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Nikki Haley, Fire and Fury, Rex Tillerson, and More.

Heads up: It’s political!

A skit that was part of the Grammys has drawn notable attention from UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley. The skit involves individuals reading excerpts from Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury.

Haley is upset over what the Washington Post refers to as “a thin rumor put forth by Wolff following the release of his book.” I saw a section of an interview in which Wolff slyly implies that his book includes rumors about a sexual relationship between Haley and Trump. I was disappointed to see him feed the rumor in his interview. I have seen him in several interviews, and having read Fire and Fury in its entirety, I think his demeanor in interviews does the credibility of his book no favors.

I also saw Haley on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. In responding to the rumor, Haley said that she has only been on Air Force One one time, with other members of Trump’s cabinet.

I saw the Tapper interview prior to reading the Haley section in the book, which is not centered on a supposed affair between Haley and Trump. In fact, what I would have liked to hear Haley address is whether she has any knowledge of being considered as a replacement for Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and whether she began cultivating a friendship with Ivanka Trump following her (Haley’s) appointment as UN ambassador and, as Wolff directly states, in an effort to advance her political career.

Below is the entire section from Wolff’s Fire and Fury in which Haley is mentioned (pages 304-306 in the Kindle version). I invite readers to decide whether Haley is wronged by the information included therein and whether Wolff’s book is indeed the “trash” that Haley tweeted in reference to the Grammys skit.

There were really no illusions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. [Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s long-suffering antipathy toward the president was rivaled only by his scorn for the president’s family– “[Trump’s son-in-law, Jared] Kushner,” he pronounced, was “insubordinate.” [Chief Economic Advisor Gary] Cohn’s derisive contempt for Kushner as well as the president was even greater. In return, the president heaped more abuse on Cohn– the former president of Goldman Sachs was now “a complete idiot, dumber than dumb.” In fact, the president had also stopped defending his own family, wondering when they would “take the hint and go home.”

But, of course, this was still politics: those who could overcome shame or disbelief– and, despite a  Trumpian coarseness and absurdity, suck up to him and humor him– might achieve unique political advantage. As it happened, few could.

By October, however, many on the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN Ambassador.  Haley– “as ambitious as Lucifer,” in the characterization of one senior member of the staff– had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent. Haley had courted and befriended [Trump’s daughter] Ivanka, and Ivanka had brought her into the family circle, where she had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers. Haley, as had become increasingly evident to the wider foreign policy and national security team, was the family’s pick for secretary of state after Rex Tillerson’s inevitable resignation. (Likewise, in this shuffle, Dina Powell would replace Haley at the UN.)

The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley aboard Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future. Haley, who was much more of a traditional Republican, one with a pronounced moderate streak– a type increasingly known as Jarvanka [“Jared and Ivanka”] Republican– was, evident to many, being mentored in Trumpian ways. The danger here, offered one senior Trumper, “is that she is so much smarter than him.”

What now existed, even before the end of the president’s first year, was an effective power vacuum. The president, in his failure to move beyond daily chaos, had hardly seized the day. But, as sure as politics, someone would.

In that sense, the Trumpian and Republican future was already moving beyond this White House. There was Bannon, working from the outside and trying to take over the Trump movement. There was the Republican leadership in Congress, trying to stymie Trumpism– if not slay it. There was John McCain, doing his best to embarrass it. There was the special counsel’s office, pursuing the president and many of those around him.

The stakes were very clear to Bannon. Haley, quite an un-Trumpian figure, but by far the closest of any of his cabinet members to him, might, with clever political wiles, entice Trump to hand her the Trumpian revolution. Indeed, fearing Haley’s hold on the president, Bannon’s side had– the very morning that Bannon had stood on the steps of the Breitbart town house [following his exit as Trump’s chief strategist] in the unseasonable October weather– gone into overdrive to push the CIA’s Mike Pompeo for State after Tillerson’s departure.

It was all part of the next stage of Trumpism– to protect it from Trump.

So, is Haley biding her time as a deferential Trump supporter? Is Haley offering the “requisite submission” to keep her political career moving onward and upward?

In attempting to answer those questions, one might also consider Haley’s official response to Trump’s State of the Union, as tweeted below:

My thoughts? Reads like “requisite submission” to me. That doesn’t mean for a minute that I read Wolff’s account of Haley and thought, “Haley must be sleeping with Trump.” Given Trump’s established history of brazenly exploiting and demeaning women absent any remorse and accountability, I do wonder how Haley could stand to experience any direct attention from Trump, period. I would feel decidedly uncomfortable dealing directly with Trump, even if others were present.

I would wonder how I could resist using the “trash” term first and foremost on Trump and how, if I didn’t, I could think for a moment that I possessed the leverage to use the term on anyone else, ever.

That is the trick-of-conscience that individuals must make in accepting a Trump administration position: the turning of many blind eyes. But even that does not guarantee security in a Trump appointment– which provides a suitable segue to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On February 01, 2018, published an article entitled, “There’s No Happy Ending for Rex Tillerson,” (The article’s author, Derek Chollet, “served in the Barack Obama administration for six years in senior positions at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, most recently as the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs,” according to his bio at the end of the article.)

Some excerpts:

A year ago, Rex Tillerson stood in the Oval Office and was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State. Since then, most of the talk has been about when he’ll leave. He got off to the worst start of any Secretary of State in modern history — beginning by taking a job he didn’t really want for a boss he’d never met — enduring a cascade of stories about everything from his anemic management, troubles with the career diplomatic corps, hollowing out of the bureaucracy, and tensions with the White House. Although often considered one of the adults tempering the President’s nastiest instincts, Tillerson’s Washington obituary has been ready for a while.

Yet he’s still around. Instead of quitting (as was widely rumored he would last summer), or being fired and replaced by Mike Pompeo (as reportedly the White House has a plan on the shelf to do), Tillerson is hanging on. …

…Despite the personal admiration foreign diplomats express for Tillerson — he is said to be a diligent, steady interlocutor — few believe his State Department is where one goes to find out what’s really going on or to get big decisions made. …

Tillerson is a proud man, and he has endured more humiliations at the hands of his own administration than any Secretary of State ever has or should. His few remaining defenders have a point when they argue that by working for Trump, he’s in an impossible position. …

So far, Tillerson’s accomplishments are few, and perhaps his greatest one is that he hasn’t been fired or quit.

Chollet sees Pompeo as Tillerson’s replacement– the choice that former Trump chief strategist and noted conservative extremist, Steve Bannon, supports, according to Wolff.

We’ll see,

As for Haley, thus far, she has managed to stay out of Trump’s line of fire. But there was an awkward moment in April 2017:

CNN followed up with this story on the Haley-Trump awkward moment, excerpted below:

(CNN) At a lunch at the White House on Monday with more than a dozen UN ambassadors,President Trump poked some fun at his own UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“Does everybody like Nikki?” Trump asked the assembled ambassadors as Haley sat by his side. Amid laughter Trump added: “Otherwise, she can easily be replaced.”

Cue awkward laughter.

Now, Trump was joking. And everyone in the room — including Haley — understood that. But, that doesn’t mean he was entirely kidding. …

This “joke” about Haley certainly seems to be in keeping with Trump’s long-standing practice of keeping his people guessing.

…We know that Trump doesn’t like when people around him start getting too much positive attention. And, Haley fits that description perfectly. She’s largely won positive reviews in her role, particularly for an impassioned speech she gave at the United Nations following the gassing of civilians by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Haley is, without question, the early star of the Trump administration. Heck, there are already rumors about Haley as a future presidential candidate herself!

That does not sit well with Trump, who doesn’t share the spotlight well or easily.

It makes one wonder how public attention to Haley’s place in Wolff’s book will play out for Haley. It’s a mixed bag: On one hand, Haley has publicly denounced Wolff’s book. On the other hand, she did so by decrying any sexually inappropriate behavior with a man whose personal history is laden with inappropriate sexual behavior. And finally– and perhaps worst of all in Trump’s estimation– Haley has been tagged as using Trump to advance her own political career– and Trump is a man whose tweeted words, if nothing else, have made it clear that 1) winning, 2) not being perceived as being used or taken, and 3) being known as first and best, are everything.

trump.jpeg  Donald Trump


Florida’s 2018 Education Savings Accounts a Vehicle for “A La Carte” Education

The following information is from veteran Ohio art teacher and public education activist, Laura H. Chapman and was included as a comment to my post, “USDOE’s New Idea: Student Loan Debit Cards.”

