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17999EdNews You Can Use- 19 July

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  • S. E. Anderson
    Jul 13, 2014
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      Close Stuyvesant High School!

      Why super-elite public magnet schools aren’t necessary anymore.


      Illustration by Mark Stamaty

      My alma mater, Stuyvesant High School, has been a lightning rod in New York City politics for as long as I can remember. Whenever critics have griped about the way Stuyvesant does business, my inclination has long been to say, essentially, “Screw you.” Going to Stuyvesant is one of the best things to have ever happened to me. I met two of my lifelong best friends there, and being surrounded by thousands of the city’s scrappiest strivers, most of whom were immigrants or the children of immigrants from New York’s outer boroughs, taught me more than I ever learned from any teacher. The same goes for most of the alums with whom I’ve kept in touch over the years.

      Yet recently, as Mayor Bill de Blasio, state lawmakers in Albany, and the United Federation of Teachers have called for scrapping Stuyvesant’s current admissions formula, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that Stuyvesant should close its doors. The same goes for elite public high schools like it across the country.

      Stuyvesant is one of New York City’s “specialized high schools.” To gain admission, you must first take an entrance exam. Every year, thousands of kids take the test—last year it was 27,817—to try their luck at getting into one of the city’s eight specialized high schools. What separates Stuyvesant from the rest of the specialized high schools is simply that it has the highest cutoff. It admits the highest-scoring 950 or so students, not all of whom attend. This wouldn’t be such a problem for de Blasio and his allies if it weren’t for one awkward and uncomfortable fact, which is that Stuyvesant’s admissions formula has not yielded a student body that looks like New York—not even close. Of the 952 admissions offers Stuyvesant made in 2014, 71 percent went to students of Asian origin, while only 2.9 percent went to black and Latino students, despite the fact that 70 percent of the eighth-graders currently enrolled in New York City schools are black and Latino. The shortage of black and Latino students is not new. They have been relatively rare ever since the school was established in 1904. As the city’s demographics have changed, the absence of black and Latino students has grown all the more politically problematic.

      You might wonder how New York City, the citadel of urban liberalism, has allowed this racial imbalance to persist for so long. The reason is that Stuyvesant’s straightforward, exam-based admissions process is enshrined in a state law, the Hecht-Calandra Act of 1971. There have been efforts to overhaul the law, to have it take into account grades and attendance and other measures that would all but guarantee that slackers like my eighth-grade self would never set foot in Stuyvesant again, but they’ve never had quite the momentum they do now. What I find irritating about the debate over Stuyvesant is the premise that if only the school admitted more black and Latino students, all would be well. This reflects a profound misunderstanding of how Stuyvesant works.

      Recently, Capital New York surveyed a panel of local education experts on how they’d go about changing Stuyvesant’s admissions formula, and most of them recommended admitting the top performers on the test at public middle schools across the city, ensuring that each school sends kids to Stuyvesant. Given the fact that many of New York’s middle schools are highly segregated, this would all but guarantee that more black and Latino students would be admitted to Stuyvesant and the other specialized high schools. It would also mean, however, that many capable students who’d be admitted under the current formula would be denied admission and that the concentration of talent that is Stuyvesant’s great strength would be greatly undermined.

      One expert, Robert Tobias, a professor of teaching and learning at NYU’s Steinhardt School, recommended making the admissions process more like what you’d find at an elite college, complete with teacher recommendations and a portfolio of the student’s work, a proposal that would likely prove an extraordinarily expensive administrative nightmare.

      The most penetrating contribution came from Pedro Noguera, also a professor at the Steinhardt School, who raised an obvious but largely neglected point, namely that Stuyvesant and the other specialized schools aren’t actually that great: “I would not tell a top African-American student to go to one of those schools.” Rather, Noguera explained, he’d encourage such a student to attend a school that offered a more supportive environment and a higher quality of education. He told Capital that the specialized high schools offer “a total sink-or-swim environment,” which he would not hold up as a model.

