Archives for category: Scandal

Peter Greene tells the story caught on tape when Larry Arnn, president of rightwing Christian Hillsdale College, tells Tennessee Governor Bill Lee that teachers are the dumbest, trained by the dumbest, and you don’t need to know anything to be a teacher.

Governor Lee listens abjectly. He invited Hillsdale to open 100 charter schools across Tennessee. Hillsdale agreed to open 50.

Greene writes about Arnn’s tirade, which was taped:

“The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”


“They are taught that they are going to go and do something to those kids…. Do they ever talk about anything except what they are going to do to these kids?”


“In colleges, what you hire now is administrators…. Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It’s easy. You don’t have to know anything.”


“The philosophic understanding at the heart of modern education is enslavement…. They’re messing with people’s children, and they feel entitled to do anything to them.”


“You will see how education destroys generations of people. It’s devastating. It’s like the plague.”

“Here’s a key thing that we’re going to try to do. We are going to try to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it.”

Someone should have told Arnn that America was built by people who attended public schools, not by graduates of Hillsdale.

Governor Lee didn’t have the guts to stand up for the teachers of Tennessee. Probably he thinks the people who voted for him are the dumbest of the dumb.

Anne Thomas-Abbott, a teacher in Knoxville, did respond to Larry Arnn, whose contempt for teachers is abhorrent and ignorant.

Greene adds:

If you are shaking your head at Tennessee, I suggest you look around your own state first, because these public education-hating faux Christian right wingers are all over the country, and when he’s selling his product in public, Arnn is rarely as blunt as he was before the Tennessee crowd. Make sure everyone gets to hear what he really thinks.

The NC Pulse reports that another charter school in North Carolina bit the dust under a cloud of financial improprieties.

Office of the State Auditor found that Bridges Academy in Wilkes County falsified student enrollment records, misused charter school money to support a preschool and failed to submit required tax forms in 2019.

State Auditor Beth Wood released the audit of the K-8 school on Wednesday. The school relinquished its charter last summer amid allegations of financial irregularities and what its own board of directors described as “insurmountable financial challenges.”

The state auditor will turn her office’s findings over to the District Attorney’s Office in Prosecutorial District 34. The district includes all of Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. The findings will also be shared with the Internal Revenue Service and the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

The audit shows that for the 2020-21 school year, Bridges Academy’s director and finance officer falsified student enrollment records by reporting 72 students who were not enrolled in the schools.

The two admitted that they began inflating enrollment eight years earlier, mainly in early grades to avoid detection. Students in grades K-2 aren’t required to take state tests and don’t show up on testing rosters…

Bridges Academy was also found to have used $78,576 in state money intended for the charter school to support the operations of a preschool, despite charging tuition for children to attend the preschool.

“The charter school funding provided by DPI was intended for the education of kindergarten through eighth grade students,” the audit said. “However, at least $78,576 of the funding was used for the operation of the preschool to close the gap between the revenues and expenses.”

In 2019 and 2020, Bridges also failed to report nearly $500,000 in payments to the director, instructional and support staff, the audit found.

That means the IRS likely collected fewer taxes from the organization than was owed

Here are key recommendations made by the Office of the State Auditor:

  • DPI should seek repayment of $404,971 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for the state funds received as a result of the falsified student enrollment records.
  • DPI should consider reviewing the enrollment history of Bridges Academy and determine if the school received funding for falsified students in previous years.
  • DPI should seek repayment of $78,576 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for state charter school funds that were utilized to support the preschool.

You have to say this about Florida: the Republican leadership is not deterred by the theft of public funds. No matter how many charter school scandals are exposed, no matter how many charter leaders are convicted of theft, Florida continues to pour money into charters.

In the latest scandal, a charter leader was convicted of misappropriatfing nearly $400,000.

MIAMI — A former Florida charter school president was found guilty of embezzling nearly $400,000 by diverting school funds to pay for personal items, federal prosecutors said.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Jimika Williams was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury on two counts of theft of federal funds and 18 counts of wire fraud after a trial in Miami that lasted more than a week.

