks down on for-profit colleges, three former officials working on behalf of an investment firm run by President Barack Obama’s best friend have staged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the Education Department to green-light a purchase of the biggest for-profit of them all — the University of Phoenix.

The investors include a private equity firm founded and run by longtime Obama friend Marty Nesbitt and former Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller. The firm, Chicago-based Vistria Group, has mounted a charm offensive on Capitol Hill to talk up the proposed sale of the troubled for-profit education giant, which receives more than $2 billion a year in taxpayer money but is under investigation by three state attorneys general and the FTC.

What stands out about the proposed deal is that several key players are either close to top administration officials, including the president himself, or are former administration insiders — especially Miller, who was part of the effort to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges at the very agency now charged with approving the ownership change. For-profit college officials have likened those rules to a war on the industry, and blame the administration for contributing to their declining enrollments and share prices.

The proposed sale carries high stakes for taxpayers, students and investors: The University of Phoenix’s financial stability may depend on the $1.1 billion acquisition. If the company were to fail, more than 160,000 students could be displaced and the government would be on the hook for hundreds of millions in student loans.

But the investors’ effort to seek Education Department approval of the school’s ownership change also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“There is at least a taste of unseemliness involved in this,” said Mark Schneider, a former top education official under President George W. Bush. “They regulate it. They drive the price down. …They are buying it for pennies on the dollar.”

Vistria Group said it isn’t seeking special treatment. “We expect the Department to evaluate this proposed transaction on the merits,” the company said in a statement.

Vistria is part of a consortium of investors involved in the proposed acquisition, which has already won over shareholders of the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group. But now the investors need the Education Department and the school’s accreditors to sign off on the ownership change to keep the federal money flowing — most of it in the form of student loans and Pell Grants.

With those decisions looming, Miller and at least one other former Obama insider have met with staff to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), looking to reassure some of the loudest critics of for-profit colleges in the president’s own party, several Senate aides confirmed to POLITICO. Those lawmakers have pushed Obama’s Education Department to be even tougher on for-profit colleges.

Miller has also met with staff members working for other committee members, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as with Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee. Nesbitt was not part of those Capitol Hill meetings, according to the aides….

But the specter of former insiders pushing the sale of a company in an industry that has long been in the administration’s crosshairs is not lost on critics. For seven years, the Obama administration has waged a crackdown on poor quality and predatory practices at many for-profit colleges, with the president himself excoriating some schools for “making out like a bandit” with federal money, but saddling students with big debts and leaving them unprepared for good jobs. He did not name the schools.

“It’s ironic that a former senior official at the Department of Education — an agency that has intentionally targeted and sought to dismantle the for-profit college industry — would now take the reins at the country’s largest for-profit college,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s higher education subcommittee….

The sale price, which shareholders approved last month after initially balking at a lower price, is considered a bargain by some industry observers. The day Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, the company’s stock closed at $86.54 per share. Today, it’s trading at around $9, although a recovering economy, unfavorable media coverage and the for-profit industry’s general slump have also contributed to that drop.

Some Senate Democrats said they are also uneasy with the investors’ plan to take the university private, which means it would no longer have to publicly disclose information such as executive compensation, lawsuits or when it’s a target of investigations. Those details are useful to prospective students, they say, at a time when the school faces inquiries from both state and federal authorities.

“Essentially, a company that receives more than $2 billion annually from federal taxpayers — nearly 80 percent of its revenue — is going dark, and it’s happening at a time when the University of Phoenix has come under increased scrutiny from state and federal regulators,” Durbin wrote in a March letter to the Education Department.

Republicans think that the Obama officials drove the price down by their regulatory actions, then moved in to buy it at a bargain price.

This transaction is unsavory. It should be stopped. The conflicts of interests and self-dealing are abhorrent.