Chapman’s comment concerns the use of education savings accounts (ESAs), a “back door” voucher program in which public money is deposited into “government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses.”

It seems that Florida is taking the market-based ed reform idea a step further in allowing how ESA money is spent beginning in 2018.

Below is a slightly-edited version on Chapman’s original comment, including a number of links added:

Educations Savings Accounts, promoted by Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos, and others are being migrated into a platform for a la carte education.

This year (January 2018) Florida will have in place an on-line user-friendly marketplace for education with a catalog of products and services eligible for purchase by parents and authorized caregivers. The platform, called MyScholarShop, will resemble Amazon, complete with parent/caregiver reviews of the authorized fare. It is not yet clear who is in charge of approving the products and services in the on-line catalog. The press release says parents: “will simply go online to the pre-approved catalog and “Pick It, Click It, Ship It.” The cost will be taken directly from their education savings account. Supplies, if ordered, will be delivered to customer-provided address.

This project has been in the works with (and is trademarked by) Step Up For Students, the Florida agency that distributes money earmarked for Gardiner Scholarships. These state-funded scholarships are for special education—nearly 10,000 students (autism spectrum disorder, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and spina bifida) who, on average, are allocated $10,000 each per year. These approved services include private school tuition and fees, private tutoring, occupational therapy, instructional materials and other services.

Step Up For Students also manages the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Students qualify if they participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program. Students may also qualify if they are homeless, in foster or out-of-home care. These scholarships can be used to offset the transportation cost to an out-of-district public school or for help with tuition to a private school. When those students are included (no date indicated, but in the school year 2017-2018) the MyScholarShop direct-pay platform will serve about 115,000 students with the prospect of saving the labor and cost of printing about 500,000 checks under the old system.

The system will include a product and service-provider rating system “so families can assist each other in making appropriate selections for their children.”
The MyScholarShop platform is described as a Partnership with SAP Ariba and Premikati.

SAP Ariba is a cloud-based system of business management, with analytics that track inventory (supplier information), performance (sales), software solutions for creating digital invoices, and tracking cash flow. Features of SAP Ariba are available in four pricing tiers. All tiers have transaction fees, based on the volume of annual financial transactions with customers. All tiers also have a subscription fee, based on the number of documents in your annual transactions with customers, and your use of technology. SAP Ariba is designed to help “suppliers connect with profitable customers’ among other business services (provided in 190 countries, with three million companies).

Premikati, Inc. provides services that cut red tape for users of the SAP Ariba platform (e.g., planning, financial, contract management, legal). According to the website, Premikati has a new line of business (see footnote), a national Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) for K-12 education and for non-profits. A GPO is designed to secure discounts with select vendors by leveraging the collective purchasing power of its members.

States that are legislating vouchers, scholarships, tax credits, and other per-student payment systems are likely to see the MyScholarShop platform as an efficient way to manage the distribution of funds and with a digital trail of who spends the allotted funds on which products and services. So far, it is not clear whether student privacy is protected. Big data could be sold (made into gold).

The MyScholarShop has the potential of becoming the go-to place for parents/caregivers/students to spend public money—vouchers, tax credits, scholarships, per-student allocations of public funds in addition to discounted merchandise that might be organized by brands (e.g., Montessori). Some charter schools have formed non-profits functioning much like GPOs (e.g., Summit) and some entrepreneurs (e.g. Alt-School, WeWork ) want to sell their patched together curriculum materials and/or software.

I think MyScholarShop is ripe for corruption. I have not found information about who qualifies as a “vendor” and how. If customer ratings enter into an approval/endorsement process, then some additional criteria should be in place to prevent rigging the ratings (e.g., “If you give me a great rating, I will give you three free lessons on the guitar”).

I can imagine an expansion of MyScholarShop into the marketing space called Great Data on school performance, including on-line programs is posted there with a convoluted rating scheme for “school quality.” For a fee, companies can lease the data and push products. In addition to charter schools networks, Zillow pays to lease the data (perpetuating redlining). For a minimum fee of $5000 you can put custom ads that target options such as zip code, grade level and content. Advertisements for education related ballot issues can be purchased, subject to approval.

Major “supporters” and funders of are known for being friendly to market-based education: Walton Family Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, the Leona M. and Harry B Hemsley Charitable Trust, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Those are the biggies, but there are 14 others.

To gain a sense of as an ed reform vehicle, consider that Peter Cunningham is on its board of directors:

Peter Cunningham is the Executive Director of Education Post, a Chicago-based non-profit communications organization promoting efforts to improve public education. Previously, Peter was President of Cunningham Communications, a Chicago-based communications company serving public, private and non-profit sector clients. He is also affiliated with Whiteboard Advisors, a DC-based education policy and research firm. He recently served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administration’s first term. Prior to that he worked with Arne Duncan when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. For several years Peter was affiliated with the political consulting firm Axelrod and Associates, and also served for five years in the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

MyScholarShop and are helping approved advertisers reach parents and students. In theory “the market” decides which products and services are “worthy” of purchase, even if these have little documented value or are outright quackery.

As this taxpayer-funded, education storefront proceeds, the public will also learn (possibly via costly lesson) just how much quackery it will vend in the name of *choice.*



I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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

USDOE’s New Idea: Student Loan Debit Cards

On January 19, 2018, the US Department of Education (USDOE) issued this pre-solicitation notice of a pilot program involving issuing student loan balances via debit card:

This is a PRE-SOLICITATION NOTICE to announce the anticipated release of a solicitation for contractor support for Federal Student Aid (FSA)’s Payment Card Program Pilot on or about February 2, 2018 and to share a draft of the solicitation.

FSA intends to launch a FSA Payment Card (“FSA Payment Card Program”) to facilitate FSA loan refunds, along with other funds, originated by participating schools. Currently, FSA loan money is received directly by the Institutions of Higher Learning whereby schools apply those funds to student accounts for tuition and fees. The Institutions of Higher Learning then refund the overage to the student which is accomplished in a variety of ways: cards, ACH, manual checks, and even cash disbursements.

The purpose of the FSA Payment Card Program Pilot (“Pilot”) is to test, with a select number of schools, an FSA Payment Card whereby federal student loan customers (“Customers”) will have a consistent, economically advantageous and timely method to receive FSA loan refunds. To meet FSA’s “best possible” approach to customers’ needs, the Program Pilot will likely require a unique card product, different from existing credit, debit, or prepaid cards and checking accounts. FSA’s focus for the Pilot would be delivering the FSA Payment Card Program for current, in-college student customers who receive regular refunds of FSA student loans throughout the year.

More details regarding the Program and the requirements of the anticipated contract can be found in the attached draft document.

The linked, 14-page draft document details of the program, including defining “program manager” as “the party responsible for providing a turnkey solution – the combination of Issuing Bank, Processor, Card Brand and Product” and the “program administrator” as “Federal Student Aid (“FSA”), an office of the Department of Education.”

And, as one might expect in market-driven-ed lingo (and as implied in the synopsis above), the “customers” are “Individuals who apply for FAFSA or are FSA Title IV loan recipients.”

Some more specifics on card acquisition and usage:

The Customer journey should include:

• Applying for the Card: In-college students would have the ability to sign up for the Payment Card Program through mobile or online applications, or a point of presence at a School location, ideally at the point and time they sign a promissory note. This would trigger, at the Customer’s election, the establishment of a FSA Payment Card account.

• Loading the Card: Schools would refund overages to the Payment Card and communicate with the student about the funds status as they currently do with other refund processes. Additional funds may be loaded to the Card Account from additional sources in multiple different ways.

