Delaware Race To The Top, Hedge Funds & Millions Wasted: The Story of Rodel, Markell, Charters & The Vision Network

Dr. Paul Herdman  and Governor Markell have a long history in Delaware in the 21st Century.  Their collaborations have resulted in the biggest changes to education the state has seen in decades.  Name any education change since Markell became Governor, and Rodel’s been a part of it.  And they are making a lot of money off these changes!

As part of my blog, I find out information about education in our state, and recently Rodel had their latest Vision conference where they focused on personalized learning, with a whole education reform agenda yet to be revealed to the mass public, sponsored by a company called 2Revolutions.  Rodel has a long history in the world of corporate education reform.  But what if I told you they aren’t doing it for the love of education and students, but pure profit?

Before Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy was appointed the top education post in Delaware, he was the executive director of the Vision Network, an offshoot of Rodel, a non-profit company based out of Wilmington, DE.  Rodel is actually part of The Rodel Foundations, created by the Budinger family when their industrial company became part of Dow in 1999.  Rodel’s stated goal is to turn all Delaware schools into the best in the world.  This will all happen at changing dates in the future because whenever their next “Vision” year comes around the corner, they realize they haven’t met their goals.  Many people believe Rodel wants the best for the students of Delaware, but their practices and donations suggest otherwise.

In their 2012 Form 990 non-profit tax statement filed with the IRS, Rodel states:

“The organization was formed as a supporting organization under IRC Section 509(A)(3) to support the Delaware Community Foundation.”

Further on in the tax statement, they write:

“As a non-profit with the goal of helping Delaware build world-class schools by 2020, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware works to implement this vision in many ways promoting policy changes that can have a huge impact statewide, like raising academic standards, using timely data to make decisions, and investing in our youngest learners providing seed funding to innovative, potentially high-impact initiatives, like the Vision Network of Delaware, which supports more than two dozen district and public charter schools whether ideas comes from Seaford or Singapore, our strategy is simple: do more of what works creating and leading diverse statewide partnerships that catalyze action, including Vision 2015, one of the most enduring and effective public-private partnerships of its kind in the country.”

Rodel is currently run by Dr. Paul Herdman, the principal officer of the organization.  According to LinkedIn, from 1988 to 1992 Herdman was an instructor at The New York City Outward Bound Center, and then from 1993 to 1997 he served as Senior Policy Analyst/Undersecretary for Governor William Weld of Massachusetts.  Herdman received his doctorate in education policy from Harvard University in 2001 while working as the VP of Accountability Services for New American Schools.  In 2004, he became the President and CEO of Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a position he has held ever since.  During this time, Jack Markell was elected Governor of Delaware and began his tenure in 2009.  Back at Rodel, Herdman recruited a young Mark Murphy from New Leaders of New Schools in 2011, where Murphy was the Executive Director of Leadership Development.  Murphy’s time of duty at The Vision Network was short because Governor Markell, after a few other nominations, picked Mark Murphy to become the Secretary of Education for the state of Delaware in the Spring of 2012.  Another member of Rodel, Fred Sears III, does not have a public profile on LinkedIn, but he is the current President and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation and the Treasurer of Rodel.

According to the 2012 Tax Statement for Rodel, Sears III annual salary for Rodel was $202,440 with $60,494 “from the organization and related organizations” while Herdman had a salary of $283,847 and $36,716 “from the organization and related organizations”.  Four other individuals had salaries ranging from $65,385 to $129,910 with noteworthy names including Rex Varner, Dorothy Jacobsen, Riccardo Stoekicht and Madeline Baynard.

Rodel spent $1,860 during this fiscal year in lobbying expenditures to “influence a legislative body” as the tax form states, and $3,834,821 in “other exempt purpose expenditures”.   According to Delaware Online Checkbook, for Fiscal Year 2012, Rodel received $5000 from the Delaware Department of Education on 12/13/12 while The Vision Network received $941,770.00 from the DOE.  The following school districts and charter schools sent the Vision Network amounts ranging from $9000.00 to $27,501.00: Appoquinimink, Capital, Christina, Kuumba Academy, Lake Forest, Milford, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Seaford, and Thomas Edison Charter School.

While Rodel’s lobbying efforts in FY 2013 were a very small amount, between FYs 2010-2012 they spent $1,031,539.00 to “influence a legislative body” and $257,885.00 for “Grassroots non-taxable amount”.

In FY 2013, Rodel invested $4,474,403 in hedge funds, including $158,071 in something called the “Rodel Pebbles AA-Multi-Strategy Hedge Fund”.  The non-profit had a reported $3,261,510 in “total revenue, gains, and other support per audited financial statements” the same year with $2,225,476 coming from “net unrealized gains from investments” which gets subtracted from the above total for a net revenue of $1,036,034.00.  Their “total expenses and losses per audited financial statements” was $4,606,816.00.   In the “Statement of Activites Outside the United States” Rodel invested in the regions of Central America and the Caribbean” in the amount of $4,046,152.00.

Why would a small non-profit company in Delaware that promotes better education have hedge funds outside of the USA?  Hedge funds are risky investments that pay off big when they hit.  Only certain people (those with lots of money) are invited to be a part of a hedge fund.  The Budinger family are some of those elite groups of people that invest in hedge funds.  Rodel likes to create their visions of education in Delaware, but is this all a smokescreen for a non-profit to, well, profit?

An article on Billmoyers.com, written by Sam Pizzigati on May 21st, 2014, stated the following about hedge funds and charter schools:

A federal tax break known as the “New Markets” tax credit lets hedge funds that invest in charters double their money in seven years. Charters have become, notes one education analyst, “just another investor playground for easy money passed from taxpayers to the wealthy.”

…families of those kindergarten teachers who make less in a year than the average top 25 hedge fund manager makes in 15 minutes pay a greater share of their incomes in taxes than hedge fund moguls pay on theirs, thanks largely to a notorious tax code loophole — known as carried interest — that Congress has not yet seen fit to plug.

Hedge fund billionaires are indeed investing colossal millions in charters, educational entities — often tied closely to for-profits — that take in public tax dollars but operate independently of local school board oversight.

A blogger by the name of Mother Crusader in New Jersey wrote an article last summer about former CNN Anchor Campbell Brown and who was backing her lawsuit against New York teachers and getting rid of tenure.  What she found was one of the biggest hedge fund managers of them all:

http://mothercrusader.blogspot.com/2014/08/campbell-browns-ties-to-billionaire.html

As part of Rodel’s “vision”, they seed grant money to various organizations throughout the state of Delaware, and even organizations in other states.  The following list is organizations which received grant funding from Rodel in FY2013:

Learning Link of Delaware: $45,454 Stated Purpose: Funding Study of Outcomes Associate With SPS Program

Innovative Schools Development Corp.: $755,545 Educational Support

Teach For America: $100,000 Educational Support

The Partnership Incpo: $7,500 Educational Support

Delaware Charter Schools Network: $50,000 Educational Support

Delaware Public Policy Institute: $50,000 Educational Support

Boys and Girls Club of Delaware: $10,000 Educational Support

National Council on Teacher Quality (in Washington D.C.): $5,500 Educational Support

Philanthropy Roundtable (in Washington D.C.): $5,000 Educational Support

National Public Education Support Fund (in Washington D.C.): $10,000 Grant To Education Funder

Voices 4 Delaware: $73,750 To Support Awareness of Educational Issues

Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee (in Washington D.C.): $40,000 Educational Support

Delaware State Board Education: $10,000 Educational Support

Early College High School at Delaware State University: $75,000 Educational Support

First State Montessori: $75,000 Educational Support

Hope Street Group (in Arizona): $10,000 Educational Support

Leadership Delaware Inc.: $5,000 Program Sponsorship

Relay Graduate School of Education (in New York City): $75,000 Educational Support

Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences: $10,000 Educational Support

Vision Network: $50,000 Educational Support

In the identification of Related-Tax-Exempt Organizations, it shows Delaware Community Fund of which Rodel paid $87,118 in “administrative fees paid”.

In their FY2012 tax statement, Rodel paid $285,000 to the Parthenon Group and $160,813 to Mass Insight Education & Research Institute, both out of Boston, Massachusetts.

