Saturday, June 09, 2007

AG Marc Dann's letter to Mary Woolford re: capsules (different doses) that suddenly appear almost identical in appearance

From Attorney General Marc Dann, June 7, 2007
Re: Caremark
Complaint #: 334156
Dear Ms. Woolford:
I am in receipt of your complaint concerning the above-named supplier. I have reviewed your complaint and will be corresponding with this supplier regarding your allegations. It could take as long as 90 days to get a response and mediate a resolution.
Let me explain the mediation service we offer. We have sent a copy of your complaint to the supplier and requested that they respond to our office in writing. If, in their response, the supplier disagrees with your version of the problem, then mediation may not work to resolve the issue. However, there may be other avenues of relief available to you such as Small Claims Court or your own private counsel, if either is applicable in your situation.
As soon as I receive any correspondence or information, you will be notified. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the telephone number listed below.
Very truly yours,
Marc Dann
Attorney General
Diane Silver
Consumer Protection Specialist
Consumer Protection Section
(614) 466-2511
(800) 282-0515
(614) 728-7583 (Fax)
NOTE; Please send all communication electronically when possible.

Mary Woolford: A response from AG Marc Dann re: her almost-look-alike capsules

From Mary Woolford, June 9, 2007
Subject: Marc Dann's letter today
I did receive a written response to my e-mail letter to the Attorney General Marc Dann. He said he has reviewed it and will be corresponding with Caremark regarding my allegations. He says it could take as long as 90 days to get a response and mediate a resolution.
So, looks like the ball is rolling in the right direction for retirees and their medications. I will keep you informed as the case continues. Mr. Dann also explained the mediation process that he can offer. They sent a copy of my complaint to the supplier and requested that they respond to his office in writing. If the supplier disagrees with my version of the problem, he says mediation may not work to resolve the issue. But, he says there may be other avenues of relief available to me, such as Small Claims Court or my own private counsel. Well, I can tell you that if Caremark doesn't see fit to correct this problem, I will not pursue it, using my own money. If enough retirees have similar concerns about their medication, I suggest they send a letter to Mr. Dann, so that he and Caremark can see the gravity of the situation and begin immediately to resolve it. Many voices speak louder than a single one!
Mary Woolford

From Coast To Coast, A Cry For Transparency

June 8th, 2007
Two bills moved through legislatures in different states yesterday about very different topics. In New York, the state assembly passed legislation that would require pharmacy benefit managers to act as fiduciaries on behalf of their clients, which typically are health plans, large employers or unions and their beneficiaries. The goal: shed more light on negotiations in order to save money.
Across the country, the California Senate passed the Pharmaceutical Drug Information and Safety Act, which would require drugmakers to disclose the results of clinical studies so doctors and patients have additional info on side effects and effectiveness.
But these bills have something important in common - transparency. Whether it’s the process by which prices are set or the tests used to find a drug’s benefits and risks, the public increasingly wants more info after years of concerns that key data is hidden away.
Such efforts aren’t new; virtually every state has a bill to regulate pharma (the National Conference of State Legislatures keeps a list). And not every bill will pass. But these are two of the biggest states and this week’s timing is no coincidence: there’s a clamor for change. And some changes will take place.

How these guys operate in order to run us into the ground: we need to wake up to what's going on with Sudan divestment before it's too late!!

(Writer requests anonymity)
June 9, 2007
I'm waiting for the people at to step in. They watch everything. When Cody Willard wrote the FT column about how divestment not only wouldn't help Darfur, but would actually hurt Darfur, they were on it right away. From what I can tell, they don't miss anything. They have the most organized system I've ever seen. We've noticed that only freshman legislators introduce these bills, which is true for Ohio. builds an organized group on a university somewhere in each state. Then this group approaches freshman legislators with the divestment bill which is very emotional and already written. These university organizations don't have a clue about the difference between defined benefit and contribution plans. But they do think they're helping Darfur. The legislators see the bill as a way to eliminate teacher pension.
We here in ___and other states really feel that our well being and, of course, Ohio's, depends on how your Iran-Sudan divestment bill turns out. Florida's gov has had theirs on his desk for a month now, probably waiting to see how the wind blows in Ohio. California just sent theirs to the senate and Calpers is fighting hard. But...not one state that I've run across has the fighting spirit I've seen in Ohio. Hopefully we can take a page from your playbook, if and when Iran divestment is introduced here. Sudan divestment passed in ___before most of us even knew what the word divestment meant. Boy, do we ever know now! The real wake-up call came when we figured out that every bill introduced in every state contains a section that excluded defined benefit plans from divestment; only defined benefit plans are mandated to divest. All the bills are clones, provided by Sudan Divestment Task Force ( Getting people to read these bills is difficult. The Dems jump on the bandwagon because they feel sorry for Darfur (and that's another issue). Repubs just want to get rid of teacher pension funds. It's an unholy alliance and we're stuck in the middle.

Terry Ryan blames teacher pension funds for public schools' money woes --GREAT PROPAGANDA from the greedy right wing that wants YOUR PENSION MONEY!!

"From Terry's Desk"
June 7, 2007
Pensions pinching schools
Terry Ryan is Vice President for Ohio Programs & Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (the organization that is trashing our pension system)
(View article here)
"More money for better schools" is a mantra that can be heard across the nation. The problem, districts will have you believe, is that state budgets are being cut, that local voters are tightwads, and that, in places such as Detroit and Cincinnati, charter schools are taking away funding and thereby preventing the districts from delivering a quality education to every child.
These timeworn protests pale, however, in comparison to the real damage being wrought by state teacher pension funds, too many of which are siphoning precious dollars from classrooms at alarming rates. This is an issue with national implications. But we know it best in our home state of Ohio, where the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) faces a looming fiscal crisis.
STRS, and by proxy its members and Ohio taxpayers, is currently shouldering an unfunded liability of about $20 billion (well over $4,000 per Ohio household). The system is also riddled with perverse incentives that seriously hinder teacher recruitment and mobility. Such incentives have multiplied and ramified over a number of years and through a series of well-intended ad hoc fixes seeking to keep decent teachers in the system. Unfortunately, these fixes have rendered the system even more complex and costly. One band-aid on the system, for example, allows many teachers to collect their pensions while continuing to work full time in the classroom (i.e., "double dipping"). This at a time when STRS assets fall far short of its accumulated pension and health insurance liabilities.
In a new Fordham report, Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs: Rethinking Ohio's Teacher Pension System, renowned economists Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky illuminate some of the serious challenges facing Ohio's teacher retirement system. Several striking conclusions emerge from their analysis:
The system is obsolete and in need of a serious overhaul. Ohio's teacher retirement system was designed for a different era (one in which employees were far less mobile), and for a time when life expectancies were considerably shorter than they are today. Now, many new retirees can expect to collect pensions for as many years as they taught. These incongruities are expensive, and the costs rise further when relatively young people (some in their early fifties) retire.
The system is too pricey to sustain in its current form. In 2005, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators reported that STRS faced $20 billion in unfunded liabilities--commitments made to current and retired employees that the program's current assets cannot cover but that the state is obligated to honor. Couple these fiscal pressures with steep drops in district enrollments over the past several years, and public coffers may run dry sooner rather than later. Consider the Columbus Public Schools. Even as the district sheds teachers and students, its "instructional" expenditures, which include teacher salaries and benefits, ballooned by 52.6 percent per teacher from 2001 to 2005. Similar trends are found across Ohio's urban districts and well beyond.
The system is out of step with the state's current teacher needs, labor markets, and career patterns. While Ohio's retirement system provides impressive benefits to teachers who make it through a thirty-year classroom career, these benefits come at a serious cost to younger instructors, to taxpayers, and to the state. For instance, teachers who separate from the system before the twenty-five or thirty-year mark face substantial losses in pension wealth due to its pension formula. Thus the system contains potent and perverse incentives that seriously hinder teacher recruitment and mobility, and that foster generational inequities between younger and older teachers. Costrell and Podgursky term these erratic incentives, rewards, and penalties the "golden peaks" and "perilous cliffs" along the path to teacher retirement in the Buckeye State.
Similar problems exist across the land. The recent NCEE report Tough Choices or Tough Times wisely calls for giving younger teachers higher salaries and portable 401(k)-style retirement accounts, rather than mediocre salaries and old-fashioned "defined benefit" pensions. The current system, which encourages young teachers to work 30-odd years and then retire with lifetime benefits, is not attractive to generations X, Y, and Z, whose members are apt to work in multiple fields (and places) over the course of their careers. Nor does it help our schools hang on to their most talented teachers--especially those at the younger end of the spectrum.
Since its creation in the 1920s, Ohio's teacher pension system, like those in other states, has morphed into an unwieldy monster. Costrell and Podgursky outline several measures needed to navigate STRS into the 21st century, and transform it into a more sustainable, transparent, and portable pension system that better serves its members as well as taxpayers, schoolchildren, and the teaching professions.
Meanwhile, the "Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding," comprised of traditional public-education groups, is currently seeking 400,000+ signatures to place a revenue-enhancing constitutional amendment onto the November 2008 ballot. But if flaws in the state's teacher pension system remain unaddressed, new spending on public education would do little more than prop up a system badly in need of repairs and upgrading. Indeed, such a fix might still be temporary, for the spiraling costs associated with the current system will ultimately impact the state's general operating budget, and its ability to support public education in the Buckeye State.
As Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs: Rethinking Ohio's Teacher Pension System clearly demonstrates, any responsible parties in search of added dollars for public education should first take a hard look at how such funds are spent today.

