Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Buffalo Billion Contractor Actually Gave Cuomo $123,000 Dollars

The more digging people are doing into the Buffalo Billion/Cuomo corruption scandal, the more they're fidning.

Zach Fink at NY1 has some new information on the story today:

Few argue that the billion-dollar investment Governor Andrew Cuomo promised in his 2012 State of the State address has boosted the city of Buffalo.

Construction is underway on a solar panel manufacturing plant, in which the state is investing $750 million. The construction contract to build SolarCity was awarded to developer Lou Ciminelli, a major financial contributor to Cuomo.

That contract is now being looked at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who began probing the Cuomo administration after the governor prematurely shutdown his anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
"It suggests that they expect less oversight than there has been," said Jon Resnick of Competitive Advantage Research. "Likely, they did not expect to garner so much attention, first from the Moreland Commission and subsequently from the U.S. attorney."

Reznick is a researcher who tracks political donations. He looked into Ciminelli and his wife's contributions to the Cuomo campaign, which total just under $100,000. But when you add in a donation from a limited liability company, or LLC, known as Highland Park, that figure jumps to $123,000.

"Payment is in the amount of $25,000 in May of 2014. In February, the contract was awarded by Fort Schuyler Management, and in January, Lou Ciminelli in his own name made a contribution of the same amount $25,000," Reznick said. "So these bookend both before and after the contract award."

Donations bookending before and after the contract award.

And Cuomo admits he spoke to Ciminelli personally, so there's that too.

Perhaps everything was above board and no laws were broken here.


Or perhaps the message was sent that in order to play the contractor had to pay and now that Preet Bharara has the contractor under likely subpoena, more will emerge.

We'll see.

Christie's Port Authority Scandal Back In The News

Amid lingering fallout from the George Washington Bridge lane closures, the Port Authority's top lawyer announced that he would step down at the end of next month.

Port Authority General Counsel Darrel Buchbinder, 68, sent a letter to agency colleagues Monday informing them of his "bitter-sweet" decision to retire after 36 years with the agency.


Buchbinder's decision to step down form his $277,000 -a-year job comes amid multiple investigations involving the bi-state agency and current and former officials following the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures.

They include civil and criminal probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office into the use of $1.8 billion in Port Authority funds on the Pulaski Skyway and other New Jersey infrastructure projects that Buchbinder's office signed off on.

Buchbinder, who has not been accused or any wrongdoing, is among several Port Authority lawyers for whom the agency has hired outside lawyers to represent them in the post-Bridgegate investigations.

Not related to the investigation into the Pulaski money?


Or perhaps not.

Something to keep a watch on, at any rate.

Christie's got the Bridgegate trials coming up early next year, the David Samson/United investigation is still ongoing (with Christie's pal David Samson expected to be indicted in that case) and there's the Pulaski investigation still ongoing.

Christie likes to make like all his corruption problems are over.

They're not - not by a long shot.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Amplify Lays Off Two Thirds Of Staff - Joel Klein Apparently Not One Of Them

The Observer confirmed the layoffs:

Multiple sources inside and outside the company said that most of its staff lost their jobs today, effective immediately, at around 10:30 a.m.

Mr. Modestou told the Observer in a phone call that he worked part time on the math curriculum for the company in its Durham office, before being let go today at 10:30 a.m. Mr. Modestou wrote the tweet, he told us, because full time employees had been offered three months salary in a lump sum in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. He did not sign because he was not offered any kind of package.

 He said, “This is like the cold, inhumane hand of capitalism at work, and it seems wrong that they could stay in the shadows.”

 The 800 employee figure was based on an estimate Mr. Modestou made based on documents he’d seen before leaving. When Amplify announced it was first looking for a buyer, he said that people in the company had warned staff to expect layoffs of a sixth of the company. That rose to half over time.
If 800 people were laid off, that would be roughly two-thirds of the reportedly 1,200-person company.

Another source told the Observer in a phone call that employees in New York City were taken to meetings in the company’s Manhattan office and its Dumbo offices today. Employees in the Manhattan office were told that they were either keeping their job or they would be staying longer to help with the transition, in some new role.

Mr. Modestou said that he and his fellow employees were told by Amplify CEO Joel Klein and Amplify Learning President Larry Berger via a conference call. We’ve also heard that this is how employees sent to the Brooklyn office were told. Mr. Modestou described the call for us, saying that “They didn’t say anything but ‘we’re letting you go’ in very lawyerly terms.”

He added that the pair added a note of appreciation for their service and an apology that they had let the company grow larger than its revenue could support.

More info from EdSurge:

Of Amplify’s many divisions and product lines, it is not clear which was the most affected by the layoffs. But the axe likely fell hardest on the teams producing tablets—the company announced it would stop producing them—and digital curriculum, whose “sales haven’t moved as fast as we initially hoped,” Klein stated in July. Amplify sold its computer science MOOC in July.

 Modestou tweeted Klein for comment:

Klein didn't respond. 

Kathy Hochul: Who Cares About Criminal Probe, Buffalo Billion Is Creating Jobs!

That was her message today:

“I am so excited to tell the Buffalo Billion story. At this point already $875 million has been committed,” Hochul said. “We’re anticipating $8 billion in investment leverage as a result of this.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has pledged the investment in the Buffalo area — which is aimed at drawing high-tech companies and employment along with it — will create up to 14,000 jobs.

“Those jobs will be created,” Hochul said. “Those jobs are committed. SolarCity is committed and it’s going to to continue as planned.”

Hochul, meanwhile, insisted the investigation by Bharara’s office — which has placed scrutiny on both SUNY Polytechnic leader Alain Kaloyeros as well as the SolarCity project — won’t chill the anticipated job creation. Echoing comments Cuomo made earlier this month, Hochul said the investment in Buffalo has been a success.

“A day doesn’t go by where we don’t see a spectacular headline talking about increasing construction jobs, the tech jobs, the tourism jobs that are now coming back as a result of the governor’s commitment to Buffalo,” she said.

This is what is known as putting a happy face on the coming criminal charges/indictments.

You can see the latest on the investigation into Cuomo''s Buffalo Billion here, here and here.

As John Gielgud told Liza Minelli in Arthur: Good luck in prison...

Cuomo's Common Core Review: Less A Reboot, More A Showboat

David Bloomfield pans the Cuomo Common Core review:

“This is unlikely to make a difference, other than to provide the governor and other leaders with cover for a pre-set agenda,” David Bloomfield, an education leadership professor at Brooklyn College and at the City University of New York Graduate Center, told POLITICO New York. “I think it’s showboating.”

“Mostly, this seems like a strategy to deflect attention from Cuomo's ruinous program of test-based school and teacher evaluations, the root cause of the opt-movement, none of which are addressed in this toothless initiative," he said.

Indeed, it's a move meant to provide political cover for the governor ("I'm listening to parents' concerns!") without really having to change the part of his agenda that drives so much of the hostility from parents and teachers - the Endless Testing regime used to punish teachers and schools.

The task force is rigged with a bunch of Common Core supporters, they could issue the guidelines now before meeting, because there will be no radical change - no reboot - in their recommendations.

