I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Eli Broad's Made Men

Back in the spring of 2012, I pointed out that being a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy Book Club was a great way to get on the gravy train to Reformyville. Penny MacCormack and Mike Miles - both graduates of Broad, just like NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf - were making big consultancy bucks:
Last week, ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf of the NJ DOE had to explain to the legislature how the state could afford some hefty consulting fees:

In documents provided to the OLS in its budget review, the department disclosed consultants on the Cerf’s school funding proposal made as much as $1,000 or even $2,500 a day.
“That’s certainly an interesting amount,” said state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) of the latter figure. “Imagine if that went a full year, that would break all records.”
One assistant commissioner, Penny MacCormack, was hired last fall for three months at $1,000 a day until she could be confirmed by the state Board of Education as a permanent hire in January. She is now earning a salary of $135,000 a year, officials said.
Cerf defended the extra pay, saying MacCormack was a critical hire and the consultants on the funding report – including some notable national names in the school funding debates – were invaluable.
“This level of talent and expertise comes with a price tag,” he said.
Nonetheless, Sarlo asked Cerf for a full list of the per diem and consultants hired. The chairman said afterward it remained a curious stretch for an administration quick to criticize the pay of teachers and other school employees, including caps on superintendents, that is well below what it is paying consultants.
“A little hypocritical, isn’t it?” Sarlo said in an interview.
More than a little, I'd say; especially since this isn't the only recent instance of the state pushing tax dollars toward school consultants. Take a look at what's happening in the state-controlled district of Paterson:

PATERSON, NJ – An education specialist fired last September by the U.S. defense department over allegations of misconduct has been working at Paterson Public Schools under a consulting contract that pays a Colorado company $7,244 per day.
Shirley Miles had been executive director of the Department of Defense Education Activity when an Inspector General investigation last year found that she steered jobs to friends and family, took liberties with travel reimbursements and failed to properly report vacation days, according to a story by Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.
After being fired in September by the federal government on the nepotism-related allegations, it seems Shirley Miles’ family connections quickly landed her work in Paterson.
By October, she joined the team of consultants assigned to Paterson under the school district’s contract with Colorado-based Curriculum Focal Point, according to district employees. Her brother, Mike Miles, is described as one of Focal Point’s “professional developers” on the company’s website and many district employees generally consider him the consulting company’s main representative in Paterson. [emphasis mine]
Remember: MacCormack and Miles, just like Cerf, are graduates of the Broad Superintendent's Academy Book Club. Further, both MacCormack and Miles went on after their state-sponsored consultancies to run districts: MacCormack in Montclair, NJ, and Miles in Dallas, TX.

So, how's that working out? Let's start with MacCormack:
During the past school year, the Montclair School District held off on conducting annual performance reviews of its principals. Schools Superintendent Penny MacCormack acknowledged she did not do the state-mandated evaluations during the 2012-2013 school year for the principals of the district's 11 public schools. 
"I wasn't here for a complete year, so I don't think it was fair to the principals that I evaluate them last year," said MacCormack, who began as superintendent in October 2012. 
MacCormack responded during this past Monday's Board of Education meeting to questions posed by board member David Cummings, who asked the superintendent what criteria she used to give merit raises to principals and to determine their tenure. 
"I evaluated the principals based on their school status, achievement-wise, and made observations in school buildings," MacCormack explained. "But again, the formal evaluation process, which is a full year in length, was not something that I thought I could complete since it wasn't started when I came on board." [emphasis mine]
So, Dr. MacCormack: you didn't think it was "fair" to do a formal evaluation of the principals; but you did think it was "fair" to give them merit pay based on your observations?! Golly, I'm sure your staff has a ton of faith that they're being evaluated "fairly" after that...

And what about Mike Miles? (via Diane Ravitch):

The Dallas school board will have a closed meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss possible disciplinary action for Superintendent Mike Miles, who was found in an investigation to have violated district policy and worked to publicly disparage the board. No vote will be taken after the closed meeting.
The board is expected to meet on Sept. 30 to vote on any disciplinary action. It’s the same date that Miles will receive his evaluation.
Also on Thursday, the board will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m.
Trustees met in closed session and open session on Thursday to discuss the investigation.
Board President Eric Cowan said Friday that any punishment could range from a written reprimand to termination. [emphasis mine]
Of course, here in Jersey, superintendents who wage public media wars against their boards are saved from termination by Cerf. Maybe the commissioner hasn't heard that it's generally not considered good practice for a superintendent to publicly beat up his or her employers...

And so it goes for the graduates of Eli Broad's little book club. His superintendents, you see, don't have to bother with rules and transparency and all that other fuss: those are annoyances designed for the little people. No, his graduates are made men: they've got each others' backs. If another superintendency doesn't open up, I'm sure there will be another consultancy somewhere else.

It's how they roll.

