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Results for America: Nonprofits Manfacturing Nonprofits

I give you newly-formed (sort of) Results for America (RFA), which started as an “initiative” of the self-described “nonprofit accelerator,” America Achieves.

In other words, America Achieves became a nonprofit that works to create other nonprofits to promote corporate-styled-and-advertised change. (” America Achieves is a nonprofit accelerator that helps young people succeed and lead in a changing world. Our strategy is to support transformational leaders, who have game-changing ideas, with results-oriented funding, and operational and strategic support.)

In fine top-down, corporate-reform style, America Achieves manufactures nonprofits like RFA and also tries to manufacture the buy-in (i.e., state, community) to *effect change.*

Though the name, “Results for America,” is close to the name of “Teach for America” (TFA), RFA is not a TFA creation. It is all America Achieves.

Results for America (RFA) has been a nonprofit in its own right since September 2016. Its mission as stated in RFA’s 2016 tax return begins as follows:

RFA’s activities are focused on non-profit leaders, government decision-makers, and community members as RFA attempts to build their awareness of, support for, and ability to implement funding of “evidence-based,” results-driven social programs, i.e., social programs that have results that can be measured and evaluated for whether they are accomplishing their objectives. RFA’s initiatives fall into three program areas: implementation support, momentum and commitment building, and developing standards of excellence.

RFA’s initial, 2016 tax return spans eight months (May to December 2016), and right out of the gate, it reported $5M in total revenue (all contributions and grants).

In its second year (and first full year), 2017, RFA’s revenue almost doubled, to $9.4M.

The reason for RFA’s abundant, ready funding is that RFA was “incubated” by another nonprofit, America Achieves. Info on this incubation history RFA also includes with its mission statement– which continues from its 2016 tax form as follows:

From 2012 until May 2016, RFA was a program arm of America Achieves, a 501(c)(3) organization. In May of 2016, RFA was incorporated as a free-standing non-profit organization and will continue the kind of programs that it was previously operating under America Achieves.

RFA’s CEO is Michele Jolin, who appears on America Achieves’ 2011 tax form as a “managing partner” (30hrs/wk) for zero compensation. RFA is not yet mentioned. In 2012, Jolin is still recorded as a “managing partner” at 30 hrs/wk, but now for $131K total compensation. Still no mention of RFA.

In 2013, RFA is mentioned on America Achieves’ tax return under “program service accomplishments,” as follows:

Results for America (RFA) initiative believes that in this age of scarce resources and growing social problems, government funding should support programs that have demonstrated that they work well this way millions of families and young people will be better positioned to succeed. Over the past year, RFA has begun to build a high-level bi-partisan coalition to develop and share policy ideas; has worked with leading academics to research and propose new funding mechanisms; and has developed a road map for how federal agencies can build the infrastructure to support evidence-based funding. RFA supports policy makers who wish to implement evidence-based funding with training, Fellowships, and policy ideas.

Jolin’s 30hr/wk America Achieves “managing partner” compensation is up to $172K, but it is David Medina who is first connected to RFA by being named “COO (chief operating officer), RFA” (4ohrs/wk; $217K) on America Achieves’ 2013 tax form.

In 2014, America Achieves continues its RFA incubation, which is described below:

Our third area of focus is investing in what works and driving evidence-based policy making to address this challenge. Results for America (RFA) is an America Achieves initiative based on an important idea: in this age of scarce resources and significant challenges, millions of young people and their families will be better positioned to succeed if government funding supports programs that are based on good evidence and demonstrate that they are effective over time. That’s why Results for America supports efforts to make public funding more evidence-based and supports a coalition of public officials and others working on this problem.

For example, RFA worked with leading experts and practitioners to establish a standard of excellence through its Federal Invest in What Works Index for federal departments and agencies that defines the infrastructure necessary for building and using data and evidence when making budget, policy and management decisions — and supports federal departments and agencies to implement specific changes.

In November 2014, RFA released a national best-selling Moneyball for Government book authored by a bipartisan group of nationally-recognized experts to help ensure that budget, policy, and management decisions by governments at all levels are informed by the best possible data and evidence about what works (a second edition has since been released).

RFA also manages a national initiative to help 100 mid-size U.S. cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve the lives of their residents.

In 2014, America Achieves’ tax return first names Jolin as “CEO, RFA”; Medina, Jolin, and four others are paid by America Achieves in the name of RFA, and that pay is sweet:

  • Michele Jolin, CEO, RFA (30hrs/wk); $220K
  • Patrick Bryden Sweeney Taylor, CEO, RFA (40hrs/wk); $238K
  • David Medina, COO, RFA (40hrs/wk); $202K
  • Evangelina Garcia, VP, RFA (40hrs/wk); $182K
  • Simone Brody, ED WWC (executive director, What Works Cities), RFA (40hrs/wk); $195K
  • Jeremy Ayers, VP Policy, RFA (40hrs/wk); $193K

In 2015, America Achieves describes RFA as follows, including a “strong coalition” that RFA “has built”:

Results for America (RFA) is improving outcomes for young people, their families, and communities by promoting evidence-based, results-driven solutions.

RFA has become a leading voice in advancing and driving evidence-based policy change, increasing awareness and building credibility for the practice among more elected officials and policymakers, particularly around the insufficient use of data and evidence in policymaking and decisionmaking.

RFA has built a strong, bipartisan coalition of 134 high-level decision-makers from nonprofits, philanthropy, and government, as well as 220 disparate stakeholders from the public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors into an Invest in What Works coalition. Results for America offers tools, trainings, and opportunities to learn and share what works regarding data and evidence across all levels of government, including new work globally, such as its annual federal Invest in What Works Index released in April 2016.

Results for America is transitioning to become an independent 501(c)3 organization in October 2016– a validation of the strength of RFA’s track record and of the America Achieves accelerator model.

America Achieves is the rich, well-connected parent that is Making Thinks Happen for its offspring RFA then claiming its fiscal propping RFA as proof that RFA in its own right has a track record. But wait, this effort also validates the America Achieves accelerator model.

Keep in mind that this sales pitch is part of the 2015 America Achieves tax return and that in 2015, RFA is still umbilically dependent on America Achieves. (RFA became a nonprofit in 09/16, and America Achieves’ 2015 tax form covered 09/15 to 08/16.) These words would mean more if RFA had been a stand-alone nonprofit, responsible for its own fundraising, for at least several years.

Meanwhile, in 2015, America Achieves continues to handsomely pay RFA’s officers the same totl compensation that they received in 2014, with the exception that Sweeney Taylor is now a CEO of another America Achieves incubation, CollegePoint, and no longer a co-CEO of RFA with Jolin. (In 2016, Sweeney Taylor is again shuffled to yet another America Achieves incubation, as “CEO, College Access and Success.)

Okay. So now, its 2016, and RFA is supposed to be on its own. (Keep in mind that the 2016 tax return for America Achieves covers 09/16 to 08/17, with RFA officially becoming a nonprofit in 09/16.)

Below is the RFA description from America Achieves’ 2016 tax form:

Results for America (RFA) is improving outcomes for young people, their families, and communities by promoting evidence-based, results-driven solutions. RFA has become a leading voice in advancing and driving evidence-based policy change, increasing awareness and building credibility for the practice among more elected officials and policymakers, particularly around the insufficient use of data and evidence in policy making and decision making.

Results for America transitioned to become an independent 501(c)(3) organization in October 2016, a validation of the strength of RFA’s track record and of the America Achieves accelerator model.

But America Achieves continues to primarily pay for three RFA execs (who appear to be putting in the same hours with America Achieves as they did pre-nonprofit-RFA), and one new “advisor”:

  • CEO Jolin: $201K (30hrs/wk)
  • COO Medina: $246K (40hrs/wk)
  • ED WWC Brody: $233K (40hrs/wk)
  • Karen Anderson, Sr. Advisor, RFA: $215K (40hrs/wk)

Let’s now shift to the 2016 RFA tax form to see that Jolin and Medina are also collecting some funds from RFA, as well:

  • CEO Jolin: $51K (40hrs/wk)
  • COO Medina: $66K (40hrs/wk)

Laura Parkin is also listed on the 2016 RFA tax return as RFA’s “secretary and chief financial and strategy officer and is paid $44K (40hrs/wk). However, Parkin’s primary pay comes from America Achieves, where she is listed as a “managing partner” in 2016 and is paid $256K (30hrs/wk).

