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Kathleen Carroll Soars on the Wings of Research Blunder; Jim Horn Hitches a Ride

July 16, 2014

On July 15, 2014, California attorney Kathleen Carroll posted a piece on the City Watch LA blog entitled, When Did Teacher Unions Decide to “Turn”… Against Collective Bargaining Rights? Based upon emails I have received referencing this same piece, it appears that Carroll first publicized this piece on July 12, 2012 (though possibly before).

Also on July 15, 2014, the Carroll post was featured on Cambridge College professor Jim Horn’s blog, Schools Matter. In his posting, Horn introduces the Carroll post with a refocusing of attention on educational historian Diane Ravitch, as evidenced in his title, Ravitch Lashes Out at Union Misleadership Critique.

Both posts purport to address issues of corruption related to teacher union officials. While some of their argument is valid, much of it is distorted and strays notably from solid research and reporting procedure.

In this post, I will address issues with both the Carroll and Horn posts, of which there are a number in total. I will begin with the the Carroll post.

Carroll’s Link-lacking TURN Post

The first issue I notice with the Carroll post is an amazing lack of linked evidence to support the numerous points she attempts to demonstrate. Indeed, the entire 1,600-word post includes only a single link. Carroll claims to offer readers evidence of corruption, yet she stops short of providing the bedrock upon which she supposedly established her arguments.

Not only is this unacceptable– it is a red flag waving to anyone with research experience.

Thus, any linking I include in my post discussing Carroll’s assertions I had to locate on my own.

Let us begin with what appears to be the thesis of Carroll’s post:

…What is missing from the debate is the fact that teacher union officials themselves are active participants in the scheme to monetize and profit from the public education system.

Carroll is concerned about corruption among teacher union leadership.

TURN History

Next, Carroll offers some history on unions (to which her only link in the post refers), including the establishing of the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN). Here is the TURN mission statement as it was recorded on November 9, 2005:

Mission Statement

 Teacher unions must provide leadership for the collective voice of their members. Teacher unions have a responsibility to students, their families, and to the broader society. Teacher unions are committed to public education as a vital element of our democracy. What unites these responsibilities is our commitment to help all children learn.

We affirm the union’s responsibility to collaborate with other stakeholders in public education and to seek consistently higher levels of student achievement by:

  • Improving continuously the quality of teaching.

  • Promoting in public education and in the union democratic dynamics, fairness, and due process for all.

  • Seeking to expand the scope of collective bargaining to include instructional and professional issues.

  • Improving on an ongoing basis the terms and conditions under which both adults and children work and learn.

It is the same mission statement as as recorded on the TURN website today.

In his 2010 “brief history” of unions and school reform, Dale Mezzacappa writes the following about TURN:

1996 A group of NEA and AFT locals formed the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) with the goal of promoting education reform to the top of the union agenda.

Though was the mid-1990s and the term “education reform” did not have the same overt privatization bent that it does in 2014, it is clear from reading other information in Mezzacappa’s post that TURN was intended to promote so-called “education reforms” such as basing teacher evaluations upon student “performance” and replacing seniority-based pay with “pay for performance.”

Some Recent TURN Donors–via CEC

Carroll calls TURN a “nonprofit”; however, there is no record of TURN as ever registering as a nonprofit. It is a network. On its 2011 990, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 identifies itself as “founding members” of TURN– the network.

On the Gates grants search engine site, a search for “teacher union reform network” yields the result of two nebulously-worded grants totaling $3.5 million paid to the Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), a nonprofit established in February 1999.

Consortium for Educational Change

Date: October 2011 
Purpose: to work with regional Teacher Union Reform Networks to collaboratively engage teachers, their unions, and school and district administrators in issues that impact teaching and learning 
Amount: $2,025,622 

Consortium for Educational Change

Date: October 2013 
Purpose: to support the regional Teacher Union Reform Networks (TURN) in advancing teaching and learning through labor-management collaboration 
Amount: $1,501,900 

Based upon the Gates grant wording, it appears that much of the TURN work happens regionally.

If the wording of the Gates grants was nebulous, the mission statement on CEC’s 2012 990 is even cloudier:

Facilitation of training programs with school districts to develop their capabilities.

