Had anyone told me that I would end up spending the bulk of my time during the most recent Texas Legislative Session and Special Session lobbying on Turkish charter schools, technically known as Harmony charter schools, I would have laughed at them.
However, this turned out to be no laughing matter and by the end of the Special Session, the legislature had called for an investigation of all charter schools by the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee.
The forthcoming investigation was precipitated by Texas Eagle Forum’s and Peyton Wolcott’s (Publisher – Public Ed Commentary) unsuccessful efforts to amend legislation that will now allow certain charter schools to use the $25 billion dollar Permanent School Fund (PSF) to guarantee new construction bonds. Public schools already enjoy this privilege. The PSF is also known as the Children’s Textbook Fund.
Peyton Wolcott’s research provided outstanding information throughout session. Upon learning that there are 36 Harmony charter campuses in Texas and that their operators are mostly Turkish men who have been educated and previously employed in Turkey, we dubbed the Harmony charter schools “Turkish charter schools.” We began to scrutinize them in the context of this legislation. Harmony is overseen by the Cosmos Foundation, a non-profit organization that has received a quarter of a billion dollars in Texas taxpayer dollars in the past three years. Note that there are 156 Harmony-related charter schools in the U.S.
Harmony refers to their schools as “charter” as well as “public” schools. On February 1, 2011, “Harmony Public Schools” organized the “Bond Financing for Charter Schools” luncheon at the Austin Omni Hotel. Harmony had hired Hughes through Burson-Marsteller, the prestigious marketing firm, to kick off Harmony’s efforts to pass this legislation.
Harmony was scheduled to open a new School of Political Science in Austin in August of 2011.
We were concerned that The TCSA had hired 11 lobbyists to push for this legislation. Among these lobbyists were former State Representative Diane Delisi and former State Senator Kyle Janek. One of the PSF charter school guarantee bills had to pass out of these committees to take on a life in the House and Senate.
The focus on Turkish influence in Texas schools was emphasized when the Senate passed Senate Resolution 85 honoring the Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen. Gulen was given asylum in Pennsylvania in 1997 when he was driven out of Turkey by his own government for trying to reinstate a caliphate in this secular nation. Since then, Gulen lives here in self-imposed exile, even though he has been exonerated in Turkey.
1. Proof of U.S. citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top five highest paid administrators (public ISD trustees must be U.S. citizens). 2. Names, titles, and biographies posted online for all charter operator board members and top five highest paid administrators. 3. Check registers posted online (over 70% of local ISD dollars are online).
We advocated for these safeguards because the bills lacked a requirement for accountability and transparency.
Another push for the legislation came from
The bills to tap into the PSF died during the Regular Session, but were resurrected during the Special Session in June.
By the next to the last day of the Special Session, the charter school PSF school bond guarantee legislation had been amended into a critical budget bill that had to pass to meet constitutional requirements.
Yes, the bill passed, but apparently, some legislators were catching on to the idea that the Turkish charter schools should come under more scrutiny than they had in the past.
Once the investigation begins, The first photo was taken from the campus of Westcreek Elementary School, looking directly across the street to the campus of the Harmony Science Academy.
In the second picture, note Harmony’s signs that say “NO TRESPASSING, NO LOITERING, [and] NO SOLICITING.” And why do they not want to require that their board members seeking the PSF school construction bond guarantee be American citizens just like local school board trustees? Are they genuinely “public” schools?
This brings up another point…the Harmony schools are Texas Education Agency schools, run with taxpayer dollars, that are not controlled by local parents in the form of elected school board trustees. Put another way, these are schools of the state education agency, rather than schools that are accountable to local taxpayers and parents.
I look forward to the upcoming investigation of charter schools. While they have every legal right to experiment with alternative ways of educating students, there can never be a compromise on accountability and transparency in education.