Duane Tron: A perspective from the trenches

From Duane Tron, June 9, 2007
Subject: Re: getting to know Fordham a little better....

The following article was written by Duane E. Tron
Please feel free to share from someone in the trenches and not sitting in the 'ivory tower' pontificating on the woes of public education.
From a professional viewpoint based on actual experience I wish to share the following observations with some of today's critics of public education. I have spent the past decade focusing my full attention to serving the needs of at-risk children. These are children who aren't succeeding in our regular schools. As a career educator I have noticed during the past 20 years that we are witnessing more and more young children who experience tremendous difficulty mastering the basic principles of reading and math. The numbers don't lie! We are seeing more children with issues related to hyperactivity and attention deficit. Many manifest severe behavior issues and aggression. Though we have experienced children with these problems in the past there has been a definite spike in the numbers during the past decade. The first question I started asking many years back was, why?
After spending time working for the courts and law enforcement I quickly became aware of one of the major causes. Over time I witnessed the number of cases involving drug abuse, substance abuse, possession of drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, DUI, DWI, DVI, drug overdoses, underage consumption, and on and on. Most of these cases are treated with impunity by the courts. Why? There are so many on the court dockets across this land that the courts lack the jail space to lock most of the people up. Thus, Paris Hilton received a paltry 23 day jail sentence for a second offense, and for violating probation. Her sentence was stiff in comparison to most cases that come before the courts. Only the most egregious cases see any actual jail time assigned.
Where is this going? Teachers, and in point public education, are being blamed for the decline in student achievement, or perceived student failure. One only has to stop and think that we are witnessing the second generation of a people who abuse large quantities of alcohol and drugs. I'm not a medical professional but I can't believe for one minute that the ongoing abuse of drugs and alcohol isn't having some negative impact on our offspring. I recently read that the United States has the highest rate of drug abuse of any country in the world. The article pointed out that demand for cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines (the new drug of choice), heroin, and other opiates make the USA the number one market for the distribution of such drugs. Couple this to the fact that we have more affluence and thus can spend more money and resources to promote the lifestyle. I beg the question, what kind of an impact is our love affair with drugs having on our children?
I truly believe that our preoccupation, love affair, with illegal drugs is impacting millions of children educationally, socially, behaviorally, and economically. Enter the classroom teacher who receives children who were crack and alcohol fetal syndrome babies to try and teach them with ordinary resources, methods, and materials. I have been observing such children for over a decade and I can tell you that their educational deficiencies aren't the result of poor teaching. Many have physiological, and psychological, issues which in turn contribute to learning issues. If a child can't stay focused and pay attention a child is going to experience difficulty learning.
Teachers today are more highly trained and skilled than their predecessors. If this is the case why is there so much difficulty teaching large cross sections of the adolescent population? Refer back to what I just explained in the preceding paragraph. Another problem has emanated from the decline in the importance of the family. Many children lack any kind of support base at home. Parents often work two low paying jobs to try and make ends meet. The children are often left unattended and without proper supervision.
These are the factors driving the problems we see in education. Not poorly trained teachers. I really get sick of listening to conservatives tell me about how great education was in the "good old days." I am the product of a school system (1950's) that probably had some of the worst, poorest trained, teachers I have ever seen. We attended a rundown school with few opportunities and resources. Our high school only played seven football games a year and about twelve basketball games. Imagine that! We didn't have wrestling or any of the preppy sports. I remember a time when the school board met and voted to pay the coal (fuel) bill and the teachers had to wait for their paychecks. The single teachers were paid first and then the married teachers who had a working spouse last. True! The school I attended can't take credit for my educational prowess and knowledge. I was the product of a religious home where my parents placed high value on learning and education. They supported the public schools in every way possible. Even though we were relatively poor we traveled to different places and sites across the country. We camped and sat and ate our peanut butter or bologna sandwiches on the running board of our 1938 Chevrolet. My siblings and I weren't distracted by TV and other electronic toys. We went outside and played and made up new games all of the time. There was a high level of creativity that existed in our homes and community. Most of us succeeded in spite of the school and not because of it.
Do I try and cast blame on my teachers? No! Did I come from a home where I had to deal with issues of drug abuse, physical abuse, hunger, neglect, sexual abuse, or the myriad of problems associated with a dysfunctional home life? No! Many of the children we work with today experience one of more of the preceding problems. For many their problems are multiple. Then I listen to my ignorant conservative counterparts, such as Jon Husted, denouncing the state of public education in this country. Schools today are trying to serve as surrogate parents and provide everything that is lacking at home. Teachers today are trying to teach children with multiple disabilities and many impairments. I have witnessed many more teachers who have experienced burnout in the classroom during the past 20 years. There are very few colleges that can adequately prepare teachers for what they are going to encounter in the every day classroom.
Those of us who grew up in tougher times understand much better. We know the meaning of doing without! We understand the ramifications when children don't become educated. We have dedicated our lives to trying to repair the damage in the cities and our communities. We understand that ignorant lawmakers can't legislate morals, parenting skills, values, honesty, integrity, and ethics. If our lawmakers don't possess and represent these values how can they expect teachers to impart all of these virtues to our children? Oh! It's the old "do as I say and not as I do" thing!
Congressman Jordan and his colleagues badmouth public education but they reaped the benefits of the system they are so eager to blame and chastise for its failures. This coming from people who have a terrible approval rating from the American people. Jordan went to college on a full ride scholarship for his athletic achievements in wrestling. I'm sure he achieved all of this on his own. Husted was a star linebacker at the University of Dayton and I doubt that his education played any part in his successes following college. If you listen to some of these people they want to lead people to believe that they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Jim Jordan, and his lovely wife Polly, were blessed to have wonderful parents, live in a relatively crime free community, have caring and quality classroom teachers, and never had to do without. I don't know Husted's background but I venture to say he has never really suffered the impact of poverty.
For those of us who grew up during, or immediately following, the Great Depression I can attest to the suffering of those who did without. I have seen the face of poverty having grown up in one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of Dayton. I understand what it feels like to fail and fall on my face big time. I flunked out of one of the most prestigious schools in the Navy "due to a lack of educational background." I had to dust myself off and start all over. I had to work and educate myself in writing and math so I could succeed. And I did! I discovered that I lacked most of the educational foundation essential to achieving academically.
I have often reflected back on my classmates and our education journey growing up. I quickly recognize the fact that back during the "good old days," of public education, our class started with 230 kids in 1950 and we graduated 136 in 1962. What happened to all of the other kids? Lets see! Oh! Many dropped out of school when they turned 16 and others were held back, and finished, or dropped out later. You know when the public schools were wonderful and turning out much better educated children than we are today? Folks, the idea that schools in the 1940's and 50's were awesome is a myth. I read an account that at the beginning of WW II the Navy had to send three fourths of pilot candidates to remedial math classes so they could learn to navigate aircraft and ships. It was noted that the pilot candidates math skills were so poor that they couldn't perform basic math. It was indicated that their writing skills were also woefully lacking. Imagine that?! You know back in some mythical time that conservatives want us to believe was wonderful and everyone had everything they needed. I assure you that the men and women serving in our armed forces today are much better prepared academically than myself and my earlier counterparts.
Maybe they can go and pop "It's a Wonderful Life," into their DVD's and pretend about how wonderful the "good old days" were. You know the "good old days" where we had separate but equal for African Americans. We had separate but equal drinking fountains, restrooms, theaters, restaurants, housing, courts, churches, and much more. If I remember right when I was stationed in Florida, and South Carolina, 'separate but equal' restrooms meant restrooms for white folk had sinks and porcelain flush toilets. Toilets for colored folk meant an outhouse that sat about fifty feet behind the gas station. I couldn't take my African American friends to a restaurant, theater, or any other public venue. They were persona non grata! They sat in the back of the transit buses and if there wasn't enough room they had to get off of the bus to let us white folk on. They couldn't stay at hotels or motels. I could go on for hours since I lived through this, experienced it first-hand, while serving our country with men of color who were deprived of their basic human dignity, their basic human rights. They were good enough to die for this country but they weren't good enough to be given equal treatment. I remember the "good old days" quite well. You know when our public schools were the finest in the world, unlike today.
Somebody has fed some of the people we're dealing with today some really bad information over the years. Our problems aren't the result of poor teachers and lousy public schools. Our problems emanate from lousy political leadership, the "good old boy" fraternity, that continues to plague our society and political system. I think too many of these people watched too many Shirley Temple movies. The thing that made Ronald Reagan so popular with many was the fact that he understood all of the issues to which I have referred. He lived through the times I described and this is why he coined the term "compassionate conservatism." The problem with conservatives today is they have dropped the term "compassionate!" They like to think they are emulating the teachings of President Reagan and they are lost in a sea of ignorance and mediocrity. Whether you liked him or not, Ronald Reagan understood the meaning of compromise, compassion, empathy, sacrifice and doing without. This is in contrast to those who think they represent him and his views. Husted, Jordan, and others can't emulate President Reagan because they lack compassion and empathy! They obviously can't understand that to which they have never experienced, or lived!
Please note that I still love the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," and I still like the old Shirley Temple movies, but I view them in the context for which they were meant. I don't sit around and long for some mythical time that never existed as some wish to depict! Those who hold power are abusing their power out of ignorance and not necessarily malice. They believe in a lot of things that just aren't so and never have been. They are trying to recreate something that never existed except in the fantasies of a few. Radical views, and opinions, whether coming from the right or left ends of the political spectrum become a cancer to our way of life. Radical ideologues represent the greatest threat to democracy and our way of life. They polarize the people and distract from the real issues affecting us. All one has to do is view radical Islam to see what happens when any society allows extreme elements to take control. This is where we find ourselves today in America. Two small political minorities are driving the entire political decision-making processes and we have to stop them before they destroy the entire country. I keep lobbying the idea of creating a new political party that will represent the needs, views, and opinions of the majority of Americans. We need a new third party that isn't divisive but dedicated to fixing and restoring instead of destroying. My conservative friends are totally wrong on the issue of education.

