HITTING LEFT ON MIXCLOUD

With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'Re-branding'

In honor of Eli Broad calling me "Blonsky," (I know, I just can't let it go) Sec. of State Hilary Clinton has decided to rebrand the War on Terror, and Arne Duncan isn't going to call it No Child Left Behind any more.

Criteria for success
Arne Duncan tells the U.S. Conference of Mayors that if there aren't many more mayoral takeovers. He will have "failed as secretary."

Scrambling for seats
This must be the team of managers that Ron Huberman brought over from the CTA to run the schools:

More than two dozen kids have won last-minute seats in Chicago’s coveted magnet schools or programs after officials discovered their applications were mistakenly deleted from the computer system, Chicago Public Schools officials said Monday.“It was just a computer glitch,’’ CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond said. “Fortunately we were able to rectify it.’’Earlier this month, the applications of 56 students were accidentally deleted from the computer system during a “scrub’’ of inactive student identification numbers, CPS attorney Patrick Rocks said.


Taking a hard line on Obama/Duncan

Chicago Democratic political strategist Don Rose takes a tough line on Obama/Duncan ed policies. His column appeared in the Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily Observer:

Small schools work and should be proliferated within the system. Charter schools too often are valued mainly for circumventing unions... Another fact completely omitted by Obama and Duncan, is that poverty is the fundamental issue that makes the major difference between the way schools perform. Poor education is an economic issue; failure to acknowledge that is the single most egregious omission in their statements.

Rhee wants 'lifelong' test takers


H/t to skoolboy for finding this great quote from D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee (how the hell did I miss this one?). Rhee says that her Saturday Scholars Program (more drill and kill/time-on-task, on the weekends for all those kids "on the cusp of proficiency") will instill "lifelong testing competence." Says Aaron Pallas at Gotham Schools: "This is a quote from Chancellor Rhee right from the press release—you can’t make this stuff up."

Gates $$$ dragging S.C. vouchers back from the grave

Just when you thought the school vouchers issue was put to bed when the neocons were given the boot last November 4th, here comes the world's richest man ready to do CPR. In South Carolina, the Gates Foundation has rushed in where even Republican presidential candidates feared to tread. Democratic State Sen. Robert Ford's (not the guy who shot Billy the Kid) so-called Education Opportunity Act, a voucher bill, has found an angel in Bill Gates. Ford's other big piece of legislation is a bill aimed at outlawing profanity.

Huberman hearts Daley...


but can't get his facts straight

In the last 10 minutes of this interview, Chicago's new schools CEO Ron Huberman, comes off as a thoughtful guy with a sense of the social conditions outside of school that impact student learning. The problem is, that for the first 20 minutes, he's responding to John Callaway's softball questions with the most fawning homage to Mayor Daley I've ever heard. Sounding very much like he's reading from a script prepared by one of the mayor's PR firms, he tells Callaway how much he likes Daley's top-down, outside-manager model of running public schools. The he names New York, Denver, and Miami as models. But Huberman hasn't done his homework. Miami/Dade Public Schools continue to have a career educator at the top of the system--Alberto Carvalho. Before Carvalho, there was educator Rudy Crew.

No transparency

Following in Arne Duncan's footsteps and with the same lack of transparency that marked his management style at the CTA, Huberman continues to ignore FOI requests and won't give up (or maybe he just doesn't know) info about school closings.
If they're going to continue to close down schools in the name of progress, they should be able to demonstrate what progress is or isn't being made. (Angela Caputo at Progress Illinois and Fred Klonsky)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quotables

16,000 charters?

Philanthro-capitalist, short-seller, and former AIG boss, Eli Broad, is interviewed in Forbes Magazine:

In the last 10 years, we've [The Eli Broad Foundation] done a lot in training superintendents. Bill Clinton told me when he was governor 16 years ago there was one charter school. Now there are 16,000. Now we have districts offering teachers bonus pay for improved student achievement. Things are improving.

Eli, do your homework before you speak. There are approximately 4,500 charter schools in the U.S.--not 16,000. Better redo your business plan.