Originally appeared in the Texas Eagle Forum, October/November 2011 – Vol. 24, No. 7. www.texaseagle.org
Most of us spend a significant portion of our daily lives at work.And whether you’re on a busy assembly line or passing hours in a cubicle, you generally try to make the day go as quickly as possible, putting up with certain workplace trials and tribulations in exchange for a paycheck, health insurance, and a certain measure of self-worth and accomplishment.For some workers, though, it’s become a case of one too many indignities, until they reached the point of humming right along with Johnny Paycheck’s working man’s anthem “You Can Take This Job and Shove It.”
Take Roy Lester, for example.The 61 year-old from Long Island worked part time as a lifeguard at New York’s Jones Beach State Park for four decades until 2007.He claims he was forced out of that job because of a state park regulation requiring lifeguards to take the annual 100 yard swim qualification test wearing either brief Speedos or loose-fitting boxer or board shorts.Lester, who prefers tight-fitting swim “jammers” that reach to the knee, refused to wear the board shorts (he says they slow him down) or the Speedos.“I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s,” he says.“But come on.There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.”
Lester believes the Speedo regulation is a thinly-veiled way of weeding out older lifeguards (he estimates that over 80% of the Jones Beach lifeguards are over 40) and, in 2009, the part-time lifeguard and full-time bankruptcy lawyer filed an age discrimination lawsuit.An appeals court recently rejected New York’s attempt to dispose of the claim, and trial is expected to go forward late this year or early in 2012.
Speaking of trials, most employers recognize the importance of civic duty like jury service.A number of states, including Texas, provide an added layer of protection for employees by requiring that employers give time off for workers summoned for jury service.And of all the employers you would expect to be sensitive to the importance of jury duty, law firms would be at the top of the list—right?Apparently, not at a certain Detroit-area law firm.When Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Mary Chrzanowski was preparing to swear in a jury in a September 2011 murder trial, one of the jurors surprised her by asking to be excused.The female juror submitted a letter from her law firm employer indicating that if she didn’t return to work the firm would replace her.Judge Chrzanowski considered it “unbelievable” that the firm would have “the audacity to do this.”The judge wouldn’t name the firm or detail how she handled it, but the juror was kept on the jury.
From the hot air of lawyers to, well, another form of hot air, how would you like your employer to discipline you over passing gas?Clarksville, Tennessee paramedic Rita Cain filed a lawsuit claiming that her employer, Montgomery County Emergency Medical Services, illegally punished her for flatulence.Cain has worked there since 1992 and rose to the rank of lieutenant.But on a March 2011 call, Cain was on the phone with a 911 operator when she passed gas.The operator heard the flatulent noise and made an internal complaint.Within days, Cain says she was demoted and received a written warning (1 step short of termination) for the flatulence episode.Cain’s lawsuit maintains that she’s being discriminated against because of her gender, saying that male employees haven’t been disciplined the same for identical “or worse conduct.”
While it remains to be seen (or heard) how a federal judge feels about Rita Cain’s lawsuit, at least one other court has held that flatulence itself doesn’t constitute harassment.In the 1999 case of Klein v. McGowan, a Minnesota judge held that the “expelling of flatulence, while offensive, rude, and vulgar to people of either sex, is not tantamount to actionable harassment.”Cain is seeking at least $300,000 in damages in her lawsuit.That could buy a lot of Beano, or perhaps jackets for all of her fellow paramedics—I hear windbreakers are making a comeback.
Most employers would prefer not to have employees with drinking problems.That concern becomes even more understandable for employers like the interstate trucking company Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., which doesn’t want drivers with a history of alcoholism behind the wheel.While this might make sense to you and me, the federal government—in the form of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—considers it to be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), since that statute recognizes alcoholism as a disability.So the EEOC has sued Old Dominion for a policy that makes perfect sense and has probably avoided any number of catastrophic highway accidents.Psst—EEOC—I hear that they won’t let blind people drive either.Good luck with lawsuit!
