Search results for: "corruption"

Sue M. Legg, education director of the Florida League of Women Voters, wrote the following post about the current situation in Florida, which is reaching a critical point. The legislature just passed a bill that showers favors and funding on the state’s charter industry, which has a poor academic and financial record. Scandal and profiteering are commonplace in the charter sector of Florida, yet there is never any accountability demanded by the legislature or the governor.

Legg writes:

Not a surprise that Erik Fresen removed the charter reform measures that Senator Gaetz included in SB 7029. Instead there is a hodge podge of new proposals attacking public schools. It all should finish today. Hopefully, the Senate will stand firm. Perhaps the best outcome is that nothing will pass.

Information is not difficult to find. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states on a corruption index in 2012. Florida received a total grade of ‘C-‘ which was better than that of many states. Internal auditing rules received an ‘A’, but ethics enforcement agencies rated an ‘F’. It sounds like we have rules but we bend and break them.

The legislature must address the problems and dispel the perception expressed in the media that its members are “too cozy with charter schools.” We know where that concern originates:

• Senator Legg, Chair of the Education Committee operates a charter school with his wife.

• Representative Marlene O’Toole is a representative from The Villages whose charter school just dismissed 140 students. While she does not appear to be a board member, she is employed by a private educational foundation Take Stock in Children, and is cited for conflict of interest in voting for millions of dollars in funding for it.

• Rep. Erik Fresen’s sister and brother-in-law operate Academica, a for-profit charter management firm. He is Chair of the House subcommittee for Education Appropriations.

• Representative Manny Diaz and Senator Anitere Flores run Doral College, an online dual enrollment school that is operated by Academica and funded by its charter high schools student enrollments and a transfer of $400,000 from Doral Academy, a charter school.

One of the worst stories involves a $400,000 ‘loan’ from Doral Academy to Doral College, a non accredited college started on the grounds of Doral Academy charter high school. The idea is to enroll high school students in dual enrollment courses at the college, taught by the charter high school teachers. Evidently, only students from these Academica run charters can enroll. Academica is under federal investigation. The students earn credit that cannot be transferred to any accredited school. The college earns money. Who is involved?

• Manny Diaz, Chair Florida House Sub Committee on Choice and Innovation. Representative Diaz is the dean of Doral College in Miami. Bob Sykes alleges there are other conflicts of interest.

• Senator Anitere Flores, Chair Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, member Senate Appropriations Committee, CEO of Academica affiliated Doral College

• Representative Erik Fresen. Chair of the House Education sub committee on Appropriations. Employee of Civica, a real estate company associated with Academica.
Rep. Fresen was named in the federal investigation due to a potential conflict of interest. He served on the board of an Academica charter school and approved a contract to his real estate firm. He currently has added an amendment to the House version of the charter school bill that would allocate part of local taxes for public school capital outlay funds to charter school facilities. No charges have been filed on that measure.

Fresen earns $150,000 from Civica that specializes in charter school construction. Sponsored a bill to share capital outlay with charters US DOE found that 3 Mater charter schools signed lease payments with Academica while Zulueta was on the Mater Board.

USDOE audit found at least 4 related party transactions while Fresen was employed at Civica between 2007-2012.

Ethics complaint filed against Fresen in 2011 because of a voting conflict on HB 7195 that prohibited cities and counties from imposing stricter building and zoning rules on charters than on public schools

Affect all charter schools not just him. Change in ethics laws ‘class’

2013 refused to pay a fine for failingto file financial disclosure in 2003

2014 Neighborhood Strategies put out of business in 2009, but Fresen reported on his financial disclosure form that he collected $10,000 per year since 2010

In 2012, Ethics Commission found that From 2008 to 2011 Fresen failed to properly disclose his net worth assets and liabilities

2017 Plead guilty to failure to file income tax return for eight years. Was in office 2008-2016. Faces up to a year in prison. Owes $100,000 in back taxes. Financial disclosure forms and income tax owed do not match

Paid a $10,000 fine for failure to report campaign reports in 2008-9

Ethel Fresen was an ESE teacher at Somerset until 2008.

Magdalena Fresen is Academica vice president

George Levesque House General Counsel cleared Fresen of conflict of interest even though he filed the notification form nine days after he voted. HP 7195

Academica lease costs were 16.9% compared to 12.2% of total expenses for other charters. Nine schools’ leases exceeded 20% of revenue of schools in 2010.

Mater Academy Inc. tutoring company received $380,000 from Miami Dade and Broward Counties. Fresen amended a bill in 2012 to protect private tutoring companies and then in 2013 was embarrassed by the fraud exposed and opposed the continuation of funding.
The buzz about Florida is that there is more self-interest than public interest than in any other state.

Are such allegations warranted? Information is not difficult to find. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states on a corruption index in 2012. Ethics enforcement agencies rated Florida an ‘F’. It sounds like there are rules, but we bend and break them.

Take the case of former Florida House Representative Erik Fresen who served in the House for eight years. It looks like he will serve in a Florida prison next year. He was Chair of the House Education sub committee on Appropriations, and a property consultant for Civica, a real estate company with ties to Academica. Fresen’s sister and brother-in-law operate Academica, the largest for-profit charter management firm in Florida. Their charter school real estate holdings generate over $20 million per year.
Fresen pled guilty this week for failure to file federal income taxes for eight years. During the same period his financial record disclosures required by the House do not match the IRS income reports.

This is simply a culmination of years of questions about Fresen’s ethical behavior.

For example:

• In 2003, he failed to file a financial disclosure form and was cited in 2013 for non payment of the fee.

• In 2009, he paid a $10,000 fine for failure to report campaign reports.

• In 2011, an ethics complaint was filed in 2011 because of a voting conflict on a bill benefitting charter school building and zoning requirements. The complaint was dismissed by the House attorney, George Levesque. He is married to Patricia Levesque who is the C.E.O. of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education that promotes school choice nationwide.

• In 2012, the Ethics Commission found that from 2008 to 2011 Fresen failed to properly disclose his net worth assets and liabilities.

• In 2012, Fresen was criticized for a last minute amendment to protect private tutoring companies that included one owned by Academica, and then in 2013 was embarrassed by the fraud exposed and told by House leadership to oppose the continuation of funding.

• In 2014, Fresen reported large income amounts annually from Neighborhood Strategies, Fresen’s business. The State had closed the company in 2009.

• In 2014, he was named as part of a federal investigation of Academica. A USDOE audit found at least 4 related party transactions while Fresen was employed at Civica between 2007-2012. Academica made a $400,000 ‘loan’ from Doral Academy to Doral College, a non accredited college started on the grounds of Doral Academy charter high school. High school students were dual enrolled in the college and taught by their charter high school teachers.

This year, House Speaker Corcoran made a promise to improve ethics. Curbing profiteering in charters is not among his priorities. Bills from the Senate do not make it out of House committees.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, predicts an unprecedented level of corruption during the Trump years, related to Trump’s refusal to separate himself from his business empire. Will foreign diplomats reserve the $20,000 a night suite at the Trump hotel in D.C. to impress the President? Will governments grant permits expeditiously to build new Trump hotels, casinos and golf courses to curry favor? Will the President appoint members of the National Labor Relations Board to prevent his hotels from being unionized (there is a labor dispute at a Trump hotel in Las Vegas before the NLRB right now).

He writes,

Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

Krugman previously wrote that Trump’s proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure would privatize many of our public assets and become a goldmine for the private sector.

Buckle your seat belts. The next four years will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party.


Denis Smith, retired school administrator who worked in Ohio’s charter school office, writes here about the stench coming from the charter industry, not only in Ohio, but in other states.



Imagine for a moment that you’re in a California television studio and Alex Trebek turns to you and two other contestants in a Final Jeopardy! segment. The famed host asks: “Name the five most commonly used words uttered about the charter school industry.”



