Tuesday, March 17, 2009

School Choice Clarity From a Public Ed Heroine

Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the struggling public school system in the District of Columbia, has already won bi-partisan admiration for her energetic and innovative efforts to shake up one of the most troubled educational establishments in the country. Now she deserves further plaudits for her courageous clarity on the issue of vouchers. Most public education bureaucrats reflexively oppose vouchers as a threat to their monopoly, denouncing any use of government funds to allow poor children to choose parochial or private school alternatives to failing neighborhood schools. Ms. Rhee, however, fearlessly spoke up against efforts by Congressional Democrats to kill a promising vouchers program in the nation's capital. "Part of my job is to make sure that all kids get a great education," she told the New York Times, "and it doesn't matter whether it's charter, parochial or public schools. I don't think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids."

Her clarity on this issue should embarrass the Obama administration to halt the efforts by its allies to undermine the vouchers program in the nation's capital. Currently, the Opportunity Scholarships Program provides $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees and transportation expenses for 1,700 poor children to attend private school. A recent study showed that the parents of these students overwhelming preferred the religious and private alternatives they chose in large part because they considered the environments safer than the D.C. public schools. Of the children who currently participate in the program, 90% are African-American, and 9% Hispanic - with less than 1% white or Asian.

Nevertheless, Congressional Democrats have urged Ms. Rhee to prepare to re-enroll the vouchers kids in public schools after they succeed in terminating the Opportunity Scholarships. If they do return to the D.C. system, taxpayers will spend far more - twice as much, in fact --- for each of them than the cost of the current $7,500 a year scholarships.

The brain-dead Democrats who support this idiotic teachers union priority ought to explain why they want to waste public funds and to take away choice from 1,700 black and Latino kids, in order to force them into a school system whose heroic chancellor doesn't even want them back. Why should purportedly compassionate liberals impose their own partisan values not only on a group of impoverished but loving parents who support and depend on the vouchers program, but on Michelle Rhee, one of the most courageous and clear-thinking school administrators in the country?


Harvard's poisonous MBAs

Harvard is far to the Left of the American mainstream so the influence of the Leftist credo "There is no such thing as right and wrong" is to be expected.

SPIRITUALLY deformed graduates from business colleges taught by people whose reputations are based on jargon have robbed millions. They have sentenced many more, often in countries whose names they could barely pronounce, and whose location remains a mystery, to lives of unemployment and penury. With the so-called free market in freefall, with industrial legends of 20th century capitalism begging for help, and as arrogant bankers ask taxpayers they have caned for years to bail them out, it's time to look at who's to blame. One name keeps coming up: Harvard University.

The business school of the wealthiest and most prestigious university in America churns out 900 graduates each year. I wouldn't employ any of them. Harvard Business School's motto "to educate leaders who make a difference in the world" has been fulfilled, but it can't have been the difference its founding fathers envisaged. Most likely it does not care.

Harvard has become the unacceptable face of capitalism and you should see who they've been teaching. Let's start with Stanley O'Neal who many saw as a role model for ambitious black Americans. He had all the Harvard traits. He was earning about $45 million a year, seemingly cared little for his colleagues, and under his watch as chairman and chief executive Merrill Lynch sank in the mire of subprime home loans. In August and September 2007, as the company posted losses of $8 billion for the quarter, he reportedly managed 20 rounds of golf, once squeezing in three rounds in one day on three different courses. We know this because the friendless O'Neal recorded the results - he played alone - on an amateur golf website. Rather than sack Wall Street's worst performed CEO, Merrill Lynch allowed him to "retire" with a package valued at $161 million.

Harvard wasn't finished with Merrill Lynch, even if the company was all but washed up. Another of its graduates, John Thain, took over from O'Neal - receiving a $15 million signing on fee - and quickly renovated his office spending $1.2 million doing so, including $1400 on a waste paper bin. It's a beauty.

Thain oversaw $4 billion in bonus payments to Merrill Lynch employees as the company groaned under losses that rose to $15 billion for the fourth quarter last year. By then Merrill Lynch was staggering and Thain arranged for it to be purchased by Bank of America which having failed to do its homework nearly collapsed with the debt in January, before being saved by US taxpayers. Thain asked for a $10 million bonus for his efforts.

Franklin Raines graduated from Harvard in 1971, went on to become an investment banker and later worked for then president Bill Clinton. His stewardship of mortgage lender Fannie Mae was less successful, indeed some blame him for its troubles which in turn helped drag down the entire US economy. When he was in the driver's seat Fannie Mae misstated its earnings as things went seriously awry with its unsustainable lending policies.

He took the blame for this, in a traditionally Harvard manner. "While I long ago accepted managerial accountability for any errors committed by subordinates while I was CEO, it is a very different matter to suggest that I was legally culpable in any way," Raines said, settling a legal action against him and two other senior executives. By now Raines name was mud.

He was succeeded by another Harvard graduate whose name was already a problem. Daniel Mudd took over as CEO of Fannie Mae, but things worsened and he was sacked and sent home to his 22-room colonial mansion with servants' quarters.

Christopher Cox left Harvard in 1977 for a glittering career in law and finance that saw him become a Californian congressman and be appointed by George Bush as chairman of the powerful US Securities and Exchange Commission. With Cox in charge of the SEC, which should have been looking for corruption and mismanagement on Wall Street and elsewhere in the US financial system, it would subpoena reporters whose stories embarrassed big corporations.

Meanwhile, Bernard Madoff, who Cox's team should have spotted long ago, was able to lie, cheat and steal his way to a $100 billion fortune as he ripped of banks and private investors and ruined lives, all of which Madoff admitted in a New York court last Friday. Cox, meanwhile, resigned on January 20.

The seemingly self-delusional and brittle deputy leader of the [Australian] federal Liberal Party, Julia Bishop, has also passed through Harvard business studies school where she clearly attended the popular "always blame others" classes. Last year The Australian revealed that the cat-clawing one-time shadow treasurer's chapter in the book Liberals and Power included words borrowed from a prominent New Zealand businessman Roger Kerr. Her chief-of-staff, Murray Hansen, took the fall for that one, with Bishop blaming the editor-in-chief of the newspaper for the "campaign" against her. Earlier, she appeared to have used some sentences from the Wall Street Journal website in a speech in Parliament. Of course, she denied stealing the Journal's words, but she could not rule out the possibility her staff had nicked them.

Once you've been to Harvard the buck never stops with you.


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