How about insensitive employers?Cecelia Ingraham, a longtime employee of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Company in New Jersey, lost her teenage daughter Tatiana in 2005 to leukemia.Ingraham’s grief was deep, and in her cubicle at work she displayed reminders of her daughter like photos and Tatiana’s ballet slippers.After over a year, Ingraham says her boss ordered her to take the mementos down and to stop talking about Tatiana’s death because it made co-workers “uncomfortable.”Ingraham resigned shortly thereafter and sued her employer for discrimination and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.A trial court rejected her claims, and a New Jersey appeals court recently upheld the dismissal.It said that while Ingraham’s boss might have been “insensitive” to the plaintiff’s “continuing bereavement,” the employer’s conduct wasn’t so “atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community” as to justify a recovery.
Whether he’s just another insensitive employer or “the boss from hell” as some of his employees have described him, William Ernst of Bettendorf, Iowa has earned a spot in this rogue’s gallery of employers.Ernst, the owner of a chain of convenience stores called QC Mart, sent all of his workers a memo in March, 2011.The memo announced a new contest—“Guess the Next Cashier to be Fired!!!”Employees were encouraged to write down the name of the next cashier to be fired (for a variety of sundry offenses, such as wearing a hat or talking on a cell phone), seal it in an envelope, and give it to a manager.The winner would get “$10 CASH”—only one winner per firing.The memo went on to jovially admonish “[N]o fair picking Mike Miller (from the Rockingham Road store).He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on is cell phone.Good luck!!!!”
At least two QC Mart employees sent letters to company managers complaining about the contest, with one stating that it had “created an atmosphere or distrust, intimidation and paranoia.”Cashier Misty Shelsky, her store manager, and several other employees quit over the contest, saying Ernst had cultivated a hostile work environment.When Shelsky filed a claim for unemployment benefits, Ernst contested the claim.Administrative Law Judge Susan Ackerman sided with the cashier and her fellow workers, calling the QC Mart work environment “intolerable and detrimental,” and castigating Ernst for suggesting that employees “turn on each other for a minimal monetary prize.”
Finally, if you’ve ever waited tables in a greasy spoon, a fast food place, or even the finest restaurants, you know that there can be a seamy underbelly to the food business.But how would you like it if the restaurant where you worked was listed in the phone book under “Animal Carcass Removal?”That’s the case for the Bar3 Bar-B-Q restaurants in Bozeman and Belgrade, Montana, and the telephone book’s printing mistake was immortalized in a Jay Leno monologue on the Tonight Show.But for restaurant owner Hunter Lacey, it’s no laughing matter.He’s filed a lawsuit against Dex Media, Inc., claiming that his brand and business reputation have suffered because of the restaurants’ listing in the “Animal Carcass Removal” section.The mistake was in both online and printed directories, and has lived on via the Internet, forwarded emails, and even customer reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page.Lacey’s lawsuit accuses Dex Media of not only negligence and defamation, but also of deliberately publishing the harmful listing because Lacey refused to purchase an advertisement.Dex Media “regrets” the publication and says that an employee who altered the restaurant listing to appear under “Animal Carcass Removal” was acting outside his duties.That’s not enough for Hunter Lacey, who says his hard-won branding efforts have been “wiped out.”
From being fired for not wearing Speedos or being a grieving mother to working in environments known for flatulence or “Animal Carcass Removal,” the workplace can be stranger than any “Dilbert” cartoon.Our legal system proves it.
It’s no secret that in this depressed economy many lines of work have taken a beating. The legal profession is certainly one of them. Recent law school graduates are having a tougher time than ever finding jobs in their chosen field. In June 2011 alone, the legal sector had lost 2,600 jobs. Because of this, competition for legal work is becoming more and more intense, leading many lawyers to explore even more creative ways to market themselves.
Of course, there’s “creative,” and then there’s unusual and sometimes downright tacky. In the United Kingdom, the matrimonial lawyers at Follett Stock Solicitors have drawn the ire of local religious leaders for advertising (for a limited time only) free divorces. The offer, made via the firm’s website, Twitter, and in a flyer, doesn’t include court costs or extras like tracking down an estranged spouse. Clergymen maintain that the free offer encourages couples to make a hasty decision about splitting; the law firm counters that it’s just good advertising and a public service for those who want to divorce but can’t afford the legal fees. Over here in the U.S., Portland, Oregon personal injury firm Berkshire Ginsberg has nothing to hide—literally. In June, the firm sponsored the popular annual World Naked Bike Ride event, which was expected to draw as many as 20,000 au naturel cyclists. Firm partner Mark Ginsberg is an avid cyclist, and he saw sponsorship as a way to promote his firm’s representation of the vulnerable. The tagline associated with the lawyers’ support of the ride read “When you’re naked, we’ve got you covered.”
