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Want More Money for a Federal Program? Get DeVos to Put It on Her Budget Elimination Wish List

On March 28, 2019, I wrote a post about US ed sec Betsy DeVos’ attempts to eliminate federal funding for Special Olympics from the past three US Department of Education (USDOE) annual proposed budgets (FY2018, FY2019, and FY2020).

One interesting finding was that instead of eliminating Special Olympics, Congress actually voted to increase money to the program.

So, I was curious to see what other programs received increased funding despite DeVos’ repeated attempts to eliminate. Sixteen programs fit this description; below is a listing of each program that received increased federal funding at least once, with its budget authority (BA) funding amount (in millions) for FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019, respectively:

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $1,164.5, $1,191.7, $1,221.7
  • Alaska Native Education: $32.4, $32.5, $35.5
  • American History and Civics Academies: $1.8, $3.5, $4.8
  • Arts in Education: $26.9, $27.0, $29.0
  • Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants: $189.6, $190.0, $190.0
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants: $731.7, $733.1, $840.0
  • Full Service Community Schools: $10.0, $10.0, $17.5
  • Impact Aid Payments for Federal Property: $66.7, $68.8, $74.3
  • Innovative Approaches to Literacy: $26.9, $27.0, $27.0
  • Int’l Educ and Foreign Lang Studies Domestic Programs: $65.0, $65.1, $65.1
  • Int’l Educ and Foreign Lang Studies Overseas Programs: $7.0, $7.1, $7.1
  • Native Hawaiian Education: $33.3, $33.4, $36.4
  • Ready to Learn Programming: $25.7, $25.7, $27.7
  • Special Olympics Education Programs: $10.1, $12.6, $17.6
  • Strengthening Institutions: $86.4, $86.5, $99.9
  • Teacher Quality Partnerships: $43.0, $43.1, $43.1

Thus, of the 22 programs listed for elimination in DeVos’ FY2018 proposed budget, 16 (73 percent) received at least one federal funding increase between FY2017 and FY2019.

Furthermore, one program kept its funding levels constant from FY2017 to FY2019:

  • Javits Gifted and Talented Education: $12.0

In addition, two programs proposed for elimination in FY2018 were not eliminated but did receive a reduction in federal funds (listed in millions for FY2017, FY2018 and FY2019, respectively):

  • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants: $2,251.6, $2,055.8, $2,055.8
  • Supported Employment State Grants: $27.5, $27.5, $22.5

Next, one program received reduced funding from FY2017 to FY2018 and was eliminated in FY2019:

  • School Leader Recruitment and Support: $16.3, $14.5, then eliminated

Finally, the following five programs were eliminated in FY 2018 as per DeVos’ request (each includes its FY2017 funding in millions):

  • Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools: $15.1
  • Preschool Development Grants: $249.5

In her FY2018 proposed education budget, DeVos hoped to cut funding totaling $5.1 billion. Instead, Congress cut two programs totaling $264.6 million. However, in FY2018, Congress increased funding by $35.2 million to programs DeVos wanted eliminated. Thus, her net elimination “savings” for FY2018 was $229.4 million.

In FY2019, DeVos proposed eliminating programs to the tune of $5.9 billion. Most were from her FY2018 elimination wish list, and a handful were added.

She hoped to eliminate Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants for a “savings” of $400 million; instead, Congress almost tripled the program’s FY2019 federal funding to $1.17 billion.

Devos’s FY2020 elimination wish list totals $6.7 billion. (One reason her proposed “savings” amount increases from year is that Congress opposes her elimination recommendations and instead increases funding for most programs on the list.

I expect that this situation is one in which a billionaire is actually frustrated by receiving more money.


Betsy DeVos 2

Betsy DeVos


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.

A Life Lesson: Don’t Cheat Yourself. Read the Whole Book.

I just finished grading this semester’s major essay for my senior English classes.

My goal was to have each student read a book– cover to cover– and write a paper on that book.

Sound simple?

Not so much.

We are in an age in which the technology at our fingertips makes cheating ourselves out of an education marvelously easy:

Read the summary. Copy and paste someone else’s words and pass them off as your own. Rearrange them a bit if you like. Or pay for an online subscription to browse prewritten papers, and choose one to pass off as your own. Or if you’re a more sophisticated cheater with some cash in your pockets, pay someone you’ve never met to write your paper for you. Just send the ghostwriter a copy of your assignment and a credit card number and consider it done.

I am pleased to note that of the 118 essays I collected and graded over the past three weeks, only three evidenced academic dishonesty. However, this chiefly-positive result is tied to some notable, proactive strategizing to curb such cheating. For example, I compose writing prompts that are not readily answered by using summary websites or prefab papers for purchase. Too, I require my students to pass an interview with me in which we discuss the book that the student is supposed to have read. Finally, students must also be able to hold a conversation with me about their own paper, with the understanding communicated upon issuance of the assignment that students must pass their book and paper interviews in order to receive credit for their papers.

Passing these interviews is only difficult for those who have not read the full book and/or not authored their own papers.