Finally, in 2017— RFA’s first full year of operation as its own nonprofit– RFA lists the following officers and their America Achieves-groomed total compensation (all for 40hrs/wk):

  • Chairman and CEO Jolin: $206K
  • CFSO/sec Parkin (half year only): $259K
  • COO Medina: $259K
  • ED WWC Brody: $252K
  • VP Policy Ayers: $192K
  • Sharman Stein, Director of Communications: $184K
  • Nicole Dunn, VP of Innovation and Community Impact: $175K
  • Abeba Taddese, Executive Director: $194K

And what, exactly, is this America Achieves-incubated RFA up to?

Here is what RFA lists on its 2017 tax form as its top four program service accomplishments. The descriptions are lengthy, but I include them here in full so that readers are informed. The first is “implementation”:








Second is “momentum/commitment building”:





The third is “standards of excellence”:





Finally, “impact and outcome assessment”:


Here is how helicopter parent America Achieves brags on barely-out-of-gestation RFA. Note that the cord will likely never truly be cut:

Over a four year period, Results for America went from being a concept to a leading voice in advancing and driving evidence-based policy change. Results for America was launched and incubated within America Achieves over a 4-year period.  Results for America (RFA) helps policymakers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s great challenges.

Notably, Results for America worked closely with both Republican and Democratic members of Congress to include a number of important evidence provisions in the rewrite of the nation’s Federal education law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  These evidence provisions could shift more than $2 billion in federal education dollars each year to evidence-based solutions.   These accomplishments  paved the way for RFA’s next phase of progress, and for the transition of RFA to an independent 501c3.

Results for America became an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization on October 1, 2016.

RFA continues to collaborate with America Achieves to advance our shared agenda.

“Continues to collaborate… to advance our shared agenda.”

Yes, RFA is technically independent from America Achieves. However, America Achieves is the source of RFA’s corporate-reform-styled funding clout, and America Achieves has announced that both it and RFA have a “shared agenda” (Indeed, America Achieves created– or “initiated”– RFA’s agenda).

For these reasons, RFA might never truly break from America Achieves, but RFA’s heavy bent upon corporate-reform concepts of “evidence-based solutions,” “building a movement,” and “scaling” is a siren song for the likes of Bill Gates, whose foundation chose in 2018 to pump $5M into RFA:

Results for America

Date: October 2018
Purpose: to fund new research, test interventions, and share learnings with local government leaders to improve economic mobility issues in their communities
Amount: $4,997,028
Term: 27
Topic: US Poverty and Mobility Analysis
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website: 

Its time to fund some research on the effectiveness of trying to impose change from some well-funded “top,” incubated or otherwise.

Perhaps the tack of, “We get to tell you what you need because we have loads of money,” is a collosal waste.

Measure that, RFA.

tape measure


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

Oklahoma’s EPIC Virtual Charter School: Too Much Money, Too Fast, and More

According to the July 17, 2019, Oklahoman, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) served Epic Charter Schools, the largest virtual charter school chain in the state, with a search warrant; OSBI alleges that Epic’s co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, have been stealing public money via inflating school enrollments.

From the Oklahoman:

A state investigation alleges Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest virtual charter school system, embezzled millions in state funds by illegally inflating enrollment counts with “ghost students.”

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation alleged Epic co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris “devised a scheme to use their positions as public officers to unlawfully derive profits from state appropriated funds.”

An OSBI agent made the allegations in a search warrant that sought evidence of embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses and racketeering.

Investigators reported Chaney and Harris “created a system of financial gain at Epic” when they founded the virtual charter school in 2010. The two co-founders have managed the virtual charter school through a for-profit company, Epic Youth Services, which receives a portion of Epic’s state funds. …

In its search warrant, OSBI alleged between 2013 and 2018, Chaney and Harris unlawfully received $10 million in profits from Epic Youth Services and split the total. …

“Ben Harris and David Chaney enticed ghost students to enroll in Epic by offering each student an annual learning fund ranging from $800 to $1,000,” OSBI reported in the warrant. “… The parents of many of the homeschool students admitted they enrolled their children in Epic to receive the $800 learning fund without any intent to receive instruction from Epic.”

Several parents refused instruction from Epic teachers but continued to accept the $800 learning fund and expenses, investigators found. Many Epic teachers dubbed these families “members of the $800 club,” investigators said.

The scheme described above reminds me of California’s A3 indicment of Sean McManus. In both the A3 indicment and Epic allegations, the ultimate goal was to defraud taxpayers by paying third parties to gain access to student information, which was then used to pad enrollment with no geniune intention of actually serving the students. Barely serving or not serving at all makes no difference, just so long as the charter operators are able to put that name on a roster; collect educational dollars from the state, and then funnel those dollars into charter management companies that the school CEOs also operated.

Charter schools are scam magnets, and it seems that the scams coming to light are increasingly sophisticated, involving numerous players of varying roles, all woven together in a web of ultimate greed. So goes it for Epic Charter School.

Let’s delve into some Epic charter history.

The nonprofit name for Epic Charter Schools is Community Strategies, Inc. (EIN 20-2774826). However, that nonprofit– Community Strategies, Inc.– did not start as a charter school.

Below is the Community Strategies mission as stated on its 2009 tax form:

The original purpose of Community Strategies, Inc. was to increase public awareness and educate consumers about the way energy, telecommunication and electric utilities operate and the significance of such operations. Thus citizens can make educated utility choices and get the most value for their money. Activities are designed to give the public an appreciation and understanding about these services which make up a large part of their daily lives. Forums and programs are designed to foster interaction between utility representatives, public policymakers and the general public. Meetings and materials provided are offered at no charge to interested persons. Plans are underway to create and maintain a website, to attend meetings and broaden our audience base.

The revised, approved purpose of the organization is the partnering with government and quasi-government entities to deliver professional services and less expensive reproduceable technology, management, and services solutions in the education, social services and public health areas by vertically improving all customer information facets of delivery systems to better educate those users and consumers. An initial project with the Philadelphia, Pa., Department of Human Services (DHS) was done to assist them in major information systems overhaul and modernization to improve data collection and reporting on the children at risk, to meet major priorities such as: Reduce out-of-home placements; expand family group decision making; and carry out major initiatives to make their software usable by other interested parties.

Some of these initiatives include: Performance management system construction; random case file review ability; integration of agency databases; electronic case management system construction; reform of provider evaluation instruments and standards; develop and refine Childstat program; collaborate with family court and data integration; and tracking the educational indicators for the children in DHS care for early warnings of difficulties.

In 2009, Community Strategies’ program revenue was $666,326, and Ben Harris was one of four unpaid board members. David Chaney was not amng those listed.

In 2010, Community Strategies’ revenue dropped to $60,024, and Harris was no longer listed as a board member.

Then came 2011, and Community Strategies, Inc., was also “dba Epic Charter School.”

Revenue jumped to $4.2M.

As for the mission, well, that became the following cut-and-paste from the 2009 mission, one not quite fitting the operating of a school, but let’s just slap it on the tax form anyway:

To partner with government and quasi-government entities to deliver professional service solutions in the education, social services and public health areas relating to technology and management.

Neither Harris nor Chaney is mentioned on the 2011 return, and no board members are paid.

In 2012, Community Strategies/Epic revenue dropped to $2M; still no board members paid, and Harris and Chaney not mentioned.

Then came 2013, the year that Epic was “first notified of an investigation,” according to its twitter posting following the July 17, 2019, Oklahoman article about the OSBI search warrant:

In 2013, Community Strategies/Epic’s revenue shot up to $9.9M. Harris and Chaney are not mentioned on the 2013 tax form, and no board members are compensated. In fact, according to Epic’s tax forms, no one is compensated. No one is identified as a “highest compensated employees,” and no organizations are listed as having any independent contracts.