They'll tweak some of the tests, they'll shorten them (as NYSED says will already happen), they'll put some nonsense about limiting "test prep" in schools in place that will be about as useful as Cuomo's SAFE ACT (which can't be enforced), but that's about it.

In short, it will be a rebrand, with little substantive difference to the day-to-day realities of students and educators.

I don't think this will work out the way the governor wants it to.

In the end, few will be fooled by Cuomo's "reboot" of the Core - parents and teachers have heard way too much jive from the politicians and the educrats over the course of the Education Reform Era to be fooled by it.

Cuomo's Common Core Panel Rigged With Pro-Common Core Supporters

From the Buffalo News:

A task force created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to review the state’s controversial Common Core standards will include a Buffalo parent advocate who was an early supporter of the learning benchmarks.

Samuel Radford III is one of 15 people who will serve on the new panel, Cuomo announced Monday. The committee includes a wide range of community and school leaders from across the state, including Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, two teachers, state lawmakers, school administrators and top union leaders.

Radford said he sees an opportunity for the state to fix flaws in the way the learning standards were rolled out in schools during the last five years.

“Any time you do dramatic change like that, the process is very important,” said Radford, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo. “The process in this case turned out to be not something that was effective.”

Cuomo claimed in a video yesterday that the task of the review was for a "total reboot" of the system.

But when you rig the task force with pro-Common Core supporters you don't get a "total reboot" - you get the same old same old.

This task force has a parent who was an early supporter of the Common Core on it, a union leader who still supports Common Core, a state VP of a state teachers unions that also supports Common Core, the former head of a charter school network who loves Common Core, an education department commissioner who has said we cannot go "backward" on Common Core, a bankster who thinks the Common Core is great...

What kind of "total reboot" comes from this kind of task force predisposed to say "Common Core is swell - it's the 'implementation' that went off course!"?

The truth is, there will be no serious changes to the Endless Testing regime or the Common Core from this task force because Cuomo doesn't really want any.

Cuomo wants the Endless Testing regime to remain in place and be used to fire teachers, close schools and hand them off to charter operators.

The fight that is going on over Common Core and testing is, in part, a fight over that part of the governor's agenda - and that isn't going to be addressed by the task force:

One critic said the governor's program would do little to slow the "opt out" movement unless the Democrat de-emphasized the use of student test scores to evaluate schools and teachers.

"This task force is supposed to be his answer to a political problem," said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, which has criticized the governor's education policies. "As long as tests are linked to closing schools and teachers losing jobs, you're going to see the same backlash from parents."


The task force, however, is not directly charged with reviewing the use of state standardized tests in teacher evaluations – one of the most controversial aspects of a package of education reforms the state has pushed through in recent years. Cuomo and the state Legislature earlier this year approved an overhaul to the teacher evaluation system that did little to satisfy its critics.

Some parents remain skeptical that Cuomo’s new task force will address concerns raised by thousands of parents who directed their children not to take state standardized tests aligned with the Common Core last spring. More than 200,000 elementary and middle school students across the state refused to take the math and English tests.

“For the governor to really fix it, he’s got to detach the teacher evaluations from testing,” said Eric Mihelbergel, a Tonawanda parent who helped found Western New Yorkers for Public Education, which has helped organize the testing boycott. “And I really don’t think he’s willing to do that.”

He clearly is not since he didn't make it part of the task force mandate and has, in the past, said teacher evaluations tied to test scores are the centerpiece of his education reform plan.

In addition, the "parent input" he sought comes from a parent already in agreement with him on the swellness of Common Core.

So what we have here is a third dog and pony show from Cuomo on education, following fairly closely on the last two, with an outcome pretty much rigged already by the choices of the task force members and the mandate they were given for their review - just like previous Cuomo education commissions (see here and here.)

Which means the political problems Andy has over Common Core, testing and his teacher evaluation system isn't going to go away despite his efforts to claim a "total reboot."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cuomo Says He Hears Parent Concerns Over Common Core, But Chooses Rubber Stamp Commission For Review Process

From the "Sure you've heard parent complaints" file:

Cuomo’s office released a video featuring the governor, who acknowledged changes are needed to the standards.

“I have heard the message clearly,” Cuomo said in the video. “We must taken action and we must take action now to fix our schools.”

And what action is he taking?

Why, putting the same guy in charge of the last rubber stamp education commission in charge of this rubber stamp commission:

Former Time Warner and Citigroup CEO Dick Parsons will lead Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to overhaul the controversial Common Core education standards in New York, his office on Monday announced. 
The panel will be charged with reviewing the standards and making a package of recommendations aimed at overhauling the standards. 
The panel was formed as the Department of Education forms its own committee to review the standards. 
The Parsons-led commission — which also includes Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia — is expected to have its recommendations ready by January, time for the governor to deliver his State of the State address.

Elia has already told us that she too hears parent concerns but we cannot go backward on the standards (i.e., "I really didn't hear you but am only making believe like I did...")

Now we've got Cuomo saying the same soothing words about hearing parent concerns but showing through his actions that he really didn't hear them at all.

The commission is supposed to report back to the governor before his January State of the State speech.

Frankly, they could just issue the report now because the whole process is rigged - just like the last time around. 

If Cuomo and Elia think they're fooling anybody with this dog and pony show, I've got a Tappan Zee Bridge construction project to sell them.

Bharara Targeting Campaign Fundraising - Especially Cuomo's

Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY:

ALBANY — As his office investigates one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's key programs, Preet Bharara is making war on campaign fund-raising as we know it.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District issued a flurry of subpoenas earlier this summer, seeking information about how construction contracts were awarded on several big state projects in Buffalo, according to people familiar with the investigation and other published reports.

The New York Times reported Sunday that investigators subpoenaed Empire State Development, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and their subsidiaries. It's impossible to know exactly what Bharara is looking for — the prosecutor and his aides refuse to talk about their ongoing work — but his efforts are ensnaring campaign donors whose apparent sin is giving to politicians as they benefitted from state business.

“Their goal is to use the people that are paying to testify against the politicians. They're not after the company that is paying for the service,” said James Cohen, a longtime defense attorney and professor at Fordham Law School. “It's precisely what Bharara said he was going to do: he thinks that Albany and its various tentacles — which go both ways — are really dirty, and have been dirty for a real long time. New York has not shown any ability, in his mind, to attempt to clean it up.”

If Bharara is after the politicians on the other end of the donations and not the donors themselves, then we have a pretty good idea which politician he's targeting here - these are all Cuomo's donors he's looking into:

One of the recently subpoenaed firms is LPCiminelli, sources said, a stalwart contractor in Buffalo that is building a solar panel factory for SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Company president Louis Ciminelli and other entities he controls have given Cuomo $90,800 since 2011, making him one of the governor's 100 largest donors. The solar contract was originally written so only Ciminelli met the criteria; the request for proposals was subsequently amended, but Ciminelli still won.

The correlation between the donations and the award quickly aroused the interest of journalists; Ciminelli and SUNY Poly insist the contract awards were on the merits. Daniel Oliverio, who is representing Ciminelli, declined to confirm or deny the subpoena but said “unequivocally” that the firm and its owners were not the targets of any investigation.