For a lot of lawyers, hitting the books in school meant entry into a world where they wouldn’t have to do jobs like deliver pizza. Now a new company founded by non-lawyer Chris Miles promises legal help as quickly as—well, a pizza. LawyerUp, which operates in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, offers subscribers (who pay $4.95 a month) access to a lawyer within 15 minutes of a legal emergency. LawyerUp gets paid $100 for the first call (for nonsubscribers), and the attorneys earn up to $250 for the first hour of work (they have to be agreeable to taking late night calls). Chris Miles rationalizes the service by saying “If I want a pizza, I can get a pizza in 15 minutes. . . . Why can’t I get a lawyer?” Connecticut Bar Association President Ralph Monaco called the company’s name “so tasteless.”
For other lawyers, it’s all about the ads themselves. Ontario trial lawyers at Sanders, Lyn & Ragonetti advertise their divorce practice with a photo of a sports car bearing the license plate “WAS HIS” (I guess they represented the wife). Philadelphia lawyer Larry Leftkowitz seeks to associate himself with trustworthiness with an ad in which his head is Photoshopped onto Abraham Lincoln’s body. Maybe he specializes in rail-splitting, or emancipations. Meanwhile, Tulsa trial lawyer Bryce A. Hill has his firm’s ad prominently featured on a race car for NASCAR fans everywhere. Yes, nothing says “classy” quite like having a law firm name and “TulsaTrialLawyer.com” right above the Confederate flag and a Jack Daniels logo.
Some law firms go with a musical approach. New York personal injury firm Greenstein & Milbauer opted for a rap song; some of the lyrics include “Have a neck broke/from an accident
you didn’t provoke?” The Los Angeles-based entertainment law firm of White O’Connor, on the other hand, uploaded a YouTube video with a lawyer in a suit singing a reggae song about their practice.
Other attorneys take a more personal approach. Peruse the website of the law firm of Mahoney Anderson LLC in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and you find out more than you cared to know about attorney David M. Anderson. For example, Anderson boasts that before marrying a “former International Fashion Model and Miss Minnesota World,” he “dated women who went on to positions on the Federal Bench and National Anchor spots on FOX News.” Seriously? This guy thinks who he’s dated should somehow make a prospective client want to hire him? If this isn’t enough to make you think Anderson is a colossal tool, then consider his online business card, which notes that “Tri-lingual and an accomplished Jazz Pianist and 3-time Marathon Finisher, David continues to wonder in awe at his endowment of excessive gifts and talents, when so many others have been apparently deprived of any.” Hopefully, he meant this to be taken tongue in cheek, or else make sure there’s enough room in his conference room for you, Anderson, and Anderson’s ego.
Maybe Anderson was inspired by Baltimore, Maryland attorney Barry Glazer, whose Facebook page boasts “Every once in a while, a man emerges to lead the masses to greatness. With his cunning intelligence, impressively dyed blonde hair, and great catchphrases, Barry Glazer has become not only a law hero in Baltimore, but also an Icon throughout Maryland.” Really? Maybe the “great catchphrases” aspect is true; Glazer is known for his commercials, a number of which can be found on YouTube, and many of which have something to do with urine. In one ad, he refers to himself as “Legal advocate for the injured, disabled, and urinated upon;” in another, he admonishes insurance companies to not “urinate on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” He even comments on the BP oil spill with the tagline “BP’eed on lately” and his website features a “Don’t Pee on Me” tab.
I guess there’s a reason why, when you think of “classy,” lawyer ads don’t exactly spring to mind.