Info on the Community Strategies/Epic Charter tax forms is suspiciously thin, a telltale situation I encountered when reviewing tax forms for California-based Today’s Fresh Start Charter Schools, in which school operators Clark and Janice Parker are involved in self-dealing using both nonprofits and for-profits. But back to Epic.

Meanwhile, from 2013 to 2014, the eybrow-raising revenue-leap continues. In 2014, revenue hits $13.3M; in 2015, it’s up to $21M, and who, exactly, is being paid is not disclosed on the nonprofit tax form as is should be.

In 2016, Epic’s revenue climbs to $29.3M. Its tax form is still notably lacking in information, but its 2016 audit indicates that Epic Charter School pays Epic Youth Services (EYS) LLC to operate Epic, and it pays for-profit Educational Administrative Services (EAS) for “bookeeping and consulting services including the services of a treasurer.”

(One can access LLC filing documents on the Oklahoma Secretary of State website, but there is a $5 charge per filing to read details. According to the July 17, 2019, Oklahoman, Chaney and Harris are allegedly paying themselves via a for-profit charter management org that they operate. Interested readers can search for documentation on EYS and EAS and pay related fees to peruse the documents. I chose not to pony up those fees.)

Epic’s 2016 audit does not include details about individuals exercising control over both Epic Charter Schools and organizations doing business with the schools. Such information certainly should be part of a solid audit, and the failure to directly address the issue with a clear yes or no concerning such overlap seriously limits the audit as a document of supposed accountability.

Moreover, Epic’s 2016 audit includes a questionable shaping of information to make the connection between pre-Epic-nonprofit, Community Strategies, and Epic appear to fit better than it does.  For instance, the 2016 audit states that the Epic mission is something other than Community Strategies’ mission warmed over:

EPIC’s mission statement is “Fulfilling every student’s individual potential by personalizing an educational plan that focuses on school and family partnership to achieve optimal student performance.” In education today, one size
doesn’t fit all. EPIC is dedicated to providing students and families with a learning environment that can meet an individual student’s unique needs. The core values of honesty, respect, tolerance, fairness, self-discipline, integrity, responsibility, citizenship, work ethic, and trust are the foundation upon which the School is built.

EPIC is a free PreK-12 public school for parents/students seeking a non-traditional education setting utilizing internetbased, individualized self-paced instruction provided in nearly any location. Each course is taught by an Oklahoma

None of those dressed-up audit details are included on Epic’s anemic tax forms. Not even close.

And as for the creation of the nonprofit Community Strategies: The Epic 2016 audit contradicts itself by first stating that “Community Strategies, Inc., an Oklahoma not-for-profit corporation described in Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), was formed for the benefit of a School to be called Epic One-on-One Charter School” (not true) then later stating that Community Strategies was “formed in 2005 but with no reportable activity until 2009.” (Only part of the story.  According to the IRS, Community Strategies was originally called the Oklahoma Consumer Education Foundation, with its first filing a 990-N “e-postcard” in 2007.)

The history of the nonprofit with the EIN of 20-2774826 is one of a nonprofit for a completely different purpose later being haphazardly refitted for operating a charter school. The lack of information on those tax forms sends the message, “We are invested in this charter school as a revenue stream, nothing more.”

And what a revenue stream it is. By 2017, Community Stragegies/Epic was pulling in $41.5M. It’s mission continues to be listed as the ill-fitting, “To partner with government and quasi government entities to deliver professional service solutions in the education, social services and public health areas relating to technology and management.”

As for how its spending the money, the explanation is as follows, spelling error included:


Here’s something I noticed on the 2017 return: In response to this question under “policies”:

Were officers, directors, or trustees, and key employees required to disclose annually interests that could give rise to conflicts?

The answer: No.

So, no disclosure of situations potentially leading to conflicts of interests on Community Strategies/Epic tax forms, and Epic audits stop short of identifying any conflicts of interest between Epic and EYS or Epic and EAS. (See here for Epic’s 2017 audit and 2018 audit.)

According to its 2018 audit, Community Strategies/Epic revenue reaches $50.3M.

So, let’s review Community Strategies’ remarkable revenue rise over the years:

  • 2007: <$25,000
  • 2008: <$25,000
  • 2009: $666,246
  • 2010: $60,024
  • 2011: $4.2M (began operating Epic charter schools)
  • 2012: $2.1M
  • 2013: $9.9M (notified of being under investigation)
  • 2014: $13.3M
  • 2015: $20.9M
  • 2016: $29.3M
  • 2017: $41.5M
  • 2018: $50.3M

Under investigation since 2013. Served with a search warrant in July 2019.

And now, this:

On July 19, 2019, Oklahoma governor, J. Kevin Stitt, sent a letter to Oklahoma auditor/inspector, Cindy Byrd, requesting an audit of Epic, paid for by Epic, as follows:

July 19th, 2019

Cindy Byrd
Oklahoma Auditor & Inspector
2300 Lincoln Boulevard, Room 123
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

Dear Auditor Byrd,

As authorized by Section 212(C) of Title 74 of the Oklahoma Statutes, I respectfully request an audit of Epic Charter School and all related entities. As required by the above citations, the cost of the audit shall be borne by Epic.

The scope of the audit should include a three year look back on all previously issued audits, as well as any federal audits done during that time period.



J. Kevin Stitt

Section 212(C) of Oklahoma’s Title 74 reads as follows:


Whenever called upon to do so by the Governor, it shall be the duty of the State Auditor and Inspector to examine the books and accounts of any officer of the state or any of the officer’s predecessors. The cost of the audit shall be borne by the entity to be audited.

What is noteworthy about Stitt’s request is that the audit will be performed by the state, not by an auditor of Epic’s choosing, and that the audit request includes “all related entities,” which will surely include a close enough look EYS and EAS (mentioned only in passing in Epic’s 2016-18 audits) to reveal who operates (and benefits financially from) those entities.

Shine that light.

More to come, I am sure.

rotten apple


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

USDOE Alert: Security Breach at 62 Colleges Using the Ellucian Banner Tech/Data System

NOTE: On July 19, 2019, Ellucian added an update about the Banner system breach.


On July 17, 2019, the US Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Federal Student Aid posted the following security breach announcement “regarding the active and ongoing exploitation of a previously identified vulnerability in the Ellucian Banner (Banner) system.

First, to the heart of the matter:

The Department has identified 62 colleges or universities that have been affected by exploitation of this vulnerability. We have also recently received information that indicates criminal elements have been actively scanning the internet looking for institutions to victimize through this vulnerability and developing lists of institutions for targeting with this exploitation.

Victimized institutions have indicated that the attackers exploit the vulnerability and then leverage scripts in the admissions or enrollment section of the affected Banner system to create multiple student accounts. It has been reported that at least 600 fake or fraudulent student accounts were created within a 24-hour period, with the activity continuing over multiple days resulting in the creation of thousands of fake student accounts. Some of these accounts appear to be leveraged almost immediately for criminal activity.

And now, the entire USDOE announcement:

Posted Date: July 17, 2019

Author: Federal Student Aid

Subject: TECHNOLOGY SECURITY ALERT – Exploitation of Ellucian Banner System Vulnerability

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has obtained information regarding the active and ongoing exploitation of a previously identified vulnerability in the Ellucian Banner (Banner) system. The vulnerability only occurs in Ellucian Banner Web Tailor versions 8.8.3, 8.8.4, and 8.9 and Banner Enterprise Identity Services versions 8.3, 8.3.1, 8.3.2, and 8.4.

According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advisory CVE-2019-8978, attackers can leverage a known vulnerability in these versions of these applications to log in to the Banner system with an institutional account. Access to operational areas and functions within the system would depend upon the administrative privileges granted to the affected account, but this information does not appear to be specifically detailed in the NIST advisory.

The Department has identified 62 colleges or universities that have been affected by exploitation of this vulnerability. We have also recently received information that indicates criminal elements have been actively scanning the internet looking for institutions to victimize through this vulnerability and developing lists of institutions for targeting with this exploitation.

Victimized institutions have indicated that the attackers exploit the vulnerability and then leverage scripts in the admissions or enrollment section of the affected Banner system to create multiple student accounts. It has been reported that at least 600 fake or fraudulent student accounts were created within a 24-hour period, with the activity continuing over multiple days resulting in the creation of thousands of fake student accounts. Some of these accounts appear to be leveraged almost immediately for criminal activity.

Victimized institutions also have indicated that their implementation of the Banner system affects or influences all aspects of academic administration, including the administration of student financial aid. The Department is concerned that some institutions that use a Banner system that still deploys Ellucian Banner Web Tailor version 8.8.3, 8.8.4, or 8.9 and/or Banner Enterprise Identity Services version 8.3, 8.3.1, 8.3.2, or 8.4 may not have implemented appropriate safeguards to segregate the system functions affecting the Department’s student financial aid data. It is believed that such a condition could put the security and the integrity of the Department’s data and systems at risk. Impacted entities using the affected systems are encouraged to review the NIST advisory in its entirety and take appropriate response measures.

Actions for Institutions Using Ellucian Banner System

If your institution uses Ellucian Banner Web Tailor version 8.8.3, 8.8.4, or 8.9 and/or Banner Enterprise Identity Services version 8.3, 8.3.1, 8.3.2, or 8.4

  1. review the vulnerability details as provided in NIST advisory CVE-2019-8978;
  2. contact Ellucian to receive information needed to patch or upgrade affected systems; and
  3. respond immediately to the Department via email to and the following information in your email:
    • Institution’s Name
    • Institutional Point of Contact’s Name
    • Institutional Point of Contact’s Telephone Number and Email Address

Once the Department receives a notification email from an institution, the FSA Cyber Incident Team will acknowledge receipt of the email and collaborate with the institution to identify if its systems are using the versions impacted by this vulnerability. In our shared mission with the institution to safeguard student information, the FSA Cyber Incident Team will act as an information resource and guide the institution to Ellucian to obtain appropriate updates and patches to mitigate the vulnerability.

Ironically, the Ellucian Banner website includes the sales tag, “Strengthen every major department in higher education with a comprehensive ERP system.”

As for postsecondary institutions using Ellucian Banner, 33 are named on this Ellucian “success” page, 30 of which are located in the US:

  • Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
  • University of California at Riverside
  • Pearl River Community College (Mississippi)
  • Edinboro University (Pennsylvania)
  • Virginia Tech
  • Georgia State University
  • Alamo Colleges (Texas)
  • Belhaven University (Mississippi)
  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  • Old Dominion University (Virginia)
  • Stark State College (Ohio)
  • St. Edward’s University (Texas)
  • Seton Hall University (New Jersey)
  • Delta State University (Mississippi)
  • Hinds Community College (Mississippi)
  • Texas Tech University
  • State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego
  • Winthrop University (South Carolina)
  • Lansing Community College (Michigan)
  • University of San Diego (California)
  • Waukesha County Technical College (Wisconsin)
  • Baylor University (Texas)
  • American University of Kuwait
  • Harrisburg Area Community College (Pennsylvania)
  • Humber College (Canada)
  • Virginia State University
  • Sam Houston State University (Texas)
  • Temple University (Pennsylvania)
  • Oral Roberts University (Oklahoma)
  • American University (Washington, DC)
  • Mercer Community College (Georgia)
  • Alverno College (Wisconsin)
  • Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand)

According to Ellucian, more than 1,400 institutions worldwide use the Banner system, which includes student registration, human resources, and institutional finance, and financial aid components.

The Ellucian website includes no statement about breaches in its system, and USDOE has not identified the 62 affected postsecondary institutions by name. (NOTE: Update on Ellucian website as of July 19, 2019.)

security breach


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

Former TFAer/TFA Exec (shh…) Allison Serafin: From Texas, to Nevada, and Back to Texas

In April 2016, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published an article about former VP of the Nevada State board of Education, Allison Serafin, who resigned from the board in December 2015 because of a conflict of interest involving her decision to apply for state money to partially fund a charter-promoting nonprofit that Serafin started in 2014, Operation 180. In April 2016, Serafin’s nonprofit, Opportunity 180, won a state contract. From thr LV Review-Journal:

The former vice president of the State Board of Education, who resigned last year citing a potential conflict of interest, won a $10 million contract Tuesday to recruit high-quality charter school operators to Nevada.

When she stepped down from the state board in December, Allison Serafin noted her intent to submit a bid for the state’s new charter harbormaster fund, which matches grants from private philanthropic groups to attract the “best-in-class” national charter management organizations.

The contract authorizes Opportunity 180, an educational nonprofit group that Serafin founded in 2014, to drive two key components of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education reform agenda: expanding access for low-income families to high-performing charter schools and creating a state-run Achievement School District to take over and turn around chronically underperforming campuses. …

As of Friday, Opportunity 180 already had collected more than $4.1 million in committed or cash donations from the Englestad Family Foundation and three other philanthropic groups, Serafin said.

So, Serafin arguably saw an *opportunity* to tailor her nonprofit toward creating Nevada’s newly-legislated Achievement School District and chose to pursue it.


Allison Serafin

According to Opportunity 180’s 2015 tax form, the organization reported $4.1M in total revenue, and Serafin was on record as “prinicpal officer.” That year, total expenses were only $316,750, including $177,940 listed as its “largest” (and only) “program service”, for the following:

Conducted outreach to 33 high-quality charter school operators from across the country to discuss potential expansion in Clark County, Nevada. Worked with Public Impact to perform due diligence on KIPP Public Charter Schools and Democracy Prep Public Schools and prepare a Nevada expansion report. Gathered input from national experts and charter schools across the country to identify a handful of excellent school facility partners.

On the Opportunity 180 2015 tax form, Serafin is recorded as “president” and is the only paid board member ($76,642 for 40 hrs/wk).

In 2016, Opportunity 180’s annual revenue was $8.2M; its total expenses rose to $4.4M, including $3.6M for the following “largest… program services”:

High School Transformation Summit attended by ten nationally recognized charter schools. Recruited two new public charter schools launching in 2017. Began recruiting high-quality talent partners including two new Building Excellent Schools Fellows who will launch new schools in 2018.  Developed Lead Nevada Academy to help talented educators expand their skills. Identified and secured a new location for Futuro Academy public charter school.

Serfafin was again the only compensated board member, for $168,942 for 40 hrs/wk., reflecting a salary increase of $92,300 from 2015 to 2016.

Then came 2017.

According to Opportunity 180’s 2017 tax form, annual revenue plummeted from $8.2M in 2016 to $236,654 in 2017. As a result, Opportunity 180’s annual revenue less annual expenses was -$3.7M; this meant that for virtually the entire year, Opportunity 180 survived on its savings, which dropped from $7.7M to $3.9M.

In 2017, Opportunity 180 spent $3.5M for the following:

Opened first BES Fellow operated school, Futuro Academy. Positioned two new BES led schools, Nevada Prep and Nevada Rise Academies to launch in 2018. Launched the pilot class of the Lead Development Academy with the first cohort of eight teacher leaders. Partnered with Teach Plus to offer new teacher leader development fellowship to twenty educators across Nevada.

Opportunity 180 sounds like it has a lot going on regarding promoting charter schools in Nevada, which is centered on creating Nevada’s ASD. From the March 18, 2019, Nevada Current:

According to the [Las Vegas Achievment School] district’s website, there are four schools currently within the Achievement School District: Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, Futuro Academy, Nevada Preparatory Charter School, and Nevada Rise Academy. Eight additional schools — all in Southern Nevada — were flagged for potential conversion by the state board late last year.

However, taking in no market-ed-reform-fueling millions in 2017 does not bode well for the survival of one among increasingly many corporate ed reform nonprofits. In 2017, Opportuniry 180’s slim donations included $50,000 from Chiefs for Change and the $45,000 from the Broad Foundation.

In previous years (2015 and 2016), donations flowed as follows:

Now, here is some noteworthy strangeness:

  • The largest donor, UCLA Trust, is not mentioned among the donors listed on this archived 2016 Opportunity 180 “about” page.
  • With the exception of Chiefs for Change, which is located in Washington, DC, all other donors are from California. None are from Nevada, the state directly affected by Opportunity 180, until the Nevada state, ASD-charter-promoting grant money in 2016.

In 2017, there was no additional million-dollar cash infusions from the likes of UCLA and Windsong Trust. Furthermore, in 2017, Serafin took a cut from her 2016 compensation: $151,063 for 40 hrs/wk., down by $17,879 from 2016.

Serafin was also designated as “former” on the Opportunity 180 2017 return, with Jana Lavin added as “acting executive director” ($74,468 for 40 hrs/wk).

According to the March 09, 2017, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Serafin had resigned as Opportunity 180 president:

Allison Serafin, a former state Board of Education member and founder of Opportunity 180, announced Thursday she was stepping down to spend more time with a sick parent. Serafin’s decision is effective at the end of April.

“I have tried to shuttle back and forth over the past few months, but ultimately, it’s not fair to my team if I can’t be 100 percent present,” Serafin wrote in a statement announcing her decision.

Founded in 2014, Opportunity 180 was given a $10 million contract from the state Board of Examiners in April.

The move aligned with the controversial Achievement School District. A 2015 law created the district, which targets under-performing public schools and turns them into charters.

The program is under threat of being repealed this session, with Democrats controlling the majority of the state Legislature.

In May 2019, the Nevada legislature voted to abolish Nevada’s ASD.

Meanwhile, back to 2017 and post-Opportunity 180 Serafin, including a couple of head-tilting discoveries:

  • The Opportunity 180 website has scrubbed any mention of Serafin. In November 2016, she was featured as “founder and president.” By July 2017, Serafin had disappeared from the site and is not even mentioned as its founder, even on the organization’s history. It can certainly be difficult to communte in order to care for a sick parent, and such a reason is could surely justify an unexpected exit. But absolute removal from an organization’s history– one that Serafin founded– is suspect.
  • Serafin chose not to include her last name on her Linkedin bio, instead opting for the less-descript “Allison S.” If one conisders the bio link itself, one sees that serafin’s last name is spelled out, which means that she used her full name for her Linkedin bio upon its creation. However, for some reason, Serafin removed her last name– which begs the idea that she wanted to make it just a bit more difficult for the public to view her Linkedin profile.

Serafin was moving on, and she apparently did not want to showcase all of the details of her ed-reformer career.

In December 2017, the charter school chain, IDEA Public Schools, expanded to Houston, Texas, Serafin’s home town; according to her Linkedin bio, in June 2017, Serafin became executive director of IDEA charter schools in Houston, Texas.

Serafin’s IDEA bio labels Serafin as having “nearly 20 years of experience as an education leader and advocate for excellent public schools and is excited to return home to Houston to offer families an excellent tuition-free public school option for their children.” Serafin’s IDEA bio does not mention that nine of those years were with Teach for America (TFA)– and mostly not in a classroom. An IDEA blog post introducing Serafin mentions her classroom stint with TFA but avoids mentioning the number of years of her classroom experience as well as specifically identifying in connection with Serafin’s seven years as a TFA exec, instead nebulously referring to TFA as “a Fortune 500 company”:

Allison’s leadership skills business acumen, and can-do attitude stems from her diverse and robust career experiences.

Prior to her new role, she founded and was president of Opportunity 180 in Las Vegas, Nevada where she recruited high-quality talent programs and public charter school operators to expand to Southern Nevada. She was also elected in 2012 to serve on the Nevada State Board of Education and was appointed Vice-President throughout her years of service. She also owned her own consulting business, coached school leaders and teacher, led corporate philanthropy for a Fortune 500 company, taught 6th grade at Attucks Middle School in Houston Independent School District (HISD) during her Teach For America commitment and 7th grade at YES Prep North Central. [Underline added.]

However, the Linkedin bio for Allison S. spells it out: Those “nearly 20 years of experience” include only three years in the classroom: two with Teach for America (TFA) from 2001 to 2003 (Houston Independent School District) and one, with Houston’s YES Prep (2004 – 2005), with a seven-year concentration in TFA leadership (2003 – 2004; 2005 – 2011), which is what brought Serafin to Las Vegas.

Serafin’s TFA experience as listed on Serafin’s “Allison S.” Linkedin bio:

Teach For America

5 yrs 11 mos

  • Executive Director, Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley

    Feb 2008 – May 2011

    •Managed a 2M operating budget, increasing our fundraising efforts by 300% in three years andraising 2.5M in FY11.

    •Supported seven direct reports and the oversight for 100 first and second year teachersthroughout Southern Nevada in grades pre-K through 12.

    •Served as a member on Nevada’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and consultant on Nevada’s Race To The Top application.

    •Increased development by nearly 100% in 2008 and exceeded development goals in FY11 by over $500,000

  • Director of Online Media & Video Production

    Jul 2006 – Feb 2008

    •Led the first in-house video production effort at Teach For America.

    •Managed all pre and post-production operations resulting in the production of over 100 videos tosupport the Teach For America Admissions, Recruitment & Teacher Preparation teams.

    •Initiated and supported recruitment team efforts with multimedia and social media marketing strategies through YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Facebook.

    •Served as a thought partner around broad marketing campaign with Ogilvy & Mather.

  • Recruitment Director, Southern Recruitment Team

    Jul 2005 – Jul 2006

    •Led on campus recruitment efforts at Emory University & the University of Georgia.

    •In October 2005, our campaign had a 53% increase of applications at UGA from 2005 to 2006 anda 73% increase of applicants at Emory from 2005 to 2006.

    Program Director

    Teach For America Mid-Atlantic Region

    May 2003 – Jul 2004

    Greater Philadelphia Area

    •Responsible for supporting 36 teachers with monthly classroom observations, written feedback,one-on-one meetings, concrete resources and opportunities for professional development.

    •Organized and executed three-day Induction program for 118 teachers.

    6th grade Language Arts & World Cultures Teacher

    Houston ISD

    May 2001 – May 2003

    Attucks MS

    •Taught 150 students the foundations of social studies and geography through an in-depth study of Asia

    •90% of my students experienced at least 2 grade levels of growth in Social Studies as measured on the Stanford 9 exam in 2003.

    •95% of my students passed the reading portion of the 2002 TAAS test; 25% were recognized with Commended Performance.

    •100% of my students experienced at least 1.5 grade levels of reading growth as measured by the Scholastic Reading Inventory

It may not be in TFA’s best interest for its alumni to seem to be wielding too much influence over American public education, though such influence is exactly what TFA and its related nonprofit, Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) want. (For a good dose of TFA’s classroom-thin, admin-and-policy-heavy, leadership grab, see Ceronsky’s October 2012 American Prospect article, “Teach for America’s Deep Bench.”)

It might also be awkward for Serafin to explain why a nonprofit that she founded would choose to purge her name from its history. Such explanation could dance too close to admitting ed-reform failure; still, it is interesting that Serafin’s complete TFA history is what is omitted from Serafin’s IDEA bios.

Even so, former TFA exec Serafin has found another place, and its a virtually guaranteed success for years, since IDEA’s Houston-area charter schools are not yet open:

In December, 2017, the IDEA Public Schools Board granted approval for IDEA Public Schools to begin expansion to Houston, with plans to open four schools in 2020 and 16 additional schools over six years.

It’s only 2019. IDEA Greater Houston remains just that– an idea– and it provides Serafin– or Allison S.– another opportunity of her own.

