CALIFORNIA STATE WHISTLEBLOWER'S LAWSUITE EXPOSES WEB OF CORRUPTION AND DECEIT AT THE COMMISSION ON TEACHER CREDENTIALING (CTC) PART 1 By Steve Zeltzer
This case which was filed on November 14, 2012 in the Superior Court in Sacramento County also has national implications as teachers continue to be demonized, bullied, retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing by school administrators and continually losing their jobs all under the guise of education reform.
Carroll v Commission on Teacher Credentialing et al., Sacramento Superior Court, Case No. 34-2012-00135527
The above suit implies that the critical Commission on Teacher Credentialing might have been used as a vehicle to illegally prevent credentialing of public school teachers so that they would be forced to go to work at non-union charters throughout California and top staff including it's lawyers were involved in violating the California Education Code and other state and federal laws protecting the rights of teachers and students in California. The complaint also cites potential violations of the privacy rights of student records, found in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The Commission is a critical education administrative body funded by the Credential holders themselves through application fees and exam fees. CTC is in charge of licensing California teachers, school administrators, and other school personnel. It is also involved in investigating misconduct complaints against credential holders and applicants, approving teacher preparation programs, including through charter chains and entering into contracts with private entities such as NCS Pearson in the development of education testing, teacher evaluations and curriculum development in California. The CTC also has a Committee on Accreditation which presumably accredits credential preparation programs.
It has played a key role in approving alternative routes to teacher certification, approval of teacher preparation programs within charter chains and for-profit colleges and has been intimately involved in teacher evaluations through its contract with the testing and publishing giant NCS Pearson. All of this government decision making while a number of its Commissioners were connected personally or financially with the industry they are supposed to regulate.
Carroll, who was a lawyer at the Commission on Teacher Credentialing for four years was fired after she blew the whistle and helped initiate an audit of the state commission which is directly under Governor Brown and the executive branch. In fact, her firing took place right in the middle of a state audit which included her reporting on the numerous illegal acts.
The California state auditors never independently verified the magnitude of the backlog, instead relying on the assertions of CTC management; individuals Carroll asserted were being dishonest about the existence of and specifics of the backlog in the first instance. CTC management asserted that over 12,000 misconduct reports were backlogged, but the actual number of delayed misconduct reports is still unknown due to the manipulated state audit.
Under the California Education Code section 44242.5, the CTC can investigate teachers by their receipt of particular types of information as outlined in the education code. The commission attorneys according to Carroll, were fishing for information about teachers and opening up cases in which they did not have jurisdiction. This could mean that thousands of teachers have been illegally sanctioned and prevented from receiving credentials in California. Without a credential, they cannot work, which would destroy their careers forcing many into bankruptcy, and possible loss of their homes.
This suit is critical as the push to deprive teachers of their due process rights continues throughout the state. Teachers at Los Angeles Unified report being detained unlawfully for hours in small cubicles without any means of communicating with anyone while detained. If these teacher jails sound shocking, they are- they are meant to break down the will of fully credentialed teachers in the push to replace them with less qualified, non-unionized staff.
As a result of not getting their state credentials because of illegal actions by government officials, potentially thousands of California teachers were also forced into non union low paying charters throughout the state, many of which do not require state teaching credentials. If true, the public has been defrauded, numerous teachers and others have been illegally harmed and thrown into abject poverty. And public education has been purposefully thrown into chaos at the hands of very dishonest, unethical and illegal actors.
It should be noted that NCS Pearson Inc., a third party contractor of CTC is being criminally investigated by the NY Attorney General along with other states for illegal kickbacks to officials who were voting on contracts for k-12 tests and certification tests. Pearson is also involved in the design of the common core standards and teacher assessments.
NCS Pearson controls a large part of public education funding through their publishing empire, evaluations of teachers, tests and through their design of the "common core" standards. In essence Pearson has a virtual monopoly grip on public education funds in the United States.
Ting Sung was chair of the CTC commission at the same time she worked at the Natomas charter school that she founded with her husband, was also being paid by the California Charter Association CCA and Cambridge education as a senior education consultant and was supposed to be a "public" representative of the CTC. Sun is also on the board of the Turkish Gulen charter school chain called Magnolia Public Schools which is the largest charter operator in the US and has schools in the Sacramento area and throughout the state. The Gulen school chain has been involved in corrupt practices throughout the US in which teachers from the cult which runs the school, have been forced to give kickbacks to the Gulen cult and public funds have flowed only to Gulen owned businesses. CBS 60 minutes did a story on this chain and the Iman, Fatullah Gulen, who runs it from Pennsylvania.
It appears that Ting Sun failed to disclose a number of economic conflicts on her Fair Political Practices Commission FPPC form 700 which are required of all commission members since they are voting on contracts with public funds going to private companies. The question again arises where was the senate rules committee in performing their required due diligence on Sun before her senate confirmation to the CTC?