It's good to be my friend, capiche?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

As Perth Amboy Turns

And the soap opera continues in New Jersey's Reformiest District™:   
The Board of Education will decide whether to put Superintendent Janine Caffrey on administrative leave for a fourth time at a special Oct. 2 meeting, Caffrey said.
Although Caffrey decided she will not reapply for her position and will finish out her contract which expires June 30, she was still the recipient of a Rice notice today informing her that her employment will be the topic of discussion.
Her attorney informed her it is the intention of the board to put her on administrative leave, Caffrey said. She has not decided whether to hold the hearing publicly or in executive session.
Board President Mark Carvajal refused comment.
If the board votes to remove Caffrey, it wouldn't be the first time.
Prior to that, on April 2012 and again May 2012, the board voted to remove Caffrey from her $175,000-a-year post, but each time state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf overturned those decisions. [emphasis mine]
Yes, and look at how well that's worked out...

As I said early on in this mess: I don't know who is in the right here. But when Chris Cerf unilaterally decided to step in and save Caffrey, he was overstepping his bounds and exercising way too much power for a man who was never elected to office. Cerf had more than enough time to investigate this situation, but he was clearly running out the clock, hoping a new school board would be elected to save Caffrey.

Well, that never happened, despite the unbelievable amount of money that was poured into the local school board race from West Coast billionaires. So now this city has a board at war with its superintendent -- a war that could have been avoided if the school board was allowed to run the schools without Cerf's interference.

Yes, it's possible that Caffrey was wronged and the board was going to fire her and pay her severance, wasting the taxpayers' money. You know how you solve that? At the ballot box: you let the locals vote out the school board members who hired her in the first place.

What you don't do is usurp local control on flimsy evidence, then ignore your duty to resolve the situation quickly. Which is why the blame for all of this ultimately doesn't rest with Caffrey or the board: it lies squarely on the shoulders of the Commissioner of Education.

Chris Cerf's conduct in this entire matter has been unfair to Caffrey, to the Board of Education, to the staff of the schools, and -- most importantly -- to the students of Perth Amboy. Cerf's inability to resolve this situation in a timely matter has kept this school district in a perpetual circus-like atmosphere:
Caffrey said she believes the Board is holding this hearing for a myriad of reasons, including her comments on NJ.com, campaign promises from certain officials running for re-election, and the ongoing ethic cases of several board members, including Obdulia Gonzalez, Israel Varela, and Milady Tejeda.
That case, which is scheduled for hearing Oct. 16, involves allegations of paying a media representative to write false and slanderous stories against Caffrey, organizing a union rally calling for her removal, as well as accepting political contributions from the union in exchange for collusion to remove Caffrey.
Is this true? Did any of this really happen? Lord knows Caffrey's made charges before against her board that the state later ruled had no basis in the evidence. And she was awfully prickly when the board questioned her handling of an investigation of liquor sales on school grounds. Is she making charges out of spite? Or are these members of the board really guilty?

Who knows? Certainly not Commissioner Cerf, who has let this nonsense continue unabated. Certainly not Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger, who turned Caffrey into an anti-tenure celebrity, ignoring any journalistic obligations to present both sides of the story. Certainly not B4K, the corporate reform outfit that paid for a public relations campaign in Caffrey's defense when she first got into trouble with her board. Certainly not those West Coast billionaires, who've never had to answer the question of why they would pour so much money into a race 3000 miles away.

Perhaps that's why Cerf has let this go on for so long: many influential people have had a vested interest in the outcome. Too bad their needs seem to come before the needs of the children who actually live in Perth Amboy.

The Reformiest District in New Jersey!™

Why Isn't Diane Ravitch On My TV?

So it's now official: Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error, is a New York Times bestseller, debuting at #10 on the hardcover non-fiction list. Congratulations to Diane on this outstanding literary achievement.

In contrast, Michelle Rhee's book of last spring, Radical, never made it on to the NY Times list. It did terribly in the Amazon.com sales rankings; folks working in the publishing industry tell me Radical is generally considered to be a commercial failure.

And yet Michelle Rhee managed to put together a book tour that would have made Stephen King envious. The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, Bill Maher, This Week... it seemed like Rhee was all over the media. Which begs a question:

Diane Ravitch has already sold many more books than Michelle Rhee. She writes a blog that, in its short life, has already received millions of hits. People flock to her lectures. There is clearly an audience for the point of view she is espousing. And yet, Diane Ravitch isn't on TV.

When will Ravitch be appearing on The Daily Show? The Colbert Report? Bill Maher's Real Time? NBC? Any of the cable news networks? This Week or any of the other Sunday morning gabfests? Tavis Smiley (she's been on before, but not since Reign of Error has come out)?

How about all the "liberal" shows on MSNBC: Maddow or O'Donnell or Sharpton or Hayes? You'd think they'd be begging Ravitch to come on their shows and explain her "conversion" as a former member of a Republican administration. Hayes in particular has done good work on education before; why isn't Ravitch on with him now that she is, once again, a best-selling author?

Michelle Rhee had her moment in the sun, even though she represents a point of view with which very few people are sympathetic. Why, then, deny Diane Ravitch -- far more popular as judged by her book sales -- equal access to the media? What could be the reason?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPDATED: Are Americans Allowed To Debate Education Anymore?