When I explain my system– the efforts I undertake to help assure that students read entire books and write their own essays on those books– some friends and colleagues respond, “But that is so much work on you.” Yes, it is extra work for me, but it is also investment; word is getting out about how I conduct my major essay assignment, that I mean business, and each semester, more students are taking me seriously and doing what is truly good for them: reading an entire book and writing their own essay on that book.

In other words, students are more easily acquiescing to investing in their own learning, not just for college, but for life.

Learning should be lifelong, and excellence does not cut corners. Important lessons.

And yet, one can certainly make a buck off of corner-cutting.

Only minutes ago, I saw a commercial for Blinkist, a Berlin-based site that advertises reducing nonfiction books into 10- to 21-minute “reads.” The site advertises, “Fit reading into your life.” Then it reduces complex books into spoon-sized “key takeaways.”

Ironically, it could take longer to read– truly read, as in read and absorb– the Blinkist Magazine article, “Ideas Matter: Get Up to Speed on the World’s Best Nonfiction Books,” than it does to Blinkist-fast read some of the suggested titles themselves.

I remember Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, launched by Reader’s Digest Magazine in 1950, and no longer published (Reader’s Digest tried to perform a makeover on the series in 2015, but has since been discontinued.) The condensed books were shortened, yes, but not to a 10- to 21-minute read.

Too, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books tended to be works of fiction, and Blinkist is a nonfiction site.

However, with the profound amount of information readily available on the internet, and with much of America’s attention glued to electronic devices, reducing the time, energy, and intellectual commitment of reading a book to a “blink” might just be a suitable, 21st-century angle for making a fast-read buck.

You see, you don’t have to bother subjecting yourself to a complete book (or even a something so lengthy as a Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version). Blinkist hires readers to read complete nonfiction books and “distill” these books “into short Blinks” shorter than sitcom episodes.

The message?

Life is too fast for people to put forth the effort to read an entire work, to experience the pondering, processing, absorbing, and suspense, savoring, and enjoyment of the full read for themselves, so let’s just get to the point, store away (at best) a few, superficial talking points to toss about in moments when one wants to sound deep without having bothered to intellectually invest in depth.

There will always be a market in corner-cutting. I’m not sure of the point of paying Blinkist a monthly or yearly fee just to regularly read/hear 15-minutes’ worth of distilled nonfiction books unless it is to promote the image of being well read.

Excellence allows for no corner-cutting, and quality does not happen in a Blink.

Read the whole book. (And write your own paper.)


Image from @book_tribe


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.


After Trying for Three Years, Betsy DeVos Fails to Nix Special Olympics Funding

US Department of Education (USDOE) secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has been in the news this week for her unfavorable (insensitive? foolish?) decision to propose– and ardently defend– $17.6M in cuts to Special Olympics in USDOE’s FY2020 proposed budget.

It isn’t the first time DeVos has proposed cutting Special Olympics. She has tried to cut Special Olympics in FY 2018 and FY 2019, as well.

Here is the language from the FY2019 budget summary justifying those cuts under the heading, “Programs Proposed for Elimination”:

Programs Proposed for Elimination

The 2019 request supports the Administration’s commitment to eliminating funding for programs that have achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness. ….

Special Olympics Education Programs ……………………………………………… $12.6

This program supports a directed grant award to a not-for-profit organization. Funds are used to expand the Special Olympics and the design and implementation of Special Olympics education programs. Such activities are better supported with other Federal, State, local, or private funds.

The language in FY2020 and FY2019 was the same as it was in DeVos’ proposed budget for FY2018, with only the amount differing ($10.1M in FY2018).

Despite her repeated attempts to eliminate federal funding to Special Olympics (FY2018, FY2019, FY2020), the House has instead increased funding to the program.

In hearings before the House Appropriations Committee on March 26, 27, and 28, 2019, DeVos defended cutting Special Olympics, including the reasoning that the nonprofit is “well supported by the philanthropic sector, as well.”

DeVos further defended her actions in this March 27, 2019, USDOE press release, which ends as follows:

The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money. But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.

And indeed, it is. According to its 2016 tax form for its DC-based national organization, Special Olympics received $96M in contributions and grants, with $11.5M derived from “government grants.” However, that $11.5M represents 12 percent of the nonprofit’s total revenue for the year. Furthermore, according to Special Olympics chairman, Tim Shriver, the federal funding is for Special Olympics programs in schools:

This particular initiative (the one that is federally funded) is a school-based initiative that is trying to teach inclusion, teach empathy, teach connection to the kids in schools in the country. We’re in about 6,000 schools. We’re introducing what we call “unified sport” where kids with and without special needs get to play on teams, learn from each other, become teammates, recognize that everybody matters. I mean, this is such a fundamental American lesson…. This is all about being able to look into your friend’s eye and learn from the child who has Down Syndrome, learn from the child who has autism when you’re in sixth grade, or eighth grade, or tenth grade….

So, here we have DeVos– education secretary– trying to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics program in schools.

She tried three years in a row.

For two years, funding increased.

And on March 28, 2019, Donald Trump “disavowed” DeVos’ stubbornly-defended attempt to kill federal funding to the program.