There's Ciminelli in Buffalo. In Albany, Joe Nicolla and Columbia Development gave Cuomo thousands as it won contracts to build new buildings for SUNY Poly and a convention center down the block from the Capitol. Other companies in the Capital Region held a fund-raiser for Cuomo before they won money in an economic development contest. Cuomo raked in $250,000 from developers in Kiryas Joel after he vetoed a bill that would have restricted the Hasidic enclave's growth.

 As for what Bharara may be looking to pin on Cuomo:

Paul DerOhannesian, a defense lawyer based in Albany, said the focus of honest services fraud is on the fraudulent and deceptive conduct of the public official who abuses a position of trust, and the government is not required to link any particular payment to a specific act on the part of the public official. The quid pro quo element is therefore satisfied if the public official understood that as a result of the payment, he of she was expected to exercise particular kinds of influence on behalf of the person directing the payments as opportunities arose, or when called upon to do so.

“It's murky,” he said.

Polls show that New York voters agree with Bharara, and even if it can't be declared strictly illegal, business as usual in Albany needs to change. If the attorney general has his way, that's going to apply to the entire elected class that thrives on and perpetuates the current system, from Cuomo on down.

I'm sure there's something Bharara knows that we don't know about all of this that has spurred his interest (as well as the subpoenas to Cuomo's donors as well as Empire State Development Corporation and Suny Polytechnic) and the rapid fire leaks are indication that what he knows is bad for somebody.

Bharara's leaks are strategic, often setting up the frame that somebody's got some legal trouble (e.g., Silver, Skelos.)

I would think the same thing is being done here and since the donors in question are all Cuomo's and the recipients of the subpoenas on the state end are allies of Cuomo (like Alain Kaloyeros at Suny) or entities essentially controlled by Cuomo (Empire State Development), the target of Bharara's investigation is pretty clear.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bharara Gets Closer To Cuomo, Subpoenas Empire State Development And Suny For Connection Between Contracts And Donations

Sunday night Cuomo corruption leak via the NY Times

Federal prosecutors investigating Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s marquee program to revitalize Buffalo’s economy have been examining how the government-funded projects were awarded, and whether state elected officials played a role in choosing who would benefit from the major infusion of funds.

Some of the contours of the inquiry were made clear in a federal grand jury subpoena served on the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, which has played a central role in administering the governor’s program, known as the Buffalo Billion. The subpoena was one of a number issued in recent months, according to people with knowledge of the matter. One of the other subpoenas went to Empire State Development, New York State’s economic development agency, which is providing funding for the program.

People with knowledge of the subpoena to SUNY Polytechnic described its contents in detail to The New York Times.
One area of interest, according to these people, who were not authorized to discuss the subpoena, was a 2013 request for proposals that was written in a way that would have disqualified many possible bidders, and favored a construction company whose chief executive had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Mr. Cuomo. The subpoena also sought information about the hiring of staff members who would develop requests for proposals and distribute funds for Buffalo Billion projects.
The subpoena, issued on June 26, provides the most detailed look yet at the investigation’s scope, and listed the possible crimes that are the subject of the inquiry: mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

The feds mean business:

The subpoena to SUNY Polytechnic directed the institution to respond to a senior criminal investigator who has worked on some of Mr. Bharara’s highest-profile corruption cases, including the pending case against Mr. Silver, the former Assembly speaker.

And they're aiming directly at Cuomo donors:

The subpoena to SUNY Polytechnic indicated that at least three state-funded projects from the Buffalo Billion are of interest to federal authorities.

One is the governor’s flagship Buffalo project, a solar panel factory for SolarCity, whose chairman is Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Motors. Mr. Cuomo has pledged to invest $750 million on this, and claimed it would create 5,000 jobs, 3,000 of which would be in Western New York. Construction of this facility is underway and it could open in early 2016, officials have said.

Federal authorities have also asked for records related to a Buffalo pharmaceutical research center and an information technology facility for IBM.

And just in case you think this won't get near Cuomo, think again - the Times reports that Cuomo "exerts tremendous control" over ESDC:

Governor Cuomo has turned to Empire State Development, the state economic development agency, to provide funding for Buffalo Billion projects. The governor exerts tremendous control over the agency. SUNY Polytechnic has paired with the state on Buffalo Billion projects, and Alain E. Kaloyeros, the institution’s president, has provided the governor with strategic advice on various related issues. The institution, in turn, used a nonprofit corporation called Fort Schuyler Management Corp., which is affiliated with SUNY Polytechnic, to manage the bidding process for some Buffalo Billion projects.

I'll remind you once again, these leaks don't just happen  - they're part of the rollout plan Bharara has for getting the public ready for criminal charges against high level public officials.

I'd have to say, looking closely at this latest leak, that Cuomo's got trouble coming down the pike very, very soon.

Bharara appears to be closing in on people right around Cuomo.

New Jersey Charter Schools Hoard Money, Sit On Large Fund Balances

Proving once again that charter schools are not public schools:

Charter schools across New Jersey have built up savings so large that one school has more money saved than it needs for an entire year of operation, according to an analysis by the Newark-based Education Law Center.


The Education Law Center analyzed the most recently available audited school budgets of more than 80 charter schools. Nearly all of the schools had fund balances — the difference between revenues and expenses — larger than 2 percent, according to the analysis.

Public school districts are not allowed to have fund balances that are more than 2 percent of their budget, and The Education Law Center this week called on the state to impose the same cap on charter schools.

The money charter schools have beyond a 2 percent fund balance should be returned to the districts from which students came, said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center.

"The excess charter fund balance is available to provide desperately needed teachers, staff and programs for students in district schools," Sciarra said. "Since charters are public schools, they cannot be allowed to carry unlimited, excess surplus they don't need while the education of students who choose to attend district schools suffers from deep budget cuts."

Impunity For Guards Who Abuse Prisoners In Cuomo's State Prison System, Silence From Political Establishment

Along with the Dutchess district attorney, the US attorney for the southern district is investigating  the beating death of an inmate at Fishkill prison by a group of guards called the "Beat Up Squad."

There were 60+ allegations of prisoners being beaten, choked, and threatened with waterboarding at Clinton Correctional after Governor Cuomo visited the facility to re-enact a prison break in June.

Both these stories were reported by the NY Times - and now the Times has another one about prisoner abuse in the state prison system:

A few days after Ramon Fabian arrived at the Ulster Correctional Facility on the southern edge of the Catskill Mountains last year, a guard conducting the morning head count yelled at him to shut up.
Inmates at Ulster, a medium-security New York State prison, are required to stay in place and keep their voices low during the count. Mr. Fabian, who was serving a one-year sentence for a drug conviction, had been talking to another inmate, but he said in a recent interview that he thought he had been following the rules.

After the count was over, the guard escorted him past a set of double doors out of view of other inmates and the prison’s electronic surveillance cameras. Mr. Fabian said the officer, Michael Bukowski, a seven-year veteran, had then ordered him to face the wall and brace himself in the “pat-frisk” position, arms outstretched and legs spread. As he did so, Mr. Fabian recalled, he looked down and saw the toe of a boot swinging up between his legs.