Mike Petrilli vs. the Klonsky brothers ("I'm no Limbaugh")

I want to like the education stimulus package. I really do. Regardless of what the Klonsky brothers might tell you, I’m no Rush Limbaugh, hoping for President Obama’s policies to fail. I’d love to see the cause of education reform accelerated as a result of the influx of federal funds. But I’m increasingly convinced that this entire exercise is going to end in a quagmire, or worse. (Fred Klonsky's blog)
Fred, did you say Petrilli was a Limbaugh?


The Gates, Duncan, Rhee troika

Bad news for public schools and teachers

It appears that the DOE is now operating on the Bill Gates Doctrine. A troika of Gates, Arne Duncan, and Michelle Rhee announce themselves in today's Fred Hiatt/Washington post column (Melinda Gates sits on the Post's board). Nearly all of Duncan's appointees at the DOE are current or former Gates people. Their philosophy: 1) teachers unions are the enemy, 2) teaching experience, certification, knowledge of the field don't count, 3) KIPP charter schools are the model, 4) and more focus on standardized testing.

Pitting teacher interest against kids' and families' seems to be the Gates/Duncan/Rhee mantra.
"The pendulum in the country has swung too far to adults," Duncan tells the post.

This pendulum theory of history shows how in-the-dark Duncan is. It hides the reality that politics, not gravity, drive educational policy and for the past eight years, this same top-down version of reform has been in play. It's been a dud in Chicago, Philly, D.C. and most everywhere else it's been tried. Can "reform" succeed without adults? Can it be done TO schools, teachers, and communities and not WITH them? We'll see.

Inside Chicago’s Renaissance 2010


The students get it

Students at one of Chicago's elite selective-enrollment high schools, Walter Payton College Prep, are asking tough questions about the new expensive school's isolation from its Cabrini-Green public housing neighbors. They are also shining a light on the disparity between Payton and neighborhood schools like Schiller Elementary.
“The people and the culture of Cabrini-Green are slowly being phased out,” write Julian Antos and Danielle Bennon, “leaving the few thousand remaining residents struggling to make do with what’s left of their homes. . . . The poster child of the transition from a ghetto to a Gold Coast neighborhood is inarguably Walter Payton College Prep, a school filled with good intentions . . . but a school that Edna Morris, a security guard at Schiller [Elementary], thinks of as an outfit that sits in the community but doesn’t make an effort to be a part of it.” (Mike Miner, Chicago Reader)

Charters are 'free public schools'

But you couldn't prove it by by most Chicagoans, including parents. A survey done by the Joyce and Gates Foundations found that only about 40% of city and suburban residents knew that Chicago charter schools are free and open to the public. This is 12 years after charter schools began in the city. It's no wonder then, that charter schools are often accused of de facto selective enrollment.

Tough debate, Chicago vs. New Orleans

It's hard to say which state or city is more corrupt, Louisiana or Illinois--New Orleans or Chicago. Howard Witt at the Tribune says that Louisiana and N.O. have us beat. But how should we judge? By the number of politicians in jail or by mayors and others who should be, but aren't? Check out John Kass on gangstered-up Daleys, for example.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ramblings...

McDonough School #6

Legacy of slavery

If you follow developments in post-Katrina New Orleans, as I do, you will come upon reports from schools with names like McDonough 15 or McDonough 32. Why do all these public schools carry the name, McDonough? Because they were built with funds from the estate of slave owner John McDonough and 38 bore his name.
McDonough was a wealthy commission merchant, planter, and real estate speculator who died in 1850 and left most of his estate to the cities of New Orleans and Baltimore for education purposes. New Orleans administrators established the first McDonogh School in the antebellum period and McDonough Schools two through six during Reconstruction. Several have had their names changed under pressure from the black community.