Now looking at The Vision Network’s non-profit tax form 990 for FY 2013, we see Dana Diesel Wallace as the Principal Officer of the Company, and their mission statement is “To develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of teachers and administrators in Delaware.”

For Vision’s Board of Directors it showed the following: Paul Herdman-Board Chair, Rex Varner-Board Treasurer, Christy Wright-Board Secretary, Gregory Hastings-Board Member, and Malik Stewart-Board Member.  It shows Lois Hobbs, the former superintendent of Indian River School District, as the Director of District Partnerships with a salary of $109,800.00.  IRS tax rules dictate non-profits must disclose independent contractors who received more than $100,000 in compensation, and Vision lists Focus On Results out of Huntington Beach, California with funds sent to them to the tune of $151,219 as “professional development consultants”.  It shows “other salaries” as $355,512.00.  They had total revenues in FY2013 of $1,187,964.00, expenses of $959,110, and net assets or fund balances at the beginning of FY2013 of $49,875 giving them $278,729 at the end of FY2013.

For FY 2012, it only showed three members of the Network receiving no compensation: Paul Herdman-Chair, Rex Varner-Treasurer, and Christy Vanderwende-Secretary.

Going back to Rodel’s FY2013 990 tax form, it showed one of their contributions going to Relay Graduate School of Education, based out of New York City.  Relay has received a great deal of controversy since it’s inception in 2011 .  In an article for The Washington Post in 2012, Valerie Strauss wrote:

Designed to serve the needs of three charter school chains — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools— RGSE has no university affiliation, yet awards masters degrees in New York State.

In order to enroll in their program, one must teach, uncertified, in an affiliated school. Traditional public school teachers need not apply. Degrees are earned by online video and reading modules, attending discussion groups and by the uncertified teacher’s students’ test scores. If the test scores are not up to snuff, the teacher does not earn her degree. There are no classes in educational theory or history, nor any indication that the candidate must complete a masters thesis requiring research and reflection. It is cookie-cutter training grounded in one vision of instruction — the charter school vision. Each candidate’s pail is filled with the same techniques.

More on Strauss’ article can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/is-filling-the-pail-any-way-to-train-teachers/2012/07/04/gJQADViVOW_blog.html

As mentioned above, Rodel gave Relay $75,000.00 in FY2013.  Why?  Many have compared Relay to Teach For America, another organization Rodel has funded.  Rodel mentioned them quite a bit in their FYs 2011 and 2012 990 tax statements.  They indicated they have placed many teachers from Teach For America in Wilmington Schools and charter schools.

In a presentation on teacher effectiveness sponsored by organizations called 50 Can, ConnCAN, and Public Impact, the authors give acknowledgements to Madeleine Bayard of the Rodel Foundation, Susan Donahue of the Delaware Department of Education, and the Relay Graduate School of Education among others including a representative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Famed education activist Diane Ravitch wrote an article on Relay around the same time the Washington Post article came out and she stated:

This is a masters’ program that was created by three charter school chains to prepare teachers for working in charter schools. It is certainly not a traditional graduate school of education. There do not seem to be courses in cognitive development, child psychology, sociology of education, history of education, or varied pedagogical models and strategies. There is only one pedagogical strategy, and apparently it is the one that is best at raising test scores.

To read more about Diane Ravitch’s Relay article, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/08/a-very-bizarre-graduate-school-of-education/

The school has no university affiliation yet they have created a “National Principals Fellowship Academy” endorsed by none other than the United States Department of Education.  More information on this program can be found here: http://www.relay.edu/principals-academy/

As part of Delaware’s Race To The Top extensions, select principals are required to participate in this academy.  Proof of this can be found here:

But the Delaware DOE connection to Relay doesn’t stop there either, because the following contract bid was approved first in July 2014 and then amended in Sepember 2014.  This is Delaware’s way of getting first year teachers into Delaware who aren’t even certified.

Rodel funded this “university” in 2013 and now Delaware has a contract with them for $505,000.00 for the next three years to bring in teachers from a program that has been widely criticized by those not profiting from the education reform.  The timing is a little bit suspect as well.  Where will these new teachers go?  Wilmington charter schools and Colonial School District were mentioned in the bid as schools Relay has already worked with.  Could this also serve as a connection to the Priority Schools in the event they become charter schools?  These schools will need teachers, and I would doubt all staff from the priority schools would be hired at the new charters.

