Thursday, February 7, 2013

Corruption at CTC Placed Kids at Risk, Denied Teachers Credentials

A recent lawsuit against the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), filed in November by former government lawyer and CTC whistleblower Kathleen Carroll, alleges that CTC lawyers and administrators engaged in numerous illegal acts that prevented qualified teachers from obtaining or maintaining their credentials. The charges against the attorneys include tampering with case outcomes, acting outside their legal jurisdictions, nepotism, cronyism, and conflict of interest.

According to Steve Zeltzer, writing for Daily Censored, the suit’s allegations imply that the CTC may have been used as a tool for preventing qualified teachers from receiving their credentials so they would be unable to get hired at traditional district schools and be forced to seek jobs at alternative schools with less stringent credentialing requirements, like charter schools, which are often nonunionized.  Consequently, Zeltzer argues, thousands of teachers may have been illegally or inappropriately denied their credentials, thus creating a small army of well-trained teachers willing to accept low-paying jobs with poor working conditions at private charter schools.

The CTC is responsible for licensing California teachers, administrators and other education personnel; investigating charges of misconduct against credentialed teachers and applicants; and approving teacher training programs. The agency has been involved in the development of curriculum, tests for teachers, and teacher evaluation policies, often by outsourcing to private testing and publishing companies like NCS Pearson (which is currently being sued by the state of New York (among others) for illegal kickbacks to officials involved in deciding whether or not to use their tests. Pearson is also a big player in the design of Common Core Standards (CCS) which will require a whole new series of high stakes exams from which Pearson hopes to profit.

Zeltzer reports that several CTC Commissioners have had personal or financial ties with private charter schools and would thus benefit from having a large pool of teachers desperate for jobs, but unable to acquire them at traditional public schools. Ting Sun, for example, was chair of the CTC at the same time she worked at the Natomas charter school—which she founded with her husband—and was being paid by the California Charter Association. She is also on the board of the corrupt Gulen charter school chain Magnolia Public Schools (for more on Gulen, see here, here and here). According to Zeltzer, Sun failed to report these conflicts of interests, as required by CTC commissioners, since they vote on contracts paid for with public funds.

Carroll had been an attorney at the CTC for four years until she was fired for whistleblowing in the middle of the audit of the commission that she helped initiate. One of her allegations was that the CTC had a long backlog of misconduct reports, many of which were specious. The CTC admitted there was a backlog of more than 12,000 reports. The actual number was never verified. Regardless, this is a serious safety concern for parents and students (as some potential abusers may have remained in the classroom) and a serious due process violation for accused teachers (many of whom may be innocent, especially since many of the reports were trumped up).

Carroll told Ting Sun that the Director of Professional Practices at the CTC, Mary Armstrong, had lied about the backlog. She told CTC Director Dale Janssen that the misconduct reports were not being processed quickly enough, including those involving sexual misconduct, thus placing students at risk. According to the suit, Janssen responded by hiring a private investigator to discredit Carroll, including the release of her private medical records.

There may also be evidence of tampering by the office of California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, which initiated the audit at Carroll’s request. Steinberg’s office made changes in the audit request and failed to investigate some of Carroll’s allegations. Steinberg’s office, like many in the CTC, had its own conflicts of interest. His education advisor, Susanna Cooper, is married to Eric Douglas, who owns Leading Resources Inc., which represents the Bureau of State Audits, which was doing the CTC audit. Cooper is also on the board of West Ed, which receives funding from Pearson and numerous other public and private education profiteers, and has a vested interest in many of the CTC’s projects, including testing and credentialing, thus further drawing into question the objectivity of the audit.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said the commission was “one of the worst run” organizations she had ever investigated. Janssen and Armstrong resigned not long after the auditor’s report came back (June 2011), but the backlog of unprocessed complaints continues and questions remain about the agency’s integrity. Sun remained as chair until her term ended in November. Janssen and Armstrong were replaced by Gov. Brown appointees, Nancy Ramirez, from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Michael Cooney.

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