Chicago's Freedom School

The Chicago Freedom School (CFS) is not a school in the traditional sense, but a summer program designed to equip participating Chicago high school students – also known as Freedom Fellows – with the tools needed to implement change in their communities. (Chi-Town Daily News)

Daley's Potemkin Village

The mayor is in Denver armed with impressive power-points and videos, plugging Chi-Town as the best home for the 2016 Olympic Games. But I'll bet none of his fly-over videos show the 800 parents and community folks packed into Wednesday's board meeting, protesting Renaissance 2010 school closings. Luckily, he also doesn't have to show existing indoor running tracks in CPS schools. There are none. And I'm sure his power-point doesn't mention the 29th CPS student killed by gun violence so far, this school year. He claims he can raise $5 billion from private sources to pay for the games. But he doesn't say how or how much will come from the "rainy day fund" of guaranteed public dollars. However, he is promising that Olympians will never have to risk any parts of the city except a newly constructed enclave in Daley's own backyard lakefront compound.
One of the videos offered a "flyover" of the city and the Olympic Games sites. The animated version of the city was idyllic: no graffiti on buildings and no traffic jams...As part of their presentation, Chicago officials stressed that while Chicago is a big city, the Olympic Games and housing would be contained, for the most part, to a small village along the lakefront. (Sun-Times)

Duncan the pragmatist


Mark Bergin at World Magazine ("The Schools that Arne Built") gives us the two sides of Arne Duncan. There's Duncan the pragmatist, taught by his parents to adopt a "whatever works" philosophy. Bergin notes that Duncan, whose mother was a community-oriented teacher, helped start one of Chicago's first small (non-charter) schools, Ariel Community Academy. Bergin also helps spread the myth of Duncan's Chicago miracle ("a legacy of innovation, choice, and accountability") which helped propel the mayor's education chief into the Sec. of Education job.

Then there's Duncan the top-down reformer, operating without telling us exactly what "works" means or works-for-whom. That's left open to interpretation from the right and left. Conservatives like Bergin and George Will, like Duncan's drift towards privatization and his concessions to D.C.'s discredited voucher program. But does he go far enough? Many on the left see Duncan's pragmatism as simply a continuation of the Bush years.

Duncan's also portrayed as a school closer like D.C.'s ruthless school boss, Michelle Rhee, committed to shutting down neighborhood schools and turning them over to private companies like Chicago's AUSL, and purging teachers arbitrarily, en masse. Writes Bergin:
What if the worst schools in Chicago could be gutted of every last vestige of their former selves? What if every teacher, staff member, and administrator could be fired and replaced in the course of one summer vacation? What if the same students who left in the summer could return in the fall to new paint, new teachers, new culture? Duncan embraced the idea.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

800 pack Chicago board meeting

I missed Wednesday's board meeting wish I had been in town for it. 800 people packed the meeting as the protests continue to mount against Mayor Daley's disastrous Renaissance 2010 school-closings.

According to Sun-Times ed reporter Roz Rossi:
School Board members Wednesday unanimously approved plans to place 12 mostly new schools into 11 half-occupied or closed buildings — a proposal that drew an even larger crowd than last month’s vote on school closings. Once again, spectators blasted the board’s public hearing process.
Board members continued to thumb their nose at the crowd by reportedly not letting any community members ask questions and then by voting to double their own monthly receipt-free expense allowances, to $24,000 a year for board members and $36,000 a year for the board president. Why the need for such an enlarged slush fund, especially in the midst of this crisis and budget cuts? Here's Daley's hand-picked board members. You figure it out:
  • Roxanne Ward is Vice President and Corporate Liaison of Ariel Investments.
  • Norman R. Bobins is Chairman Emeritus of LaSalle Bank Corporation.
  • Tariq Butt, a wealthy doctor.
  • Peggy Davis, V.P. at Exelon Corp.
  • Alberto A. Carrero, Jr. Senior Vice President at Banco Popular.
  • Clair Munana, international consultant
  • Board President Michael Scott, a west-side real estate developer

What's to like in Murray's racist theories?


Racist ideologue, Charles "Bell Curve" Murray wants to replace the "equality premise" with his "human nature" theory. You know the one--some races are just biologically unsuited to intellectual work, child raising and the pursuit of higher learning and that those stuck in "menial" low-paying jobs and poor should be happy and greatful and not look to the government to restrict discrimination.

Murray takes obvious human genetic differences to the level of social theory--social Darwinism squared. But Murray's Bell Curve theories are no longer laughable. They are regaining respect in ownership society circles like the American Enterprise Institute, which just gave Murray the Irving Kristol Award (yuck!) Fordham Institute"school reformer", Mike Petrilli, says he used to be hostile to Murray's master race ideas, now finds "plenty to like."