If you answered “Will the defendant please rise?” you might have the potential to be a Jeopardy! champion. On the other hand, you may not have to be a Jeopardy! high-performer to know that as scandals in the for-profit education world continue to pile up, the number of charter school industry culprits and defendants continues to grow, as sure as there is stink on…



Well, gentle readers, since we are all in polite company, perhaps that simile can be completed privately. But yes, malodorous conditions aside, it’s quite clear that there are plenty of defendants in the proliferating, malodorous charter school industry. Plenty.



As we saw recently, there’s something about voodoo accounting that seems to be part of the DNA of charters. Here in Ohio and across the country, stories abound of treasurers mishandling millions of Ohio tax dollars, and management companies buying property and issuing leases to the school at exorbitant rates, with one Columbus school paying 81% of its state aid in rent. Add to this the sad tale about board members and school leaders of a Cleveland charter school that were indicted for payments to shell companies set up to be the repositories of state funds.



All the while, charter school scandals and corruption continue unabated. Everywhere.


Smith recounts the latest charter school scandals. Taxpayer funds wasted; schools closed; profits for entrepreneurs; inflated enrollments; lease deals; kickbacks.

Jeb Bush is trying to present himself to the public as a moderate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When it comes to education, Jeb Bush boasts of the wonderful transformation of the schools in Florida, but that is not an accurate portrayal of what Bush actually did. With his far-right dedication to privatization, he has created a voracious industry of greed, which relies on the public’s gullibility. Some of his allies are getting very rich, but the children of Florida are not benefitting by the opening and closing of charter schools, many of which operate for-profit.

Jeff Bryant describes how Jeb did it, knowing full well that he would destroy public education at the same time:

The obsession over money that is driving charter school growth in Florida is increasingly evident to those who bother to look.

“Outrageous,” is the word former state Senator Nan Rich uses to describe recent decisions Florida lawmakers made to steer more money toward these schools. Until she termed out, Rich represented the 34th District that overlaps part of Broward County. Although she has never opposed charter schools, she now believes financial demands coming from the sector have become unreasonable.

As a recent article in Florida’s Herald-Tribune notes, for the past two years, only charter schools have received capital outlay funds from the state for new construction. Now charter school lobbyists say their schools deserve a share of local property taxes too.

“When they were started, charters were never supposed to tap capital funds,” Rich explains, “but gradually lawmakers with ties to the charter industry tipped the scales to favor them financially.”

“I’m not one who opposes charter schools that are set up the way they were intended,” Rich adds. But she now believes, “The whole movement … is undermining public education and moves public money to private interests.”

What Rich and Jensen describe is an increasing fear among parents and public officials across South Florida – and Broward County in particular – that any educational value charter schools were supposed to bring to the state is now overshadowed by corruption and chaos linked to money-making.

A new consensus is percolating from the ground up that those responsible for starting and operating charter schools, and making decisions to support the growth of these schools, “don’t understand children,” as Jensen puts it. They’re mostly, “motivated by money….”

Most people trace the manic scramble for more charter schools in Florida to one source: former governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. In 1996, two years before he became governor, Bush helped steer passage of the state’s first law permitting charter schools. That same year, he led the effort to open the state’s first charter, Liberty City Charter School in Miami.

During Bush’s first administration, charter school growth averaged a whopping 56 percent annually in the Sunshine State, according to a Florida-focused NPR outlet. Annual growth rates during his second and final four-year term dropped to 17 percent, but by the time Bush left office in 2007, charter schools across the state had grown from a modest 30 in total to well over 300. The number of Florida charter schools has since doubled to over 600.

In his initial campaign to promote these schools, Bush maintained that charter schools would rescue students from supposedly failed public schools, especially in low-income communities of color. But by 2009 – two years after he left office – Bush’s rationale for charter schools had significantly changed.

According to a Palm Beach Post news article published that year, Bush debuted his revamped message at a summit put on by his non-profit organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in Washington D.C. In his speech to that group, he declared, “I wish our schools could be more like milk. … Go down the aisle of nearly any major supermarket these days and you will find an incredible selection of milk. … They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”

Bush would repeat his observation from the dairy aisle three years later at the Republican National Convention of 2012, and what was once thought of as a civil rights cause became firmly established as a campaign for a new business-oriented model that would offer increased consumer “choice.”

“It started as a movement and now it’s an industry,” Vickie Marble, a well-known Florida charter school advocate, gleefully declared to NPR reporters chronicling the evolving messaging campaign.

One of Jeb’s favorite charter chains is Academica:

With nearly 100 schools in Florida “and well over $150 million in annual revenue,” Academica has been a key player in charter school expansions in the state since 1999. And Bush has shown an affinity for the schools for years. “As governor,” Hensley-Clancy reports, “Bush visited Academica schools several times, his emails show.”

But Academica has a long history of financial wheeling and dealing, so much so the organization is now the target of “an ongoing federal probe into its real estate dealings,” as the Miami Herald reported in 2014. While the 1996 law allowing charters to operate in Florida restricted applicants to nonprofit groups only, profit-minded charter businesses like Academica have skirted that restriction.

Another of his buddies runs the for-profit Charter Schools USA chain:

Another large, Florida-based, for-profit charter school chain, Charter Schools USA, practices a similar business scheme. As a Florida television outlet reported in 2014, “Charter Schools USA makes millions by managing schools, but tens of millions building and renting their buildings.”

The reporters note that when a non-profit board opens a new charter school and contracts with Charter Schools USA to manage it, Charter Schools USA’s for-profit “development arm, Red Apple Development, acquires land and constructs a school. Then, CUSA charges the school high rent.” One charter school paid “a $2 million rent payment to CUSA/Red Apple Development. The payment will equate to approximately 23 percent of its budget.”

Academica and Charter Schools USA are hardly the only large charter chains operating under these kinds of business practices in Florida and generating significant growth as a result. According to Hall’s research, “The top four charter operators in Florida for 2011-2012 were Academica (72), Charter Schools USA (37), Charter School Associates (20), and Imagine Schools (23).” More recent research by Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker finds that large charter school chains – the ones mentioned by Hall, as well as others like White Hat Management, Rader Group, the Richard Milburn Academy and KIPP – dominate the state.

As governor, then later as the head of his influential foundation, Jeb Bush did everything he could to facilitate these sorts of charter school business dealings. As MacGillis explains in his piece for the New Yorker, “Bush signed a law allowing charter operators who were denied approval by local school boards to appeal to the state.” The “state,” in this case means the Florida State Board of Education, which was appointed by, you guessed it, Gov. Bush.

If he is elected President, we can say farewell to public education and hello to financial schemes that generate millions for charter chains.

Spread the news. Send Jeff Bryant’s story to every newspaper writer, every TV reporter, every editorial board.

Jeb Bush is no moderate. He is a front man for the avaricious.

Bill Phillis is a watchdog for Ohio public schools. He is a man of great integrity who cares passionately about fair and equitable funding of the schools. He was Deputy State Superintendent many years ago and is now a fighting septugenarian, with no goal but the public interest. He created and leads the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

Here is his reaction to the collapse of charter school reform a few days ago:

“An initiative petition for a law or a constitutional amendment will be necessary to hold the charter industry accountable or phase it out

“High hopes were dashed by the refusal of House leadership to schedule HB 2 for a vote on June 30th. Democrats and Republicans, charter proponents and charter opponents were in support of HB 2 as amended by the Senate. Had the bill been scheduled it would most likely have passed; hence House leadership kept it off the House floor.

“This lack of House action on HB 2 demonstrates the absolute legislative control the for-profit sector of the charter school industry has on charter policy in Ohio. It matters not that the industry is laced with fraud, corruption and education malpractice. It matters not that Ohio is the butt of jokes regarding its deregulated, injudicious charter policy. Maybe Senate leadership permitted the Senate amendments with a nod from the House that the bill as amended would not pass in House. Who knows?

