Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Skeleton in Arne Duncan's Closet

Halloween season is an appropriate time to talk about rattling skeletons in the closet. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appears to have a noisy one dating from his years running the Chicago Public Schools. Her name is Carol J. Spizzirri.

A little background. Spizzirri is a convicted shoplifter. According to a sworn affidavit by her ex-husband, a court ordered psychological evaluation diagnosed her as a paranoid schizophrenic and pathological liar. Spizzirri claimed to be a registered nurse and a renal specialist. Her alma mater, now defunct, denied giving her an RN and reportedly she has never been a registered nurse in either Wisconsin or Illinois, as she had claimed. One of her daughters filed a protective order against her because of alleged abuse.

This same daughter died in a car crash in 1992 after which Spizzirri started the nonprofit Save-a-Life Foundation (SALF) whose charter was to teach first aid skills like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver to school children using EMTs and firemen as in-class trainers. According to Spizzirri, her daughter was the victim of a hit-and-run driver and bled to death because the ambulance took a half hour to reach the scene and no one at the scene knew how to stanch the flow of blood. Spizzirri claimed her mother's grief motivated her to start the foundation which attracted political and financial support, including about $9 million in IL state and federal dollars. Famed doctors Peter Safar (who developed CPR) and Henry J. Heimlich (known for the maneuver) served on SALF's medical advisory board.

But official records indicate that the daughter's alcohol level was twice the legal limit, that she flipped the car, and died a half hour after reaching a hospital. Confronted with these facts by Chicago TV investigative reporter Chuck Goudie in 2006, Spizzirri terminated the interview and stomped off the set. Over the next year, Goudie did another three reports raising more questions about SALF.

Those stories appear to have been the first time a Chicago reporter did any fact checking about the foundation. For instance, in an uncritical 2002 Sun-Times article, Spizzirri claimed that her foundation trained 400,000 Illinois school children in 2001 alone. Do the math. In a 180-day school year, that's 2,222 children per day.

During his years as CPS big dog, Arne Duncan was apparently close to Spizzirri. He was a featured speaker at a 2003 SALF conference and a 2006 press statement has him receiving a SALF "Sponsorship Award" from Spizzirri, his second such prize. Duncan is quoted saying, "Carol is one of my heroes. I really appreciate the partnership." Duncan even appeared as an animated pitchman on SALF's website, cheerily hyping kids on the program: "Hi, friend, I'm Arne Duncan ... Ask your school teacher today if the 'SALF-Town' heroes can visit you!"

Before she huffed out of the interview with Chuck Goudie, Spizzirri said SALF trained 67,000 Chicago Public School (CPS) children in first aid the year before and that the training was free to the children. In fact, records show that CPS paid the foundation a considerable amount.

After Goudie's reports, Spizzirri filed a defamation suit against three people who criticized SALF (including Dr. Heimlich's son), claiming the criticisms cost it 11 contracts, including CPS. But the lawsuit resulted in only more scrutiny. For example, in response to a subpoena from the defendants' lawyer for all their SALF records, CPS produced a grand total of 19 invoices from 2000-2007 totaling $12,855.

Three more invoices from 2004/2005 -- which CPS failed to provide to the defendants' attorney -- have since turned up via a public records request. The first 19 invoices produced by the subpoena appear to have gone through regular CPS payroll. But the three later invoices, totaling $49,000, were processed and signed off by CEO Arne Duncan's office. One includes this handwritten notation: "per AD per Ann Whalen 9-14-05." Whalen was Duncan's personal assistant. She now works for him in Washington.

The $49,000 was for "training elementary school students in life supporting first aid skills which will take place in approximately 15 schools with approximately 2,400 students." But the subpoena to CPS didn't produce any records showing the training ever happened.

What about all those CPS students allegedly trained by SALF? If you train 67,000 children in a single year and there are, let's say, 25 children per session, that's 2,680 sessions, 15 per day if evenly distributed across a 180-day school year. As any overworked administrator can testify, that's likely to produce a mountain of paper work -- work orders, reports, employment records, evaluations, etc. Twenty-two invoices over a seven year period do not a mountain make.

