Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Bagley’

Jeb Bush and Robyn Bagley team up on SB 65 shakedown

The Gravy Train Copy Desk

Last spring and summer while I watched Robyn Bagley’s feverish moves to take over the Utah Association for Public Charter Schools I guessed that she was angling for a leap on board Mitt Romney’s corsair in 2012, but now I’ve changed my mind.  Let’s be serious.  Neither Romney nor Huntsman have any chance anyway, except maybe in Jeb’s cabinet.  No, now I’m placing my bets on Bagley for Bush.  We had the Bagley organized Bush roadshow here last August, and now we have Bagley and Bush teaming up on SB 65, “the best K-12 online learning policy in the country…setting the standard for the rest of the nation.”

It was very kind of Bagley and Bush to send me a copy of Bush’s op-ed on SB 65 for copyediting.  Thanks!  My copy edits are shown in red.  The op-ed was co-signed by former West Virginia governor Bob Wise (D).   Are you getting yet that the for-profit education industry is a bipartisan project?

An Op-Ed from Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise

Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise have written this Op-Ed as Utah legislators are considering the expansion of digital learning.

Wednesday, the Utah Senate passed legislation that will put Utah and its students at the forefront of K-12 Digital learning policy in the country. open the pockets of Utah’s taxpayers to out of state digital education providers. Unleashing the power of technology in education expands access to high quality education regardless of a student’s language, zip code, income levels or special needs which is why Utah has made its Electronic High School available to students throughout the state free of charge since 1994.

As Governors, we learned firsthand the high stakes when it comes to preparing students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers. Digital learning has the power to transform education to address the individual needs of students in a way never before possible, as Utah’s free Electronic High School has proven.

To that end, this year we launched Digital Learning Now, a national lobbying campaign to define the elements of funnel public school monies from hard-pressed school districts to the for-profit digital learning industry and advocate for the policies that will assist states with integrating current and future technological innovations into K-12 public education as a cover for the destruction of public education.

Digital learning can customize and personalize education so all students learn in their own style and at their own pace, maximizing their chances for success in school and beyond. With digital learning, every student from rural communities to inner cities, can access high-quality and rigorous courses in every subject, including foreign languages, math and science.

Digital learning can also be the catalyst for transformational change in education. It is a tool that can address the myriad some of the challenges faced by schools, community leaders, and policy makers.

With access to multiple online course providers Utah’s free Electronic High School, students in even the most remote areas can connect with high-quality college – and career – prep courses taught by highly qualified teachers who do not work inside their school building or even, home school. These options EHS can be a powerful tool for teachers who are facing the challenge of meeting a variety of student needs. They can connect communities to a vast network of resources that will help their students compete and succeed in the global economy.

With online and digital learning, Utah high school students will be able to customize their education to better meet their academic goals and prepare them for post-secondary education, vocational and careers.  More options, better questionable outcomes, reduced increased costs—it’s a great horrible deal for Utah’s students, schools, and taxpayers.  But a great one for Robyn Bagley and Howard Stephenson.

Utah is on the verge of establishing gutting the best K-12 online learning policy in the country and setting the standard for the rest of the nation.  We are watching with great admiration and enthusiasm.

Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida 19992007, future U.S. president

Bob Wise, Governor of West Virginia 2001-2005, professional board member

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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

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

Attack of the voucher bodysnatchers – Second Round

News has filtered through of the hostile takeover by PCE (Parents for Choice in Education) at the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS).  It seems that having squandered nearly a million dollars of Other People’s Money to turn Utah into a petri dish for the destruction of public education through vouchers (and failing at the task), PCE has decided to take a different tack, bodysnatching boards that might prove useful in its ultimate goal: bankrupting the public education system completely so that homeschoolers, wingnuts and education profiteers can fill the void.

Filling the void worked very well financially for Blackwater’s mercenaries in Iraq and New Orleans, and there’s a reason we mention that.  Erik Prince, who leveraged his father’s auto parts fortune to make an even bigger one for himself as the military privateer in charge of Blackwater, or Xe as it is now called, is the brother of Betsy DeVos who is married to Dick DeVos, of the Amway fortune.  Betsy and Erik’s mom Elsa also fancies herself a philanthropist and according to Betsy, the family is the biggest “soft-money” contributor to the Republican party.  But where the Princes and DeVoses are concerned, we’re talking wingnut republicans.  Which leads naturally to Utah, the cradle of wingnuttery.

