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Murdoch’s Wireless Gen. and EdisonLearning Donated Money to Tony Bennett

11:58 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Tony Bennett, Superintendent of the Indiana Office of Public Instruction

Tony Bennett, Superintendent of the Indiana Office of Public Instruction, photo by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

As the Indiana State Board of Education decides to hand over Indiana’s so-called “failing” schools to EdisonLearning, Charter Schools USA, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation today, it is important to note that both Edison and Wireless Generation have donated to Education Reform Idol Indiana supt. of public instruction Tony Bennett’s campaign chest. In fact, Wireless Gen. even lavished money on Mitch Daniels and Indiana Republicans, the month before Murdoch acquired the company.

Freshly clabbered by public school advocates like Leonie Haimson, Diane Ravitch, and others in New York City, and thus losing out on a $27 million contract with the schools, Wireless Gen. will now “partner” with the New Teacher Project (whose CEO is Ariela Rozman, who also sits on the board of Indy’s corporate reform group, the Mind Trust) to run Washington Community High School in Indianapolis. EdisonLearning is taking over a school in Gary.

For 2009-2010, Bennett’s donors are both local and national corporate school reform players, and many of them also funded him in 2008:

EdisonLearning: $2,000

Wireless Generation: $1,000

James Bopp, Jr.:  $250 (corporate lawyer of Citizens United; used his Terre Haute law firm’s mailbox to funnel millions of Amway-Besty DeVos’ American Federation for Children money to “school reformers” in Indiana and throughout the country)

Bopp Coleson, and Bostrom: $2,500 (law firm of James Bopp, Jr.)

Therese Rooney: $10,000 (daughter of J. Patrick Rooney, the man who started the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust and was a national leader in the voucher movement)

Patrick Byrne: $5,000 (

Luke Messer:  $175 (School Choice Indiana)

Heather Neal: $150 (works at IDOE) 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 →

The BAEO and the Corporatists’ Indiana Voucher Defense

7:10 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Yesterday in the Sun-Times, Gary, Indiana, Pastor Ray Dix regurgitated the same deceptive rhetoric the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has been shamefully pumping into low-income African American parents for over a decade, specifically that vouchers and charter schools are the answer to the failing/imprisonment of black students. But, as every school choicer watchdog group knows, the BAEO is merely a mouthpiece for the white rich who want to completely privatize education.

To begin with, Dix has ties to BAEO’s Jackie Cissell, who was among those who started the group in 2000. Cissell, who worked to elect Mitch Daniels and encouraged the Indiana Family and Social Services’ chaplain scandal, often appears on Pastor Dix’s radio show, Higher Ground, in Gary, praising fake Democrats like Cory Booker, corporate sell-outs like Tony Bennett, and former fellow Hoosier, Kevin Chavous, who has made a healthy living blasphemously using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to conceal his hedge-fund buddies’ desires to throw away our children’s future in charter schools and gamble with the almighty public dollars.

Dix deletes even more shameful facts from his narrative. As Erica Lasdon, Carol Keys, and Ralph Neas pointed out in 2001, BAEO was dastardly started with money from the Walton Family, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. Michael Joyce, then president of the Bradley group, was a staunch supporter of vouchers in Milwaukee, for he knew that over time public money would be used to pay for upper middle-class and rich families to send their darlings to private schools, as it will in Indiana. Remarkably, the Bradley Foundation has shoveled money into anti-affirmative action groups like the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Mitch Daniels’ hero and Bell Curve author Charles Murray, who believes blacks are inferior (pp. 5-8). Bradley also funded Jackie Cissell’s salary at the GEO Foundation, an Indianapolis charter operator she once worked for.

It is also worth noting that the Institute for Justice (IJ), which claims to be “filing to intervene on behalf of parents in Indiana” to support the new voucher school bill, was first funded by the Koch Brothers. In fact, as Phil Wilayto first exposed, it was the IJ who defended the Wisconsin and Ohio voucher bills in the courts, with additional Bradley Foundation cash aiding in  propagandizing the Milwaukee people (Lasdon et al., 2001, p. 6). The Walton Family, since 1998, has been handing IJ money, and recently cash to the Indiana Public Charter School Association and other school choicers. A whole slew of right-wing groups will probably help the IJ in the Daniels and Bennett voucher fight.

