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School Superintendent Tony Bennett’s Mega-Millionaire Charter School: What Else You Should Know

6:18 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Tony Bennett, former Indiana (and now Florida) supt. of public schools.

As everyone by now knows, former Indiana (and now Florida) supt. of public schools Tony Bennett was recently caught rigging the grades of an Indy charter school run by multi-millionaire exchange vocation princess, Republican (and Democrat) campaign donor, mansion owner, and current Indiana Education Roundtable member Christel DeHaan.  Here are a few more things Indiana (and Florida) taxpayers should know about the Christel House Academy and Christel DeHaan:

1. The Christel House Academy has spent over $70,000 the last few years travelling to God knows where.

For the 2009 calendar year, the school spent $12,000 on travel expenses (see page 10).

In the 2010 calendar year, the Christel House Academy wasted another $20,500 on travel (see page 10).

Even as the Christel House Academy paid out $15,000 on advertising for the 2011 calendar year, it dished out a staggering $40,000 on travel alone (see page 10 in PDF).  No details are given in tax records as to where this travel took place, but my guess is it wasn’t to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Although I have no proof of it, I would suspect this money was used to fly DeHaan officials overseas to her other charter schools in India, Mexico, and South America, supplying them with a nice vocation, as well.

Did this travelling money come out of taxpayers’ pockets? Or–if we want to be polite and unquestioning citizens–from school fees or other revenue?  These are questions that need to be answered.

2.  Multi-Millionaire Christel DeHaan hangs around with other unethical people besides Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett.

When DeHaan broke ground for high school students a few years back, naming that section of the charter school after a former Eli Lilly exec., Mitch Daniels (wanting to keep the Indiana GOP campaign funds rolling), Indy Mayor Greg Ballard, and Ambassador Randall Tobias, were there for the photo-op.

Tobias, then Eli Lilly’s chairman emeritus, is best known for his role in George W. Bush’s administration promoting a religious right anti-AIDS  and anti-prostitution public policy while he himself was sleeping with prostitutes.  Tobias, for the charter school, went a step further, chairing with DeHaan a $4 million  “capital campaign” to raise corporate money for the school.

The school did draw in private investors for a couple of years after Tobias’ “capital campaign,” but the money they gave is chump-change compared to the millions taxpayers are giving.  The mega-millionaire’s charter school got $6 million recently for just one year.  This money isn’t going to paying janitors, since the school outsources those jobs.

The corporatists who donated to the Christel House Academy are the regular suspects: Eli Lilly (deep into the assault on students, teachers, and public schools in Indiana), JP Morgan (making interest on charter school loans in the Hoosier state), Klipsch Audio Technologies (owned by Betsy DeVos’ front man Fred Klipsch),  banks, banks, and more banks, and more corporations.

3.  DeHaan supports Bill Gates’ Common Core Initiative.

Along with right-wing PR consultant and former Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor (whose employee, Faulkner Strategies, helped spread the Betsy DeVos/hedge fund school choice gospel throughout Indiana and America), Christel DeHaan under Mitch Daniels’ watch represented Indiana for the American Diploma Project, a Common Core Standards/Next Generation Science setup the corporate-politico created Achieve, Inc., Education Trust, and the anti-union Fordham Foundation launched in 20o1.  Bill Gates’ funding quickly followed.

4.  What is Tony going to do?

Looks like many of the conservative rich are having doubts about supporting their lap puppet Tony Bennett now, since he’s spilled the beans on how school accountability really works.  As I said back in May 2011, Bennett is not bright enough to write corporate school propaganda; he’s lucky Jeb Bush got him his new gig running (or ruining) the schools in Florida.

Although it’s highly unlikely the Indiana Inspector General will investigate Bennett, as many have called for, Florida Governor Rick Scott can do the right thing and fire Tony Bennett, letting him go on his merry way. Read the rest of this entry →

Jeb Bush’s Privatization Plan for Indiana Public Schools

8:28 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

"Privatization Will Benefit Only WallStreet"

"Privatization Will Benefit Only WallStreet" by sagesnow on flickr

This piece is cross-posted at B-Town Errant, Indiana’s new and most progressive anti-corporate magazine. Please check it out.