According to the suit, Carroll reported to Ting Sun that Mary Armstrong, Director of Professional Practices at the commission had lied to the commission about the specifics of the backlog of misconduct reports and cases. Carroll also reported to CTC Director Dale Janssen that misconduct reports and cases that were not being timely processed which could cause serious harm to students and also involved delayed sexual misconduct reports, including school district reports. Carroll also reported to Janssen that there was a high level of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism that was creating a negative impact on the working environment as employees of the CTC were fearful of retaliation.
Right after Carroll complained to Janssen, Janssen according to the suit hired an investigator who then sought to discredit Carroll included releasing private medical information about Carroll which was irrelevant to the existence of and specifics of the backlog. Was this an improper use of public funds?
In June of 2010, Janssen, Armstrong and Director of Administrative Services Christa Hill proposed to lay off Carroll supposedly as a "cost cutting" measure. But, when CTC realized the layoff would not be fast enough to get rid of Carroll before the state auditors arrived at CTC, they moved for dismissal.
Carroll had discovered that not only was the CTC illegally investigating some teachers but they were retaliating against CTC employees and educators based on perceived medical health disabilities and retaliated against any employee who questioned these methods. There was an epidemic of bullying at the commission with many employees working in fear.
Carroll was also denied union representation when Pope showed up at her office door demanding that she accompany him to the HR department. This was right in the middle of the audit and after Carroll had numerous meetings with the state auditors.
The California state audit of CTC, requested by California Senate Pro Tem Democratic party leader Darrell Steinberg was based on a complaint by Carroll on the massive systemic backlog of misconduct reports at CTC, illegal actions on part of the CTC attorneys and rampant nepotism, favoritism and potential conflicts throughout the agency. Carroll had met with Steinberg's staff and asked to have the audit but instead of having a real independent investigation, Steinberg and his staff made changes in the audit request. The State Auditor failed to account for a number of items requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee at Steinberg's request, citing CTC's failure to track documents and numerous computer problems. Carroll reported numerous violations that never found their way into the audit report. Was this a case of government damage control? Who was suppressing the evidence? Steinberg's office? The state auditor? Or both? Carroll has now suffered severe economic harm as result of reporting serious illegal acts by government officials.
A key player in Steinberg's office was his education advisor Susanna Cooper whose husband it turns out is Eric Douglas who owns Leading Resources inc. Leading Resources Inc has a number of public agency clients including the Bureau of State Audits which was doing the audit of the CTC. Cooper is also on the advisory board of WestEd. On May 5, 2010, the morning before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted on the audit request of CTC, Cooper sent an e-mail to Carroll's office e-mail address at CTC essentially sending her the draft of what she would say on behalf of Steinberg at this hearing. Carroll had informed all of Steinberg's staff about the fear of retaliation at the CTC and was shocked that Cooper had sent her this email at CTC since there was a real possibility that her e-mail was being monitored by this time.
After the audit report of CTC was released to the public on April 7, 2011, an oversight hearing took place at the Capitol. Carroll testified at this oversight hearing. As Carroll began to speak about the CTC attorneys looking at teachers they had no right to look at, Assembly member Ricardo Lara cut her off and told her that her time was up. After Carroll spoke, not one assembly person or senator had questions of Carroll about the systemic problems at the Commission despite the extensive material received about the specifics of the backlog and misconduct and the reign of harassment and bullying against CTC employees.
After the state audit oversight hearing, Executive Director Dale Janssen, Director of the Professional Practices Mary Armstrong and Assistant General Counsel Willard Leroy Pope all quickly left the CTC. Pope also had children on the payroll. Others have also left the agency. Willard Leroy Pope was replaced by attorney/ALJ Michael Barth. Barth was an ALJ for the Office of Administrative hearings, the special education division. Query what type of potential conflicts Barth's employment at CTC might pose. Barth previously worked for the CTC after leaving the employ of the law firm of Rothschild Wishek & Sands. The Rothschild firm has a contract with the California Teachers Association and represents teachers who come up for review by the CTC. Previously after Barth left the Rothschild firm, CTC had some sort of conflict cone set up around Barth. Given the numerous potential liability that conflicts pose for any entity, it is a wonder why CTC could not find a more neutral candidate for the job. Was this act purposeful? Time will tell.
This lawsuit has the potential to expose a lot, including the real possibility of criminal violations, including the conflicts of interest in the drive to shutdown public education and turn this system over to privatizers and billionaire speculators who see this as a growing area for high profits and little costs with no regard to a quality accessible public education system and certainly with no regard to human suffering as numerous people who report illegal acts get severely retaliated against. Economic harm is a powerful weapon and is used and abused too frequently by those in positions of power.
For more on the privatization of public education, including numerous conflicts of interest, check out perdaily.com tomorrow.
If you or someone you know has been targeted and are in the process of being dismissed and need legal defense, get in touch: