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Who is Behind the Leaders in Education PAC?

In preparing for my presentation on “dark money” in purchasing elections for promoting ed reform (i.e., charters, vouchers), a presentation for the Fifth Annual Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis, IN, on October 20 – 21, 2018, I have been reviewing some campaign finance forms.

In reviewing 2015 relection contributions to Louisiana state ed board (BESE) member and Teach for America exec director, Kira Orange-Jones, I noticed on her February 2016 filing that a Washington, DC PAC named “Leaders in Education,” donated a total of $10,000. (Another out-of-state $10K came from former NY mayor, Michael Bloomberg.)

Of course, I wanted to know who was lurking behind that PAC. (Any readers interested in a deep dive on the oversized influence of the ueber-wealthy in the purchase of elections for the promtion of market-based ed reform, see the NPE report linked in this post.)

The site, Open Secrets, proved useful for the search. I like Open Secrets because it links to the original Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the PAC in question.

First, for some background:

Leaders in Education PAC is associated with the TFA-created lobbying nonprofit founded in 2014, Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). (Associated 501c3: LEE Foundation.)

2018 LEE Board members include Walton grandson, Steuart Walton; former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg‘s daughter, Emma Bloomberg; TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Arthur Rock.

According to the LEE site, LEE membership is free to all TFAers. And why not? The purpose of TFA and its related orgs is to catapult those who taught for five minutes into positions of power and authority over the American classroom.

Such catapulting requires loads of money– which brings us to those financially-loaded, Leaders in Education PAC donors:

The PAC is primarily funded by members of the Walton family (note that Carrie Penner is Carrie Walton Penner) and by Arthur Rock. Michael Bloomberg makes an appearance, as does Purdue Pharma-OxyContin first son and venture capitalist, Jonathan Sackler.

Finally, details on contributions of $200 or more to Leaders in Education PAC compliments of Open Secrets:

2018 Contributions of $200 or More:


2016 Contributions of $200 or More:



2014 Contributions of $200 or More:


There you have it.

When you see that a candidate receives contributions from Leaders in Education PAC, think Walton, and Walton, and Walton, and Walton, and Rock, and Bloomberg, and Bloomberg, and Sackler.

Then vote for that candidate’s opponent.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Chicago’s Soon-to-Be Ex-Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Pays the School-Closure Piper

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has decided not to run for a third term despite absence of an obvious contender.

Election of the next mayor of Chicago is scheduled for February 26, 2019.

rahm emanuel 2

Rahm Emanuel

In the September 20, 2018, Washington Post, Duke University professor Sally Nuamah poses an intriguing reason: Emanuel’s role in closing Chicago’s public schools.

In 2013, under Chicago’s policy of mayoral control of schools, Emanuel closed 50 of them. A 2018 study released by the University of Chicago shows that the “brighter future” Emanuel promised instead “caused large disruptions without clear benefits for students.”

The time has come for Emanuel to pay the school-closure piper, and Emanuel knows it.

To support her claim, Nuamah has conducted statistical analyses of voting trends in districts affected by Emanuel’s school closure decisions. From Nuamah’s article:

Here’s how I did my research

To start, I collected the addresses of every school closed in Chicago in 2013. I then linked these data to a representative citywide survey that asked Chicagoans about their attitudes toward school closings before engaging in a statistical analysis of the results by race. Then, my colleague Thomas Ogorzalek with the Chicago Democracy Project and I linked the location of school closings in Chicago to precinct level turnout data just before the closure wave (2011 and 2012) and just after it (2015). In both analyses, we account for other factors such as income and education, as well.

The mostly black neighborhoods where schools had been closed turned against Emanuel

We found that the closer a neighborhood was to the school closures, the more Emanuel’s support dropped. In particular, we saw that in the precincts within 1.5 miles of a closing — populated largely by African Americans — Emanuel’s support fell by approximately 13 percent. In the precincts farther from a closing, the drop was about 3 percent.

What’s more, combining Cooperative Congressional Election Study opinion data on Chicago with local election data, our analysis reveals that those who lived closest to areas where the local schools were closed — again, largely African Americans — became increasingly likely to attend a community meeting, to advocate for an elected school board, and to turn out to vote in 2015.

