While some United Way branches across the Hoosier state are investing in early learning initiatives like Success by Six, the United Way of Central Indiana, now run by former Mitch Daniels, Dennis Bakke, and Bart Peterson operative Ann Murtlow, is planning on handing out cash to charter schools in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion ,and Morgan counties. In a press release to Inside Indiana Business and other outlets, United Way of Central Indiana officials write that “Grants for one to three years can range from $50,000 to $750,000” and will target poverty-stricken schools not doing well on standardized tests.
Even though the United Way of Central Indiana says it plans to also set aside money for traditional public schools, the history of its new CEO raises serious questions. First off, Ann Murtlow has worked with the fake liberals at the Mind Trust who claim they are out to benefit poor kids and teachers as they connive to funnel money to blended learning schools run by their friends like Earl Martin Phalen (who was just rewarded the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation Award) and replace real teachers with boot-camp trained corporate teachers at Teach for America and the New Teachers Project. Among other things, the Mind Trust plan is actually the pseudo-liberal Center for American Progress and rightwing Fordham Foundation plan: eliminate local school boards so that mayors can replace them with people who will hand more taxpayer money to wealthy charter school operators.
Murtlow used to be the senior vice chair of the Mind Trust, and the United Way of Central Indiana was funding the school privatizing group even before Murtlow was hired to run it. From 2011 to 2012, the United Way of Central Indiana handed $25,000 to the Mind Trust (page 111 in PDF) and another $25,000 (page 46 in PDF) from 2010-2011. This is sure to escalate now that Murtlow is in charge.
But United Way of Central Indiana’s CEO Ann Murtlow has ties to other shady characters in the Indiana corporate school complex, specifically Mitch Daniels and Dennis Bakke. Murtlow is a former bigwig at the Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO) and previously worked as an AES Corporation liaison at the same time Mitch Daniels was an IPALCO board member, then joined IPALCO in 2002.
AES, IPALCO, Mitch Daniels, and Dennis Bakke—who now steals taxpayer money through his for-profit charter school outfit Imagine Schools—were up to serious monkey business a few years back. As Ifirst noted in the Indianapolis Star in November 2010 and later at Bloomington’s Common Errant, in 2001 Mitch Daniels was on the board of the Indianapolis Power and Light Company, which merged with Bakke’s then-company AES, a monster utility corporation. Daniels and others on the IPALCO board dumped their own stock before the merger took place. Afterwards, IPALCO stockholders and workers lost millions, including their 401k packages. In fact, as a result of this merger, both Daniels and Bakke were sued for insider trading together in 2003. While IPALCO board members and officials went home, “according to the lawsuit filings, with an estimated $43.6 million in profits and golden-parachute benefits,” retirees and IPALCO workers lost $95 million, says a Republican lawyer who represented the workers and shareholders in an insider trading lawsuit against Daniels, Bakke, and others in 2003. Dan Coats, now an Indiana U.S. senator, and Barry Sharp, who works for Bakke’s Imagine Schools, were also involved. No criminal charges were ever filed, and the courts, quite conveniently, dismissed the civil lawsuits.
Dennis Bakke is also the billionaire member of the Fellowship, better known as the Family, a Christian Right biblical capitalism secretive group in DC. His Imagine Schools is one of the most corrupt for-profit charter school outfits in the nation and in Indiana, known for its rent schemes which funnel millions to him and leave kids without textbooks. Bakke’s outfit runs the Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy West in Murtlow’s United Way of Central Indiana’s backyard. The United Way of Central Indiana, headquartered in Indianapolis, has plenty of shady for-profit charter schools in the city to choose from, many of them failing and not being held to accountability, and Imagine Schools is a perfect candidate for a bailout.
Dennis Bakke knows a lot about government bailouts. Besides getting $11 million from Obama’s Recovery Act (to supposedly put people back to work after the Dennis Bakke’s of the world crashed the economy), Bakke’s Imagine Schools was allowed to keep millions in Indiana taxpayer money when Ball State (after years of playing dumb so they could get the sponsorship fee) closed Imagine’s Fort Wayne school. To solve that problem and rake in a few more millions, Bakke and crew merged with the Horizon Christian Academy and will now collect state money through vouchers. In fact, its $3.6 million charter school taxpayer loans were forgiven by the state and details of the merger with the private Christian school were not released to the public.
Some of the United Way of Central Indiana’s money may indeed go to worthy traditional schools for well-needed programs, but Murtlow’s history with those out to privatize Indiana schools tells me something else is going to happen here and it’s not going to be pretty. Neither does its board of directors which includes Mitch Daniels sister, Deborah J. and a whole slew of school privatizers and behind-the-scene players: hedge fund Democrat for Education reform lawmaker Mary Ann Sullivan, Mind Trust donor Beverley Pitts, Tindley charter school's John Neighbors, IPS corporate school board member Sam Odle, and Mark Miles. Miles, if we remember, was crafting the corporate school overhaul in Indiana before even Tony Bennett knew what was going on. Speaking of hedge funds, the United Way of Central Indiana has $5.2 million invested in them (see page 27 in PDF). In fact, if you turn to page 29 of the group’s tax forms, you see these hedge funds are operated in Central America and the Caribbean. And let’s not forget this board gave $9,000 to the Mitch Daniels-founded Oaks Academy private school (see page 145 in PDF) between 2011 and 2012 and $10,000 in (page 50 in PDF) from 2010 to 2011.