The Progressive - November 5, 2019

"A recent investigation found numerous instances of school purchases and personnel being steered toward decisions that rewarded opportunistic leaders and well-connected companies rather than students and teachers."

Revelations of corruption in business and government are becoming an everyday affair, with example after example of people in leadership positions using elevated status for personal gain rather than for the public good. The deluge of stories about lying and cheating politicians, industry lobbyists, and corporate executives can lead to easy cynicism about how things work in business and politics. 

But what about when corruption flourishes in public schools?

A recent series of investigative articles I reported for Our Schools, an education project of the Independent Media Institute, found numerous instances of school purchases and personnel being steered toward decisions that rewarded opportunistic leaders and well-connected companies rather than students and teachers. And even though a number of such exposés suggest systemic corruption, media accounts generally frame these scandals as singular examples of corrupt behavior.

But take, for example, former superintendent of Kansas City public schools John Covington, who suddenly resigned his position there to run a state-operated school district in Detroit. He took with him an employee Mary Esselman, and their relationships with a software company called Agilix, its “Buzz” learning platform, and the consulting firm, School Improvement Network. Detroit Metro Times journalists Curt Guyette reported that the software was barely functional and increasingly angered teachers forced to use it. But Covington and Esselman worked to get the Buzz software platform “expanded”—not only in Michigan but across the country.

Superintendent of Seattle schools, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, was accused by board members of having numerous ongoing conflicts of interest and ultimately fired when an audit found that $1.8 million in contracts awarded through a program she administered “provided no public benefit or were questionable.” Covington hired her for his Michigan gig, too.

In Los Angeles, superintendent John Deasy’s tenure was overwhelmed by scandals with private contractors, including the rollout of a new student records system “widely described as ‘disastrous’” and a nearly $1.3 billion failed iPad program, which Deasy personally brokered with Apple and the Pearson publishing company. ...
Read full report at The Progressive