Elections 2012

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

by Bob Sloan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s education commissioner will resign amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job as Indiana’s school chief, a state education official said Thursday.

Tony Bennett will resign in the wake of the scandal surrounding Christel House Academy, the official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet authorized for public release.

Bennett, when reached by the AP, would say only that “no decisions have been made at this point.” He has denied any wrongdoing.

(http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/aug/01/tony-bennett-resign-over-indiana-school-grade-chan/)

Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” organization suffered a substantial set-back today.  Bush hand picked Dr. Tony Bennett to head his Chiefs for Change organization that is working to privatize school systems in the U.S. – state by state.  Bennett is a long time crony of Jeb Bush, and helped Bush push both his Common Core and Charter School Agenda.  Together they founded Bush’s educational foundations, Chiefs for Change — There’s no evidence Bush knew anything about the cheating.

In 2011 – 2012, Bennett toured the country touting the school privatization agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s States and Nation conference held in Phoenix in November 2011.  Hoosier voters were not taken in by his agenda to transform Indiana public schools into a privatized education network on behalf of ALEC corporate members who have realized huge profits off the work of Bennett and Bush’s Chiefs for Change, voting Bennett from office in 2012.

VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, PFAW and other progressive outlets have reported on ALEC’s education privatization pursuits since 2010; charters, vouchers, virtual (internet) classes and parent trigger.  We warned parents that all the hype about private and charter school success rates were just that, hype.  Those who stood to profit off of such privatization efforts would stop at nothing to advance an agenda that brought them profits…regardless of the impact upon students.

This scandal involving the “fixing of grades” in Indiana by Dr. Bennett follows on the heels of a similar scandal in D.C. involving another Jeb Bush acolyte, Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. education chancellor.  Rhee has been accused of “adjusting” student test scores to give the appearance that her form of “educating” was successful.  At first, Rhee’s administration claimed it was only one elementary school involved but after independent analysis, investigators found the cheating was widespread:

“District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools “implicated in possible testing infractions.” The 2009 memo was written by an outside analyst, Fay “Sandy” Sanford, who had been invited by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee to examine students’ irregular math and reading score gains. It was sent to Rhee’s top deputy for accountability.

“Merrow provided a copy of the memo to USA TODAY on Thursday. Its findings stand in stark contrast to public statements made both by Rhee and her onetime deputy, Kaya Henderson, now D.C.’s chancellor. In a Jan. 8 statement coinciding with Merrow’s broadcast, Henderson noted, “All of the investigations have concluded in the same way that there is no widespread cheating at D.C. Public Schools.” She added, “We take test security incredibly seriously and will continue to do so even after our name has been cleared.” Sanford’s memo warns its intended recipients to “keep this erasure study really close (sic) hold. No more people in the know than necessary until we have more conclusive results.” The memo suggests, “Don’t make hard copies and leave them around. Much of what we think we know is based on what I consider to be incomplete information. So the picture is not perfectly clear yet, but the possible ramifications are serious.”

The Center for Media and Democracy reports:

“Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org. Thirty-one have become law.

“In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embracedthe legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.

“In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia — draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.”

Maybe now parents and voters alike will begin to realize that ALEC, Bush, Rhee, Bennett and their network have little concern for educating our children, but a huge concern about how much money can be made off of “appearing” to provide students with a quality education.  A facade has been crafted and created to make it seem that private education is working while behind the false front, tax dollars are being diverted from true education and transformed into profits for corporate exploiters.

If these individuals and their organizations have to “cheat” to make it look like their programs are working so they can capitalize off such a scam, they should all be kicked to the curb then subjected to another form of “education” created by ALEC and their corporatist members…private prisons.

Former Indiana Superintendent, Lauded by ALEC and Education Privatizers, Cheats on School Grading Formula for Top Donor

Former Indiana Superintendent, Lauded by ALEC and Education Privatizers, Cheats on School Grading Formula for Top Donor

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

New documents show that former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett — who now heads Florida’s schools — overhauled Indiana’s much-heralded school grading system to guarantee that a charter run by a major campaign donor would receive top marks. These revelations shine a light on the big bucks behind the education privatization agenda, its continued failure to meet the need of students, and provides another instance of cheating to cover up poor educational outcomes.

Bennett had been applauded by education privatizers like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for enacting reforms like school grading, vouchers, and anti-union measures. He was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s December 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit, and the education reforms he pushed were adopted by ALEC in August 2011 as a stand-alone bill called the “Indiana Education Reform Package” — in no small part because they reflected ALEC model legislation…

…Christel DeHaan, a big Republican donor in Indiana and school privatization supporter, gave Bennett an astounding $130,000 in campaign contributions for his 2008 and 2012 elections. But when DeHaan’s Christel House charter school received a “C” last September under Bennett’s grading system, he and his staff scrambled to fix it, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press.