He saw a flash of light, felt a piercing pain and collapsed. “He told me to get up, but all I could do was crawl back to my cube,” Mr. Fabian, who is now 21, told investigators later. He lay on the floor in his cubicle in the prison’s dormitory, groaning and crying, for almost an hour before hobbling to lunch. In the mess hall, a sergeant sent him to the prison’s medical unit. He was soon loaded into a van and driven 80 miles north to a hospital in Albany. Doctors there performed emergency surgery, removing part of his right testicle.
Questioned by an investigator from the state corrections department’s inspector general’s office a few days after the episode on July 22, 2014, Officer Bukowski said he knew nothing about the injury. He said he had “counseled” Mr. Fabian about the importance of keeping quiet during the count. He acknowledged that he had raised his voice, and that when he sent Mr. Fabian back to his cubicle, the inmate was “crying a little.” Corrections officials concluded that the guard had used excessive force and was lying. Officer Bukowksi was suspended without pay on July 31, 2014, and the department soon moved to fire him.
More than a year later, however, Officer Bukowski is still a state employee. His disciplinary case remains unresolved, although he faces a criminal charge of assault. His case, described in court documents and interviews, offers a stark example of the intricate protections that shield New York’s 20,000 corrections officers, even when there is compelling evidence of abuse.

A former state commissioner of corrections blames the union contract, says the following:

Current and former corrections officials say the union contract deserves part of the blame. “It is tough to get rid of a bad officer, just like it’s tough to get rid of a bad teacher,” said Brian Fischer, a former superintendent at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and the state corrections commissioner from 2007 to 2013. “It’s very frustrating.”

Ah, but Cuomo has spent the last five years pushing through changes to law and the teacher evaluation system that allows the state to fire teachers much more easily.

State guards who abuse prisoners?

Cuomo defends them, downplaying the allegations.

Aren't you glad Hakeem Jeffries gave Cuomo a "criminal justice reform leadership" award?

I mean, who else could get PR that he's great for criminal justice reform while overseeing a prison system that is medieval in its abuse of the prisoners?

The problem for these prisoners getting abused in the state system is that they're not in Rikers.

If they were, the Daily News would be all over it, hammering de Blasio not eh front page day after day after day.

But since this is Cuomo and the state system they'd have to take on, all we get is crickets out of them.

Same goes for politicians like Hakeem Jeffries, who'd be all over this if it was Rikers and de Blasio but can't seem to even comment on the state prisoner abuse allegations, let alone go on the offensive against Cuomo over them.

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Meanwhile the horror show that is the New York prison system continues on.

Michael Bloomberg Said To Be Considering Run For The White House

Run, Mike, run!

A Roger Simon reply to the Bremmer tweet puts this into perspective:

You got that right, Roger.

My new favorite political analyst, the very astute 102 year old Richard M. Nixon, gives us the last word on the Bloomberg trial balloon:

Me too, Mr. President.

Me too.

And I think he'll be quite successful if he runs.

Isn't the country desperately longing for a New York billionaire who wants to take away their guns, Big Gulps and styrofoam?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Will The Families For Excellent Schools Race Baiting Ad Hurt The Charter Movement?

Michael Fiorillo on the Families for Excellent Schools race-baiting ad:

Regarding FES's charges of racism against De Blasio, see Projection, Psychological, defined as the psychological phenomenon where humans (or, in Moskowitz's case, a rather toxic facsimile thereof) denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes, and assumes instead that others are doing or thinking the same thing.

Everything about this episode, from the planning and marketing of the demonstration itself, to this ad, shows how so-called education reform is an ethical Black Hole, where the gravitational pull of greed, power hunger, hypocrisy and manipulation seek to suck in all public resources within reach, while emitting no light whatsoever.

These are bad people, brazenly performing shameful acts. It's fortunate that, after so many years of their vicious lies being given a free pass in media and political circles, they're starting to meet with more exposure and pushback.

I also get the feeling that the other big charter chains are probably not too happy with this. It's long been rumored/reported that they too loathe Eva (though for their own venal reasons) and they clearly like to operate in a less confrontational, faux-friendlier and behind-the-scenes manner. They worry that she'll fuck up their sweet deal with her compulsive belligerence. That's the difference among these characters: KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Democracy Prep are aggressive, but smooth enough to not be compulsively belligerent (as opposed to strategically aggressive, which is what they do try to be), which they know in the long run to be unprofessional and dangerous.

Eva is kind of the Raging Id of the local charter school movement, and that makes for volatile situations, including possibility of the narrative turning against her.

Last year, Families for Excellent Schools spent more money on lobbying than any other entity - $9.7 million dollars - with record expenditures in September and October of 2014.

Here we are again in the September/October period and their lobbying expenditures are ratcheting up once more.

Only this time, they have gone with some overt race-baiting in their ads for extra-added outrage.

But as Michael notes in his comment, this act isn't helping the charter movement any.

Witness how the press treated FES head Jeremiah Kittredge at FES's March rally in Albany.

A few years ago, members of the press would have been dutifully writing down Kittredge's lies without pushback.

But not any longer.

This is the unintended consequence from the FES outrageousness.

Their credibility gets tinier and tinier.

Same goes for charter operators/chains associated with FES.

Maybe Jeremiah Kittredge and Eva Moskowitz think this belligerence will help them, but I think there's already some evidence this strategy is backfiring on them and will, in the end, hurt their beloved privatization, er, charter school movement more than help it.

Did Families For Excellent Schools Use A Success Academies Student For Their Racist "Frowning Black Child" Ad?

The hedge fund-backed Families for Excellent Schools is releasing the following attack ad on de Blasio ahead of their "It's not a political rally" rally on September 30:

The ad features two young boys, one white, with blonde hair, blue eyes and a blue shirt, the other black, with a buzzcut and a red shirt.

The clip puts into stark terms the racial and class politics that FES and its allies have embraced in their fight against de Blasio over the last 18 months.

"Because he lives in a wealthy neighborhood, this 6-year-old will attend a good school," the ad's narrator says as the young white boy is walked to school by a white parent.

But when the black boy appears on the screen, the narrator says, "Because he lives in a poor neighborhood, this 6-year-old will be forced in a failing school."

The two boys briefly pass each other on the street as the narrator claims that the white child will likely go to college, while the black boy has little chance of ever attaining a college degree.

A split screen shows the two boys in school; the white boy is happily reading, while the black child is frowning, apparently bored, at his desk.

"Mayor de Blasio, stop forcing kids into failing schools," the narrator says. "Half a million children need new schools, now."

That ad has been called race-baiting and racist:

Luis Garden Acosta, the founder of El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice and the father of a child who attended a charter school, said FES was “race-baiting.”

“‘Race baiting’ like ‘red baiting’, exploiting the values and legitimate concerns of our city’s communities of color, for whatever political purpose, is abhorrent and posits a dangerous and expanding wedge in a city all to segregated by class, color and community,” Mr. Acosta stated, noting that Roberto Perez, a City Hall staffer, encouraged him to speak out. “It is abhorrent that a movement that emerged as a demand to tell the truth is used to obfuscate, divide and attempt to denigrate New York City’s progressive agenda”.


