CA State Whistleblower’s Lawsuit Exposes Web of Corruption and Deceit At The Commission On Teacher Credentialing (CTC)
January 29, 2013
By Steve Zeltzer
Kathleen Carroll, a former government lawyer turned whistleblower at the California Commission On Teacher Credentialing CTC has filed a potentially explosive suit against CTC officials and the state government that charges that the Commission attorneys and management of the commission were engaged in numerous illegal acts possibly resulting in thousands of improperly sanctioned teachers in the state of California. Some of the charges in Carroll’s charged the commission with tampering with the selection and composition of the Committee of credential members, CTC attorneys improperly tampering with case outcomes, acting outside their legal jurisdictional scope to go after teachers, promoting the existence of a high level of nepotism, cronyism, favoritism and conflicts of interest throughout the CTC and improperly maintaining underground regulations in violation of the administrative procedures act. It also alleges that CTC employees were retaliated against if they questioned the practices of anyone within CTC management.
This case which was filed on November 14, 2012 in the Superior Court in Sacramento County also has national implications as teachers continue to be demonized, bullied, retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing by school administrators and continually losing their jobs all under the guise of education reform.
Carroll v Commission on Teacher Credentialing et al., Sacramento Superior Court, Case No. 34-2012-00135527
The above suit implies that the critical Commission on Teacher Credentialing might have been used as a vehicle to illegally prevent credentialing of public school teachers so that they would be forced to go to work at non-union charters throughout California and top staff including it’s lawyers were involved in violating the California Education Code and other state and federal laws protecting the rights of teachers and students in California. The complaint also cites potential violations of the privacy rights of student records, found in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The Commission is a critical education administrative body funded by the Credential holders themselves through application fees and exam fees. CTC is in charge of licensing California teachers, school administrators, and other school personnel. It is also involved in investigating misconduct complaints against credential holders and applicants, approving teacher preparation programs, including through charter chains and entering into contracts with private entities such as NCS Pearson in the development of education testing, teacher evaluations and curriculum development in California. The CTC also has a Committee on Accreditation which presumably accredits credential preparation programs.
It has played a key role in approving alternative routes to teacher certification, approval of teacher preparation programs within charter chains and for-profit colleges and has been intimately involved in teacher evaluations through its contract with the testing and publishing giant NCS Pearson. All of this government decision making while a number of its Commissioners were connected personally or financially with the industry they are supposed to regulate.
Carroll, who was a lawyer at the Commission on Teacher Credentialing for four years was fired after she blew the whistle and helped initiate an audit of the state commission which is directly under Governor Brown and the executive branch. In fact, her firing took place right in the middle of a state audit which included her reporting on the numerous illegal acts.
The California state auditors never independently verified the magnitude of the backlog, instead relying on the assertions of CTC management; individuals Carroll asserted were being dishonest about the existence of and specifics of the backlog in the first instance. CTC management asserted that over 12,000 misconduct reports were backlogged, but the actual number of delayed misconduct reports is still unknown due to the manipulated state audit.
Under the California Education Code section 44242.5, the CTC can investigate teachers by their receipt of particular types of information as outlined in the education code. The commission attorneys according to Carroll, were fishing for information about teachers and opening up cases in which they did not have jurisdiction. This could mean that thousands of teachers have been illegally sanctioned and prevented from receiving credentials in California. Without a credential, they cannot work, which would destroy their careers forcing many into bankruptcy, and possible loss of their homes.
This suit is critical as the push to deprive teachers of their due process rights continues throughout the state. Teachers at Los Angeles Unified report being detained unlawfully for hours in small cubicles without any means of communicating with anyone while detained. If these teacher jails sound shocking, they are- they are meant to break down the will of fully credentialed teachers in the push to replace them with less qualified, non-unionized staff.
