Archive for the ‘Charter Schools’ Category

Reborn convicted felon Michael Milken betting on Utah’s SB 65

K-12 Training for Public School Looters sign at Utah's Capitol, March 8, 2011

Once a thief….

There is no greater proof that the United States of America is the land of second chances than the for-profit education company known as K-12, partially financed by convicted felon Michael Milken.  With his eagle eye for a quick buck (and what better revenge than to extract money from the very citizens who convicted him the first time around?), Mike and his brother Lowell (and other rapacious sorts) are zeroing in on the public education treasury, under the guise of “school choice.”

The National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) is K-12’s national “grassroots” lobbying organization.  It’s what Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) tried to do on the local level, but failed, hence the takeover of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools with its UCAN (Utah Charter Advocacy Network) mailing list.  Why re-invent the wheel when you can steal one?

K-12 was hard at work yesterday at Utah’s capitol building, training marks parents to provide lobbying support for public school looting bills like Howard Stephenson’s SB 65, Merlynn Newbold’s HB 301 & 313 and immigration dimwit Chris Herrod’s HB 388.

Meanwhile, anybody want a rooster?  Because PCE can help you get one (scroll down).  Whether you get a House or Senate rooster, keep in mind that this year’s crop is especially ill-tempered, but that opens certain betting possibilities.  Why should Mike Milken have all the fun?


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Howard Stephenson and PCE’s Judi Clark, pushing the vouchers you can’t refuse

Don Corleone

Virtual Vouchers and the key to the public treasury

Early in 2010 when the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) pirates began planning their 2011 campaign to sneak education vouchers through Utah’s back door, they knew they’d need a little more than a hijacked charter school association and a lobbying hitman to get their legislation passed.  Two strategies were crucial.  The first would be to split their wishlist into as many different moving targets as possible, but the second would be to have a legislator who could be trusted to shepherd the whole project to conclusion.

Utah Sen. Howard Stephenson - photo: Brian Nicholson, Des. News

After Sheldon Killpack, the Utah legislator and charter school go-to guy was suddenly indisposed last spring, PCE would be forced to turn to Utah’s lobbyist/legislator godfather, next to whom PCE/UAPCS lobbyist Chris Bleak is a mere piker.  I’m talking of course, about Howard Stephenson.

Stephenson, the Utah Taxpayer Association Don who is famous for never having seen a piece of pro-business legislation he didn’t like, and whose answer to the immigration debate is a full-employment act for bounty hunters funded by the runaway slaves themselves, wasted no time.  With PCE’s Judi Clark doing the drafting and Killpack’s abandoned campaign war-chest to draw from (Killpack donated an astonishing $4,000 to Stephenson in 2010), the result was a fistful of bills friendly to charters and hostile to school districts. Continue reading

Utah Legislature Rep. Bill Wright tells public to get lost

Everybody knows vampires hate daylight

…so when the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) vampires launched their hostile takeover of the Utah Association for Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) in order to get their Vouchers Plus program passed, the one thing they absolutely wanted to avoid was any sunshine or public comment on their plans.  Because we all know how that turned out last time.  For that, they would find no better friend than dairy farmer/bull semen merchant Bill Wright.

Wright, who has spent the better part of the last two decades in the Utah legislature while other people milk and service his cows, is the sponsor behind HB 116, which seeks to re-establish the plantation system in Utah by providing guest worker visas for Mexicans to furnish slave labor to Utah’s dairy industry.  Since the federal government is the traditional source in the United States for visas of any kind, presumably Utah will have to secede first for Wright’s law to take any effect, but don’t worry, there’s a plan in the works for that too. Continue reading

Parents for Choice one step away from obtaining Vouchers Plus

A Cruel Joke

Merlynn Newbold

Parents for Choice in Education‘s Charter School funding bill, HB 313, sponsored by Merlynn Newbold, passed out of the House Education Committee this morning by a narrow margin. So score one for the resurrected Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and their KSL.com hire, über-lobbyist Chris Bleak, tasked with getting vouchers passed this session, come hell or high water.  It’s not for nothing that he’s been running a full time shop at the Capitol for the last four months running.

