Sunday, March 25, 2012

FOLLOW THE VOUCHER MONEY: Students First PAC

UPDATE 08/23/12


Posted: Thu, Aug. 23, 2012, 3:01 AM
Joe Watkins: Concerns over school choice advocate taking charge of Chester's struggling schools
BY WILL BUNCH Philadelphia Daily News Staff Writer
IT MIGHT HAVE once seemed unthinkable: Handing the keys to a large, troubled public-school district over to a high-profile advocate for increasing privatization, including vouchers and for-profit private schools.  But activists said that last Friday's surprise announcement that Gov. Corbett had named the Rev. Joe Watkins - an MSNBC pundit who headed the Students First PAC, the pro-voucher group that's dumped millions of campaign dollars on Corbett and other pols - as chief recovery officer to run the Chester Upland schools in Delaware County marks a tipping point.

Joe Watkins: What Will Happen to Chester Upland?

Diane Ravitch’s Blog August 21, 2012
Sometimes something happens that is so astonishing, so breathtaking, and simultaneously so disturbing that I don’t know how to characterize it.

“Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse”
Joe Watkins: Taking the Public out of Public Education
Yinzercation Blog — AUGUST 22, 2012
Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis just picked Joe Watkins to be the Chief Recovery Officer (CRO) for the struggling school district in Chester Uplands. Under new laws passed with the budget this summer, the state can now appoint a CRO to develop a “financial recovery plan” for districts like Chester Upland over in Eastern PA and Duquesne, right here in the heart of Yinzer Nation.
The CRO has enormous power to close schools and convert them to charters, to cancel contracts with vendors, and to renegotiate teachers’ contracts. He can even force local school boards to raise property taxes. And if school board members don’t go along with the plan, the state actually now has the ability to prevent individuals from resigning their posts! 


UPDATE 08/21/12

"It would have been hard to come up with a nominee who is more publicly associated with the effort to undermine public education…"

Controversial choice to turn Chester Upland schools around

WHYY Newsworks By Dave Davies August 20, 2012
The man chosen to fix the Chester Upland School District's troubled finances is proving to be controversial from the start.
State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis picked Joe Watkins as chief recovery officer for the troubled school system. Watkins is a Philadelphia minister and former investment manager who heads a political action committee that advocates for school choice initiatives such as vouchers and charter schools.
State Sen. Daylin Leach, who sits on the education committee, said Watkins is an ideologue who is ill-suited to rebuilding a strong public school system.
"It would have been hard to come up with a nominee who is more publicly associated with the effort to undermine public education," said Leach, D-Montgomery.

School Choice Group's Chairman Takes Over Pa. Recovery District

 Andrew Ujifusa  
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis has named Joe Watkins, the chairman of Students First PA, a pro-school-choice advocacy group, as chief recovery officer of a school district that last week was designated as in "financial recovery," the state education department said in an Aug. 17 statement.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer story highlights, Watkins will have broad authority to remake the Chester Upland district in a variety of ways. He has the power to convert traditional public schools into charters, close schools, and demand a new teachers' contract. Perhaps not surprisingly, a Chester Upland school board member told the Inquirer that the decision to appoint Watkins was "shocking" because she viewed Watkins as not "objective."

On Joe Watkins: The Chester Upland “recovery” is not about improving public education, but rather closing schools, cutting staff and converting to charter schools.
Commentary on the appointment of Joe Watkins as Recovery Officer for Chester Upland School District
Keystone State Education Coalition by Lawrence Feinberg August 21, 2012
Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent any organization that I may be affiliated with.
Betsy_DeVos’s astroturf group, American Federation for Children has contributed over $2.5 million to the Students First PA PAC over the past three years to fund the privatization of Pennsylvania’s public schools.  Mr. Watkins has served as Chairman of that PAC, which has received the bulk of it’s funding from main line options traders Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeffrey Yass.  These four mega-millionaires are setting education policy in Pennsylvania and their agenda does not include democratically run public schools that are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.