“When will Ohio taxpayers rise up to demand accountability of their legislators and the Governor? Until state officials are held accountable, charters will extract a billion dollars annually from school districts. Much of this money flows to for-profit management companies which is used for campaign contributions, cozy business arrangements, marketing and of course, PROFITS. When one thinks Statehouse turpitude can’t get worse, it does. Citizens must rectify this matter by by-passing the legislature and Governor with an initiative petition.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A |

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

George Joseph reports in “Jacobin” about “widespread corruption” in Gulen charter schools, one of the narion’s largest charter chains. The Gulen schools have different names but all have boards composed of Turkish men and ties to an Islamic cleric who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania and leads a political movement in Turkey.

Joseph writes:

“Over the summer, FBI agents stormed nineteen charter schools as part of an
ongoing investigation into Concept Charter Schools. They raided the
buildings seeking information about companies the prominent Midwestern
charter operator had contracted with under the federal E-Rate program.

“The federal investigation points to possible corruption at the Gulen
charter network, with which Concept is affiliated and which takes its name
from the Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. And a Jacobin investigation found
that malfeasance in the Gulen network, the second largest in the country,
is more widespread than previously thought. Federal contracting documents suggest that the conflict-of-interest transactions occurring at Concept are a routine practice at other Gulen-affiliated charter school operators.

“The Jacobin probe into Gulen-affiliated operators in Texas, Arizona, Utah,
Nevada, and California found that roughly $4 million in E-Rate contract
disbursements and $1.7 million in Department of Education Race to the Top grantee awards were given to what appear to be “related parties.” Awarding contracts to firms headed by related parties would seem to violate the FCC’s requirement that the school’s bidding process be “competitive” as
well as “open and fair.”

Perdido Street blogger asks why it is impossible to find out who contributed to the lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $6 million this year to prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters not located on public school grounds.


The blogger quotes extensively from the business magazine Crain’s New York, which described how this lobbying group exploited loopholes to avoid complying with state laws that require disclosure of donors to political action committees. “Group is visible,” the article’s title says, “but not its donors.”


Why do they hide their names and faces? We know why Perdido Street blogger has no name: he or she would be fired for speaking candidly, although tenure might be an obstacle.


But why do Wall Street hedge fund managers hide their identity? Why are they ashamed to let the world know that they are the “Families for Excellent Schools,” that they—whose children attend elite schools—are pretending to be parents in New York City’s poorest communities? Why pretend that impoverished families raised $6 million to attack Bill de Blasio, even as he was fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand universal pre-kindergarten, and preserve public education? Why pretend that the poor families who have been hoodwinked into supporting the privatization of public education are paying for the destruction of public education and the enrichment of investors and charter entrepreneurs?


Perdido Street blogger writes:


Just as Campbell Brown refuses to reveal who the donors for her anti-tenure group are even as she spends the money she gets from them on her anti-tenure campaign, Families For Excellent Schools spends millions lobbying politicians and millions more on pro-charter ads without revealing where that money is coming from.


This is life in Andrew Cuomo’s New York, where he raised millions through his Committee To Save New York PAC, then had that PAC spend that money on ads touting his political agenda, all without having to reveal who was donating to the Committee To Save New York PAC.


When the law changed and he would have been forced to reveal that donor base, he shut down the Committee To Save New York instead.


The criminals are running the state, folks – they own it, they’re throwing their dirty money around and buying whatever they want and whomever they want whenever they want and there’s NOTHING you can do it about it.


Andrew Cuomo’s New York – a cesspool of corruption.





Laura H. Chapman gives more examples of the distortion and corruption of education practice amd policy by econometric language.

Students are performing on grade level if their scores on a standardized test are at or above the median on a percentile scale (1-99). On a large-scale test, a score at or near the 50th percentile (the median) will usually classify a student as proficient in the skills and subject matter on the test.

Expected growth means that gain-scores of students (on tests in a single subject, such as math or art) are staying in about the same location in a distribution from year to year—below average, average, or above average. For a large number of students, the distribution is likely to resemble a bell or normal curve.