What is true is that ed reformers can flit from venture to venture; if one sparkling market-ed venture all but fizzles for whatever reason (funding drop; policy change; personal needs), the dedicated corporate reformer (especially a TFA-launched *leader*) can often find a new place to land– yet another new venture, which might be an extension of another venture– just so long as market-ed-reform-favoring billionaires and millionaires are willing to front much of the cash.

flying cash


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

Cary Booker Surprised to be Legally Held to His Charter School’s Application

On July 11, 2019, published a story about Cary Booker, Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker’s brother: “Cory Booker’s Brother Opened a School So Bad It Got Shut Down. N.J. Just Gave Him a $150K Education Job.”


Cary Booker

Some excerpts:

It was spring of 2011, and Omni Prep Academy, the Tennessee charter school co-founded and led by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s older brother, could no longer pay its kindergarten and first-grade teachers….

Five years after that — with the school consistently ranked near the bottom of state rankings — Omni Prep was ordered to close. …

Omni Prep, which primarily served minority children in one of America’s poorest metro areas, was ordered to close by Shelby County Schools in 2016. Its appeal to the state was rejected, with a top Tennessee education official writing the school “continually failed to meet the most minimal of performance standards.” …

After working as a policy consultant on [New Jersey governor Phil] Murphy’s campaign in 2017, Cary Booker became the administration’s senior education adviser in 2018, earning $120,000. This June, six days before Murphy stumped for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign in Iowa, the Democratic governor’s administration awarded Cary Booker a new $150,000 position leading the state’s Division of Early Childhood Education, which focuses on birth to third grade.

Yet Cary Booker has never worked in preschools in any capacity, and his primary experience with young elementary school students was at Omni Prep, according to a resume obtained through an open records request. …

A resume provided to New Jersey’s state government made no mention of Omni Prep’s closing. …

In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy expressed confidence in Cary Booker, who has worked in education-related jobs for 30 years….

So much is problematic here and yet unsurprising in this heyday of market-based ed reform. Cary Booker failed in a charter school venture and yet is promoted to a top post for which he has no direct experience, just “education-related jobs,” one of which he failed at– and apparently also failed to mention on his resume.

But he is the brother of Cory Booker, and that appears to be enough.

Cary Booker, who with Marc Willis (son of Memphis civil rights leader A.W. Willis) opened not one, but two charter schools in Memphis in 2010 (“a first in Memphis”) and whose schools did not live up to the goals declared in the schools’ charters.

As the May 18, 2016, Commercial Appeal notes, Booker and Willis appealed to the Tennessee State Board of Education to keep their schools open after Shelby County Schools (SCS) determined the schools failed and should close.

The standard that SCS used to determine Omni Prep’s failure were the promises made by Booker and Willis in their charter application.

For some reason, this surprised Booker– as though he and Willis should have been able to declare lofty goals in their application in order to schmooze SCS into allowing them to open the two schools (“a first in Memphis,” no doubt) and then be free from following through with these same goals.

Cary Booker’s reaction, as captured in the Commercial Appeal article:

At the center of the charters’ arguments Wednesday were accusations of a lack of revocation procedures and transparency, but also whether SCS should use the charters’ own aspirational goals as a measure of accountability. For instance, Omni Prep said in its application that 95 percent of its students who have been at the school for at least two years would test as proficient or advanced on both math and English on state tests.

Neither charter has a signed contract with SCS. Omni Prep co-founder Cary Booker said if the charter had signed a contract, the school district would have demanded a share of the per-pupil state funding that would go to that school.

SCS Chief of Innovation Brad Leon said without that contract, the application the charter filed to open its schools acts as the contract, according to the state attorney general.

Leon argued that means they can be legally held to standards set forth in their application.

“They are putting in their own contracts what they are going to accomplish,” Leon said. “No one here is forcing them to do that. And then to suggest that ‘We can’t be held accountable to what we put in our application,’ is irresponsible, I think.”

When asked after the meeting if the charter would have put in such high numbers if they were going to be legally bound to them, Booker said “probably not.”

“If that was going to be the measure of accountability, I don’t think we would have,” he said.


Isn’t the whole hooplah about charter school autonomy-accountability supposed to be that *charters are granted autonomy to be free from district oversight but are held to strict accountability to meet the terms of their chartering documents*?

The reality is that Booker and Willis set themselves up with a charter application sell that they could not fulfill, and Cary Booker– the same Cary Booker who has decades of “education-related jobs” to fall back on– wanted to weasel out of the terms of his own charter application and be allowed to keep his charter schools going, just because.

It wasn’t as though the “95 percent proficiency” goal was unmet but close. According to the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDE) 2015 Charter Schools Report, Omni Prep North Pointe Middle School had 31 percent proficiency in math and 29 percent proficiency in reading, and Omni Prep North Pointe Lower School had 14 percent proficiency in both math and reading.

Not anywhere near the 95 percent promised in the charter application– but enough to be labeled a “priority”….

In October 2016, in its project narrative for the US Department of Education charter school grants to state agencies, TDE wrote, “There are currently no poor-performing charter schools operating in Tennessee” (p. 30). TDE explains that statement by highlighting four “priority schools” ( a euphemism for poor performers) that are no more– two of which were Booker and Willis’ Omni Prep schools:

There are currently no poor-performing charter schools operating in Tennessee

The most recent priority school list was approved by the SBE on August 26, 2014. This was considered the 2015 priority school list. Four charter schools were designated priority schools: City University Boys Preparatory, Omni Prep Academy – North Point Lower School, Omni Prep Academy – North Pointe Middle School, and Southern Avenue Middle. City University Boys Preparatory demonstrated significant progress in the 2014-15 school year, such that it exceeded the 15th percentile of one-year success rates when ranked against other eligible schools in the state. This school has exited the priority school list and is no longer considered a priority school. All three other charter schools identified as priority schools on the 2015 list were recommended for closure by the authorizer. Just recently each school appealed to the SBE, and the SBE upheld the authorizers’ decision to close these schools. Tennessee authorizers are clearly moving toward closure of academically poor-performing schools and the SBE is upholding those decisions. Of the four charter schools named as priority schools on the last published 2015 list, three are closed and one is no longer on the priority list. This means that Tennessee currently does not have any academically poor-performing charter schools according to the definition in the federal register.

The fact that both Omni Prep schools made a formal state listing of only four total “poor-performers-but-they’re-gone-now” is nothing to tout on an ed-reform resume.

So let’s just omit it.  Let’s just forget the whole affair ever happened and ride the Booker name into six-figures as a “senior educational advisor” and then as leader of a freshly-created, state-level, early childhood education division.

I wonder if the position involves drafting impressive applications that you don’t really mean. If so, then Cary Booker has experience, after all.

fingers crossed


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

Dem Candidates: Charter-School-Enabled *Profiteering* Is the Problem. What’s Your Plan?

Some Democratic hopefuls for the 2020 presidency have taken to saying that they do not support “for-profit charter schools.” (See here and here and here.)

On July 07, 2019, Network for Public Education (NPE) executive director, Carol Burris, called them out for promoting a false distinction. Below is Burris’ commentary, in part:

When Democratic candidates are questioned about charter schools, many typically reply, “I am against for-profit charter schools.” Everyone cheers. Politicians have created a convenient (and false) dichotomy that says nonprofit charter schools are good, and for-profit charter schools are bad.

Don’t be fooled. There are now only 2 states that allow for-profit charter schools—Arizona and Wisconsin. California changed  its laws. 

However, 35 states allow for-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOS) to run their nonprofit charter schools. …

The question candidates need to answer then are:

 “Do you support for-profit Charter Management Organizations, and if you do not, what are you going to do about them?” …

There is a reason the charter lobby never complains when a candidate says that he/she is against for-profit charter schools. It means nothing will change.

What Burris demonstrates is that there are layers to profiteering off of charter schools, with the term “nonprofit” being a key distractor to layered profiteering.

The for-profit CMO behind the “nonprofit” charter school is one such example, but there are others.

For instance, consider the California-based Today’s Fresh Start Charter School (TFSCS) chain, which is a nonprofit that lists Jeanette Parker as its founder and CEO (see here also).

