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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report:

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest

Ten Democratic senators wrote to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos late last week that Diane Auer Jones, who formerly worked for a number of controversial for-profit colleges, has a “significant number of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety” in her current role as DeVos’s senior policy advisor. The senators charge that Jones “has a history of participating in the revolving door of government and lobbying.”
The letter from the senators, who include Richard Blumenthal (CT), Patty Murray (WA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Dick Durbin (IL), and Kamala Harris (CA), discloses that Jones, who joined the Department last month, has been designed as the Senior Department Official (SDO) in charge of deciding whether the Department will reinstate as a recognized college accreditor the troubled Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The Obama administration had dropped ACICS after many of its schools, including schools for which Jones worked, faced law enforcement probes for deceiving students and taxpayers. The senators write that ACICS “oversaw the biggest collapses of for-profit colleges in the history of federal student aid.”
The senators further tell DeVos, “we are concerned that Ms. Jones may be advising you on a variety of regulatory and administrative matters that directly and indirectly impact her former employers and the for-profit college industry.”
When it was disclosed in March that the DeVos had hired Jones, Republic Report described Jones’s extensive work for the for-profits, including her service from 2010 until 2015 as senior vice president and chief external affairs officer at Career Education Corporation (CEC), where she lobbied for the company on contentious policy issues, including the Obama administration’s gainful employment rule, aimed at preventing colleges from leaving graduates with insurmountable student loan debt. 
Last month, during the final round of public rule-making meetings on the DeVos Department’s plan to gut the gainful employment rule, Jones could be seen sitting with other Department officials behind the negotiating table.
Republic Report also noted that Jones’ had served as an expert witness, providing dubious testimony, for the CollegeAmerica chain in a lawsuit brought by Colorado’s attorney general.
Both CEC and CollegeAmerica have extensive records of predatory practices, and both have faced major law enforcement actions. CEC operated schools accredited by ACICS, and some schools owned by CollegeAmerica chain also previously sought ACICS accreditation. 
The subsequent release of Jones’s financial disclosure form showed additional work for the for-profit college industry, including consulting for the troubled Washington lobby group APSCU (now called CECU.)
The senators write to DeVos regarding Jones, “it is imperative that the public have a better understanding of how the Department plans to address the significant number of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety that exist in her roles as SDO in the ACICS review process and as an advisor on other policy issues facing the Department such as regulations, enforcement actions, and reviews of conversions by for-profit colleges she may have worked with or represented.”
The for-profit CollegeAmerica chain converted to a non-profit in a deal so troubling that the Obama Education Department, after extensive Continue reading:  Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report:

New Zealand Dumps National Standards and Charter Schools - NZ Herald

Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools - NZ Herald:
Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is closing the door on future charter schools and giving existing ones notice that he can make them close up shop by the end of the school year - though he still hasn't visited one as minister.
Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill today, which would formally end National Standards and charter schools.
"The Government's strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system," Hipkins said.
Schools will continue to be required to report to parents, at least twice a year, on their child's progress and achievement.
The National Party has strongly opposed dumping National Standards and charter schools, and repeatedly called on the Government to visit a charter school, such as the Vanguard Military School in Albany.
A spokesman for the minister said Hipkins had visited charter schools while in Opposition.
The bill would mean an end to future charter schools, and allow existing ones to continue while the Ministry of Education considers options - such as becoming a designated character school - on a case-by-case system.
Unlike charter schools, a character school is part of the public education system, is funded like other state schools, and must adhere to the national curriculum.
Five charter schools were scheduled to open in 2018 and will no longer open. Eleven existing charter schools have a combined roll of about 1300 students.
Hipkins wanted existing charter schools to wind up before the end of their contracts by mutual agreement.
"If, however, early termination is not agreed by both parties, I am reserving my right to issue a notice of 'termination for convenience', under charter schools' existing contracts, by the middle of May 2018. This would take effect at the end of the school year."
The final cost of removing the charter school model is unknown. Financial compensation for schools that have their contract terminated would likely cost up to $1 million in financial compensation to the schools, according to the Cabinet paper.
National leader Bill English has criticised the Government legislation to close the 'partnership' schools, saying it was "shameful" Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had not bothered to visit the schools to meet the children at them.
The schools were set up under National's agreement with the Act Party to cater for children who were struggling in the mainstream system. While National was initially lukewarm about them, English was an advocate.
English said closing the schools was "nasty and vindictive behaviour" and was ideological.
"And the victims of it will be young children who could have done better in a school that suited their needs."
He said although Labour had dismissed concerns because the schools had only 1000 students in them, he said those students deserved the opportunities the schools gave them.
He said it was 'shameful' that had challenged Ardern to visit the schools in person to explain the decision to the children.
"I think it shows the PM is uncomfortable with the policy and certainly uncomfortable with facing the impact on the children. I've met these kids, I've met their parents.
They meet the needs of those kids. There might only be 1000 of them but they matter."
He said a significant proportion of the students in the schools were Maori and Ardern had promised Maori up north to deliver to them.
Act leader David Seymour said axing charter schools was "juvenile and callous".
"Struggling kids were having their lives turned around, but this Government will massacre the schools for a combination of ideology and union utu."​
The bill would also mean that anyone signing up to the fees-free tertiary education policy would have to make a declaration. It would not have to be witnessed, but anyone caught lying could lead to a conviction and a $5000 fine.
This aims to deter people from taking advantage of what National has called an "honesty system".
The bill would also restore guaranteed places for staff and student representatives on Tertiary Education Institution councils.
Hipkins is also asking for feedback on when children should be able to start school, though he remains committed to abolishing the previous Government's policy of allowing 4-year-olds to start school if they turned 5 within two months of starting.
National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has described the rolling of the policy as "nanny-state".
The 50 schools that have taken up National's policy will still be able to use it until a bill abolishing it is enacted, expected to be in the second half of the year.
In the meantime the Ministry of Education is beginning a consultation process on two options:
• Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school once a term, at the start of the term
• Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school twice a term; once at the start of the term and again at the term's mid-point, which would include children who had turned five by that time.
Schools will also be able to continue with continuous entry, which the majority of schools currently choose.
Anyone wanting to participate in the consultation should visit here.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools - NZ Herald:

 PM says compromise will help charter schools to convert rather than close - NZ Herald - via @nzherald