DeVos tried to play it off as what she wanted all along. From the March 28, 2019, The Hill:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday said she sees “eye-to-eye” with President Trump on the Special Olympics after he overruled her planned budget that cut funding for the program.

“I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years,” DeVos said in a statement.

Following Trump’s statement, Rep, Mark Pocan, who questioned DeVos on how if she knew how many children would be affected by her decision to cut federal funding to Special Olympics (when pressed, DeVos admitted she did not know), released the following response:

WASHINGTON, DC (March 28, 2019) – U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02) today released the following statement regarding President Trump stating that he has reversed course on the decision to eliminate funding for Special Olympics in the Department of Education’s FY 2020 budget request.

“I’m extremely glad that the American people have convinced President Trump to do the right thing with Special Olympics. However, it shouldn’t take public outcry and shaming to restore funding to one of our nation’s most important special education programs.

“For the last three years, President Trump and Secretary DeVos have eliminated Special Olympics funding in the Department of Education’s budget request. This was not a one-off mistake where President Trump is making a correction or having a change in heart. Rather, President Trump and Secretary DeVos could not take one more day of a bad news cycle and the public shaming on their cruel and outrageous cut to Special Olympics. Congress was already planning to ignore the Administration’s disgraceful budget request, so this is only an attempt to save face. Further, the President doesn’t have the authority to authorize spending.

“President Trump’s budget is filled with misguided and dangerous cuts that will cause serious and lasting pain to the most vulnerable Americans. I’m hopeful that now President Trump has reversed course on Special Olympics, we can have a conversation regarding Social Security, Medicaid, the National Institutes of Health, and so much more.

“And by the way, can someone pull Betsy from under the bus?”

Betsy DeVos 2

Betsy DeVos


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.


As Purdue Pharma Settles Oklahoma Lawsuit, Those Receiving Sackler Money Need to Make a Decision

On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the drug company Purdue Pharma has agreed to settle with the State of Oklahoma, which sued Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Teva Pharmaceutical for the state’s opioid crisis. The $270M settlement appears to have been in the works for months, with the help of a court-appointed mediator.

All three companies were scheduled to go to trial on May 28, 2019; only Purdue Pharma decided to settle thus far.

Purdue Pharma is owned by the billionaire Sackler family, of which ed reformer Jonathan Sackler is a member. The Oklahoma lawsuit (see here also) did not name the Sacklers as defendants.

Tracking the Sackler fortune has been difficult; in this March 08, 2019, post about Purdue Pharma, the Massachusetts lawsuit, Jonathan Sackler, and his spending his opioid profit-derived fortune on ed reform organizations, I reference a Wall Street Journal article that notes Purdue Pharma profits have largely landed in Sackler family pockets.

One way for Purdue Pharma to escape liability via hundreds of lawsuits for its role in America’s opioid crisis is to file for bankruptcy. However, according to May 26, 2019, Politico, Oklhoma’s $270M settlement with Purdue Pharma is “bankruptcy proof”:

[The Oklahoma settlement] is the first major settlement to result from all those lawsuits and comes as Purdue officials mulled bankruptcy protection. Filing for Chapter 11 could stop litigation and make it hard to collect on any judgment, which [Oklahoma Attorney General Mike] Hunter admitted played into his decision to reach this accord.

“We had to take into account that they were modeling bankruptcy,” he said. “That was a serious exercise with them.”

He said his office has made “extensive efforts” to ensure this settlement is “bankruptcy proof.”

“We’ve got a commitment they are not filing bankruptcy in the near term,” he said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure this is real money, that it’s not at risk in the event Purdue declares bankruptcy.“

In its press release on the settlement, Purdue Pharma paints the issue as a “landmark agreement… to advance the treatment of addiction.”

One day later, on March 27, 2019, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is facing criticism for refusing to return a $12,500 campaign donation from Jonathan Sackler, as GoLocalProv reports:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo continued to refuse to return or donate $12,500 from Purdue Pharma scion Jonathan Sackler and his wife, as Sackler finds himself facing new lawsuits in which he is personally named. …

While Raimondo had last responded to the question of keeping the Sackler money in October 2018, major developments have occurred regarding the Sacklers — including who is now suing them individually, and who is now refusing to take their money.

When pressed if she continued to be comfortable with her campaign relationship with Sackler, “I have nothing more to add on this,” said Raimondo. …

Sackler family members — including Jonathan Sackler —have been sued as individuals in Massachusetts and New York.

Raimondo might be fine taking money from a Sackler; however, the Sackler family trust will discontinue philanthropic donations because of repeated rejection of its offers for funding. New York’s Guggenheim Museum rejected Sackler funding, as have London’s National Portrait Gallery and Tate Galleries.

Postsecondary institutions are also having to face the issue of accepting money from a family made rich on opioid addiction.

But it can be hard to refuse tainted dollars. Just like the opioids from which they are derived, Sackler dollars can create addiction– fiscal addiction– as is apparently the case with Connecticut-based Achievement First charter schools. The March 18, 2019, Chalkbeat reports:

The co-founder of the Achievement First network of charter schools faced a weighty question in a meeting with a few students earlier this year. Is the network still receiving money from any member of the Sackler family, which has been accused of fueling the national opioid epidemic?