Getting to know Fordham a little better....

From John Curry, June 9, 2007
Subject: getting to know Fordham a little better....
"Yes, fortunate young people receive an education that values history. But too many students must make do with whatever information they can glean from cut-and-paste textbooks, frequently untrained instructors, or, if they’re lucky, their parents."
Q. Who penned the words above, words critical of educators?
A. Martin A. Davis, Jr., a senior writer and editor at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
The article that the above quote was taken from came from the National Review on May 11, 2007. It isn't very complimentary to modern day educators, is it? This thinly veiled "slam" is found well into the body of a composition centered around the recent visit by Queen Elizabeth to the United States. The article can be found below. I guess you'll be reading this compliments of my "cut-and-paste" technique which is also being taught by "frequently untrained instructors" in today's public schools throughout our nation!
And's the article which, by the way, was also cut and pasted by this product of an Ohio public school system - a person who was also taught by "frequently untrained instructors!" Just where oh where were those charter schools when I was growing up?

Royal Mess
Focus, people, on Jamestown.
By Martin A. Davis Jr.,

In a battle of celebrity versus substance, substance almost always loses. Such was the case this past week in D.C. and Virginia, where the Queen Mother set hearts a-flutter. Wherever she went, people clamored for tickets to see her, fretted about protocol should they actually meet her, and gleefully endured traffic snarls and cool weather to greet her.

The principal reason for her visit, however, isn’t generating the same buzz. Four hundred years ago this weekend, the Jamestown settlement was founded. It was the site of our first representative government, the cradle of tobacco (a noxious weed today, but a cash cow back then and the reason the slave trade exploded), and possibly the entry point of earthworms (slimy, but a big, big deal). Yet many, it seems, could care less.

To be sure, scholars and the well-read are debating recent discoveries. (The fort was unearthed just 13 years ago, while Werowocomoco — home of Chief Powhatan — was found in 2003.)

But the masses seem more enamored of Her Majesty’s graceful handling of the botched red-carpet rollout at the airport, and the president’s bumbling over the date of the queen’s last visit.

Why, we should ask, does celebrity trump substance? Why fall all over the charming queen when we can crawl (personally or virtually) all over the first permanent English settlement in the New World? In large measure, because too few of us have much ‘‘substance’’ with which to work. It’s hard to know what to do with Jamestown if your only exposure to its role in American history was the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas.

Yes, fortunate young people receive an education that values history. But too many students must make do with whatever information they can glean from cut-and-paste textbooks, frequently untrained instructors, or, if they’re lucky, their parents.

