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13 Affluent Parents Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scam, Face Jail Time

Thirteen parents and one coach involved in a massive college admissions scam pled guilty federal court in Massachusetts on April 08, 2019.

From the April 08, 2019, Los Angeles Times:

Felicity Huffman and a dozen other wealthy parents swept up in the far-reaching college admissions scandal have agreed to plead guilty after being charged in the scheme, according to court records.

The actress and 12 other parents, including Los Angeles marketing guru Jane Buckingham, will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Bay Area real estate developer Bruce Isackson will plead guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. His wife, Davina Isackson, will plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. …

Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, will also plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Center is accused of accepting $60,000 in cash and a $40,000 donation to his tennis program to ensure a student was admitted as a recruited athlete. …

Manny Medrano, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said that based on 2019 federal sentencing guidelines, Huffman would face from four to 10 months in prison as part of her plea. …

In a statement Monday, Huffman acknowledged her guilty plea.

I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions. I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she said. …

Those who have signed plea agreements face recommended sentences of a few months to a year and a half in prison, prosecutors said.

When it came to charges, Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, apparently lucked out. As People magazine notes, Macy was recorded discussing a cheating scheme for his younger daughter, not his older daughter. Huffman and Macy chose not to follow through with the plan for the younger daughter. Huffman was charged for cheating associated with the couple’s older daughter.

And so, what of motive? What entices the affluent over  and over to risk wrecking their lives over college admissions?

On April 04, 2019, Caitlin Flanagan published an insightful article in the Atlantic, entitled, “They Had It Coming.” The summary statement following the article title notes a startling truth:

The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

According to Flanagan, Felicity Huffman and other well-to-do, substantially-moneyed, well-positioned parents involved in this scam are reaching to keep their privilege in a world that is increasingly requiring them to share opportunity with those outside of their circle of entitlement:

Ever since the scandal became public, two opinions have been widely expressed. The first is that the schemes it revealed are not much different from the long-standing admissions preference for big donors, and the second is that these admissions gained on fraudulent grounds have harmed underprivileged students. These aren’t quite right. As off-putting as most of us find the role that big-ticket fundraising plays in elite-college admissions, those monies go toward programs and facilities that will benefit a wide number of students—new dormitories, new libraries, enriched financial-aid funds are often the result of rich parents being tapped for gifts at admissions time. But the Singer scheme benefits no one at all except the individual students, and the people their parents paid off.

The argument that the scheme hurt disadvantaged applicants—or even just non-rich applicants who needed financial aid to attend these stratospherically expensive colleges—isn’t right either. Elite colleges pay deep attention to the issue of enrollment management; the more elite the institution, the more likely it is to be racially and socioeconomically diverse. This is in part because attaining this kind of diversity has become a foundational goal of most admissions offices, and also because the elite colleges have the money to make it happen. In 2017, Harvard announced with great fanfare that it had enrolled its first class in which white students were in the minority. …

… Anyone can understand a parent’s disappointment if he had thought for 17 years that his child would go to Yale one day, only to learn that it’s not in the cards. But what accounted for the intensity of emotion these parents expressed, their sense of a profound loss, of rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs? They were experiencing the same response to a changing America that ultimately brought Donald Trump to office: white displacement and a revised social contract. The collapse of manufacturing jobs has been to poor whites what the elite college-admissions crunch has been to wealthy ones: a smaller and smaller slice of pie for people who were used to having the fattest piece of all. ….

These parents—many of them avowed Trump haters—are furious that what once belonged to them has been taken away, and they are driven mad with the need to reclaim it for their children. The changed admissions landscape at the elite colleges is the aspect of American life that doesn’t feel right to them; it’s the lost thing, the arcadia that disappeared so slowly they didn’t even realize it was happening until it was gone.

Flanagan’s piece is both powerful and insightful and is informed by her time as a teacher and counselor at a top-of-the-line Los Angeles high school. It is well worth a full, thoughtful read.

Below is Felicity Huffman’s full statement of apology that accompanied her April 08, 2019, guilty plea, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done. I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.

I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.

My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.

Let this be a lesson to the ueber-wealthy parents tempted to conspire their children into “good” schools and to the coaches and others willing to exploit their entitled idiocy.

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Felicity Huffman at federal court in Boston, April 08, 2019

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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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.

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

 

New Beginnings Charter CEO Under Investigation for Grade Changes, Unapproved Contract, Forged Docs to Cover Tracks

The New Beginnings Schools Foundation (NBSF), which operates three charter schools in New Orleans: Pierre Capdau (preK – 8), Medard Nelson (preK – 8), and John F. Kennedy High School (9 – 12).