“Yes,” Dacia Toll said. Then she explained why.

The donations — $1.6 million from Jonathan Sackler between 2013 and 2017 — are critical to the 36-school network and its Connecticut schools in particular, Toll said.

“We could say to the Sacklers, we do not want your money. We could. Tomorrow,” she said, according to audio of the conversation obtained by Chalkbeat. “And as a result, some amount of things that we are able to do here … would go away.” …

“Without the philanthropy, we would have to lay off staff and cut core programs,” she said. “Our board is actively reassessing as we get more information.”

Addiction is terrible.

Sometimes, addiction is to a drug.

Other times, it is to the funding generated by that drug.

We need to be careful what owns us.

IMG_1450money fishhook


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.


Amy O’Rourke’s Charter School Dropped Two Grade Levels That It Still Advertises

In listening to a news report on presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s wife, Amy Sanders O’Rourke, I caught a quick mention of her having started a charter school in El Paso, Texas.

La Fe Preparatory School is the name. O’Rourke drafted the application in December 2006.

According to the La Fe Prep website, the school serves grades K-8. However, it seems that the site is not up-to date; the downloadable application is for the 2017-18 school year, and the latest news on the school, this KFOX14 news report dated July 24, 2018, indicates that La Fe Prep dropped grades 7 and 8 “according to parents”:

La Fe Preparatory School is downsizing, according to parents. They tell us they had been hearing rumors and finally got it confirmed.

“We were hearing rumors they weren’t sure there was going to be middle school. But we weren’t 100% sure yet,” Katherine Juarez, a parent at the school, said. “So just in case I went ahead and I put her in a different middle school.”

Juarez already enrolled her daughter into public school to be prepared for the changes.

KFOX14 reached out multiple times to the school’s public information officer to find out why the school was downsizing but never heard back.

The La Fe Prep website includes no mention of Amy O’Rourke as principal, though she is listed as principal in this Texas Tribune school search engine. (Note that data is from the 2016-17 school year.)

La Fe Prep still lists 7th/8th grade teachers on its staff page. Interestingly, no admin are listed, and no admin page is included on the La Fe Prep site.

As for O’Rourke: She is currently listed as “choose to excel director” for the El Paso nonprofit, CREEED. Her CREEED bio offers no indication of exactly when O’Rourke left La Fe Prep.

On the La Fe Prep website’s “parents” page, a link for 2018-19 school supplies supposedly for grades K-8 leads to an outdated, 2017-18 link.

Not only is there no mention of La Fe Prep being reduced to grades K-6; the “2018-19” supply link states that it is for “PK-7th/8th Grades.”

However, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) August 20, 2018, listing of Texas charter schools, La Fe Prep has indeed cut grades 7 and 8 for the 2018-19 school year; the school is listed as serving grades K-6 (see page 50).

Nevertheless, the La Fe Prep website has not been updated to reflect this fact– which means that the website is presenting El Paso parents with misleading information.

Good thing El Paso parents have a public school district to turn to.

question mark document


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.


Campbell Brown’s Union-Busting Org, Partnership for Ed Justice, Is Dead.

Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) was a nonprofit created in December 2013 by former journalist (and now, former ed reformer) Campbell Brown. Incorporated in Delaware under the name All Kids Matter, PEJ (then All Kids Matter) received some of its initial funding from a previous Campbell Brown nonprofit, Parents Transparency Project (PTP).

If all of this nonprofit-begetting-nonprofit history is a challenge to follow, perhaps this excerpt from my December 01, 2016, post on this blog:

In June 2013, Campbell Brown formed the lobbying nonprofit, Parents’ Transparency Project (PTP), and registered it in Delaware. It reported total revenue of $1.2 million for June thru December 2013 and had one major expense of $1.1 million:

PTP is apolitical (Schneider’s note: supposedly meaning “non-political”) watchdog group whose mission is to bring transparency to the rules, deals, and contracts negotiated between our state and local governments and the teachers’ unions, and to help parents get a clear understanding of how the education bureaucracy works. PTP used media to generate public pressure against the DOE, the UFT, and city and state government of New York to be transparent and accountable in their procedures, contracts, and legislation affecting our students and their school system.

In October 2013, Mother Jones published an enlightening article on Brown’s PTP, which supposedly aimed to cleanse New York classrooms of union-protected sexual predator teachers. An excerpt:

Early one morning in July, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, pen in hand, notes fanned out in front of her. Viewers might have mistaken her as a fill-in host, but Brown had swung by 30 Rock in her new role as a self-styled education reformer, a crusader against sexual deviants in New York City public schools and the backward unions and bureaucrats getting in the way of firing them. “In many cases, we have teachers who were found guilty of inappropriate touching, sexual banter with kids, who weren’t fired from their jobs, who were given very light sentences and sent back to the classroom,” Brown, the mother of two young sons, explained.