Williams was the president of Advancement of Education in Scholars Corporation, a Florida nonprofit organization that operated Paramount Charter School in Sunrise, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The school closed permanently in 2017, the newspaper reported. Williams was also the president of Florida Scholars Educational Services Corporation, prosecutors said.https://d-3952898977172872826.ampproject.net/2203101844000/frame.html

The school had received funding through Title 1, which is paid to a school if more than 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches, according to the news release. The charter school also received state funding, which was paid through the School Board of Broward County.

Prosecutors charged that Williams transferred funds from the school’s bank account to an FSESC account, according to the news release.

The news release stated that Williams “unlawfully enriched” herself between 2015 and June 2107 by transferring $389,857 to use for personal purchases, including payments for a vehicle, a private school and other personal expenses.

The cash was also used to pay rent at a lavish Davie home, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Craig Harris of USA Today wrote a blockbuster three-part series about the charter schools that grabbed at least $1 billion in federal funds from the COVID Payroll Protection Program, passed in 2020 to help struggling small businesses stay alive and retain their employees. Today the second part was posted. Because charter schools are “technically small businesses,” about 1,000 of them applied for the forgivable loans. None of the charter schools lost revenue or laid off employees but they asked for the money anyway. Even the charter school lobbyist—the National Alliance for Public charter Schools—asked for a $680,000 loan, which was forgiven.

Harris writes in this second part about charters that knew it was wrong to ask for PPP funding when they had no need, and others did. (I can’t find the link: if any reader can, please add.)

He starts:

‘The ethical thing to do’: Why this small San Diego charter school passed on COVID PPP loans

Albert Einstein Academies, a small San Diego charter school chain, turned down a forgivable $3 million Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Story Highlights

  • Learn4Life, a charter chain, got a combined $32.7 million in PPP loans through 12 related firms.
  • California charter schools had six of the eight largest PPP loans in the U.S. among charters.
  • In Arizona, two prominent charter chains also turned down the money, saying they didn’t meet the requirements.

SAN DIEGO – The Albert Einstein Academies, which educate 1,450 students from kindergarten through eighth grade at two inner-city campuses here, could have used a forgivable loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Half of the middle school students and close to one-third of the elementary kids come from low-income homes and qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at the charter schools, its superintendent said.

But while the academies were eligible for up to $3 million in forgivable loans based on revenuesthat largely came from taxes, Superintendent David Sciarretta didn’t feel right about taking the money.

He said the loan program, started by Congress in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, was intended to help financially struggling small businesses stay open and avoid laying off employees.

Charters are privately operated schools that are publicly funded.

We could have always used the money. But, growing up, my mom told me: ‘If there’s food on the table and there are other folks who are hungrier than you, then you need to let them eat because they have a greater need than you do.’

Sciarretta said Einstein, whose charter school campuses are minutes from downtown, didn’t suffer financially because California continued its pre-pandemic level of public school funding during the health crisis even if enrollment declined, giving some schools additional money.He said refraining from taking the loans was “the ethical thing to do.”

“We could have always used the money,” said Sciarretta, recently awarded the 2022 Hart Vision Award Winner for California Charter Leader of the Year. “But, growing up, my mom told me: ‘If there’s food on the table and there are other folks who are hungrier than you, then you need to let them eat because they have a greater need than you do.'”

Other schools took PPP loans

That wasn’t the view of at least 268 other California charter operators, who run some of the state’s largest and wealthiest publicly funded charter chains.

Those operators had at least $335 million forgiven, a USA TODAY investigation hasfound, the most of any state with charter schools. That’s about one-third of the $1 billion in loans obtained by more than 1,100 U.S. charter schools, which educate a fraction of the nation’s children and had the loans forgiven — even though most lost no money during the pandemic.

Several of those schools also employed more than 500 workers, the limit to qualify under the program, USA TODAY found.

Kathleen Hermsmeyer, superintendent of Springs Charter Schools in Temecula, said while California didn’t cut funding, it also did not increase it for charter schools like hers that specialize in at-home, remote or hybrid learning.