Sadly, most Indiana low-income kids will be wounded by Daniels’ $600 million throat-slash to the public schools or sent to the corporate dystopia of the charters, where only the bottom-line and Milton Friedman birthday parties matter. Regardless of race, these kids will be banned from the non-religious private schools, since their families can’t fork over the outlandish tuition costs the vouchers won’t cover.  In this way, Daniels’ bill bails out the Catholic schools which have dropped in enrollment over the years. Some may foot the tuition difference of the vouchers, but they will also carefully select their students. Truthfully, the voucher scheme has never been about helping the poor, and it never will be. The scheme’s Indiana win is not surprising given Daniels’ perverted worship of the rich and his own part in founding and funding the religious private school, the Oaks Academy, in Indy.

This July 4th, both Daniels and Dix need to go back and re-read their Bibles and the U.S. Constitution. Last I heard, Jesus was not a big fan of those who used the poor for their own sordid plans. And Thomas Jefferson sure as hell wasn’t up at night praying for the bailout of the British East India Tea Company.


I am indebted to Erica Lasdon, Carol Keys, and Ralph Neas for their excellent 2001 “Community Voice or Captive of the Right? A Closer Look at the Black Alliance for Educational Options,” written for People for the American Way. For those who wish all the details, please read this report.  More information can also be found on BAEO in Black Commentator’s “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right’s Plan to Capture Newark, NJ.”


Pastor Dix Spreads BAEO Lies, Corporatists Will Likely Finance Voucher Defense

1:53 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Yesterday in the Sun-Times, Gary, Indiana, Pastor Ray Dix regurgitated the same deceptive rhetoric the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has been shamefully pumping into low-income African American parents for over a decade, specifically that vouchers and charter schools are the answer to the failing/imprisonment of black students. But, as every school choicer watchdog group knows, the BAEO is merely a mouthpiece for the white rich who want to completely privatize education.

To begin with, Dix has ties to BAEO’s Jackie Cissell, who was among those who started the group in 2000. Cissell, who worked to elect Mitch Daniels and encouraged the Indiana Family and Social Services’ chaplain scandal, often appears on Pastor Dix’s radio show, Higher Ground, in Gary, praising fake Democrats like Cory Booker, corporate sell-outs like Tony Bennett, and former fellow Hoosier, Kevin Chavous, who has made a healthy living blasphemously using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to conceal his hedge-fund buddies’ desires to throw away our children’s future in charter schools and gamble with the almighty public dollars.
Read the rest of this entry →

Is EdisonLearning Seizing Indiana Schools? Tony Bennett Wants Dirt Hidden

11:09 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Indiana supt. of public instruction Tony Bennett recently told the IndyStar he would not immediately release the names of the five potential takeover operators out to profit from Indiana’s so-called “failing” schools for fear that critics may question the legitimacy behind those doing the bidding. Bennett is also leery of having public discussion of these EMOS.

Yet both the IndyStar and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette report that one operator in the running is EdisonLearning, previously known as Edison Schools, the company which donated $2,000 to Bennett’s supt.race.

Edison first appeared in Indiana when ex-New York congressman Rev. Floyd Flake, then president of Edison and member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), headlined the July 2001 Indianapolis event “Education Reform and the Black Community: Understanding Your Options.” Sponsored by the Indy BAEO, the Black Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Black Expo, the Light of the Christian Church, the Urban Christian Schools Coalition, and the Indianapolis Recorder, this pro-choice celebration was touted by the Heartland Institute, which interviewed Jackie Cissell of the local BAEO branch. That March, Cissell left her job with the charter-operating GEO Foundation, but was still employed with the Indy school choice group, Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust. A hardcore Republican and Mitch Daniels-promoter, Jackie now assistant-directs the Indiana Division of Aging and is the community relations liaison with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

The following year, the Edison/BAEO charter dream materialized in Indiana. In a no-bid contract with Perry Township, Edison arrogantly stamped its name on two Indianapolis schools in 2002 and 2003, the Jeremiah Gray-Edison Elementary School and the Rosa Parks-Edison Elementary School. As Jack Miller, at NUVO, pointed out, the Lilly Foundation, the school choice/vulture philanthropic branch of drug company Eli Lilly, handed a $4.6 million grant to Perry Township to pay for Edison’s services, at a 17 percent higher cost per student than other schools in the district. These two schools are still managed by Edison.

