Monday, May 21, 2012

racketeering expert aiding atlanta public schools investigation



ajc | The state's leading expert in racketeering prosecutions has been hired by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to assist in the ongoing investigation into test cheating at Atlanta Public Schools, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Atlanta lawyer John Floyd, who has served as a special prosecutor in a number of high-profile cases, is working with the District Attorney's Office as a grand jury investigates the scandal, lawyers familiar with the probe said. The attorneys requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the grand jury proceedings.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- or RICO -- is often used by district attorneys to try to prove that a legal business was being used for illegal means. It allows prosecutors to sweep numerous defendants accused of committing various crimes into the same indictment and to allege they were all part of an ongoing enterprise. Racketeering convictions carry stiff punishment of up to 20 years in prison, much longer than what school officials might face under other possible charges.

Both Howard and Floyd declined to comment.

It is unclear how close Howard is to deciding whether to ask the grand jury to hand up indictments in the APS case. It also remains to be seen whether racketeering charges will be sought and, if so, who would be the possible targets. But bringing Floyd into the case shows the charges must be under consideration.

RICO was first enacted to fight corruption and organized crime, but Georgia's law, passed in 1980, has allowed state prosecutors to seek it in cases involving gang leaders, former Cobb EMC chief Dwight Brown, the assisted-suicide group the Final Exit Network and, just recently, former DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis.

The Fulton grand jury began investigating the cheating scandal after a scathing report was released in July, concluding a lengthy state investigation into the APS cheating scandal. The report described an enterprise where unethical -- and potentially illegal -- behavior infiltrated every level of the bureaucracy and that "thousands of school children were harmed by widespread cheating."

Three special investigators found cheating on standardized tests occurred at 44 Atlanta schools and involved 178 educators, including 38 principals. The probe was launched after multiple articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about the validity of APS test score improvements.

"A culture of fear and a conspiracy of silence infected this school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct," the investigators' report said. "From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS leadership in our attempt to gather evidence."

When asked to comment on Floyd's involvement in the case, Mike Bowers, one of the three APS special investigators, said, "I am encouraged that Mr. Howard is getting someone of Mr. Floyd's ability and insight to look at this."

38 comments:

makheru bradley said...

These teachers are in a catch 22 and I believe this is what Bush and Obama hoped for. These scandals will enhance their push for privatized public school education. I see that 40 public schools are being closed in Philly.

CNu said...

Good.

They cost waaaaay too much to operate on a per pupil basis, the revenues are not being directed toward student education, but rather toward a top-heavy, incompetent, and self-serving administration.  Close more and do better with the monies and the profound responsibility vested in educating these children.

Temple3 said...

It's not that simple. I don't believe that the public can do much better, but I'm feeling much the same way about the private sector. The third option, which had defined education in NYC for about four decades, was community control of schools. In that instance, there was an uneasy partnership between the community and the public sector. The city government provided buildings, a municipal union provided teachers and principals who were certified as competent by the government, etc., etc. But the well has been poisoned.

Schools cost too much to run. Educators, though, are not having discussions on a daily basis about how children learn - about how the brain works, about developmentally appropriate design, about the impact of physical space on learning. It happens in pockets, but not at scale. At scale, the INTERESTS of publishing companies/testing companies has intruded in and shaped this conversation for at least 8 decades. 

We're back to the Cartesian framework and questions of evidence. 

Temple3 said...

Schools are being closed now because there is a buyer for the RIGHT to manage that space on a private, for-profit basis. This option could have been explored on a larger basis decades ago, but city managers preferred to maintain poor schools in poor neighborhoods because it allowed them to curry favor with the teachers union. The impact and relative power of those unions has declined, I believe, in part to due changing demographics. The shift in land/real estate and neighborhood demographics has meant an influx of parents with the $$ to pay either for private schools OR to create demand for more high-performing public schools in specific neighborhoods. In either case, these changes create horizontal pressure for high-quality teachers and administrators to exit low-performing schools without having to flee for the suburbs. Add to the mix the aging of urban residents, and we see new populations who are not tethered to teachers unions. They're not all Democrats.

City managers in Philadelphia, DC and New York haven't blinked about closing low-performing schools in Black communities because it serves their purposes now. They have not been able to provide a superior product in most instances. The product is typically about the same or worse, but the shift imposes the pain of shifting public dollars to private hands. The extent to which the public benefits, on a cash basis, from this transfer is negligible. The benefits should presumably be paid out in the outcomes of student performance and capacity to contribute to the society as graduates. 

The school closure process has neither been neat nor has it been conducted consistently in the best interest of kids. I would certainly agree that many schools SHOULD be closed, but the solution involves a great deal of work beyond mere closure. 

CNu said...

Of course the economics of public education is up for grabs - and - it's the primary driver of what happens at scale.

The benefits should presumably be paid out in the outcomes of student
performance and capacity to contribute to the society as graduates.


realistically, schools still do what schools have always done - but ever since black managerial and professional class demography denied opportunity in other venues began its exodus from public education in droves 3-4 generations ago - the decline of quality was inevitable. Take that in conjunction with increasing poverty, bastardy, and ghettoization (the death of broad valuation of education as the means to escape) and you have a formula for irremediable failure in urban public schools.