Nuamah notes that in 2018, Chicago faced more school closures. She observes,

Citizens often vote based on policies that shape their everyday lives.


It seems that African American voters in Chicago have had enough of Emanuel’s school-closure “shaping.”

chicago school closure

To read Nuamah’s full article, click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Richard Phelps’ Deep Dive Into the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute, and More

On September 16, 2018, researcher and consultant Richard Phelps sent me an email; in the subject line, he wrote, “your work is cited, referenced, and mentioned throughout.”

The body of the email included a single link, Common Core Collaborators: Six Organizational Portraits, which leads to the following five reports:

Since my research is referenced and I am “cited, referenced, and mentioned throughout” Phelps’ work, I am too close to his reports to formally review them. However, I wish to feature one in particular in the remainder of this post: The report in which Phelps examines the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute.


The Fordham Institute (TBF) is a propaganda outlet for ed reform, including school choice and the Common Core, and a fine example of how a few well-positioned, unaccountable, and otherwise unqualified individuals have achieved the veneer of expertise regarding American education, also garnering for themselves amazing salaries from the cushy employment of promoting their propaganda as expertise.

Phelps offers much useful information about TBF in his 30-page report, much more than I am able to highlight in this blog post.  Still, what I feature here is important for the study of the exploitative potential of ed reform.

Let’s jump in. (Note that in my block quotes, I omit end notes for ease of readability.)

Below is much of Phelps’ TBF intro:

According to a recent publicly available filing with the Internal Revenue Service, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is “the nation’s leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.” The mission statement for the legally separate but commonly owned Thomas B. Fordham Institute uses exactly the same words. Moreover, the two organizations share the same board of trustees. All of which would lead one to believe that the two entities—foundation and institute—should be considered two parts of the same whole.

But, the perhaps confusing bifurcation of the Fordham organization only begins the proliferation of organizations run by a network of movers and shakers. To the untrained eye, there may appear to be separate organizations with different missions, points of view, and staffs. To the more patient observer, the same cast of characters cycles through the offices, web pages, and publications of a legally and financially related network of organizations. And, the Fordham principals can be found at the center of the web, deciding who (and who does not) gets to belong in the education reform establishment.

Fordham’s website mission statement reads

“… our primary role—both nationally and in our home state of Ohio—is
to frame the debate, occasionally in unconventional ways, and to
identify problems that are ignored or glossed over by the

Notice it does not read, “foster a debate”, “inform the debate”, or “promote
a debate”. The active verb is “frame” or, in some documents, “shape.”

“Influence” seems to be a recurring, overarching theme in the work of the
Fordham organizations. Which prompts the question: for what purpose? Is
the influence used to make the world a better place for all, or just for those
wielding the influence? Is the influence a means to an end, or an end in

In “History and Governance,” Phelps offers some eye-opening facts regarding TBF former president, Chester (“Checker”) Finn’s self-elected “free hand” in running TBF:

Until 1995, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees consisted of (a perhaps naively trusting) [TBF creator] Ms. [Thelma Fordham] Pruett and the family lawyers, two members of the Finn family (Checker Finn’s father and grandfather). Ms. Pruett ran the foundation on a day-to-day basis from its founding until her death, 36 years later. At that point, according to Checker Finn, “because Thelma gave no clear guidance” regarding how to spend the foundation’s money, the foundation board, now comprised entirely of Finns, decided that they “had a free hand.” …

Scott Pullins, a writer for an Ohio online publication clearly suspicious of
Checker Finn and Fordham’s Ohio activities, dug up the original incorporation papers from 1959…. It includes statements such as:

Applying [the funds] exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific,
literary, or educational purposes or activities

No part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any
private shareholder or individual

No substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on
propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation

The members of this corporation shall not have any interest in the
property or earnings of this corporation in their individual or private
capacity, and prior to any dissolution of this corporation, all of its
property shall be applied and used and entirely consumed for the
purposes hereinbefore provided.

…Funds from the Thomas B. Fordham estate, under the supervision of Checker Finn, have been used frequently “to influence legislation”. As for the “inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual” one might wonder how the charitable Ms.
Pruett might regard the current quarter-million dollar compensation packages for Checker Finn and current Fordham president Michael Petrilli, and their unusual investments in rather sketchy partnerships in offshore tax havens. …

Assuming that, at this point, the Finns have “gotten away with it”, the more
relevant point now is that Chester A. Finn, Jr., arguably our country’s most
influential voice in US education reform, came by his influence purely by chance. The Fordham Foundation origin story might just as well involve his winning the Powerball Lottery or discovering a long-lost chest full of doubloons buried in his back yard.

The happenstance of Finn’s personal fortune might have suggested resisting any tendency toward a presumption of superiority in thought and deed, or any grand schemes to remake others’ lives against their will. No one elected him. His spending decisions have rarely been subject to any sort of public review. Moreover, unlike most foundation founders, he did nothing whatsoever to earn the funds he now selectively distributes to others. Finally, only rarely does Fordham pay to evaluate the programs upon which it bestows funds. And, on the rare occasions when it does, the evaluators chosen tend to be in-group reliables.

As for TBF’s involvements in Ohio, some excerpts:

…$35,000 of Fordham money went to Philips Exeter Academy, arguably the most prestigious and most amply endowed secondary institution in North America, for the “Finn Family Fund.” (Though Fordham money was donated, the donation was attributed to the Finns.) Checker Finn is a 1962 Exeter graduate. Another $50,000 went to Chaminade Julienne, a private school in Dayton. Fordham Trustee and Secretary Thomas A. Holton, Esq. served on its board. The Fordham organizations appear to have also paid Holton and his firm three-quarters of a million dollars or more directly in legal fees.

Other Fordham donations went to the University of Dayton ($230,000) and Parents Advancing Choice in Education ($1.2 million); Holton served on their boards, too. Holton, by the way, worked at the same law firm that had employed Checker Finn’s father and grandfather, the firm responsible for honoring Thelma Fordham Pruett’s wishes. Upon the retirement of another trustee from the Fordham Board, David Ponitz, and his fulltime position as president of Sinclair Community College, Fordham donated $25,000 to the Sinclair Community College Foundation.  …

By 2017, the Gates Foundation had transferred at least $12 million directly to Fordham.

In a related article, Pullins’ colleague Conner Brown describes closed-door negotiations from which one of Fordham’s own former staffers, Paulo DeMaria, was chosen as Ohio’s state superintendent. He remains there today. Notably, DeMaria neglected to mention his Fordham connection in his Ohio Department of Education bio, even though (as of July 26, 2017) the Fordham website sill listed him as staff. The new Ohio Education CEO, however, revealed his long association with the Common Core/Gates Foundation front organization, Education First. …

Fordham’s political triumph in Ohio, ironically, coincided with a steep decline
in its contributions to within-state causes….

And about the shift in the money coming to and going from TBF, centered on the Common Core golden goose:

Parallel to the decline in Ohio giving, Fordham’s outgoing contributions generally have declined over time. Over $1 million was distributed annually through 2004. By 2015, only $261,200 was given away.

The Fordham organizations seemed to undergo a major change in behavior and focus around 2004–2005, at the start of Checker Finn’s second decade at Fordham’s helm. While the amount of contributions going out declined, the amount of contributions coming in rose….

Fordham’s transformation from primarily donor to primarily grantee was set by 2005 with $2 million from …guess who? Prior to 2007, most Fordham funds emanating from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—about $2.6 million—were directed toward Ohio programs…. From 2008 on, however, virtually all of Gates $10 million Fordham largesse paid for Common Core activity. Checker Finn, who had strongly opposed President Bill Clinton’s much milder attempt at a national evaluation system several years earlier, signed on with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation specifically to promote the Common Core.

Once Fordham had tapped the Gates money spigot, other donor funds gushed in. The Fordham organizations accepted $200,000 in contributions or grants in 2002. By 2015, they were pulling in $4.7 million, most of it Common-Core related. …

Fordham became a giant Common Core advocacy grant-processing
machine. The tail now wags the dog.

And back to TBF leadership Looking Out for Number One:

About the same time that the Thomas B. Fordham organizations pivoted roles from primarily grant giver to primarily grant receiver, they found new places to stash (hide?) cash, in hedge funds and offshore tax havens…. Money formerly invested in ordinary US stocks and bonds now went to obscure holding companies…. Tax write-offs are just one incentive for investing in “distressed” firms and overseas shell companies. Your everyday stock and bond mutual fund typically does not offer such exotic financial instruments as the multimillion dollar interest rate swaps in which Fordham has participated for several years.