Somewhere around this time, Edison cancelled its agreement with Indianapolis’ Imani School of Excellence, a charter school founded by African American business and religious leaders, after what appears to be lack of funding and the decision to locate the school outside of the IPS area.

Edison got another big break when, in 2004, millionaire and member of Mitch Daniels’ Indiana’s Education Roundtable Christel DeHaan (who also has charter schools in India, Mexico, South Africa, and Venezuela, with a scholarship program in Serbia) reportedly struck a deal with the company to manage the Christel House Academy in Indy for $3 million. It is not known how much Edison actually received since the school did, at some point, terminate its agreement with Edison.

For those who follow the antics of the “school reform movement,” Edison has topped in scandals, schemes, and corruptions. The company has historically slanted and selected data it publicly released to make its failing schools appear to be wonderful, innovative learning environments. Sadly, this is still the least of their problems.

Florida Chief-Changers with No Conscience

Edison’s questionable ties to politicians have been well documented. In 2003, as the Nation’s David Moberg first noted, thanks to Tony Bennett’s fellow chief-changer Jeb Bush, Edison was bailed out when the then-Florida governor bought out its failing stock with teachers’ retirement funding, a mess of a maneuver which has stuck state pensioners to this day with a $182 million investment in a company out to destroy public education and unions.

As Jim Horn has noticed, Edison’s then-president Chris Cerf was named as one of the beneficiaries in the buy out. He now is the chief commissioner of education for New Jersey. As Chris Megerian recently noted, from 1999-2001 New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie worked as lobbyist for a firm which represented Edison Schools in the state, when Cerf was Edison’s general counsel. Both now are setting in place a slash-and-burn privatization plan for New Jersey schools, with hedge-fund managers hurrying to get a piece of the cash. Meanwhile, Christie is roaming the airways in complete bliss over his attack on union workers and their pensions.

Tony Bennett is now a part of this shady world. Chief of Chiefs for Change, Jeb Bush’s anti-public education group, the Indiana supt. of public instruction surely will be cahooting with Mr. Cerf on everything from charter schools to national voucher crusades.

Edison’s Plans for Child Labor and Other Shady Practices

As recent as 2007, Edison’s new E2 Design Sketch called for forcing child labor on students enrolled in its schools, since it would help the company’s bottom line. According to Edison, custodians and lunch workers should be fired and replaced with unpaid students. Supposedly, Chris Whittle, Edison’s founder, even boasted to Colorado school principals that 600 unpaid students in a school could take the place of 75 salaried workers. It is unclear what became of this plan, but parents groups across the country were rightfully more than outraged.

In fact, outrage has haunted Edison.  As Gerald Bracey detailed in What You Should Know About the War Against America’s Public Schools, despite protests in 2001 rightfully directed at Edison by the Philadelphia NAACP, parents, and educators, Governor Mark Schweiker went against even mayor John Street and representative Chaka Fattah and handed over the schools to Edison. Lawsuits followed, but Edison was awarded twenty schools to run (113-114), even though test scores did not come close to living up to what Edison promised. Eventually, in 2002, the SEC cited Edison for faulty accounting techniques, and school districts across the U.S. quickly severed their ties to the company (114-115). Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 2008 that Philly was able to set in place a plan to rid itself of EdisonLearning.

The company may have changed names in 2008, but its free-market slash across the face of low-income students is still working overtime. Here are just a few stories describing what has been occurring under Edison’s watch, both past and present, across the country:

Public outcry over administrative-led student cheating and a school principal sex-scandal with a student in 2005 forced Edison out of a district in Pennsylvania.

