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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tony Bennett and Mike Pence’s CECI

By Doug Martin

Since my first article where I outed the vast amount of taxpayer money Pence is paying staff at his Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) to usurp supt. of public education Glenda Ritz, Mike Claytor, an accountant and Democratic candidate for state auditor, has publically called for an audit of Pence’s new dual education agency, saying  the CECI violates Hoosier government spending rules and should also be transparent and its finances and information should be available to everyone.”

Democratic lawmaker Scott Pelath followed Claytor, telling the Northwest Times of Indiana that Pence and his operatives are "creating this political soap opera so they can just go, 'Oh look how political this is.'  Then they'll use that as a reason to try to strip her [Glenda Ritz] of her powers, and maybe even eliminate the office one day altogether, and just give all the power to the governor."

But what the papers are not detailing is that Pence’s CECI and SBOE are loaded with people who used to work for Tony Bennett, Indiana’s former supt. of education who recently lost his job in Florida after the Associated Press dug up emails that showed his favoritism to a charter school run by mega-millionaire and campaign donor Christel DeHaan.

First off, Kent Hatcher, who was Tony Bennett’s CFO, is raking in a staggering $103,000 working for Pence’s CECI.  In 2012, Hatcher was one of the members overseeing $6.5 billion (see pages 7-8 in PDF) for the IDOE.  A former Indianapolis Star employee, Kent Hatcher was the director of nutrition for Bennett’s IDOE before he became Bennett’s financial expert. 

Although the Indianapolis Star pretends she is an old-fashioned Democrat, Claire Fiddian-Green—Pence’s CECI front-person who attended private schools when young—supposedly voted on the Republican ticket in the 2012 Indiana primary, sources claim, and she slid Tony Bennett’s campaign $250 (page 8 of PDF), around the same time that Walmart’s Alice Walmart donated her couch-change of $200,000 (page 5) and the VERY same day that Indiana State Board of Education member Dan Elsener—who is a Republican and NOT an independent, as he, Pence, and others claim—also handed Bennett $250 (page 5).

Fiddian-Green, moreover, hired Tony Bennett’s IDOE colleague Anne Davis as the director of accountability at the totally unaccountable Indiana Charter School Board when she ran that outfit.  Now Davis directs Pence’s State Board of Education, making a staggering $103,530.  Davis led Bennett’s Special Education department before hopping over to the Individual Learning office. Just months before she left her role at Bennett’s Special Education department, the IDOE decided to send an autistic kid to live at a private school and residential center in Kansas first promoted by Ronald Reagan, a controversial arrangement which “is costing taxpayers an estimated $350,000 per year.”

An Indiana Charter School Board favorite, Michelle Gough McKeown, Tony Bennett’s former attorney, serves as Pence’s CECI’s general counsel, pulling in $100,000 a year.  After maternity leave, McKeown left Glenda Ritz’s IDOE and joined Pence’s CECI. McKeown is now on-hand at state board meetings, dueling it out with Ritz’s lawyer.

After running Mitch Daniels’ Division of Educational Options, Molly Chamberlin–now CECI’s director of assessment and accountability—labored heavily in 2011 on the A-F ALEC/Jeb Bush school grading system which Bennett later exploited to help his charter school campaign donors.

Josh Schlake, Rep. Behning's former young assistant, is making $55,000 with the CECI.   In 2012, he was busy hanging out with Tony Bennett’s PR people at Gridiron Communications (formerly Faulkner Strategies, whose former employee Jo Blacketor used to sit on the Indiana State Board of Ed). 

Dan Clark, who now directs the Indiana Education Roundtable, is also a part of Pence’s new plan to use unelected Bennett operatives to wrestle power from Glenda Ritz.  Not only did Clark—a former ISTA lobbyist—work for Bennett at the DOE, he also funded Bennett’s campaign (page 2 in PDF).  Bennett even used Clark’s hiring as “proof” that the former supt. loved unions. 

Along with the Mind Trust’s David Harris, Clark was a reference for Mind Trust/Teach Plus leader and Marian University graduate, Casey Patterson, when Patterson sat on the board of the Indiana Charter Education Foundation which applied to Claire Fiddian-Green and the Indiana Charter School Board to open East and South Indianapolis Charter Academy charter schools (see page 79 and a few pages above).  Both of Patterson's charter schools were approved by Fiddian-Green, who used to help run the Mind Trust.  Dan Clark must have seen a little of himself in Patterson, for she, too, used to work for the ISTA before she sold out to the school privatizers so she could jam Teach Plus teachers into Indiana charter schools.  

Dan Clark even endorsed the corporate Common Core while leading Daniels and Bennett’s Bill Gates-supported Education Roundtable.  In fact, Clark now sounds more like Todd Huston (whose campaign for state representative was underwritten by his College Board employer and Common Core architect David Coleman) than a former ISTA lobbyist, claiming that “The importance of the common core state standards is that it translates that international and national competitiveness into college- and career-ready indicators” and forges “a link to these jobs of the future.”

Clark is a lobbyist who will say anything people pay him to say, and now he’s getting paid $100,000 in our taxpayer money to say whatever Mike Pence wants.

Former Tony Bennett employees should also know that CECI is hiring an intern, for a mere $9.81 per hour. 

It sure takes dirty work and a lot of taxpayer money to strip power from a supt. of education who received more votes in the election than Mike Pence.



  1. Prince Pence, spends a lot of dollars doesn't make much sense.

  2. Many public schools in Indiana are still operating on their 2006 budget levels. Many, many thanks for shining a light on the inter-connectedness of this public school privatization cabal Doug!

  3. Anonymous3:20 PM

    Pence, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Jeb Bush----all on the same bandwagon, which is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for public education. They are about privatization and profits for their cronies. Glenda Ritz, duly elected, is the voice of reason here. Teachers all over the nation are watching this one. Amazing that the good people of Indiana are not all up in arms about this!
    They'll wake up when mass public school closings start, and teachers start migrating to states that treat their teachers better.

  4. Anonymous5:46 PM

    The real victims of Daniels, Bennett agenda, are our children - especially the rural areas. Thank goodness we have Glenda Ritz looking out for us. Here's a prime example: Our small school may be closed on Monday (Union High School, Dugger, IN). No mention in any past school board minutes posted on their website. A group of Dugger citizens presented a viable plan for the whole school district to stay afloat just last Monday, but whether it fell on deaf ears remains to be seen. The School Board and their cronies are feeding false figures and facts to the media. They even went so far as to post inflammatory pictures of our boiler room, etc. If Dugger Union High School closes, Pleasantville children will have a whopping 1+ hour bus ride EACH WAY - a waste of their time and resources. I thought Indiana children were ENTITLED to education, but they have to sacrifice 2-3 hours every day riding on a school bus? Longer during bad winter weather. Ugly mess here with the Northeast School Corporation. We've provided a survival plan for the School Corporation but we'll have to wait and see if the 5 Board members let us stay. "Closed door" meeting tomorrow to "discuss" it and the vote is on Monday. (Sure glad we have the open door policy.)