Those types of charter schools,which aren’t based in classrooms, experienced significant enrollment increases because of the need for distance learning during COVID,

She said her network added 1,000 students during the pandemic and needed its nearly $9.9 million loan —the largest of any charter operator in the country. The Small Business Administration, which is in charge of the PPP program that ended last May, forgave that loan on Dec. 1.

“It was exactly what PPP was designed for — to help us provide a great quality education for our children through the most difficult years ever,” Hermsmeyer said. “We kept our programs and services, and we did not cut salaries.”

The federal government promised to forgive the loans if the money was used to keep workers on the job and to pay for pandemic-related issues.

Researchers have found the SBA has forgiven most of the loans for all industries with little auditing done to see if the money was properly used. Meanwhile, up to three-fourths of the money went into the pockets of business owners, according to a recent study.

Which charter schools near you took federal PPP money?

Search USA TODAY’s database of more than 1,100 charter schools that had Paycheck Protection Program loans totalling more than $1 billion forgiven.

California, which in 1992 became the second state to allow charter schools, had more than 1,300 of the schools and seven all-charter districts at the beginning of this school year, according to the state’s department of education. That’s roughly 11.5% of the entire public school student population in California.

The state had six of the top eight forgiven loans for charter schools in America, all in excess of $5.5 million, records show.

California Congressman Judy Chu has been highly critical of the federal oversight, saying the agency and Treasury Department prioritized speed in getting money to businesses instead of scrutiny over who needed the cash.

Learn4Life gets most PPP loans

The largest block of forgiven loans, a combined $32.7 million, went to the same address in Lancaster, California, for 12 related nonprofit companiesthat are part of Learn4Life, a charter chain whose firms reported to the IRS that they employed a combined 4,567 workers during 2019.

The loans were obtained in April and May 2020, and forgiven throughout last year, federal records show.

The combined employment would be more than nine times the threshold for obtaining a PPP loan.

Learn4Life spokeswoman Ann Abajian said the organization had 1,685 employees among its companies.

She said the discrepancy occurred because the companies had previously counted seasonal and part-time employees in their staff totals and that information was disclosed to the federal government to have the loans forgiven.

Federal tax returns for the 2019-2020 fiscal year from those 12 nonprofits, which were signed by company executives, showed the higher staffing numbers.

For example, Learn4Life’s Antelope Valley Learning Academy Inc. reported employing1,302 staff, while Western Educational Corporation and Vista Real Public Charter employed 527 and 668 people, respectively.

“Each entity — as a separate charter nonprofit, with less than 500 employees and its own independent governing board — applied with accuracy and transparency, met the criteria, and was awarded the loans and later forgiven. Proper documentation with supplemental justification and backup was presented to SBA,” Abajian said.

The chain said it used the loans to purchase and distribute 20,000 laptops and 15,000 hotspots, baby supplies for hundreds of parenting students as well as an online curriculum. In addition, the organization said its technology support desk hired more staff.

Eric Cross (middle) teaches seventh-grade science at Einstein Middle School in San Diego. The school was eligible for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, but school officials turned it down because the state of California did not cut any funding to public schools.CRAIG HARRIS

Other businesses, such as Shake Shack, also counted separate locations to qualify for a PPP loan. That publicly traded company with more than 7,000 employees and 205 restaurants in the U.S., was one of the first to get a PPP loan. However, Shake Shack returned its $10 million loan following public scrutiny.

In Arizona, prominent, successful chains Basis Charter Schools Inc. and Great Hearts Academies said they didn’t seek the loans even though their individual campuses employed fewer than 500 workers. Basis and Great Heart officials said they read the SBA rules as requiring all employees within an organization to be counted and both were too big.

Meanwhile, other California schools that had jumbo loans forgiven included Granada Hills Charter in Granada Hills ($8.5 million), Antelope Valley Learning Academy in Lancaster ($7.9 million), Summit Public Schools in Redwood City ($6.9 million), Western Educational Corporation in Lancaster ($6.2 million) and Magnolia Educational & Research Foundation in Los Angeles ($5.5 million).