As a result of not getting their state credentials because of illegal actions by government officials, potentially thousands of California teachers were also forced into non union low paying charters throughout the state, many of which do not require state teaching credentials. If true, the public has been defrauded, numerous teachers and others have been illegally harmed and thrown into abject poverty. And public education has been purposefully thrown into chaos at the hands of very dishonest, unethical and illegal actors.
It should be noted that NCS Pearson Inc., a third party contractor of CTC is being criminally investigated by the NY Attorney General along with other states for illegal kickbacks to officials who were voting on contracts for k-12 tests and certification tests. Pearson is also involved in the design of the common core standards and teacher assessments.
NCS Pearson controls a large part of public education funding through their publishing empire, evaluations of teachers, tests and through their design of the “common core” standards. In essence Pearson has a virtual monopoly grip on public education funds in the United States.
Ting Sung was chair of the CTC commission at the same time she worked at the Natomas charter school that she founded with her husband, was also being paid by the California Charter Association CCA and Cambridge education as a senior education consultant and was supposed to be a “public” representative of the CTC. Sun is also is on the board of the Turkish Gulen charter school chain called Magnolia Public Schools which is the largest charter operator in the US and has schools in the Sacramento area and throughout the state. The Gulen school chain has been involved in corrupt practices throughout the US in which teachers from the cult which runs the school, have been forced to give kickbacks to the Gulen cult and public funds have flowed only to Gulen owned businesses. CBS 60 minutes did a story on this chain and the Iman, Fatullah Gulen, who runs it from Pennsylvania.
It appears that Ting Sun failed to disclose a number of economic conflicts on her Fair Political Practices Commission FPPC form 700 which are required of all commission members since they are voting on contracts with public funds going to private companies. The question again arises where was the senate rules committee in performing their required due diligence on Sun before her senate confirmation to the CTC?
According to the suit, Carroll reported to Ting Sun that Mary Armstrong, Director of Professional Practices at the commission had lied to the commission about the specifics of the backlog of misconduct reports and cases. Carroll also reported to CTC Director Dale Janssen that misconduct reports and cases that were not being timely processed which could cause serious harm to students and also involved delayed sexual misconduct reports, including school district reports. Carroll also reported to Janssen that there was a high level of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism that was creating a negative impact on the working environment as employees of the CTC were fearful of retaliation.
Right after Carroll complained to Janssen, Janssen according to the suit hired an investigator who then sought to discredit Carroll included releasing private medical information about Carroll which was irrelevant to the existence of and specifics of the backlog. Was this an improper use of public funds?
In June of 2010, Janssen, Armstrong and Director of Administrative Services Christa Hill proposed to lay off Carroll supposedly as a “cost cutting” measure. But, when CTC realized the layoff would not be fast enough to get rid of Carroll before the state auditors arrived at CTC, they moved for dismissal.
Carroll had discovered that not only was the CTC illegally investigating some teachers but they were retaliating against CTC employees and educators based on perceived medical health disabilities and retaliated against any employee who questioned these methods. There was an epidemic of bullying at the commission with many employees working in fear.
Carroll was also denied union representation when Pope showed up at her office door demanding that she accompany him to the HR department. This was right in the middle of the audit and after Carroll had numerous meetings with the state auditors.
The California state audit of CTC, requested by California Senate Pro Tem Democratic party leader Darrell Steinberg was based on a complaint by Carroll on the massive systemic backlog of misconduct reports at CTC, illegal actions on part of the CTC attorneys and rampant nepotism, favoritism and potential conflicts throughout the agency. Carroll had met with Steinberg’s staff and asked to have the audit but instead of having a real independent investigation, Steinberg and his staff made changes in the audit request. The State Auditor failed to account for a number of items requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee at Steinberg’s request, citing CTC’s failure to track documents and numerous computer problems. Carroll reported numerous violations that never found their way into the audit report. Was this a case of government damage control? Who was suppressing the evidence? Steinberg’s office? The state auditor? Or both? Carroll has now suffered severe economic harm as result of reporting serious illegal acts by government officials.