      Noguera is exactly right. The politicians and the education experts who are so fixated on the racial balance at Stuyvesant neglect the fact that Stuyvesant is not built to support and nurture students who need care and attention to excel academically and socially. It is a school that allows ambitious students who know how to navigate their way around a maddening, complex bureaucracy to connect with other students with the same skill sets. Being in a fiercely competitive environment spurs a small number of sleep-deprived students to stretch themselves to the limit, to compete for admission to elite universities. The truth is that while Stuyvesant certainly does send many hyperaggressive students to the Stanfords and MITs and Princetons, students who find themselves in the bottom half of the class often languish without the support they’d get at other schools.

      Giving some number of black and Latino students a boost in the admissions process won’t suddenly vault them into the top of the class or erase their need for a supportive environment. It is all too easy to imagine that the locus of segregation would simply shift. Stuyvesant High School as a whole might look more like New York City. But would the top quarter of the class look like it, or would it still be dominated by the kind of students who don’t need a supportive environment to max out their GPAs? Like Noguera, I strongly suspect that the kind of very good black and Latino students who might be admitted to Stuyvesant if grades and attendance were taken into account would be better off elsewhere—and I think the same is probably true of many Asian and white students as well, if not most.

      Critics of Stuyvesant’s demographic mix need to think hard about the goals of integration. Traditionally, desegregation efforts have been designed to get students from deprived backgrounds to rub shoulders with students from more affluent and stable families, in the hopes of fostering meaningful interracial friendships and spreading the norms that contribute to success later in life. In other words, integration is about helping students build social and cultural capital. Notice, however, that Stuyvesant has grown less and less white over the years. It’s certainly not true that all white New Yorkers have more social and cultural capital than first- and second-generation Asian-Americans. As a general rule, however, native-born whites, and in particular rich native-born whites, tend to be more established in American society than recent arrivals from China’s Fujian province or Bangladesh. So I find it striking that only 17 percent of admissions offers went to self-identified white students this year. Even if we add in the additional 8.3 percent of students who chose not to disclose their ethnic identities, many of whom, I’m guessing, were either white or of mixed ancestry, the total is a mere 25.3 percent.

      I have a theory about declining white representation at Stuyvesant. I seriously doubt that it’s because New York City is no longer home to white eighth-graders from affluent families who have expansive vocabularies and solid critical thinking skills and who are more than capable of scoring well on the entrance exam. I’ve met more than my share of such young people. My gut tells me that Stuyvesant has grown steadily less attractive to white families with the kind of social and cultural capital that helps people get ahead in America. These families are seeking out other options, and so have savvy families of all ethnic backgrounds. Over the past three decades, New York’s wealth boom has contributed to soaring endowments at the city’s elite independent schools, virtually all of which are keen to attract talented black and Latino students and which obviously cater to academically gifted white students as well.

      More consequential still has been the rise of smaller public high schools, which offer well-defined curriculums that are a better fit for the large majority of students, gifted or otherwise, who need a bit of hand-holding. If you were a college-educated native-born parent living in New York who knows your way around the local high schools, is it obvious that you’d want your child to go to Stuyvesant instead of an excellent school with a mellow, hippie-ish vibe, or one that offers intensive instruction in Mandarin? Would it be obvious if it entailed a grueling commute, like the hour-and-a-half one-way commutes that were routine for friends of mine traveling from the far reaches of Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx? It might have been obvious from the 1970s to the 1990s, when middle-class flight devastated the city’s local high schools, and when getting your nerdy kid into a specialized high school was the only way to ensure that she wouldn’t get beaten up every day at lunch. Fortunately, New York City has come a long way since then.   

      There is another reason why in-the-know parents appear to be turning away from Stuyvesant. These days, it doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of keeping its students on the ethical straight-and-narrow. In 2012, dozens of Stuyvesant students were caught cheating on a statewide Regents exam, the results of which were utterly inconsequential for the students involved. These were bright kids with bright futures, and they thought nothing of texting the questions on the (totally meaningless) Regents exam to their fellow students. The reporting that followed the scandal, from Vivian Yee of the New York Times and others, made it clear that this particular cheating incident was part of a larger pattern. The students involved in the scandal had grown so accustomed to cheating that it was second nature. And why wouldn’t it be? When you get enough bright young people together and you tell them that academic achievement is everything but that you’re going to load them with enough homework to last several lifetimes, it’s inevitable that corners will be cut.