As recently as last April, President Obama credited Relay as “innovative” because students taught by Relay grew in reading at a rate of 1.3 years.  This can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/25/fact-sheet-taking-action-improve-teacher-preparation  But what are the measurements for this rapid increase?  Are they reading the same material?  The information was confusing at best and didn’t show HOW these students achieved this result with the help of Relay teachers.

In a comment section on an internet forum, Teach For America educators were even bashing Relay teachers.  You know it has to be bad for that to happen!  But obviously Rodel has helped to “seed” Relay, and now Delaware has signed a contract, without any stakeholder input, to have Relay teachers come into the state and give our students a “high level” of instruction.

Everything that has happened in the state of Delaware with education since Governor Markell ran for the position has been a part of the Vision Network’s goals.  The Vision Network began in 2005, and even though it had minimal success with the state prior to Markell, it wormed it’s way into the public consciousness and hasn’t left.  Herdman and Markell work well together because they have the same goals and agendas.  Both are members of the Aspen Fellow Institute, an eclectic group of politicians, businessmen, educators and celebrities who take up a cause.  Markell has been there since 2004.  Markell served on the 28 member steering committee that became Vision 2015.

Herdman has a long history of fixing education policy.  He did it under two governors in Massachusetts during their time of tremendous education reform in the 1990s. He has attended several conferences and moderated many panels on a national level.  If you look at the Vision Network “blueprint” from 2005-2007, it closely resembles the Common Core standards and everything the Delaware DOE has done in the past five years.  While Vision 2015 is now called ED25, the DOE seems like it’s in a huge rush to get everything in by 2015.

Here’s the deal Delaware: Rodel, with the assistance of Governor Markell, DE Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, the leaders at the Delaware DOE, business leaders, hedge fund managers, the Vision Network, and the Delaware Community Foundation are all using administrators, educators, parents and students.  They are doing this to get rich.  We are all commodities, or Human Capital, to be bought and sold.  We aren’t citizens, we are pawns being moved around a chess board.  We have been sold a bill of goods called Common Core, Smarter Balanced Assessment, Personalized Learning, School Accountability, Teacher Effectiveness and Vision.  For years, we swallowed what they were giving us to drink.  We have been told this will make education better, that our children will be able to do well in college and compete with their international peers.  Our school districts and boards have unknowingly aided and abetted these education reformers.  More and more charter schools across America are opening up.  Priority schools are being shut down to make way for the new charter schools.  Meanwhile, millionaires are betting on these reforms going through, and they are getting richer and richer by the minute, while everyday citizens are staying the same.  They are using taxpayer money, your money, to do this.  Every day they chip away at the foundations of public school education.  Their current endeavors, changing compensation for teachers and their school accountability framework are just more ways to get a duped public to blame public schools and public school district teachers for the ills of society.  It is in reality, a union busting and charter school expanding agenda.

Look at the Vision plan.  Look at what is happening now with public school district teachers, who are supposed to be protected, but are under fire and held to standards and mass scrutiny by the Delaware DOE.  It is exactly as Herdman and Markell planned, nine years ago.

It all started in 2004 when executive director Paul Herdman was charged by the board of Rodel to come up with a new education plan for Delaware.  Dr. Herdman was lauded by Rodel for his prior experience as Senior Education Policy Analyst for the Governor of Massachusetts as well as his work with Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson to allow mayors to authorize charter schools, the first of it’s kind.  Herdman formed an Advisory Council for Rodel that included Jack Markell, the treasurer of Delaware, Pierre du Pont, Senator Tom Carper, Raye Jones Avery, Robert Buccini, William Budinger, and Stephanie Fitzgerald.  That year, Rodel released a document called “Opportunity Knocks” and it showcased their perception of education in Delaware.  In 2006, the blueprint was met with resistance, but they created Vision 2015 anyways and met with the public to try to sell it. Herdman hired the Boston Consulting Group to help sell the package.  A representative from the Delaware Department of Education told Rodel they didn’t want to implement their program.  In 2007, they tried to get the Delaware Legislature to introduce a funding bill of $100 million dollars to implement their blueprint, but they were rejected on all levels.  A case study on Rodel’s “success”, from edfunders.org, wrote the following:

Undettered, he (Herdman) began to take steps that would radically shift political support in the state by putting pressure on key leaders in the legislature and the governor’s office.  He knew that Rodel would have to be involved in creating the political will necessary to effect sweeping changes that would positively impact classrooms statewide.  In addition to building public will and leadership capacity, they would need to invest in strategic opportunities that would build the institutional capacity of key state players to work within their respective organizations and in collaboration with one another…He also felt that most of the work in classrooms didn’t require legislative changes, just some willing partners and funding. 

In 2007, Vision 2015 had 10 public schools and charters join their Vision Network to introduce their ideas to schools.  Rodel also dangled carrots to schools in the form of grants to implement their agenda.  At this time, Herdman began to lobby the Delaware Business Roundtable to have their lobbyists join up with Governor Minner’s lobbyists.  By the end of 2007, Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner issued Executive Order #98, which created the Leadership for Education Achievement in Delaware (LEAD) group to further Rodel’s blueprint.  At this time, Rodel was really focusing on changing how Delaware funded students, and began to initiate their “needs-based funding” formulas.  The 144th General Assembly of Delaware passed Senate Joint Resolution 7 which gave funding and support for Vision 2015.  What happened next changed everything for Rodel.

In 2008, Governor Minner would have to step down, and her predecessor would have to work with Rodel and Herdman.  Fortune and fame beckoned for Rodel if they could find the right candidate.  Their luck paid off in Jack Markell, the treasurer for the state since 1998.  Rodel began to influence the public into believing education was a hot topic for the election.  They crafted an education debate in March of 2008.  They began to have seminars called “Delaware For A Global Economy: Making Vision 2015 Work”.  A company called McKinsey, which Jack Markell had previously consulted with before becoming Treasurer for Delaware, had their director of Global Education Practice deliver the keynote speech.  Meanwhile, Markell was lagging in the polls behind Lieutenant Governor John Carney.  Carney was endorsed by Minner, almost the whole Democratic legislature, and the Democratic Committee.  Rodel and Markell began to collaborate and Markell came from behind and won the Delaware Governor position.  The same year, Barack Obama became President of the USA and part of his campaign was education reform.  This was Rodel’s golden opportunity.

While the country was suffering from it’s greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, President Obama stealthily signed Race To The Top into the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  This allowed $4.35 billion from the Federal Government to be passed out to schools if they signed onto the Common Core initiative.  Governor Markell sat as co-chair on the Common Core Standards Initiative.  With the massive assistance from Rodel, Markell went about filling out Delaware’s application for Race To The Top.  In 2010, Delaware and Tennessee were the first recipients of the funding, with Delaware coming in first place.  Delaware received $119 million dollars in funding.  With this money, Markell and Rodel were able to fully incorporate Vision 2015 into the Delaware education system.  Vision 2015 wanted the following out of Delaware education: more rigor for students to work harder, a state-wide “research-based” curriculum (Common Core), professional classroom and teacher coaching, new assessments (standardized testing), longitudinal data systems to track students from pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade, new career paths for teachers with student achievement as a major part of their performance, incentives for teachers to educate at “low-performing high-need schools”, bonuses to schools that meet or exceed expectations, “creative approaches to recruit and train an expanded pool of new teachers (Teach For America, Relay Graduate School of Education), and more.  Their entire Vision 2015 and history up until 2011 can be found here:

Rodel has influenced and lobbied for all the changes they have wanted, and the Delaware State government has allowed it to happen.  This agenda is just to further the spread of charter schools throughout the state so hedge funds get bigger and bigger.  Who benefits is the question in any mystery.  For Rodel, the answer is millionaires.  With the full assistance of Rodel and Markell, Common Core and standardized testing are a part of education in Delaware.  They are using it to change education and manipulate data to further their own economic interests.  Hedge funds are not illegal.  There are numerous tax loopholes that allow them to thrive and grow.  Rodel’s hedge funds are not illegal.  But they are using taxpayer money to invest into them, while the number of charter schools in the state grow.