A key player in Steinberg’s office was his education advisor Susanna Cooper whose husband it turns out is Eric Douglas who owns Leading Resources inc. Leading Resources Inc has a number of public agency clients including the Bureau of State Audits which was doing the audit of the CTC. Cooper is also on the advisory board of WestEd. On May 5, 2010, the morning before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted on the audit request of CTC, Cooper sent an e-mail to Carroll’s office e-mail address at CTC essentially sending her the draft of what she would say on behalf of Steinberg at this hearing. Carroll had informed all of Steinberg’s staff about the fear of retaliation at the CTC and was shocked that Cooper had sent her this email at CTC since there was a real possibility that her e-mail was being monitored by this time.
After the audit report of CTC was released to the public on April 7, 2011, an oversight hearing took place at the Capitol. Carroll testified at this oversight hearing. As Carroll began to speak about the CTC attorneys looking at teachers they had no right to look at, Assembly member Ricardo Lara cut her off and told her that her time was up. After Carroll spoke, not one assembly person or senator had questions of Carroll about the systemic problems at the Commission despite the extensive material received about the specifics of the backlog and misconduct and the reign of harassment and bullying against CTC employees.
After the state audit oversight hearing, Executive Director Dale Janssen, Director of the Professional Practices Mary Armstrong and Assistant General Counsel Willard Leroy Pope all quickly left the CTC. Pope also had children on the payroll. Others have also left the agency. Willard Leroy Pope was replaced by attorney/ALJ Michael Barth. Barth was an ALJ for the Office of Administrative hearings, the special education division. Query what type of potential conflicts Barth’s employment at CTC might pose. Barth previously worked for the CTC after leaving the employ of the law firm of Rothschild Wishek & Sands. The Rothschild firm has a contract with the California Teachers Association and represents teachers who come up for review by the CTC. Previously after Barth left the Rothschild firm, CTC had some sort of conflict cone set up around Barth. Given the numerous potential liability that conflicts pose for any entity, it is a wonder why CTC could not find a more neutral candidate for the job. Was this act purposeful? Time will tell.
This lawsuit has the potential to expose a lot, including the real possibility of criminal violations, including the conflicts of interest in the drive to shutdown public education and turn this system over to privatizers and billionaire speculators who see this as a growing area for high profits and little costs with no regard to a quality accessible public education system and certainly with no regard to human suffering as numerous people who report illegal acts get severely retaliated against. Economic harm is a powerful weapon and is used and abused too frequently by those in positions of power.
For more on the privatization of public education, including numerous conflicts of interest- read the below article.
Privatization of Public Education: Strategies for Maximizing Profits, Conflicts and the Unions
Over the last 30 years, a massive coordinated campaign has been funded to undermine public education through charters, trigger laws and pushing testing scores and recently online education that will eliminate teachers funneling more profits to computer companies and billionaire entrepreneurs including convicted felon Michael Milken. The aim appears to be to make money from turning public education into a profit center for their investments. The Milken institute for example is behind K12 inc. (LRN), the largest U.S. operator of taxpayer-funded online schools and is publicly traded company with major holdings by Knowledge Universe, owned by felon Milken, his brother Lowell and Larry Ellison, billionaire owner of Oracle in San Francisco.
These billionaires like Eli Broad with the Broad Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates through their foundation, the Fisher family which founded the Gap corporation and operates the Kipp Foundation as well as the Walton Foundation run by the family which owns Wal-Mart have engaged in a massive coordinated corporate effort to push privatization of education by infiltrating governmental agencies and entities like school districts and placing their corporate operatives throughout the state educational system, and in using the corporate controlled media to attack public education and blame teachers for the education crisis.