That history is taught so poorly is no accident of history, so to speak, as Diane Ravitch points out in her recent OAH Magazine of History article. By the early 20th century, an array of forces had managed to limit in-depth history instruction to a select few. Surprisingly, it was the ‘‘professional historians’’ who led the charge. Scholars such as medievalist A.C. Krey deemed their discipline’s rigor beyond the ‘‘competence of the average student,’’ explains Ravitch. The subject, wrote Krey in 1929, also wasn’t critical to students’ ‘‘effective participation in society.’’

That damage has lasted. It’s most visible in the woeful performance of U.S. youngsters on history assessments such as NAEP. But the real damage is harder to measure — it’s the tens of thousands of Americans who will never find a place in the perpetual debate about the direction of the nation because they lack the fundamental knowledge to engage the discussion and shape their own futures.

The end result is citizens who celebrate a queen, while misunderstanding — or ignoring altogether — a crown jewel in their own backyard.

Martin A. Davis Jr. is senior writer and editor at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

Florida governor signs bill banning investments in companies tied to Iran, Sudan; pension funds stand to lose millions

Crist to sign bill banning investments in companies tied to Iran, Sudan
By Anthony Man Political Writer
Posted June 8 2007

A measure banning Florida state government pension funds from investing in companies that do business in Iran's oil sector and Sudan gets signed into law today.
The Protecting Florida's Investments Act orders state pension fund managers, who have $150 billion in assets to handle, to review holdings.
Companies doing business with either the petroleum sector in Iran or the government in Sudan would be asked to stop those operations.
If the state request isn't honored, the pension funds would divest those investments. Potentially affected investments make up less than 1 percent of the pension funds' assets.
"Although Florida is just one state, I think that we're going to be setting an example for other states to follow suit. And yes, it's $1 billion in our $150 billion pension fund, but when that is coupled with all of these states that may be looking at similar legislation, it could have a real effect in stopping these terror regimes," said state Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs.
Andrew Lewis, co-founder and president of the Save Darfur Coalition of Broward County, said Thursday it is a "wonderful thing" that Gov. Charlie Crist plans to sign the measure into law at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton.
The proposal was pushed through the Legislature by Broward and Palm Beach county legislators.
"You can actually do good by looking not only in the spiritual, philosophical and political aspects but looking at the economic aspects. This bill does all of those things and that's why I think it's a wonderful thing," Lewis said.
Broward's Save Darfur group, and a similar Palm Beach County coalition, meet regularly to draw attention to the 200,000 deaths and 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The Iran provision was pushed by the influential national organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the South Florida sponsors said they were concerned about Iran's threat to Israel.
During a visit to Israel last week, Crist said he'd not only sign the measure into law, but also urge other states to take similar actions.
In a letter to other governors, Crist said Florida's legislation "is a statement to the Iranian and Sudanese governments that Florida will not idly stand by and allow businesses that operate in Iran and the Sudan to foster terror."
State Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said he has reached out to legislators working on similar legislation in California, Illinois and Ohio.
Besides sponsors Deutch and Porth, state Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, worked on the Sudan part of the measure and state Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, pushed the Iran provision.
Anthony Man can be reached at or 954-356-4550.

Jim Kimmel: An open letter to Speaker Jon Husted re: HB 151

From Jim Kimmel, June 9, 2007
Subject: HB 151
An Open Letter to Mr. Husted
The Ohio General Assembly is responsible for the preservation and protection of the State Retirement Systems. Please explain to me how HB 151 would help the retirees. That should be the only consideration. The whole idea of defined contribution ( which is the real goal here) will hurt retirees. But it WILL put dollars in the pockets of many who never taught, chased a criminal down the dark streets of mean neighborhoods, or who were shot in the act of police work, teaching, or died while saving someone's home from a fire.
I find it interesting that nowhere have the advocates of HB 151 ever said that it would improve the retirement systems. Did you ever, as this went forward, even consider how it would affect retirees ? And we both know it will not do a thing to stop terrorism.
Now it will be "voluntary". Again- how will this improve the retirement systems ?
James O. Kimmel
STRS Retiree



From STRS, June 8, 2007

On June 1, 2007, STRS Ohio sent information regarding Substitute House Bill 151 to our e-mail news service subscribers. This bill requires the state's five retirement systems, including STRS Ohio, to divest of investments in foreign companies doing certain types of business in Iran and Sudan. In our e-mail, we shared that a vote by the Ohio House on the bill was expected on June 5.

However, instead of a vote, the five systems were asked to consider a proposal from Speaker of the House Jon Husted, who was seeking to meet the objectives of the sponsors of Sub. H.B. 151, while attempting to consider the concerns and objections of the retirement systems.

On June 7, the five system directors responded to Speaker Husted via letter which addresses the following points:

• Agreement that the systems oppose terrorism and genocide and share the concerns of the General Assembly about the acts of Iran and Sudan;

• Stating that meeting pension obligations and health care benefits for our members is dependent upon balanced and diversified portfolios;

• Recognizing that investment decisions must be prudent and deliberative and consider quality, cost, risk, return and market conditions;

• Supporting legislative action, modeled after S.B. 133, that would require Boards to develop policies to address divestiture in a manner that would not violate fiduciary duties;

• Committing to work with the respective Boards to develop an investment policy, CONSISTENT WITH FIDUCIARY DUTY that would divest up to 50% of active holdings in foreign companies doing business with Iran and Sudan by the end of 2007, and ultimately divest from all such holdings.
Agreeing to report regularly to the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC).

Throughout the process, staff and the directors have in their comments to the sponsors, the House committee, the ORSC and the Speaker, held fast to the principle that our fiduciary responsibilities must take precedence over other considerations, such as foreign policy. We have not changed that position. We reiterated with the Speaker, that any divestment could be done only to the extent that the systems avoid incurring major costs and losses. This can only be accomplished by finding other suitable alternative investments offering similar returns, or by moving to more indexed funds, and in concert with market conditions.

STRS Ohio will continue to keep its members apprised of this bill through its e-mail news service and postings on the STRS Ohio Web site.

Duane Tron re: States are overstepping their authority under the U.S. Constitution

From Duane Tron, June 8, 2007
Subject: Re: Federal judge strikes down divestment law in Illinois!

Federal judge strikes down divestment law in Illinois!

Illinois law against Sudan struck down
By Steve Hirsch
Published March 2, 2007
A federal court in Chicago has struck down an Illinois law aimed at pressuring Sudan to end human rights violations in the Darfur region.
The law bars the deposit of Illinois state funds in any financial institution that does not certify that neither the institution nor its borrowers do business related to Sudan. In addition, the law bars public pension funds from investing in companies with commercial connections to that country.
Illinois officials have not decided whether they will appeal the decision, which may have implications for other similar laws in place or in the works in other states.
In his Feb. 23 ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly found that the provision of the Illinois law dealing with the deposit of state funds interferes with the federal government's constitutional right over conduct of foreign affairs and that the pension language is unconstitutional because it interferes with Congress' authority over foreign commerce.
Judge Kennelly's decision makes clear that "you cannot punish banks because of the activities of their customers at the state level," according to William A. Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which filed the suit against the state.
Mr. Reinsch said other states with similar laws aimed at Sudan include Louisiana, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine.
A rebellion broke out in Darfur in 2003, and attacks on civilians by government-backed militias have led to tens of thousands of deaths there.
A case could be filed next against New Jersey because its law resembles that of Illinois, he said, although whether that happens depends on whether Illinois appeals last week's ruling.
In Wisconsin, the sponsors of a Sudan divestment bill being introduced said their measure would not be affected by the ruling.
Democratic state Rep. Frederick P. Kessler and Republican state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf said Monday that their bill "has been reviewed by legal experts and is constitutional."
The two said the Illinois bill targeted more than 160 companies doing business in Sudan, including some companies exempt from U.S. sanctions, as well as banks doing business with companies in Sudan.
The Wisconsin bill, which has been introduced in the state Senate and will be introduced in the Assembly, "is compatible with U.S. foreign policy," the two lawmakers said.
"This bill," they said, "will prove to be constitutionally legal, as opposed to the faulty Illinois legislation."