Every single thing Governor Markell has done with the priority schools in Wilmington has been suspect since it was announced on September 4th.  These schools will become charter schools if Markell and Rodel have their way.  This was a plan put in motion years ago, when Rodel started granting seed money to many of the same organizations and companies the Delaware DOE eventually signed contracts with using Race To The Top funds.  Teach For America received nearly $707,000 from the Delaware DOE.  Innovative Schools received $1,324,498.00 from Race To The Top.  The Vision Network received $3.72 million from the funding.  All these non-profits and corporations have benefited greatly from Race To The Top funding in the drive to privatize public schools and expand charter schools in Delaware.  The DOE acts like each initiative is something new and exciting, but it’s all a part of a nine year old plan.

The first time I ever saw Dr. Herdman was at the April 2014 State Board of Education meeting.  My first impression of him was he was a salesman.  I went there to speak about special education matters during public comment, but the chatter for this meeting was whether or not the state would authorize four new charter schools.  The Delaware Charter School Network (DCSN) was there in full swing, as well as this man, sitting in the back, almost salivating.  I found out later that this was the Rodel agent for change, Dr. Paul Herdman.  Additionally, Herdman sits on the governing body of, you guessed it, the Delaware Charter School Network.  While DCSN is a small fish compared to Rodel, they help Rodel’s agenda by promoting Delaware charter schools.  The Delaware Charter School Network on their 2013 Fiscal Year tax return stated their mission is “to promote quality in public education through autonomy and choice, to be an effective voice in charter school advocacy in Delaware, and to educate the community about the purpose and goals of charter schools”.  Their executive director, Kendall Massett, is often seen at Delaware State Board of Education meetings during any important charter school decisions, running around like she owns the place.  DCSN had no reported hedge fund investments on their tax returns.

Herdman has a long history of promoting charter schools.  Aside from his influence with the mayor of Indianapolis mentioned earlier, he co-wrote a document in 2000 called “Are Charter Schools Getting More Money Into The Classroom: A Micro-Financial Analysis of First Year Charter Schools in Massachusetts”.  The biography for this states Herdman was a research associate with the Center on Reinventing Public Education and “from 1994-1997 he worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Charter School Office.”  In reading this document, Herdman delves into the topic of why charters in Massachusetts resisted applying for grants and how that impacted them in a negative way.  How ironic that Herdman became the executive director of a grant foundation four years later that invests in hedge funds. To read more of Herdman’s document, go here: http://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/pub_sfrp_arechart_oct00_0.pdf

Herdman also sits on the board of Innovative Schools, another Delaware-based non-profit that has as their mission statement: “Innovative Schools empowers educators and communities to adopt modern school models proven to inspire passionate teaching and learning.”  In Fiscal Year 2012, as per their tax statement which they checked off as an “exempt private foundation”, made a $1,000,000.00 investment in something called Charter School Development Corporation.  When I did research on the company, I could find absolutely no connections with any schools or organizations in Delaware.  Deborah Doordan is listed as the executive director of Innovative Schools and their Chief Operating Officer is a name I mentioned before: Riccardo Stoeckicht, who was previously on the board at Rodel.  He was also connected with the Community Education Building Corp.  This is the empty Bank of America building donated to the state for the purpose of housing charter schools.

While Herdman does not sit on the board of the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, their 2013 Fiscal Year tax statement showed that The Rodel Foundation of Delaware is the entity that “possesses the books and records of the organization”.  This committee heavily invested in Teach For America, another organization with a fast track for teacher certification that is loathed by regular public school district teachers who actually attended college and earned their teacher credentials the right way.  An explanation for Rodel having this access to the committee’s records is given in Schedule O of the Form 990 tax statement:

“The Rodel Foundation is in a pro-bono service contract with the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, providing administrative services to the organization.  Such services are primarily composed of accounting, accounts receivable and accounts payable management, issuance (for signature of checks) to approved vendors, quarterly meeting management, proposal review and project oversight.”  This committee’s purpose is as follows: “The organization’s committee members are involved in the annual allocation of resources to Vision 2015 educational initiatives.” 

