Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steven Colbert interviews Michael Moore on Walker's war on unions

Michael Moore on the Colbert Report -- March 28th, 2011 from MMFlint on Vimeo.

Everest, Kaplan, Phoenix and Education Development Management Corp under investigation

Florida is investigating five private, for-profit colleges, several of which have operations in Milwaukee, to determine if they've engaged in unfair or deceptive practices in recruitment and other areas, the state attorney general's office said Friday.

The office is also looking into whether the colleges misled students about financial aid, the main source of revenue for these institutiions.

Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum, confirmed Friday his office was conducting a civil investigation.

Wiggins said the investigation began in response to consumer complaints and a federal report that accused some for-profit schools of encouraging fraud and engaging in deceptive marketing practices.

"It's all in its infancy right now," Wiggins said. She said officials are unsure how long the civil investigation will take.

According to McCollum's office, the colleges being examined are Kaplan Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga.; University of Phoenix Inc. of Arizona; Argosy University of Florida Inc.; Everest College, a subsidiary of Corinthian Colleges Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif., and Medvance Institute Inc., of Miami.

There is more information linked here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Republican Party's attempt to intimidate Professor Cronon

The New York Times has appropriately characterized the Republican Party's open records request on University of Wisconsin Madison history professor William Cronon's emails a "political fishing expedition" designed to intimidate critics.

It is vengeful, a misguided attempt to silence critics of the Walker administration.

It is ironic that the party whose leaders broke the state's open records laws to strip public employees of their right to be represented by a union would now employ that very law to try to silence its critics.

The editorial is linked here.

Cronon's own brilliant response is linked here. It is very long, but well worth the read.

Friday, March 25, 2011

U.S. seeks dismissal of for-proft college lawsuit

The Obama administration has filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, urging the court to throw out a lawsuit that the group formerly known as the Career College Association has brought against the Department of Education over consumer protection regulations the agency finalized in November.

Stpehen Burd of Higher Ed Watch writes:

 "As we’ve previously reported, the for-profit college lobbyists’ lawsuit seeks to block the Education Department from putting into effect in July several rules that aim to prevent unscrupulous schools from taking advantage of financially needy students. These regulations would eliminate the “safe harbors” that Bush administration officials put in place in 2002 to help for-profit schools skirt a long-standing federal law that prohibits colleges from compensating recruiters based on their success in enrolling students; strengthen the role that states play in preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal student aid programs; and bolster the ability of the Department to prevent colleges from providing misleading information to prospective students and others about their programs.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, as the group is now called, argued in its complaint that these regulations were illegal and will be extremely damaging to its member institutions. “The challenged regulations are beyond the Department’s authority and seek to impose on APSCU’s members and other schools, including public and non-profit schools, restrictions that are unlawful and arbitrary and capricious,” the lawsuit states. “APSCU has filed this lawsuit to prevent these unlawful regulations from harming students and the schools that serve them.”

In its response, which was filed with the court on Friday, the administration rejects these claims, arguing that the Department has acted well within the authority granted to it by the Higher Education Act (HEA). “The challenged incentive compensation, misrepresentation, and state authorization regulations are all permissible under the plain language of the HEA,” the government’s response states. “Plaintiff’s crabbed reading of that broad language is neither persuasive nor required.”

The administration also challenges the lawsuit’s assumptions about the alleged harm that these rules will cause. “Plaintiff’s claims amount to abject speculation about Draconian enforcement of the regulations by the Department -- speculation belied by the language of the regulations themselves, statements in the preamble to the regulations, and subsequent regulatory guidance issued by the Department regarding how it interprets and intends to enforce the regulations,” the government argues.

“In the event that any of plaintiff’s unsubstantiated predictions of enforcement run amok actually materialize, plaintiff is free to raise its claims at that time,” the response says. “But it would be inappropriate for the Court to issue what would amount to an advisory opinion on these issues now.”

At Higher Ed Watch, we have argued that the career college lobbyists’ lawsuit is rife with misleading statements and out-right errors. The administration’s response supports our findings. We will elaborate more on this shortly.

In the meantime, click here to read the government’s brief, here to read a copy of the career college group’s original complaint, and here and here for our previous coverage of the lawsuit

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Triangle factory fire - when New York was "open for business"

In their attempt to strip public employees of their right to organize Governor Walker and the Republican dominated legislature have attacked public employees as slobs and attempted to divide us from the private sector workers that we serve. They have tried to rewrite history, a history written in the blood of workers who died because they did not have a voice on the job and who sacrificed their lives fighting for the right to be represented by a union.

As public servants fight to protect our rights we should never forget the debt we owe to those who preceded us like the 146 workers, mostly teenage Jewish and Italian immigrant girls, who perished in the Triangle Waist Shirt factory fire in New York City (NYC) one hundred years ago on March 25, 1911.

The Triangle factory was a militantly anti-union operation. Hundreds of girls and women working 12 to 16 hours a day earned $5 a week or less to help dress Americans in the white gauzy blouses called shirt waists. (New York Times, March, 25, 2011)

Factory foremen locked the exit doors to keep workers from taking breaks and stealing scraps of fabric and to keep union organizers out. Other doors only opened inward and were blocked during the fire by the stampede of workers struggling to escape. The fire started on the 9th floor and swept through the factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors. Within a half hour, 146 workers, all but 23 women, had died. 90 jumped to their deaths through the 9th floor windows. The others perished in the flames.