Brown was there to plug her new venture, the Parents’ Transparency Project, a nonprofit “watchdog group” that “favors no party, candidate, or incumbent.” Though its larger aim is to “bring transparency” to how contracts are negotiated with teachers’ unions, PTP’s most prominent campaign is to fix how New York City handles cases of sexual misconduct involving teachers and school employees—namely by giving the city’s schools chancellor, a political appointee, ultimate authority in the process. …

Brown’s group paints the unions as the main obstacles to a crackdown on predators. Yet Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, says that the union’s New York City chapter already has a zero-tolerance policy in its contract, and that AFT only protects its members against “false allegations.” New York state law also mandates that any teacher convicted of a sex crime be automatically fired. It is the law, not union contracts, that requires that an independent arbitrator hear and mete out punishment in cases of sexual misconduct that fall outside criminal law. The quickest route to changing that policy may be lobbying lawmakers in Albany, not hammering teachers and their unions.

Brown did not want to lobby lawmakers in Albany. Instead, she pretty much closed PTP shop in 2014 in order to create another nonprofit.

According to the PTP 2014 tax form, PTP began 2014 with the $88,000 left over from 2013. Turns out PTP paid $30,000 of that $88,000 to Brown’s next nonprofit, the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

Brown began PEJ in December 2013 under a different name, All Kids Matter, Inc., and incorporated it in Delaware. In February 2014, she changed the name to Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

In March 2014, Brown filed for nonprofit status for PEJ under a New York City address. Brown reported that she expected PEJ to raise $3 million in grants and contributions from 12-19-2013 to 11-30-2014; $4 million from 12-01-2014 to 11-30-2015, and $5 million from 12-01-2015 to 11-30-2016.

Brown included the following description of PEJ’s purpose on the nonprofit application:

Inspired by the work of similar impact litigation around the country, the Applicant will seek to use the litigation process, combined with a public communications campaign, to reform harmful education laws and regulations that prevent our schools and school districts from providing all students with an excellent education. Through its public communications campaigns, the Applicant will seek to build relationships with families, community stakeholders and organizations — with the goal of forming effective working coalitions that will increase pressure on lawmakers and other decision makers to reform our educational system.

The Applicant’s initial focus will be on defending human and civil rights of children in New York State public schools. More particularly, the Applicant will help fund and support litigation challenging New York State education laws that operate to keep grossly ineffective teachers in public school classrooms. The Applicant hopes to be able to build on its initial activities in New York and to expand its activities into other states around the country.

In all events, the litigation promoted, supported or engaged in by the Applicant will be undertaken to benefit the general public. For example, in selecting rights to be defended, the Applicant will consider whether the litigation will have a substantial impact beyond the interest of the specific named plaintiffs. In addition, the selection of cases will be made by the Board, which is unrelated to, and independent of, any commercial entity retained by the Applicant. The Applicant does not expect to receive financial support from any of the persons being represented.

The Applicant will not, itself, provide legal representation to others, although it will institute and support litigation in order to defend children’s human and civil rights.

The “similar impact litigation” that inspired Brown’ s PEJ likely includes the case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which was considered a victory for organized labor when the US Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in March 2016over unions’ collecting fees from nonmembers when nonmembers benefited from union advocacy, and the teacher tenure lawsuit, California’s Vergara case, which the California Supreme Court decided in August 2016 not to hear. Thus, the ruling on appeal (which was in favor of California teacher job protections) was allowed to stand.

As of this writing, Brown’s PEJ has filed lawsuits in New York, Minnesota, and New Jersey. In October 2016, a Minnesota judge tossed out the Minnesota suit for not connecting student test score outcomes with the state’s tenure laws. According to PEJ, the parents in the PEJ-backed MN lawsuit “are preparing to appeal.”

According to Minnesota ed advocate Sarah Lahm, PEJ’s Minnesota lawsuit died a quiet death. From Lahm’s March 14, 2019, post:

In a February 28 statement posted to the Partnership for Educational Justice website, the group acknowledged that a Minnesota appeals court dismissed the Forslund case and, in response, the plaintiffs have declined to pursue any further legal action.

So, the purpose of Brown’s PEJ was to weaken teachers unions; however, it seems that PEJ just couldn’t bring about the union-busting that Brown and her PEJ funders and allies had hoped. According to PEJ’s terminal tax form (December 01, 2016, to August 31, 2017), Brown was still listed as a director; however, as of January 2017, her attention had been turned away from union busting (and from being editor at yet another nonprofit, the 74 Media) and toward being the “head of news partnerships” at Facebook.

As for PEJ, well, it just couldn’t go on. Its total revenue fell dramatically from 2015 to 2016; in 2015 (actually December 2014 to November 2015), PEJ garnered $4.7M in contributions and grants; in 2016 (Dec 2015 to Nov 2016), PEJ revenue dropped markedly, to $901K– with PEJ ending the year in the red (-$400K). In its final year (Dec 2016 to Aug 2017), PEJ listed only $500K in revenue and again ended its year (this one shortened to eight months) in the red (redder, at -$690K, but the same total to the dollar as its net assets, thereby leaving and end-of-year fund balance of zero).

On its terminal tax form, PEJ’s explanation for its short year is simply, “Organization has been dissolved as of August 31, 2017.”


Even so, PEJ still has a functioning website with contact info redirected to “”– 50CAN being connected to none other than Jonathan Sackler, of the Purdue-Pharma-OxyContin-producing Sacklers.