These attenuated schools can't effectively teach what isn't valued and amplified in homes or what nowadays passes for the same.

The school closure process has neither been neat nor has it been conducted consistently in the best interest of kids.

Tragically and shockingly little of what is done with, to, and within urban public schools is done in the best interest of kids. But that's a fact that has to be overwhelmingly laid at the feet of the increasingly incompetent 2nd/3rd line inheritor administrators who've FUBAR'd the systems/institutions over which they've held charge for 4 decades.

makheru bradley said...

Good—Cnu
Good for whom?
They cost waaaaay too much to operate on a per pupil basis—Cnu
Way too much in what context? Like 2 percent of the federal budget--$68 billion in FY2013 v $88 billion for wars? LOL
Close more and do better with the monies and the profound responsibility vested in educating these children.—Cnu
Please explain how they are supposed to do this within the context of the requirements of “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”
http://blackagendareport.com/content/glen-ford-corporate-assault-public-education

CNu said...

Public schools should be paid for by local property taxes and not Federal stimulus and Title funds. Schools that reject federal funds, or are ineligible for federal funds, somehow manage to get by. No federal funding, no federal "teach to the test" compliance requirements.

There goes the 2% of the federal budget tit-for-tat, there goes the unconstitutionality of federal involvement with education, there goes the problem of mandated drill killing childrens' love of learning and instead teaching critical thinking skills.

Of course, that only works with kids who receive learning reinforcement and cultural reinforcement at home. If home is chaotic, doesn't value learning, has no positive recollection of school, etc, etc, etc...., then it's all just wasted effort and all just money down the drain. What's worse, the presence of such children in schools, compromises the safety of other children and drastically interferes with and undermines the educational experience of those children who have those reinforcements at home and are in attendance to learn and to use education as a means of trying to escape poverty.

Temple3 said...

I agree with you, but it doesn't change the facts on the ground. The exodus is a big factor. 

Temple3 said...

Inequity in education systems is precipitated by funding formulas. Within most states, Black folk haven't had the political capital since before the Hayes-Tilden Compromise to establish even remotely equitable funding formulas for schools. Black folk have been outnumbered in state legislatures, and given limitations to capital, credit, etc. that most Black counties and their residents have been subjected to, the property tax route has been a declining spiral. White southerners rejected the Blair Bill proposed by Mass. congressman Henry Blair that would have increased funding for southern schools, on a racially equitable basis over a century ago. Property tax funding allows for disparate educational funding based on disparate accumulated wealth, capital access, credit access and repayment terms, and a host of other factors that adversely impact Black kids. 

The intervention of the federal government was definitely a dual-pronged attack intended to nationalize curriculum (among other things). And the impact has mostly been with respect to marginal greed. Educators want to get every dollar on the table. And, in doing so, they make major concessions for just a few dollars that they don't really need. But, it's easier for them to apply for federal funds than it is to do the hard work of sculpting an efficient program. The monetary impact of Title I has been negligible over 4 decades. Title I has been largely level-funded (in real dollar terms) for most of that time. Levels increased a bit during Clinton's time, but he signed off on the bill before NCLB which also created a number of restrictions that have escaped close scrutiny. 

CNu said...

Here's the thing magne, if you and I both know that the exodus is a big factor, and not liable to be reversed unless this Greatest Depression becomes even more severe and reverses aspects of the exodus (but how can that happen without further undermining peak government funding for schools?) - so essentially - reverse exodus NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

What we're left with is throwing good money after bad.

I know too many teachers now from African, caribbean, and south asian points of origin to believe for even an instant that funding is determinative of education outcomes. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no......,  in the 21st century, those folks would've killed for the resources that were normative in 1950's era segregated schools.

Determination is determinative of education outcomes and until and unless the change gonna come in the culture and priorities of folk who do not presently value and prioritize education, then no amount of funding can fix the root cause of these less than desirable outcomes.  

Temple3 said...

Agreed. Simple, but well put. However, under the private apparatus we're talking about passing through value-added funds as profits to private hands. Low operating costs don't necessarily get fueled into the types of high-investment learning centers that would happen under public scenarios like the Stuyvesant/Bronx Science type public schools. There is a way to make that work well, but scaling it up while managing the "greed imperative" under both pub/pri scenarios is the challenge. There is more than enough cheese to feed every fat rat, but some folks are just OOC.

makheru bradley said...

Shall we call this the use of performance enhancing drugs?

"They’re the A students, sometimes the B students, who are trying to get good grades," said one senior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, a Philadelphia suburb, who said he makes hundreds of dollars a week selling prescription drugs, usually priced at $5 to $20 per pill, to classmates as young as freshmen. "They’re the quote-unquote good kids, basically."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47751459/ns/health-the_new_york_times/

What are the odds of this demographic group being targeted for arrests and felony convictions?

OBTW, Louisiana, the nation’s leader in private prisons is making a big push for privatized education.
http://news.yahoo.com/louisianas-bold-bid-privatize-schools-220651571.htmlhttp://www.nola.com/prisons/ 

makheru bradley said...

Oops, forgot to link the piece on prisons:

http://www.nola.com/prisons/

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