• Using the Card: Students would then be able to use the loan refunds and all other funds allocated to the card for purchases of everyday goods and services. Customers would benefit from integration of the FSA Payment Card Program with the FSA Mobile App., Furthermore, a rewards program could potentially be implemented whereby Students could receive special pricing/discounts from specific merchants.

• Card Program Related Customer Service: Students would have access to mobile self-service as well as call center assistance to resolve card-related issues. Schools and FSA would also be provided with the ability to obtain assistance from the customer service center on behalf of, and in support of, card Customers.

• Additional features of the Program will include:

o No fees charged to student or school
o Ability to issue checks from the app
o Real time recordation of purchases and balance status
o Real time transaction alerts and controls.
o Direct connectivity to the Payment Card Authorization stream to allow for real-time program enhancements
o Real time interface with the FSA myStudentAid Mobile app “Super Portal”

When I first read this proposal, it surprised me that a USDOE led by Betsy DeVos would promote a system that not only tracks student loan money but also has the capability (and intention, as the proposal further elucidates) of regulating how the money is spent.

When it comes to school choice, DeVos steers clear of anything that hints at such obvious oversight; thus, it seems out of character (hypocritical?) for her to promote what is on its face an oversight and accountability effort. For example, in September 2017, DeVos rescinded USDOE’s Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault (three civil rights orgs are suing). In October 2017, DeVos rescinded 72 USDOE special education policy documents; the same month, 18 states sued her USDOE for its rollback on for-profit-college regulations.

Deregulation is a trademark of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a primarily-Republican, corporation-driven political lobbying group to which DeVos belongs. In July 2017, she offered a keynote at ALEC’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado.

DeVos actively works against regulation.

That noted, DeVos’ USDOE is soliciting financial institutions to manage this pilot program (in other words, outsourcing management to the private sector, in line with ALEC’s corporate-profiteering agenda), which is in keeping with DeVosian ideology– and included in the outsourcing attempt are hints (subtle and otherwise) at how the private-sector manager might fiscally benefit from such management.

Indeed, as already noted, the draft document mentions a rewards program– which could well be a vehicle USDOE uses to steer student aid into the coffers of certain companies via incentives. Too, the draft includes the following, “future customer” (and even “current customer for other services”) enticement:

Importance of the Program

Through this Pilot and a subsequent expansion of the Program, the Program Manager, Card Brand, Processor and Issuing Bank will have the opportunity to partner with FSA to reach and enable U.S. students’ higher education dreams. Student loans from FSA are often a customer’s first encounter with a financial services product and one of their first experiences with the Federal government. The Next Gen FSA Payment Card Program will be the first step in exploring a new, meaningful way to build a stronger, lifetime relationship with FSA’s Customers.

Cross Program Customer Opportunities

While the data associated with the FSA Payment Card Program will be highly restricted as to cross marketing use, there will exist the opportunity for customers to specifically grant permission with regard to receiving proposals, offers or providing access to their privileged data for purpose of developing other financial service relationships. For purpose of absolute clarification, any access to Customer data for the purpose of developing other financial relationships will be and must only be granted on a SPECIFIC permission basis by the Customer.

And further along in the section detailing limitations on program manager and other fees:

Section 9 – Program Fees & Costs

This must be a “free” program for the Customers and Schools.

1. No Fees to Customers for any of the following

– Annual Membership
– Activation
– Load/Reload
– Swipe
– Electronic Generated Checks (Up to five per month)
– Overdraft
– Account Maintenance
– ATM withdrawals, In-Network
– Three ATM withdrawals, Out-of-Network
– Alternative Cash Points (Tellers or Merchants)
– Account Dormancy
– Foreign Transactions

2. This must also be a “no tax” program for participating Schools with regard to tuition, fees, and other direct School services.

3. Interchange and Debit Fees

– On Campus – 0% interchange or $0 debit fees tied to Participating Schools (tuition, fees and school owned merchants like their bookstore or cafeteria)
– Off Campus – market standard interchange and debit fees for off-campus merchants may be applied.

Please note that this will, in all likelihood, be the first financial services product introduced to a student which could then lead to a long-term, even life-long, relationship for other financial services and products. [USDOE chose to bold this statement.]

Even though USDOE states that the program manager cannot charge fees for its student loan debit account services, and even though USDOE notes in another section that one of its goals with this debit arrangement is to send caution messages to “customers” about accumulating student loan debt, in soliciting its for-profit program vendor, USDOE is handing over millions of students as potential, immediate “customers” to become entrapped in immediate debt via other *borrowing opportunities* that the program manager could offer as it sees fit.

In fact, USDOE begins its draft document by dangling this news before the eyes prospective program managers, whose view might already be blurred by visions of dollar signs:

Federal Student Aid (FSA) is undertaking transformative measures to establish the Next Generation Financial Services Environment (“Next Gen”) whereby FSA customers willenjoy a world-class customer experience throughout the lifecycle of their education finance journey. A mobile-first, mobile-complete, mobile-continuous digital platform, complemented by an omni-channel engagement strategy, will be implemented so as to provide easier, more seamless and more frequent customer interactions resulting in short term and long term positive outcomes for students and taxpayers. FSA’s size and scale of consumer loan portfolio operations are on par with the largest banks in the United States:

• Over 40 million customers across the student lending lifecycle
• Total lending portfolio has over $1.3 trillion in outstandings
• Annually originates over 17 million student loans
• Annually processes nearly 250+ million payment transactions
• Annually processes up to 50+ million disbursements totaling more than $125

Over 40 million customers! And a captive audience, at that, for being bombarded with ads for “other services” conveniently provided by the fortunately-selected, USDOE program manager of a program that USDOE notes it will consider, following the pilot, “whether and how to modify and scale the Pilot to include a larger number of Customers and Schools.” Moreover, USDOE has the “intention to expand to pre-college student customers and post-graduate students upon satisfactory determination of success of the Pilot.”

So long as the for-profit program manager steers clear of tapping into a “customer’s” federal student loan money, the program manager need not wait to to start that “long-term, even life-long relationship for other financial services and products.”

Mice in abundance.

Trap set.

money on mousetrap


I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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

Status-Quo-Breaking Betsy DeVos Lectures Mayors and Assigns Homework.

On January 25, 2018, US ed sec Betsy DeVos spoke to the US Conference of Mayors.

As Caitlin Emma noted on Twitter, DeVos prevented press from attending:

DeVos has been a magnet of controversy. In fact, the same day that she spoke to the US Conference of Mayors, three civil rights organizations sued her and the US Department of Ed for rescinding Title IX guidance on sexual assault on college campuses.

But back to DeVos’ closed press with the mayors:

Here is her full speech, which ends with her assigning homework:

*Read your state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.*

Now, the great irony is that DeVos likes to criticize the lecture method (“students lined up in rows, a teacher up front. … Sit down; don’t talk; eyes front….”) even as she was giving a lecture up front, mayors sitting quietly, eyes front, focused on her, as she told them what they needed to do: collaborate.

And do their homework by reading the state ESSA plan.

Her words come across as top-down bossy:

You have an important role to play here.

You can seize the opportunity to truly transform education. Embrace the imperative to do something bold… to challenge the status quo… to break the mold.

Rethinking education will only happen when those closest to students are empowered to make the decisions that are best for them. And with the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is possible to make that happen. So do it!

You need to be involved in that process, directly. How many of you have been asked to, or have on your own, studied your state’s ESSA plan? If you haven’t, you should. And you should let your governor and state chief school officer know your thoughts. Share your local insights. Tell them what families in your community need.

An encore of my favorite excerpts:

Rethinking education will only happen when those closest to students are empowered to make the decisions that are best for them. And with the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is possible to make that happen. So do it! …

How many of you have been asked to, or have on your own, studied your state’s ESSA plan? If you haven’t, you should.

DeVos bossed mayors via lecture-and-homework to goad them to “challenge the status quo.” And she did so as she insulated herself from real-time interaction with the press.

That’s just funny to me.

Betsy-DeVos-Great-City-Schools-Blog  Betsy DeVos


I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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

Paul Vallas “Might” Want to Be Mayor of Chicago. Tell Him No.

Education reform opportunist, Paul Vallas, is dropping hints that he wants to become the next mayor of Chicago.