This might just help you understand where these Fordham "experts" are coming from -- read it and seethe!

A Brief Framework for Understanding the Anti-Public School Movement

Publication Date: 2005-05-30
By Tom Siebold

Three cheers for this Minnesota group of teachers. Visit their website.

[Author's note]: This article contains good graphics, which I can't reproduce here. Unfortunately, the url to access the article at their site no longer works.
As she worked to justify her new education standards, the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, Cheri Pierson Yecke, had a habit of deferring to national experts who have direct ties to the Fordham Foundation, a self-proclaimed leader in educational research. The Fordham Foundation is a virtual tsunami of hostile and aggressive attacks directed at America's k-12 public education system. Pouring through the Fordham site and its Internet links to sister organizations, the reader moves into an angry world where a cabal of like-minded ideologues detail a view of education that is disproportionately choleric, conspiratorial, and corporate.
It is a world where one think tank expert after another smugly restates the same simplistic generalizations charging k-12 educators of weakening America. They portray teachers as promoting a homosexual agenda, brainwashing students to be pessimistic about America, undermining Christian values, and teaching children to be deeply suspicious of America's institutions and capitalism.
Chester E. Finn, the president of the Fordham Foundation and former Assistant Secretary of Education, summed up his position in a Wall Street Journal article when he angrily wrote: "The school system has proven it is an ossified government monopoly that can't reform itself. You've had your chance. We warned you. We gave you 'Nation At Risk' over twenty years ago. Nothing has changed. It's time to apply American business expertise to education." His friend, colleague, and former Secretary of Education, William Bennett, was even more direct in a 2003 solicitation letter from the powerful Heritage Foundation, "We are not going to make tremendous changes in the schools and the universities in the foreseeable future. Their nonjudgmental moral relativism is too akin to a religion to dislodge easily. And their anti-Americanism is deeply entrenched and will take years to turn around." According to Bennett and his followers many teachers have been duped into an unpatriotic and scandalous mode of teaching, but many others have knowingly signed on to advocate an anti-American leftist agenda that pollutes the hearts and minds of children.
It would be nice to dismiss this absurd reasoning as the misguided rage of extremists, but the people involved are powerful, well funded, and have the ear of key political and corporate leaders. They are doggedly committed to controlling the national dialogue on education to discredit k-12 schools. When levels of public concern reach critical mass they intend to dismantle the current system and incrementally replace it with a privatized structure. Undoing a core American institution like education is a high stakes game. Educators, parents, and the public should know who these people are, what they want, who funds them, and what strategies they use.
Who is "they"?
One must keep in mind that the anti-public school crowd has evolved from the political, religious, and corporate far right which, of course, is not just one thing; but rather a collection of different groups, foundations, media personalities, and individuals. However, on a broad scale, the far right can be seen as comprising two basic camps: the secular (corporate) right and the religious right. Over the last forty years, these two camps have coalesced into a powerful new partnership.
The secular right, which consists of influential military, political, and corporate leaders, is outraged by social change spawned by women's rights, civil rights, worker rights, the ecology movement, unionism, corporate regulations, etc. In response they have spent vast sums of money to fight back. Armed with big bankrolls and convenient access to media outlets, dedicated social/political warriors are fighting to reshape America with a new conservative mindset commonly dubbed neo-conservatism. In his book Blinded by the Right former neo-conservative David Brock defines the neo-cons as conservatives who were radicalized by the liberalism of the 60s and 70s. They were part of the Reagan coalition, glued together at first in their intense anti-Communism. Popularized by William Simon, former Nixon and Ford treasury secretary, and Irving Kristol, an ex-Trotskyite intellectual, neo-conservatives see society as an economic hierarchy where a corporate elite works to save the nation from the liberal tendencies of the masses. Five key goals of the neo-conservatives are...
• To radically reduce the size of government,
• To deregulate business,
• To rollback social programs,
• To bolster aggressively global American economic interests.
• To privatize government services (This includes the privatization of the public schools.)
Although they are powerful, the small number of neo-cons makes it almost impossible for them to win elections on their own. This is where the religious right becomes useful. Legions of citizens from organizations like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Christian Coalition are convinced that America has been betrayed by liberal leaders who have undermined core values and set the nation adrift in a sea of secular humanism and decadence. By pushing "hot button" issues like moral relativism, homosexuality, secularism, multiculturalism, sexual freedom, liberal courts, and a general deterioration of the Christian ethnocentric order, charismatic figures like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer can rally large numbers of voters. Karl Rove estimates that over 15 million voters from the religious right turned out for Bush in 2000.
Money and influence from the neo-conservative secular right combined with grassroots power from the religious right has resulted in a dramatic reshaping of the American political landscape. One important point of intersection between the two is the movement to dismantle public education.
What do they want?
Simply stated, one mission of this coalition is to privatize education. This means implementing a universal voucher plan, enacting school tax credits (stealth vouchers), and/or dotting the educational landscape with charter schools that have private or non-profit authorizing bodies (a de facto voucher system). Vouchers are synonymous with privatization.
Milton Friedman, economist and senior fellow at the neo-conservative Hoover Institute, is the originator and long-time advocate of a universal school voucher plan. Viewed by fellow ideologues as the master architect, Friedman asserts that the "school establishment" in general and the teacher unions in particular have "changed the goal (of schools) from teaching children to keeping teachers satisfied." Friedman argues that "the only way in which you're going to bring schooling into the twenty-first century is to have a private enterprise for-profit industry that will have the incentive and the initiative to serve its customers, that will experiment with various ways of doing it, and that will do it in such a way that their customers are satisfied." Indeed, to shift schooling and education tax dollars to private sources (religious groups, for-profit education companies, and home schooling) is an important part of the neo-conservative vision to end governmental involvement in social entitlements.
After voters soundly rejected several state battles to implement voucher plans, Friedman's devotees realized that they would have to step back and reshape public opinion by hammering home the school failure message. Eventually, they reason, the public will get the message, school support will erode, and they can move incrementally toward greater levels of privatization. The idea of taking smaller steps toward the promised land is reflected in the following statement by the Heartland Institute president, Joesph L. Bast: "Pilot voucher programs for the urban poor will lead the way to statewide universal voucher plans. Soon, most government schools will be converted into private schools or simply close their doors."
Their incremental game plan to convert or close government schools rests on five key objectives:
1. They want to build a new educational system that follows a business model. One of the founding documents of the movement is Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America's Public Schools by Lou Gerstner, former chairman of IBM. Gerstner redefines school children as commodities, teachers as marketplace sellers, and the school system as an ineffective monopoly of government schools. Today, a writer who wants to inspire disgust in his conservative readers only has to refer to the system as "government schools," a negative epithet of the highest order. Gerstner summarily dismisses the public system when he concludes that "the schools have failed, they can't compete in the global economy." His remedy is to retool the schools so they operate in a milieu of market pressures.
2. They want to open up public education for venture capital and investor return. The possibility of a vast new market is very tempting indeed; $375 to $600 billion dollars are spent each year on k12 education. Already numerous well-known venture capitalists are jumping on the privatization bandwagon. Investors like Michael Milken, John Walton, Chris Whittle, David Brennan, and William Bennett have pumped millions into education related endeavors.
3. They want to "clean up" what is taught in the schools with acceptable "America first" standards. They believe that the schools, from primary grades to colleges and universities, are polluted with leftist propagandists (some may still be commies) who are undermining America. On her web site The Eagle Forum, right wing die-hard Phyllis Schafly warns her readers that public school history classes are debased with "the current fad of teaching multiculturalism, the code word for the false dogma that all other cultures are superior to Western Civilization." To the neo-conservatives the failure of the schools is not about class size, child poverty, dysfunctional families, inadequate school funding, crumbling communities, or the constant bombardment of teacher morale; rather it is the result of liberal brainwashing.
4. They want to shake public confidence in public education. The shakedown begins with the narrowly defined standards and corresponding high stakes tests required by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The cost of implementing these massive tests, along with tutoring responsibilities for those who fail, will force schools to drop or drastically reduce programs. In the time frame allotted by NCLB many schools will not meet the high levels of proficiency. As a result mandatory school "report cards" will be overloaded with reports of schools that are failing or judged to be mediocre. The privatizers will be waiting at the gate shouting again and again, "Look, public schools can't cut it and they can't correct themselves, it's time to apply corporate know-how to fix the schools and save America's future." This loaded school failure message will reshape public opinion and a call will go out to free up tax dollars for vouchers, tax credits, and/or charter schools.
5. They want to weaken or eliminate resistance groups like teacher unions, school associations, and college education departments. Writing for the influential neo-conservative Hoover Institute, Senior Fellow Terry M. Moe writes a typical denunciation when he flatly claims that teacher unions "use their power to resist true reform." Their interests "have nothing to do with what is best for children, schools, or the public interest." If the newly privatized schools are to make a profit they will have to cut teacher pay and benefits, they will want to reduce the overall number of teachers by using more paraprofessionals and computer learning, and they will dramatically loosen the requirements to be a teacher in order to open a broader (and cheaper) teacher pool. This means that teacher unions, teacher safeguards, teacher defined-benefit pension plans, and current teacher requirement standards will have to go.
How are they organized and funded?
To discredit and incrementally privatize public education takes an unshakeable and uncompromising ideology, a network of organized activists, and tons of money. A study by the National Education Association concludes that there is a rigid "conservative network that is disciplined, organized, and extremely well funded. It has a national reach and management with a local presence." The NEA study goes on to say that this conservative coalition is working tirelessly to "methodically accomplish its agenda on a state-by-state basis."
Selling a privatization scheme begins with money, big money. For the anti-public school warriors the cash flows from three basic sources: private individuals and corporations, far right religious groups, and conservative foundations. The lion's share of the dough comes from twelve large and powerful philanthropic foundations:

• Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
• Carthage Foundation
• Earhart Foundation
• Charles G.Koch, David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe charitable foundations
• Phillip M. McKenna Foundation
• J.M. Foundation
• John M. Olin Foundation
• Henry Salvatori Foundation
• Sarah Scaife Foundation
• Smith Richardson Foundation
The largest of the twelve the John M. Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Sarah Scaife, and the Smith Richardson Foundation- are collectively known as the "four sisters" because they contribute so much to the same collection of organizations and causes. These "four sisters" plus the Walton Family Foundation are also the biggest contributors to the assault on public education, giving millions of dollars each year to advance privatization. Research by Media Transparency reports that the Bradley Foundation gave 45 million in 2000, including 2.4 million to support the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute to push for school vouchers; the Scaife Foundation gave 26 million in 2001; and the Olin Foundation gave 21 million in 2001.
Philanthropy Roundtable
In order to assure that conservative grant giving remains focused on targeted objectives the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation established the Philanthropy Roundtable. The Roundtable operates as a clearinghouse and strategy center for conservative money sources. In a sense, it is command central. It supports its 600 associate members by designing and distributing philanthropic guidelines for achieving pro-market causes like school privatization. The Roundtable not only exists to provide a funding infrastructure for its members, it also attempts to move the nation's mainstream philanthropic organizations toward a more conservative point-of-view.
State Policy Network
Foundation money supports a puzzle-like web of interrelated far right state-based think tanks, research/policy groups, and associate national organizations. This web of activist organizations is unified with a centralized strategic body called the State Policy Network (SPN). On its web site the SPN states that it is "dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-based think tanks. State Policy Network's programs enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers, and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges."
Founded in 1992, the SPN advances an anti-worker free market policy to deregulate business and privatize government services. Near the top of its list is public education. The SPN meets regularly to plan strategies to help its state-based members lobby effectively, set agendas, manipulate the media, implement activities, publicize policy, market ideology, groom spokespeople, swell membership, and control state and national issues and debate. Today there are 49 SPN members in 42 states as well as many national associate research/marketing groups. They have been recklessly successful shaping public opinion.
The four horsemen of school privatization
Because of their prolific outpouring of "research," four organizations are key combatants in the battle to win school privatization: The Hoover Institute at Standford, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard. The funding for these four groups comes from similar conservative sources, their neo-conservative agendas are carbon copies, and they work from a closed research framework where they support their own premises with information, critiques, and reviews from one another. The four groups have joined forces to publish Education Next, a rancorous periodical whose mission statement begins "In the stormy seas of school reform, this journal will steer a steady course...." Indeed, a steady course to privatization.
Like a broken record, their research pounds away at a few simple messages: the schools have failed; money doesn't matter; class size makes little difference; child poverty is not a legitimate factor for poor student performance; the curricula is skewed to the left, the schools can't correct themselves--the system is "ossified;" and teachers and teacher unions are misguided, selfish, and/or ignorant. These damning generalizations are presented as unassailable fact. Consider the following example concerning teacher motivation from Chester E. Finn, President of the Fordham Foundation. It is not only ignorantly generalized, it is laden with irony when one remembers that Finn is a founding partner of the Edison Project, a private corporation to profit from education tax dollars: "Self-interest is the key. It's the one constant in nearly every action of the N.E.A. and most of the actions of its rival/partner, the American Federation of Teachers (A.F.T.) Adult self-interest, to be accurate. Teacher self-interest, to be yet more precise. The educational well being of children may be invoked. But it's usually a decoy, a bit of spin meant to garb the adult self-interest in something less naked."
The partners of Education Next and their like-minded counterparts repeatedly ballyhoo charter schools and voucher plans without sufficient data for verification, they hype high stakes testing without referencing the body of research that examines the negative factors of testing, and they support state standards without addressing the one-dimensional learning theory inherent in them. They arrogantly expect the public to embrace their vision of education without a fair and balanced study of all the available research. Ignoring professional standards and research practices, these ideologues, disguised as education experts, are cheerleaders for the neo-conservative school privatization game plan.
Organization Diagram (not available)
What strategies do they use?
A simplified outline of the movement's battle strategy may be summarized as a six-point attack: 1. Set up the public schools for failure using a battery of standards and corresponding high stakes tests, 2. When schools can't meet impossible test proficiency timelines, proclaim "scientific" proof that the schools are broken, 3. Use the severe NCLB sanctions to bully failing schools by firing teachers, transferring students to other schools, and even closing school doors permanently, 4. Pressure state legislators into redistributing tax dollars with vouchers, tax credits, and/or charter schools that have private or non-profit authorizing bodies, 5. Rush in with private enterprise, 6. Tap into the billions in education funds and celebrate the victory over the dreaded government schools.
The success of this strategy depends on how skillfully the privatizers can turn the public against its community schools. Thus far they have routinely employed four basic tactics to do this, each bolstered by an unwillingness to compromise and each implemented with unyielding belief in the correctness of their cause.
1. Extend the problems of troubled schools to include all schools. When spokespeople like Chester E. Finn, Milton Friedman, Joseph Bast, and William Bennett say that the schools have failed they rarely, if ever, qualify the generalization. Chester Finn provides a noteworthy example when he makes the brazen and unsubstantiated generalization that schools have failed because they "function largely for the benefit of its employees and interest groups rather than that of children and taxpayers." Despite the fact that vast numbers of students and parents consistently report that their schools are successful, enough repetition of the failure message may eventually move the public to reject their initial discomfort with school attacks and begin to doubt their own positive experiences.
2. Hammer away at "hot button" issues, even if they aren't relevant to the bulk of the public schools. The anti-public education crowd obsessively cries that educators (presumably the majority of educators) are promoting reprehensible ideas like multiculturalism, homosexual agendas, moral relativism, hate-America first pessimism, etc. Tom Krannawitter, vice president of the neo-conservative Claremont Institute presents a typical example of playing to hot button emotions when he irresponsibly exaggerates: "Multiculturalism represents nothing less than the political suicide of the West, and in particular the crown jewel of the West, the United States of America. Multiculturalism attempts to undermine the good principles upon which America is built, and it is corrosive of the patriotic spirit that fills the hearts of free men and women. Though it operates much more subtly, multiculturalism is no less a threat to our free institutions than the terrorists who attack our cities with airplanes." Evidently, saying it is stridently enough makes it true.
3. Market the notion that there is no need to spend money to help public schools by using the "good money after bad" argument. Pondering the cost and value of adding teachers, Nina Rees, a Heritage Foundation fellow and a high ranking official in the Department of Education, offered the following bit of tortured reasoning: "Hiring more teachers might be good for teachers unions, which would love to see their membership rolls expand at taxpayer expense. But it will do little to help school children get a better education." Keeping the public schools chronically underfunded slows or prevents the schools from enacting effective improvements. Additionally, voucher advocates rarely mention that privatization will be extremely costly. Former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley estimated that if a national voucher system were put in place, taxpayers would spend $15 billion to subsidize students already in private schools.
4. Flood the media with "research" that is anti-school. The goal is to control the issues and, subsequently, the national dialogue on education. Think tanks and neo-conservative policy groups have invested heavily in marketing their message to the media. Media watchdog Joanna Mareth notes that every Heritage Foundation study, for example, "comes with a synopsis; every synopsis is turned into an Op-Ed piece, distributed by the foundation's own syndicating service. Heritage's 'pre-digested' public policy is well suited to the realities of contemporary journalism, which consumes short, punchy newsbites to feed its 24-hour newscycle. Heritage even runs a seminar called 'Thinking and Talking in Soundbites.'" In her investigation of conservative philanthropy, journalist Karen Rothmeyer concludes:
"Layer upon layer of [conservative sponsored] seminars, studies, conferences, articles, and interviews [can] do much to push along if not create, the issues, which then become the national agenda of debate.... By multiplying the authorities to whom the media are prepared to give a friendly hearing, [conservative donations] have helped to create an illusion of diversity where none exists. The result could be an increasing number of one-sided debates in which the challengers are far outnumbered, if indeed they are heard from at all."
