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

Friday, December 06, 2013

CECI Email Reveals Charter School Chains: Or What Mike Pence and the Jonas Brothers Have in Common

by Doug Martin

Besides seeking to dethrone Indiana supt. of public education Glenda Ritz from the state board of education, Mike Pence and his Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI)–in the recently leaked email from James Betley to Claire Fiddian-Green—reveal the government/theocratic/corporate school complex's plan to allow Carpe Diem, Rocketship, and Christel House  to “pool or share funds” and set up a public-private entity to quickly hand empty school buildings to charter schools.

By lending a helping hand to networks of Walmart-type for-profit charter schools in Indiana, the governor will carry on the crony capitalism these charter school chains are known for nationwide. Let us examine the big players.


With all the nonsense about parental choice and high-quality schools coming out of the governor’s office, Betley's email proves that what Mike Pence really has up his sleeve is to make it easier for the Tony Bennett-recruited blending learning charter corporation Carpe Diem, among others, to expand in Indiana.  Carpe Diem has political ties in the Hoosier state and even with Pence himself.

Along with the Friedman Foundation’s Robert Enlow and Robert Sommers (a member of the Jeb Bush/Tony Bennett circle), Daryle Doden's family's Ambassador Enterprises got involved in the attempt to land Carpe Diem in Fort Wayne. Daryle gave Pence $10,000 for his campaign for governor. 

Daryle’s brother Eric—who sends his kids to a Christian school where his wife is a board member—heads the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, where he rakes in $149,000 yearly, as Karen Francisco has discovered.  A Christian Hillsdale College grad, Doden used to work for Ambassador Enterprises.

Along with Robert Enlow, Jason Bearce helps run Carpe Diem in Indianapolis.  Bearce is the associate commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, run by queen school privatizer Teresa Lubbers, whose campaign was funded by Enlow.  For his role at the ICHE, Bearce is paid almost $94,000 annually.

Carpe Diem didn’t invade Fort Wayne (just yet), but close to the same board members manage the group’s school in Indianapolis.

Carpe Diem fits perfectly the Pence/CECI school privatization agenda: one corporate board to oversee dozens of for-profit charter schools in the state.


Mike Pence and CECI are praying for a Jonas Brothers/Bill Gates/Silicon Valley for-profit charter school on every block in Indiana, too, since the leaked email discussion highlights Rocketship, another blended learning charter chain.  Given that Bill Gates funds Indiana’s Education Roundtable, this is not surprising.

As Daily Censored's Adam Bessie has noted, Rocketship’s national board has Bill Gates written all over it. Besides Don Shalvey, deputy director for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s US Program Education Initiative, Rocketship’s leadership includes Jonathan Chadwick from Microsoft’s Skype and Menlo VenturesShawn Carolan, managing director of the company which invests in Microsoft’s Hotmail.

Rocketship also has tech business moguls from Silicon Valley that are close to Microsoft, including Microsoft board of directors member and Netflex CEO Reed Hastings, whose online company DreamBox Learning profits from selling its programs to Rocketship.

Although it’s not possible to determine how much Rocketship pays DreamBox, John Danner, in an advertisement for DreamBox says that there are tremendous cost savings associated with the Learning Lab—about half a million dollars a year—be­cause students are coached by community members rather than teachers, allowing us to run our schools with fewer teachers (see p 4 in PDF)."

No one wants Rocketship around.  Period.  Parents in Milwaukee won’t enroll their kids in a for-profit school that chains their children to computers, ignores the arts, and hires unqualified teachers. A poverty-stricken community in San Jose is so tired of being prey to Rocketship it has set up a website to stop the school chain’s expansion.  The San Jose Unified School District sued Rocketship a few backs back, too.

But Rocketship has been busy marketing to the teen-crowd.  At the grand opening of a Santa Clara Microsoft school, Rocketship used “Joe Montana, one of the Jonas Brothers, and [a] special performance by rock band the Black Keys” to raise funding for more corporate schools.


And yes, the leaked Pence/CECI memo mentions none other than Christal DeHaan’s Christel House as a possible outfit to "network" across the state.  The fact that Tony Bennett changed the grade of DeHaan’s charter school because she was a campaign donor doesn’t faze Pence in the least. 

When DeHaan broke ground for high school students a few years back, naming that section of the charter school after a former Eli Lilly exec., Mitch Daniels (wanting to keep the Indiana GOP campaign funds rolling), Indy Mayor Greg Ballard, and Ambassador Randall Tobias, were there for the photo-op.

Tobias, then Eli Lilly’s chairman emeritus, is best known for his role in George W. Bush’s administration promoting a religious right anti-AIDS and anti-prostitution public policy while he himself was sleeping with prostitutes.  Tobias, for the charter school, went a step further, chairing with DeHaan a $4 million “capital campaign” to raise corporate money for the school.

The school did draw in private investors for a couple of years after Tobias’ “capital campaign,” but the money they gave is chump-change compared to the millions taxpayers are giving.  The mega-millionaire’s charter school got $6 million recently for just one year.  This money isn’t going to paying janitors, since the school outsources those jobs.

The corporatists who donated to the Christel House Academy are the regular suspects: Eli Lilly (deep into the assault on students, teachers, and public schools in Indiana), JP Morgan (making interest on charter school loans in the Hoosier state), Klipsch Audio Technologies (owned by Betsy DeVos’ front man Fred Klipsch),  banks, banks, and more banks, and more corporations.

Finally, as I detailed when the grading scandal broke, the Christel House Academy has spent over $70,000 the last few years travelling.  For the 2009 calendar year, the school spent $12,000 on travel expenses (see page 10). In the 2010 calendar year, the Christel House Academy wasted another $20,500 on travel (see page 10). Even as the Christel House Academy paid out $15,000 on advertising for the 2011 calendar year, it dished out a staggering $40,000 on travel alone (see page 10 in PDF).  No details are given in tax records as to where this travel took place, and it is unclear if this money is coming only from taxpayers or from school fees or other revenue.

We will probably never know.  For the attorney general and the public access counselor in Indiana are too busy ruling against Glenda Ritz to do their jobs and give the people of Indiana some real answers for a change.


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