Paul Vallas  Paul Vallas

Vallas, who was appointed to the Chicago State University board in January 2017 and who in April 2017 resigned from the board in order to become the university’s chief administrative officer, has now resigned from that post effective March 2018 even though his contract extends through June.

From the January 26, 2018, Chicago Tribune:

As for his current job at Chicago State, Vallas confirmed Friday that he plans to step down in March, even though his contract does not run out until the end of June.

“I am planning on leaving earlier, because I may very well make the mayoral run,” Vallas said. “I feel the university is on the right track.” …

Chicago State board member Nicholas Gowen said he was taken aback by Vallas’ resignation.

“Quite frankly, I’m a little floored,” Gowen said. “If he desires to run for mayor, then of course he can’t keep this position, but that should have been made clear early on if that was his desire. I find it hard to believe this was a lark.”

Mayor Vallas. What an awful thought. (Not that keeping Rahm Emanuel would be any better.)

The Tribune article also touches on Vallas’ previous connections to Gary Solomon, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for paying kickback cash to also-sentenced former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief, Barbara Byrd Bennett, in exchange for her awarding no-bid contracts to Solomon’s ed consulting company. The Tribune also notes, “Vallas previously has told the Tribune he stopped working with Solomon in 2010, but has declined to explain why.”

However, there is loads more to the Vallas controversy than his connection with Solomon. (For more on the Vallas-Solomon connection see this post by Connecticut blogger, Jonathan Pelto.)

In April 2014, I published a book that includes three chapters on Vallas, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. The Vallas-related chapter titles are as follows:

  • The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport

In order to offer readers a feel for exactly what Chicago would be getting (again), I would like to offer excerpts from those three chapters. (Even though I am limiting the excerpts, given the volume of information in the three chapters, this post is unusually long.)

The news is not good, but it is consistent: Vallas does his damage then exits, usually not smoothly but nevertheless relatively unscathed, only to land in yet another public-coffer-yielding opportunity for himself.

Here we go.

From the first chapter, The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years:

During his remaining years as mayor, Daley appointed two Chicago Public Schools CEOs; the first was Paul Vallas.

The rest is counterproductive history.

Paul Vallas

Daley initially offered the schools CEO position to his Chief of Staff Gery Chico, who declined yet became president of the newly-created, Daley-appointed School Reform Board—and technically, the school CEO’s boss. Vallas was Daley’s next choice; as the City of Chicago’s budget director, Vallas had a reputation for managing budgets and for reconciling with those upset by Vallas’ budget cuts.10  In the newly-created position of CEO, Vallas was indeed part of a top-down, business model of management. Though he is credited with some “experience” teaching “in Downstate schools and on an American Indian reservation in Montana,”11 Vallas is not an educator. He neither holds degrees in education nor is he certified. Vallas has a B.A. in history and a masters in political science. He has been a revenue analyst, a public finance instructor, an aide to senate president, and executive director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission.12

Vallas is a businessman. A February 1996 Chicago Tribune article on Vallas notes his “education as a business” model in the following changes to “managing” education:

…Some of the individual decisions Vallas and his team have made [include]-the idea of putting 40 schools in remediation and allowing principals to suspend teachers without pay or a hearing…. …

Under the law, the new schools bosses essentially can hire and fire employees as they see fit, move out of the high-overhead Pershing Road headquarters, and use teacher pension money as well as funds once set aside for poor children to make ends meet in the district’s general operating fund.

They can swoop into non-performing schools, take out adults they believe are causing problems-which they have done-and shift difficult students to one of several alternative schools planned.13

A major push (and issue of controversy) in Vallas’ remediation of public schools involves his declaring schools to be “in educational crisis.” In September 1995, the School Reform board passed a nebulous school intervention plan hinging on criteria including a principal’s failing to implement the school improvement plan, develop a “reasonable” budget, ensure safe school facilities or complete school opening-day paperwork. Given the Amendatory Act of 1995 that already granted Vallas carte blanche in the running of Chicago’s schools, the School Reform Board was now merely offering a formality of agreement. Parents and community leaders were not included in any discussions of this “intervention” that could lead to principal and local school council member removal.14

Vallas also had the power to make budget cuts as he saw fit, which he did:

Weeks after taking the reins as schools CEO, Vallas ushered in a new era of austerity where once there had been rampant waste in city schools. He banned all out-of-town trips by central office staff and clipped funding for catered meals after board meetings.

This insulted many, including some of Vallas’ own staff. [Chief Education Officer Lynn] St. James and one of her top aides were called on the carpet for outfitting their offices with new furniture.15

Vallas’ budget cuts also included sale of surplus property; lowering the amount of funds paid to the teachers’ pension fund; moving funds into the general fund that were formerly earmarked, and canceling a program for networking district computers.16 Indeed, he proclaimed not only a balanced budget but also a surplus. As a 1995 Chicago Tribune article reports:

Vallas, while directing the bulk of the surplus to balance the budget over time, would use $35 million to: help schools extend the class day and year; move violent students from regular classrooms into several new alternative schools; send armies of tutors and mentors into schools to help students who consistently fail; and establish apprenticeship programs for high school students prone to dropping out.

“Student performance improves when schools are better organized, when you have a longer school year and when you get violent students out of the schools,” Vallas said. “Failure is not an option for us; we have to deliver.”17

In truth, the question on which Vallas’ perceived “effectiveness” hinged was one raised by Bennett in 1987—dropout rates and test scores. To corporate reformers, such numbers—especially the test scores—are the primary indicator of education “success.” As the 1996 Chicago Tribune article continues:

Conrad Worrill, professor at Northeastern Illinois University and head of the National Black United Front, said, “At this point in time [February 1996], it’s very difficult to judge this new school team. I think Mr. Vallas is projecting himself as the great savior of Chicago public schools, when in fact what he really is is a master of public relations.

“He seems to deal well with people. He speaks well and he has good presence. But the jury is still out. I haven’t seen test scores rise.18 

Vallas believes that the business model is the solution for achieving the ends of lower dropout rates and higher test scores:

In line with his corporate style, Vallas said he soon will create a new position-local school business manager-so that principals can spend less time doing tedious jobs such as checking bus schedules and school cleanliness and more time trying to boost students’ test scores.

Within a year, he said, more city high schools and elementary schools will merge into “corporate campuses,” united by a common academic theme and funded by adoptive local corporations. One such site, at Wendell Phillips High School Academy, already is in the making.

“This district has got to evolve and become more like a corporation. This is essentially a $3 billion business,” Vallas has said, “and we’ve got to learn how to leverage our buying power.”19 [Emphasis added.] …

Vallas credited rising test scores to the system of placing schools on probation and “imposing curriculum” onto these schools; however, Donald Moore of Designs for Change refuted this connection.  In the 1997 article, Moore notes a trend in improvement over “the last seven years” (1990-1997); thus, the overall trend predated mayoral control. Three years later, Moore presented evidence to show that schools placed on probation in 1996-97 still had roughly 80 percent of students scoring below the national average in reading in the spring of 2000.28  …

In 1999, Vallas decided not to retain students who did not pass ITBS a third time. Astoundingly, amazingly, he made the declaration that these students would likely end up in special education:

Schools chief Paul Vallas told the Tribune the system will not hold back any student a third time in the same grade; the student will be promoted. But those students also will be screened for placement in special education, and Vallas predicted that virtually all screenings will result in such placements.47  [Emphasis added.] …

When Vallas left Chicago, he was facing news of flattened test scores, a new union leadership poised to resist his and Daley’s increasingly punitive reform agenda, and public displeasure from Daley, the sole individual in charge of his employment as CEO.

Arguably, it was not a successful departure. Yet Vallas’ career as an education reformer was far from over.

And from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia:

By spring 2001, the Daley-Vallas honeymoon was undeniably over. This reformer duo squabbled publicly via the press concerning their different views on such issues as retaining students multiple times for failure to pass ITBS and approaches to addressing the embarrassingly low first-day attendance rates at Chicago’s public schools. Add to that the not-so-amazing-and-astounding improvements in the public schools as a whole, and, well, that leads to a Chicago schools CEO who becomes the former Chicago schools CEO.

Paul Vallas did not “reform” Chicago’s public schools. He did promote an atmosphere of pressure and fear.1 Perhaps he thought he might do so statewide; following his exit as Chicago schools CEO, Vallas made a bid for Illinois governor but lost in the primary.2 The winner, Rod Blagejovich, would end up in prison for trying to sell Obama’s vacant senate seat, among other crimes.3

In need of employment and now with experience in disrupting public education, Vallas was a candidate for the position of chancellor of New York City’s schools; NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg was granted mayoral control of schools in June 2002, and he was searching for his first schools chancellor appointee. However, Vallas instead accepted the appointment as Philadelphia schools CEO.4 The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) had just been taken over by the state for both its low test scores and financial deficit.5

The year was 2002. Paul Vallas was going to save Philadelphia’s schools. …

Philadelphia’s public schools did not stand a chance.  In “the most radical reform ever undertaken in a large, urban school district,”9 Philadelphia schools were to be privatized. Philadelphia Governor Mark Schweiker announced his plan to turn over management of SDP to Edison Schools, Inc. approximately 67% of SDP’s 264 schools were to be partially or completely privatized. The privatization plan had begun in August 2001 under then-Governor Tom Ridge and was passed on to Schweiker. Interestingly, the privatization process was postponed until after Ridge’s appointment as secretary of the newly-created Office of Homeland Security under G. W. Bush.10,11 

The projected cost of privatization: In excess of SDP’s $1.7 billion budget, $150 more per year over five years. In 1998, Superintendent Hornbeck, who resigned in June 2000 for lack of fiscal support,12 appealed to the state because he did not have sufficient funds to end the school year with a balanced budget. Never mind that SDP received a disproportionately low per-pupil funding as compared to other Pennsylvania districts….

Perhaps Vallas’ worst moment as a budgeter occurred on December 11, 2006, when he had to face the Philadelphia City Council and justify not just more budget cuts, but more cuts in an attempt to solve a deficit mid-school-year to the tune of $73.3 million.22  Keep in mind that the Philadelphia public school budget was already problematic in February 1998 when then-Superintendent Hornbeck appealed to the state that the $1.7 billion budgeted would not suffice for the entire school year. Fast forward to December 2006, when the budget was set at $2.04 billion, and Vallas was now lacking $73.3 million to balance it. This means that Vallas’ error set the actual available funding at approximately $1.3 billion—almost nine years after Hornbeck voiced his concerns and was met by punitive legislative action—and with the added burden of paying privatizers fees for their “services.” And what of those “services”? Did the dropout rate remarkably improve given the four years that Vallas had been CEO?  Consider this excerpt of the heated December 11, 2006, City Council meeting:

…It was from Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. that Vallas took the most heat. Goode began by asking who sat in on Vallas’ final job interview and whether he remembered talking about the dropout rate then.

Vallas said the entire School Reform Commission interviewed him and discussed the dropout rate.

“How are young black males performing in the district and how has it changed during your tenure?” Goode asked.

Vallas said that most were still failing but that strides had been made.23  [Emphasis added.]

This is not the promising response one wishes to offer when also acknowledging that the budget is incredibly in the red.

More cuts, more cuts:

The School Reform Commission made more cuts last week and “conditionally authorized” Vallas to trim an additional $20 million, which would get the district the $73.3 million it needs to close the deficit.24 [Emphasis added.]

Once again, Vallas was on his way out from a schools CEO position with displeasure toward him hanging in the air:

The beginning of the end of his tenure happened when, just four months after he had told the Philadelphia City Council that the budget was balanced and a month after the SRC, by a 3–2 vote, had renewed his contract until 2010, the district suddenly was revealed to have a $73 million deficit.

Embarrassed SRC members, led by Whelan and James Gallagher, the president of Philadelphia University, pushed for Vallas’s ouster. In the spring of 2007, they took him to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel and told him that they had lost confidence in him.25 [Emphasis added.]

Four months later (April 2007), Paul Vallas would resign from yet another schools CEO position,26 but not before drawing a handsome salary and benefits for several years.

The budget slashings incurred by Philadelphia’s schools were not evident in Vallas’ own earnings. His initial salary was $275,000, and it increased to $285,000 in 2007. Interestingly, Vallas’ raises in 2008 and 2009 were tied to teachers’ raises in the collective bargaining agreement. Vallas was also eligible for annual performance bonuses up to 20% of his salary and 30 days a year of paid vacation. However, he did not remain in Philadelphia long enough to garner his $100,000 per year retention bonuses (effective July 2007).27

Vallas made an incredible budgeting blunder in Philadelphia. However, Philadelphia was not the only district suffering from Vallas’ budgeting decisions. By 2006, Vallas’ 1995 Chicago “miracle” budget “surplus” had begun to unravel.28 His 1995 decision to “trim” the budget by paying $83 million less into the Chicago teacher pension fund came home with a fury by 2008:

The political horse-trading that has diminished all of the city’s pension funds can be viewed most dramatically through the recent history of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.

This predicament can be traced to decisions made in the wake of Mayor Richard Daley’s takeover of the public school system in 1995.

With help from allies in Springfield, the Daley administration pushed to have the pension code rewritten so property tax money that normally went to pensions would go to Chicago Public Schools coffers. Under the old law, the district’s pension bill was slated to be $93 million in 1995. Instead, it paid just $10 million.

CPS officials went back to Springfield the following year and had the law changed again. This time, the district would have to put money into the pension only if the fund’s level fell below 90 percent.

For the next decade, the district’s contribution to the retirement of tens of thousands of public school teachers was zero. In all, the pension holiday cost the teachers fund more than $1.5 billion from 1995 to 2009, according to fund documents. The state was supposed to help soften the blow by contributing to the fund, but that never happened.

In 2004, it dipped below 90 percent for the first time, but because funding is based on results from two years earlier, that milestone didn’t affect the district until 2006. That year the school system had to contribute $36 million to the pension fund. The bill nearly tripled to $90 million in 2007, and by this year it was $340 million — an 844 percent increase in just four years.29 [Emphasis added.]

This, dear readers, is the long-term result of Vallas Budget Management in Chicago: Short-term gain for long-term fiscal chaos.  Paul Vallas initiated this Chicago budget crisis by shaving off pension funding. Apparently, Philadelphia SRB members did not know of the Chicago Vallas Effect even as they were being publicly humiliated by the Philadelphia Vallas Effect. …

Philadelphia did not benefit from six years of Vallas, his never-ending budget cuts, his high salary, his empty promises to address the dropout rate, and his veneer of testing “success.”

In fall 2007, Philadelphia still had education-related problems, but they were no longer Vallas’ problems. Vallas had moved on to the Big Easy, where he continued his legacy of digging deeper fiscal ditches in the name of Vallas-brand educational “success.”

And, finally, from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport:

Vallas has been in the education reform business since 1995 with his appointment as CEO of Chicago schools. That didn’t work out; so, Vallas left for Philadelphia, where that didn’t work out, either. So, as reformers do when their time runs out in a city, he moved on. The next stop for the Vallas Education and Budget Disruption Plan was New Orleans, with its massive infusion of federal aid following Hurricane Katrina, where he would remain for several years before moving on to Bridgeport, where he ended up in the courts for lack of proper credentials. …

It truly astounds me that State Superintendent Paul Pastorek hired Vallas to run RSD (New Orleans’ Recovery School District) given that one primary reason for state takeover of Orleans schools in 2003 involved fiscal mismanagement. But hire Vallas Pastorek did. …

In 2008, Vallas’ “nearly unchecked administrative power” included the following reforms:

…Vallas has changed pretty much everything, all at once, with little opposition. He lengthened the school day and year, adding seven weeks of instruction, including two more hours of math and 1.5 hours of reading each day. He started a “credit recovery” program for students who fail core classes. He has remade RSD’s high schools into career-themed academies and opened a school for “overaged underachievers.”