The expansion of Torchlight Academy Schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in trouble. Despite their mishandling and misreporting of students in special education, their financial irregularities and missing records, they are still in business. The state charter board has closed two of their charters, but others are still operating, and Torchlight hopes to add more charters. One–the Three Rivers Academy–was closed in January after numerous deficiencies were identified. According to NC Policy Watch:

Don McQueen, operator of Three Rivers Academy, allegedly padded enrollment numbers, paid families so students would attend class, and took other extreme measures to ensure state per-pupil funds kept flowing to the troubled charter school in Bertie County.

The fate of another charter school run by the same management company will be decided at a meeting tonight of the state charter school board.

Station WRAL reports:

A state advisory board will discuss Monday the fate of a 600-student Raleigh charter school that is under fire for for its handling of special education programming.

Monday’s meeting will be the latest in a string of tense meetings with state charter school officials for Donnie McQueen, executive director of Torchlight Academy Schools. In less than a year, the state has revoked charters for two of his schools because of violations.

The meeting will take place just days after records show the state was still waiting for Torchlight Academy to produce financial and contractual records — including records that would be legally public for traditional public schools but that are not legally public for public charter schools…

The school is on the highest level of state noncompliance status, following state findings that the school had been “grossly negligent” in its oversight of the exceptional children program, also known as special education. The state is now overseeing, but not controlling, school finances.

The State Board of Education asked the Charter School Advisory Board to review:

  • Potential misuse of federal and state funds, including grant funds.
  • Governance concerns, including a lack of oversight.
  • Potential conflicts of interest by its principal and executive director — Cynthia and Donnie McQueen. Specifically, whether their actions on behalf of or in lieu of board of directors or management organization have benefited them personally…

The school has posted average performance grades and academic growth in recent years.

Last year, the state found the school didn’t properly implement the program as required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, altered and falsified student records, falsely reported training compliance, did not provide adequate access to student and finance records, and had unqualified staff.

The school protested being moved to the highest level of noncompliance, citing new training for staff and other changes the school was making to improve.

Officials complained of the voluminous records requested by the state and argued it was being treated differently than others schools…

Charter schools are public schools, but they are not subject to the same public disclosure laws as traditional public school districts. For example, charter schools don’t have to make employees’ salaries public. They also don’t need to disclose contracts, such as a lease contract.

The records the state sought related to financial documents included any records between the school or Torchlight Academy Schools and three organizations owned by other school officials.

Torchlight Academies currently manages two charters and hopes to manage another five.

Blogger Billy Townsend (Public Enemy #1) here summarizes the latest Florida education scandal.

I posted Aaron Regunberg’s article in The Providence Journal, in which Governor Dan McKee awarded a $5.1 million contract to a brand-new firm created by friends from Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. The contract was supposedly to help schools reopen.


He wrote:

Take the recent story of a $5-million “school reopening” contract given to Governor McKee’s longtime financial backers at the corporate education reform group Chiefs for Change (CFC). The head of CFC, Mike Magee, has directly contributed thousands of dollars to the governor, and his brother leads the Super PAC that spent hundreds of thousands supporting McKee during my primary challenge to him in 2018. As has been reported extensively by WPRI, just two days after Mr. McKee took office, the chief operating officer and director of operations of CFC incorporated a brand-new company, ILO Group, which almost immediately received a state contract to the tune of $5.2 million — an amount many millions of dollars more than the next-highest bid.

But it’s worse than that. WPRI in Providence reported that the head of the new firm that won the contract was still employed by McKee’s friends when the contract was awarded.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The head of a newly founded consulting firm was still working for one of Gov. Dan McKee’s close confidantes at the same time that her company was finalizing a controversial state contract worth up to $5.2 million, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Separately, Target 12 has also learned that a key initiative the consulting firm is spearheading — the creation of alternative municipal education offices across Rhode Island — is slated to receive funding from Amazon.com under the terms of the company’s new agreement for a project in Johnston.

The consulting firm, ILO Group, has been making headlines ever since Target 12 first reported that the state awarded a lucrative contract to ILO soon after it was incorporated, despite a messy bidding process which state officials deemed unsuccessful.