According to the CEC 2012 990, CEC’s end of year (July 2011 to June 2012) assets were $3 million. It has a board of eight individuals working either 10 or 20 hours a week– yet no one is drawing a dime in compensation.

For a listing of CEC staff, click here.

Carroll notes that TURN is led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) VP Adam Urbanski. Urbanski is not a member of the CEC board, and it is the CEC that directly received the Gates funding for regional TURN. This, teasing out the funding web is a bit challenging.

Other CEC funders include the Joyce Foundation ($200,000 in FY2012) and the GE Foundation ($855,452 in 2012).  The Walton Family Foundation’s 2012 990 indicates no payments to CEC, or to “teacher union reform network” or “TURN,” nor does the Broad Foundation’s 2012 990.

I used 2012 990s because these are the most recent that are publicly accessible.  If one wants a sense of the current corporate reform dollars influencing TURN via CEC, what I have above appears to be the story.

TURN definitely has a corporate-reform bent. I am glad to see no current Walton money paid to TURN; the Waltons are a forceful anti-union family. (I discuss this in chapter 23 of my book, A Chronicle of Echoes.)

National TURN Convention Speakers

Carroll next turns (pardon the pun) her attention to Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis for Lewis’ speaking at TURN in 2012. Both Lewis and visiting Harvard professor Pasi Sahlberg spoke in October 2012 at the national TURN meeting. They compared education in Chicago and Finland.

I asked Lewis if she was paid an honorarium for speaking at TURN. She wrote that she did not think so, that she recalled having her hotel and flight paid for. She is on vacation in Hawaii and has no internet access except her iPhone. Here is what Lewis offers:

If I got one, it was between 500-1000. I usually give those to the student assistance fund. We provide eyeglasses, hearing aids, and a small clothing stipend.

I also asked for a copy of her speech. She responded as follows in a Facebook message to me on July 16, 2014:

I don’t usually write speeches. I read the room then speak from the heart. Pasi Sahlberg spoke that date. If you have to take a swipe at me, it’s OK.

I assured her that I did not plan to “take a swipe.” But Lewis knows how being in the public eye works; she was willing to take the hit in light of her having no detailed evidence to provide for me.

Carroll takes issue with Lewis’ speaking at TURN. I do not.

Carroll also takes issue with Ravitch, teacher and author Deborah Meier, and Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond for their speaking at the national TURN convention in 2013. Though Carroll purports to focus on issues related to “union leadership,” none of these three are union leaders. However, she does use the leapfrog logic that since the AFT President Randi Weingarten had ties to the Broad Foundation in 2009, and that since Broad utilizes “union busting tactics,” that Ravitch’s speaking at TURN in 2013 was suspect.

This is the point at which Carroll does indeed “smear” Ravitch via utter speculation about Ravitch’s taking “privatizer money” to speak at the 2013 TURN convention:

This type of merit based, union busting tactic [as promoted by Broad] has been criticized by Diane Ravitch on her blog and in her books.  So, why is Ravitch speaking at TURN’s national convention?  And was she paid to do so? If paid, was she paid by the very same privatizers she had so vehemently exposed in her published books “Reign of Error” and “Death and Life of the Great American School System”?  What a strange TURN of events. [Emphasis added.]

Nothing solid. Just an “if” leading to a triumphant “aha!”

The rush to accuse is a problem. However, the greater problem is in Carroll’s neglecting to correct the error. Ravitch made it clear to Carroll that she was not compensated to speak at TURN, yet Carroll has not modified this unfounded, reputation-damaging section of her post.

No “strange TURN of events” here, Carroll. Just a directly-refuted, uncorrected factual blunder.

I asked Diane Ravitch how many times she has spoken for free in 2012-13.

Here is her email response to me on July 16, 2014:

I have to guess how many times I spoke for free as that requires I look at my calendars and they are in Brooklyn. Guesstimate: 2012-13: 40 times. To PTAs, book clubs, neighborhood groups, etc. Might have been more.