In his AEI speech, Murray claims that differences in income and educational achievement are preordained by one's race and gender and refers to the 20th-century civil rights movement as "a nutty idea":
But groups of people will turn out to be different from each other, on average, and those differences will also produce group differences in outcomes in life, on average, that everyone knows are not the product of discrimination and inadequate government regulation.
Not "everyone" Mr. Murray. As we learned in November, there are still plenty of us who don't find "plenty to like" here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Broad, the man with the plan


I'm still reeling from Eli Broad's letter of "correction" to Small Talk. I'm worried that he may actually own the blogosphere.

Here, billionaires Forbes and Broad chat about AIG and public education. They both think AIG was a great company and want to use their business model to "reform" public schools.

Forbes is upset about all the rules in schools. I mean, you can't even whack a kid anymore.
By the rules; can't touch a student; hard to discipline them because everyone knows that if you do anything, you're going to get a lawsuit.
Broad agrees. He likes his version of smaller schools (privately manged charters) with more top-down authority for principals (not teachers of course) ala Joel Klein in N.Y., and lots of school closings ala Michelle Rhee in D.C. You know, the business model.

And of course, everyone complains when she, you close a school. Those 70 parents aren't happy. But for the good of the entire district and all the kids, you've got to do that.
As for his old company AIG (Broad is still very influential), he blames everything on the current management and on former N.Y. attorney general, Eliot Spitzer (he charged AIG with corruption long before their collapse and forced Broad's pal Hank Greenberg to resign) and tries his best, with Forbes' help, to cover his own butt.

This is the man with the plan for our public school system.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inside Chicago’s school reform "Renaissance"

Chicago's education 'miracle'

Chicago's Renaissance 2010 education "miracle" paved Arne Duncan's road to the DOE. It included mythic tales of new teacher recruitment under Renaissance 2010. But the numbers tell a different story. It's called the continued whitening of the state's teaching force.

Within that paltry 9% of the total teaching population that is male, only 7% of it is black, that comes out to 1% of all American teachers. Hispanic males are severely under-represented as well; they come in at 6%. Both Hispanic and African American boys combine to form the core of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) most perplexing academic and disciplinary challenges... In real terms, only 37% of the 102,185 black males in Chicago that should have graduated, did so. That left 64,377 large, unemployable, semi-literate black teen-agers without much to do for the rest of their lives. (Edward Hayes)
Going downstate

Playing hoops and winning championships is supposed to help kids learn teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship. Arne Duncan tells New Orleans students that b-ball is the main thing that kept him focused and on a path to Harvard. Barack Obama tells similar stories. But for these Chicago west-side kids, the joys of winning downstate were mixed with police raids on student hotel rooms, losing games in part, because the stripe on their jerseys was an inch too wide, and having a college-bound student/athlete in a charter school being accused of cheating on a standardized algebra test.

School closings

Chicago Public Radio's City Room shows the effect of Ren10 school closings:
All this moving around can have a negative impact on pupils, according to University of Chicago research. Other studies say smaller classrooms foster better leaning, so that 14-1 ratio in Michael’s class should be a good thing. Still, the district is closing Abbott for low enrollment. So Michael will now be sent to Hendricks Elementary, an underperforming school several blocks away.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

I received an apology


Remember my little tiff with Eli Broad's communications secretary, Karen Denne? Remember how she couldn't even get my name right? Well now I have to give her some props. Here's what I found in my mailbox:
From: Karen Denne
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:48:58 AM
Subject: RE: Correction


Apologies for misspelling your name!

Sincerely,
Karen Denne
Communications Officer
The Broad Foundation
Thanks Ms. Denne. You're OK in my book. Sorry if I bit back too hard. It was your boss I was after.

Clay Burrell has a nice review of the whole dust-up.

Duncan watching

Like many of us these days, I spend way too much time and energy in the non-participatory sport of Arne Duncan-watching. Like most progressive educators, I cringe at all the salutes to top-down control, standardization, exaggerated charter claims, and pay-for-performance pandering to the right, all the while wondering if anyone who doesn't have a direct connection to the Gates Foundation will ever have a seat at the table.