The contract “had all the hallmarks of some of the deals that we’ve had in the past that come from the ‘I know a guy’ culture in Rhode Island,” said state Rep. Jason Knight, a Barrington Democrat and member of the House Oversight Committee, which is considering hearings on the contract.

ILO’s majority owner and managing partner is Julia Rafal-Baer, who was previously chief operating officer at the national education nonprofit Chiefs for Change. Chiefs for Change’s CEO is Mike Magee, a longtime adviser to McKee on education issues who worked for the governor when McKee was Cumberland mayor. Magee also served on McKee’s transition team last winter.

ILO filed incorporation papers with the Rhode Island secretary of state’s office on March 4, two days after McKee was sworn into office. But Target 12 discovered Rafal-Baer did not leave her old job when she co-founded the new firm and began bidding on the seven-figure state contract.

R.I. Board of Elections filings show Rafal-Baer continued to list Chiefs for Change as her employer, rather than ILO, when she made campaign donations during the spring. A spokesperson for ILO, Frank McMahon, confirmed Rafal-Baer kept her job at Chiefs for Change until June 28 — after ILO had won the state contract and just a few days before it took effect.

The most recent available IRS filings for Chiefs for Change show the nonprofit paid Magee $308,211 and Rafal-Baer $247,881 in 2019, making them the organization’s two highest-paid employees.

No decision yet on oversight hearings

As the bidding process began in March, Rafal-Baer had access at the highest levels.

The day after ILO’s incorporation papers were filed — March 5 — she and Magee were slated to participate in a half-hour Zoom meeting with the governor and the state purchasing agent, Nancy McIntyre, according to McKee’s schedule for that day. Also invited to the meeting were McKee’s then-chief of staff, Tony Silva, and the director of the R.I. Department of Administration, Jim Thorsen.

“The meeting was to discuss the state’s options for engaging additional support to assist with school safety related to COVID, including testing and other strategies for safe in-person learning,” said McKee spokesperson Andrea Palagi. She added that Rafal-Baer “was sent an invite for this meeting but did not attend.” The meeting was first reported by The Providence Journal.

Later in March the governor’s office solicited bids for a new education consultant to help with reopening schools and long-term policy planning.

ILO put in an initial bid of $8.8 million to do the work, while a rival firm with a two-decade track record in Rhode Island — WestEd — said it would cost only $936,000.

With the numbers so far apart, state officials reworked their request and asked for revised bids. On May 7, ILO lowered its bid to $6.5 million — but that was still far higher than WestEd’s revised bid of $3.5 million.

By late May, a four-member state review panel that included North Providence Mayor Charlie Lombardi abandoned the competitive procurement process and proposed splitting the work between the two firms. ILO got a contract for up to $5.2 million to help K-12 schools, while WestEd got $926,000 to help colleges.

The governor has emphasized that ILO is billing the state hourly for its services — at a rate of $223 an hour — and he expects the final price tag for the contract to come in “far below” the $5.2 million maximum.

Spokespersons for both organizations as well as the governor’s office have distanced Chiefs for Change and Magee from the bidding process that led to ILO’s selection. In a letter to legislators last week, McKee said Magee “has no past or current financial interest or management role in ILO,” and ILO’s spokesperson said Magee “did not participate in the preparation or submission of this proposal.”

In his letter to lawmakers, McKee said ILO “currently works with large-scale and small-scale school districts throughout the country.” When Target 12 asked for a list of the other states where ILO is working, however, a spokesperson for the company said: “It is ILO’s policy not to share the names of its clients.”

By the way, McKee’s friend Mike Magee is the brother of Marc Porter Magee, CEO of 50CAN, an organization whose sole purpose is to promote charter schools. New York BATS were none too happy with Rafal-Baer when she worked as Assistant Commissioner of Education in that state and was known as the state’s ”teacher evaluation czar.”. One of them wrote:

In reality, Dr. Rafal-Baer’s policies in NY were met with deep resistance, found “arbitrary and capricious” in state Supreme Court and suspended after costing taxpayers untold millions. Achievement gaps and school segregation widened, and teacher workforce morale has tanked, with untested, top-down initiatives the biggest reported driver of workplace stress by far.

In response to the criticism of the grant to the newly-minted ILO, Governor McKee wrote a letter to legislative leaders defending his decision to award the contract.

“While ILO is newly organized as a Rhode Island-based business, its team members have worked together for years and have an extensive background working in Rhode Island and throughout the country on education consulting projects,” McKee wrote. He noted that ILO’s managing partner – Julia Rafal-Baer, who owns a majority stake in the firm – is a Cranston resident…

But McKee didn’t mention that ILO’s proposed hourly rate for the work still totaled $228 an hour, compared to $123 for WestEd — meaning the bids were still nearly $3 million apart. Those numbers are too small and blurry to read in the supporting documents sent by the governor’s office. (Target 12 has separate copies of the original.)

In another section of the report, McKee also downplayed the overall price tag of the ILO contract, saying he doubted the firm would end up billing taxpayers for that much money in the end.

“To avoid unnecessary spending, the contract is to be billed hourly up to the amount of $5.1 million instead of a fixer retainer fee,” McKee wrote. “Based on ILO’s billable hours for work performed since the beginning of July 2021 when the contract began, we expect to remain far below this cap.”

Why teach for peanuts when you can be paid $228 an hour as a consultant? If you know the right people.

Politico writes that Senator Bernie Sanders deserves credit for key features of the $1.9 trillion Biden plan and for encouraging Biden not to compromise with moderate Republicans who offered a $900 billion plan.

Politico said:

 Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) played the most dramatic role during the passage of the Covid relief bill into law. But the senator with the greatest imprint on the script itself was his colleague on the opposite end of the Democratic ideological spectrum: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Sanders’ influence on the most ambitious piece of domestic legislation in a generation is evident in several places, particularly the guaranteed income program for children, the massive subsidies for people to buy health care, the sheer size of the $1.9 trillion measure and the centerpiece of it — direct checks to working Americans. 

But the specifics of the law tell only part of the story. The calculus by which the legislation was crafted and passed — a belief that popular bills endure more than bipartisan ones — is quintessentially Sanders. And it raises a thought-provoking question: Has any elected official in American history had such a profound influence on a major political party without ever formally joining it? 

Six years ago, Democrats were in a different place. Austerity politics were still gripping parts of the party. The ambitious agenda items were more social than economic: immigration reform, gun control, police reform after Ferguson. And in a few months time, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee would make serious inroads among the white working class voters who had served as the bedrock for Democrats for decades. 

Within that landscape, Sanders was a throwback: a labor-oriented big-government liberal who seemed like more of a gadfly than a serious player. He was known for passing little-noticed amendments but also found a knack for making well-noticed public spectacles, often as acts of disagreement with the Obama White House on items like domestic surveillance laws and the extension of the Bush tax cuts. As his following picked up, a depiction of him emerged as an ideologue who valued ideological purity over progress and was content to undermine a historic president in the service of it.

That never jibed with reality. Though admittedly stubborn, Sanders voted often for major bills that fell short of his ambitions (Obamacare), cut deals that went against his ideology (VA reform), and made sure his public shows of opposition didn’t actually turn into catastrophes for the Democratic Party. When his legislative white whale (a $15-an-hour minimum wage hike) was nixed by the parliamentarian a few weeks back, he could have insisted that his fallback option be given a vote. He didn’t, calculating that it wasn’t worth jeopardizing or delaying the entire enterprise over the minimum wage. As one Sanders aide described it: “He knows when to throw down and when it’s time to get s— done…”

The Democratic Party today holds razor-thin majorities in both chambers and is helmed by a president who might have been the most moderate of the 20 or so candidates who ran in the primary. And yet every single member — save one in the House — voted for a nearly $2 trillion deficit-financed bill that sends money without strings attached to the poorest Americans, all while embracing a unionization effort targeting the biggest e-commerce giant in the world and entertaining a $4 trillion follow-up bill to revamp American infrastructure that will likely include tax hikes on the rich. If Sanders was just a touch more extroverted, we’d likely see signs of euphoria in Burlington.

Of course, credit (or, if you’re so inclined, blame) isn’t his alone. The enlarged child tax credit has been the project of countless Democrats, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The bill’s $86 billion bailout for multi-employer pensions was spearheaded by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). And none of it would have been possible without twin Senate wins in Georgia or Biden’s insistence that he needed to go big out the gate. 

But, it’s worth recalling, that Biden easily could have charted a bipartisan approach instead. In early December, Manchin and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced the outlines of a $900 billion relief bill of their own, with a splashy Washington Post op-ed framing it as the logical step toward ideological comity. Five other senators in the Democratic caucus were on board with the idea

Sanders rejected the proposal out of hand. His move sent an early signal to the White House that it would have to scramble for votes even on a center-of-the-road approach. Weeks later, the Georgia election happened, Biden stuck to the script that bigger was better, and the pieces of a $1.9 trillion package — upon which the success of the Demcratic Party now hangs — fell into place.

Good Jobs First has studied the distribution of COVID relief funds in depth. It created a site called COVID Stimulus Watch. It published an article about the depth of corruption in the Trump administration, which distributed COVID relief funds.

In this post, the researchers at Good Jobs First reveal the federal funding in the Paycheck Protection Program for all 50 states, distributed to charter schools, religious schools, and private schools.

As you review the funding for your own state, please bear in mind that public schools received an average of $134,500 each. Also, public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. Charter schools were, however, allowed to get a portion of the public school funding and then to apply for PPP funding as if they were small businesses.

Check out your own state. You will find that elite private schools with high tuition and large endowments received grants that often were millions of dollars.

The New York Times published a detailed investigation that explained how the Trump administration, acting through the Treasury Secretary, took control of the United States Postal Service and politicized it by selecting an unqualified Trump donor as Postmaster General. This is par for the course, as Trump has put unqualified Trump loyalists in charge of every agency.


WASHINGTON — In early February, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin invited two Republican members of the Postal Service’s board of governors to his office to update him on a matter in which he had taken a particular interest — the search for a new postmaster general.

Mr. Mnuchin had made clear before the meeting that he wanted the governors to find someone who would push through the kind of cost-cutting and price increases that President Trump had publicly called for and that Treasury had recommended in a December 2018 report as a way to stem years of multibillion-dollar losses.

It was an unusual meeting at an unusual moment.

Since 1970, the Postal Service had been an independent agency, walled off from political influence. The postmaster general is not appointed by the president and is not a cabinet member. Instead, the postal chief is picked by a board of governors, with seats reserved for members of both parties, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for seven-year terms.

Now, not only was the Trump administration, through Mr. Mnuchin, involving itself in the process for selecting the next postmaster general, but the two Democratic governors who were then serving on the board were not invited to the Treasury meeting. Since the meeting did not include a quorum of board members, it was not subject to sunshine laws that apply to official board meetings and there is no formal Postal Service record or minutes of what was discussed.

Nearly six months later, that meeting, along with other interactions between Mr. Mnuchin and the postal board, has taken on heightened significance as the Trump administration confronts allegations it sought to politicize the Postal Service and hinder its ability to handle a surge in mail-in ballots in November’s election. In interviews, documents and congressional testimony, Mr. Mnuchin emerges as a key player in selecting the board members who hired the Trump megadonor now leading the Postal Service and in pushing the agenda that he has pursued.

Mr. Trump’s animus toward the agency dates to at least 2013, but his criticism of its finances escalated once he took office and found new focus in late 2017, when he first bashed it for essentially subsidizing Amazon, another target of his ire. Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, whose coverage has often angered Mr. Trump.

“This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” the president wrote on Twitter on March 31, 2018, one of several such attacks over the years.

Twelve days later, he issued an executive order putting Mr. Mnuchin in charge of a postal reform task force. But it was not until earlier this year that the administration found a way to enforce its postal agenda — one that has now collided with the pandemic and the approaching election.

A few weeks after the February meeting with Mr. Mnuchin, one of the attendees, Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the board of governors, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in 2017, threw a new name for postmaster general into the mix: Louis DeJoy.

