"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Memphis Ready to Turn Over $23 Million Head Start Budget to Corporate Cronies at Porter-Leath

We posted on September 30 about Shelby County Mayor, Mark Luttrell, and his cozy relations with fellow corporate pol, Mark Threlkeld, who presides over the Board of Trustees of Porter-Leath, a non-profit corporation that is building an empire on backs of young victims of the Zero Tolerance Era.

The former Orphan Asylum
Porter-Leath's history goes back to the 19th Century, when it served as home of last resort for children of the destitute.  Today it is run by President Sean Lee, who lives across the border in a very white and leafy section of Mississippi.

Lee seems particularly qualified by corporate standards to take on the new duties of running an early childhood education program such as Head Start.  He has a Bachelors in Business, and his other job before coming to Porter-Leath was in HR at Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

But of course we know he will have lots of help from the Gates Foundation if Mayor Luttrell gets his way, when Porter-Heath becomes the recipient of the $23 million annual stipend from the Feds for Head Start, as well as any portion of a planned sales tax increase on food that is not swallowed up to lower property taxes for prosperous friends and neighbors of the Luttrells and the Threlkelds. Plus generous tax-shelter dollars from philanthrocapitalists who are eager to begin instilling compliance at a very early age in the black kids of Memphis.

And, too, there will be plenty of help to divvy up the cash from the State's corporate welfare agency, the Achievement School District, which has already established a "partnership" with Porter-Leath:

Porter-Leath Partners with ASD to Provide High Quality Pre-K
Posted on: Friday, September 06, 2013

Porter-Leath has launched a partnership with four Achievement School District Schools, one Aspire school and a second KIPP: Collegiate Memphis Elementary school, to provide high quality pre-kindergarten for over 200 children. The schools in the new partnership include:

  • Frayser Elementary
  • Corning Elementary
  • Whitney Elementary
  • Cornerstone Preparatory School 
  • Hanley Elementary (Aspire)
  • Shannon Elementary (KIPP)

The partnership follows recent Porter-Leath Preschool expansion efforts. Porter-Leath's partnership with KIPP began last school year on their Henry campus and the agency began operating Frayser Head Start and Child Development Center in January 2013. 

President Sean Lee already has help from once-upon-a-time businessman, Mike Warr, whose salary of $128,000 actually exceeds that of Lee at $112,000.  After Warr bought and sold the failing Monday's Child clothing outfit, he became Head of Development at Porter-Leath, and he has been trying to "close" on Head Start since 2008, when he barely missed:
Biggest missed opportunity: Unable to close on a Shelby County Head Start contract in 2008
The story has been unreported by the Commercial-Appeal until now.  Missing is any mention of what happens to public early childhood teachers if the Luttrell-Threlkeld-Barbic plan goes through:

The County Commission failed to approve a resolution on Monday that urged the county administration to apply for a $23 million federal grant to continue operating the county’s Head Start program. 
The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Steve Mulroy, was a request and would not have been binding. 
The commission also passed a resolution on Sept. 23 that urged the Shelby County Board of Education to take over the Head Start Program. According to the federal government website, Head Start “promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told commissioners that officials with non-profit Porter-Leath have said they planned to apply for the grant and that school officials have also indicated that Head Start would be a good fit for the system. 
Unless something changes before the Oct. 22 application deadline, there are no plans for the county to reapply, Luttrell said. 
Head Start began under President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s. A troubled local Head Start was taken over by the county 10 years ago. It now serves about 3,200 children.
Luttrell has said previously that an outside entity would be able to secure other funding for the program and be able to possibly double the number of students enrolled. 
The resolution need at least seven votes to pass and failed in a 6-5 vote.
Update 4 pm October 15:

Bill Dries at the Daily News reports that Shelby County Schools will make a bid on Head Start. It matters not to the 500 employees of Shelby County, however, who now work in Head Start.  Their jobs will be gone if either entity wins the $23 million to privatize Head Start in Memphis.

. . . . Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson told school board members Monday, Oct. 14, he and his staff will apply for the federal funding by the Oct. 22 deadline.

“He envisions that the district would need approximately four additional employees that would work for the district,” said school board chairmanKevin Woods. “Unlike the Shelby County government system, which had approximately 500 employees operating its program, we would contract with early childhood providers to run those centers.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Monday that Porter-Leath, a Memphis-based children’s and family services provider, will also make a bid for the Head Start contract now operated by county government. 
Luttrell also said Monday he could foresee backing both applications once they are completed and he reviews them on their way to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
County Commissioner, Terry Roland, who is the poster boy for anger mismanagement in county government, had this to say:
“There is a layer of bureaucracy that has to be funded with local government,” said commissioner Terry Roland. “The quicker we get this out of the county’s hands, the better off the children will be.”
Yes, indeed.  Get that $23 million into the hands of those corporate welfare leeches who are lined up for blood.  That's what the poor children of Shelby County represent.

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