When a 12-year old boy was raped in an Edison School, the company claimed in court that it is not responsible for student safety, yet quickly settled the lawsuit against it brought by the boy’s family.

Nineteen Students were hospitalized in St. Louis after Edison’s security force randomly pepper-sprayed a crowd of students witnessing a hallway fight. In fact, Edison has lost contracts for its lack of doing sufficient background checks on employees.

Complaints were filed against EdisonLearning in Missouri with the state board of education last year, when two kindergarteners requiring special education services were repeatedly suspended from school.

Edison likes to leave schools with enormous deficits, as it did with the Linear Leadership Academy in Louisiana, which was in the red over $300,000 until the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association dissolved its contract with Edison.

Now that the Indiana DOE has slid the corporate-celebrity-sponsored Mind Trust $680,000 to attempt to make it impossible for Indiana’s “failing” schools to return to local school board control, the news that EdisonLearning is in the bidding becomes even more disturbing.

Corporatists Not Wanted

My guess is the other takeover operators Bennett, Daniels, and the Indiana DOE are considering are no better, or even worse, than EdisonLearning. Although I have no proof of it, I suppose Daniels’ buddies at Imagine Schools are probably also in the running. Besides pointing out that Edison funds the hedge-fund managers-operated Democrats for Education Reform and the politicians DFER supports, education scholar Ken Libby once said (after shock over Arne Duncan and the DOE handing almost $500,000 to EdisonLearning) that EdisonLearning was “probably the only charter operator that could challenge Imagine Schools in a contest of pure corruption and greed.” Merely google Journal Gazette’s Karen Francisco and Imagine Schools and you’ll see the cronyism, corruption, and cockiness this EMO has perpetrated in Indiana and elsewhere.

To say that parents, teachers, and other in the Hoosier community should have serious questions about both Edison and Imagine is a vast understatement.

With evidence that school takeovers across this country are covers for the displacement of poor residents from their communities, the privatization of urban housing, and the ultimate goal of complete corporatization of public education, Bennett is right in one regard: the less the public knows about these schemes the better chance he has in silencing public outcries and disruption. Frankly, I hope that the parents, teachers, students, and citizens of this state run Edison out of town as they did with good old fashion hostility in 2001, when the vulture company was scooping around Allen County streets waiting for schools to drop their free public money. That, too, goes for all five companies on Bennett’s bidding list. To use a Gerald Bracey word, it’s time to give Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett the “donnybrook” they deserve in the public arena. Let the protests, letters, and lawsuits take over before their “takeover state” begins.

For parents, teachers, and agitators wanting more articles on Edison’s disasters, scroll down the page of Parents Advocating School Accountability’s website for many article links. For recent newspaper articles detailing Edison’s schemes, please see Sharon Higgins’ postings at Charter School Scandals. Besides referencing pages 104-117 in Bracey’s book noted above, readers would highly benefit from the in-depth analysis and history of Edison’s antics in DePaul professor Kenneth Saltman’s 2005 book, The Edison Schools: Corporate Schooling and the Assault on Public Education. A special “thank you” to Jane Ruppel Nicholls for tracking down EdisonLearning’s donations to Tony Bennett.

Education Reform in the Father-Knows-Best World of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett

5:07 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

“The government has ceased to function…the corporations are the government.” Theodore Dreiser

If one applies cognitive and political linguist George Lakoff’s “Strict Father” model to Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett, it’s obvious they see themselves as the be-all and end-all authorities on how teachers and students should be whipped into shape. Since their worldview is anti-women, anti-children, and pathologically corporate, all sane people must shout out against it.

As strict father types*, Daniels and Bennett assume that men must put female teachers (which make up 70% of Indiana teachers), like women in general, in their place. According to strict fathers, women teach because they can’t do; men do real work (like gamble in the stock market, lead the Chamber of Commerce, or kickbox each other to death), while their wives are left to babysit the kids with their McGraw-Hill textbooks. If men do enter the teaching profession, the strict father deems it best they come from the corporate world and become superintendents and principals who shove slave labor onto female teachers.

If the strict fathers get women to jump on their boys’ bandwagon (as some like Tina Bennett, Gwendolyn Adell, Claire Fiddian-Green, and Jo Blacketor have sadly done in Indiana), it convinces them that all women are capable of coming around to their way of seeing the world, which is not and should not ever be the case.

Students, according to the strict-father mindset, must sweat the “tough love” discipline Bennett ran on in his campaign for superintendent. No wonder then that the only support Bennett and Daniels have given to educators is immunity from lawsuits for enforcing this “tough love” punishment. In this James Dobson-spare-not-the-rod world, kids—incapable of being inspired to learn— must have facts, dates, and statistics beaten into them.

Of course, all this is sheer nonsense and more than a little dangerous.

As an opponent of standardized tests, linguist and political scholar Noam Chomsky once noted that “about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested.” In Indiana—and America in general—this is the Sisyphus challenge. Those who pass laws for merit-pay teacher evaulations are in bed with a corporate elite which bends over backwards to distract from learning to love learning, be it through their tween marketing gimmicks or championing standardized testing to bore all creativity out of both teachers and students.

Arguably, these mandated tests aren’t meant to measure knowledge anyway, for strict father types like Daniels and Bennett don’t care much about knowledge, unless it serves their own purposes. In this case, it does perfectly. By forcing teachers to teach by the test and worry about getting fired over what is out of their control, Daniels and Bennett hope to break teachers’ wills to the point that they change careers. Then the corporate oligarchy can replace them with minimum-waged and half qualified instructors, week-trained Teach for America fake superstars, and eventually virtual teachers in another state.

Although a disaster for teachers and students, standardized tests aid Daniels, Bennett, and other strict fathers in a less obvious way. Importantly, these politicians count on an uninformed public to vote them and future strict fathers into office, and there’s no better way to assure this than by administering these tests which seal off all critical thinking and questioning of authority. In fact, nothing is more frightening to the power elite than a living, breathing, and thinking body politic.

Even as neuroscientists and psychologists see empathy as fundamental to our evolutionary future, strict fathers like Daniels and Bennett proclaim public schools as the last frontier for hedge fund managers and other oligarchs to violate and conquer. They are giddy to give the final blow to any sense of kinship we still hold with our fellow humans. By churning out future Social Darwinists in kindergartens which teach playdough economics, these psychopaths wish to destroy what is left of Indiana, American, and the planet. This is dangerously about more than just education. It’s about whether we have a country and planet left when the plutocratic weapons stop falling.

If we don’t start seriously agitating the Big Daddies of the world and force them to grow up, we are all soon doomed to a fascist corporate state.


* Like many strict father types, Tony Bennett named his son after himself, and Mitch Daniels was named after his own father.

Insightfully, a while back, Biz Voices’ Tom Schuman relayed an interesting anecdote recalled by Tony Bennett. Schuman wrote:

“He [Bennett] tells the joke of how his Uncle Gene remarked that Elisabeth (Bennett’s sister, currently working in the field of educator preparation at the University of Central Florida) had never made a (grade as low as a) “B” in her life. Bennett’s father chimed in on the other end of the scale, ‘Neither has Tony’” (29).

Although I do not personally know Tony Bennett, it is safe to say that pain may lurch behind his humorous story. In the above account, Tony Bennett’s unsatisfactory school grades might not be as noteworthy as the father-son relationship the joke hints at. Of course, one incident is by no means a psychological case study, but given that the superintendent hates unions and promotes the take-no-hostage privatization of American education, one wonders if this is because he felt shafted by his father, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member. Did his real or perceived failure with his union member father lead him to search out psychopathic father models, as many men in our deranged society are encouraged to do?

Ind. Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Bennett Sold Out, Refused to Follow His Own Ed.D. Research

6:49 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett sees teachers and their unions as worse than Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) snaking throughout the locker rooms and hallways of Indiana’s public school buildings. Yet, after setting out on his pilgrimage to prove in his doctoral dissertation that teachers’ unions and teachers’ contracts were negatively influencing Indiana education, the former principal and basketball coach stumbled across a rude awakening. His research suggested the direct opposite.