A few weeks after I criticized EdisonLearning’s invitation to Indiana, Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and Mitch Daniels have welcomed yet another Jeb Bush crony, Jonathan Hage, CEO of Florida-based for-profit education management company Charter Schools USA (CS USA), to possibly administrate our so-called “failing schools.” Although IDOE’s Dale Chu testifies that plenty of “drilling” took place in selecting the turnaround companies which have landed on the final list, Jeb Bush’s DNA is embedded in the deals.

Jeb Bush has hyped his anti-public school operations in Indiana for years now. In 2009, he spoke at the Bill Gates-Fordham Foundation sponsored Indiana Education Roundtable, whose representatives include Carol D’Amico, a former George W. Bush-appointed National Board for Education Sciences board member. This year, Jeb picked Tony Bennett to boss his D.C.-based corporate school reform group, Chiefs for Change, alongside former Edison Schools’ Chris Cerf (now New Jersey’s commissioner of education) who profited handsomely when the then-Florida governor bought out the company’s failing stock with teachers’ retirement funding, a maneuver sticking state pensioners to this day with a $182 million investment in a company out to destroy public education and unions.

And Jeb even endorsed Mitch Daniels for president.

Like Daniels (who followed George H.W. Bush to Eli Lilly), CS USA’s Jonathan Hage pals around with the Bush family. Hage speech-wrote for George H. W. Bush’s 1992 presidential campaign, later joining the 2004 Bush/Cheney National Steering Committee as an educational talking head. A former defense agent for the right-wing Heritage Foundation and past director of research for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, Hage helped develop Liberty City Charter School, the first charter in Florida, which was sponsored by Jeb and Miami Urban League’s T. Willard Fair. At Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education’s D.C. summit, Hage—the once-Green Beret officer—paneled “The War on Charter Schools: Combating the Emerging Threats to Public School Choice,” while Tony Bennett sat on the “Top Gun Teachers” panel with touters for anti-teacher seniority groups like Teach for America and Troops for Teachers. Read the rest of this entry →

Kevin Chavous, Former Hoosier and Leader of Black Alliance for Educational Options, Returns to Indiana to Help Destroy Public Education

5:10 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Kevin P. Chavous should be every public educator and parent’s nightmare. The Indianapolis-born school reformer chairs the anti-public education Black Alliance for Educational Options’ board of directors. As co-founder of the hedge fund operated group Democrats for Education Reform, he also holds a high position in the astroturf American Federation for Children, whose Indiana-registered PAC has literally funneled millions of Walton Family and DeVos money into Indiana and six other states using the Terre Haute office mailbox address of right-winger lawyer James Bopp, Jr., most despised for his work with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

BAEO members have a forest of Gates, Walton, and Milton Friedman money, which they freely use to choke anyone that stands in their way. Case in point, in 2010, after Barack Obama failed to support the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship voucher plan, Chavous took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, condemning the president. For Chavous, Obama’s attack on public education through “Race to the Top” and charter school expansion definitely was not radical enough.

Then there’s Chavous’ cousin, who is a board member of BAEO Philadelphia. In Pennsylvania, Dawn Chavous handles the Students First PAC (which received $1,100,000 from the Indiana-registered American Federation for Children PAC, as Rachel Tabachnick found, and should not be confused with Michelle Rhee’s group of same name), is board president at Oprah-funded Mastery Charter Schools, is on the board of Boys’ Latin Philadephia Charter School, and was chief of staff for state Democrat Anthony Williams. Williams, matter-of-factly, sits on one charter school board with her. His father, Hardy Williams, in 1998, retired from the Pennsylvania Senate hours before the filing deadline for campaign candidates, so Anthony could acquire the necessary signatures and win the election unopposed. For such niceties, Dawn and Anthony named the Hardy Williams Academy Charter School, which now is operated by Mastery, after the old man.

From the get-go, Kevin Chavous and BAEO have ironically made anti-union/anti-public education a “civil rights” issue, often quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems Chavous was one of the first to call education reform the “civil rights issue of our time,” now a cliché shouted by so-called school reformers such as John Legend, Joel Klein, and Al Sharpton.

Many have rightfully criticized BAEO’s antics. Glen Ford, one of the most outspoken intellectuals in the Black community and a staunch opponent of charter schools, once called BAEO co-director Armstrong Williams “the premiere Black political whore in America.” Writers at the Black Commentator have not been friendly to Chavous and crew either. Education scholar Diane Ravitch has also hammered corrupt politicians and pseudo educators who throw around the “civil rights” language. Undoubtedly, the cliche is now one of Tony Bennett’s favorites.