      While it can be overdone, there is certainly a major benefit to grouping the top students together in the same class, if not the same school.

      Some will suggest that we simply transform Stuyvesant to address these concerns. Let’s give it the same admissions process as Amherst College! Let’s emphasize character education! Let’s see to it that black and Latino representation never falls below 10 percent! But why bother? Such a radical overhaul wouldn’t address the fundamental problem, which is the premise that New York City should have an elite high school—a “crown jewel” of the public school system—at all. As long as some people out there insist that Stuyvesant is the city’s best school, and that its students are the best of the best, the fact that so few of its students are black and Latino is obviously going to offend people. How could it not?

      Instead of reinventing Stuyvesant from the ground up, we should instead recognize that it never made sense for one warehouse of a school to hoover up such a big chunk of the city’s whiz kids. Better to spread gifted and talented kids across a wide range of schools offering different instructional models, each of which will do a better job of meeting their students’ needs than a one-size-fits-all school like Stuyvesant, and none of which, hopefully, will pride itself on its “eliteness.”

      Reihan Salam is a columnist for Slate.

      When Did Teacher Unions Decide to "TURN" Against Collective Bargaining Rights?
      by Kathy Carroll
      Friday Jul 11th, 2014 11:01 AM
      At a United Public Workers For Action forum, speakers exposed the systemic connections between the Gates Foundation, Walton and other privatizers with the leadership of the AFT/CFT and NEA/CTA in California. These officials are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from union busters and privatizers and are colluding with them to destroy public education through charters, testing schemes like "Common Core" and other scams.
      Labor, Privatization And How To Defend Public Education: SF Forum

      On July 6, 2014 in San Francisco a forum was held titled
      Labor, Privatization And How To Defend Public Education.
      Speakers included Kathleen Carroll, fired Commission On Teacher
      Credentialing, attorney & whistleblower; Rick Baum, member
      of CCSF AFT Local 2121; George Wright, retired Professor
      AFT 1493; Gray Brechin, UCB Geography Department, author
      of "Imperial San Francisco"; Sharon Higgins, researcher on
      privatization and Gulen charter chain.

      Billionaires from the Walton Walmart family to the Gates
      Foundation, the Fisher GAP KIPP operation and the Broad
      Foundation are spending fortunes pushing charters to loot
      public education. The "Common Core" and testing schemes
      profiting Pearson Inc. are part of the drive to totally privatize
      public education. UC Regent Richard Blum and others with ties
      to politicians are also benefiting financially from this transformation.
      Politicians in California and nationally are actively supporting
      privatization, the "Common Core" and charters to eliminate and
      re-segregate our public schools.

      At the same time in San Francisco privatizers are seeking to revoke
      accreditation of the City College of San Francisco in order to
      destroy the unions and privatize the largest community college
      in California. This forum looks at how this privatization agenda
      is being implemented and what our unions and the labor
      movement need to do to fight it.

      Sponsored by United Public Workers For Action

      When Did Teacher Unions Decide to "TURN" Against Collective Bargaining Rights?
      By Kathleen Carroll

      We watch the chaotic struggles against mass school closures, mass teacher-school employee layoffs, and the proliferation of charter schools. We see the expansion of charter school management organizations and online learning, testing, with associated tech companies taking huge chunks of education tax dollars. We then hear politicians claiming what we have is a budget crisis, yet many of the same names appear over and over. The profiteers that usually emerge within the debate about privatizing public education include Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Michelle Rhee and her Students First, and the Milken Foundation, just to name a few.

      But what is missing from the debate is the fact that teacher union officials themselves are active participants in the scheme to monetize and profit from the public education system. Our public education system was built-up over hundreds of years with taxpayer money.