But ever the optimist, even in this--to use the words of Frank Rich--Obama's "Katrina moment," and knowing full well the difference between this regime and Bush's, I keep looking for something hopeful and forward thinking coming from Duncan. I didn't hear anything of that sort coming out of his visit Friday, to New Orleans. He called Paul Vallas' disaster-driven, two-tier, union-busted experiment in privatization, a "phenomenal innovation" offering a chilling prospect of things to come in the still hurricane-ravaged city.

On the positive side (I think), were Duncan's pronouncements Saturday about science education.

"You need to make inquiry-based science relevant to kids—stimulate their curiosity—connect it with their lives. Together we need to change the national dialogue about science—to prepare our kids to be honestly critical and technically competent. "Science is all about questioning assumptions, testing theories, and analyzing facts. These are basic skills that prepare kids not just for the lab—but also for life. We’re doing kids a disservice if we don’t teach them how to ask tough and challenging questions."

After 8 dark years of anti-science (remember Rod Paige's push for mandated intelligent-design curriculum?) there may be some hope yet for the new regime, for teachers who believe in the spirit of inquiry, encouraging curiosity and imagination and for students and parents demanding equity in access to science education. We'll all have to wait and see what happens with NCLB re-authorization and whether Duncan's version of science is just another set of testing metrics.



Friday, March 20, 2009

Another day, another study on charters

Results are the same

I suppose, as long as Bill & Melinda Gates keep fronting the money, Rand will keep doing studies comparing charter schools to traditional public schools. This latest one compares charters to TPS in eight states and guess what? The results come out essentially the same as all their previous studies: charters don't outperform the very neighborhood schools they are supposed to replace. Why not? That's a matter of opinion. Here's mine:
  1. There's really not much different taking place inside charter school classrooms.
  2. Comparisons mainly focus on standardized test scores, the same scores used to condemn urban public schools where non-school factors like poverty and social inequities, play a major role in driving these scores.
  3. Charter schools aren't all one thing, any more than TPS. Some are great and some are horrible. But they are all lumped together for the purposes of these studies as well as for political and ideological reasons by self-interested charter school associations and conservative think tanks.
  4. The things that make charters unique, ie. no collective bargaining rights for teachers, weak accountability and oversight, are not things that improve student performance.
  5. In these kinds of statistical studies of large groups of schools across states, everything reverts to the mean (average). In other words, if you eliminate the small, high-performing group of innovative and teacher/student-friendly charters in the study, you're left with hundreds of charters, usually in chains managed by cookie-cutter minded operators that are doing much worse than regular public schools. In fact, the study doesn't even take into account the hundreds of charters which have been closed for low performance or mismanagement.
  6. Chains like KIPP, which do produce slightly higher scores, often do so by means of attrition--pushing out low-scoring or special-needs students. This factor wasn't even taken into account in the Rand study.
I hope Obama and Duncan pay attention to this latest study and start tempering their platitudes about charters and seeing them instead the way they were originally intended--as a small, potentially innovative and critical force within the PUBLIC school system.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AIG's Chicago "reform" connection


Liddy has a seat on the Civic Committee

Well, it seems that billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad isn't the only "school reformer" with AIG connections. How about Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, and one of the architects of Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 school-closing/privatization initiative.

We learn today that AIG's CEO Edward Liddy actually has a seat on the Civic Committee. In today's Sun-Times, Martin, who's been the most outspoken opponent of teacher collective-bargaining rights, heaps praise on Liddy and obviously likes AIG's business model of performance bonuses (merit pay) so much he's trying, with some success, to force it on Chicago's public schools.

It's not just Chicago. An interesting side-bar to the Sun-Times story is Liddy's connection with post-Katrina New Orleans:
Liddy knows controversy, since he oversaw a Sears Roebuck and Co. restructuring and led Allstate during its tough times in the post-Katrina hurricane period.

Airport notes

I'm packed and on my way back to California to attend a meeting of school planners and architects. Yes, my bad left knee has killed my jump shot, but I'm still on the "dream team." Meanwhile, the state's teachers, parents and students impatiently wait on the federal stimulus to hopefully save the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers/staff currently on the chopping block.