According to TFSCS’ own 2017 audit, TFSCS lists the following “related party transaction” in which CEO Jeanette Parker leases facilities from Los Angeles School Services, Inc., though the TFSCS audit does not name the “related party”:

The charter school leases some of its facilities from Los Angeles Schools Services Inc., a California non-profit corporation. The property is owned by a related party of the charter school who leases the property to the California non-profit corporation. The rent in the amount of $810,201 for year ended June 30, 2017 was paid to the California non-profit corporation. …

Future minimum lease payments to this related party as of June 30, 2017 are as follows:

Year Ending June 30

2018        $755,616
2019          755,616
2020          755,616
2021          755,616

$ 3,022,464

The CEO of Los Angeles Schools Services, Inc., is Clark Parker, Janice Parker’s husband.

In an article entitled, “How a Couple Worked Charter School Regulations to Make Millions,” the March 27, 2019, Los Angeles Times reports how the Parkers are paying themselves for charter school property, and more:

The Parkers have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have “devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.”

But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation found.

The April 15, 2019, Canyon News reports that Clark Parker resigned as Southern Coast Air Quality vice-chair as a result of the scandal created by his and his wife’s CA-charter, self-dealing:

Today’s Fresh Start charter school founder Clark Parker will resign from his role as the Southern Coast Air Quality Vice Chairman in wake of an investigation by the Los Angeles Times. Parker is slated to vacate the role on April 30. The LA Times first reported on Clark and his wife in a story published on March 27. …

Parker was paid $800,000 in annual rent charter schools, and hired Clark who was paid $575,000 to manage the schools construction project which he denies the allegations.

The 2017 TFSCS audit mentions the construction contract; however, the company name it provided, California Construction Management, Inc., produces no viable, active-company results in a business entity search with the California Secretary of State (CA SOS).

However, the Parkers’ self-dealing with charter school rent is clear. Los Angeles Schools Services, Inc., is on file with the CA SOS, and it lists Clark Parker as CEO. Moreover, according to the IRS, the organization (under the slightly different spelling, “Los Angeles School Service”) was a nonprofit for only three months, having been granted nonprofit status on May 01, 2015, and then having it revoked on August 15, 2017, for failure to file a return.

In fact, the TFSCS tax returns are suspiciously thin on information: They are astoundlingly weak in sections that require written descriptions of activities and policies; for example, on the TFSCS 2017 return, under “mission,” there is only a single word, “education; on its Schedule O, under “documents available to public”: “No documents available to the public”; under “review process”: “No review was or will be conducted.” Furthermore, the 2016 TFSCS tax return omits mentioning CEO Jeanette Parker’s salary altogether and lists all board members as contributing “0.0” hrs/wk.

So, what this TFSCS situation demonstrates is that charter school operators can self-deal by working charter school laws to their own greedy favor; that the can do so using multiple nonprofits, and that their closure is not a given; TFSCS continues to operate three schools, with Jeanette Parker listed as superintendent.

It is time for Democratic presidential hopefuls to answer the question, “What is your plan to confront charter school-enabled profiteering?”

Let’s hear what they have to say to that.



Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? 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.

Parent Sues over New Orleans Charter High School Grade-fixing Fiasco

A New Orleans charter high school operated by New Beginnings Schools, John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area, is in the throes of a grade-fixing scandal that has resulted in at least 92 out of 177 (that’s 52 percent) of its Class of 2019 deemed ineligible to graduate after all.

One of the consequences of this collosal display of the ineptitude in overseeing New Orleans charter schools is that the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) superintendent Henderson Lewis has made the post-scandal decision to audit the student records of all New Orleans high schools.

Lewis has also asked the Louisiana’s inpector general to conduct a criminal investigation into Kennedy’s grade-fixing mess.

I wondered how long it would take for parents of Kennedy seniors to sue. Well, I need not wonder any more.

According to, on Monday, July 01, 2019, Darnette Daniels, the parent of a Kennedy senior who participated in Kennedy’s graduation ceremony then discovered she was not eligible to graduate, Tayler McClendon, did just that. On behalf of her daughter, Daniels is suing the State of Louisiana, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), OPSB, New Beginnings Schools Foundation, and TenSquare, LLC, a charter school support organization involved in the management of Kennedy.

One can view the 14-page lawsuit here: Daniels-v-New-Beginnings;

Daniels’ lawsuit details the chaos at Kennedy, including its impact on her daughter. Below, I offer the much of the text of the lawsuit. (Copies of emails referenced in the suit can be seen by accessing the link to the suit.)

First, the general backstory:

In March 2019, news reporter David Hammer broke a story regarding students’ grades  being changed at John F. Kennedy High School (hereinafter called “Kennedy”) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The grade fixing allegations surfaced after Runnell King, a former data director, alleged he was wrongfully terminated for alerting the board that employees at Kennedy had manually changed grades for several students who took former-Kennedy teacher Gloria Love’s Algebra III class. King accused employees of changing F’s to D’s and D’s to C’s on the students’ records. Love had left her position before the allegations were made public. After the initial news report, more allegations came up when seniors who thought they were graduating learned they couldn’t because of falsely inflated grades

On April 1, 2019, Defendant NEW BEGINNINGS suspended CEO Michelle Blouin-Williams with pay and empowered Board President Raphael Gang to hire an educational management service. He entered into a contract with consulting group Defendant TENSQUARE on April 11, 2019. NEW BEGINNINGS also hired investigators with the law firm Adams and Reese to look into the allegations about grade-changing and a questionable bus contract.

In mid-April, Defendant NEW BEGINNINGS’ administrator Lauren Coleman told Defendant TENSQUARE’s staff that the network’s internal deadline for a graduate list was May 3, 2019. In an April 26, 2019 email, Meghan Turner (employee of TENSQUARE) told Brian Gibson (employee of NEW BEGINNINGS) the team still needed information. “As you can see below, we are missing several reports needed to identify seniors’ graduation status and incomplete items.” Brian Gibson then forwarded the email to his team at Kennedy. “Guys please give me an update on your parts of this. I need this behind us.” (Footnote: It is noteworthy that Brian Gibson had been suspended while an assistant principal at Landry-Walker High  School after a separate cheating scandal in 2016 before moving on to coach basketball at Southern University in  New Orleans. He started as principal of Kennedy in the 2018-2019 school year.)

In early May 2019, one month after the board hired Defendant TENSQUARE, Meghan Turner (employee of TENSQUARE) and Laney French (employee of TENSQUARE) identified nine distinct issues at Kennedy that had to be dealt with in order for seniors to graduate. On the same day, May 8, 2019, Kennedy Assistant Principal Nicole Cooper sent an all-staff email at 1:32pm titled “URGENT: Senior teachers – grade verification sheets needed by 2 pm.”

In a lengthy email, Meghan Turner laid out the problems. The school would need to address students with failing grades and others who had incorrect coding for their classes. Some students’ transcripts failed to note they had previously made up coursework in Kennedy’s remedial program, GradPoint. Others were still actively making up course work. Some students who transferred to Kennedy mid-way through high school had incomplete transcripts. Other students lacked final grades from previous semesters or were waiting on final grades in the spring semester. Some were waiting for results from end-of-course exams. Students are required to pass three end-of-course exams to graduate in Louisiana. They must pass English, Math and either Social Studies of Science. Internal emails indicate that there was confusion regarding who would serve as testing coordinator and have the difficult task of talking to seniors about their test scores. Additionally, some students had exceeded the state’s absence limit. Internal emails indicate that Kennedy’s policies on makeup seat time were unclear.

On May 9, 2019, one week before graduation, Kathy Padian, a TENSQUARE Partner who opened the company’s New Orleans office in 2015, emailed Brian Gibson to explain how senior certification was progressing. “Due to the sudden departure of your counselor and her apparent lack of completion of many tasks prior to leaving, I asked Meghan and later Delaney French to assist” in certifying seniors for graduation, Padian wrote. “We have concerns about the lack of data for many students and even though we are very late in the game, with graduation happening next week, we must do everything possible to confirm which students have and have not met the requirements.” That day, Brian Gibson asked the team to focus on transcripts and graduation eligibility for the top 15 students.