Predicted growth is an inference about a student’s future gain-score, derived from a linear regression analysis of two or more years of that student’s gain-scores. This analysis assumes that past performance will predict future performance. Perhaps, but in education, this is a dismal assumption. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The assumption is so risky that almost every corporate report begins with this caveat: Past performance does not predict future performance.

A student is said to have achieved a year’s worth of growth if his or her gain-score on a test of proficiency is equal to, or greater than, the gain-score made by a 50th percentile student. The same measure is applied to teachers. Teachers in some districts are rated highly effective only if all or most of their students have gain-scores of more than a year’s worth of growth.

References to a year’s worth of growth are fundamentally misleading because the common mental picture of a calendar year is different from a school year (typically 180 days); an instructional year (typically 172 days); and a typical accountability year (130 days from pre-test to post-test).

Academic peers are students whose test scores in a given year are the same or nearly the same. This concept permits comparisons of their gain-scores from the prior year to the current year. Students who make greater gains than their academic peers have an accelerated growth trajectory. Students who fall behind their academic peers need remedial work to keep up. The average of the gain-scores for academic peers in a teacher’s classes is typically used as a measure of the teacher’s productivity and effectiveness. This use requires a studied indifference to other influences on test scores.

A growth trajectory needs a target. Targets for learning need to be set using baseline data so the instruction offered to each student, during a known interval of time, is efficient and has a measurable impact on student learning. Meeting targets for learning is analogous to meeting a sales target or a production quota by a date certain.

Teachers and others who say they are “impacting the growth of their students” are not think-ing about the meaning of words. They are parroting econometric jargon.

Experts associated with Metametrics hope to set growth velocity standards. They describe their theoretical mapping of “aspirational trajectories toward graduation targets” in reading skills as analogous to “modifying the height, velocity, or acceleration respec-tively of a projectile launched in the physical world.” They seek greater precision in setting targets and cut scores for grade-to-grade progress in meeting the CCSS. (Williamson, G. L., Fitzgerald, J., & Stenner, A. J. (2013). The Common Core State Standards’ quanti-tative text complexity trajectory figuring out how much complexity is enough. Educational Researcher, 42(2), 59-69.).

Calibration refers to the quest for precision and consistency in measurement in the context of just-in-time delivery of a result, especially manufacturing.. In education, the term means that evaluators and other monitors have followed specifications in rating performances, presentations, processes, and products. Calibration events are training sessions intended to standardize how raters use or interpret language and to verify that rules for making judgments have been followed with fidelity. Such events are also called trainings or calibrations.

Audits are conducted to verify that calibrations are not needed, that rules have been followed, that data are free of ambiguity, and that low-inference definitions of performances and metrics are used consistently. Questions about the validity of the metrics may be ignored.

Bring to scale means that an educational policy, practice, or product is believed to merit replication in multiple locations, as in manufacturing and franchise systems for a mass market.

Janos Martin, former counsel to the Moreland Commission, which was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate political corruption, then disbanded by Cuomo, has endorsed Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, who are challenging Cuomo in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

In his statement, he recounted the travails of the Moreland Commission. And he said,

“When I joined the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (“the Moreland Commission”) as special counsel during the summer of 2013, I knew Albany’s history of corruption, and relished the opportunity to investigate it and offer ideas for reform. Like many of those who participated in or followed our work, I found hotbeds of scandal, apathy and mediocrity beyond even my low expectations. The person who disappointed me most during my time on the Commission was Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The opportunity that has been lost by the Commission’s neutering, then disbandment, is more significant than most people realize, and the level of the governor’s interference more pervasive than press accounts suggest. And while ethics may seem like a single issue in a large and complicated state, what I observed showed me what little regard Governor Cuomo and his senior staff have for the press, the public, and people with integrity who work in government. Their disdain for ethics colors the way they govern the entire state….