He is standardizing the curriculum and brought in Read180, a computerized program for older, struggling readers. He installed Internet-linked whiteboards in fourth- through 12th-grade classrooms and last year began handing out laptop computers to every high-school student.16 

As a “placed” corporate reform CEO, Vallas answers to no stakeholders in the newly-washed-away New Orleans. Actually involving the community in decisions affecting the community is a complex business, and Vallas prefers a dictatorial role, one where he gets to make the people’s decisions for the people and answer to no groups representing the people. Consider this 2008 exchange with New York Times reported Paul Tough:

When I asked Paul Vallas what made New Orleans such a promising place for educational reform, he told me that it was because he had no “institutional obstacles” — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. “No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,” he said. “Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire. I can hire the most talented people. I can promote people based on merit and based on performance. I can dismiss people if they’re chronically nonattending or if they’re simply not performing.”17 [Emphasis added.]

It sure is easy to run a district by use of unchecked power.

Despite his carte blanche activity in RSD, Vallas continued to promote the idea that he would leave by 2010:

Whatever happens, it’s clear Vallas won’t stick around too long — he has said as much.

After Vallas left Philadelphia, his wife and three of his four sons returned to their native Chicago. Vallas spends four or five days there each month, and he has coyly suggested he might run for governor of Illinois in 2010 — he narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2002 to Gov. Ron Blagojevich. [Emphasis added.]

Vallas openly admits to grooming his chief of staff to take over, saying two years are sufficient to get his reforms in place.18

About those trips to visit his family in Chicago: Apparently, Vallas developed a habit of using his Louisiana-taxpayer-funded automobile. This information was disclosed in the 2009 Louisiana Legislative Audit of RSD: 31 trips, with the state paying $974 for fuel and $776 for damages in an auto accident Vallas was faulted with while driving his Louisiana vehicle to a press conference in Chicago. Furthermore, Vallas did not maintain the required vehicle use log.

State Superintendent Paul Pastorek verbally approved of Vallas’ using his state vehicle for personal trips despite the state administrative code that notes use of state vehicles is limited to state business. Pastorek said he thought Vallas had only taken six trips. Apparently Pastorek never asked Vallas to account for use of his state vehicle.19  …

Four consecutive audits of RSD finances during Vallas’ time as superintendent yielded a lack of diligent fiscal oversight, at best. Vallas assumed superintendency of RSD in July 2007. In June 2008, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor Audit Management Letter included numerous mismanagement issues. In short, the corruption for which OPSB had become known pre-Katrina continued on Vallas’ watch. First, RSD employees had been overpaid $427,695 as of September 30, 2007. Furthermore, 34 laptops paid for with federal funds ($56,128) had been stolen in February 2007 (pre-Vallas); however, as of October 2007, RSD had notified in writing neither the district attorney nor the legislative auditor. Third, RSD charged the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program for students not eligible to receive subsidized meals. The list continues.30

In an audit conducted in 2013 concerning modular campus construction for the period of January 2007 through September 2009 regards $6.1 million in “questionable payments for services beyond the scope of firms’ contracts, materials that were never provided, and unreasonably high rates”:

The audit found that Arrighi-Simoneaux charged the RSD $170,571 for fuel for temporary generators that was never provided and $37,843 for 16 light pole foundations that were never built. An additional $472,852 that was charged for foundations “appears to be unreasonable for the service provided,” according to the audit. The firm billed at least $139,000 in work beyond the scope of the contract.

Arrighi-Simoneaux’s unit pricing may also have been too high. For instance, the company charged $110 to drill each of 180 four-inch holes in wooden floors, though the task takes less than 30 seconds, auditors say.

As for LH&J [Linfield, Hunter & Junius], the audit found that the company billed a number of basic design services under a higher rate reserved for special services. Those fees also seem to be high, according to the audit, citing a $560,000 charge to increase the width of buildings by 8 feet.31 [Emphasis added.]

The information presented above is only an excerpt. What is clear is that fiscal oversight was seriously lacking on Vallas’ watch to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars in missing or stolen property, overpayments to employees, overpayments for goods and services, and payments for goods not purchased and services not rendered. Notice also that such gross fiscal mismanagement occurred year after year. Consider this excerpt from the legislative auditor’s report of RSD for fiscal year 2010:

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not tag and report equipment as required by state equipment management regulations and did not maintain accurate information in the state’s movable property system, Protégé. As reported in a Louisiana Property Assistance Agency (LPAA) report on RSD, RSD failed to enter 13,247 assets into the asset management system within 60 days of receipt and 1,262 items valued at $2,141,347 could not be located. In our test of 10 equipment purchases and a physical check of 18 property items, we identified items that were not located, not tagged within 60 days, and tagged but not recorded in the property system. In addition, RSD reported 35 incidents involving 380 movable property items with an approximate value of $188,600 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2010.

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges. Payroll overpayment claims identified by RSD during fiscal year 2010 totaled $18,206. …

For the third consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations.32 [Emphasis added.]  

Apparently when billions in federal disaster relief are pouring in, there is no need to account for the money. The issues mentioned above were also mentioned in the RSD audit for fiscal year 2011:

For the fifth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that movable property was safeguarded against loss including loss, arising from unauthorized use and misappropriation. RSD’s annual certification of property inventory identified 403 unlocated items totaling $553,385. Of the 403 unlocated items, 346 items were computers. In addition, RSD reported 194 movable property items totaling $168,375 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2011.

For the fifth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or entered timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges.

Payroll overpayment claims identified during fiscal year 2011 totaled $8,507. …

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations. 33 [Emphasis added.]

During the course of his time as RSD superintendent, Vallas mismanaged RSD’s finances. In his first and perhaps only superintendency in which funding was amply available, Vallas failed to monitor the funds. He did manage to make dozens of car trips to Chicago, and he did manage to consult abroad, missing a total of six weeks of work away from RSD to do so.

Haiti, Chile, but Still RSD

While still superintendent of RSD, Paul Vallas began advising an international development bank in Haiti on rebuilding a school system following widespread natural disaster.34,35 Vallas did not run for Illinois governor or for any other political post, citing his “need to finish what he started” in New Orleans.36 If his goal was to leave most RSD schools as still within the “failing” designation as determined by the state while not adequately supervising RSD spending, then he accomplished his goal.  However, his physical presence in Louisiana leaves room for doubt about Vallas publicized dedication to RSD. Despite his noble words, Vallas missed 48 full days of work in Louisiana from February to October 2010 due to his traveling to Haiti. Whereas he did not collect pay for his time away, he was not present to serve in the capacity for which he was hired, as former BESE member Linda Johnson observes:

“I think it was a misuse of his services,” Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Linda Johnson said. “We pay him to do work in New Orleans. Until New Orleans no longer needed help, he should have stayed in New Orleans… Of course I want Haiti to return to a robust country with great education. However, I feel New Orleans is still in the state of recovery and needed him there,” she said. “Large companies loan their people to help when disasters occur. However, I am certain they would not loan their people if they were also in need.”37

In 2011, Vallas also “consulted” in Chile, where his privatization efforts were met with clear understanding from Chilean students:

Dramatic student protests increased in the streets of Chilean cities as the Race To The Top style reforms increasingly tighten corporate control over Chile’s public schools less than a generation after the South American nation escaped the grip of the first round of reforms brought by the “Chicago Boys” during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. On July 14, [2011,] an estimated 20,000 people, mostly students, too[k] to the streets of Santiago to protest the neoliberal attacks on public education and higher education, only to be met with water cannons and tear gas, as well as police beatings which were caught on dramatic video. …

According to a report from Reuters, more than 20,000 people demonstrated against the USA style reforms in Santiago, the capital, while being attacked by speeding military vehicles, some of which were equipped with water cannons and tear gas sprayers. Squads of heavily armored Chilean soldiers also attacked individual protesters who became isolated from the groups, but generally shied away from the main large group protests.38 [Emphasis added.]