On May 14, 2019, three days before graduation, Laney French said 95 seniors were eligible to graduate, 30 had not met requirements, and she had 50 left to verify.”

On May 16, 2019, a contractor reviewing Kennedy’s student transcripts sent an email to administrators at the Defendant NEW BEGINNINGS including lists of 15 “pending” graduates and 12 “non-grads.” It said, “Please tell me asap if I am wrong about any student’s status,” wrote Laney French (employee of TENSQUARE).

That email, obtained by The Lens through state public records law, is one of dozens that show how administrators and contractors at the charter network scrambled to audit seniors’ graduation eligibility in the weeks leadings up to- and even after- the school’s May 17, 2019 graduation ceremony, which amounted to a complete farce for many graduates. The emails also show rising Defendant NEW BEGINNINGS’ employees and Defendant TENSQUARE’s employees as the contractors discovered more and more problems.

The task, dubbed “Senior Graduation Project,” was a multi-faceted audit that required reviewing grades, attendance, transcripts and state exam scores among other things. The 690-student school had 168 seniors in the official state count taken on February 1, 2019. These are necessary steps to determine a student’s graduation eligibility, though many steps, like tallying credits from freshman, sophomore and junior years, can happen earlier.

To add to the problems facing Kennedy, the high school’s counselor resigned with two weeks to go in the school year, and contractors found multiple problems throughout students’ records. In some instances, students had received two credits for a one-credit course. In other instances, there were wrongful acts of grade-inflation where administrators were accused of improperly changing some students grades from failing to passing. In other instances, students who were encouraged to take online classes in a program called “grad point” were not properly supervised by certified teachers, which resulted in no credit being applied for the work.

Piling onto the problems, in the aftermath of these discoveries, the CEO Blouin-Williams and five administrators “resigned.”

In the days leading up to the graduation ceremony, seniors and their parents were advised that most of the class would not be receiving diplomas at graduation because they had credits to make up. At the “graduation ceremony” held on May 17, 2019, the school’s blue-and-gold graduation program lists 155 names under the heading “John F. Kennedy High School Class of 2019.” Then-principal Brian Gibson advised that students were not going to be issued diplomas; instead, they were advised that their diplomas could be picked up at the school the following Monday. At 9 p.m. that night, six hours after graduation, a contract employee told Brian Gibson diplomas could not be issued on Monday. “No diplomas will be issued until everything is verified and resolved,” she wrote. On graduation day, emails show that determinations of ineligibility to graduate were still occurring.

The foregoing email (see lawsuit) shows that one hour and twenty minutes before the graduation ceremony, the school staff were emailing back and forth about a student who was missing an English III end-of-course test.

Three hours before graduation, Assistant Principal Nicole Cooper wrote to Lacy French (employee of TENSQUARE) about her concern over how the valedictorian and salutatorian’s grade point averages were calculated. “I don’t know what to advise,” French replied. “Historical grade data is riddled with errors that might be affecting the GPA but I can’t be certain because this is not something I’ve dealt with before.” French advised waiting until the audit was complete but acknowledged that couldn’t be achieved by 3 pm when the graduation ceremony began.”

On May 18, 2019, Brian Gibson (former Kennedy Principal) wrote to contractors asking why administrators had lost access to PowerSchool, Kennedy’s online gradebook. The records obtained by The Lens did not explain why employees were cut off from the platform.

Students had been told to pick up diplomas from Kennedy on May 20, 2019, the Monday after graduation. But that date kept getting pushed back. Diplomas were not issued the week of May 20 or the week after that. At a NEW BEGINNINGS Board Meeting, students and parents were begging for diplomas, transcripts and information. At the meeting, Board President Raphael Gang said the group was working as hard as it could.

On May 21, 2019, Kennedy had still not cleared up the status and confusion over GradPoint credits, transfer transcript corrections and updates on class credits for Spanish courses. In an email that day, French wrote, “There are massive inconsistencies with grades and attendance.”

On May 22, 2019, Turner asked for a list of students who needed summer remediation or to make up end-of-course tests.

On June 28, 2019, for the first time since allegations of grade tampering at Kennedy, the Orleans Parish School Board Superintendent addressed students and parents about the situation saying: “First and foremost, on behalf of this District, I would lie (sp.: like) to apologize due to the careless and reckless actions of adults they trusted at John F. Kennedy. You were undeserved and misled. You should be celebrating your senior graduation this month, but instead you have been forced to question the certainty of your future.”

And now, the impact of the Kennedy gross ineptitude upon Tayler McClendon, including backstory and terrible consequences:

Plaintiff TAYLER MCCLENDON was recruited to transfer from Slidell High to John F. Kennedy in her junior year. She and her mother were advised that she could take online classes through GradPoint and graduate in May 2019 – a year early. Relying upon this representation, Plaintiff TAYLER MCCLENDON transferred to Kennedy. She worked diligently many nights until midnight taking online classes from the comfort of her home. Her plan was to graduate in May 2019 from Kennedy and to enroll in a full-time program at Aveda to become a licensed hair stylist. Believing that she was graduating, she toured Aveda, completed the applications including applications for enrollment and financial aid applications. Her applications were just missing her diploma and transcript. Her Aveda classes were scheduled to begin on June 19, 2019.

Two days before graduation, Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON and her mother Plaintiff DARNETTE DANIELS, were advised that none of the credits that Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON had completed online would be recognized because they were not performed in the presence of a certified teacher. Prior to this disclosure, Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON had never been advised that the online classes needed to be performed in the classroom in front of a certified teacher. All of her hard work, all of her sacrifice, had been performed for nothing. Her transfer to Kennedy had been performed in vain.

In anticipation of graduation, Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON’s family members travelled to New Orleans from other states. The entire family had joyfully anticipated her graduation. She had participated in all of the things seniors enjoy, i.e. senior pictures.. senior rings.. senior prom.. and, yes, she walked the stage in a “graduation ceremony.” People gave her graduation presents and congratulatory words of encouragement. And, then in the weeks after graduation, Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON was advised that she needed to attend summer school and needed to return to school in August to complete her senior year because she could not make up all of the credits in one summer. Indeed, she had not graduated at all.

Plaintiff TAYLOR MCCLENDON has suffered extreme anxiety, depression, emotional distress, financial losses, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of an opportunity for higher education, and other damages to be shown at trial. She has been forever robbed of favorable memory celebrating her achievement as a high school graduate. There will always be a stain on her high school transcript that she must explain to educational institutions and future employers.

The suit continues with assertions, including those of “gross mismanagement”:

Plaintiffs assert that the Defendants’ gross mismanagement of Kennedy High School
including inability to maintain staff and teachers; overuse of substitute teachers; financial mismanagement; falsification of contracts that affect school operations; gross negligence in not knowing policies and practices of the Louisiana Department of Education regarding successful matriculation from high school – policies and procedures that competent administrators and teachers should have known; gross negligence in providing students with information regarding graduation credits and GradPoint that caused them to fail; and other acts of negligence to be proven at trial.

The suit also notes “a putative class of persons similarly situated,” which means Daniels’ suit could well turn class action.

Finally (in this post), the list of damages:

Plaintiff and a putative class of persons similar situated seeks damages as follows:

a) All past, present and future costs and/or expenses of senior year, including senior budgets, senior rings, senior photographs, graduation parties, and other senior year and graduation related expenditures;

b) All past, present and future mental suffering and emotional distress;

c) All past, present and future loss of enjoyment of life;

d) All past, present and future deprivation of college placement and scholarship opportunities;

e) All past, present and future deprivation of technical school placement and scholarship opportunities;

f) Loss of quality of life;

g) Damage to reputation;

h) All other forms of relief provided by law or equity together with interest from the date of judicial demand until paid, and costs of these proceedings.

Given that 91 other Kennedy seniors were entangled in this nightmare, I expect this lawsuit to become a class action.

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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.

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