“They’re racist to the core. They know they are,” Bertha Lewis, the founder of the Black Institute, a civil rights nonprofit, told the Observer. “What the mayor needs to do, and I would stand right beside him, is call them out for the racists that they are. He needs to be able to do that. He needs to fight back.”


“These folks have figured out a way to make profit off the same kids that they disdained for years and years. As far as I’m concerned, its predatory education, subprime schools,” Ms. Lewis said. “Eva Moskowitz and none of them wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t making enormous profit. To then turn around and say, ‘Oh black people, I’m trying to save you from the big bad white man, the mayor, who wants to put you in a failing school’–that’s racist.”

Success Academies was caught offering some "messaging assistance" to Success parents over the September 30 political rally that theyinsist isn't political, threatening parents who don't show for it with the possibility that their kids won't get into a Success middle school or high school.

Success Acadamies is also infamous for its young white teachers who spew out abuse to students of color every day at school in the form of "discipline" and "high expectations" and treat the children like prisoners.

As the New York Times reported:

One consequence of the competitive environment is a high rate of teacher turnover. Some teachers who left said that the job was too stressful. Others said they left because they disagreed with the network’s approach, particularly when they believed it was taken to extremes. In an internal email that some former teachers said typified the attitude at some schools, one school leader said that students who were lagging should be made to feel “misery.” Suspension rates at Success schools, compared with public schools, are higher.

Former staff members described students in third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests, either because teachers did not allow them to go to the restroom, which Ms. Moskowitz disputed, or because the students themselves felt so much pressure that they did not want to lose time on the test.

Jasmine Araujo, 25, who joined Success through the Teach for America program, quit after half a year as a special-education teacher at Success Academy Harlem 3. She now teaches at a charter school in New Orleans. “I would cry almost every night thinking about the way I was treating these kids, and thinking that that’s not the kind of teacher I wanted to be,” Ms. Araujo said.

The accompanying Times photo (see above) of Success Academies students says volumes about how the children at this school - almost all black - feel about being there.

It's ironic that the FES ad shows a frowning black child at his desk, purporting the child's school to be a public school under de Blasio's leadership, when actual photos in the infamous NY Times piece on Eva Moskowitz and her prison/school system show Success Academies students frowning and/or looking rather unhappy as the line up for another day of prison/school.

It's also ironic that Success Academies - which is largely made up of minority children - touts itself as a model for diversity and Eva Moskowitz touts herself as a civil right leader.

Given how her schools are so segregated, how badly she has her largely white teachers treat their black students, how often she threatens and manipulates the parents of those students, quite frankly FES and Success are more open to charges of racism than Bill de Blasio is.

And yet they go at de Blasio and call him the "racist" in this shameful ad.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cuomo Having Some Fundraising Trouble?

State of Politics:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign on Friday sent out another appeal to donors for buying tickets to a fundraiser that will include a viewing of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

The Cuomo campaign has been selling tickets to the Oct. 14 event since August, with donations ranging from $125 to $25,000.

But in a sign the campaign has struggled to sell tickets to the event — which will include the governor in attendance — those who have never donated to Cuomo have received letters urging them to buy tickets.

In the email sent Friday afternoon the Cuomo campaign gives three reasons for attending:
“If your inbox is anything like mine, you’re getting flooded with crazy End Of Quarter emails. So I figured I’d give you something easy.
Here’s the story:
1. Hamilton is an absolutely incredible show.
2. Tickets are hard to find (the show is basically sold out through 2016).
3. We would love you to come see the show with us on October 14th.
That’s really about it. You get to come see the show, and support Governor Cuomo at the same time.”
Cuomo has indicated he will run for a third term in 2018.

With the US attorney rooting around in the Buffalo Billion project, probing Cuomo donors who received contracts worth hundreds of millions from the state, Cuomo can't exactly do the old "Quid Pro Cuomo" right now and have some donors pay him back for favors by sending in eight checks from four LLC's linked to the same guy.

No, he's got to rely on the more standard form of fund-raising and if the repeated emails about the Hamilton show are an indication, looks like he may be having trouble reeling fish in.

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia: I Don't Care What Voters Think About Common Core

Keshia Clukey at NY:

ALBANY — The state Education Department will take suggestions on what portions of the Common Core standards should be changed, but the state “cannot go backwards,” commissioner MaryEllen Elia told POLITICO New York on Thursday.

Her remarks came in response to a Siena Research Institute poll released Thursday that found that 64 percent of New York voters said Common Core's implementation has either had no meaningful effect on public education or else has worsened it.

“Most New Yorkers would agree that we should set the academic bar high for our students, and then provide the resources they need to clear that bar,” Elia said in emailed comments. “The United States used to lead the world educationally, but we’ve fallen to the middle of the pack. Our students are lagging behind, and the global economy is growing more competitive every day.” 
“We’ll make necessary adjustments, but we cannot go backwards,” she said. “Our students need the skills and knowledge the higher standards demand to be successful after they graduate from high school. Change is always difficult, and change takes time, but this change is necessary.”

Shorter version: Elia to NY - I don't care what you think, the Common Core/Endless Testing regime continues whether you like it or not.

That's the message here.

The opposition to the state's education reform agenda - the Common Core implementation and Endless Testing regime that has ratcheted up even more with CCSS and Cuomo's teacher evaluation agenda - is quite clearly unpopular among voters and even more unpopular among parents of school-age children.

Polling quite clearly shows this, with the yesterday's Siena poll just the latest example.

Earlier this week, a Quinnipiac poll showed the following:

69% opposed to merit pay based upon test scores, 67% opposed to tenure based upon test scores, 65% say standardized tests are not the best measurement of student learning.

Elia's reponse to the polling - "We cannot go backward" - is a straw man argument that presents the idea moving away from Common Core and the Endless Testing regime is backward movement.

Clearly from multiple polls, voters in New York do not feel this way.

She's trying to hold the line on an eroding education reform edifice with her imperious talk but the reality is, given the politics of these issues (and with the governor already undercutting her authority and prestige), she is not long for the education reform wars here in New York.

Not with this kind of reaction, at any rate.

The public has turned on many tenets of reform - testing, merit pay, tenure/evaluations tied to test scores, Common Core - but Elia's holding the line like it's 2009 and Race to the Top is a new and exciting thing.

Good luck with that, Commissioner.

Charter School Entrepreneurs Roll Out De Basio Attack Ad For Their "Not Political" Rally

Eliza Shapiro at Politico NY:

A new television ad produced for the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools accuses Mayor Bill de Blasio of forcing minority students into failing schools, according to a copy of the yet-unreleased ad obtained by POLITICO New York.

The ad will likely be made public later on Friday, ahead of the group's pro-charter rally on Sept. 30. The rally, which will take the form of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, is officially intended to help "restore school equality."


The ad features two young boys, one white, with blonde hair, blue eyes and a blue shirt, the other black, with a buzzcut and a red shirt.