Two broad sets of ideas largely determined worldview in 18th century America prior to the American Revolution. While it is true that the Enlightenment more thoroughly influenced the Colonial elite, and the Great Awakening was most influential amongst common people, both found their nexus in America. Both influenced the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Early Republican period. The phenomenon was not inevitable, since the two sets of ideas were often antagonistic in Europe—particularly during the French Revolution. In America, piety and political philosophy mixed, Reason and Revelation married.
The Enlightenment was centered in Europe but came to the Colonies in books and from the travel of wealthy and influential citizens. It began in the 1690s but had its heyday between 1720 and 1780. Locke, Newton and Blackstone figured prominently in England; Hume and Adam Smith in Scotland; Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Descartes in France; and Kant in Germany. Clearly all these folks in the same room would not produce agreement on much. Nevertheless, the Enlightenment held to a central tenet: the power of human reason to understand laws of nature, society, government, etc., and to direct progress in those areas. New assumptions dawned upon man’s consciousness: that man had the ability to control his environment; that man possessed immense rational faculty or cognitive ability; that objective Truth existed and that man could approach, if not actually know it completely. The Enlightenment naturally propelled men towards invention and the scientific method. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were leading proponents of Enlightenment ideas and lifestyle in the Colonies and after Independence.
The Great Awakening was centered in America. Indeed, except for the involvement by British evangels in the Colonies, the Great Awakening was an American phenomenon—arguably the first to provide some common experience amongst all Colonies. It began in the 1720s and peaked between 1740 and 1775. The Great Awakening affected most church denominations and helped knit the Eastern seaboard together socially. It witnessed the resurgence of old school Calvinism, so it had doctrinal affinity to earlier Puritanism. But what distinguished the Great Awakening were its new technique of revivalism, and its emphasis on itinerant preaching to backcountry areas and slave communities. This is what brought Christianity to the slaves and to backwoods pioneers. This is what challenged the staid Anglicanism of Virginia and gave rise to the Baptists. Indeed, the challenge posed to established churches by new preachers had the positive effect of reinvigorating faith in old churches too.
When preachers like George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards came to town or to the countryside, a 20-mile radius might be cleared completely of people. By word of mouth, the news spread and farmers dropped their implements and packed their families into wagons to go hear the Gospel! Thousands heard the Word for the first time; or else, they let it penetrate their hearts fully. America steeled its character, a character of righteousness for the Revolution to come. Although Harvard, William and Mary, and Yale had been founded by Congregationalists before the Great Awakening, Old and “New Lights” of New England, as well as Old and “New Sides” of the Middle Colonies, proceeded to found Princeton (1746), Columbia (1754), Brown (1764), Rutgers (1766), and Dartmouth (1769). They did it to produce clergy, as well as learned men of faith and faithful men of learning.
The Enlightenment and Great Awakening reinforced each other in America. The cooperation between them produced some of America’s greatest institutions of higher learning. That’s why it is so unfortunate that many universities today incline towards a studied hostility to religion and to the religious impulse. In our Founders’ day, we were likely to conclude that man’s ability to control his environment (and to properly steward it) depended on his ability to discover and to understand God’s laws—His laws of physics and math and history, as much as His law of Love. Truth and the Laws of Nature and God’s Law all came together. Men might well reason, and reason well. But God sets the standards we seek and defines Reason “out of the amplitude of His pure affection.”
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC). This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at and from fine bookstores everywhere. Email: .
A couple of weeks ago, Cecilia, my daughter, in a somber voice asked me, “Dad, can you pick up Landon (my grandson) at school? Chris (her husband) just had a bad car accident on his way to pick him up.” As I drove to Nolan Catholic High, I saw a parade of cars on the road where Chris had his accident. Avoiding the congested road, I opt to go another route to Nolan. After I picked up Landon I informed him of his dad’s accident and that we were going to the accident site to check on his dad. When we arrived at the accident scene Landon and I were shocked. Chris’ car was totaled, as was the car that hit him. It had rained and the roads being slick the driver who was speeding lost control of his car causing the bad accident. As I assessed the accident I was surprised that Chris was not seriously hurt, thanks to his air bag, which according to police saved his life or serious body injuries. As the police questioned Chris and the other driver I noticed that he didn’t speak a word of English nor his 3 passengers. Folks, not only was the driver and his passengers illegal aliens, the driver didn’t have a driver’s license or car insurance. Had the illegal alien who had no business driving killed my son in law, I think my daughter and my grandchildren would have faced a difficult time in their future lives without their dad who is a great father and provider for his family.