Time to once again play Spot The Pattern™! Before we begin, here's a clue about our theme:

All emphases mine unless noted. Let's start with Montclair, NJ (click through to watch the video):
When Montclair's teachers union president could not finish her prepared statement Monday night, the public did so for her. 
Copies of Montclair Education Association President Gayl Shepard's remarks were distributed to the dozens of teachers, parents and community members seated in the Montclair High School auditorium after Shepard was limited to talking for three-minutes due to a newly imposed change in the meeting agenda. 
Read Shepard's complete remarks.(Right click to open in a new window and read along) 
"The most discouraging aspect about the Board’s decision to remove the MEA from the Public Meeting Agenda, is that it is yet another attack on the longstanding culture of our town that celebrates collaboration," Shepard said. 
After Shepard was cut short, a parent at the podium picked up where she left off with dozens of members of the public, including Shepard, joining in to read the remarks in unison. 
The action was followed by applause and cheers from members of the teachers union that, according to Shepard, represents 92% of the district's employees.

Towson, MD (update below):
At a Towson, Maryland school board meeting on Thursday, a parent attempting to ask questions about Common Core was arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer.  The event was recorded by another parent, and later related by yet another to Michelle Malkin.  Robert Small focused on the lowering of educational standards in his complaint, saying “You are not preparing them for Harvard,” but rather a community college.  
The meeting was a question-and-answer session organized by Superintendent Dallas Dance, but – as is becoming increasingly common – questions were submitted on paper and select questions were answered, rather than allowing parents to stand up and speak.  This format allows for the censoring of questions, and indeed the questions answered by the meeting’s panel were, according to the person videotaping, “softball” questions. 
“In a nutshell, it was an hour and a half long and the first hour was Dallas Dance, Lillian Lowery, a PTA leader, and a teacher from Cantonsville High School basically tell us how great this was going to be.”  Multiple parents in the room had already shown frustration at the question selection when Small stood up and began to ask challenging questions.  He spoke briefly before being escorted out by security and arrested.  “He was just a dad trying to get some information about his children’s education and ended up in jail for not sitting down and shutting up,” the letter said.
Los Angeles:

  • Near the end of the event, Steve Perry was making his last comment in response to an LAUSD teacher who screamed out earlier during the event in rage as the panelists did not answer the second “controversial” question.
  • When Perry said that “the students’ interests did not line up with the union’s interests”, I drew the line.
  • I pulled the poster out of my backpack and held up high right in the middle of Perry’s speech. It caught all the panelists’ eyes but Perry continued to speak.
  • A security guard came over and told me to give him the sign while simultaneously pulling it away from me.
  • I tugged back and caused a bit of noise that attracted some attention.
  • After Perry finished speaking, the moderator was about to close the event when George Parker interrupted her and insisted that I be given a chance to speak.
  • The moderator insisted that no one else would be given a chance to speak.
  • The woman next to me (who was shouting curses against unions the whole night and was the cause for my gigantic headache) ironically yelled that I should be given the chance to speak.
  • The whole room began to cheer and egg me on, and so the man with the microphone gave me the chance to speak.
  • Completely enraged, totally flustered, and quite honestly a little nervous, I gave my two-minute speech and was cut off before I could get to the good part. (Stay tuned for a post about what I WOULD HAVE said if I got more time.) [Last emphasis is not mine; the others are mine]
The audience bristled at times, calling Rhee "disingenuous" and questioning the corporate backing behind many education reform organizations. Many audience members also expressed displeasure with the way organizers structured the town hall. Many said that the event didn't deliver the "honest conversation"  that was billed and that the moderator too quickly quashed the room's dissenting voices.

The school board imposed a new, more restrictive policy on public comment Monday that critics said could limit debate at the meetings.

Effective for the Chicago Public Schools' Board of Education monthly meeting set for Jan. 23, anyone wishing to make a public comment must register online, by phone or in person the week before.

The registration period opened Monday and runs through 5 p.m. Thursday at the latest. Only 60 slots are open for the scheduled two hours of public comment, and 33 were taken right away Monday morning.
CPS has gradually imposed the pre-registration requirement. It introduced advanced online and phone registration in November, but still allowed those wishing to make public comments to register the day of the meeting for any available slots through December. Day-of registration was no longer available beginning this year.
CPS officials did not say why they chose to cut off registration a week in advance of the meetings.
But critics said the change makes it harder to participate.
"This new process alienates most people," said Katelyn Johnson, executive director of the community organization Action Now. "The board meetings were already ridiculously inaccessible, with people sometimes having to sleep over in order to get a chance to speak. This is on top of the fact that they are held downtown during hours when most people are at work. Having online registration adds another hoop to jump through, creating more distance between the already out-of-touch board and the community, parents and students."
Since most parents and community members have to work during the day, "they're only allowing one side of the debate," Johnson added.
New Orleans:

The crowd grew visibly frustrated at times during the meeting, eager to interject as administration discussed high staff turnover and the process by which contracts were renewed.

Contracts were a particularly sensitive subject as two of four network school principals resigned with only weeks left in the school year.

“Do we have any other questions or comments about that?” Ryan asked.
Mildred Labostrie, whose granddaughter will be in second grade next year at Gentilly Terrace, thought he was posing the question to the public.
She began to speak up to address the board.
Ryan interjected, “I’m sorry we had our time for public comment, we can’t have the public participate in the board meeting. I apologize, I’m sorry about that, but we have to do it that way.”
“I know you said you can’t hear my comment, OK,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan said.
Their voices escalated as they talked over one another.
Labostrie objected, saying that at the time he called for comment, the board hadn’t yet started talking about the topic she wanted to speak to.
“But you didn’t address it at the appropriate time, you don’t have an opportunity to address it now. I’m sorry,” said Ryan. “We can address it at the next board meeting.”
Labostrie stormed out, granddaughter in tow.
Scranton, PA:
The Scranton School Board approved an administrative hiring policy on Tuesday night - a policy that the public had not seen and had no opportunity to comment on before the vote. 
The policy, which is the first time the district has guidelines for how to hire principals, vice principals, a superintendent or assistant superintendent, requires new administrators to live within the city and awards points for a series of interviews, a writing sample, grade-point average for a graduate degree, experience, military service and for being a district graduate. 
Voting on the policy was not on Tuesday's agenda, nor was it ever discussed at a public meeting. Directors said the policy, which included collaboration from the directors and from Superintendent William King, was discussed at executive sessions, which are closed to the public. The policy was approved 8-0, with Director Bill Fox absent.
And, of course, New York, home of the NBC network:

Yesterday I received an invitation to sit in the audience at NBC’s Education Nation.

I regret to say that I will decline, as I am very busy these days.

You will see some familiar names, like Secretary Arne Duncan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ex-Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Bobby Jindal, Dr. John Deasey, Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman Sachs), David Coleman (architect of the Common Core standards), Governor Mike Pence of Indiana (but not Glenda Ritz, who defeated Tony Bennett), Mitch Daniels (the ex-governor of Indiana, Tony Bennett (the singer, not the defeated state superintendent). Quite a number of people known for supporting privatization of public education and high-stakes testing.
But, other than Randi Weingarten and David Kirp, you won’t find any of the prominent figures who oppose the corporate model of measure-punish-close schools-fire teachers-TFA, etc. No Linda Darling-Hammond, no Deborah Meier, no Richard Rothstein, no John Kuhn, no Nancy Carlsson-Paige, no Carol Burris, no Leonie Haimson, none of the wonderful brave teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents who have bravely fought a failing set of federal and state policies.
No innovative thinking here, just the Voices of the Status Quo.
So let's start with the school board meetings. There are thousands of school boards across the country, which means, inevitably, that some will be populated by petty despots intent on closing down dissent. I know I've given only a small sample here. Still, this wave of censorship feels different to me; something is changing, and it's not for the better. Maybe schools boards are feeling besieged; maybe they are tired of dealing with people they consider crackpots.

If so, my response is: too damn bad. This is a democracy, and people have the right to speak their minds to their officials -- especially at the school district level, the jurisdiction in our nation that is the smallest and, therefore, closest to the people. If there was ever a ruling body that should allow public commentary on the issues before it, it's the American school board.

As to Rhee's little kabuki and the pathetic attempt at civic engagement that is NBC's "Education Nation": is it not clear just how cowardly these people are? Have they so little faith in the attractiveness of their ideas that they are unwilling to allow even a small amount of dissent at their "town halls"? Have they so little confidence in their own ability to articulate a clear, coherent vision of education "reform" that they dare not put themselves into a position where they might have to speak beyond the level of platitudes?

Norman Rockwell is hardly the first name that comes into my mind when thinking about counter-hegemony. But I find a few deeper meanings in Freedom of Speech. The speaker is the worst-dressed man in the room. He's got the town report in his pocket; he's informing himself. He's looking up at his "betters," but he's not looking away. The elderly gentleman to his right is listening, and he's approving. This common man is exercising his rights, and in doing so, is changing the debate.

In Rockwell's America, then, we're not supposed to just sit down and shut up. We need to inform ourselves, but once we've done that, we have an obligation to speak out. The founding fathers meant for us to debate -- that's the entire point.

When did this become a problem? We did we decide this core value of democracy wasn't as important as making sure the questions for our officials and our "experts" are processed and homogenized and hermetically sealed? When did we all agree that the people who shape our policies -- particularly our education policies -- are such fragile flowers that they must be protected from the rough and tumble of deliberative democracy?

Nobody should abuse their right to free speech and denigrate public officials gratuitously. No one should act obnoxiously at a "town hall." But it's a far worse sin to turn these institutions into shams, playing at free expression while really quashing it. If you can't take sharp, pointed criticism and stand by your actions, your words, and your record, get out of public service and the public eye. The last thing we need right now are "leaders" who are too chicken to engage in real debate.