      The labor struggles before and during the Depression Era are well documented. Why do labor unions including national teacher unions NEA and AFT exist? They exist because fearless workers risked and sometimes lost their lives to improve working conditions for future generations of workers. Sacrifices were made so those future works would have safe working conditions, a livable wage, benefits such as health care and the 8-hour work day. The labor union is supposed to protect against human exploitation of workers for unlimited profits, at least that is the lesson of the tragic Triangle Fire (http://www.mobiletechreview.com/notebooks/MacBook-Air-2013.htm history of Triangle Fire).

      In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed. The NLRA outlawed practices that gave rise to the prohibitive "company union" and prohibited companies, government, or management from running, controlling or managing the union workforce. The NLRA prohibited the union bureaucracy from being incorporated within a company's-government's management.

      So, workers are supposed to run-manage unions, not businesses, or company-government managers. This makes sense, since it is the workers fighting-negotiating collectively to have a contract containing provisions for a living wage, benefits, safe working conditions, a grievance process, and protection against arbitrary and politically motivated firings or layoffs.

      Within businesses and government management struggles not for workers' rights, but to maintain a high profit margin and high executive compensation. Of course this dictates worker exploitation including reduced worker wages and is the antithesis of why a labor union exists.

      We are overly bombarded by billionaires running advertisements, to fund their next get rich quick scheme to "TAP" into the public education tax dollar spigot. In fact, we are so bombarded that too few of us hear what the union brass is doing.

      In 1995 the late Helen Bernstein was president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). At that time Ms. Bernstein and Adam Urbanski (then UFT New York, now AFT vice president) formed a non-profit Teacher Union Reform Network "TURN" with a grant from the PEW charitable trust. TURN now has affiliates throughout the country at the national, state, and local levels; see the TURN exchange network. TURN leadership is now headed by AFT vice-president Adam Urbanski.

      What might be surprising to teachers is that TURN takes money from the billionaires. These billionaires are certainly not looking out for worker rights, but instead concentrating on vigorously busting up the labor unions and squashing collective bargaining rights. The Gates and Broad Foundations have each given millions to TURN. Union leaders such as Karen Lewis (president of Chicago teachers union) spoke at TURN's 2012 national convention, and Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meier and Linda Darling Hammond did likewise in 2013.

      In the Broad Foundation 2009 Annual Report at page 10 the foundation exuberantly admits to "investing" in union leaders like Randi Weingarten (AFT president) to run/manage incentive based compensation. (Doesn't this seem like the very prohibitive "company union" outlawed back in 1935 to prevent exploitation of the workforce?) This type of merit based, union busting tactic has been criticized by Diane Ravitch on her blog and in her books. So, why is Ravitch speaking at TURN's national convention? And was she paid to do so? If paid, was she paid by the very same privatizers she had so vehemently exposed in her published books "Reign of Error" and "Death and Life of the Great American School System"? What a strange TURN of events.

      Under the banner of fostering labor-management collaboration, TURN has drastically shifted the purpose of a labor union. TURN is just another organization taking money from profiteers under the guise of improving teacher effectiveness. Teachers bear witness to the massacre of their collective bargaining rights. They are losing tenure laws, dismissal rights, and protection from arbitrary layoffs and firings. Most teachers are numb from shock, but continue to blame the fat cats for siphoning off public education tax dollars. The fat cats exist and what they are doing is absolutely wrong. But would the effort to privatize our public education system ever have gotten off the ground without the cooperation of those money conflicted union officials who were willing to be bought off? It is not clear when the union officials "TURNed" against collective bargaining rights, but it is clear that they have.

      Take a quick look at Randi Weingarten and you will find Randi is a trustee at New Visions for Public Schools, which is funded by the Walton Family Foundation, by Gates, and by Milken, the junk bond felon. Publicly available reported IRS 990 forms show that Randi is on the board of Green Dot New York Charter School and the board of New Visions for Public Schools. Keeping Randi company on the Brooklyn Green Dot board was board member Nadya (aka Nadine) Dabby. Take a quick look at Dabby and you will find she is paid by the Broad Foundation, and that California Governor Brown appointed Dabby (a Broadie) to the State's Allocation Board.