Hedge funds fees can be expensive, however. Fordham’s move to hedge funds started soon after Michael W. Kelly, a Wall Street expert in private fund management, joined the Fordham board. Fordham’s annual investment fees escalated from around $30,000 in the period 2008–2010 to $328,046 in 2014.

From Phelps’ section, “Education Reform Is Us,” info about some familiar ed reform “TBF spinoff” orgs:

From the beginning of the Finn-era Fordham Foundation, the beneficiaries receiving the largest proportion of outgoing funds represented steady customers and staunch political allies—organizations that Fordham worked with directly and continuously. In some cases they are spinoffs—entities that Fordham helped create and with which it continues regular working relationships. They include the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), the Philanthropy Roundtable, the now defunct Keys to Improving Dayton Schools (KIDS), and the publication Education Next, which Fordham personnel help edit and publish and which, in turn, frequently publishes the musings of Fordham staff.

And about that TBF-proclaimed “humility”:

In years of observing Fordham’s behavior I haven’t noticed much of the “humility, and … willingness to change our minds—and admit when we are wrong” claimed on its website. More common has been a proclivity to suppress dissent, shun or ridicule those who disagree, and promote their in-group as the only legitimate spokespersons for the “other side” along a wide range of education policy issues.

Checker Finn waxes nostalgic about the early days of Fordham’s predecessor, the Education Excellence Network, and Diane Ravitch’s key, co-founding role in both. But, now that she openly disagrees with them on some issues, Fordham President Michael Petrilli insults her as a “kook”, and her long-standing relationship with the Brookings Institution is revoked on an absurd technicality. An Education Next essay insults her personally and generally ridicules as an inferior intellect.

Agree with TBF and its positions; be characterized as  “thoughtful,” “serious,”
“sober,” and “principled.” Disagree, and, well:

Robert Pondiscio is “Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs” at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. His Education Next essay, “Lessons on Common Core: Critical books offer more folly than wisdom,” typifies Fordham’s “humble” approach. Pondiscio “reviews” six books written in opposition to the Common Core Initiative. Throughout the essay, he liberally portrays himself as a cool, measured, reasonable fellow, with the public—“parents and taxpayers alike who simply want a decent education for their kids”—on his side. The Common Core-critical book authors, meanwhile, are “carping”, “spleen venting,” “fear mongering”, and “conspiratorially minded” “excitable enemies.”

Pondiscio’s essay is short on substance and long on selective and colorful prejudicial quotations, adjectives and adverbs. He characterizes Mercedes Schneider’s exhaustively researched Common Core Dilemma, for example, as “riddled with scare quotes and sarcasm.” Other descriptors employed for Common Core opponents include “bombast”, “overreach”, “dark mutterings”, “hyperbole”, “obsession”, “paranoia”, “folly”, “frets”, “paranoid conspiracy theories”, and “overreach.”

Individuals Pondiscio agrees with, however, are “thoughtful”, “serious”, “sober”, and “principled.” …

Pondiscio eases up a bit on his own “overheated” rhetoric for one book—the
Pioneer Institute’s Drilling Through the Core. Perhaps not surprisingly, Drilling happens to be the only one among the six books written by authors one might legitimately characterize as elite—people Pondiscio might suppose he may need to work with sometime in the future—including a few individuals sometimes found inside his education reform tent, such as Stanford’s Williamson Evers.

Early on in his Education Next essay, and frequently in other venues, Pondiscio prominently brandishes his classroom teaching experience to establish his bona fides as a front-line educator. Moreover, on its website, the Fordham organizations proclaim

… we see much wisdom in “subsidiarity”— the doctrine that important
matters ought to be handled by the competent authority that’s closest
to the action, which in education usually means parents, teachers, and

But teachers wrote the other five books Pondiscio reviewed, and he ridicules them mercilessly as ignorant rubes lacking the understanding that might qualify them to engage in a debate he believes to be beyond their intellectual reach.