American education privatization efforts appeal to those abroad wishing to exercise continued control over institutions rightfully belonging to the public. The so-called “reforms” do not appeal to those who wish not to be lorded over by dictatorial-style education mandates. …

Vallas’ “consulting” did not end with Haiti and Chile. Despite Vallas’ delayed crash-and-burn “contribution” to the fiscal devastation of Chicago’s public schools; despite his $73 million “uh-oh” in Philadelphia, and despite his gross fiscal and property mismanagement in New Orleans, Vallas partnered with Cambium Learning to market “the Vallas model of reform’:

The Vallas reform model includes not just improving academic performance, as other turnaround systems do, but also stabilizing districts by balancing their budgets and reorganizing their administrations. “We are committed to affordable change,” Vallas says. “You will be amazed at the efficiencies and cost savings you can bring to a district.”39 …

On January 1, 2012, Vallas was to officially assume the role of interim superintendent of Bridgeport’s schools and solve issues of Bridgeport’s $6 million budget deficit.41 Vallas’ pathway into Bridgeport comes via the new Connecticut State Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, who worked with Vallas in during a time that Pryor volunteered in both New Orleans and Haiti.42 …

However, Vallas did not possess the required credentials to become Bridgeport superintendent, even interim superintendent. …

The issue of the legality of all of this “waiving” of credentials was in Superior Court,47 and on July 10, 2013, Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas was not a “properly credentialed superintendent” and that he needed to vacate his positon.48  However, true to that “foot in the door” reformer ploy, the illegally-state-run school board was in a rush to approve of Vallas’ permanent contract.49 On July 26, 2013, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Vallas can remain as superintendent pending his appeal.50

In their devoted haste to hand Bridgeport schools over to the state, business leaders set up a “fund” to pay for Vallas’ employment, the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund. Educational “consultants” are also paid out of this fund. The public does not get to know the secrets of the fund, including who the donors are or what the balance is. …

For almost two decades, Paul Vallas has sold himself as a corporate reformer. He is willing to slash tight budgets, and he is willing to mismanage ample budgets. He is willing to privatize districts, close schools, and fire teachers. He is willing to sacrifice all of those below him in a given district for the test scores, graduation rates, or school performance scores that he cannot seem to consistently raise. He has, however, managed to consistently collect fine salaries with benefits based on the unfounded reputation he has as a reforming miracle man.

He never seems to be out of a job for long, for someone with the cash, influence, and interest in promoting the shadow of corporate reform success is always at his door.

There is much more to the three chapters than I included above. Too, beyond the writing of the book, in November 2013, Vallas announced his departure from Bridgeport to join former Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, as Quinn’s running mate– but not before he threatened to sue if the board did not reschedule his departure from February 7, 2014, to March 1, 2014– and pay him for the time.

Quinn lost; Bruce Rauner, a nightmare in his own right, won. So, no Paul Vallas as lieutenant governor. Vallas’ involvements between November 2014 and January 2017 are somewhat sketchy. An April 2016, Wharton Club of Chicago speaking engagement announcement introduces Vallas as follows:

He currently serves as the founding CEO of the School Construction Fund, a new national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting K-12 schools finance and operationalize their buildings. Paul also consults to underperforming school districts to help them more effectively leverage their finances to gain stability while increasing classroom resources that strengthen educational delivery, improve academic outcomes, and narrow the achievement gap.

Paul Vallas offering financial advice. After reading the chapter excerpts, pause and think on that.

The referenced “national” nonprofit, School Construction Fund, has a single tax form on file, for October 2015 to September 2016, and it reads like nothing more than padding to make it sound like Vallas and “president” Steven Hodas were doing something beyond spending what appears to be a single $250,000 contribution. The New York-based organization received $250,000 in contributions and spent exactly that amount by year’s end, with $150,195 spent on salaries and other compensation and $99,805 on “other expenses.”

Vallas received $35,000 reportedly for 40 hrs./wk. (not likely) for “researching potential avenues for facilitating the rehabilitation and development of physical plants for grade K-12 schools to support the growth of high-quality schools nationally.” What exactly this means, who knows.

But Vallas is looking for a new, high-profile gig, and Chicago, he wants to run the 2018 mayoral show.

May it not be, for your sake. And may Emanuel lose to someone better, as well.



I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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

NM Ed Chief Christopher Ruszkowski’s “Manifest Destiny” Blunder

According to the New Mexico Economic Development Department, the population of New Mexico includes

219,237 Indian citizens, which make up nearly 10.5% of the state’s entire population (2015 population estimates). There are 23 Indian tribes in New Mexico – 19 Pueblos, 3 Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation – each with its own government, lifeways, traditions, and culture.

As the New Mexico education secretary-designate, Christopher Ruszkowski, should be familiar with– and sensitive to– New Mexico’s Native American citizens.

Should be.

Instead, in his eagerness to promote charter school choice as the American Way, Ruszkowski chose the blundering route of ignorance and insensitivity in a December 2017 address to the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools (NMCCS) annual conference, as the December 10, 2017, Albuquerque Journal reports:

New Mexico Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski touted school choice as “quintessentially American” Saturday (December 09, 2017) during the Charter School Coalition’s annual conference in Albuquerque.

“This is a country built over the last 250 years on things like freedom, choice, competition, options, going west, Manifest Destiny– these are the fundamental principles of this country,” he said. “That’s why charter schools make so much sense– highquality options– in the context of where we are as a country.”

Now, let’s do what Ruszkowski profoundly failed to: Consider exactly what the term, “Manifest Destiny,” encompasses. From

Manifest Destiny, a phrase coined in 1845, expressed the philosophy that drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion. Manifest Destiny held that the United States was destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent. …

Despite the lofty idealism of Manifest Destiny, the rapid territorial expansion over the first half of the 19th century resulted not only in war with Mexico, but in the dislocation and brutal mistreatment of Native American, Hispanic and other non-European occupants of the territories now being occupied by the United States.

U.S. expansion also fueled the growing debate over slavery, by raising the pressing question of whether new states being admitted to the Union would allow slavery or not—a conflict that would eventually lead to the Civil War.

Despite the lofty idealism of Manifest Destiny, the rapid territorial expansion over the first half of the 19th century resulted… in the dislocation and brutal mistreatment of Native American, Hispanic and other non-European occupants…

Completely. Lost. On. Ruszkowski.

On December 23, 2017, chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, E. Paul Torres, published this letter in the Sante Fe New Mexican (according to the New Mexican, Torres sent the letter to Ruszkowski on December 14, 2017):

The All Pueblo Council of Governors consists of the 19 sovereign Pueblo Nations of New Mexico, with the 20th Pueblo nation, Ysleta del Sur, in Texas. We are the oldest political organization in the country, dating back to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. We are the primary and official advocacy organization representing the Pueblo Nations on all matters locally and at the state and federal levels.

We are appalled and deeply offended by the recent statements at a charter school conference by Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski regarding Manifest Destiny as the continuing core value of this nation and the state that drives the education agenda. This is utterly disgraceful, lacking any sensitivity, understanding and appreciation of the atrocious impacts of Manifest Destiny upon generations of our people. The principles of Manifest Destiny have inflicted multigenerational trauma. That is the legacy of Manifest Destiny in our history.

Manifest Destiny for tribal nations is aligned with the Doctrine of Discovery that justified the racial hierarchy. The discriminatory principles drawn from these two doctrines made their way into the earliest U.S. Supreme Court decisions that defined policies and laws significantly disadvantageous to Native Americans and their nations that continue to this day.

As a result of the Western expansion, the General Allotment Act of 1887, commonly known as the Dawes Act, formalized and incorporated “Indian Education.” The policy of assimilation was, in their words, to “convert them into American citizens.” These combined policies ushered in the boarding schools. The mantra was “to kill the Indian and save the man. The way you kill the language and culture is to remove the children and deny those children their language and culture.”

In the words of Thomas Jefferson Morgan, commissioner of Indian affairs in 1889, “We must either fight the Indians, feed the Indians or else educate them. To fight them is cruel, to feed them is a waste, while to educate them is humane, economic, and Christian.” This was the justification to transform us, to strip us from our identity and to force us into the “melting pot.” We have resisted, struggling to find a balance and, in many places, created great successes.