They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.

Bennett had made the A to F grading system a signature item of his 2011 radical education reforms, which he spearheaded with the support of then-Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and ALEC legislators in the state. Bennett often cited Christel House as a model charter school as he secured support for his education overhaul, and according to the emails had assured the Chamber of Commerce and legislative leaders that Christel was an “A” school.

This will be a HUGE problem for us,” Bennett wrote to Neal about the school’s “C” grade…

…”Legislative leadership as well as critics of A-F are going to use this against us to undo our accountability metrics through legislation,” Bennett wrote in another email. “I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months.

According to the Associated Press, Bennett’s staff scrambled to alter the grading system over the next week, and Christel House’s grade jumped twice, eventually reaching an “A.”

Read the entire article -> HERE <-

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

From Mother Jones article “EXCLUSIVE: Read the Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat” By l…

For more than a decade reports of attempts by the Brothers Koch – Charles and David – to assert their ideological branding upon American politics have been in the news. Founders or funders of nearly every ultra-conservative PAD or organization from the Tea Party to Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform and dozens of other extreme organizations existing to advance conservatism, these two billionaires have spent hundreds of million in pursuit of that ideology.
 
Koch BrothersEvery year the Koch’s hold “donor retreats” where America’s wealthy conservative family representatives, Congressional members and corporatists are invited to attend.  At these meetings Charles and David issue marching orders for the coming year and in some cases set the agenda all the way to the next general election.  Attendees generously and individually throw millions of dollars into the pot to fund the activities and goals set by the Kochs.
Between 2010 and 2012 the billionaire brothers spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat the re-election of President Obama and increase the GOP majority in the House of Representatives as well as secure a majority in the Senate.  They failed miserably in all three as the  President was re-elected and in the House Republicans actually lost seats to Democrats who continue to control the Senate.
Koch Industries has been a long time member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and in the late 90’s when ALEC was financially strapped and on the verge of disappearing, the Koch’s loaned ALEC a half million dollars to keep the organization alive and pursuing the conservative dogma ALEC is so well known for.  Since then the Kochs have supported ALEC’s initiatives such as voter suppression and voter ID legislation, deregulating the EPA and climate denial – to name just a handful of topics pursued jointly by the Kochs and ALEC.
Mother Jones reports:

“According to a previously unpublished preview of the April 28-29 gathering, the Kochs will unveil a new plan to recruit and train political candidates who will advance their free-market worldview. Another priority is improving the conservative movement’s outreach to “growing demographics” such as Latinos, young people, and women. The preview, obtained by Mother Jones, was emailed to attendees in March by Kevin Gentry, a top Koch aide. (A Koch spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about Gentry’s email.)”

“The Kochs and their acolytes believe it is their duty to stop what Charles Koch calls “the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes.” Hebegan a September 2010 letter (PDF) outlining plans for an upcoming donor retreat by asking, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” At the Vail retreat, Koch said the 2012 elections will be “the mother of all wars.”

In this informative article from MJ the entire memo sent out to those invited to attend the upcoming “Retreat” is provided to readers.  Read the full article and memo at Mother Jones -> HERE<-

 

 

Michigan Judicial Races Draw $14 Million in Dark Money

going, going, goneRich Robinson, of the watchdog group Michigan Campaign Finance Network, is reporting that in the 2012 election, Michigan judicial races were by and large bought and paid for by shadowy third party issue ads. Robinson finds that “Just 25% of $18.6M spent was reported to the State”. That’s $14 million in dark money. His concern is that, not only are these judicial seats for sale, but we don’t know who’s buying them, and therefore won’t be able to detect bias or need for recusal.

While the bulk of the money was spent on the Supreme Court contest, this time around a fight for the 6th Circuit Court, where in addition to the $725,000 reported by the candidates, $2 million was spent by Washington D.C. players.

As reported last year in Democracy Tree, Supreme Court contests produce more issue ads than other political races in Michigan because judicial candidates are bound to an entirely different set of rules which hobble their ability to personally sling the mud, so they count on third parties to do all their dirty work.  These races have a history of being a hotbed for outright absurdities and improprieties in campaign issue ads.

Incumbent or not, a Supreme Court candidate is bound by specific campaign rules found in the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct. In that code we find Canon 7 B (1) (d) – which states:

“A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for judicial office:  should not knowingly, or with reckless disregard, use or participate in the use of any form of public communication that is false.”