******

Conservative think-tankers like Fred Hess and Diane Ravitch however, are joining the feeding frenzy on Obama education stimulus plan. Hess takes his jabs in the form of when-did-you-stop-kicking-your-mother? "questions" in the National Review.

Ravitch, posting on her Bridging Differences blog, superficially dismisses the boost in ed spending as "heaped goodies" on contending factions. She continues her absurd claim that there's no difference between Obama and Bush when it comes to public education. While Obama's recent statements on charters and merit pay are reflective of pressures from conservative factions within the DOE, fortunately, at least from my observations, the think-tankers' assessments of his first two months in office don't resonate in resource-starved schools, early-childhood educators, and in urban communities where the differences remain clear.

******

Quote of the day comes from Deb Meier, who debates national standards with Ravitch and has her own critique of Obama/Duncan and the "business model."
The big business mindset, so destructive nationwide, is being offered a free hand in our schools. Schools are “delivery” systems, teachers are deliverers of curriculum, principals are CEOs. It’s an intensification of the old factory-model for new technology factories. Local empowerment in today’s schools usually means more power to the principal and less for the line workers, students, or parents—now seen as obstructers of progress.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Push back on for-profit charters

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) bussed supporters down to Springfield to lobby legislators yesterday to lift the cap on charters. I'm not sure how many went on the busses. It got no media coverage in Chicago. About the only coverage comes from WIFR.com in Rockford.

Even though Obama is outspoken in his support for charters, push-back comes from new proposed charter schools being linked with privatization and school closings. Recent studies in Chicago found that charters were doing no better than the schools they were supposed to replace.

Another reason for resistance to lifting the cap is that there are still unused charter slots in the suburbs and downstate 13 years after the charter law was enacted and the initial cap set. It seems that there's little demand outside of Chicago and little political incentive to shift funds away from struggling urban schools in these times of crises and budget cuts.

******

In Ohio, Gov. Strickland and Democratic legislators are strongly opposed to privately-managed charters, despite Obama's call for more, and they're reducing their line in the state funding budget by 20%. It could be because Ohio's charters are some of the worst in the nation in a state where there's little accountability over their quality.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Strickland complains that for-profit companies that manage charter schools are blinded by the money, showing little interest in teaching children.

Critical Educators at AERA

Looking ahead to next month's AERA meeting in San Diego, be sure and attend this panel sponsored by teacher/activists from the Critical Educators Network. Here's their announcement.

**************

The AERA at San Diego

The Critical Educator Network is pleased to announce that we will be presenting at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference in San Diego this year. The panel presentation is entitled "Opening Democratic Teacher Forums for Critical Educator Development: Small Schools, Graduate Schools, Alternative Certification Programs."

The panelists will include:

  • Linda Darling-Hammond; professor, award-winning author, and campaign advisor to President Obama and head of his education transition team
  • Deborah Meier; school founder, education reformer, author and activist
  • Lisa Delpit; professor, award-winning author and MacArthur Fellow
  • Michael Klonsky; educator, activist, and school reform leader
  • Matthew Block, teacher, Critical Educator Network
  • Michael Klein, teacher, Critical Educator Network

The conference will be held April 13th - 17th in San Diego and we are honored to be there with such legends of education.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Broad denies any responsibility

Nikki Blonsky (no relation) 
(Lack of) Accountability Dept.