I then asked Ravitch for a copy of her speech at 2013 TURN. She said that she spoke from notes and offered this summary of her remarks:

This is what I said to TURN:

We live in the most perilous time ever in the history of public education. 

Powerful forces are arrayed together in a concerted effort to privatize our schools and to dismantle the teaching profession. 

Among those forces are some of the nation’s biggest philanthropies, including The Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. They have the active support of the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Arne Duncan. 

The philanthropies and the Department together are promoting policies that will privatize the schools, like charter schools, and they are promoting programs to turn teaching into a competition for dollars and test scores. 

None of their preferred policies work. Not only do charter schools take money away from democratically controlled public schools, they don’t get better results. 

Merit pay has been tried for 100 years and it has never worked. 

Evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students–a key element of Race to the Top–encourages narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, cheating, and gaining the system. 

The centerpiece of today’s alleged reforms is high-stakes testing–carrots and sticks. This does not encourage good teaching or deep learning. The nature of tests is that they are normed on a bell curve. Poor and minority children tend to cluster in the bottom half because they have lacked the opportunity to learn, and affluent kids clip user in the top half because they have had the advantages of economic security, well-resourced schools, educated parents, and the advantages that money can buy. 

None of the current reforms work. None will ever work. 

True reform means reducing poverty and segregation and helping children and families get a fair chance and a decent life. True reform means well-prepared and well-compensated teachers. True reform means schools where professionals work together and have the support of the Community. True reform means schools that have the resources to meet the needs of their students. 

These are not the words of a corporate reformer.

Ravitch was not bought; her words were not bought, and it is time for Carroll to TURN the insinuation in the text of her post into an update that reflects these truths.

Moving on.

A Word on Weingarten

Next, Carroll continues with details about Weingarten. I have not fact-checked the information Carroll posted regarding Weingarten; however, I have fact-checked my own writings on Weingarten– a number of which have appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog (see here, and here, and here, and here)– and I concur that Weingarten has made and continues to make decisions that are detrimental to the teachers she is supposed to represent.

Two Green Dots

After some words about income inequity, Carroll makes another factual blunder:

It should be noted that Green Dot Public Schools is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This means if they are to see profits, they must expand, which in TURN means more traditional public schools must close, so more lost jobs. 

I have written about the history of Green Dot Schools in my book (part of chapter 20). Green Dot Public Schools is registered as a nonprofit. Nonprofits differ from publicly traded companies.  Nonprofits are not traded. The publicly-traded company for which Carroll confused Green Dot Public Schools, Green Dot Corporation, deals in prepaid credit cards and other “personal banking for the masses.”

That was sloppy, Carroll, and it shows just how hair-triggered you are to assign union-corruption blame.

Unsuccessful IRS Form 990 Interpretation

The sloppiness continues in the next section with Carroll’s misreading and misinterpreting of IRS forms 990s. Here is an excerpt:

The unions have formed and partnered with many illicit non-profits, with union busters buying off union officials, e.g., California Teacher Association’s Institute for Teaching (IFT).   

Dean Vogel, a school counselor, is both president of CTA and CEO of CTA’s non-profit IFT.  Dean Vogel was paid $174,000 (according to 990 form filed June 2012 with IRS), and received an additional $85,000 reportable income from related organizations … asserting only one hour of work per week on this 990 filing.  

Yes, read that again: Dean Vogel makes $174, 000 plus $85,000 for one hour per week just at the non-profit.  

Sigh.

I will use the most recent 990s to illustrate Carroll’s “one hour” error.

Here is the 2012 990 (09-01-11 to 08-31-12– filed July 17, 2013) for the California Teachers Association (CTA) Institute for Teaching (IFT). On page 8 (Part VII– Compensation), Dean Vogel is listed as president of CTA IFT and works a reported one hour per week for CTA IFT for zero compensation (see column D, reportable compensation). The $176,864 is listed in the column E, reported compensation from related organizations.  The “related organization” is the CTA, for which Vogel is listed on page 32 (Part VII– Compensation) as working 40 hours per week and to which his $176,864 salary plus the $88,116 in “other compensation” (see page 22) are associated. (CTA 2012 990— 09-01-11 to 08-31-12)

Nonprofits often operate in conjunction with other nonprofits under the same “parent.” In this case, CTA is the “direct controlling entity” of five other CTA-related nonprofits– including CTA IFT (see page 27 of the CTA 2012 990, Part II– Identification of Related Tax Exempt Organizations).