The clip puts into stark terms the racial and class politics that FES and its allies have embraced in their fight against de Blasio over the last 18 months.

"Because he lives in a wealthy neighborhood, this 6-year-old will attend a good school," the ad's narrator says as the young white boy is walked to school by a white parent.

But when the black boy appears on the screen, the narrator says, "Because he lives in a poor neighborhood, this 6-year-old will be forced in a failing school."

The two boys briefly pass each other on the street as the narrator claims that the white child will likely go to college, while the black boy has little chance of ever attaining a college degree.

A split screen shows the two boys in school; the white boy is happily reading, while the black child is frowning, apparently bored, at his desk.

"Mayor de Blasio, stop forcing kids into failing schools," the narrator says. "Half a million children need new schools, now."

I know a child who attended one of Eva Moskowitz's test prep factories who frowned all the time at school because he was a) bored by the constant test prep and b) sick of being beaten into submission by the abuse and "discipline" from the Success staff.

He doesn't frown much anymore because he's out of the Success prison system and into a school where it's not "All Test Prep All The Time" and "Eyes Up Here!"

I'm sure this ad has been tested by FES and therefore will be effective at further driving down de Blasio's poll numbers, hitting him most where it hurts - with black voters - in order to help Eva Moskowitz or some other pro-charter shill to run for mayor against de Blasio in 2017.

But it's pure lies and propaganda for a whole host of reasons - from the exclusionary attack (charters are, by definition, exclusionary - just ask any child who's been tossed from Success) to the black children are bored in bad schools attack  (which certainly wasn't true in the case of the child I wrote about above.)

That they're rolling out a political attack ad on de Blasio before a rally that they insist is "not political" is even evidence of just how political and full of jive the charter entrepreneurs are.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Elia Announces Online Testing, State Moves Forward On Broadband Push


ALBANY — New York state’s third through eighth grade students could be putting away their number 2 pencils and instead completing standardized tests online in the 2016-17 academic year.

The state began the push toward computer-based testing in 2012, but is now setting the timeline for implementation as part of its $44-million, five-year contract with Minneapolis-based testing company Questar Assessment, Inc.

“We need to move to where we can use the power of technology to give us feedback more quickly,” state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia told POLITICO New York. “So online testing is a positive thing and allows us to not have this long and drawn-out system that we have.”

And today:

New York is moving forward with an expansion of broadband to under served areas of the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Thursday announced.

Cuomo today announced the request for information process had started in the broadband push — considered one of the last steps in laying out the program’s guidelines.

The broadband push — which is aimed at expanding Internet service to urban and rural swaths of the state — was first announced last year during Cuomo’s re-election campaign.

The move is designed to encourage private companies to bring broadband service to areas with slower-than-average Internet speeds with the addition of state funds.
“High speed internet access has become an essential ingredient of any strong economy and New York is leading the nation to close the broadband gap,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this action, we are engaging providers, municipal leaders and other stakeholders to help ensure the New NY Broadband Program leverages the State’s investment in the best way and fulfills its goal of providing access to high speed Internet to every New Yorker in every corner of this state.”
The goal of the broadband program is to have every New Yorker receive access to high-speed Internet by 2018.


Just in time for the online tests - oh goodie!

This of course was always one of the big rationales for Cuomo's broadband push.

Siena Poll: 64% Of New Yorkers Negative On Common Core, 59% Negative On Andrew Cuomo

A Siena Poll released this morning shows the following:

19% say Common Core implementation in New York has improved education.

40% say it has made education worse.

24% say it has had no effect.

That's 64% who say it has either had no effect or made things worse.

Considering the enormous time, money, energy and other resources put into the agenda, 64% saying it has either had no effect or made things worse is NOT where you want to be if you're an educrat or politician supporting the Common Core.

Look no further for why Cuomo called for a review of the Common Core a few weeks ago than these poll numbers.

Well, maybe you can look a little further - to Cuomo's own poll numbers:

Job Approval - 39%
Job Disapproval - 59%

He's underwater by 20 points in job approval.

This is why he called for the Common Core review and the minimum wage increase and it's why he has made other "reachouts" to liberals and the base that are supposed to help Cuomo's approval.

So far, the plan is not working.

Cuomo's approval/disapproval numbers in Siena have been under water for a long time now and they're not improving despite his efforts (see here, here, and here.)

And here's what Cuomo's really got to be worried about - with the US attorney investigating the Cuomo administration's Buffalo Billion project, those numbers may get worse before they get better.

There is an emerging pattern of donate, donate, get contract, donate again...between the contractors getting state contracts and the Cuomo campaign.

If anything untoward is found in the US attorney's probe, Cuomo's got no safety net to rely on politically to keep himself upright.

Not with these poll numbers.

As for Common Core, I have a difficult time seeing the polling turn around on that.

I dunno, maybe Cuomo's Common Core Review performs a miracle and makes everything swell with the Core going forward.

But given the opposition to testing we're seeing, so long as the CCSS is tied to the high stakes tests that are rigged for high failure rates and firing teachers, I'm skeptical.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Power Brokers In Western NY "Rattled" By Bharara Probe Into Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Project

The Buffalo News:

Word that Bharara is looking at the Buffalo Billion, which Cuomo has hailed for bringing jobs and construction activity to the region, has rattled power brokers across Western New York. In interviews this week, political insiders either expressed little knowledge of Bharara’s activities or said they were intentionally avoiding attempts to find out any information about the probe.

McGuire is the only executive of a company with a Buffalo Billion contract to directly comment on the matter. Others, including several that bid or expressed initial interest in bidding on the original Buffalo Billion request for proposal in 2013, have not returned calls seeking comment.

Recipients of Bharara’s subpoenas, which seek information about the Buffalo Billion, include SUNY Polytechnic, which is run from Albany by Alain E. Kaloyeros, a politically savvy public higher education official who has lobbied four New York governors in a row to invest mightily in his nanotechnology college a few miles from the State Capitol.

Kaloyeros, whom Cuomo chose for a sizable role in the Buffalo Billion, has declined to comment.
The Buffalo Billion is ultimately overseen by Empire State Development, the state’s main economic-development agency. A spokesman for the agency could not immediately say Wednesday whether state economic-development officials have received any subpoenas from federal prosecutors about the Buffalo Billion.

Lots of "no comment" or un-returned calls for comment in Buffalo and Albany.

Lots of scared power brokers.

The only people talking are the McGuire CEO and Cuomo.

Who knows, maybe nothing untoward was done here and everybody's fine.

But if not...if Bharara sticks to the pattern, we go another month to two months before we get another leak that is ominous sounding for someone (Kaloyeros?  Ciminelli? Both?), then some criminal charges get announced.

No wonder they're mostly scared silent in Buffalo and Albany.

Would be interesting to know what Cuomo is really saying, in private, away from the cameras and reporters, where he has been mostly trying to downplay this thing and pawn whatever responsibility there is for it onto SUNY simultaneously.

Especially since there is one other pattern here besides the Bharara leak, leak, indict...pattern.