This is significant — all other political candidates are surprisingly not generally bound to be truthful in advertising, although television and radio stations are legally responsible for the veracity  of all issue ads, they exercise no control over candidate ad content.

Judicial candidates are not permitted to personally lie, so someone else must do it for them.

Michigan Supremes are first nominated by their respective parties, but thereafter pretend to be completely nonpartisan, as required by law. It’s a sham that grows more and more comical with each election cycle.  Michigan high court races rank 6th in the nation in campiagn expenditures, and that’s before the Citizens United ruling.  The numbers get worse — Michigan ranks 3rd in Supreme Court race television ad spending, again, before corporate personhood.

These races are getting uglier by the year.  In 2008, Chief Justice Taylor (R) was defeated thanks to a 3rd party issue ad campaign waged by Michigan Democrats. Taylor was a member of the notorious “Engler-4”, a conservative majority that had an abominable voting record, so there was plenty of damning, yet truthful, material for them to draw from. But the Dems ignored that. Instead they ran a T.V. spot depicting him as sleeping at the bench. But the ad actually showed an actor sleeping, leaving the viewer to believe it was Taylor himself.  The ad did its job, Taylor was defeated in large part due to the memorable moniker it created in voter’s minds: “Sleeping Judge Taylor.” This ad was not only misleading, but it didn’t even address a real “issue”.

Issue ads and candidate ads are nearly impossible to differentiate if not for the “paid for” requirement. The U.S. Supreme Court attempted to define their individual properties in a 1976 ruling, Buckley v. Valeo. The opinion said that issue ads are not permitted to urge viewers to vote a particular way with language such as “vote for” or “vote against”, whereas candidate ads could use those phrases. Perhaps those rules made sense 36 years ago, but honestly, we rarely hear simplistic content like that in our current television fare.

The only real difference between issue and candidate ads is what we don’t know about who is behind the organizations running those issue ads. Specifically, who’s money is buying the ads. Voter ignorance of this is no indication that the beneficiary candidate is unaware of who their corporate sugar-daddies are. In fact, it would be naive to think they don’t know.

With 63% of Michigan voters believing that campaign money influences judicial decision making, it seems voters are not naive after all. The National Institute on Money in State Politics reports in The New Politics of Judicial Elections in the Great Lakes States, that 86% of cases before the Michigan Supreme Court can you CONTRIBUTE anything to help your caseinvolved one or more campaign contributors to one or more of the justices. And, that’s just the money we know about because it’s been properly reported under the rules set forth in the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. However, the overwhelming bulk of the money is spent by shadowy third-parties on issue ads, of whom we know virtually nothing.

Michigan’s high court judges are for sale and the voters don’t know who’s buying them. Sure, one can venture a guess based on their judicial record. But they’re certainly not going to tell who’s pulling their strings, in fact they mustn’t tell, because of Canon 7 B (1) (d) — It’s Code for keeping it a secret.

There is something we can do to make a real difference in 2014. Since T.V. stations are legally liable for the veracity of issue ads, we can tell them to shape-up by going to Flack Check – Michigan, a site that tracks and posts dubious issue ads by market area, and provides links to easily register complaints with the broadcasting station. How will this make a difference? If viewer complaints convince just one major carrier to reject the content of an issue ad, it will have a cascade effect starting with the third-party producer who will be forced to change that ad, and will likely run the replacement across all markets. Just a few victories, here and there, will serve as a warning to both the producers and the broadcasters  — that the public is watching them.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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Virginia Senate committee kills presidential gerrymandering bill

Obama

A Virginia Senate committee voted Tuesday to permanently kill a bill that would have aligned the state’s electoral votes with its House districts, a move critics say would have swung the 2012 presidential election for the Republican candidate despite President Barack Obama’s overwhelming victory in the popular vote.

The Virginia Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee voted 11-4 to kill the bill, with four Republicans joining seven Democrats in opposition.

Sponsor Sen. Charles Carrico (R) had offered to amend the bill in such a way that would cause electoral votes to be distributed proportionally in accordance with the state’s popular vote, but it was not enough to keep the bill afloat.

Similar bills are being considered in other swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania following an endorsement of the strategy by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

“I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at,” he told a reporter earlier in January.

Even so, three other states that initially took the idea seriously — Florida, Ohio and Michigan — have all dropped their plans to change the rules of their presidential elections.

This post was written by Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story.  You can see the original post at http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/30/virginia-senate-committee-kills-presidential-gerrymandering-bill/

Keystone Pipeline First Challenge for Obama on Climate Change

With two new reports describing greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands development as even worse than expected, environmentalists and sustainable investors are likely to scrutinize the State Department’s upcoming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

This week, SocialFunds.com reported on two new reports analyzing potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil sands extraction in Alberta, Canada, both of which warned that previous estimates, as dire as they have been, failed to capture completely the potential environmental impacts of a practice that has been called “the most destructive project on Earth.”