Carroll Flunks “Fact Checking 101”

Sloppy, sloppy. Carroll, if you want to fight union corruption, you really need to work on getting your facts right. Otherwise, your own incompetence will undermine your efforts and provide fodder for your opponents to discredit you handsomely.

Take my word for it– I just ginsu-ed you.

Moving on to Jim Horn.

The Self-undermining Indignation that is Jim Horn

When Horn read Carroll’s post and realized it provided an opening for him to attack Diane Ravitch, I wonder if he wet himself from glee. He launches right into Ravitch and her being paid by Pearson to speak at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) convention in 2012 and of her receiving “her hefty speaking fee” as though Ravitch had been bought by Pearson. Horn assumes as much since he was unable to locate Ravitch’s speech online (his only link in his post other than a quote from The Hunger Games).

Horn really did not want Ravitch to be paid by Pearson to speak. But she was, and she admitted it and added that she was “thrilled to be paid by Pearson to tell thousands of psychologists how lousy the standardized tests are.”

Sounds fine to me. You see, I read Ravitch’s speech.

The tone of Horn’s writing is such that one knows he wants Ravitch to be guilty of something. Surely her accepting “a fat payout” from Pearson to speak at NASP is evidence of the corruption he just knows is at her core, right?

The problem is, Ravitch’s 2012 NASP speech— the one Horn could not locate online and therefore assumed Ravitch had hidden for its ability to convict her in the Court of Horn– offers nothing in it’s 20 pages to justify his accusatory tone for her accepting payment from Pearson to deliver it.

Go ahead. Read the speech and find the lines that give ueber-testing a nod of encouragement and approval. It isn’t there.

What is there is the repeated disapproval of test-driven reform and damage it does to children, the over-dependence upon standardized testing, the fallacies of value-added modeling, the failure of merit pay, the pipe-dream of under-regulated charter schools as siphons for community school funding, the failure of vouchers, the ignored impact of poverty upon schools, and the overall punitive nature of privatizing reform– twenty pages worth.

Moving along.

Here is how Horn introduces the Carroll post:

Below is a piece by Kathleen Carroll that set Diane off. The only inaccuracy that Diane could find in this piece is that she was not actually paid to speak at TURN….

Let me pause right here for a moment. The Carroll post was 1,600 words with only a single link, yet Horn is fine with this.

I am not.

As I have already established, the Carroll post has major errors that can only make her look foolish to those who know what they are reading. Indeed, her credibility suffered from the outset due to her lack of linked evidence.

Continuing with Horn:

[Ravitch] states, “I spoke at TURN and did not ask who gives them money. I was not paid.”

What kind of response is this? Is this really a suggestion that Ravitch does not know who funds TURN?

Another pause: Carroll offered no substantiated evidence on recent TURN funding. She also offered no correction in her post regarding her insinuation that Ravitch accepted money to speak at TURN. In his pursuit of Ravitch, Horn excuses Carroll.

The ramble continues. I will not post all. Horn goes on about Ravitch “not knowing who funds TURN” and makes comments about her “being bosom buddies with Rhonda.”

Sometimes, Horn, people just don’t know a thing– like that nonprofits cannot be publicly traded– or that nonprofits often have “related” nonprofits.

As to the “bosom buddies” comment: I realize that Carroll and Horn want to convict Ravitch for her association with Weingarten. But here’s how it works: Carroll and Horn might not like it, but Ravitch operates as a private citizen. Thus, Ravitch is exempt from answering to angry union members. Weingarten is not. And I know Ravitch well enough to state that trying to corner her into an all-out war on Weingarten will not work. It just won’t. Carroll (and others) can get angry over this; they can write endless posts and emails on the matter, but in the end, it is Diane Ravitch who will decide what she posts about Weingarten, and how, and when, and how she approaches Weingarten on so-called “ed reform” issues.