I guess I touched a nerve yesterday, when I once again mentioned billionaire Eli Broad's connection with the AIG debacle. It only took a few hours before power-philanthropist Broad had his communications secretary Karen Denne write me a curt little note, correcting me for implying that Broad bore any responsibility in AIG's collapse.
Dear Mr. Blonsky (Damn! She couldn't even spell my name right)
I wanted to correct inaccurate information you have on your website. Mr. Broad’s only affiliation with AIG was when he sold his company SunAmerica to AIG in 1999. He remained as chairman of AIG Retirement Services until 2005. It is grossly inaccurate to say that he bears some responsibility for the company’s collapse. He was the founder of KB Home and has not had any affiliation with the homebuilding company since the early 1990s. He was CEO until 1989 and chairman until 1993.
So much for corporate responsibility
Here's Mr. Blonsky's (no relation to Nikki Blonsky, actress in Hairspray) response:
Dear Ms. Denne,
I don't blame your boss for trying to hide his connections to AIG. But his (your) deniability is not plausible. Regardless of when Mr. Broad cashed in on KB (B for Broad) Home, or when he sold SunAmerica to AIG at an inflated price, or when he officially left AIG-VALIC's board of directors, he cannot escape the fact that he helped shape the mega-company's current disastrous policies--and still does.
Take for example Mr. Broad's role in a Sept. 2008 meeting of AIG bigwig shareholdes like Shelby Davis of Davis Selected Advisers LP, and Bill Miller of Legg Mason Inc., as reported in Bloomberg, "to discuss alternatives to an $85 billion U.S. takeover that may dilute their stakes."
To pull this off strikes me as terrifically tricky,'' said James Cox, a professor at Duke University who specializes in securities law. ``A defensive takeover by investors of their own firm, on this scale, has never happened before.''
 Bloomberg went on to report that last May, Broad and other big shareholders expressed concerns when the stock began heading downward. Broad owned 27 million shares of AIG as of June 2008 - at the time worth $800 million. As of last fall, that stock was worth a mere $72 million.

Wait a minute. I'm not done. Check out the June 17, 2008 issue of Business Week, ("Greenberg, Broad on AIG's latest unheaval") which describes how "AIG Director Stephen Bollenbach, backed by billionaire investor Eli Broad, was named lead director." Broad says: "I have a lot of confidence in Steve Bollenbach, who's done great at everything he's ever done in life..." The article also contains an interview with former CEO Hank Greenberg and one of AIG's most powerful stockholders, Eli Broad.

There's more, much more, much, much more. But I'll get back to you on all that. I'm sure most of this will come out in the hearings, now that the corporate bonus cat has been let out of the bag. Anyway, Ms. Denne. If you can show me where I have mis-stated anything factual re: Mr. Broad's role, past or current, in AIG, I will certainly print a correction.

Signed,

M. Blonsky

Rockford’s politics of disaster

Vallas brings in Sheffield to run the schools

With an unemployment rate of 13.7%, the highest in the state, economically depressed and desperate Rockford, Illinois has basically turned its public school system over to Paul Vallas.

Technically, Vallas is still the boss of New Orleans’ Recovery District, which he turned into a Mecca for school privatization following the Katrina disaster. Rockford’s disaster is man-made but where some see disaster, Vallas sees opportunity. He nailed down a huge contract for his consulting company, engineered the acceptance of Chicago-based, privately-run charter schools, and now he’s brought in his New Orleans deputy, Lavonne Sheffield, over the objections of several board members, to be Rockford’s new superintendent. Rockford’s business honchos are hoping that Sheffield’s ties to Vallas and Vallas’ ties to Arne Duncan, will turn on the federal tap.

This observation comes from Rockford Star Editor Chuck Sweeny:

With Sheffield’s connection to Vallas, and his connection to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and President Obama’s financial and political commitment to improving public schools, Rockford’s could, indeed, be “poised for greatness.”

Quotables


View from right field

Here’s neocon George Will’s latest. He adores (his version of) Arne Duncan and embellishes the myth of the Chicago “miracle” where, “by closing failing schools and opening replacements, Chicago is ensuring that the portfolio of schools is churned and improved.”

Here’s my favorite Will line:

By making teaching more fun, his Chicago innovations helped increase the number of applicants from two for each teaching position to 10.

Some fun, these school closings! But Will is quick to recognize that in Chicago, Duncan “had a hammer—the support of His Honor, Mayor Richard Daley.” Will and Duncan also make clear that they have no use for colleges of education or experienced teachers.

Don’t let a good crisis go to waste…

MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman on Seymour Hersh’s revelation about Bush/Cheney assassination teams.

And rather than focus on catching Osama bin Laden, to use another phrase, they didn‘t let a good crisis go to waste. And they used the atmosphere of crisis after 9/11 for all kinds of aggregation of power—accumulating power in the executive and really within the vice president‘s office in a way that we haven‘t seen outside of declared wartime and even there, with more strictures than were the case here.