      Broad's relationship with Randi Weingarten goes back over a decade as readily admitted in the 2009 Broad Foundation annual report. Too many illicit non-profits to list receive funds not only from the billionaire foundations, but also from rank and file teacher money, e.g., the AFT Innovation Fund. These funds seek to shift focus away from teacher collective bargaining right, and instead misdirect public focus on the scam so-called problem with "ineffective" teachers. The very frequent occurrence of the "grossly ineffective teacher" term in the recent Vergara decision made one feel brainwashed reading the decision. Maybe that was indeed the goal, to ensure the public would believe there indeed exists a serious problem with "grossly ineffective teachers".

      Hopefully the public is smarter than the scam artists realize. There exists a serious problem with income inequality between the very rich and the rest of society. A child going to school hungry or facing other socioeconomic factors at home, e.g., inability to read, write or speak English, will have hurdles that will be difficult to overcome regardless of what teacher is in that child's classroom.

      It should be noted that Green Dot Public Schools is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This means if they are to see profits, they must expand, which in TURN means more traditional public schools must close, so more lost jobs.

      The unions have formed and partnered with many illicit non-profits, with union busters buying off union officials, e.g., California Teacher Association's Institute for Teaching (IFT). Dean Vogel, a school counselor, is both president of CTA and CEO of CTA's non-profit IFT. Dean Vogel was paid $174,000 (according to 990 form filed June 2012 with IRS), and received an additional $85,000 reportable income from related organizations ... asserting only one hour of work per week on this 990 filing. Yes, read that again: Dean Vogel makes $174, 000 plus $85,000 for one hour per week just at the non-profit. Of course this sum does not include any additional income Mr. Vogel makes from other sources, perhaps a school district. CTA's IFT has taken money from Bechtel Foundation, from the Gates Foundation, and from the Hewlett Packard Foundation. Eric Heins is IFT secretary and Micki Cichocki is IFT's CFO. The same IRS 990 filing shows David Sanchez (former CTA president) received $193,000 compensation, plus an additional $89,000 in reportable income. Per the IRS 990, Carolyn Doggett (former CTA executive director was paid $298,000 and an additional $131,000 in reportable income. Gail Mendez was paid $190,000 and an additional $93,000 in reportable income, while poor Beverly Tucker was only paid $103,000. Note according to the IRS 990 form, these figures are for the individual's working only one hour per week!

      Should teachers always try to improve teacher quality? Yes, but not at the expense of collective bargaining rights. Such tradeoff is not the role of any labor union. The public-private partnerships are nothing more than unethical and illegal conflicts of interest to boost the bottom line of the profiteers. It is the profiteers who stand to gain the most from the scam assertion that a serious problem with teacher effectiveness exists. For-profit teacher preparation programs are more than willing to step in to solve the fictitious problem ... for a fee. Similarly the various technology companies are chomping at the bit for their chance to get those public education tax dollars. Don't be fooled by all the scams!

      So, what can teachers do to restore their labor union's role as that of an advocate for worker rights? Teachers must work to remove the many, many conflicts of interest. These conflicts exist at the local, state and national delegate/official levels, and must be removed immediately. Otherwise, it will be only a matter of time before the fat cats laugh all the way to the bank as they boast about how easy it was to get teachers to pay for their own demise. Sadly on their trip to the bank, they will perhaps pass a few boarded-up public schools.

      Kathy Carroll is an attorney, government whistleblower and public education advocate
      For video:
      §Kathleen Carroll
      by Kathy Carroll Friday Jul 11th, 2014
      800_carroll__kathy_at_upwa_meeting.jpg original image ( 4320x3240)
      Attorney whistleblower and public education advocate Kathleen Carroll has exposed the systemic corrupt connections between the "non-profit" foundations funded by Gates, Walter, Broad, KIPP with the leadership and many staff members of the AFT and NEA

      June 30, 2014- chronicle.com

      Critics Assail Government's Response to Student-Aid Fraud

      Critics Assail Government’s Response to Student-Aid Fraud 1
      The Education Department’s lack of effort to fight fraud in aid programs worries Eric
      Rodriguez, an examiner 
with a student-loan servicer. “It’s a serious issue, and they really
      need to get some controls in place,” he says. Brian Lehmann for The Chronicle

      By Kelly Field

      Two years ago, in the wake of an alarming report from its inspector general on fraud in federal student-aid programs, the U.S. Education Department announced that it would write new rules to protect taxpayer dollars from abuse.