The largest public funeral march in the New York City’s history, more than 100,000 people, was held a few days later. Another 250,000 lined the route. Their grief built support for the right of garment workers to unionize. An enraged public demanded that industrial abuses be regulated.

Three weeks before the fire, NYC’s Fire Commissioner ordered sprinklers installed in the Shirt Waist factory. But the owners refused. Industry spokesman indignantly accused the Fire Department of seeking to force the use of cumbersome and costly‟ apparatus“ and warned that the new laws would drive “manufacturers out of the city and state of New York.” The New York Herald supported the owners claiming the order amounted to “„a confiscation of property…‟ (Stein, Triangle Fire, p. 25-26)

Following the fire Mr. H. F. J. Porter, a fire prevention expert who in 1909 had advised Triangle to organize fire drills, told the New York Times: “The neglect of factory owners in the matter of the safety of their employees is absolutely criminal. One man whom I advised to install a fire drill replied to me: “Let em burn. They’re a lot of cattle anyway.‟” (Stein, p. 29.)

Only a year before the fire, the Triangle workers had led a general strike of 20,000 to 40,000 garment workers demanding union recognition and fire safety regulations. Most of the city’s factories agreed to the demands of the Women’s Trade Union League. Triangle’s owners refused. A year later 146 workers were dead.

A surviving Triangle worker, Rose Sabran, said of that defeat: “If the union had won we would have been safe. Two of our demands were for adequate fire escapes and for open doors from the factories to the streets. But the bosses defeated us and we didn’t get the open doors or better fire escapes. So our friends are dead.” (Stein, p. 18)

Following this the fire, garment workers throughout the country, including in Milwaukee’s sweatshops, organized. In NYC the Factory Investigating Committee was established and succeeded in getting fire, sanitation, child labor and occupational health and safety regulations passed. Yet New York’s business leaders, like Wisconsin’s corporate leadership today, opposed the legislation, hysterically insisting that that changes to the fire code would mean “the wiping out of industry in this state.” They wanted to keep New York City, in the words of Wisconsin current Governor, “open for business”

George W. Olvany, the special counsel to the Real Estate Board could have been speaking for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) when he wrote: “The owners of real property are becoming terrified by the number of laws which have been enacted affecting real property…This compels the owner to expend…large sums of money, which…are absolutely needless and useless.”
( Op-ed by: “The Fire Hazard in Big Buildings,” NYT. May 3, 1914)

Laurence M. D. McGuire president of the Real Estate Board also weighed in declaring:”….The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government, that the unfettered initiative of the individual is the force that makes a country great and that this initiative should never be bound…” (FIC Fourth Report, 1915, Vol. 1, p 76-83)

These are the same arguments used by the WMC and Governor Walker today in their fight to destroy public sector unions, cut corporate taxes and eliminate workplace, consumer and environmental regulations

Walker and company hope we will forget what the American workplace was like before we had unions, labor laws and public employees to enforce those laws.

They want us to forget about the 146 women who died in the Triangle fire because it was too expensive to install fire escapes and sprinklers and set up fire drills.

They want us to forget that unions civilized the American workplace by ensuring that workers have a voice at work.

As we fight to protect our right to organize, let’s honor the sacrifice of the Triangle Factory workers whose terrifying and horrible deaths we remember this week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Senate hearing focuses on for profit college with 84% drop out rate

Last week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, heard testimony about Ashford University, a for-profit college owned by Bridgeport Education, with an associate degree program drop-out rate of 84%.

Using data from federal filings and documents provided by Bridgepoint, Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the committee, described an institution that gets 86 percent of its revenues directly from the federal government, but sees the vast majority of its students drop out, burdened with student-loan debt. Bridgepoint employs 1,703 recruiters, the senator said, but only one employee is charged with job placement.

The amount spent on instruction per student has plummeted from above $5,000 before Bridgepoint bought Asford, to about $700 a student — about a tenth as much as at Iowa State. According to Mr. Harkin, for each Bridgepoint student, $2,700 went to recruiting and $1,500 to profits. Its chief executive, Andrew Clark, earned $20.5 million in 2009.

“From a strictly money-making perspective, this is a highly successful model,” Mr. Harkin said. “But from an educational perspective, from the perspective of public money and an ethical perspective, I think it’s a highly disturbing model.”

Read the New Tork Times article on the hearing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

AFT president says gainful employment rule will protect students and taxpayers

Rhandi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, writes in Politico:

Everywhere we turn, we are hearing that there is not enough transparency and accountability in education. So it’s puzzling that when the Department of Education issues very modest regulations for higher education that would improve accountability and ensure career-education students have a real chance at gainful employment without unmanageable debt, the for-profit college industry claims this accountability is unnecessary. They insist government is overreaching.

These claims could not be further from the truth.

The “gainful employment” regulations proposed by the Education Department are designed to target the worst actors in career-education programs.

Read the entire article is linked here.