ODD COUPLE: Arne Duncan and his strange friend at Save-a-Life

The late Gerald W. Bracey has an article posted over at School Matters detailing the curious relationship between Sec. of Education Arne Duncan  (then head of Chicago Public Schools) and Carol Spizzirri, founder of the Save-a-Life Foundation. Carol Spizzirri appears to be a person of shaky character at best, and an outright liar who defrauded the Illinois school system at worst.

The entire story is far too crazy to detail here, but the highlights:

  • Carol Spizzirri started the non-profit Save-a-Life-Foundation in 1992 after her daughter died in a hit-and-run car accident. She alleged her daughter's death was partly caused because emergency responders took too long and no one on site knew how to staunch the blood flow.

Turns out that's not the case. Her daughter was legally drunk and flipped her own car. And she passed away some time later at the hospital. Carol used this story to launch her foundation, which raised $9 million in Federal and state funds.

  • Carol claimed to be a registered nurse who worked in a hospital in Wisconsin.

Also false. Officials at the hospital where she claimed to have worked say she did work there, but not as a nurse. Her job was more akin to "candy striping".

This is blatantly false. Not only are there documents that show SALF was being paid for it's services, but her claim over training 2 million children isn't backed up by any type of evidence. After all, SALF was only able to produce twenty-two invoices from the last seven years.

At some point in all this Arne Duncan was paying for Spizzirri's "free" services, even making an animated pitch for her program. Maybe he didn't know the program was free? Or maybe Spirrizzi just claimed the services were free to reporters, regardless of charging the district (in which case Duncan has no control anyway). Keep in mind no one knows where the $9 million went (yet), and that Spizzirri was paying herself $120,000 a year, not including a generous expense/travel account.

Duncan has received the Save-a-Life sponsorship award twice.

Photo: Ralph Alswang



12 2009

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