      But when a negotiating panel met in Washington this year to craft new "program integrity" rules, the subject of fraud barely came up. The department offered only one proposal to deal with fraud, and it quickly abandoned the idea after colleges criticized the plan.

      By the end of the fourth negotiating session, last month, the package of rules contained nothing to address a problem that the inspector general says grew by 82 percent from 2009 to 2012.

      That troubles Eric Rodriguez and others on the front lines of fraud prevention and detection. During the rule-making, Mr. Rodriguez, a certified fraud examiner with more than 30 years of experience, repeatedly reminded negotiators that they were supposed to tackle fraud. He spoke twice during public-comment periods, and pressed panelists privately between negotiating sessions.

      Mr. Rodriguez, who investigates fraud cases on behalf of the department for Nelnet, which services student loans, is disappointed that the issue was dropped from the agenda. "Speaking for myself, it’s a serious issue and they really need to get some controls in place," he said in an interview. "The department needs to hold a rule-making just on this."

      The extent of the damage done by student-aid fraud isn’t known, but the inspector general estimated last year that as many as 85,000 students may have participated in fraud rings from 2009 to 2012, at a potential cost to taxpayers of $187-million.

      That’s a significant loss, but it’s still a very small share of the $546-billion that the government disbursed in grants and loans during those four years. Some financial-aid administrators say the comparison shows that the problem has been blown out of proportion.

      Government investigators nonetheless take student-aid fraud seriously. Over the past decade, the Education Department’s inspectors general have testified before Congress five times on the susceptibility of online programs to fraud and abuse.

      Since 2005, the Office of Inspector General has investigated more than 132 suspected fraud rings, secured more than 478 indictments, and recovered $20-million in stolen student aid. Sentences have typically ranged from one to six years in jail for ringleaders, and from probation to home confinement for other participants, says Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for the office.

      ‘A Small Fraction’

      Distance-education programs are especially vulnerable to fraud, because many aid applicants never appear in person. Leaders will recruit a dozen or more "straw" students to apply for aid, then skim off a portion of the money for themselves. Other times, the criminal rings apply using stolen identities.

      "Pell runners" use similar tactics but operate independently, hopping from college to college until they exhaust their eligibility for Pell Grants or federal loans. Some shop around for the colleges with the lowest tuition, to maximize their returns.

      The most frequent cases of fraud involve low-cost programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions, where the Pell payoff is highest. In the 2013-14 academic year, when the maximum Pell Grant was $5,645 per year, the average community college charged in-state students $3,264, according to the College Board. After tuition, a fraudulent borrower who got the maximum award would get an average of $2,381 back in a "refund" intended by the government for books and other educational expenses.

      Colleges refer hundreds of cases of suspected fraud to the inspector general each year, but a majority aren't investigated, largely because of constraints on resources at the Education Department and the Department of Justice. Other cases don’t go to trial, because the losses don’t meet financial thresholds set by U.S. district attorneys’ offices.

      In a 2011 report, the inspectoror general acknowledged that "only a small fraction of participants will be prosecuted" and that "only a fraction" of federal student-aid losses will be recovered.

      Meanwhile, government investigators fear that many cases are going undetected.

      The Front Line

      In the 2011 report, the inspector general urged the department to do more to detect and prevent fraud, suggesting nine steps it should take. Congressional Democrats called for "swift action" on the recommendations.

      A month after the report was released, the department published a "Dear Colleague" letter, asking colleges for their "continued partnership" in rooting out fraud.

      The letter urged colleges to develop ways to track students who use the same Internet Protocol or email address to apply for and participate in online programs, as well as students who live outside the institution’s normal coverage area. It also gave colleges the authority to delay the disbursement of aid to students enrolled in distance-education programs, and to award the aid incrementally rather than all up front.

      "Institutions offer the front line of protection and are essential to the department’s efforts to thwart fraud and protect taxpayer dollars," the letter read.