In the mix and supporting this cabal at the CTC was Sacramento based Michelle Rhee and her billionaire funded group “Students First” which organizes and runs pro-privatization school board candidates shills at boards throughout the country. It received $500,000 as start up money from the Broad Foundation and other billionaires including Arnold Tepper who is a Democrat and owns Appaloosa Management. Another contributor is John Arnold, a former Enron trader who also gave $35,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in the 2012 election campaign and is who is also seeking to push legislation that will eliminate defined pensions for public school teachers and force them into 401k’s run by his investment company.
According to accounts the Students First which is a “non profit” 501c(3) will have a budget of over $225 million in 2010-2013. Part of this funding was used to support reauthorization of “No Child Left Behind” which was also supported by President Obama, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and California Democratic Congressional leader George Miller. Rhee’s husband Kevin Johnson who is also mayor of Sacramento and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors also founded his own “non-profit” charter school, as part of the St. Hope Academy in Sacramento and runs the Sacramento High charter. Johnson has been implicated in a corruption scandal with illegal use of Federal funds and sexually harassing employees at the St. Hope Academy and inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor who attended his charter. Johnson is also an active supporter of the Gulen Magnolia Schools while pushing his own charter schools in Sacramento.
On September 12, 2012, Arnie Duncan as part of his national privatization Department of Education tour came to Sacramento to push the Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind schemes. Duncan also lauded Michelle Rhee and her husband Kevin Johnson at a meeting in Sacramento as part of the U.S. Conference on mayors who are pushing for mayoral control of schools, mayoral control of school funding, mayoral control of school districts and for mayors to be able to appoint school board members. This does not sound like democracy. In fact, Michelle Rhee on a recent PBS program can be heard saying to the interviewer: “This is not democracy” after being admonished by the city council for going outside of their instructions.
Mayoral control of schools, which New York City has experienced under Bloomberg, appears the ultimate goad of these profiteers and quashing any opposition from the tax paying public, busting education unions and workers and creating more charters.
Another supporter of privatization in Sacramento is David W. Gordon who is the Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools. Gordon is also on the WestEd board of directors which pushes Core Standards and further growth of charter schools nationally and is controlled by the billionaire non-profit operations like the Lumina Foundation while WestEd receives funding from public school districts, public community colleges and public universities.
It should be noted that Steinberg was involved in supporting charters and gave $5,000 for privatization shill Gloria Romero from his political fund for Romero to run for State Superintendent of Instruction.
Romero who is now the head of California Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and also was also a spokesperson for anti-labor California proposition 32 which sought to prevent unions from collecting dues by onerous procedures on their rights. She also was the author while in the legislature of the parent trigger laws in California which have been used by privatizers to manipulate parents into shutting their public schools and turning them over to charter operations run by privateers.
The funders of the Parent Trigger laws include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton (WalMart) Foundation.
Romero’s DFER is funded by Wall Street Hedge fund managers who are making investments into charter schools for use of public funds while eliminating professional teachers and bringing in Teach For America TFA young teachers who have been used to help destroy public education by undermining the quality of public education in mostly low income minority schools and by de-professionalizing the teaching profession by the elimination of long term skilled teachers. This displacement of senior teachers is a conscious policy of the supporters of privatization. School administrators harass and discriminate against long term skilled fully credentialed teachers who are now being demonized, bullied and retaliated against including even being placed in “rubber rooms” in Los Angeles and New York.
In fact, while potential criminal negligence and fraud along with potential misappropriation of public funds has taken place at the CTC Commission, the Brown administration which is directly in charge of the commission has not only covered it up, but actually appointed more officials that have financial conflicts of interests with public education including Brown’s former Education Secretary Sue Burr. Brown appointed Burr as his education secretary despite the fact that she was executive director for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association CCSESA. Burr, along with Gary Hart were intimately involved in drafting of the first charter school laws in California. CCSESA has been pushing for more charters and is funded by companies profiting from getting school contracts for online education and pushing more testing and charters.
In January of this year, Burr resigned as Brown’s Education Secretary and was appointed by him to the State Board of Education. She is also on Edsource board of directors.