BAEO in Indiana

BAEO Indiana launched operations in 2001. Their leader, Barato Britt, abandoned his post with the charter school operator GEO Foundation to join Chavous’ group soon after. This revolving door tactic should come as no surprise since BAEO was heavily funded by the American Education Reform Council when Kevin Teasley (GEO’s leader) worked for AERC in 1997.

Besides scripting school-reform propaganda for the Indianapolis Recorder and the Heartland Institute (which cheered for the Indiana Parent Trigger Law with ALEC), Britt once fronted the Edna Martin Christian Center, a position he often used to conceal his anti-public education history.

As board member and co-founder of Irving Community School, a public charter in Indianapolis, Britt has set up an anti-public education killer team. Board members include Jeffrey Lozer, a former Ice Miller corporate attorney, past community relations assistant secretary to the charter-operator Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, and previous vice president for DeHaan’s Resort Condominiums International. Presently, Lozer is special counsel to the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, where he helped carry out the Indiana Department of Education’s Model Evidence-Based Plan for Improving Behavior and Discipline within Schools. Along with Jeffrey Lozer, Arabic specialist Jennifer Suzanne Thuma is or was involved with Irving. She is a former legislative director to Governor Mitch Daniels and was education coordinator to the Indiana General Assembly from 2009 to 2010. Milton Friedman’s Foundation for Educational Choice member Leslie Davis Hiner and Indiana Christian songwriter Michael Welch also join Barato on the Irving Community School board.

Britt supposedly exited his BAEO CEO/president post in 2004. As of October 2010, BAEO’s national website lists no Indiana branch, although media reports often mention it. No record of a present Indiana director can be unearthed online either.

Bennett, Chavous, and Jeb Bush: Voucher Matches Made in Heaven

Last year, Tony Bennett and Kevin Chavous took stage with Jeb Bush at a State Policy Network’s education event on privatizing the schools. With branches in almost every single state, the SPN is a Ronald Reagan-inspired, right-wing network fighting to end collective bargaining for union members and to establish more charter schools, as Mother Jones magazine recently noted. The SPN has even highlighted articles Bennett has written. The SPN’s Hoosier affiliate is the free enterprise group Indiana Policy Review Foundation, once headed by Indiana’s U.S. House member and anti-women creep Mike Pence, who is now running for Indiana governor. The Indy-based Sagamore Institute is in bed with the SPN, too, and their Ryan Streeter recently offered his praise of Indiana’s anti-public education agenda in a piece in the Weekly Standard.

In many ways, Jeb Bush is as much or more of a hero to Tony Bennett as is Kevin Chavous. Although ideas to demolish public education go back to Milton Friedman’s 1955 voucher essay, the Daniels-Bennett sawed-off shotgun-attack is drawn straight out of the Jeb Bush playbook. In Florida, Bush gave letter grades to schools and practiced holding kids back from the 4th grade on their reading scores, two of Indiana’s plans. Admittedly, stressing that children always come first, Tony Bennett joined Jeb Bush’s “Children’s Union” (sometimes referred to as “Chiefs for Change”) along with educational leaders Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, Virginia’s Gerard Robinson, Florida’s Eric Smith, and Louisiana’s Paul Pastorek.

A few days before speaking together at the Indianapolis screening of Waiting for Superman this January, Bennett and Chavous joined hands with Jeb, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Morris to take the pledge of the Milton Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to celebrate National School Choice Week. For his role, Bennett organized an “Eggs and Education” breakfast event with local legislators to push the Friedman organization’s corporate ideas.

Several months ago, Chavous, the Heartland Institute, and EAG’s Kyle Olson (who filmed Tony Bennett for his anti-education movie, Kids Aren’t Cars) conveniently found the “new Rosa Parks,” Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar who was arrested for falsifying documents so her daughters could attend school out of their district. The story was every voucher/parent trigger supporter’s dream, even though Williams-Bolar said the reason she wanted her children to attend school in her father’s district was they would be safer after school at his house. Even some liberals were screaming school choice and emailing petitions to stop the “new Rosa Parks” from landing in prison. For the mainstream media, the “new Rosa Parks” was the best show since Waiting for Superman. Al Sharpton even fitfully gospelled for school choice on Dr. Phil. One more story has since surfaced of an innocent mother going to jail because of the evils of the public school system. Expect many more in the coming days as other states like Pennsylvania take up voucher and other anti-public education issues.