      Around the same time, the department created an antifraud task force, led by the top policy official at the Office of Federal Student Aid. The following summer, it updated the list of items that aid administrators must verify for certain applicants, adding high-school completion and student identity to the checklist.

      And last year, the department began flagging students with "unusual enrollment histories" for further scrutiny by colleges. If an institution finds, upon reviewing a flagged transcript, that the student hadn’t earned any credits at one or more of the institutions he attended, the college must seek an explanation from him. If the student fails to provide one, the college must deny him aid.

      Financial-aid administrators say many of the flagged applicants turn out to be legitimate students who have struggled academically, racking up debt but little or no credit. But some administrators say the additional work is worth it, even if it catches only a few repeat offenders.

      "It is not a burden in the effort to prevent fraud and abuse," says Richard Heath, director of financial aid at Anne Arundel Community College. "Even if schools are understaffed, it’s still the right thing to do."

      Colleges Frustrated

      Other aid administrators feel that federal officials have placed too heavy an onus on colleges while falling short of their own responsibilities.

      "The department keeps coming up with all these things schools should do to prevent fraud," says Karen McCarthy, a senior policy analyst at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators. Some administrators feel that "perhaps the department needs to be introspective and consider what it could do."

      Many colleges say most of the cases they refer to the inspector general’s office go nowhere. Over the past five and a half years, the Apollo Group, one of the largest targets of fraud, has referred 1,413 cases to the office, according to James D. Berg, vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer at the education company. Of those, just 30 have resulted in indictments or prosecutions.

      Ms. Grant, the office spokeswoman, responds that the government’s ability to investigate referrals "really depends on the information we receive from the schools." Referrals that aren’t investigated—because of weak information or resource limitations—are forwarded to the Office of Federal Student Aid for "appropriate handling," she says.

      This February the inspector general’s office warned in an audit report that federal regulators still weren’t doing enough to guard against fraud in distance education. The report, which focused on distance-education programs at eight colleges from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2011, found that they had collectively disbursed nearly $222-million to online students who did not earn any credits during a payment period.

      During the recent rule-making negotiations, the Education Department proposed that colleges be required to delay the payment of aid if it had "information" that a student or parent was engaged in fraud; had enrolled for the "sole purpose" of receiving student aid; or was not the student for whom the money was intended.

      While colleges have long had the authority to withhold payment in cases of suspected fraud, many are reluctant to do so, out of fear that they’ll be sued by the applicant, says Justin Draeger, president of the aid administrators’ association.

      During hearings leading up to the rule-making, several college officials asked for clear guidelines on what they should do in cases of suspected, but unproven, fraud.

      But some negotiators worried that the proposal would shift the burden of investigating fraud from the department to colleges, leaving them even more vulnerable to lawsuits. In a letter sent to the department on behalf of several college negotiators in April, David Sheridan, director of financial aid at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, wrote that colleges were concerned "with the legal and professional ramifications of being asked to assume responsibilities typically falling under those of the office of inspector general."

      When negotiators met again, later that month, department officials announced that they were "backing off entirely."

      "The concerns raised were valid, and frankly, we couldn’t come up with a way to overcome those concerns," John Kolotos, the department’s representative, told panelists.

      Delicate Balance

      Mr. Rodriguez, the certified fraud examiner, says there’s a lot more the federal government could be doing to root out fraud. He supports the changes suggested by the inspector general, and says the office should provide colleges and student-loan servicers with earlier information on its investigations.

      "Typically, we only hear about a big ring when we read about it in the paper," he says. "We’d like to hear about it sooner."

      Timothy Parry, compliance coordinator for program integrity at Liberty University, one of the institutions included in the inspector general’s recent audit, says the department should provide colleges with a way to "securely and legally share detailed potential fraud-case information." And Congress must give government investigators the resources to pursue the growing number of fraud cases that colleges are referring to them, he says.

      In the meantime, many for-profit and community colleges are taking steps to thwart fraud on their own. At the Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, a four-member "fraud squad" runs regular reports on recurring email, physical, and Internet Protocol addresses and bank accounts, then reviews the results for signs of collusion.