In The Effects of Just Cause Contract Language on Teacher Dismissals in Indiana Between 1999-2004, Bennett (2005) discovered that school corporations in the Hoosier state “have not encountered measurable resistance by teachers’ unions against their recommendations to dismiss teachers” (p. iii). Additionally, Bennett wrote: “Just cause contract language has not presented insurmountable hurdles for school corporations as they work to improve teachers’ performance and behavior” (p. iii). Neither did he find administrators claiming they were in any way handcuffed from holding teachers to high standards (iii-iv).

Given that many doctoral candidates statistically analyze survey data, one can give Bennett the benefit of the doubt for not doing enough preliminary work before embarking to disprove his own thesis. Yet true scholars change their arguments to fit the data, elaborate on those arguments, add more sources to back up those arguments, and put that knowledge into practice in the real world. If anything, you’d think that after confirming his ideas wrong, coach Bennett would be out in full-force tailgating for the teachers and teachers’ unions every step of the way. Sadly, this will never happen.

Truthfully, Bennett has staunchly supported school privatization for years as a way to one day financially cash-in.* With the plutocrats now applauding his every rant and rave, the counterfeit Bobby Knight of State School Boards might very well become a millionaire as soon as he exits the superintendent’s office and fully joins the charter school cartel. Or they may just laugh him off, since I don’t think Tony Bennett is bright enough to write believable school-reform propaganda. But, then again, neither are many of the Ph.D.s/Ed.D.s who are spitting out and spinning the research funded by the school privatizers. Although he’ll never be a straight-shooter, Tony Bennett could still become a dribbling hero after all. Let’s hope he just bounces himself right into the dumpster of Hoosiers long forgotten.


* Among those who donated to Bennett’s campaign for Head School Chief were Christel DeHaan, co-founder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI) who runs her own charter schools and is a member of Mitch Daniels’ Educational Roundtable; Hoosiers for Economic Growth, a pro-school choice front group which receives money from the Walton Family and Amway wife Betsy DeVos; Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.Com and chair of the board of directors at Milton Friedman’s Foundation for Educational Choice which was behind the “Why Not Indiana?” ads; internet school company, K-12, INC.; Apangea Learning, an online tutoring group whose CEO, Kevin McAliley, used to lead Channel One Communications (a news program which runs with ads in the Indiana public schools); Jason Bryant, the regional vice president of Imagine Schools’ charters in Fort Wayne; McGraw-Hill, publishers of Indiana’s textbooks, ISTEP tests, and long-standing friends with the Bush Family; Todd Rokita, now U.S. Representative for Indiana and co-member with Bennett of Purdue’s Indiana Council for Economic Education’s Director’s Circle; Jeff Abbott, member of Bennett’s educational transition team and the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, the local branch of the right-wing State Policy Network; Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, who helped found the Charles A. Tindley charter school; Rollin Dick, of the charter operator GEO Foundation and former CFO for Conseco; Anne Shane, former Teach for America Indiana board chair, now of the Mind Trust; David Shane (Anne’s husband), the CEO of LDI, Ltd., LLC holding company, TechPoint member, assistant to Indy Mayor Peterson’s Mayor’s Charter School Board, a former Daniels’ Policy Advisor for Education and Employment, and now member of the Indiana State Board of Education; Neil Pickett, former policy advisor for Daniels and past official at Eli Lilly, director of Health Policy Research and Analysis at Clarian Health, and member of the Indiana State Board of Eduction; Chris Faulkner, right-wing political consultant who employees Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor.

For more state board and dissertation news, see the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s coverage of plagiarism allegations against another Indiana State Board of Education member, Gwen Adell, and Karen Francisco’s call to Mitch Daniels to suspend Adell immediately.

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.

Why is the Right-Wing PR Consultant Jo Blacketor on the Indiana State Board of Education?