Governor Brown is now demanding that the CSU and UC system implement a massive growth of online education benefiting these same tech profiteers or he will cutback and withhold state funding for these public institutions.
Brown’s wife, Anne Gust was the former Chief Administrative Officer/general counsel and Executive Vice President of the Gap Corporation. Gap through the Fisher’s runs Rocketship schools and a chain of 70 Kipp charter schools throughout the country. On the board are owners of Viacom, Netflix and other billionaires like Mark Nunnelly who is managing director of Bain Capital board as well as Carrie Walton Penner who is a trustee for the Walton Family Foundation that owns Walmart. Carrie Walton Penner is also on the board of the California Charter School Association CCSA, EdVoice and the Alliance For School Choice. The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, formerly of the State Board of Education is also on the board of Edvoice.
Edvoice is a very powerful political action committee and advocacy group in education policy and was one of the top five campaign contributors in the 2010 general election according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission who at the time were investigating Edvoice for their potential improper use of independent expenditures. Eli Broad is also on the board of Directors of Edvoice.
Rocketship Learning had contracted with the lobbing firm, School Innovations and Advocacy (SI&A), whose clients include school districts, K-12 inc- largest online education company in U.S., Orange County Department of Education, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Santa Clara office of Education. Santa Clara County Office of Education has been approving the expansion of Rocketship charter schools in Santa Clara County. Rocket Learning is doing business in California, incorporated in Delaware but physically located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A parent of one of the students of one of the Kipp schools, Kipp Hartwood Academy Elementary in Santa Clara, discovered that in order to go to the school board he had to make an appointment to go to the Gap headquarters in San Francisco where the school board met.
He was complaining about the clinical abuse his child faced at the school due to the “training” procedures at the Gap funded chain of schools.
California State Attorney Kamala Harris has also refused to respond to a request to investigate numerous potential conflicts of interest with government officials and public education funding that appears to exist throughout the state. The request to Harris was made back in December of 2011. No one from the Attorney general’s office has responded to date. The request was sent certified with return receipt. The request has been confirmed as received.
Of course any investigation would immediately implicate the Governor and other Democratic party officials in the state who are supporting charters and privatization.
California Democratic party chair John Burton is also on the board of Phoenix University which has been engaged in defrauding the government and creating a diploma mill with the Federal government on the hook for billions in loans to students.
There are too many organizations in the unregulated world of non-profits that are literally taking over our public education system to mention. But, a few other notable organizations involved in the restructuring and de-funding of public education include the Lumina Foundation and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Commission. ALEC develops legislation such as the trigger laws which further privatization.
Also WestEd, a government agency through a joint powers agreement receives money both from many public entities such as school districts, CSU, UC and community colleges and private money through foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina. WestEd also received funding from NCS Pearson. WestEd pushes “core standards” and more testing in the schools. It should be noted that Lumina was a funder of ALEC. UC President Mark Yudof is also on the board of directors of Lumina and has pushed privatization at the UC system including online education with tech companies and UC private partnerships using public UC resources for new drugs that will benefit the privateers.
The counsel of WestEd, Leah Williams based in San Francisco refused to provide financial conflict of interest statements saying that the California Fair Practices Commission told them they did not have to provide such material. While the FPPC may not have jurisdiction over WestEd, as WestEd appears not be a quasi government. It does however receive state public education tax dollars and public funds from school and college districts throughout the country. This raises fundamental questions of transparency and where are our public education tax dollars are going? The public has a right to know.
In fact, our public education tax dollars are going to many non-profits, many organizations that produce reports about how bad our public education system is and how things need to be “reformed”. These same entities have the most to gain by claiming doom. Doom means things need to change and these greedy tax grabbers are all too willing to be the first in line with their wallets wide open with false promises of the best way to improve education. But we must ask: The best way for whom? Certainly not the best way for students, especially students of low income, special needs students or English language learners.