The Two Indiana Teachers in Mitch Daniels’ Anti-Education TV Commercials: In with the Wrong Crowd

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Besides a State Board of Education member who forged her dissertation, charter studies done by charter supporters, and a Superintendent of Public Instruction whose dissertation disproves everything he is putting into practice, Indiana now has Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC running a TV ad (displaying a pronoun-antecedent agreement error, in fact) with a two-year teaching veteran the director of the Gates/Broad funded, anti-education movie Waiting on Superman calls one of the top 10 educators in America.

A Teach for America alumnus and current teacher at Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis, Pam Heuer boasts that although she raised her students reading scores, she was laid-off from the Indianapolis school district in 2009 because she was the last one hired and not an older, lazy teacher. What often gets deleted from this story when passed on by the anti-education groupies and crooks, however, is that Heuer was rehired by the school district before the next school year even started.

Indeed, terrific-teach Heuer was even invited to the Bill Gates/NBC Education Nation last year, a week of free propaganda and promotion for charter school/voucher/anti-seniority billionaires, where she elbowed with Brian Williams, Arne Duncan, Adrian Fenty, Michelle Rhee, and other haters of knowledge.

A ham in front of the camera, Heuer has also made videos for Stand for Children, another Mind Trust/Joyce Foundation funded anti-teacher-seniority group. Besides paying for Stand for Children to invade Indiana, the Joyce Foundation recently footed the bill for the scholarly sloppy study praising Indiana charter schools done by a past Walton Family researcher, Margaret Raymond. To slant the research to favor the charter, Raymond refused to name the specific charter schools included, although not all of them in Indiana were studied.

Besides the claim that 97 percent of the money used to run these commercials supposedly comes from out-of-state donors, another red flag in Aiming Higher’s anti-education campaign is Heuer’s membership in Marian University’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership, the program the Indiana Department of Education last September awarded a $500,000 grant to turn around failing Indiana schools, even though it wasn’t the most qualified college to initiate the program. Marian University’s president, Daniel Elsener, donated to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s campaign, and was once Bennett’s wife’s boss when she ran Teach for America at the campus. Elsener also sits on the Indiana State Board of Education, which is more of a charter school cheerleader than an educational governing body.

Another Harshman Magnet Middle School teacher guest-appearing in the Aiming Higher TV ads is Lanier Echols from Florida. She, too, comes from Teach for America and is enrolled in Marian University’s Academy of Teaching and Learning Leadership.

At the academy, Echols’ facilitator is Dr. Charles Schlegel (see middle of this page), who leads the Charter Foundation Academy charter school, which was honored by Tony Bennett in 2010. Ironically, as principal at Wayland Middle School in Massachusetts in 2008, Schlegel violated campaign laws by sending emails through his school address to parents, begging them to support a local property tax increase to help fund the schools. He quickly packed up and headed back to Indiana. Now working with charters whose financial records and shady activities are never questioned but endorsed by Indiana government officials, Schlegel must be happy to be back home.

Charlie’s wife, Mindy Schlegel, is the Senior Advisor for Teacher Quality at the Indiana Department of Education. She also sits on the Board of Directors at the Indianapolis KIPP charter school, along with the Mind Trust’s Claire Fiddian-Green. KIPP Indy ran into a serious problem last year when news broke that a special needs, 11-year-old female student on a field trip to Boston was allegedly sexually assaulted by four males in 2007. A former Teach for America member, Mindy is also involved in the Democrats for Education Reform, a national group of rich hedge fund owners who love charter schools, merit-pay, and even vouchers, who now have unwelcomingly snaked into Indiana.

Echols, Daniels’ new TV star, emotionally testified before the Indiana House Education Committee to support merit-pay based on student testing, claiming she feared becoming a victim of older teachers who might beat her out of a job.

Wrapped in the blanket of this anti-educational cronyism, these two Indiana teachers seem wholly self-absorbed and incapable of knowing that higher test scores don’t mean a damn thing, as researchers like Diane Ravitch and others have noted. Not for the teacher; not for the student. Good teachers walk in their students’ shoes, know how to identify with them, and show the kids that they can be trusted. They know that real learning is a lifetime of trying to understand the un-understandable universe, or as Emerson put it, to see God in the rain puddles. For the anti-education group, learning is merely a money-making, materialist orgy. Those in this mindset don’t know neuroscience from Noah. And stuck there, they sure don’t know anything about living or breathing the quest for learning into another human being.