One more thought:

Cronyism, Corruption, and Conflicts of Interest

Also unfortunately typical of Fordham essays on causes it is richly paid to promote: never once does Pondiscio mention his conflict of interest, nor those of Fordham.

Well. Enough from this “competent authority closest to the action.”

Do read the rest of Phelps’ TBF report (I hopped right over TBF’s Ohio charter school involvements), and feel free to peruse his four other reports linked above.


TBF President Michael Petrilli


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Gary Rubinstein Writes to the “Seven-Figure Success Academy Donors”

New York math teacher Gary Rubinstein has written a thought-provoking open letter to Eva Moskowitz’s “seven-figure Success Academy donors.”

flying money

Below are some of my favorite excerpts for their poignancy:

I believe that Success Academy, in various ways, obtains their high test scores through unethical behavior. By this, I don’t mean that I think they change their students’ answers on the state test. Instead they find other ways to dishonestly inflate their test scores.

I believe that their methods are not educationally sound. A few years ago I came upon about 500 videos they had published publicly on the web. Among those videos was one of a teacher reading the book ‘Caps For Sale’ to a group of Kindergarteners. Seeing the hostile way in which this story was read — the way the teacher forbade students from sitting comfortably as they read, making them sit as straight as they could at all times and admonishing them anytime one of them slouched — it was, in my estimation, a form of torture. After I wrote about what I had seen in this video and posted the link to it, Success Academy took down not just that video but all 500 videos. And it was not because they were afraid of anyone stealing their valuable secret methods, but because these methods are best kept secret since they were embarrassed by what they thought makes for appropriate childhood education. For your generous donation, perhaps you can get a copy of that video and you could show it to any childhood education expert from any university in the country. I’m quite confident that the expert will concur that the video reveals a teacher that has no understanding of the needs of small children as they first learn about literacy. …

But the biggest dirty secret of all (though everyone knows about this) is the way Success Academy wields the power of making a student repeat a grade. This is their secret weapon, and I do mean weapon. By one of my estimates, about 15% of Success Academy students are left back for one reason or another. Leaving a student back is something that should only be done in the most extreme circumstances — it has so many negative ramifications for students later in life. Yet Success Academy uses it recklessly. Here’s how it works: They call in the family of a student who has ‘got to go.’ They say that even though the student passed the state test, they failed to meet some other requirement. This leaves the family with two options: The first is for the student to repeat the grade they just completed. This means that they will be the ‘old kid’ in their class while all their friends (or around 85% of their friends — other kids get threatened with this too) move on to the next grade. This is a devastating consequence. But fortunately, there is one other option. The student can get promoted as long as that student ‘voluntarily’ transfers to a different school. If you want to have lunch some time with me and the father of a student who went through this to hear first hand about how the school did this for his special needs daughter after she finished fourth grade, I can arrange this.

The students aren’t the only group of people that Success Academy treats, in my opinion, abusively. Success Academy makes demands on families that they are not able to meet. The school knows how to make things especially rough on families whose students struggle with behavioral issues. They make parents repeatedly come and get their kids, even if it means the parent is jeopardizing his or her own job by having to leave the job frequently in the middle of the day. An education news site, Chalkbeat NY reported that at one of the schools Success Academy held a mandatory family meeting. For families that miss that meeting, they are told that the assumption is that the child will not be returning to the school the next year. In a pending lawsuit, some parents report that Success Academy has even resorted to reporting families to Administration For Children’s Services (ACS) for being unable to pick up their children in the middle of the day after the child apparently violated one of the many strict rules of the school.

The chaotic situation in the Success Academy high school is a huge red flag. If the Success Academy students peak in 8th grade and then have such poor results in high school, it means that their achievement through 8th grade (as measured by those state test scores) were illusory. The unusually high teacher turnover at their high schools is a symptom of this. When you are working in the most incredible educational experiment in the history of education, you don’t just quit after a year or two.  Yet over half of the high school teachers did not return this past year. …

Despite the fanfare surrounding these schools, from my perspective Success Academy excels most at abuse. They abuse their students through overuse of making them repeat grades, they abuse the families when they punish them — even call ACS on them — for not being able to meet their impossible demands, and they abuse the staff causing many of them to quit each year. …

Success Academy is built on a foundation of lies and it is only a matter of time before it comes crumbling down.

collapsing house

This is a powerful post. Be sure to read it in its entirety.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

My Response to the St. Tammany FB Incident Regarding Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Ad

In this post, I want to address an issue that happened this past week at my high school.