UPDATE: Looks like the charges against the dad in Towson, MD were dropped:
Charges were dropped against a father accused of assaulting a Baltimore County police officer at a school board meeting, prosecutors said Monday. 
Robert Small, of Ellicott City, attended a state Board of Education forum at Ridge Ruxton School in Baltimore County last Thursday night. He's concerned about the state implementing a new set of standards called Common Core. 
"I moved my family out to Howard County because of the reputation of the schools," Small said at the meeting. 
Small was charged with second-degree assault after an encounter with a police officer working as a security officer for the meeting. The Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office said Monday that Small will not face charges.  
Small had been upset the board didn't allow dialogue and only let parents ask questions submitted on pieces of paper handed to the board to answer. 
A representative for the state Board of Education said a Q&A with parents took too long at prior forums and written questions allowed for more of them to be answered more efficiently. [emphasis mine]
Let's break this down. The video's above, and you can see what happened: this guy went on a little too long for the board's liking, so a police officer came down and physically intimidated and removed him from the meeting. Again: he was man-handled because the people running the meeting didn't want to hear what he had to say.
The police report indicates Small pushed the officer in the meeting and struck the officer in the arm in the lobby. Someone else attending the meeting recorded it all and posted it on YouTube. 
Prosecutors released a statement saying, "It was clear that the officer acted appropriately and did have probable cause to make an arrest on both charges, but in the interest of justice, further prosecution will not accomplish anything more." 
Really? That's "clear"? On what basis did the officer have any right whatsoever to lay hands on a man who was speaking at a public meeting? Was he inciting a riot? Was he personally abusive? Threatening?

Or was he saying something these people didn't want to hear?

Apparently, making people in power uncomfortable is now enough to get you an arrest record in America. And it's "appropriate" for cops (Was he on duty? Because that doesn't look like a police uniform to me.) to push you around and arrest you for daring to making public officials squirm with your questions.

But this doesn't bother the Maryland State BOE:
Meanwhile, Maryland's State Board of Education said it will not change the way it conducts public forums to explain the common core education standards. 
The common core altercation was never mentioned at the monthly state school board meeting, but the incident was still fresh on the mind of State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery. 
"I am glad it has been resolved. I am glad to know that the charges have been dropped," Lowery said. 
The school superintendent said the format used in Baltimore County is the same one used across the state, one she said offers parents some flexibility. 
"We believe that between having an open situation where we can get as many questions answered as we possibly can and staying after to answer any individual questions that we are covering all the bases," Lowery said. 
The state school board president also stands behind the process. 
"Change is sometimes difficult. We also know that change causes us to ask questions in a different way and certainly here with this board we've been asking questions and we're very satisfied with the responses we're getting from Dr. Lowery and her team," President of the State Board of Education Charlene Dukes said. 
Thank goodness the MDBOE is so enlightened that they are willing to drop charges against a dad who took too long to ask a question about his kids' education. What freakin' patriots...

Maryland State BOE

UPDATE II: More from Philly:
As of yesterday morning, there were five public meetings left for parent comment on the report cards. But at the last minute, the District canceled yesterday’s 11 a.m. meeting and all the rest of the public meetings, saying it did so in response to parent concerns. A reporter told a parent that the District is no longer interested in “open-ended conversations” and will restructure the sessions to require parents to give narrow input into the school report card content. [emphasis mine]
Didn't they write some sort of document in Philadelphia a long time ago in support of free speech? Thinking...

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Continuing Problem Of the Wealthy, Reformy "Liberal"

Let's get back to America's Worst Congressman™, Jared Polis of Colorado:

Don't bother trying to find this tweet: it's long gone. Funny how these things happen...

But intemperate behavior seems to be Polis's m.o.; here's Diane Ravitch herself:

In a series of Twitter posts last night, Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado called me “an evil woman.” He said that my ideas were harming public education.
This is puzzling. What do I do that makes the rich and powerful fume and blow their cool?
I have met him twice in DC. The first time, I met with members of the House Education Committee and described my last book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. He listened impatiently and at the end of my 15 minutes of talk, he threw my talk across the table at me and demanded his money back. Another Congressman paid him, not me. [sic] I was stunned. [emphasis mine]
All class, Congressman. Jon Pelto, who has been working closely with Ravitch in promoting her new book, Reign of Error, took a closer look at Polis:
Last week, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado, who purports to be a “a progressive,” called Diane Ravitch an “evil woman” and compared her to the Koch Brothers tweeting ,“Can’t think of anybody else who has caused more harm to public schools, except maybe Koch brothers.”
As we are learning, Polis failed to reveal that not only is he a charter school advocate but his foundation, with the help of his company, actually formed a charter school or two in his home state of Colorado.
As we know, charter schools like to brag about their higher test scores, but traditionally use their recruitment process and “out migration” policies to push out less academically proficient students and, almost across the board, fail to take their fair share of non-English speaking students and students who require special education services.
Click through and read the rest of Jon's post. But let's also take a step back and view this from a larger angle:

Jared Polis is the seventh wealthiest person in Congress. And while I am sure he is a talented businessman, the truth is that he made his money by taking his parents' greeting card business on-line in a transaction that was way, way overvalued:

As an 18-year-old, he traveled to Russia and made money trading privatization vouchers — you know, the botched, scandal-ridden privatization which wrecked Russa's economy and led to the domination of the economy by ex-KGB oligarchs. Next stop: Silicon Valley!
In October 1999, right before the first dotcom crash, Polis, then known as Jared Polis Schutz, sold Bluemountain.com, his family's online greeting-cards website, to Excite@Home for $780 million, including $350 million in cash that Excite couldn't really spare. Excite sold it for $35 million in September 2001, and filed for bankruptcy a month later. People still talk about it as one of the most spectacular cashouts of the dotcom boom.
He later sold ProFlowers, an online florist, to John Malone's Liberty Media. (All told, he's started a dozen companies.)
(Personal note: I've used ProFlowers once. Let's just say, given the lack of service I experienced, I will not use them ever again.)