It should also be noted that Williams of WestEd has also been appointed to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges WASC, which is the regional accrediting commission for senior colleges and universities. The ACCJC which is under WASC, accredits community colleges. ACCJC’s director Barbara Beno is demanding the San Francisco City College and other public community colleges either sell off parts of their colleges, fire teachers, cut wages and healthcare for the staff or they will lose their accreditation. This use of WASC and ACCJC which are private groups to push for the liquidation of public education is now becoming apparent to tens of thousands of educators and students as the organization goes on a wrecking operation in our public higher education system. Beno is also on the advisory board of Campaign for College Opportunity (another non-profit) with Lumina Board member Frank Alvarez. The privatizers and their influence over public education is a frontal attack on the public education system and any equality in this education system.
B. Teri Burns has been a long time publicly elected school board member of Sacramento County. Until recently, Burns was a lobbyist with School Innovations and Advocacy whose clients include public entities such as Santa Clara County Office of Education and San Juan Unified school district. These school districts or county offices of are funding lobbying firms that are engaged in pushing for privatization of education.
School Innovations and Advocacy also is a lobbyist for private entities that are stripping tax dollars away from school districts. School Innovations and Advocacy lobbies on behalf of K-12 inc. and Rocketship Learning.
B. Teri Burns is an elected school board member of Natomas Unified in Sacramento County. Natomas Unified is where Ting Sun of CTC fame has her charter academies. Does anyone see a potential conflict yet? Keep looking- it is right in front of you. K-12 inc; Rocketship Learning; school districts spending money on lobbyists. WestEd also gets public education tax dollars. The question of how much public money is going to lobbyists and these so-called non-profits is yet unanswered by it is extensive? It also raises the question do we really have an education budget crisis or was there money being funneled into the profiteers? It should be noted that all charter schools are non-profit corporations. Are these corporateers and their media calling wolf in order to push for the destruction of more public schools is a real question.
The incestuous connections and illegal siphoning off of public funds for profit by pubic officials who have interests in these same enterprises appears to be clear criminal conflict of interest and has developed and expanded over decades in California and throughout the country. In the People v. Honig case, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bill Honig was convicted of felony conflicts of interest for having an educational non-profit out of his home with his wife. The judge stated what he and his wife were doing was essentially money laundering. Where is Bill Honig today? Jerry Brown rewarded him by trying to have Honig appointed to the State Board of Education. He withdrew his appointment and Honig now he works for the California Department of Education.
If the above suit is successful in going forward despite the expected stiff opposition by the powerful corporate interests and politicians who represent them, it has the potential of exposing very corrupt and nefarious connections and actions.
The California Teachers Association CTA/NEA and the California Federation of Teachers CFT/AFT must be aware of these financial conflicts of interests, the corporate connections and the legal violations against teachers but have to this date refused either to educate their members about these connections or engage in a political education campaign to expose those who are demolishing the public education system. They are also silent about any demand that the State Attorney Kamala Harris investigate and prosecute these systemic financial conflicts of interests. Is it because the unions have taken money from Gates and other privatizers? The fact that the leadership of the NEA and AFT have taken millions from these billionaire funded foundations and even advertise for their locals to apply for money from these operations raise serious question even about conflicts of interests by the top union officials of these education unions.
A growing number of teachers and education workers are asking where their unions have been as this wrecking operation has escalated? Is Gates using the divide and conquer method to cause dissent within the union by tempting union officials with big bucks? According to Dr. Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of The Great American School System, Gates has given money to NEA.
Divide and conquer is a classic union busting technique and it appears to be working within the education unions. The rank and file of education unions around the country are beginning to connect the dots of the attack on education and draw the lessons that these attacks are not only coming from the profiteers but are taking place with the complicity and silence of their union leadership.
The clearest example of this was the invitation to Bill Gates to Address the 2011 AFT convention made by AFT president Randi Weingarten who also happened to be a graduate of the Broad Academy.
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