Betsy is all about the kids now, and one of her many pet PACs is called All Children Matter (ACM).  ACM was PCE’s biggest donor between 2004 and 2008, and PCE in turn spent the DeVos/Prince money judiciously, on pro-voucher candidates in the Utah Legislature, among other things.  They also bought t-shirts and other goodies for Milton Witt.

Astute followers of the new anti-democratic process for winnowing the field of state school board candidates will recall that Milton Witt was one of three names recently sent to Governor Herbert by the governor anointed appointed committee: to be placed on the ballot for District 9.  Heaven forbid that the people themselves decide.  The other two were Daniel Steven Isham and Joel Coleman.  Joel Coleman is married to Kim Coleman who was fired as principal of Monticello Academy and then turned around and tried to sue the State of Utah. Isham is the 26 year old assistant custodian who would like to one-up Arizona by demanding immigration documents from six-year-olds as a way of cutting down on class sizes.  Remember, the governor only has to choose two from this stellar crew.  Denis Morrill, far and away the most qualified candidate, was eliminated by secret ballot at an open meeting of the committee – a combination that can only occur in the world capital of passive aggressivity.

And now we see part two of the bodysnatching scheme.  With the sudden unexpected appearance of two slots on the board of the nonprofit UAPCS, PCE revved its engines.  It had two accomplices on the board already: Mark Cluff and Lincoln Fillmore, both PCE board members.

Conflict? What conflict?!

Fillmore had an especially tight relationship with PCE, having done nearly $40,000 in political consulting for them in 2005 and 2006, while he was also pocketing profits from his charter school consulting business, Charter Solutions.  The conflicts boggle the mind, but in Utah, conflicts have a way of escaping people’s attention, particularly when they pertain to oneself.

So what’s the answer to having one conflicted board member?  Why, add another!  With virtually no notice to the actual members of the association, Jed Stevenson, another charter school consultant who encourages people to think of his Academica West business like a “district” was nominated by Cluff and Fillmore to fill one of the UAPCS vacancies.  Stevenson is a PCE Trustee.  Robyn Bagley, last seen losing a desperate campaign for legislature against Karen Morgan of Cottonwood Heights, was the other person proposed for the second vacant slot.  Bagley, the self-professed “stay-at-home mom” is a politically ambitious person who appears to be padding her resume with as many board memberships as possible (to leap on board Mitt Romney’s corsair in 2012?), so in addition to serving on the board of Open High School of Utah, she is naturally, PCE’s board chair.

After a rushed phone consultation with the remaining UAPCS board members, Bagley and Stevenson were hastily appointed to the vacant slots by the rest of the board.  It would be up to the UAPCS membership to confirm or reject them as board members at the annual member vote in May.

"Stop the vote!"

But the annual member vote would never happen.  The new PCE majority launched its first shot across the bow at the April UAPCS member meeting, where Board Chair Mark Cluff announced that there was some new appalling problem with the UAPCS bylaws that no-one had ever noticed, and that the time it would take to fix it would preclude any member vote until the fall.  There were objections from other members present.  And then the meeting time ran out.

May’s member meeting rolled around and again, Cluff explained that the liability, the terrible, agonizing liability of the wretched bylaws had pre-empted the vote.  He thanked Jed Stevenson, the 2002 graduate of the fourth-tier California Western School of Law with the suspended Utah Bar license for discovering the problem.

Cap’n Winitzky, soon to be forced to walk the plank by the PCE pirates who’d commandeered his ship, read his own prepared statement, denying that he’d called anyone to revolution, and reiterated his support for the Association.  Two weeks later he was gone, followed by the Association’s bookkeeper, Prasad Boppana.  Kim Frank, who’d served as the accidental UAPCS lobbyist while being married to Craig Frank, the accidental legislator from Pleasant Grove, whose contempt for Utah’s slim legislators’ ethics laws was so great that he never bothered to list charter schools on his conflict of interest form, stepped in as Interim Director.  Craig Frank had also been a beneficiary of PCE largesse although the contributions to his campaign account were minor in comparison to others.

And so, the vote stopped along with the music, at an association that started out looking for ways to share resources and best practices to improve public education.  Having convinced certain charter schools in the association that they’d literally get more bang for their buck by spending more time playing the political game and less time worrying about self-improvement, PCE now has a board majority at the UAPCS, and who knows, maybe even a significant portion of the membership ready to enlist in the second round of the voucher wars.

The only remaining question is whether the charter schools who are members of the UAPCS fully understand that the UAPCS is now a zombie driven by the parasite within, nothing more.  And when the zombie walks them to the precipice, will they obey?