After making all this money, Polis entered into politics: he ran for an open seat in Colorado's 2nd House district in 2008, which forced him to disclose some of his finances:

Polis' returns show five years -- from 2001 to 2005 -- during which the Internet entrepreneur paid no taxes. He showed a net loss of income for four of those five years.
The returns also show a couple of years when he posted a total of more than $120 million in adjusted gross income and more than $18.4 million in taxes paid.
Polis, 32, said the discrepancy in tax and income data over the seven years is primarily based on whether he was developing companies -- which would often operate at a loss in their initial years -- or selling a company.
"In my business career, I only make significant money when I sell a company," Polis said Thursday.
Two years ago, Liberty Media Inc. bought Provide Commerce Inc., which operated Polis-founded ProFlowers.com. The sale was valued at $477 million, $116 million of which went to Polis.
Polis said in many of the years he didn't owe taxes, he was reporting income losses -- in 2005 his losses reached $2.6 million -- as he tried to bring companies he helped found into the black.
"I founded several high-growth companies, and we would manage those for growth rather than for profit," he said. "When I make money, I pay taxes. When I don't make money, I don't."
Polis' most lucrative year was 2006, when he reported $96.5 million in adjusted gross income and paid nearly $13.6 million in taxes. [emphasis mine]
For 2006, that's an effective tax rate of 14%. Keep in mind the marginal tax rate that year was "35% on the income over $336,550," which means Polis made out like a bandit, most likely because he was largely paying capital gains tax rates instead of the rates on ordinary income (caveat lector: I'm not an accountant. If anyone can shed some more light on this, please comment below).

So what we've got here is a guy who -- much like George W. Bush -- took advantage of his family's existing businesses and connections and made a lot of money, then parlayed that into a political career. According to opensecrets.org, Polis out-spent his opponent in the 2008 election about 80-to-1.

And even though Polis is a Democrat, his career -- much like George W. Bush -- has largely been about cutting taxes on wealthy folks like himself:
Momentum is growing in Congress behind legislation to enact another “repatriation tax holiday” that allows multinational corporations to bring profits held overseas back to the United States and pay tax on them at a rate of only about 5 percent (rather than the normal tax rate on corporate profits). But the economic or fiscal case for doing so remains poor. 
In recent days, several congressional Democrats have expressed support for some version of the legislation.1 The momentum comes in the midst of a major lobbying campaign for it by a coalition of large and powerful U.S.-based multinational corporations.2 Proponents argue that a second temporary repatriation holiday would boost domestic investment and jobs, which is the same pitch that proponents used to sell policymakers on a similar repatriation holiday in 2004 – and one with obvious resonance as the economy struggles to recover from recession and unemployment remains very high. 
Nevertheless, the evidence shows that the first holiday failed to produce the promised results. Its primary effect was to provide a huge windfall to the shareholders of a small number of very large corporations.  
1 At a Third Way event last week, Reps. Jared Polis (CO) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) as well as Sen. Kay Hagan (D- NC) expressed support for the idea, while another group, NDN, hosted a working lunch on the idea earlier this month. See Tim Fernholz, “Democrats Warming to Tax Repatriation,” NJ Daily AM, Tuesday, June 21, 2011. [emphasis mine]
Yes, folks -- "liberal" Jared Polis has never seen a corporate tax he wouldn't love to cut:

Polis, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 2nd District, said he is working with the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Dave Camp, on a proposal to lower tax rates by reducing or eliminating deductions and loopholes.
"We can, on a revenue-neutral basis, bring down the corporate tax rate to about 25 percent," he said.
Such a proposal likely would come as part of a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling by the end of the year, he said.
Polis acknowledged that the businesspeople in the room all represent small businesses, so they are paying taxes on their business profits at the individual rate, which is as high as 39.6 percent.
He said efforts also are underway to lower that top individual rate to 28 percent.
"If we could do it on the corporate side, that would build momentum to do it on the individual side," he said.
To get there, though, Polis said Congress would have to start taking away from some very popular tax deductions, including "the big three" - charitable donations, home mortgage interest and state and local income tax.
"If we can find a way to reduce rates, there's no question that people would have more disposable income for charity or buying a home, for whatever they want to do," he said. [emphasis mine]
We'll get to that "charity" in just a bit. But let's take a second to appreciate how adamant Polis is about cutting taxes on the wealthy; so much so that's he's will to buck the liberal caucus his own party:
Last night’s House Democratic caucus meeting was explosive, with many members refusing to vote for the Obama-McConnell tax cut deal. However, for all the sturm and drang, if Boehner can deliver all of the Republicans they only need 39 Democratic votes. 
Leading the charge for the tax cuts on the Democratic side? Jared Polis, whose net worth is somewhere between $97.4 million and $254.4 million. Polis was quite impassioned as he fought back against the tide of opposition in the caucus,  arguing that this deal is “the best we can do.” 
But as Joan McCarter notes, and as Keith Olbermann said so eloquently last night, it is immoral that this deal does nothing for the “99ers,” the 2 million people who are due to have their unemployment benefits cut off by the end of the year. 
The fact that it’s Polis pushing this deal in the House makes it brutally and transparently clear who this benefits: millionaires.  Kevin Drum does the math, and finds that “most of most of us get a few hundred dollars while the rich get hundreds of thousands or even millions each.” 
“The rich are willing to make that deal every day,” he says.  “Wouldn’t you?” [emphasis mine]
Now, Polis does try to put on airs of fiscal responsibility. But his plans to raise revenue almost always include regressive tax schemes. Here he explains how to further screw the poor and middle class in that favorite soapbox of the wealthy, The Wall Street Journal op-ed pages [all emphases mine]:

On the issue of increasing revenue, the famous Grover Norquist antitax pledge that many Republicans have signed does not preclude provisions that will increase revenue without actually increasing taxes on Americans. One way would be to require the 10 million immigrants living in America illegally to get right with the law and pay back-taxes and fees, which would generate as much as $5.4 billion in new revenue, according to the Center for American Progress.
Yeah, balance the budget on the backs of immigrants, because they are all making so much money -- sure, that'll work...
New revenues can also be found by changing the way we treat Internet gaming, which is currently both underground and offshore. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently spends millions of dollars trying to shut down and prosecute Internet gaming sites, but they remain a casual click away for any interested gambler. Legalizing and regulating online gaming, as Reps. John Campbell (R., Calif.) and Jim McDermott (D., Wash.) have proposed, would generate $42 billion in additional revenue over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Unless you're talking about taxing Bill Bennett, internet gaming taxes will inevitably be regressive.
In my home state of Colorado, and in 15 other states and the District of Columbia, local revenues have increased by millions of dollars since lawmakers decided to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. By reducing the current 100% confiscatory tax on marijuana to more reasonable levels, we can make revenues increase. If we were to nationally legalize, regulate and reduce federal taxes on marijuana, we could receive as much as $2.4 billion in additional revenue annually, according to a 2005 study conducted by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.
Another regressive consumption tax. But any mention of raising the capital gains tax? Of removing the cap on payroll taxes? Of closing the loopholes accessible only to the wealthy?

Perish the thought...

So we know Jared Polis is soaked in the avarice of your typical Republican supply-sider. But here's the thing: in spite of his greed, Polis wears a thin veneer of liberalism. He has taken up the cause of regulating fracking -- OK, he did so because his own property was affected, but still...

He's also an opponent of the PATRIOT Act and is pro-choice. He's one of only seven openly gay members of Congress. He voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He has a 100% rating from NARAL and the ACLU, and a 0% from the NRA and the Christian Coalition. He even gets high marks from the NEA and the AFL-CIO.

And yet Polis says of Diane Ravitch -- whose agenda includes the expansion of social services, desegregation, and a cessation of attacks on teachers unions -- “Can’t think of anybody else who has caused more harm to public schools, except maybe Koch brothers.

Ravitch also specifically calls for charter schools to open their admissions procedures to allow more children with special needs -- children who may not be well-served by traditional public schools. According to the Jared Polis Foundation's website, the two charters that Polis supports are designed to do exactly this:
The New America School seeks to extend the benefits of English literacy and a high school liberal arts education to immigrant young adults and families in Colorado. The educational needs of linguistically diverse youth (ages 16-21) in Colorado often are not met by mainstream public schools.
The Jared Polis Foundation’s ongoing collaboration with Urban Peak successfully opened the first Colorado high school for students who are experiencing the challenges of homelessness or unstable living situations. The Academy of Urban Learning opened its doors in August 2005 as a Denver Public School Charter High School.
You'd think Jared Polis would be praising Ravitch's stance on charter schools. You'd think he'd be saying: "Look at the charters I support; they are doing just what Ravitch wants!" You'd think a "liberal" like Polis would be pleased to see Ravitch fighting back against a school privatization movement that is being funded in large part by the Koch brothers.

What is it about Diane Ravitch that causes Jared Polis to lose his mind? I can only conjecture, but here's my best guess, based on Polis's own words:

Like [the Fordham Foundation's reformy Checker] Finn and [Michael] Petrilli, I am a strong proponent of successful education reform efforts at the state and local level. I’m proud that my home state of Colorado is a leader on this score, and passed SB 191, a bipartisan tenure reform and teacher evaluation bill, in 2010. But not all states are like Colorado, and even in Colorado, the federal dynamic of the Race for the Top competition was critical to passing our reforms. As we compete in an increasingly global economy, elected officials at all levels of government must focus on improving student achievement nationwide, not just in our own backyards.