What they are saying about teachers?
• The attacks on the public schools revolve around the following themes:
• Schools and teachers have failed.
• Teachers are not accountable. They reject accountability so they can avoid the hard work of getting better.
• Knowingly or unwittingly teachers are promoting a homosexual agenda.
• Teachers cling to tenure to protect lazy and incompetent teachers.
• Despite plentiful dollars, educators are wastefully throwing "good money after bad."
• Teachers and teacher unions have sacrificed quality education to protect their salaries, benefits, small classes, and working conditions.
• Educators embrace a liberal curriculum that is undermining American values, patriotism, and strength.
• Teachers are weakening American values by promoting multiculturalism, environmentalism, sex education, etc.
• Teachers and teacher groups are biased against Christianity, school prayer, and Christian ethics.
• Teachers are unwilling to embrace change and blindly reject the application of business strategies to education.
• Teachers must turn to the business community for direction and guidance.
• Teachers reject competition to protect a "soft" nine-month job.
• Teachers need to have hard-line management in order to shape up.
• Teachers must have a detailed, "teacher-proof" curriculum to facilitate.
• Schools are breeding negativism, unionism, disrespect for authority, and anti-capitalist beliefs.
What do they mean by expert?
The seemingly inexhaustible roster of neo-conservative and religious groups attacking education gives the impression that the battle to conquer "government schools" is being waged by an army of diverse and authoritative educational experts. This perception that many experts have independently reached the incontrovertible conclusion that public schools have failed offers the privatizers a momentum to seize the national debate on education. But it is really sleight of hand--it is an illusion of expertise. Below are five tactics that the privatizers use to give the impression that their movement is a broad-based ground swell of knowledgeable experts:
1. Bastardize the U.S. Department of Education. On its home page the Department states that it will use its $54.4 billion budget to disseminate research and focus educational issues. Following a game plan popularized by former Secretary of Education William Bennett, the Department disseminates unbalanced information and focuses issues on highly politicized privatization objectives. This should come as no surprise when one considers the top leadership in the Department.
The Secretary of Education Rod Paige is a long-time Republican activist and former superintendent of the Houston schools. As superintendent Paige worked numerous angles to privatize the schools and instituted punitive accountability policies.
Perhaps Paige characterized his leadership style when he announced that "shame is the greatest weapon for school improvement."
Eugene Hickok, the Deputy Secretary of Education, honed his ideology as a scholar at the granddaddy of conservative policy groups, the Heritage Foundation. Before moving into the Department he was the president of the Education Leaders Council (ELC), a network of privatization advocates who aggressively support vouchers (Note: Since Hickok's appointment as Deputy Secretary, ELC has received $3.5 million in grants from the Education Department, and Congress recently appropriated another $10 million through the department.)
Nina Rees, the Under Secretary of Innovation and Improvement, is a hard line neo-conservative ideologue from the Heritage Foundation who relentlessly and mercilessly bashes public schools. She serves as an advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
It is understandable that the Department's perspective is narrowly politicized when one considers that both policy and money flow through these top leaders. It is incongruous that educational leaders who have a history of public school disservice are in a position to direct positive public school reform.
2. Cross-pollinate a network of think tanks. As one explores the Internet from one neo-conservative think tank to another, the same names keep appearing over and over again. The names listed on think tank staffs, boards, and advisory councils looks like a fraternity roster. For example, the four most visible education research groups-Fordham, Hoover, Manhattan, and PEPG-share the same key players:
Go to URL above for chart. [Not available]
In addition to a cross-pollinated leadership, the groups share the same writers, they reference the same studies, they review each other's work, and they appoint each other to the same projects and task forces. The comedian Foxworthy once quipped that "you know you are a red neck when your family tree has no branches." In the neo-conservative world of think tanks, expertise is incestuous.
3. Manufacture credentials of expertise. The posted bios for many think tank experts frequently look impressive. Take for example the bio listed on the Fordham site for its president Chester E. Finn. It is loaded with important sounding projects, foundations, and fellowships: Senior Fellow at Hoover Institute; Koret Task Force, Chairman; Edison Project, Founding Partner; Center for Education Reform, Board; Foundation for Teaching Economics, Board; National Association of Scholars, Board; Center for the Am. Experiment, Board; Hudson Institute, Senior Fellow; Senior Editor, Education Next.
Not surprisingly, a close examination of the these credentials shows that they are all part of the neo-conservative establishment, they all have similar educational missions, they all involve the same players from the "fraternity," and they are all funded by the same conservative philanthropy foundations. In a very real sense they are basically one thing, but assigned different names. It is curricula vitae polished with humbuggery.
4. Clone think tanks. The neo-conservative establishment mutates at an alarming rate: One think tank breeds another and it in turn breeds yet another and so on. Consider the following mutation as just one example. Jeanne Allen's (former official with the Department of Education under Reagan) Center for Education Reform (which has both Finn and Bennett on its board) used money from the Olin, Bradley, and Scaife foundations plus 3.5 million tax dollars from the U.S. Department of Education to generate the Education Leader's Council (ELC). The ELC supported the formation of Standards Work, Inc, a DC consulting group that created school "results cards." Additionally, the ELC joined forces with Chester E. Finn's Fordham Foundation and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ--Note that Finn sits on the board of the NCTQ) to form the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). Not surprisingly the board of ABCTE is made up of a "whose who" of the think tank network: Lisa Keegan, President of the ELC; E.D. Hirsch, Education Next Editorial Board; Fredrick Hess from Harvard's PEPG and editor of Education Next; and Abigail Thernstrom, the Manhattan Institute.
Lenin once said that if he had 1% of the population that was thoroughly committed he could give the world a revolution. Indeed, the anti-school ideologues are committed. They are dedicated to an overthrow of American public education by repeatedly thrashing schools with cloned messages broadcast from a countless number of cloned think tanks.
5. Buy credibility. Despite the fact that the neo-conservatives frequently attack college professors as "hate America" propagandists, they nevertheless spend big money to purchase prestige for their movement with college and university connections. Wealthy conservative philanthropic foundations like Bradley, Olin, Sciafe, Smith Richardson and others funnel millions of dollars into conservative university programs, publications, chairs, and departments on prestigious campuses like Harvard and Stanford. The Center for Campus Organizing reports that conservative money on campus tops 30 million per year.
Certainly Ideologues are created, not born. More precisely, the ideologues of the anti-public school movement are often recruited, groomed, and bought. College recruitment groups like the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA) uses substantial foundation money to pinpoint and mobilize malleable Ph.D. candidates. Founded by former Treasury Secretary William Simon and neo-conservative ideologue Irving Kristol (later joined by William Bennett and Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind) the IEA provides selected candidates grants and fellowships and, if the right ideology takes hold, helps them find jobs with activist organizations, research projects, and right-leaning periodicals and think tanks.
Minnesota's Commissioner of Education Cheri Yecke dismissed a challenge to her proposed state history standards by thirty-two University of Minnesota history professors claiming "I don't believe in the hate America agenda." This commonly enacted response parrots William Bennett's charge that anti-Americanism is deeply rooted in public schools at all levels. Think tank ideologues are quick to play the patriotism card to trump almost any form of dissent. But turn the tables for a moment and ask...
How patriotic is it to attack a bedrock American institution like education that has broad public support and has contributed to make America one of the greatest nation's on earth? Is it patriotic to debase America's schools with one-sided research, selected statistics, media manipulation, manufactured public apprehension, stacked experts, and questionable strategies to control the issues and debate?
How patriotic is it to topple public education without really having a well-developed system to put in its place other than an untested, generalized plan like "deregulated market place dynamics"?
Undoubtedly there are failing schools struggling in failing communities. To fix them requires a well-rounded look at educational research that is unfettered by ideological bias and expectations. It requires an open exchange of ideas free of political positioning and it requires the selfless work of experts and public volunteers who are not inextricably linked to narrowly defined religious groups, think tanks, or corporations. The reform process must be done with a healing spirit, not one that is tainted with a simplistic "government is bad" mentality, angry politics, profit motivation, worker condemnation, and moral and intellectual absolutism. Reformers must steadfastly see children as children, not as commodities in venture capital schemes or fodder for social engineering.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Just who ARE these 'invisible' characters hiding behind the guise of the 'Fordham Foundation,' seeking the demise of YOUR pension system?