On April 04, 2019, the NBSF board issued the following statement for parents on its website:

April 4, 2019

Dear NBSF Families,

The Board of Directors of New Beginnings Schools Foundation takes seriously the recent allegations that have been made against our administration and staff. In light of these actions, and out of an abundance of caution, we are taking decisive action. We have retained Adams and Reese to conduct an independent review of these allegations. Effective immediately, and for the duration of this investigation, Michelle Blouin-Williams will be on paid leave, and the executive team at New Beginnings will jointly lead the organization until the independent investigation is completed. This will ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities and provide our staff, families, and students with the stability they deserve. Finally, we have been in regular contact with the Orleans Parish School Board and thank Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. and his team for their wise counsel and support. The Board of Directors looks forward to the results of the independent review and will continue our commitment to the teachers, students, and families and ultimately to our mission of providing an excellent education for every student in our schools.

In partnership,

NBSF Board of Directors

Now, there’s a lot to unpack.

Let’s get to it.

On March 22, 2019, the Lens published a piece, entitled, “F to D Grade Changes at Kennedy High School Are Suspicious, Former Administrator Says.”

In short, in January 2019, the NBSF data director, Runell King, noticed that some grades had been manually overridden. The grades in question were those of an Algebra III teacher who went on leave. King ended up being fired. As to the grade changes, the explanation given by NBSF CEO, Michelle Blouin-Williams, was that the grades were changed because the course weights were off.

The only problem is that only certain grades in the course were changed, not all.

From the Lens article:

A former administrator at a New Orleans charter school network suspects that John F. Kennedy High School employees changed students’ final letter grades from F’s to D’s and D’s to C’s in an attempt to give students credits they didn’t earn.

At least 17 students in Algebra III moved from an F to a D, according to the employee, Runell King. …

King doesn’t believe the network’s investigation was thorough enough and ignored the evidence he provided. He noted that in one case, he even saw a failing grade changed to a C.

“Seeing those grades inflated, at times two grade levels, was a red flag for me as a data expert,” he said.

If true, the grade inflations could have an effect well beyond individual students at the 690-student high school in Gentilly. If grade changes allowed students to graduate, thus improving Kennedy’s graduation rate, that could also inflate the school’s state letter grade. Graduation rate accounts for a quarter of a school’s state rating.

So, Blouin-Williams’ in-house “investigation” and insufficient explanation of the Algebra III grade changes is one issue. But there is another, and it has to do with falsified board minutes to conceal a student transportation contract that was approved by Blouin-Williams without NBSF board knowledge.

Blouin-Williams apparently needed the fake board minutes for an upcoming audit by the Louisiana legislative auditor– an audit that discovered profound spending. From this April 05, 2019, WWL-TV report:

WWL-TV already questioned Blouin-Williams about the Scholars First school bus contract she signed Aug. 1, 2017. Public records posted on the New Beginnings website and provided to WWL-TV in response to an official request purport that “proposed” contract was brought to the board on Sept. 21, 2017, almost two months after Blouin-Williams and Scholars First owner Jeramy Jackson signed it.

Metadata in the records posted online and provided by Blouin-Williams show they were created in August 2018, a year afterwards. …

A source said Blouin-Williams created the fake board minutes in August 2018 because a required annual audit for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor was beginning, and the organization needed to show major contracts were approved by the board.

That audit, filed in January, found New Beginnings’ staff understated its expenses by $1.1 million and ran a budget deficit of nearly $5 million for the 2017-18 school year. New Beginnings’ fund balance plummeted from $7.5 million in 2017 to just $2.5 million in 2018. The auditors found that Blouin-Williams’ staff “significantly exceeded” the spending New Beginnings’ board had budgeted.

And while that was happening, Blouin-Williams’ contracting practices were questioned. Three local bus vendors bid for the contract that went to Scholars First, a company now under investigation for fraud after WWL-TV discovered it was allegedly falsifying its insurance coverage.

Here is the January 2018 Louisiana legislative auditor’s report.

According to page 31, for fiscal year 2018, Blouin-Williams was paid $220,792 for operating three schools. According to NBSF’s statement to parents, she continues to be paid while on leave during its independent investigation.

As for that 2017-18 budget deficit of almost $5M: Here are some details from page 62, under “operating deficits”:

Condition

For the years ending June 30, 2017 and 2018, the Foundation incurred operating deficits of $899,754 and $4,898,235, respectively. Additionally, the Foundation has budgeted a deficit of $886.173 for fiscal year 2019.

Cause

Due to fiscal year 2018 being a charter renewal year for two of the Foundation’s schools, management knowingly budgeted a deficit to spend down their accumulated net assets on targeted expenditures dedicated to instructional improvement efforts at these two schools; however, ineffective monitoring of budget versus actual resulted in deficit spending significantly exceeding that which was budgeted.

Effect

Potential negative impact on cash flow needs for operating expenses.

Recommendation

We recommend that management implement stronger monitoring of budget versus actual results. In addition, we recommend management explore other sources of funding and/or implement cost-containment measures to reduce operating expenses.

Surely one “cost-containment measure” is to assure that the schools’ CEO is not sliding unapproved contracts past the board and then forging board minutes to conceal her actions.

No telling what else independent reviewers, Adams and Reese, might discover.

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Michelle Blouin-Williams

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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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.

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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.

Heh.

Betsy DeVos 2

Betsy DeVos

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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.)

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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

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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

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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.