“REFORM” by any Other Name Would Still Stink (with apologies to William Shakespeare)

Ted Siedle presented the results of his forensic analysis of the Employees Retirement System of RI (ERSRI) real estate investments, a talk hosted by the RI Retired Teachers Association (RIRTA), on October 12, 2016. The title of the report is “Beyond Bad: A Generation of Mismanagement of Employee Retirement System of RI Real Estate.”

Here is the full report.

(See the text of Seidle’s speech provided by golocalprov  here )

Mr.  Siedle made the point that Wall Street has gone after public pension funds because they were the last vast pot of money available. While I respect Mr. Siedle tremendously for his acumen in investigating and exposing the disaster that has been labeled pension “reform” in RI (and which has brought high praise from across the country to Gina Raimondo), the public needs to become aware that the other vast pot of money that Wall Street hedge funders are salivating over is public education. They have been nurturing their plan for years by investing in charter schools, but the next frontier will be even more disastrous to public school children, their families, and American society. This plan involves a morphing of our cherished institution of public education for all children (flawed though it has been) into a dog-eat-dog dystopia, made possible by the limitless funneling of children’s educationally derived data to edupreneurs via digital learning. Governor Raimondo is as implicated in this education “reform” as she was in the pension “reform.”

First, some background on Mr. Seidle’s presentation. RIRTA has been the only group with the courage and perseverance to continue to search for the truth about Gina Raimondo’s changes to the Employees Retirement System of RI (ERSRI) while she was state Treasurer. After the recent compromise pension settlement, the RI Public Employees’ Retiree Coalition (RIPERC) (composed of AFSCME Council 94/Retiree Chapter, RI AFT/R, NEARI/Retired, RI Association of Retired Principals, and RI Laborers’ Retiree Council, as well as RIRTA), which had brought the lawsuit, told RIRTA officials that they were on their own if they chose to pursue the matter.

Through two kickstarter crowdfunding efforts, RIRTA was able to hire Ted Siedle, a former SEC lawyer and a contributor to Forbes, to investigate the pension reform as engineered by Raimondo and now managed by Treasurer Seth Magaziner. (Siedle’s  first report in June, 2015 was entitled Double Trouble: Wall Street Secrecy Conceals Preventable Pension Losses in Rhode Island. See here.

When Mr. Siedle requested key documents from Magaziner for his current forensic analysis of the real estate investments, he was informed that RIRTA would have to pay the treasurer’s office $10,000 in order to get them. Though this was a hardship for the group, RIRTA managed to come up with the $10,000 that Magaziner demanded in order to provide the group with key prospectuses and other documents. Magaziner then failed to turn over most of the documents requested, and refused to give RIRTA a full refund. (He returned $2,657.50.) In addition, Magaziner claimed that he had disclosed all the fees paid to managers “that he was aware of.”

According to Mr. Siedle, public record laws have been eviscerated in the last 5 years, so the public cannot find out the specifics on the investments. This secrecy is a serious impediment to addressing the problems. Currently the pensioners have NO VOICE in the investing done by the ERSRI. Mr. Siedle emphasized that this needs to change.

RIRTA had also reached out to Attorney General Kilmartin, but he informed them that he did not have the resources to pursue an investigation.

Siedle stated that what happened with the pension “reform” was a DELIBERATE misuse of pension assets, which resulted in a transfer of wealth from pensioners to Wall Street. There has been an exchange of money from Wall Street to political donations and back to Wall Street. Siedle claims that pension reform was actually a RUSE that Raimondo used to further her personal political ambitions. (Still, the same thing is going on across the country, and some labor leaders are embedded with the looter class.)

He concluded from both of his forensic investigations that POLITICS is driving the pension investments, not the pension performance/results. Otherwise how could the 27 years of deplorable results with the real estate investments have continued without a peep if it wasn’t benefitting someone? Where was the due diligence?

Siedle ended his talk with Why we need to go the distance, and What we need to do. Among his suggestions were these, which I believe also apply to what needs to happen regarding education “reform”:

  1. Expose the harm/lies
  2. Discredit their experts
  3. Spread the word of the massive losses, and that they will grow if nothing is done

So what are some of the lies, and where is the harm of the corporate education “reform” movement that Governor Raimondo is fostering here in RI?

One of the major education initiatives that Raimondo has championed this year is Computer Science in all schools at all grade levels (Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI)), or Everybody Must Do Code. This is supposedly for the purpose of developing computer programmers to fill high-paying jobs in the field that are not being filled due to lack of skilled job seekers. As Andrew Stewart reported in his post “Rethinking Computer Science in RI,”

“One of this reporter’s sources that is currently in the Department of Computer Science and Statistics at University of Rhode Island pointed out that programming jobs are expected to shrink by 8% in the next few years, including in terms of salary. This means that Raimondo could in fact be creating an influx of laborers that would cheapen costs of employing the labor pool, not giving these students a competitive edge in high-paying tech jobs as much as insuring they can only get low wages for their special skill set. …

“However, there is a further dark comedy to this issue. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is a longtime education deform advocate and was behind the implementation of Common Core. The state relies on Microsoft for a good deal of computing needs, so much so that ‘[o]n Wednesday [September 28], Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Fred Humphries will join Raimondo during a coding class at Central Falls High School’, according to a story by Linda Borg in the ProJo. It is a case of the state quite literally rewarding the very people behind the union busting in public education!  [Common Core/PARCC/low test scores/schools are failing/unions are the problem/Charter schools are the answer]

Find Stewart’s post here.

Also see here

The Microsoft connection pops up again in this article about GE Digital. See here.