In one study, Oil Change International assessed the effects on the environment of petroleum coke, a byproduct of the refining process  More →

Michigan’s New Emergency Manager Law — An Analysis

       Fast facts about Michigan’s new Emergency Manager Law

Sorry Michiganders, it appears that your lawmakers and governor have done little more than rename the recently repealed Public Act 4 to make it appear more palatable to those that voted to strike down their 2011 version. Their working title is the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act — sounds almost nice — brings to mind terms like “enhanced interrogation” and “clear skies act”.

As previously noted, this new law actually provides no “choice” and only a false sense of “stability”. Its little more than a corporate slash-and-burn policy called cut-back management. The intent of the law, as written and applied, is to dissolve most, if not all, of the unit of government through a fire-sale of of its components, leaving the afflicted community without the basics expected of democratic civil life. Under the Snyder administration, Michigan’s cities and schools have been starved of funding while corporations are lavished with tax breaks.

Governor Snyder took the bill to his private residence to sign, and it will be delivered to Lansing for enactment any minute now. Here’s a primer on what you need to know about the new emergency manager law:

                                         A section-by-section analysis of the new law More →

The Nine Million Dollar Black Robe — Michigan’s High (Fashion) Court

Michigan may be in an economic perma-funk, but it is rapidly emerging as the high fashion capitol of the rust-belt.

And the little black robe is all the rage.

Just in — the 2012 television ad dollars on judicial races in the mitten state rang-up to a total of around $9M, comprising slightly over 30 percent of all national spending combined. It’s shocking enough that nearly $29,701,040 is poured into attempts to buy black robes across our nation, but Michigan, a state that’s been in a depression for over a decade, really knows how to strut down the runway. Fashion hungry Michigan consumers eagerly gobbled-up over 16,000 judicial-related television spots over the past few months.

It’s not as if this is a new trend — Michigan holds the title for hosting the most expensive judicial race in history, shelling-out over $5M in 2010 for one set of shiny black duds. Geez, even Dorothy’s ruby slippers went for a mere $15,000. The average Oscar runway look only runs a bargain-basement $75,000 per glitterati. Yet Michigan Supreme Court robes are simply the height of haute couture and are taking the state’s corporatocracy by storm — a “must have” item for every CEO’s closet. After all, you can hide a lot behind those billowing garments.

And they do.

In a previous report on the high court, Democracy Tree found the following:

With 63% of Michigan voters believing that campaign money influences judicial decision making, it seems voters are not naive after all. The National Institute on Money in State Politics reports in The New Politics of Judicial Elections in the Great Lakes States, that 86% of cases before the Michigan Supreme Court involved one or more campaign contributors to one or more of the justices. And, that’s just the money we know about because it’s been properly reported under the rules set forth in the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. However, the overwhelming bulk of the money is spent by shadowy third-parties on issue ads, of whom we know virtually nothing.

While Michigan’s former middle-class is left to picking-over “gently worn” clothes at their local resale shop, they can at least look up to the Supreme Court and know that their rights are in the hands of well-dressed men and women wearing the hottest corporate labels.

 

Amy Kerr Hardin at Democracy Tree

 

Michigan’s STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY Urges Lawmakers to Respect the Will of the Voters

If you’ve turned on the news or picked-up a paper you’ll have seen protests on the streets of Cairo where angry mobs torched the offices of the Islamist Party over President Morsi’s decree granting himself omnipotent authority that can not be challenged by the courts.

Most Americans are outraged that this democratically elected leader has aborgated the democratic principles which swept him into office.

One must wonder what Michigan’s Governor Snyder thinks of Morsi’s power grab, as he himself is poised to foist his own decree in the form of a new Emergency Manager law on the people of that state in-spite of the fact that they just voted to repeal his previous dictator law.

Now is the time for Michigan voters to contact their lawmakers and demand they respect the will of the people. More →

Michigan Governor Poised to Ignore the Will of Voters and Enact a New Emergency Manager Law

Governor Snyder and Republican lawmakers are working on the details of their new Emergency Manager law to replace the one Michigan voters repealed earlier this month. The draft legislation looks and smells just like Public Act 4, but contains a little window-dressing to make it seem less dictator-ish.

Stand Up for Democracy is lobbying vigorously for the governor and legislature to respect the will of the people and not pass another Emergency Manager law during the upcoming lameduck session (starts on Nov. 27th and runs one to three weeks). More →