Mr. Watkins resume does not show any experience whatsoever with public school finance, but then why would it?  The “recovery” is not about improving public education, but rather closing schools, cutting staff and converting to charter schools.  Here is a link to the American Federation for Children’s website announcing Mr. Watkins appointment.

In 2011, nearly 45 percent of Chester Upland’s students attended charter schools.  Academic performance at the charters is mixed; some of Chester Upland’s regular public schools perform better, some perform worse.  The Chester Community Charter, the state’s largest, is managed by a company owned by Vahan Gureghian, Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.  It is also on the short list of schools being investigated for alleged cheating on the state’s PSSA exams.

Middle-class American students who attend well-funded public schools rank at the top of the world on international tests.  After 20 years there is no clear evidence demonstrating that charters or vouchers are systematically more effective than traditional public schools in improving student performance for students in high-poverty schools.  What is clear is that charters can be extremely lucrative for owners and management companies.


UPDATE: 08/20/12


Return on investment:  Joe Watkins, Chairman of Students First Voucher PAC that contributed millions to PA political candidates appointed recovery officer for Chester Upland SD

PA Department of Education Press Release: 08/17/2012 
Education Secretary Names Chief Recovery Officer for Chester Upland School District 
Harrisburg – Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis today named Joe Watkins as chief recovery officer of the Chester Upland School District, Delaware County.

Posted: Sat, Aug. 18, 2012, 3:01 AM
Political action committee head named to guide Chester Upland's recovery
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
Joe Watkins, head of a political action committee that supports school choice initiatives, former managing director in an asset management firm, and a Philadelphia minister, has been appointed by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis to guide the financial recovery of the struggling Chester Upland School District.

School choice advocate, GOP analyst named financial recovery officer for Chester Upland

Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012
By JOHN KOPP jkopp@delcotimes.com; @DT_JohnKopp
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis appointed Joe Watkins the chief financial recovery officer of the Chester Upland School District on Friday.
Tomalis had placed Chester Upland in financial recovery status Tuesday, which calls for a state-appointed recovery officer to develop a recovery plan for the district.
Watkins is the pastor of Christ Evangelical Church in Philadelphia and a Republican political analyst for MSNBC.
Watkins also is both a registered lobbyist and the chairman for Students First, an advocacy group supporting “comprehensive school choice.” Students First donated thousands of dollars to the campaign of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, according to published reports. Watkins said he will be resigning from his positions at Students First.




Here are prior Keystone State Education Coalition postings on the Students First PAC money trail:


UPDATE: 04/24/12
WIKIPEDIA: “Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to another political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.” 
Here’s a classic example; make sure to check out the chart in the link below……

Right-Wing, Anti-Public Education Group Funds Gay, Muslim Democrat as Stealth Candidate in PA House District

Alternet Posted by racheltabachnick  at 9:14 am April 23, 2012
How far is the school privatization juggernaut willing to go to disguise and promote their agenda?  The Betsy DeVos-led American Federation for Children, through its PA affiliate Students First and its funding recipients, is financing the campaign of Fatimah Muhammad. She is an openly gay, African American, Muslim candidate for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary in the 188th District.
Campaign finance reports show that Students First and its grantees and employees have provided $62,639 dollars of Fatimah Muhammad’s total receipts of $76,030 dollars.  See the chart below. 

Photobucket





 FOLLOW THE VOUCHER MONEY:
Students First PAC from 3/6/12 through 4/9/12

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Campaign Finance Report filed by Students First PAC
Second Friday Pre-Primary filing covering receipts and expenditures from 3/6/12 through 4/9/12

A total of $250,000 was received during the reporting period from Betsy Devos’ American Federation for Children 3/27/12.  Contributions totaling just over $528K were recorded during the period.