Jonathan Sackler is “incubating” a new ed reform org that happens to involve two ed reformers looking for a new reform gig, one of whom was once on the PEJ payroll. From my March 08, 2019, post on Jonathan Sackler:

What I also noticed is that a number of the ed reform orgs that Sackler once supported are now either out of commission or absorbed by other entities (e.g., Families for Excellent Schools, Black Alliance for Education Options, StudentsFirst, Partnership for Educational Justice, Excel Bridgeport). Still, that does not mean that Sackler is not ready to offer his OxyContin-derived bucks to help re-form reform. Consider this May 11, 2018, Chalkbeat article, entitled, “Two Former Staff Members at Families for Excellent Schools Planning a New Pro-Charter Org”:

Two former top staffers at the recently shuttered Families for Excellent Schools are working to start a new pro-charter advocacy group, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their plans.

Reshma Singh, who was the chief growth officer at Families for Excellent Schools, and Sean Andersen, who was its chief program officer, are leading the new effort. And while the scope and approach of their new organization are still unclear, the connections the pair have to the education reform world suggest the group’s impact will be felt even as it faces tough political headwinds in some states.

The group is being incubated at 50CAN, an education advocacy group with a presence in several states and where Andersen and Singh are currently employees.

According to Singh’s Linkedin bio, prior to her time with now-inoperative Families for Excellent Schools, Singh was the founding executive director of another nonfunctioning ed reform nonprofit,  Partnership for Educational Justice.

Is the third time the charm?

According to her Linkedin bio, Singh’s new org is P.A.C.E. Education Strategies, designed to boost the grass-rootsiness of ed reform. From PACE’s web site:

We believe the key to upward mobility in America is a great education. But today, more than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, access to a quality education is still determined by a student’s race, income, and zip code.

Despite these persistent challenges, there are bright spots all across the country. There are innovative public schools run by dedicated and visionary leaders that are preparing thousands of students for college and a successful life. There are parent-led organizations fighting for opportunity in their communities.

These leaders give us hope. But they face so many barriers that can keep their work from succeeding. Whether it’s an entrenched political opposition or the devastating impact of apathy from those in power, creating bold educational change can feel like rolling a boulder uphill.

That’s why we exist – to help local leaders who are fighting to change the status quo in our education system. And by doing so, we will move towards a nation where every child has access to a great public school.

Sure, PEJ is dead, but there’s always room (and money, even opioid-derived) for an ed-reform spinoff, a corporate-reform makeover.

Throwing public education under the bus can be so difficult on the passionate ed reformer.

Some must reinvent themselves as ed reformers, at least for awhile.

Then they can exit that passion and become Facebook execs.

campbell brown 4

Campbell Brown


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.


FBI Wiretaps Show Importance of Fake Charity and Extended Testing Time in College Admissions Scam

William Rick Singer operated The Key Worldwide (KWF), a fraudulent nonprofit, as a front for a massive college admissions scandal for the rich.

william rick singer

William Rick Singer

However, Singer could not state the real purpose of his nonprofit in its declared mission, so he manipulated the language as follows:

The Key Worldwide Foundation endeavors to provide education that would normally be unattainable to underprivileged students, not only attainable but realistic. With programs that are designed to assist young people in everyday situations, and educational situations, we hope to open new avenues of educational access to students that would normally have no access to these programs. Our contributions to major athletic university programs, may help to provide placement to students that may not have access under normal channels.

Compare Singer’s words above with those intercepted in a June 2018, court-approved, FBI wiretap of Singer selling his college admissions wares to a wealthy parent, New York attorney Gordon Caplan, who is now part of this 204-page affidavit in support of criminal complaint.


Gordon Caplan

(Note that Singer says he has perpetrated his scheme a whopping 761 times before):

Okay, so, who we are– what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school …. Every year there are– is a group of families, especially where I am right now in the Bay Area, Palo Alto, I just flew in. That they want guarantees, they want this thing done. They don’t want to be messing around with this thing. And so they want in at certain schools. So I did 761 what I would call, “side doors.” There is a front door which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement, which is ten times as much money. And I’ve created this side door in. Because the back door, when you go through institutional advancement, as you know, everybody’s got a friend of a friend, who knows somebody who knows somebody but there’s no guarantee, they’re just gonna give you a second look. My families want a guarantee. So, if you said to me ‘here’s our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we want to go to X school’ and you give me one or two schools, and then I’ll go after those schools and try to get a guarantee done. So that, by the time, the summer of her (Caplan’s daughter’s) senior year, before her senior year, hopefully we can have this thing done, so that in the fall, before December 15th, you already knows she’s in. Done. And you make a financial commitment. It depends on what school you want, may determine how much that actually is. But that’s kind of how the the side and back door work.

And that is where a fake charity is useful, as noted in the affidavit:

Once parents agreed to participate in the scheme, CW-1 (Singer) sent bribes to coaches and, in one case, a university administrator, typically out of a KWF bank account. In some instances, he directed the money to the recipients directly, for their personal use, including one recipient who received bribe payments by mail at his residence in the District of Massachusetts. In other instances, he directed the money to designated accounts at the Universities that were controlled by the recipients, including in some instances via mailings from the District of Massachusetts. In still other instances, CW-1’s clients made the payments directly to the designated accounts at the Universities, as directed by the bribe recipients.