The Santa Fe Indian School on Cerrillos Road was one of the earliest schools constructed in 1890 to fulfill Manifest Destiny and to further the assimilation of our children. Since the historic enactment of the Self Determination and Education Assistance Act that we actively worked on and passed into law in 1975, we have taken ownership and transformed the school driven by our vision of education. The Santa Fe Indian School was the first Indian-controlled school recognized by President Ronald Reagan as a School of Education Excellence.

Unfortunately, for many schools out of our control, since the earliest days, study after study documents the failures and the devastation caused by ill-conceived policies and laws. It may have made America great, but it has been at a huge cost to the indigenous peoples of this nation. We are the surviving nations and peoples.

A person in Ruszkowski’s position in 2017 in a state with a population that has been significantly victimized and devastated by these policies he espouses regrettably has no place in a leadership capacity. The least that our children, their parents and our leaders deserve is an apology for those comments.

In the last several months, we have been engaged in protesting proposals by the department’s Bilingual and Multicultural Education Bureau to repeal and replace essential language programs — this, after years of struggle to legitimize indigenous languages to take their rightful place among heritage languages that are in statute. We have argued that our children should have the opportunity to learn their languages as a basic and fundamental right in their education, and we have accomplished that. It is at the heart of our protest to any changes to that framework.

This conflict exemplifies at the most fundamental level our continuing struggle and fight for what our children deserve in maintaining their identity, while having the best education possible. When children were forcibly removed from their families and shipped off to boarding schools, Hopi elders protested against the cruelty of these government policies. For their protests, they were imprisoned at Alcatraz. Our advocacy on behalf of our children continues with the deepest of our love for them and what we feel they deserve. What the man in charge of public education espouses is offensive, given our history and fight for survival.

The December 22, 2017, Sante Fe New Mexican notes that according to a statement released by NM’s ed dept., Ruszkowski “reached out to every tribal leader in the state” to apologize. Apologies are important; however, the fact that Ruszkowski– the chief overseer for the education of children spanning an entire state– lacked the knowledge, insight, and/or sensitivity in the first place– is deeply troubling.

His school choice agenda– not the people he is supposed to serve– appears to have been foremost on Ruszkowski’s mind.

Putting agendas before human beings leads to abuse– a lesson Ruszkowski should take from the awfulness of “manifest destiny.”

ruszkowski  Christopher Ruszkowski


I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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

Success Academy “Rip and Redo” Teacher No Longer in the Classroom

In February 2016, a 2014 video of a Success Academy teacher berating a student for an incorrect answer was publicized in the New York Times. Filmed “surreptitiously” by an assistant teacher, the one-minute video shows Charlotte Dial, a first grade teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill, suddenly ripping a student paper as she also verbally assaults the student:

Here is a transcription of the above video:

[Students seated on floor along edge of carpeted area in a large rectangular area. They are silent, and all but one have hands folded in laps. Dial is the speaker.]

[Sternly] That’s the one you, you cut or you split. So count it again, making sure you’re counting correctly. [Pause.] Count.

[Picks up paper, rips, and looks at student while demonstratively pointing.]

[Raising voice] Go to the calm-down chair. [Student quickly obeys without a word.] There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper. Somebody come up and show me how she should have counted to get her answer that was one and a split. [Hands go up. Identified student moves onto floor mat to respond. Dial’s voice is edgy and loud.] Show my friends and teach them. [Student responds, apparently correctly. Dial, still loud and edgy, responds.] Thank you. Do not go back to your seat and show me one thing and then don’t do it here. You’re confusing everybody. I’m very upset and very disappointed.

The video went viral, and the Washington Post also picked up the story, including the response of Success Academies founder Eva Moskowitz and the immediate fate of Charlotte Dial:

Moskowitz told the New York Times that the incident was isolated: “This video proves utterly nothing but that a teacher in one of our 700 classrooms, on a day more than a year ago, got frustrated and spoke harshly to her students,” she wrote to the New York Times in an email. Dial apologized, received a reprimand and additional training but returned to her job.

And from CBS News:

Charlotte Dial did not comment at a press conference, but CEO Eva Moskowitz said this was an isolated incident.

“I am not going to throw Charlotte Dial under the bus,” Moskowitz said at a news conference.

“To smear all teachers and to represent this as the ethos of Success Academies, that is unfair and it is wrong,” she told CBS News.

And that brings us to the point of this post:

I wondered if Dial was still in a Success Academy classroom.

According to her Linkedin bio, she is not.

As of October 2017, Charlotte Dial lists herself as a Success Academy “educational consultant”:

Educational Consultant

Success Academy Charter Schools

Dates Employed: Oct 2017 – Present

Employment Duration: 4 mos

• Supported Head of Success Academy Ed Institute in the development of system-wide best practices and grade level expectations for all teachers
• Worked with all 47 network schools to generate professional development courses for new and returning teachers in reading, writing, and mathematics
• Tracked overall school academic performance by teacher to provide recommendations for classroom procedural improvements
• Analyzed student tests and assessments to identify staff and teacher needs and recommended corresponding training curriculum updates
• Collaborated with principals, training staff, and curriculum team leads to create the first online curriculum available to all teachers

Now, what is interesting is the juxtaposition of that viral video to the manner in which Dial describes herself in her bio opener:

I got my start in education as a kindergarten teacher. I’m good with words and am extremely organized. Need someone who is adaptable, creative and is a team player. I can help.

Teaching taught me the most: to work with people where they are, figure out their needs and show up prepared to add value to their lives. It takes passion and guts to run a classroom, imagination and humor to keep folks checked in, and empathy and patience to provide useful feedback.

My specialties include: Data analysis, performance tracking, process improvement, problem-solving, issue resolution, action plans, time management, oral presentation, and cross-functional collaboration.

I just have to repeat this part (still thinking viral video as I read):

Teaching taught me the most: to work with people where they are, figure out their needs and show up prepared to add value to their lives. It takes passion and guts to run a classroom, imagination and humor to keep folks checked in, and empathy and patience to provide useful feedback.

Dial knew she wanted to be a teacher (tongue in cheek), so she majored in (wait for it) political science and government (Butler University, 2009), then did a two-year stint with (just guess) Teach for America (Philadelphia, 2010-12), during which time she completed a masters (early childhood and teaching– another viral video irony) at George Mason University.

On her bio, the same two years that she was TFA Philly (June 2010 – Aug 2012), she is also listed as being at a DC-metro charter school (Aug 2010 – Aug 2012). How exactly that worked I couldn’t tell you.

Dial began her time at Success Academy Cobble Hill as “founding kindergarten teacher” (two years, from 2012 – 2014) then moved on the first grade as a lead teacher/ teacher mentor/trainer (still thinking viral video). From Dial’s Linkedin bio:

First grade teacher

Success Academy Charter Schools

Dates Employed: Aug 2014 – Oct 2017

Employment Duration: 3 yrs 3 mos

Location: Cobble Hill

• Supervised a team of six teachers as Grade Team Lead that collaborated to create lesson plans and student achievement systems to be shared with 47 network schools
• Supported assistant principal in co-development of grade level missions, educational programs, and professional development strategies
• Mentored and trained the new teachers to teach literacy and mathematics as a Teaching Ambassador (Lab Site Teacher) for the Success Academy school network
• Assessed prospective teachers and shared recommendations based on proficiency and professionalism with Human Resources to inform hiring decisions
• Tracked the data for three first grade classes in reading, writing, and mathematics to isolate academic performance `issues and develop mitigation tactics
• Developed action plans by comparing data among all 47 schools to ensure the success of all scholars in all subjects

I just have to repeat this piece:

Assessed prospective teachers and shared recommendations based on… professionalism…

Whether Dial was removed from the classroom or left voluntarily is unclear. However, Moskowitz’s quick defense of Dial coupled with Moskowitz’s reputation for rigid control lends credence to the view that she values the likes of Dial (who became a Success Academy teacher trainer). But Moskowitz does not want the negative publicity– publicity that arguably resulted in the first notable dip in Success Academy applications.

Dial is still employed at Success Academies– but not in a “rip and redo” position.

Charlotte Dial

Charlotte Dial dishing out humiliation.



Charlotte Dial 2

And Charlotte Dial, humiliated.


I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

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