Students First PAC Contributions


 From 3/6/2012 To 4/9/2012





Recipient
Date
Amount
Friends of Bill Adolph
3/7/2012
$5,000.00
Committee to Elect Ryan Aument
3/7/2012
$500.00
People to Elect Matt Baker
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect Bear
3/7/2012
$500.00
Kerry Benninghoff  for State Representative
3/7/2012
$500.00
Stephen Bloom for the 199th Committee
3/7/2012
$500.00
People to Elect Michelle Brooks
3/7/2012
$500.00
Rosemary Brown for State rep
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Michelle Brownlee
3/7/2012
$500.00
Citizens for Paul Clymer
3/7/2012
$1,000.00
Friends of Jim Cox
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Re-Elect Angel Cruz
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Bryan Cutler
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Gordon Denlinger
3/7/2012
$500.00
DePasquale for Pennsylvania
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Maria Donatucci
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of George Dunbar
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect Joe Emrick
3/7/2012
$2,000.00
Friends of Eli Evankovich
3/7/2012
$1,000.00
Friends of Garth Everett
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Frank Farry
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Matt Gabler
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Jaret Gibbons
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Mark Gillen
3/7/2012
$500.00
Team Gillespie
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Gringrich for State House
3/7/2012
$250.00
Robert Godshall for Legistature
3/7/2012
$250.00
Citizens for Grove
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Joe Hackett
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Marcia Hahn
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect Julie Harhart
3/7/2012
$750.00
Friends of Kate Harper
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Gene Yaw for Senate
3/7/2012
$10,000.00
Harris for State Representative
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Re-Elect Doyle Heffley
3/7/2012
$2,000.00
Susan Helm for Senate House
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Tim Hennessey
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Dave Hicknell
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Warren Kampf
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect Rob Kauffman
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Fred Keller
3/7/2012
$375.00
Committee to Elect Bill Keller
3/7/2012
$1,000.00
Killions Victory Committee
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Thaddeus Kirkland
3/7/2012
$2,500.00
I'm for Knowles Committee
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Tim Krieger
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of John Lawrence
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect John Maher
3/7/2012
$500.00
Committee to Re-Elect State Rep Sandra Major
3/7/2012
$2,500.00
Committee to Elect David M Maloney
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Ron Marsico Committee
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Kurt Masser
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Daryl Metcalfe
3/7/2012
$500.00
Committee to Elect State Rep Carl Metzgar
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Nick Miccarelli
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Nicolas Micozzie
3/7/2012
$500.00
Committee to Elect Dave Millard
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Dan Moul
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Gerald Mullery
3/7/2012
$750.00
Friends of Thomas Murt
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Mark Musitio
3/7/2012
$500.00
Friends of Donna Oberlander
3/7/2012
$250.00
Patriots for Perry
3/7/2012
$5,000.00
Friends of Scott Petri
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Tina Pickett
3/7/2012
$250.00
People for Jeff Pyle
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect Tom Quigley
3/7/2012
$1,500.00
Friends of Marguerite Quinn
3/7/2012
$500.00
Kathy Raap for Representative
3/7/2012
$500.00
Committee to Elect Brad Roae
3/7/2012
$250.00
Committee to elect Todd Rock
3/7/2012
$250.00
Committee to Elect Chris Ross
3/7/2012
$1,000.00
Friends of Rick Saccone
3/7/2012
$4,000.00
Citizens for Stan Saylor
3/7/2012
$500.00
Committee to Elect Marion Scavello
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Justin M Simmons
3/7/2012
$2,000.00
Committee to Elect Curt Sonney
3/7/2012
$250.00
Friends of Todd Stephens, Inc.
3/7/2012
$2,000.00
Friends of Dick Stevenson
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Taxpayers for Rosemarie Swanger
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Committee to Elect John Taylor
3/7/2012
$1,500.00
Michael Tobash for a better 125th
3/7/2012
$1,500.00
Friends of Marcy Toepol
3/7/2012
$1,250.00
Friends of Dan Truitt
3/7/2012
$2,000.00
Friends of Dave Kralle
3/7/2012
$7,500.00
Committee to Elect Ernest G Merisotis
3/7/2012
$7,500.00
Smucker for Senate
3/7/2012
$10,000.00
Commonsense 4 the Commonwealth
3/13/2012
$60,000.00
Citizens for Jim Christiana
3/13/2012
$25,000.00
Friends of Andy Shaw
3/13/2012
$10,000.00
Citizens for Mackenzie
3/13/2012
$2,500.00
Friends of Kim Ward
3/13/2012
$5,000.00
Friends of John McNally
3/13/2012
$10,000.00
Make a Difference PAC
3/13/2012
$30,000.00
Williams for Senate
3/13/2012
$30,000.00
Public Education Excellence
3/19/2012
$6,000.00
Grass Roots Urban Political Alliance
3/21/2012
$10,000.00
Women for Change
3/21/2012
$10,000.00
Believe Again
3/21/2012
$11,500.00
Friends of John McGinnis
3/27/2012
$10,000.00
For a Better PA Fund PAC
3/27/2012
$25,000.00
Grass Roots Urban Political Alliance
3/27/2012
$10,000.00
Public Education Excellence
3/27/2012
$6,000.00
Citizens Networking for Progress
3/27/2012
$8,000.00
Citizens for Jordan Harris
3/27/2012
$10,000.00
Black Clergy PAC
3/27/2012
$6,000.00
Progressive Agenda PAC
3/27/2012
$6,000.00
Fighting Chance
4/3/2012
$10,000.00
Make a Difference PAC
4/3/2012
$86,000.00
Economic Development PAC
4/3/2012
$6,000.00
Friends of Gary Day
4/3/2012
$1,000.00
Anne2012
4/3/2012
$1,000.00
Fighting Chance
4/5/2012
$10,000.00
TD Bank
3/27/2012
$25.00
TD Bank
3/27/2012
$25.00



