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Ethics Board rejects lobbying complaint against BCG, William Penn Foundation

by Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18 2013 Posted in Latest news

Philadelphia's Board of Ethics has rejected a complaint filed by several advocacy organizations contending that the William Penn Foundation was lobbying when it financed the hiring of a School District consultant in 2012 and was given access to its work.

The complaint, filed last December, argued that the William Penn Foundation and the Boston Consulting Group, whose services the foundation paid for through a grant to the District, should register as lobbyists. 

BCG prepared a report urging school closings, the creation of achievement networks managed by outside entities, the expansion of charter schools, and outsourcing of some unionized work, especially in school maintainance. 

The groups filing the complaint argued that the foundation, through its grant, had gained extraordinary access to shape public policy, including access to non-public documents and private time with public officials.

The Ethics Board concluded that the facts "do not demonstrate that BCG was lobbying the School District on behalf of the Foundation." It said the actions of the William Penn Foundation and BCG did not constitute lobbying because the BCG consultants answered to the District's chief recovery officer, Thomas Knudsen, and the School Reform Commission, not to the foundation, although it said that the agreements for the second and third phases of BCG's work "create the appearance."  

"Neither the City's lobbying law, nor Board Regulation No. 9, directly addresses the relationship that arises when a private entity provides grant funding to a public enterprise such as the School District," the Board of Ethics concluded. "However, when a private grantor provides a grant at the request of a public entity, we believe that communication between the grantor and public officials regarding the terms of the grant and compliance with those terms, will not, on its own, constitute lobbying."

The advocacy groups, which included Parents United for Public Education and the Philadelphia NAACP, were represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP).

"We are pleased that the Ethics Board decided to investigate the claims of our clients, because they raise serious questions about the use of private money to gain influence over a public body -- here, the School District," said PILCOP executive director Jennifer Clarke.

"Although the board ultimately found that there was not lobbying, this decision was based on oral assurances made during the investigation, not on the public documents which, as the board agreed, gave the appearance that the consultants were working for the Foundation and not for the School District."

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Comments (4)

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 18:44.

Of COURSE, the fix was in and ALL thinking people know it. The blatant abuse will continue until The People stop it. Short of that, ain't nothin gonna change for the better. The longer we play mouse, the worse it will get.

Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on Thu, 12/19/2013 - 08:57.

The lions must roar to reverse the blatant unethical conduct of the Ethics Board- surreal ain't even close to describing the "leadership" of this city.

Submitted by Lisa Haver on Thu, 12/19/2013 - 12:20.

This happens on a smaller scale at almost every SRC meeting. Grants are accepted from private organizations in order to enact programs and policies which otherwise would have more public scrutiny.

In October, the SRC accepted a grant from the Gates Foundation for its "Teacher Effectiveness" program. In November, they awarded an unspecified portion (probably half) of the $216,000 grant to Master Charter Schools so that their teachers can teach school district teachers how to teach.

Over the past years, the SRC has accepted from grants from PSP for "recruitment of senior staff, principal training, and funding for schools chosen by PSP.

All of this is decided at the Great Schools Compact Committee meetings, which includes two SRC members and is chaired by Lori Shorr. Despite public requests to Dr. Shorr, the public is not admitted to these meetings either.

From a 2012 Notebook story:

"According to an update from the Compact committee's first meeting, the group selected the Philadelphia School Partnership as "the applicant that will apply on behalf of Philadelphia for additional grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support implementation of the Compact."

We knew before the Board decided that this is a rigged game. They get away with it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that so few people pay attention. Imagine what could happen if enough people came to the SRC meetings to make them explain what they are doing and whose money they are spending.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Mon, 12/23/2013 - 00:22.

And so it is that Philly will remain closed minded and backwards. If you read the summary of the BCG report posted on the SDP's website, it isn't just "outside entities" that are recommended to run the "achievement networks". In fact proposals were to be accepted by such entities as teachers already working for the SDP (most/all members of the PFT).

But so much easier to paint a melodrama, and ride the emotions to justify the paychecks. Who needs to be able to read let alone think after all? Keep the system the same: safeguard the pensions at all (and whatever and to whomever it) costs!

No accountability for Title I; No accountability to W.Penn -that's the way it's done here in Philly.

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