Archive for the ‘Vouchers’ 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

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

PCE pirates strike back

It seems that Utah Gravy Train has struck a nerve at the new UAPCS/PCE brain trust.

Accidental Lobbyist/UAPCS Interim Executive Director Kim Frank sent out an uncharacteristically verbose email to the charter faithful this week, denying the voucher bodysnatcher charge and insisting that there was nothing screwy about the cancelled member vote.  She helpfully attached minutes from UAPCS board meetings between November 2009 and April 2010. Unfortunately, minutes from the May and June board meetings remain AWOL.

The newly liberated minutes cleared up at least one mystery: in his interview with Paul Rolly, UAPCS board chair Mark Cluff mentioned that the board “openings had been well known for months, but only three people applied. The two who were appointed were chosen unanimously by the existing board.”

We’d been wondering about that third person and what happened to her.  Was she eliminated in a runoff vote? Hardly.  Remember, these people have a mortal terror of losing elections (Robyn Bagley knows how it feels) so when they cannot avoid them by canceling them completely, they set them up so that they face no competition on the ballot.  They’re all about choice except when there’s a chance they won’t be chosen.  Don’t accuse Utah Gravy Train of making up a conspiracy where there is none – it’s all there in black and white in the minutes. Continue reading

Questions, we’ve got questions

Paul Rolly’s story on the hostile takeover at the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) was a good start.  Here’s a little more …

1. UAPCS Board Chair & PCE Board Member Mark Cluff told Rolly that the annual meeting was simply moved to October so that the bylaws could be re-written.  But this is not a simple delay.  It is a cancellation.  By precedent, UAPCS held its annual vote in May, prior to a fiscal year that begins in July.  If there was a vote in May 2009 and no vote in May 2010, then by definition, the vote for the 2009/2010 year was cancelled.

2. What exactly is the horrendous problem with the UAPCS bylaws that requires six months to repair and necessitates the cancellation of a simple unrelated vote on a board of directors?  If member schools can’t even understand it, perhaps Rolly could ask Cluff to explain?

The association just held its annual statewide conference this week at the Provo Marriott, two entire months after the April member meeting where the cancellation of the May vote was first announced.  What about that venue was not seen as convenient and by whom?  Perhaps the PCE/for-profit consulting junta running the UAPCS board was a tad nervous about whether or not they’d be endorsed unless they had time to run a campaign?  How much time would they need?  Would six months spiced with a little fearmongering about upcoming anti-charter legislation do the trick? Continue reading

Simple math

Thanks to Lisa Schencker at the Salt Lake Tribune, the votes from the state school board nominating committee’s open-meeting-secret-ballot are in.  Let’s look at the entirely predictable results for District 9.

Voting for the Joel Coleman/Daniel Steven Ishman/Milton Witt trio:

Justin Allen (representing charter schools)

Todd Bingham (manufacturing and mining)

Leland Hogan (agriculture)

Stan Lockhart (information technology)

Chris Sloan (finance, insurance and real estate)

Richard Thorn (construction)

Voting for Denis Morrill:

Leana Christisen (parents)

Marsha Forsgren (teachers)

Gayleen Gandy (local school boards)

F. Ann MIllner (higher education)

Ken Tophman (school administrators)

Jan Wells (public utilities)

On the face of it, the vote was split down the middle, with private enterprise voting for the wingnuts on one side and the public and education voting for Morrill on the other, but there’s a little more to the story.  Coleman received a vote from all twelve members. Witt received votes from 11.  Isham 7 and Morrill, 6.

A few obvious questions:

1. Why is private enterprise represented six to seven different ways (seven if you count the City of Murray Utility, from which comes committee member Jan Wells – representing “public utilities,” back to six if charter schools are still considered in the public school camp, certainly disputable given the recent hostile takeover at the UAPCS)?

2. What do public utilities have to do with choosing people for the state school board?  Granted, one of Wells’s votes went to Morrill instead of Isham, but that brings us to the biggest red flag of all.

If Joel Coleman could come out of this process with 12 votes, including votes from all the committee members on the education side, it’s nothing more than a simple math question.  There were no other candidates from which to choose.  All the education people and the oddball “public utility” rep could throw their support to the candidate with the most education experience and it still wouldn’t matter.  They had to choose two more.  So if they knew that Witt was the PCE guy and Coleman and his wife had unresolved “issues” against the State of Utah, they’d probably still go for Coleman.  Holding their nose again for the third obligatory choice they chose Witt over Isham.  Morrill would lose no matter what.  Even with every education member on his side, the math would never work in his favor if he could not also swing someone from the bloated private enterprise side. Q.E.D.