On September 11, 2018, one of our faculty members had her employment terminated (not sure whether by resignation or firing) because of inflammatory comments she wrote on Facebook on September 05, 2018, as part of a posting about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad.


I did not know about the situation as it was unfolding. I saw this colleague in the school hallway before school hours on September 12, 2018, as I often do, and I said hello, as I often do. On that day, it was clear that something was wrong, but I did not know what. Within an hour, I saw one of our regular substitute teachers in the same hallway; as I greeted her, I asked for whom she was subbing. She told me, and her voice was serious. I sensed something was amiss, but I did not know what, and there was no time to ask. The school day was beginning.

Later the same day, I discovered news articles on the situation by accident. Another colleague had asked me about a candidate in our upcoming local school board election, and as I was researching the candidate, I saw a couple of articles about my now-former colleague and the Facebook incident. The situation stunned me.

That evening, some of my detractors on Twitter made sure I knew of the incident and were trying to use it to criticize me, as though my silence meant that I condoned the inflammatory comments because they originated with a teacher from a traditional public school (as opposed to originating with a teacher from a charter school). However, wisdom dictated that I process the situation before responding.

It took some time. I cannot wrap my mind around how someone could write such awful remarks in the first place, remarks that I neither condone nor excuse.

I also wanted to wait to see if my students chose to bring up the subject to me this week as a means of helping them process the situation.

What I do appreciate is that this colleague was afforded due process rights as part of a formal investigation into the incident. I also appreciate that the specifics of that investigation were not divulged by our school board and are accorded privacy since the issue is a personnel matter.

Finally, I agree with and can verify by my own personal experience as an employee of St. Tammany Parish Public Schools the following statement from our board in response to the incident:

This incident does not reflect our district’s values, mission and vision, and we remain committed to providing a school culture that is inclusive and meets the needs of all our students, employees and community.

I appreciate my school, and I value, love, and respect my students. That is the message I choose to send, both in word and deed.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

The Ultimate in Charter School Self-Dealing: AZ Taxpayers Pay Twice for Same Schools, For-Profit Owner Reaps Before, During, and After Sale

Arizona’s charter school laws allow for the most self-dealing that I am aware of in states with charter schools.

Consider this situation as reported in the September 10, 2018, AZCentral: Arizona for-profit charter school chain owner, Eddie Farnsworth, is allowed to sell his charters to a non-profit that he apparently had the idea of forming (he asked three friends to comprise the board). The state agreed to allow the sale, so what will basically happen is that Arizona taxpayers will pay twice for the same schools, having funded the chain when it was a for-profit and now funding the sale of the for-profit chain to the owner-created nonprofit.

Farnsworth stands to make as much as $30M from the sale.

But there’s more:

The newly-created non-profit has *tentatively* agreed to contract with Farnsworth for services after the sale. From the AZCentral article:

Records submitted to the Charter Board appeared to show Farnsworth had already been hired to manage the schools, but he said the document was a “draft” intended to give board members an understanding of the management contract.

Keep in mind that the nonprofit board is comprised of friends Farnsworth recruited.

And there’s more, still:

Farnsworth is an Arizona legislator on a legislature that promotes such fantastic self-dealing, as AZCentral notes:

The Legislature, of which Farnsworth is a member, does not require charters to follow the procurement and conflict-of-interest laws that district schools are bound by.

Farnsworth, who is leaving the House and running for the state Senate because of term limits, joined other Republicans at the Legislature this past session in blocking  Democrats’ efforts to require charter schools be more transparent about their finances. He also supported an amendment to the budget that ensured charter schools wouldn’t be subject to new, strict procurement and gift laws imposed on district schools.

It’s all legal, folks, because profiteers like Farnsworth are also the lawmakers.

And what does Farnsworth have to say about it?

“I make no apologies for being successful.”

No apologies for being a successful school choice self-dealer.



For more on Arizona charter schools, see the following posts:


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

NPE Dark Money Report: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools

On September 10, 2018, the Network for Public Education (NPE) released a valuable report years in the making, Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools.