Total Amount:

$528,175.00




 FOLLOW THE VOUCHER MONEY:
Students First PAC from 1/2/12 through 3/5/12

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Campaign Finance Report filed by Students First PAC
6th Tuesday Pre-Primary filing covering receipts and expenditures from 1/2/12 through 3/5/12

A total of $1 Million was received during the reporting period from Betsy Devos’ American Federation for Children in two payments of $500K each on 2/21/12 and 3/2/12.  Contributions totaling just over $590K were recorded during the period.

It is notable that Students First is supporting voucher proponent Fatimah Muhammad who is challenging Jim Roebuck in the Democratic Primary for the 188th District.  Roebuck is a 24 year incumbent who is House Education Committee Chairman and has been a strong opponent of taxpayer-funded school vouchers.



Students First PAC Contributions

From 1/2/2012 to 3/5/12





Recipient
Date
Amount
Friends of Margo Davidson
1/12/2012
$10,000.00
Make a Difference PAC
1/12/2012
$50,000.00
Committee to Elect Tony Payton, Jr
1/30/2012
$20,000.00
Friends of Scott Petri
1/30/2012
$500.00
Friends of Rich Alloway
1/30/2012
$2,500.00
Friends of Leanna Washington
1/30/2012
$1,000.00
Friends of Justin Simmons
1/30/2012
$1,000.00
Committee to Re-Elect Doyle Heffley
1/30/2012
$200.00
Committee to Elect Rob Kauffman
1/30/2012
$300.00
Friends of Gene Yaw
2/6/2012
$500.00
Friends of Anthony Pugliese
2/13/2012
$5,000.00
I'm for Knowles Committee
2/13/2012
$500.00
Friends of Jaret Gibbons
2/13/2012
$250.00
Committee to Elect Brian Ellis
2/13/2012
$1,000.00
Gloria 2012
2/22/2012
$10,000.00
Friends of Fatimah
2/22/2012
$25,000.00
Citizens for Jordan Harris
2/22/2012
$20,000.00
Friends to Elect Vanessa Brown
2/22/2012
$10,000.00
Committee to Elect Roinald G Waters
2/22/2012
$10,000.00
Friends of Rich Alloway
2/28/2012
$10,000.00
Volunteers for Argall
2/28/2012
$10,000.00
Make a Difference PAC
2/28/2012
$50,000.00
Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania PAC
2/28/2012
$350,000.00
Friends of Todd Stevens
2/28/2012
$2,500.00


$590,250.00








1 comment:

  1. Can we uncover donations by Make a Difference PAC and Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania PAC?

    ReplyDelete