Mr. DeJoy, a longtime logistics executive, was known for his hard-charging leadership style and his ability to convert disorganization into efficiency, as well his generous donations to the Republican Party, including to Mr. Trump. In October 2017, Mr. DeJoy had hosted a fund-raiser for the president’s re-election campaign at his North Carolina home.

His résumé was far different than recent postmasters general, most of whom had risen through the Postal Service ranks. Megan J. Brennan, who had announced in October 2019 her intention to retire as postmaster general at the end of January, began her career as a letter carrier in Pennsylvania.

Mr. DeJoy, who ran New Breed Logistics before selling it to XPO Logistics in 2014, would be coming from the private sector to assume control of a highly unionized, sprawling bureaucracy with more than half a million employees. His companies had experience working with the Postal Service, moving bulk shipments of packages from fulfillment centers and ferrying them to local Postal Service centers. But both companies had fewer than 10,000 employees, none of them unionized, and he had never worked in the public sector.

The companies were also the subject of a litany of complaints from workers, including more than a dozen lawsuits accusing managers — but not Mr. DeJoy personally — of presiding over a hostile environment rife with sexual harassment and racial discrimination and where workers were fired for getting sick or injured.

The board’s vice chairman at the time, David C. Williams, raised concerns about Mr. DeJoy’s candidacy and Mr. Mnuchin’s involvement, telling lawmakers during sworn testimony this week that he “didn’t strike me as a serious candidate.” Mr. Williams, a Democratic appointee, resigned before the vote as it became clear that Mr. DeJoy would be the pick.

Three months after the meeting in Mr. Mnuchin’s office, the board of governors announced Mr. DeJoy’s selection as the nation’s 75th postmaster general. Within weeks, he began carrying out changes, including cuts to overtime and limiting mail delivery trips. He curtailed postal hours and mandated that carriers must adhere to a rigid schedule. A July memo from the Postal Service warned that the changes might temporarily result in “mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks.”

The measures matched up with recommendations in the task force report, which blamed the Postal Service for losing billions because of waste, inefficiency and a failure to respond to declining mail volumes.

But the rapid-fire moves just months before the November election concerned Postal Service insiders, who said that, since at least the Obama administration, the agency had generally sought to avoid significant changes within two or three months of a general election.

Soon, mail was piling up at post offices, veterans were not receiving their medications, bills were arriving late and questions began surfacing about the ability of the Postal Service to handle what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots this November because of the pandemic.

Amid an outcry from lawmakers, civil rights groups and state officials, Mr. DeJoy suspended many of the changes on Tuesday, including some that had been underway before he took the helm of the Postal Service. Yet he made clear during a Senate hearing on Friday that he planned to move ahead with “dramatic” measures after the election, including raising prices and limiting overtime.

Postal Service employees and union officials say significant damage has already been done. Hundreds of mail-sorting machines have been removed, and the day-to-day changes have caused confusion and delays among drivers, carriers and other workers.

In his Senate testimony on Friday, Mr. DeJoy chalked that up to growing pains as the organization tries to get leaner. “We all feel, you know, bad” he told lawmakers upset about mail delays affecting their constituents..

Over the last two years, Mr. Mnuchin met privately on multiple occasions about postal matters with Mr. Duncan, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who was confirmed by the Senate as a postal board member in August 2018, according to people familiar with the meetings.

Mr. Mnuchin also arranged a meeting with John M. Barger, a California lawyer and financial investment adviser who was recommended to the Treasury secretary by a mutual associate who knew of Mr. Barger’s work as chairman of the board of the Los Angeles County pension fund. After a meeting in Washington, Mr. Mnuchin recommended that Mr. Trump appoint Mr. Barger to the board of governors.

Mr. Barger was confirmed by the Senate last summer, and was tapped to lead the committee to select a new postmaster general. He attended the February meeting in Mr. Mnuchin’s office with Mr. Duncan.

S. David Fineman, a former member and chairman of the Postal Service’s board, called Mr. Mnuchin’s close involvement in the affairs of the Postal Service “absolutely unprecedented.”

During his tenure in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, he said the board had minimal interaction with the administrations, and “certainly no communication regarding the hiring of the postmaster general.”