Chairman Kline’s H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, would effectively remove the federal responsibility for ensuring that states and districts take an active role in turning around the lowest performing schools. This legislation would give states the ability to define down success, and therefore disguise learning gaps and persistently failing schools. While we should provide flexibility for turning around failing schools, we cannot allow districts and states the flexibility to do nothing year after year and consign an even larger segment of an entire generation of kids to poverty. And I fear that under the “Student Success Act,” we would be doing exactly that. [emphasis mine]
I'll leave the many, many problems with the Colorado teacher evaluation system aside for now, and simply point out that Polis is yet another wealthy "reformer" who is trying to make the case that education outcomes lead to poverty, rather than the other way around.

Chapter 10 of Ravitch's new book is all about the ironclad correlation between poverty and educational outcomes. The response of reformy types to this indisputable fact is to blame "bad" schools for creating poverty; they point to the outliers as proof that "all children can learn," and that if we just "stop putting the needs of adults before the needs of children," poverty will magically be swept away.

It's a foolish argument on its face. Outliers don't prove anything about causation, let alone correlation: that's why they're outliers. And the mechanics of how poverty affects student performance are very well known: overwhelmingly, studies show what happens outside the school has the largest influence on student achievement outcomes.

Now, every time someone like me or Ravitch pushes back on this, the inevitable response is that we are using poverty as an "excuse"; that we're not serious about making schools better. Nothing could be further from the truth -- we just want an agenda for school improvement that actually has evidence to back it up. And that would include getting more necessary resources to public schools, expanding social services, and dealing with the country's crushing income inequity.

But I never seem to hear folks like Jared Polis talk about poverty outside of school "reform." And I'm not alone in sensing this:
I’m not trying to erect another straw man – there are many substantive, meaningful discussions going on, and nobody thinks education is the only solution. Yet even as the recession decimates low-income families, the safety net continues to erode. And I sometimes feel like much of what passes for political rhetoric on strategies to fight this poverty – and justify these huge cuts in programs that do so – consists mostly of “we need to fix bad schools,” with only passing reference to any other type of program (see here, here, here, here, here and here). [emphasis mine]
Amen. Again, neither I nor Ravitch nor anyone on the "real reform" side is saying schools can't and shouldn't get better. But I find it more than a little convenient that very wealthy "liberal reformers," like Jared Polis, spend so much time and energy on unproven education schemes while barely mentioning income inequity.

GLBT rights and reproductive rights and the environment and gun rights and civil liberties are part of Jared Polis's agenda; good for him, these are important issues. But so are regressive taxation, manipulation of the markets, destruction of the social safety net, and the disgusting income inequity that has grown worse than at any time in modern history.

Wealthy "liberals" who do not want to talk about inequality have found a useful issue in education "reform." They can affect concern for the poor by pointing their fingers at teachers and their unions, deflecting the blame away from themselves. They can pretend that "college and career readiness" will lift the poor out of a system they themselves have benefitted from: a system that requires winners and losers.

I don't think Jared Polis wants to see anyone suffer. I don't think Jared Polis likes poverty. But I do think Jared Polis would rather not reflect on the possibility that maybe his wealth was acquired at the expense of the working poor and the shrinking middle class, and that maybe we need to reform our government, our economy, and our markets with far more urgency than we need to reform our public school system.

If wealthy, "liberal" reformers would finally start acknowledging this sate of affairs, maybe we could have a significant, substantive conversation about the future of this country -- and that would include education reform. It appears, however, that Jared Polis would rather just call the people who are trying to talk about education at a level beyond platitudes "evil".

How sad for you, Colorado.

Fighting "evil" for Colorado's 2nd.

ADDING: Jon Pelto has even more:
But back in 2008, Polis’ corporate connections were already an important part of his campaign operation.  But for $418,400 he raised through the national ACTBlue fundraising program, his remaining campaign funds came from a number of corporations that he owns, is connected with or willing to “invest” in his desire to become a congressman.  Leading the list of corporate donors was his own company, Jovian P4 ($55,980), SPS Studios ($14,800), Bow River Capital ($13,500), Jovian Holdings, another of his companies ($13,500), Intensity Ventures ($9,200) and Sandler Family Supporting Foundation ($9,200).
Other corporate donors giving to Jared Polis included Panthenon Resources ($6,900), Genesis Health Care ($6,600), Citigroup ($6,100), Laffer Assoc ($6,100), Citizen’s Energy ($5,200), Baraboo Growth ($4,600), Gillemont Sunset Ranch ($4,600), Gotham Capital Investment Partnership ($4,600), HNTB Corp. ($4,600), Jove Partners ($4,600), KSI Corp. ($4,600), MDC Holdings ($4,600), Najafi Companies ($4,600), Palo Alto Investments ($4,600), Pancil ($4,600), PrimeCap Finance ($4,600), Pritzker Group ($4,600), Provide Comerce Inc. ($4,600), Roche Group, ($4,600), Space X ($4,600), Tantum Investment Management ($4,600), Valor Equity Partners ($4,600) and WKM Group ($4,600).
The more you look at Jared Polis’ campaign finance reports and his approach to politics, the more questions rise to the surface.
Real man of the people, dontcha know...