11:29 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Although she likes to post on the charter school/voucher/merit-pay promoter Indiana Democrats for Education Reform’s facebook page, Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor makes her living at Faulkner Strategies doing PR work for right-wingers. Currently changing its name to Gridiron Communications, Faulkner Strategies’ clients include or have included actor-lawyer-turned-nutcase Fred Thompson, the anti-public education DeVos family front group All Children Matter, Ice Miller LLP lobbyists (hired by Stand for Children to help pass Indiana Senate Bill 1), and almost all Republican party groups in Indiana.

Faulkner Strategies’ leader, Chris Faulkner, is becoming a big honcho in the conservative world of deception and smear. Recently, he was honored by Campaigns & Elections Magazine with the Reed Award for bombarding 500,000 Florida homes with his direct-mail attack on Charlie Crist while working on the Marco Rubio U.S. senatorial campaign. Appropriately, with all those anti-public education clients onboard, Faulkner threw Mitch Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party lots of money over the last few years.

Which brings us to Ms. Blacketor’s other educational activism, which began with a seat on the South Bend school board (where she seems to have been a supreme agitator) and found steam with her failed 2007 District 7 run as a Republican for the Indiana House. Although as a military child she spent a lot of time in Japan, Cuba, Germany, and Turkey, Blacketor stressed her knowledge of U.S. education on the campaign trail by claiming that NCLB was wonderful and parental choice was essential.

Not only did Mitch Daniels recruit Blacketor for the State Board of Education, he let her represent Indiana on the National Association of State School Boards’ Government Affairs committee in Washington from 2007-2009. On assignment with NASBE, she was able to visit the U.S. Army branch at North Carolina to analyze their teaching methods, reminiscence about being a child and firing weapons, and then make policy recommendations for NCLB.

A former AFLAC employee, Blacketor also speaks for Indiana through her involvement with the American Diploma Project, which was launched in 1996 by the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded education reform group, Achieve, with funds from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Achieve and the ADP work to “bring value to the high school diploma by raising the rigor of high school standards, assessments and curriculum.” In other words, they publish propaganda to promote the testing of kids to death and basing teachers’ pay on test-scores like Indiana’s ISTEP.

And let’s not forget Jo’s consulting work with Indiana Virtual Families, a home-schooling moms’ group whose members are about to get a nice tax cut for keeping their precious darlings out of the socialist public schools. Along with the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, School Choice, Indiana, Students First, and a slew of other front groups, Indiana Virtual Families organized Queen Bee Michelle Rhee’s statehouse rally. With hundreds of charter school teachers and students taking the day off with Indiana taxpayers’ money, the groups awarded honors to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and Republican leader Brian Bosma.

Monique Christensen, Indiana Virtual Families’ leader, helps run the National Coalition for Public School Options. She—like Mitch Daniels’ teacher-seniority-bashing star Pam Heuer—has cameo-appeared to support Senate Bill 1 in videos for Stand for Children. In 2009, Christensen testified in front of the Indiana government’s Interim Study Committee on School Funding Formula and in a letter in the Journal Gazette called on Indiana Democrats to sell out to the rich school reform crowd, quoting the crooks Democrats for Education Reform to make her point.

Apart from Christensen, Jo Blacketor schmoozes with State Board of Education member Gwen Adell and Eli Lilly’s Theressa Wright on the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, which she helps direct. With so many ties to Daniels and Bennett, this lovey-dovey group might as well be living in the Governor’s Mansion, or Daniels’ $3.5 million home in Carmel. Last year, they even hired Lt. Governor Becky Skillman’s former intern, Sarah Overshiner, and Tony Bennett’s wife in 2009. Although Tina Bennett has now resigned, her ghost is still roaming the charter association’s hallways, if not her own physical body.

Besides the Indiana newspapers’ constant references to IPCSA, most people don’t know that their January study stating 71% of Hoosiers favored charters was paid for by Christensen’s National Coalition for Public School Options and was done by the Glover Park Group, a Washington PR firm adored by both sides of the political aisle because they will basically say anything you want, as long as you have enough money to pay them.

Blacketor must have felt cheated. Her Faulkner Strategies could have cut IPCSA and NCPSO a mighty fine deal, rigged the results even more in their favor. But it wouldn’t have looked good if someone had connected the dots. Ms. Blacketor, it doesn’t look good now, either.

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.