And Ravitch does post pointed words toward Weingarten. I know this because she has posted some of mine. But again, it’s on her terms. I never presume to demand.

Keep banging your heads against the entitlement wall if you like. You will only end up with headaches.

Returning to the lack of research-supported quality in both the Carroll and Horn posts:

If Carroll, or Horn, or anyone really wants to confront corruption in the unions, the way not to accomplish such a goal is to offer error-ridden posts like Carroll’s enveloped in an uncritically-swallowed, Ravitch-anger-sandwich that is Horn’s.

_______________________________________________________________

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.


17 Comments
  1. In my view, corruption is evident today in many American institutions. Is there corruption in the two large teacher unions? Possibly. However, where there is real hardcore corruption is with many charter chains as well as the corporations run by the billionaire boys club. Instead of accusing unions of corruption based on circumstantial evidence, why don’t these folks go after the real culprits?

  2. Great work Mercedes. Thank you.

  3. Joseph permalink

    You did all of this research and posted in 24 hours?

    • In ten hours.🙂

      • Laura chapman permalink

        Unbelievable energy, skill, and argumentative power based on fact. Thanks not just for this, but all you do. I am still working my way through your book. It is an amazing chronicle. Only wish so far is this; If your book goes to a second edition, try to include an index

      • Laura, I wanted an index but could not pony up the $1000 to pay for it. Perhaps in the future, as you have suggested.

      • Mercedes, I’ll fund-raise for the index next time if you give me enough notice. I promise I will.

        While I’ve told you how much I admire your work, I don’t want to leave this whistle blower out in the cold. I do not know Kathleen Carroll, but I wonder if this is what happens when whistle blowers become too isolated to test potential discoveries on trusted comrades before sticking their necks out. In our zest to fight for justice and truth, both of which have been hard to come by in the realm of public education the last few years, there is the possibility of imprudent haste rather than deliberate discourse, especially when our forum is blogs and facebook. We need allies to rely on for reality checks and even moral support. Thank you for being respectful while you were incredibly informative here.

      • Thank you, Karen, for the fundraising offer. I surely will keep it in mind.

        As to Kathleen Carroll, she really needs to get a grip on conducting solid research. I hope that she will. My post was as much an effort to model what solid research looks like as it was an effort to offer the public who read her post the corrected information.

  4. Linda permalink

    Thank you for your work.
    A failure to understand that non-profits aren’t traded on exchanges is an egregious error.
    Confusing, similarly named organizations, is sloppy.

  5. Jill Sundby permalink

    Hi Mercedes. I was wondering if you could direct your analytical powers to a recent article about test scores in my district and state. The data seems flawed because only the richer school districts were included plus ours (and we are middle class with more low income students than might be expected). The article concludes that large schools produce better student achievement than smaller schools (we have small schools). If you have any research links or insight on how I might go about analyzing this article, please let me know.

  6. Hi Mercedes,
    I read so much of what you write. I have appreciated your research and refer people to your articles and book often. Your book is on my night stand as I write. I am continuing to learn and grow as I advocate for children. As the truth arises, one can never go back. There are a few of us in Spokane trying to find out everything we can regarding TURN. I’ve saved several links. They have presented in our school district and it looks like they may be contracted to help with our next bargain. Some of us are concerned and are doing as much digging as we can. I found Kathleen Carroll’s article and Jim Horn’s. As I read this, it reveals the blunders. I would like more information, if you have it regarding TURN, and if you believe they have the best interest of my school district and local union at heart? I would love your perspective. My next rep council meeting is in a week and a half. I would like accurate information to put out on the table for consideration. You can email me at: razmathr118@yahoo.com

    Thank you for any information you can point me towards,
    Raz

    • Hi, Raz. I do not have more information on TURN, but I would be cautious in following their leading. Ask them for info on what they have achieved as well as unanticipated (or anticipated, for that matter) problems they have caused/encountered. Also question their funders.

      • Thank you Mercedes! I will incorporate these questions in the letter I am writing my local union who has embraced them. We only had one evening to be introduced. No vote or digging or researching. Just acceptance. I am going to raise some questions. Again, thank you, Raz

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