There's the contractor's donate, donate, get contract, donate...pattern too - with that money ending up directly in Cuomo's campaign coffers.

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Hasn't Met With Governor Andrew Cuomo Yet

What to make of this?

ALBANY — State education commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that her agency and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be on the same page as the department and a Cuomo-created commission both push to review the Common Core standards and complete their reports before the governor's State of the State message in January.

“I don’t think that the work that’s being done by the governor’s commission excludes the work that’s being done by [the state education department], but clearly we need to work together,” Elia told POLITICO New York.

In another use of executive action to advance his education reform agenda, Cuomo earlier this month announced that his education commission also will do a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core.

If I read that correctly, Elia's begging to not be thrown to the side as the "Common Core Review Party" gets under way.

And you can see why she's got that concern given this information:

The governor and the education commissioner have not discussed the matter in person, because they have yet to meet face to face, more than two months after Elia took over the department.

The commissioner and governor have spoken on the phone, Elia said.

“I’ve had multiple conversations with the governor. He’s been very busy, as have I," she said.

Oh, yeah, you're very busy and so is he, so you can't meet with him to discuss your joint plans on education because, well, you don't really have any joint plans because he's really running stuff even though nominally he has little power over education.

No wonder she's taken to begging Cuomo in public to be invited to the Common Core Review Party:

It’s a control issue, said former Bronx assemblyman Michael Benjamin, about Cuomo not meeting with Elia.

“The governor wants to do things on his own time table and kind of have her stew a bit before he meets her,” he said.

Unlike states where the education commissioner is appointed by the governor, New York's commissioner is appointed by the state Board of Regents, whose members are chosen by the Legislature.

“She is not his choice,” Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz, said of Elia.

So here we are, just two and a half months into her NYSED tenure, and we're already seeing MaryEllen Elia having to fight to save herself from irrelevancy.

You know that over/under in Vegas on when Elia gets canned and/or decides to "spend time with her family"?

I think the odds are shifting a bit more toward "under."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Another Cuomo Donor Given What Appears To Be Rigged Contract From SUNY

Okay, this is starting to get good.

Chris Churchill reports in the Times Union about another Cuomo donor who got what appears to be a rigged SUNY contract:

We don't know exactly why SUNY Poly's involvement with the Buffalo Billion has attracted the attention of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

But from what we can surmise, the decision to subpoena records was at least partly motivated by the awarding of a construction bid to one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's major donors.

Hmm. Now why does that sound familiar?

Oh, that's right. We have similar concerns in Albany, where SUNY Poly just awarded a contract for dormitory construction to Columbia Development, whose entities have given at least $175,000 to the governor's campaign fund since the start of 2014.


June 2014: The Times Union learns that Columbia is the developer for the so-called ZEN building, a $191 million project that is still under construction. Columbia will be also be a ZEN tenant.

July 2014: We learn that Columbia is buying homes on Loughlin Street, just south of the SUNY Poly campus. "Nobody here has any idea what that's about," Gretzinger said at the time.

March 2015: SUNY Poly issues a request for proposals to construct dorms. The school asks that the dorms be within a 10-minute walk of campus, and it requires that the developer be based in the Capital Region and have experience in dorm construction.

The requirements seemed perfectly suited for Columbia, but SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros cautioned against jumping to conclusions. "It would be an erroneous assumption to presume at this point that we have a preferred developer or location," Kaloyeros said then.

September 2015: We learn that Columbia has, indeed, won the bid and will develop three dorms and parking on land that includes Loughlin Street. SUNY Poly is negotiating to buy the land from the developer. The project architect is EYP, which is headquartered on the SUNY Poly campus.

OK, so take that timeline and overlay it with what I found on Monday while searching the Board of Elections online records.

August 2013: A Columbia entity gives $25,000 to Cuomo's campaign fund. It's the company's first donation to Cuomo in the database.

June 2014: Two Columbia entities — Ridgehill LLC and 25 Monroe LLC — give $50,000 each. All together, Columbia and related LLCs give $115,000 to the governor over the course of 2014.

July 2015: Six separate Columbia entities give a total of $50,000 to the governor on just one day, July 13. All together, Columbia has given $60,000 so far this year, according to state records.

The three-year total: $200,000.

That's a significant amount of money — and it's probably an undercount of Columbia's contributions. It's so difficult to ferret out all the various Columbia-associated LLCs that it's likely I missed a few.
Columbia President Joe Nicolla, who also is a SUNY Poly Foundation board member, could probably provide the precise number, but he declined comment Monday.


In Buffalo, a similar pattern was uncovered by the Investigative Post, a Buffalo-based online news outlet.

Jim Heaney, its editor, dug deep on the Buffalo Billion, a Cuomo economic development effort in which Kaloyeros is heavily involved. His reporting peeled away layers of secrecy to find that a request-for-proposals seemed written for LPCiminelli, which is owned by a major Cuomo donor.
Heaney's work raised eyebrows — and Bharara's were apparently among them.

Is Bharara looking into Columbia and the Suny Poly contract?

We don't know but we do know that SUNY Poly was on the end of subpoenas from Bharara's office.

We also see a curious pattern here - entities that win contracts from SUNY Poly giving money to Cuomo after the contract is awarded.

Happened with McGuire Development, which gave $25,000 to Cuomo after it won a $55 million dollar contract as part of the Buffalo Billion project.

And then there's LP Ciminelli, the contractor that had given Cuomo close to $100,000 and won the $750 million dollar Buffalo Bill project contract that appeared rigged for only LP Ciminelli.

Two examples of contractors winning huge contracts and money flowing to Cuomo directly afterward.

One example of a Cuomo donor winning a really huge contract.

Couple that pattern of donors winning contracts with the lack of transparency around the contracts and the bidding process, add in the herculean efforts by SUNY Poly and Fort Schuyler, the non-profit affiliated with it, to maintain that lack of transparency, and you really do have to raise your eyebrow at the whole thing.

Fortunately for us, US Attorney Preet Bharara has apparently raised his eyebrow too and followed that up with subpoenas to some of the entities involved in this.

Dunno about you, but the more I read about the Buffalo Billion project investigation, SUNY Poly and how Cuomo's donors kept getting these huge contracts and steering money back his way, the more I think someone's going to get indicted.

Weingarten, Mulgrew, Magee Met Personally With Cuomo In April

Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, several weeks before re-introducing legislation to grant financial assistance for parents whose children attend private and parochial schools.

According to newly posted schedule records, the Democratic governor huddled with the Catholic prelate as well as with James Cultrara, the Catholic Conference's top education official, and Anthony de Nicola, a fund manager and board member of the group that pushed for the tax credit, on April 13 at the cardinal's residence in midtown Manhattan. Cuomo later held events around the state to rally support for the tax credit, which lawmakers did not enact.

The schedules also show:

-- Cuomo met with a trio of teachers' union leaders, Karen Magee of NYSUT, Michael Mulgrew of the UFT and Randi Weingarten of the AFT, on April 10, and again on April 22. The unions were vociferous opponents of the tax credit plan.

No word on what was discussed at those meetings.

Was it just about the tax credit plans?