On July 9, a federal judge in Chicago granted SALF's request for voluntary dismissal and the lawsuit was dropped. A few months later, SALF filed dissolution papers with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office. But questions remain about the organization's 16-year history, their funding, and their relationships with powerful public officials -- including Arne Duncan.

Why did CPS pay SALF over $60,000 for a "free" program? What happened to the more than $1,000,000 SALF received from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for one year (there were other CDC contracts)? What about the millions SALF received from Illinois taxpayers? In the case of the Illinois State Board of Education, it's a guessing game. ISBE's complete records consist of a form showing a disbursement of $600,000 to SALF -- no application, no review, no evaluation, no nothin'.

According to an Oct. 11 Chicago Tribune article, "(Spizzirri) estimates 2 million children took the classes, many of them from the Chicago Public Schools ... City school officials did not respond to inquiries about how many students received emergency training"

Looks like this tale is so spooky that CPS won't even talk about it to a Trib reporter. But the public may feel entitled to know whether their money went for tricks or treats. For example, the $60,000+ CPS gave SALF was apparently spent on first aid training for hundreds of thousands of ghosts. I'd say it's time to knock on the door of someone who can get to the bottom of this money mystery. He lives in that big house down at the end of the street, the one marked, "Secretary of Education."


The New York Times On Hiring Discrimination ... Again

Leftist craziness again. They use affirmative action to devalue qualifications held by blacks then wonder why people respect black qualifications less!

Five days ago the New York Times published a front page article on the job hunt travails of black college graduates, an article I criticized here. Now, here they go again: today’s ‘Whitening’ the Résumé adds little or nothing to what was published last week.

Well, there was this: Michael Luo, the New York Times reporter, finds it “startling” that black job seekers, fearing discrimination, often attempt to disguise their race.
That seemed startling somehow, maybe because of the popular perception that affirmative action still confers significant advantages to black job candidates, a perception that is not borne out in studies. Moreover, statistics show even college-educated blacks suffering disproportionately in this jobless environment compared with whites, as that [earlier] article reported.

What studies? And is there evidence that the black applicants who are “suffering disproportionately” are in fact proportionately qualified?

On what may be a related point, last week the National Science Foundation published an initial report from its Survey of Earned Doctorates, and the demographic data there may well have some bearing on job prospects, and not just of those with doctorates. A breakdown of that demographic data can be found here.

30,791 doctorates in all fields were awarded to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in 2008, and 2030 of them went to blacks. But of those black doctorates, 758, or over 37%, were in education. 241, or a little under 12%, were in physical sciences or engineering. By contrast, 24% of all the doctorates earned by whites and Asians were in physical sciences or engineering.

If we assume that the demographic distribution of undergraduate majors is not significantly different from the distribution of doctorates, it is certainly possible that black college graduates have a “disproportionately” harder time finding jobs because they “disproportionately” earned degrees that carry less weight in the job market.

SOURCE See the original for links

Admit your limitations

The guy described below sounds like a typical Leftist to me. They don't argue. All they do is assert. That is what I almost universally find in messages and emails that I get from Leftists

Kevin Wilmeth's observation in yesterday's comments that a good teacher admits when he doesn't have an answer really struck a chord in me. It reminds me of when I lost respect for a state-employed teacher over a silly act of "saving face".

Our class was preparing for a zoology test on taxonomy, where we would look at examples of different animals and assign them to their proper order, class, and family.

Things were fine until I got to a tiny pickled flatfish in a jar. The teacher said it was a "ray". Now, that is a major discrepancy, since a flatfish is a bony fish (Osteichthyes) and a ray is a cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes); almost as different as two fish can be while still being fish. When I pointed it out to the teacher, he said I was wrong. I knew I wasn't. I got reference books and showed him the pictures clearly illustrating the differences. He got very angry and said "You're beating a dead horse. I don't care if you are right; for our purposes it is a ray." My respect for him plummeted as a result. He was not only unwilling to face the truth for himself, but he was also actively teaching false information to people who had been trained to accept whatever "authorities" told them.

How many of the students he deceived went on with life, never questioning whether what they were told was the truth? How many became good little cogs in the machinery of the state due to lies even more egregious than this? On the other hand, how much did this event help cement my own suspicion that "authorities" were at least as likely to be wrong as anyone, and less likely to admit it when they were?


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