The full report is 103 pages long and includes 9 case studies that are accompanied by 10 interactive maps (two for Louisiana):

I contributed to the initial research for the case studies (2016), and Darcie Cimarusti (aka Mother Crusader), who contributed mightily to bring this work together as an entire report, created those marvelous interactive maps. (See page 3 of the full report for a complete list of acknowledgments, written by NPE Executive Director, Carol Burris.)

I realize that I am writing this as one promoting (in part) my own work, but I must say, upon viewing the final product (which I did not see until it was released to the public), this report is a valuable resource for those interested in understanding how the ueber-wealthy purchase elections. The case studies provide critical glimpses into the election-purchasing process and are useful not only for understanding the history of moneyed elections in specific locales but also for studying the role of big (often out-of-state) money in elections. To this end, Cimarusti et al (via the NPE report) offers the following commentary (page 100):

So how did we follow money in this report, and how can you do it, too?

As local and state newspapers close, consolidate and lay off reporters and investigative journalists, the work of “following the money” is often left to bloggers and citizen journalists. The Network for Public Education Action hopes that this report will inspire everyday citizens like you to expose these practices in local and state races, and to inform the public when democratic elections are being hijacked by the billionaire club.

Each state has an agency tasked with implementing and monitoring the state’s campaign finance laws and each state mandates disclosure and reporting of campaign contributions. This means that an IEC has to disclose its spending, and the state has to report that spending. The Campaign Finance Institute maintains a list of state websites where you can view the disclosure reports that are submitted to the state. It is also helpful to look at the 990 tax statements of any not-for-profit that contributes to a PAC or IEC.

But how do you know what to look for?

It can be tricky because each state’s contributions limits, reporting requirements and website are set-up differently. The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled resources with state by state breakdowns of state limits on contributions to candidates, and state’s independent expenditure reporting. A quick study of the contribution limits and reporting requirements in a given state will give you a solid idea of where to look for the money.

For example, in Rhode Island, contributions from individual donors and PACs to a candidate are restricted to $1,000 per year, and corporations and unions are prohibited from contributing directly to candidates. Therefore, if billionaire reformers want to use their fortunes to influence a Rhode Island election, they’re unlikely to do it through individual contributions. To have an impact they have to contribute to an IEC, 527 or a 501(c) PAC, which in turn can make independent expenditures to support or oppose the candidate(s) of their choosing.

Because Rhode Island has strict reporting laws, any independent expenditure over $1,000 must be reported within 7 days. Expenditures over $1,000 made within 30 days of the election must be reported within 24 hours. When you know a state’s reporting requirements, it makes it easier to know what to look for and when to look for it.

Navigating a state’s disclosure website just takes patience and trial and error. Each state’s user interface is different -some are easy to navigate, while others are frustrating. They are all manageable, however, and the information is there.

Billionaires must not go unchecked when they use their wealth and power to hijack state and local elections. They must be exposed when they force their agenda on communities and school districts. When corporate reform spending is uncovered before an election, it can have a tremendous impact on the outcome. That is where you come in. Take the time to learn how to follow the money and expose corporate reform spending in an upcoming election.

If your state or local paper isn’t reporting it, or is underreporting it, write about it yourself. Blog, write a letter to the editor, or link up with a grassroots public education advocacy organization in your area.

For those wishing for more insight on following the money behind elections, I can offer another resource.  Along with New York professor, researcher, and journalist, Andrea Gabor, Darcie Cimarusti and I will be participating in the following presentation at NPE’s 5th Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, October 20 – 21, 2018:

Where Did All of This Money Come From?? Locating and Following the Dark Money Trail

In this session, presenters will discuss the ways in which they use publicly available sites, including those of secretaries of state (campaign funding) and nonprofit tax form search engines, to discover individuals and organizations seeking to systematically spread ed reform privatization to cities and states across the nation. Audience members will be afforded opportunity to engage in Q&A with speakers and with each other. The intended audience includes individuals seeking practical information on how to discover exactly who is funding local/state elections, ballot initiatives, and pseudo-grassroots education groups.


Come and learn how to expose the billionaires’ election purchasing.

The more attention that is brought to this issue, the better.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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