Or was the rest of Cuomo's education reform agenda devised to "break" the public school system discussed as well?

In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter because we know what the outcome was:

They weren't terribly successful at much other than holding the line on vouchers (which may have happened because voucher proponents overplayed their hands anyway.)

Cuomo got pretty much everything else on education that he wanted.

Is Success Academies Breaking The Law By "Forcing" Political Rally Attendance?

A commenter left the following on this morning's post about the Families for Excellent Schools rally late in September:

It is now beyond obvious that charter schools are NOT public schools. If they are "forcing" teachers, students, and families to attend a blatantly political rally on school time, this proves that these schools are breaking the law. (NYC regulatoions forbids school employees from engaging in political activites during school hours) And please don't say that since these schools operate a longer school year schedule that it is not on school time. Wednesday, September 30th is a regular school day and these kids may have a brother or sister at a different public school that day. Parents have every right to have their kids in school on Wed, Sept 30th and should not be forced to attend a rally that they might not even agree with. (Same goes for the teachers of these schools)

The memo from the Success Academy "advocacy team" that got leaked to Politico NY does suggest that parents who do not attend the rally will have non-attendance held against them by Success Academies.

In addition, it's pretty clear from the memo that despite protestations to the contrary, this will be a "political rally" meant to damage the current mayor and promote a charter school agenda, with the side benefit that Success Academies Mistress Eva Moskowitz herself will benefit politically from both those goals.

Are they breaking the law by forcing teachers to attend a political rally while they're getting paid?

You can make the argument that there is a conflict of interest here, that's for sure.

Same goes with the "messaging assistance" Success staff are providing to parents that amounts to undue pressure and threats if they don't attend.

Eva Moskowitz Offers "Messaging Assistance" From The Success "Advocacy Team" For A "Not Political" Rally

Eliza Shapiro at Politico NY with a great scoop, reports how Eva Moskowitz and Success Academies are prepping for a Families for Excellent Schools political rally against Mayor Bill de Blasio:

Employees of Success Academy, New York City's largest charter school network, have been instructed to tell parents an upcoming rally organized by a well-funded charter advocacy group is "not political," according to a document obtained by POLITICO New York.

The five-page document was sent by Success' "advocacy team" and is billed as "messaging assistance" intended to help staff convince families of Success students to attend the Sept. 30 pro-charter rally and march across the Brooklyn Bridge organized by Families for Excellent Schools.

Success administrators are also strongly encouraging parents to attend the rally and march even if it presents hardships for them in terms of arranging for child care or taking time off from their jobs.

"This is not a political event," employees are being asked to tell parents who may be hesitant about participating in a rally with political implications. "This is an event in support of your scholar, our school, and the right for families to have access to equal schools."

But when parents ask the purpose of the rally, staffers should respond, "we are rallying to call on Mayor de Blasio and the rest of our city's leaders to end this system of inequality," according to the document.

The flyer begins with a plea to staffers, in bright red font: "Please do not pass this FAQ out to parents."

Love it - "messaging assistance" put together by the Success "advocacy team" for a "not political" rally.

You just can't make this stuff up.

It's interesting to note that the coverage of Moskowitz and Success has turned the last year or so, with press reporting more skeptically on both (the NY Times article being the most infamous of the coverage.)

This Politico NY piece exposes the machinations behind the scenes that the charter operators pull to get a big crowd:

The document obtained by POLITICO New York lists a series of responses to potential problems from families, including difficulty arranging child care.

"We encourage you to do everything you can to line up child care," employees should tell parents, according to the document. "We know it can be tough, but that is what families did to make sure you would have access to your school."

The majority of Success Academy students — 77 percent — are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, meaning their families live at or below the poverty level.

For parents who feel they cannot take time off from work, employees are asked to respond, "parents took off work to stand up and make sure that you have this great school option for your family. What if they hadn't shown up and taken the day off work?"

The document directly links rally participation with the continued existence of the Success network, and with charter schools in general.

"Families need to keep showing up and standing up — even when it's inconvenient — to ensure our schools can continue to exist and grow, and that other families get access to great public schools for their kids," the document reads.

Staffers are also encouraged to suggest that parents with children in Success' elementary school may not have middle or high school options if they do not help further the cause of school equality by attending the rally.

In a message specifically intended for "those that still need middle school or high school space," the document reads, "You don't want to be in a situation where we can't get middle school or high school space for your scholar's school, and you are wondering if you could have done more."

In addition, the Politico NY piece notes that Families for Excellent Schools lies about the numbers of attendees at their rallies:

FES is known to inflate the size of its protests. Organizers said 21,000 people attended a New York City event last October, while police estimated the crowd was about 8,000 to 10,000. 

And the Politico NY article demonstrates how this rally will, indeed, be political, with FES already setting up the optics with pre-rally criticism of de Blasio:

The group has accelerated its attacks on de Blasio this week, ahead of the rally.

On Monday, FES sent an "open letter" from the leaders of the city's large charter networks, criticizing de Blasio for "denying space" to charters.


Later Monday, F.E.S. released a memo critiquing de Blasio's recently announced K-12 education agenda.

So we have Eva Moskowitz and Success putting the screw to parents to get the numbers up for a political rally that they deem "not political" that they'll inflate the attendance numbers for anyway and threaten parents who don't show with the possibility that their kids won't get into a Success middle school or high school.

Nice to see this exposed in the media.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bashing Unions Didn't Help Scott Walker This Time

It was just one week ago that Scott Walker released his "I will destroy unions" plan to little fanfare and mostly yawns.

Since then he had another lackluster debate performance, the latest national poll showed him getting one half of one percent support in a Republican primary, and his fundraisers were calling for him to shake up his campaign.

Today he announced he was dropping out of the race for president.

So much for the union bashing card, eh?

No one is happier than organized labor to see Scott Walker drop out of the 2016 contest.
In July, when the Wisconsin governor announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka issued a one-sentence statement: "Scott Walker is a national disgrace." On Monday, after hearing that Walker's candidacy had ended, Trumka said in a written statement: "Scott Walker is still a disgrace, just no longer national."

For labor, Walker's failure as a presidential candidate is especially sweet given the twin humiliations it's suffered from Walker in Wisconsin. A labor-backed effort to recall Walker failed in 2012 after Walker pushed through a bill drastically reducing public employees' bargaining rights. Then, in 2014, Walker won re-election after Trumka declared Walker's defeat organized labor's top priority. Earlier this year, Walker had made Wisconsin the country's 25th right-to-work state, freeing public and private workers from any legal requirement to pay dues or their equivalent to a union that bargains collectively on their behalf.

But Walker was never able to gain traction with his anti-union message in the pre-primary contest for the White House — in part, possibly, because unions have been gaining greater public approval in recent years, even among Republicans. Since 2009, Gallup found, union approval has risen from 48 percent to 58 percent for all voters, and from 29 percent to 42 percent for Republican voters.

There have been a lot of surprises in the presidential race already, but this may be the biggest one.

Scott Walker, once the frontrunner for Iowa, is out four months before the caucus is held.

Buh-bye, Scott.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving demagogue.