When I learned that the illegal alien who hit my son in law’s car had no license and insurance I became incensed, not only at the police who didn’t arrest all of them for being here illegally and causing a near fatal accident, but at the damn uncaring car dealers who advertise in their car lots “no licencia, no seguranza, no problema!” (No license, no insurance, no problem!) My fellow Americans, when are we going to send a strong message with our votes to all the worthless politicians in Washington, in our state and our cities, that we are fed up with all the illegal immigration mess! Having lived in North Fort Worth, a predominately Hispanic community for almost 48 years I saw with my own eyes the untold number of atrocities committed by illegals and how they would return to their homeland without every being prosecuted for the misdeeds. No matter how gruesome the crimes these illegals commit, the Mexican government will not extradite them if they are to face the death penalty. What Mexico really means is, “feed them, give them their medical needs, incarcerate them for life, but just don’t kill them!” Folks, we shelter thousands of Mexican criminals with our tax dollars.
Last week, as I watched a crime TV series I was appalled at a crime a young illegal alien male committed no more than 30 miles from my house in Denton, Texas. The illegal abducted a young teen girl, tortured and raped her, and then he torched her car and took off to Mexico to live with his grandparents. Later, when he was extradited to face a jury they sentenced him to life. After the trial ended the mother of the illegal young man went to the mother of the teen girl and asked for forgiveness. At that moment I remembered when Gov. Perry in his TV debate stated (here I’m paraphrasing), “We help the children of illegal aliens get tuition help in their education because through no fault of their own their parents brought them here.” When will politicians like Gov. Perry realize that not all children of illegals are here to get an education! Many commit crimes as this young man did in Denton. With this tuition help to the children of illegal aliens, Gov. Perry along with other politicians exacerbate the illegal alien catastrophic situation in our country.
For years I’ve donated money and voted for Gov. Perry. But after he made those statements in his presidential debate about tuition help to Mexican students, I’m having second thoughts about him. Having said that, all presidential candidates including President Obama pander to Hispanics thinking all Hispanics like me are enamored with illegal immigration. Sadly, they are gravely mistaken. I might add here that the blood of that young beautiful girl who was killed in Denton is on the hands of the politicians and employers who hire and allow these nonsense and senseless crimes by illegals to continue.
Just today I saw on the news that Alabama is coming down hard on illegal aliens in their state. Alabama’s tough new immigration law, most of which was upheld by a federal judge last week is having its intended effect: illegal aliens are leaving the state, and their children are disappearing from schools. Two news reports show that illegal aliens, who cost Alabama taxpayers some $300 million annually, have read the handwriting on the wall. No more hiding, the free ride is over! Now my friends, who do you think is trying to overturn the immigration law in Alabama? You guess it, our own useless Federal bureaucrats in Washington. My gosh folks, who’s side are these guys side on? The American citizens of this country or illegal immigrants who have broken our laws! The answer is obvious!
In a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety “Unlicensed to Kill”, it noted that a high percentage of illegal aliens involved in the 278,078 fatal crashes during the examined 5-year period. It found that if illegal aliens caused just 5% of the 42,049 deaths that is over 2,000 American citizens killed during a five-year period, which is an average of 400 citizens per year. Many however feel that the number is much higher than just 5% and sadly point out that Americans should needlessly die to save a few cents on every head of lettuce!
Ladies and gentlemen, all of us have to have a license to drive and auto insurance when we buy our plates, or stopped by a police officer. If we harm someone with our auto, we can’t take off to Mexico or wherever like the illegals can. When are we going to join forces to stop all this lawlessness?