      Since late 2008, the squad has flagged 27,600 applicants as suspicious, and stopped roughly three-quarters of them from getting aid. Mr. Berg, the ethics-and-compliance officer, estimates that the company has prevented the disbursement of $155-million in federal aid to fraudulent borrowers. Several other for-profit colleges, he adds, have sent staff members to Apollo to learn its methods.

      Rio Salado College, site of the inspector general’s largest fraud-ring bust, in 2009, now dedicates three staff members to verifying students’ identity and records of prior education. The process is time-consuming, but Chris Bustamante, Rio Salado’s president, says it has eliminated 90 percent of the fraud cases.

      Coconino Community College, another Arizona institution, withholds student-aid refunds until the third week of classes, but it provides bookstore vouchers so that legitimate students can purchase books before the start of the term. Students who don’t consistently show up during those first three weeks have to wait even longer for their aid, and online students who don’t fully participate in the first week are dropped from classes.

      Bob Voytek, director of the college’s office of financial aid and veteran services, says the measures have led to a "significant drop in fraud attempts at the college."

      "The delicate balance for us," he says, "is ensuring that the legitimate students are not penalized while we weed out fraudulent students."

      Fighting Fraud: Steps Taken, Steps Recommended

      In a pair of reports issued in 2011 and this year, the U.S. Education Department's inspector general urged the agency to do more to tackle fraud in distance-education programs. While department officials agreed with nearly all of the recommendations, they have yet to put many into effect. Here are five steps the department has taken, five more the inspector general wants it to take, and five things that colleges are already doing to thwart fraud.

      What the department has done:

      • Suggested steps colleges can take to root out fraud.
      • Allowed colleges to delay and stagger student-aid refunds.
      • Created an antifraud task force.
      • Expanded the list of items colleges must verify before awarding aid.
      • Flagged applicants with "unusual enrollment histories" for additional scrutiny.

      What the inspector general wants the department to do:

      • Set stricter standards for identity verification.
      • Provide more clarity on what constitutes proof of academic engagement.
      • Make staggered disbursement mandatory, rather than optional, for online-only students.
      • Reduce cost-of-living allowances for online students.
      • Collect and analyze data to identify risks to student-aid programs.

      What colleges are doing:

      • Using technology to identify recurring home and Internet Protocol addresses.
      • Withholding aid from students who don’t show up for class.
      • Issuing bookstore vouchers in lieu of checks.
      • Verifying identity before granting access to online classrooms.
      • Sharing their methods with peer institutions.

      Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating

      ‘Lax enforcement’ is not the culprit—U.S. trade and immigration policies are. The failure of Central America's economies is largely due to the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements and their accompanying economic changes.
      July 8, 2014- inthesetimes.org
      Immigrants' rights activists have fought for years to stem the tide of
      deportations, which escalated during President Obama's early years
      in office.

      The mass migration of children from Central America has been at the center of a political firestorm over the past few weeks. The mainstream media has run dozens of stories blaming families, especially mothers, for sending or bringing their children north. The president himself has lectured them, as though they were simply bad parents. “Do not send your children to the borders,” he said in a June 27 interview with George Stephanopoulos. “If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

      Meanwhile, the story is being manipulated by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans to attack Obama's executive action deferring the deportation of young people, along with any possibility that he might expand it—the demand of many immigrant rights advocates. More broadly, the far Right wants to shut down any immigration reform that includes legalization, and instead is gunning for harsher enforcement measures. Even Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has sought to frame migration as a national security threat, calling it a “crime-terror convergence,” and describing it as “an incredibly efficient network along which anything hundreds of tons of drugs, people, terrorists, potentially weapons of mass destruction or children—can travel, so long as they can pay the fare.”

      All of this ignores the real reasons families take the desperate measure of leaving home and trying to cross the border. Media coverage focuses on gang violence in Central America, as though it was spontaneous and unrelated to a history of U.S.-promoted wars and a policy of mass deportations.

      In truth, the United States’ meddling foreign policy and a history of the U.S.’s own harsh immigration measures are responsible for much of the pressure causing this flow of people from Central America. These eight facts, ignored by

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