Archive for the ‘Lobbying’ 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 legislators Greg Hughes & John Dougall: BFFs setting up the Real Gravy Train at UTA

Word on the street is that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Board is the hot place to be in these recessionary times.

Business is hard all over, especially if you have no knack at all for it to begin with.  UTA Board membership solves that problem.  Board membership means you’ll get inside information on where the next phenomenally useless and costly rail hub will be planted, and if you didn’t buy property in time near the hub, no problem, because your board membership means that you can swing other board members to move the hub closer to where it will benefit you.  No kidding.  This actually has happened.

But what if people were to go, hmm…  Might there be some conflicts here?  We’ve already discussed conflicts in Utah, and how those with the conflicts have an uncanny ability to NOT recognize them, but just in case, Utah Representative and UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes and Best Friend Forever John Dougall (also Utah rep, just not on the UTA Board, yet) have figured out a solution for that too.

Secrecy is key

Companion bills SB 222 (Sponsor: Bramble) which guts the measly conflict of interest language currently in UTA’s statute, and Dougall’s own HB 477,  which erases public access to government records through the Government Records and Management Act – GRAMA – ensure that UTA board members will have a free pass to profiteer. 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

After Jeb Bush’s PCE sponsored roadshow: a reality check

 

Jeb Bush's failed testing model: coming to Utah schools?

Jeb Bush was in Utah yesterday thanks to the pirates at Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) who are already gearing up for their renewed assault on Utah’s public education system when the legislature reconvenes in January.

His sales pitch: holding schools accountable by grading them, like he did in Florida, and holding third-graders back who test poorly in reading.  Legislators Wayne Niederhauser and Greg Hughes (the new board chair at the scandalously mismanaged Utah Transit Authority) are chomping at the bit to duplicate Bush’s program here and are already working on a bill.

Speaking of grades, we’ll give the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Lisa Schencker a B for her story on the Bush visit, because Lisa at least finds it worthwhile to mention that Parents for Choice sponsored the Bush roadshow.  Sadly, Elizabeth Stuart at the Deseret News, gets a D on this assignment, for completely avoiding mention of PCE and even beginning her story by calling Bush’s plan “avant-garde,” followed by something that looks suspiciously like a cut and paste from a PCE press release.

But for the real juice, take a look at what a Utah mom who used to live in Florida had to say about Jeb’s performance, in the DesNews comment section: 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