Gee, the timing couldn't be better, with HB 151 dominating the news! What a coincidence! ....OR IS IT? This is Divide and Conquer, folks. How many different ways have OUR legislators tried to undermine OUR pension system? You KNOW there has to be something in it for them. What's at stake here? Only OUR MONEY!! Either we go after them or we lose, BIG TIME!! KBB

From John Curry, June 8, 2007
Subject: Rod, Chester, and isn't it a small world?
(Photo: Rod Paige)
Remember the Fordham Foundation who, this week, released a highly critical report about Ohio STRS which said that the STRS of Ohio needed to be restructured? Well, let's see who is now on the Board of Directors of the Fordham Institute...... try Rod Paige, the former Education Secretary in the Bush Administration! You remember Rod, don't you? He's the guy who called the NEA a "terrorist organization!" ( Yep, that Rod Paige! Look at the nice flowery piece Chester wrote about Rod which was distributed in 2005. Chester Finn, by the way, is the current president of the Fordham Institute! It's a small world isn't it? If you are now guessing that the Fordham Institute, Chester Finn, and Rod Paige are really not lovers of public education ... I think you're on the right track.

Outgoing Education Secretary Rod Paige is a great education reformer and distinguished public servant who leaves office after four years of accomplishment, candor, nonstop dedication to America's children, and loyal service to the Bush administration.

With Cabinet members exiting in droves, it's difficult to know for sure who's being nudged out the door and who is leaving on their own volition. Paige had signaled that he was game to stick around a while longer, but the White House reportedly wanted a four-year commitment, which is a lot to ask of a 71-year-old. So as he packs to return to Texas, let us dwell not on the circumstances of his departure but on his achievements, his legacy, and his character.

"We all serve at the pleasure of the President," he told his staff, "and it is perfectly appropriate that I leave now."

Rod Paige wasn't perfect in this role. He is not, for example, a great public speaker when working off a prepared text. (He is wonderfully eloquent, sometimes thrilling, when he speaks from the heart.) He tends to voice the truth as he sees it, even when it upsets folks. One can scarcely forget his apt--if politically incorrect--comparison of the NEA to a "terrorist organization" or his terrific Wall Street Journal critique of the NAACP leadership.

What he was, however, what he is, is a dedicated educator of children and crusader for better breaks for the poorest and neediest among them. A black man who rose from the humblest start in Jim Crow's Mississippi, a product of segregated schools, he became a teacher, coach, administrator, counselor, dean, school board member, and, in time, the reforming superintendent of the largest school system in Texas.

He left that post to travel to Washington at Bush's behest, and there he led the U.S. Department of Education for four eventful years. He didn't always have the leeway he should have to lead it as well as he could. The White House tether was shorter than in previous administrations, far shorter than when I worked there with Bill Bennett in the late 1980s. Paige had limited authority to pick his team and less to pick his policy targets. (Chester E. Finn, Jr.)

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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