But the path to this morning’s rigged vote on the bill actually started more than four months ago.  More like 14 months ago, when PCE, tactically and conceptually trashed from its 2007 voucher campaign, decided it needed a facelift to make another run at vouchers.  The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) was selected as the ideal victim vehicle, but first there was the inconvenient matter of its director, Steve Winitzky, being a wee bit hostile to PCE.  Suddenly, late in 2009, two vacancies appeared on the UAPCS board when two board members resigned for unrelated reasons. PCE saw its opening and pounced. Continue reading

PCE hoists Backpack Funding flag at UAPCS

Amazingly, although the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) board members who are also affiliated with Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) continue to insist the relationship is meaningless or coincidental, the newly released UAPCS lobbying agenda tells a different story.  Utah’s charter schools have long been fighting for equity in funding (getting the legislature to allocate the same amount of money per capita to charter schools as to regular public schools – charter schools receive slightly less).  This year those charter schools who pay dues to the association sailing under the PCE flag will also be adopting the PCE “Backpack Funding” slogan.  Coincidence?  You decide.

Backpack Funding

What is it?  Well think of it this way. It’s basically vouchers with lipstick. Utah Moms Care has an excellent, dispassionate explanation of the concept here: Continue reading

A very clear example of why unions matter

Utah is well known for being a Right to Exploit state, which some people call Right to Work.  Unions here face an extremely hostile environment and unfortunately some of them react by performing almost as caricatures – buddying up with management, doing as little as possible, boasting to members about their accomplishments that in reality are pretty weak.  Yes, we have stories.

But the alternative is worse.

In the world proposed by Mike Morley and his friends at Parents for Choice in Education (and yes, they are the best of friends; in 2006 Morley received the “Distinguished Service Award” from Utah Grassroots, which claims to be a citizens group.  Donna Dahl is a board member and the group’s secretary.  She is also number two on the list of Governing Board members for the Parents for Choice in Education PAC, right behind Robyn Bagley.) there are no unions.  They’ll zero in on teachers unions for the moment, but really any union is a bad union because in their fantasy Ayn Rand world, the magical free market solves everything.

Here’s a look at how the magical free market is solving things for workers at the Mott’s apple juice plant in Williamson, New York.  Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns Mott’s has had a fantastically profitable year.  But due to the dreadful economy there is high unemployment in the area, and Mott’s can’t resist the temptation to jack profits even higher, at the expense of their employees.  They don’t need to cut wages but surrounded by a sea of hungry unemployed workers, they see that they can.

This is the world that Morley and PCE inhabit.  As the public school system is forced to make cut after cut, the pool of hungry unemployed teachers grows larger.  Some of them, desperate to work, go to teach at charters, where they can be fired at will, at any time, to make way for a cheaper teacher from the hungry sea.

Read and learn:  In Mott’s Strike, More Than Pay at Stake

Rep. Mike Morley asks Utah’s charter schools to pony up

To some, it looks a bit like a holdup note.

The “it” is a letter, on Utah legislative stationery, from Representative Mike Morley (R-Spanish Fork) to Kim Frank, the “interim” captain at the hijacked UAPCS (Utah Association of Public Charter Schools) ship, suggesting that Utah’s charter schools contribute, oh say, $2000 – $5000 apiece to help rewrite Utah’s constitution to make sure the “Employee Free Choice Act,” currently stalled in Congress, never ever pollutes Utah’s pristine “right-to-exploit-work” waters.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Employee Free Choice Act (called “card-check” by its opponents), it works basically like this.  In any shop, or school, if more than 50% of the workers were to say they wanted to unionize, they’d get their wish, without the employer being able to put additional obstacles in their way or simply refusing to recognize their choice.

As the law currently stands, employers can insist that employees go to a secret ballot to get their union, and that’s where the trouble starts.  According to Gordon Lafer, a professor on the Labor Education and Research Center faculty at the University of Oregon,

In the American democratic tradition the principle of the secret ballot is not simply the fact that you go into a voting booth and pull a curtain and nobody sees what you do. It is your right to keep your political opinion private to yourself before, during and after the act of voting; that you can’t be lured or coerced into a conversation that is designed to make you reveal your political preferences. In the NLRB, while the vote does take place in a booth where nobody sees what you’re doing, management is allowed to engage in a series of behaviors in the lead up to the vote that force the vast majority of workers to reveal how they’re going to vote long before they ever step into the booth. Continue reading