“At a meeting Tuesday with 7 of 12 new GE Digital employees, Governor Raimondo sought their advice, explored what type of schooling had prepared them for jobs here as the company creates its new information technology center and asked if they’ll volunteer to teach computer science in the public schools.

“That last request would help with Raimondo’s initiative to prepare more young people for the kinds of jobs GE Digital offers, which are expected to pay, on average, more than $100,000. To get computer science into all K-12 public classrooms, Raimondo said she’s relying in large part on volunteers, beginning with Microsoft and including many from the Lifespan hospital system.” (emphasis added)

The article goes on to say that “Lindsey Curran, who just moved from Boston to Providence for her new job as a user interface engineer, told Raimondo about her undergraduate work in English and film but said a 12-week boot camp she took in Boston to learn web development prepared her to land the GE Digital job.” From this Raimondo infers that all children starting in kindergarten need to take computer science?? How about a well-rounded education? BTW, who can predict the type of employment that will be available 12 years from now when these 5 year olds graduate from high school (if there will even be such a thing as high school by then.) Using “volunteers” is a low blow. This young woman would be about as effective as a Teach for America recruit. Why have actual computer science teachers been totally disregarded?

On another education front, Governor Raimondo “says she’s open to using the SAT as a graduation requirement for high school students.

“The Democratic governor tells WPRI-TV the college admissions exam is better than it used to be because it’s aligned to Common Core standards.” See here.

I had my suspicions about the new SAT from the beginning, because David Coleman, the mastermind of the (to my mind) deeply flawed ELA Common Core standards had not only taken charge of the College Board, but also determined to align the SAT to the (to my mind) deeply flawed ELA and math Common Core standards. Now, if Manuel Alfaro, former executive director of assessment design and development at the College Board, is to be believed, it seems that the new SAT is itself deeply flawed. I understand that many believe that replacing the PARCC with the PSAT/SAT for high school students would be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) from the observations from the former executive director, as reported in this post by Mercedes Schneider, an impeccable education blogger and author: See her full post here.

“On an earlier post I stated that a large number of items on operational SAT forms were extensively revised or rewritten during form construction and review. On a recent post, I asked:

  • Who is reviewing these items? Surely, Content Advisory Committees would have expressed concerns about item quality to College Board executives.

“As you might imagine, members of the Content Advisory Committee raised issues and concerns frequently and forcefully. Some members of the committee sent emails to David Coleman; others expressed their concerns during face-to-face meetings; and others sent emails to the leadership of the Assessment Design and Development group.

“Of the many concerns raised by the Content Advisory Committee, here are the top three:

“Item Quality: Committee members were very concerned with the quality of the items the College Board brought to committee meetings for review. Their biggest concern was the large number of items that were mathematically flawed; items that did not have correct answers; and items that did not have accurate or realistic contexts. Some members even went as far as stating that they had never seen so many seriously flawed items.

“Development Schedule: Committee members felt that schedules did not allow them enough time to perform thorough reviews. Given the large number of items they had to review (and the poor quality of the items), they needed more time to provide meaningful comments and input.

“Development Process: Committee members felt that the process used to develop the items was inadequate. They felt that the process lacked the rigor required to produce the high quality items necessary for item data to be useful.


“Given the Content Advisory Committee’s critical feedback about the items they reviewed in preparation for, and during, meetings with the College Board, we can infer that the pretest item pool was of poor quality, at best. The committee and College Board staff/contractors worked hard to improve the items before they were operationally administered to students. I must give credit where credit is due: they did their best.

“How, then, did so many flawed items end up in the pretest item pool? If the committee and College Board staff/contractors did their best to fix the items, why did the College Board need to include extensively revised items on operational SAT forms?

“The reason was—concerned students, parents, and educators—that the Content Advisory Committee reviewed the items, for the first time, after operational SAT forms were constructed.

“To clarify my last sentence: The Content Advisory Committee reviewed the items for the first time, not before they were pretested, but after the items were assembled into operational SAT forms.”
If these allegations are true, it should be clear that the new SAT is a disaster and cannot possibly offer valid information to students, families, schools, and colleges. Further, many colleges have abandoned demanding SAT/ACT scores from prospective students. So why is our Governor contemplating the use of the SAT as a graduation requirement?

And then there is the connection of First Gentleman Andy Moffit to corporate education reform, via TFA and McKinsey. Please see my previous blog post for more on this here

The hedge funders and edupreneurs, birds of a feather with Raimondo/Moffit, envision a future of all-digital-all-the-time for the children of the masses, while their own children enjoy what should be a free, appropriate education for all, consisting of small classes, the arts, science labs, and field trips, guided by human/humane teachers. For a fuller understanding of this dystopian future, please see this post (n.b. Bristol Warren Regional School District is participating in the League of Innovative Schools.)

The shift to digital learning that Governor Raimondo, along with Commissioner Wagner and RIDE (and the RI Strategic Plan for Public Education 2015-2020), are pushing is essentially an educational experiment, with virtually no actual research to recommend it. Not only that, but there has been mounting evidence that too much screen time is harmful to children, especially young children—educationally, physically, neurologically, emotionally, and behaviorally. An introduction to the potential harm of WiFi radiation from these hand-held devices can be found here

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychotherapist and addictions specialist, has published articles here and here and written the book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids—and How to Break the Trance. Why would those with power and influence push such a drastic change in how education is provided to all RI public school children without investigating the potential harm to those children first?

Are POLITICS, ambition, and greed driving the education “reform” decisions as they apparently did for the pension “reform?” Who is accountable for the actual performance/results of these policies–not according to flawed data from flawed tests, but as they are experienced by the vulnerable children caught in the system?

 

 

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