Led by Ernie Dianastasis who also serves as the chair of Vision 2015.  Wheels within wheels…It seems that while all of these organizations are separate legal entities, they are all run by Rodel.

One of the largest beneficiaries of Race To The Top funds from Delaware was a company called Amplify Inc.  Amplify is run by Joel Klein.  As of September 9th, 2014, Amplify received $9,967,017.00 from the Delaware Department of Education.  Klein was the prior Chancellor of Schools for New York City when he accepted a job in 2010 to run Amplify, a new company formed from Wireless Generation, later renamed Amplify Insight.  According to Joel Klein’s Linkedin profile, this is the company’s mission statement:

Amplify is a new ed tech firm developing transforming technological tools and content for the K-12 space. Wireless Generation, acquired by News Corp in 2011, is the national leader in data and analytics that empower teachers to customize the learning experience. Wireless is now a part of Amplify, and has been renamed Amplify Insight, Amplify has two other divisions — Amplify Access, which sells a tablet designed specifically for the classroom, loaded with learning- enhancing content, tools and device management features, and Amplify Learning, which is developing a comprehensive, next-generation digital curriculum for K-12 in English, Math and Science. 

In 2010, around this same time, Klein was invited to be the keynote speaker at a University of Delaware sponsored event for Vision 2015, along with Governor Jack Markell.  The two later became involved in the same event when NBC hosted Education Nation in 2013. Amplify produces assessments, along with many other products, and one familiar to Delaware is the DIBELS assessment forced upon elementary school children.  DIBELS is just another test designed to see  how children are doing with Common Core.

Even the Rodel Teacher Council is getting paid extra incentives to spread the word on Rodel and their Vision of personalized learning.  Some members of this council are former Teach For America graduates.  Rodel’s sister organization, The Delaware Community Foundation, has a very extensive group of names attached to it.  One of them bears the same unique last name as a teacher who received Teacher of the Year accolades.

It is obvious that Rodel, in connection with Governor Jack Markell, have lobbied for tens of millions of dollars going to questionable organizations who have in turn used those funds to make donations to even more questionable organizations.  Many of these companies perform tasks our Delaware Department of Education should have been doing in the first place.  The DOE keeps signing contract after contract, spending taxpayer money.  All that money to Amplify and what do we have to show for it?  And then there are these non-profit companies in our state, promoting their “visions” without any accountability for state funds.  Who is investing in the Rodel hedge fund?  How much is it worth?  Who pays the price?  The last question is easy: the students of Delaware.  Using children is bad enough, but to profit off them is even worse.  Our children are more than profits for hedge funds.  All parents will see the results of the past decade of Rodel and Markell next Spring when children come home traumatized after taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

I have a lot of questions after writing this article that I will be exploring.  I welcome anyone to join me.  It’s time we stopped allowing corporations and millionaires from dictating how our children should be educated.  The education reformers are not prophets, they are for profit.

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24 thoughts on “Delaware Race To The Top, Hedge Funds & Millions Wasted: The Story of Rodel, Markell, Charters & The Vision Network

  1. Amazing job! Herdman should hand his doctorate over to you for all of this research~ Your research fills in some if not all of the gaps that I as a Christina Board member see in the entire Priority Schools Initiative. Thank you so much for your study and your insight.

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  2. This is proof of what I have been saying for a long time-that charter schools are going to gut public education, and someone is profiting fromit.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on kavips and commented:
    This has been reblogged to death, but it is so important that if one new reader actually stumbles upon it here, it is well worth the time. We have all known about the little pieces; but this is the first time in recent memory that all the little pieces have been woven together in a tapestry of overwhelming proportions… It’s time to go to war for our children.

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  4. When I accused RODEL of interfering in school board elections and promoting Charter Schools as what was driving that effort Paul Herdman emailed me demanding an apology for my remarks and accusations. In light of your wonderful article I feel it is time to repeat my response to the quarter million dollar, non-profit mogul. Paraphrasing here: “Shove your demand and your organizations thinly veiled plot to privatize and charterize Delaware public schools at taxpayer and children’s’ expense”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article !! Thank you. I will print and read a few more times. I believe all of this to be very true!! Citizens need to know that Rodel and Company are ruining our precious public school.
    Thank you so much ..

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