Below are excerpts from conversations between Caplan and Singer. Having the student granted extended time is critical to Singer’s scheme because it allows the privacy necessary to operate the scam. Notice also the goal of keeping the student unaware of the fraud:


So here’s the first thing we need to do. And I think I mentioned this to your wife. We need to get your daughter tested for a learning difference. Here’s why. If she gets tested for a learning difference, and let’s say it’s my person that does it, or whoever you want to do it, I need that person to get her 100% extended time over multiple days. So what that means is, we’ll have to show that there’s some discrepancies in her learning, which there’s gotta be anyways. And if she gets 100%, Gordon, then, I own two schools. I can have her test at one of my schools, and I can guarantee her a score. If it’s ACT, I can guarantee her a score in the, in the 30s. And if it’s the SAT, I can guarantee her a score in the 1400s. Now, all of a sudden, her test score does not become an issue with all the colleges. Because she’s strong enough. Then, if we clean up her transcript, then her ability, with her athletic ability and her testing and her getting better at school, it’s much easier to get her into school, because you’re not fighting huge obstacles at the types of schools you’re talking about. Now, if we do that, there’s a financial consideration that you have to pay to the school to get it done, because this is absolutely unheard of, to make this happen. I can make scores happen, and nobody on the planet can get scores to happen. She won’t even know that it happened. It will happen as though, she will think that she’s really super smart, and she got lucky on a test, and you got a score now. There’s lots of ways to do this. I can do anything and everything, if you guys are amenable to doing it.


Okay, so let me let me understand the two components. What is the, what is the, the number?


So the number– the number–


–At Cornell for instance.


Well, hold on a second. The number on the testing is $75,000. Okay? It’s $75,000 to get any test scores you would like to get on the SAT or ACT. Okay, that’s–


Explain to me how that works.


I just explained it to you. You get extended time, you gotta get the extended time first. Then you’re going to fly to L.A. And you’re going to be going on a fake recruiting visit. You’ll visit some schools, while you’re out here in L.A. And then on a Saturday, which is the national test day if it’s ACT or SAT, she’s going to sit down and take the test. I will have a proctor in the room, that’s why, when you have 100% extended time, you have– you get to take it at a– you don’t take it with everybody else, you get to take it over multiple days. And you get to take it at a– you can take it at your school or another school. Okay? And then this kid, ’cause she’s taking online classes, you have to go somewhere anyway. So you come to my school, take the test on a Saturday. She’ll be in the room for six, six and a half hours taking this test. My proctor would then answer her questions, and by the end of the day, she would leave, and my proctor would make sure she would get a score that would be equivalent to the number that we need to get.




That’s how simple it is. She doesn’t know. Nobody knows what happens. It happened, she feels great about herself. She got a test a score, and now you’re actually capable for help getting into a school. Because the test score’s no longer an issue. Does that make sense?

In a follow-up conversation, Singer clarified the importance of students being granted extended time in order to have access to multiple test days. Caplan constantly sought reassurance about the con, both in this excerpt and throughout the numerous recorded conversations he had with Singer:


Schools don’t know. Schools don’t know. That’s why you have to get 100% time or you have to get 50% multiple days. The only, so the way it works is, if you get 50% time you have to take it at a national test center okay? If you get 100% time you have to find a school that’ll actually give you the test. So, if she were at a traditional school, she would be taking it at that school. What I do is, I always tell the family, “Oh, you got a bar mitzvah out of town that weekend, so you found a school to take it at,” and they go take it at our school and then they come home and they get a score. So the key is the testing, and we have to get the testing so that we show a discrepancy. It sounds like she has a discrepancy, but I need the discrepancies to be significant enough so that we don’t have to appeal and we can go forward. The fact that she’s in an online school, that may be helpful for us as well.

Singer also has the gall to file appeals with testing companies if extended time is not granted– so the stupider, the better, on initial eval (as though no student will catch on that this is fraudulent):


And do you ever have a problem getting the 100% time?


Oh yeah, there’s times when we have to appeal because, you know, for whatever reason. You have to understand that College Board and ACT both outsource their decisions to a committee, ’cause they’re tired of being sued. For, you know, so they do the outsourcing. So, sometimes you have to re-appeal so that psychologist that’ll do the testing, will actually write up an appeal. So we’ll do that, and I also need to tell [your daughter] when she gets tested, to be as, to be stupid, not to be as smart as she is. The goal is to be slow, to be not as bright, all that, so we show discrepancies. And she knows that she’s getting all this extra time, everywhere that she is right now. At the Academy kids are getting extra time all the time.


You mean the Greenwich Academy?




Oh, oh you mean at her tennis academy. I see. Yeah. Okay.


Yeah, everywhere around the country. What happened is, all the wealthy families that figured out that if I get my kid tested and they get extended time, they can do better on the test. So most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time. The playing field is not fair.


No, it’s not. I mean this is, to be honest, it feels a little weird. But.