Maybe Ms. Heuer and Ms. Echols do belong on TV, where the rest of the walking-dead hold fort.

The Mind Trust: The Celebrity-Corporate-Government Plan To Privatize Indiana Education

11:13 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

When former NBC Today Show co-host Jane Pauley walked out onto a stage in her birth city, Indianapolis, a year ago, some in the audience, including Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and former mayor Bart Peterson, understood what was behind Pauley’s show of empathy for Indiana’s school children, even though it may have been hidden to those there to see a celebrity.

Pauley spoke with pride of her son Ross—who had just joined the teaching staff of a charter school—and how she heard in Washington about the great things happening in the school reform movement back in her former hometown.

As member of the Board of the Mind Trust, a nonprofit school reform group in Indianapolis which has over $12 million to attack public education, Pauley was there to help sell the corporate privatization of public education. This coming May, in fact, Pauley will even join New York Times’ David Brooks (a “Quiet Revolution” quack) onstage at the Mind Trust’s “Grow What Works: Campaign to Accelerate Education Reform.”

The Mind Trust is the product of President and former Indianapolis Democratic mayor Bart Peterson and CEO David Harris, the mayor’s first Charter School Director in Indianapolis. In 2001, the Indiana legislature passed a charter school law which made Peterson the first mayor to have the authority to charter schools in the country. For their various programs, Harris, Peterson, and the Lilly Endowment-funded Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis received $11.3 million from the Gates Foundation. To the Indianapolis Charter Schools Facilities Fund, a loan program which operated from 2005 to 2009, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) added another $1 million.

Bart Peterson is currently the Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications for Eli Lilly and Company, the mega-drug company where Mitch Daniels was Senior Vice President before joining the Bush administration.  In fact, current or former Lilly members onboard with the Mind Trust include Alecia DeCoudreaux, General Counsel at Lilly USA, Mind Trust President Claire Fiddian-Green, and Anne Shane, Community Development and Education Consultant to the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Lilly Endowment, the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation all significantly fund the Mind Trust.

Mind Trust’s Board of Directors is stacked with other Indiana corporate leaders.  It includes Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO) CEO Ann Murtlow, who previously worked as an AES Corporation liaison at the same time Mitch Daniels was an IPALCO board member, then joined IPALCO in 2002 (for the AES-IPALCO connections to charter school scandals, see my article here). Murtlow is also on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Directors of Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and now the Senior Vice Chair of the Mind Trust.
Read the rest of this entry →

Peter Peterson’s Letter to Warren Buffett: Let Old People Eat Cat Food to Save the Unborn

5:25 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Peter G. Peterson has crawled onto the Bill Gates-Warren Buffett bandwagon, The Giving Pledge, to pass on his money to “philanthropy.” He wants us “lesser people” to know that he is not one of those billionaire psychopaths but a loving, compassionate member of our society. The “charity” organizations of choice he highlights in his pledge-letter to Bill and Warren?* Brain research? The homeless? The worthy causes some of the other 40 on the pledge-list have named? No, no, no. His "charity" organizations are:

Peterson Institute for International Economics
The Council on Foreign Relations
The Concord Coalition
Peter G. Peterson Foundation

And what exactly does Peterson want these organizations to use his blood money for? You guessed right again. To slash and kill society’s evils, those “unfunded entitlement promises,” “ballooning debts to foreign lenders,” and America’s “mushrooming healthcare costs.”

In fact, he considers our “massive, hidden debts and unthinkable taxes” as “child abuse,” clubbing to death our future children and grandchildren. This domestic violence, Peterson claims, “is not only an economic issue but a national security issue and, above all, a moral issue.”

Remarkably, Peterson even calls on us to join in this “shared sacrifice," and he hopes to use his money to show us how to “educate” each other on how to better do this.

Thanks, Peter, for donating your pennies to the "unborn" and not to the ones we already have starving today in this country. I appreciate your "shared sacrifice." And tonight when you are sleeping like a baby in your Gilded bed, I’ll pray to whatever God I want to that there is a hell after all, so that one day “philanthropists” like you can rot in it.

*Note: In order to see Peterson’s original letter, readers need to scroll down to his name after clicking on this link to the Giving Pledge page. Then, click on his name and there is an another link which takes you to his letter.

"Country District School Wagon, Bain Collection, Library of Congress, via Flickr, No known restrictions on publication."