“For example, to most lay people, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate through various loopholes and accounts in exchange for favorable legislation or lack of regulation, as Governor Cuomo did, is tantamount to bribery. This is how the real estate, telecommunications and gaming industries have operated for years. Legislative leaders rake in huge legal fees for unspecified work. Large corporations bankroll dozens of bi-partisan lobbying firms. Anonymous political spending by both parties continues to grow. As the Daily Newsreported, Cuomo donors have been awarded lucrative state contracts. (…) Of course, as long as no campaign finance or lobbying laws are broken, all of this is legal,and Governor Cuomo has left the worst and weakest of these laws in place year after year.

“Further feeding Albany’s corruption is that most who operate in this system don’t find it problematic or care. Few legislators defended our work, and few beat reporters investigated its substance until the Commission was long disbanded. Even good government groups withheld their fire during the budget process under the illusion that a strong reform bill was forthcoming. Sometimes it seems like the entire political class lives in perpetual fear of an Andrew Cuomo reprisal.

“Even Bill de Blasio, who spent the first half of 2014 in Cuomo’s doghouse, is now trotted out to sing the praises of right-winger Kathy Hochul on the governor’s behalf. Governor Cuomo’s general approach to governance is that fundraising nearly exclusively from mega donors, strong-arming independent entities and bullying Democrats to get in line with his moderate-conservatism is a necessary part of “œpolitics as usual,” and his strongest defense is that the other power brokers of Albany feel the same way. Weak-kneed politicians can perhaps live under this system, but primary voters ought to reject it.

“Governor Cuomo’s behavior during the Commission is emblematic of this cynical approach to governance. During the life and aftermath of the Commission, Governor Cuomo repeatedly made comments and pressured Commissioners to make comments that Commission staff knew to be blatantly untrue. The Commission staff did not realize that Governor Cuomo viewed them as chips in a misplayed poker hand, a gambit to be discarded via press conference. Only after being browbeaten for months did we acknowledge the farce of investigating any target that could even tangentially set off Cuomo or his senior staff. I learned of the Commission’s shutdown over Twitter, two days before the budget was due. By then the Commission was a shell of itself anyway.

“Without someone challenging this Albany mindset, it is no wonder most New Yorkers are completely cynical and disengaged from their state government. Indeed, if Zephyr Teachout’s campaign has achieved nothing else, it has shown that someone with political courage can stand up to any elected official, criticize him and offer a better vision, without suffering retaliation. That is what democracy is…..”

To think about charter schools in America today, you have to separate the rhetoric from the reality. It helps to have a guide, someone who sees the man behind the curtain. Blowing smoke in the eyes of the media and the public. Fortunately there is such a man in North Carolina. His name is George Hartzman. He is a financial consultant. The smoke machine doesn’t blind him to the reality.

The rhetoric tells us that charter schools will save poor minority kids from failing schools. The reality is that charter schools produce no better results and make their sponsors rich with taxpayer dollars.

Look at North Carolina. There, the red red legislature passed charter legislation. Not all charter teachers need certification. Some people with good friends are getting very rich, like Baker Mitchell, who is on the board of the libertarian John Locke Society, which was created by zillionaire Art Pope, who happens to be state budget director. Mitchell collects rent on charters, which provide him with a few millions a year. Nice. He also sits on the state advisory board on charters.

But here’s another happy charter story. The president pro tem of the State Senate is Phil Berger Sr., who is responsible for legislation authorizing charters, vouchers, and the virulent anti-teacher legislation that is causing many veteran teachers to leave the state. You might call him North Carolina’s one-man wrecking crew of public education, except he has plenty of helpers in the legislature. When Berger’s obituary is written someday, that’s how Phil Berger will be remembered: the man who tried to destroy public education in the state and nearly succeeded until parents and citizens rebelled.

So who do you think is opening charters and getting in on the ground floor of the biggest new education industry opportunity in North Carolina? Phil Berger, Jr. No conflict there. Daddy passes the law, and junior cashes in.

I know there are a few decent charters doing the right things. But they are being overtaken by a racket. The racket is about scooping up taxpayers ‘ money while providing schools with uncertified low-wage teachers who turn over with high frequency. There is nothing idealistic about what is happening in North Carolina. It is all about the Benjamins. The politicians turning education into a money machine for their friends and relatives should hang their heads in shame.