I know it does. I know it does. But when she gets the score and we have choices, you’re gonna be saying, okay, I’ll take all my kids, we’re gonna do the same thing. (laughing)


Yeah, I will.

KWF, the nonprofit providing education for the privileged.

The playing field is not fair.

It turns out that ACT twice denied extended time to Caplan’s daughter but the FBI asked ACT to grant the request, and ACT did so.

Caplan had no idea. However, by this time, Singer was apparently cooperating with the FBI because the affidavit notes that the conversation was “consentually recorded”:


So [my daughter] did get the extension. Totally unexpected. We got it last night.






That’s cool. Cool.


Yeah. And you were right. I mean, it was like third time was the charm. So everybody was telling us there’s no way, and then all of a sudden it comes in through [her school]. So, again, and– keep in mind I am a lawyer. So I’m sort of rules oriented. Doing this with you, no way– she’s taking the test. It’s her taking the test, right? There’s no way–




— any trouble comes out of this, nothing like that?

After more discussion, Caplan decided he wanted in– and he sent his first payment to KWF. From the affidavit, as written by the FBI agent. (Note that Singer was cooperating with federal agents):

On or about November 13, 2018, CAPLAN wired $25,000 to a bank account in Boston, Massachusetts in the name of the KWF charity that, unbeknownst to CAPLAN, [Singer] had opened at the direction of law enforcement agents. [Singer] had previously advised CAPLAN that the $25,000 would be a “deposit” to reserve the services of [Mark Riddell], who [Singer] said was his “best test-taker” and could “nail a score– he’s that good.”

Singer later explains to Caplan what will happen on the day of the test:

Okay. And you’ll– you’ll meet [Mark Riddell] and [test administrator] Igor [Divorskiy], and you’ll– you’ll go your own way. [Your daughter] will go in and take the test. She’ll be the only one, taking it in the room with– with [Mark Riddell]. She will take the test. She will walk out the door. At the end of it she’ll say to you, “Dad, it was so hard,”or “I’m so tired,” or whatever the typical reaction out of the kid. Then [Riddell] will finish the exam. He will then take the exam and look at her– what she’s done, and then ensure that whatever score we decide that we want to get– he has it down to a– unbelievable that he can do it. Get that number based on the four sections. She’ll do the computer writing of the essay herself. That’ll be all her. He can help her if she wants some guidance [inaudible] approach. But other than that, that will be all her writing. And she will sign it and she’ll walk out of there and she will never know that this actually occurred. You will get your results back in, you know, anywhere from, 11– depends on what day it goes back in. But anywhere from 11 to 20 days. And she’ll get her results and she’ll say, “Oh, my God, Dad, I got a 33!”

From the FBI agent, as recorded in the affidavit:

On or about December 8, 2018, law enforcement agents observed Dvorskiy arrive
at the West Hollywood Test Center at approximately 7:05 a.m. CAPLAN and his daughter arrived approximately ten minutes later, and Dvorskiy, CAPLAN and CAPLAN’s daughter went inside the building. At approximately 7:21 a.m., CW-2 entered the West Hollywood Test Center. At approximately 7:31 a.m., Dvorskiy and CAPLAN walked out of the building and had a brief conversation. At approximately 11:52 a.m., CAPLAN’s daughter left the West Hollywood Test Center, met CAPLAN, and drove away.

On or about December 20, 2018, CAPLAN wired an additional $50,000 into the KWF bank account in Boston.

Two key (note the pun) issues for Singer’s fraud: extended testing time and a nonprofit money-funnel.

Also, be sure to send invoices for the fraud, as well as thank-you letters, both of which appear in the section of the affidavit referring to the complaint against actress Felicity Huffman:

Singer (to Huffman):

Okay, and then, so then are we– so again the last time we did this. Just so I can make sure the financial part is all squared away that then we’ll– we will send you an invoice for $15,000 and we’ll– and that’ll be all taken care of.

The term “invoice” appears 38 times in the 204-page affidavit.


Felicity Huffman

Invoices leave a trail, but it is also important to remind those clients to pay.

It just so happens that individuals happen to often make donations to KWF for the amount of those invoices for fraudulent services rendered. (It seems Singer also created fake invoices for services rendered by his for-profit, Edge College and Career Consulting.)

Singer’s partner in crime (literally), Steven Masera, sent Huffman a thank-you letter for their *donation* “for disadvantaged youth”:

On or about February 27, 2018, HUFFMAN and her spouse made a purported contribution of $15,000 to KWF. On or about March 21, 2018, Masera sent them a letter thanking them for the purported donation and falsely stating that it would “allow us to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth.” The letter falsely stated that “no goods or services were exchanged” for the $15,000.

Even though Huffman decided not to use Singer to directly alter her younger daughter’s score, as the affidavit notes, she did consider it, and both of Huffman’s daughters were granted extended time for the SAT as part of a scheme– one that still allowed the younger daughter an undue advantage over other SAT test takers.

No more need for Huffman to donate to that nonprofit for the “underprivileged.”

It was there when she and scores of others of the wealthy, entitled set needed it for exploitation’s sake, as was the manipulation of extended testing time–

–all caught on tape.



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.