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Helen Barkin writes a thorough review of what happened state by state on November 6, 2012 in this article.

What Happened to Public Education on Election Night?

An excerpt:

Barack Obama’s K-12 “reform” policies have brought misery to public schools across the country: more standardized testing, faulty evaluations for teachers based on student test scores, more public schools shut down rather than improved, more privately managed and for-profit charter schools soaking up tax dollars but providing little improvement, more money wasted on unproven computer-based instruction, and more opportunities for private foundations to steer public policy. Obama’s agenda has also fortified a crazy-quilt political coalition on education that stretches from centrist ed-reform functionaries to conservatives aiming to undermine unions and privatize public schools to right-wingers seeking tax dollars for religious charters. Mitt Romney’s education program was worse in only one significant way: Romney also supported vouchers that allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools, including religious schools.

After the November 6 elections, public school supporters speculated about (hoped for) a change in direction in Obama’s second term. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to expect a shift. By the time Obama launched his first presidential campaign in 2007, he had embraced reform-think. His longtime basketball buddy, über-reformer Arne Duncan, undoubtedly influenced his views. The two met on the court more than twenty years ago. Once Duncan took over as CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 2001, he became Obama’s sounding board on education policy and escort on school visits. It made perfect sense from Obama’s perspective to appoint Duncan Secretary of Education in 2008. And the administration’s signature education program, Race to the Top, perfectly embodies reform-think: it gives states (all of them resource-starved) a chance to compete for grants only if they pledge to adopt a full reform program.

Rumors that Obama might replace Duncan with ultra-extreme reformer Michelle Rhee caused some panic but needn’t have. Obama and Duncan are a team. Duncan announced his desire to stay for a second term in September 2012. Just ten days after the election, in prepared remarks to the Council of Chief State School Officers, he stated that his department’s second-term job would be “to support the bold and transformational reforms at the state and local level that so many of you have pursued during the last four years.” There was also talk that Obama-Duncan might focus more on preschool and higher education, both less controversial than their K-12 agenda. But even if this does pan out, Race to the Top has given the administration’s suite of ill-conceived reforms a life of its own. As seen on election night and as indicated in Duncan’s speech, the main action has moved to the state and local arenas.

The rescue of public education must come from the grassroots, from a coalition led by parents and teachers. Such a movement has been taking shape gradually and gained visibility during the 2012 election cycle. The number of education-related campaigns has increased as ed reformers try to entrench their policies in law. In addition to the familiar battles over school funding, there are votes on charter schools, the content of teacher contracts, vouchers, and union rights (the four largest unions in the United States represent teachers and other public sector workers). Disregarded in the past, elections for school boards and superintendents have become major battles. This year’s education votes were high-profile within individual states, fiercely fought, and outlandishly expensive; some attracted national attention. Public education supporters won some impressive victories and suffered several bitter disappointments. Here is a review of some pivotal votes, who supported what, and why:

California Prop 30 campaign banner by Quinn Dombrowski, via Wikimedia Commons
California Prop 30 campaign banner by Quinn Dombrowski, via Wikimedia Commons

Alabama: Voters defeated Amendment 4 (64.6 to 35.4 percent)*, which would have deleted from the 1901 state constitution language that validated the poll tax and school segregation by race. Counterintuitively, opposition to the amendment came from black leaders, the state teachers union, and Democrats because it left intact this clause: “…nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense….” The language was inserted in 1956 to enable the state to dismantle public education rather than integrate schools. Business groups interested in limiting public expenditure on education supported the amendment. Opponents argued that eliminating the racist language but leaving the no-right-to-public-education clause effectively legitimated the latter, putting public education at risk. The amendment as written, they argued, would change nothing in practice for the black community since federal law prohibits de jure school segregation and poll taxes.

*All the results reported here are final figures or the latest available as of November 19, 2012.

Arizona: Voters defeated Proposition 204 (58 to 42 percent), which would have made permanent a 2010 one-cent sales tax to fund education, vocational training, and college scholarships.

Voters approved Proposition 118 (54.9 to 45.1 percent), which creates a more stable source of revenue for public education by changing the formula for distributing the earnings of a state trust fund until 2021. The money in the trust fund comes from the sale and lease of state lands. The Arizona Education Association, the state’s main teachers union, supported the proposition.

To read this article in full, go to Dissent.

We heard so much about “non-profit” charter school$ in the last election cycle from Stand for Children, creating the allusion that no one is in charter school$ for the money, but alas, we know that is not the case.

Let’s take a look at Arizona.

From the New Republic:

How Charter Schools Fleece Taxpayers

charter schools

In government, if I help myself to taxpayer dollars, we call that embezzlement and I go to jail. In the private sector, if I help myself to taxpayer dollars, we call that innovation and I get hailed as a visionary exponent of public-private partnership. That’s the lesson of a Nov. 17 investigation by Anne Ryman of the Arzona Republic into the state’s charter schools.

In her examination of Arizona’s 50 largest nonprofit charter schools and all of Arizona’s nonprofit charter schools with assets exceeding $10 million, Ryman found “at least 17 contracts or arrangements, totaling more than $70 million over five years and involving about 40 school sites, in which money from the non-profit charter school went to for-profit or non-profit companies run by board members, executives or their relatives.” That says to me that in Arizona, at least, charter-school corruption isn’t the exception. It’s the rule. And that’s just in the nonprofit charter schools. Documentation for the for-profit schools is not publicly available. What are the odds that charter-school proprietors operating in the dark are less inclined to enrich themselves at public expense?

The self-dealing is entirely legal. All you have to do is get yourself an exemption from state laws requiring that goods and services be bid competitively. Clearly these exemptions aren’t difficult to acquire, because 90 percent of Arizona’s charter holders—not 90 percent of the charter schools surveyed by the Arizona Republic, but 90 percent of all the state’s charter schools—have acquired permanent exemptions from state competitive bidding requirements. No exemption has ever been withdrawn by the state. If you are a charter-school officer and you stand to benefit personally from some financial transaction with the school, you may not vote on whether to make the purchase. But that’s about the only rule.

The result? “The schools’ purchases from their own officials,” Ryman writes, “range from curriculum and business consulting to land leases and transportation services. A handful of non-profit schools outsource most of their operations to a board member’s for-profit company.” A nonprofit called Great Hearts Academies runs 15 Arizona charter schools. Since 2009, according to Ryman, the schools have purchased $987,995 in books from Educational Sales Co., whose chairman, Daniel Sauer, is a Great Hearts officer. And that doesn’t count additional book purchases made directly by parents. Six of the Great Hearts schools have links on their Web sites for parents who wish to make such purchases. The links are, of course, to Educational Sales Co. Since 2007 Sauer has donated $50,400 to Great Hearts. You can call that philanthropy, or you can call that an investment on which Sauer’s company received a return of more than 1800 percent. I’m not sure even Russian oligarchs typically get that much on the back end.

To read this article in full, go to The New Republic.

So much money, so little time.

Speaking of edu-buck$, here is another unbelievable deal described by Edu Shyster:

What’s a Little Edu-Fraud Between Friends?

What a murky transaction between Massachusetts charter operators says about a little problem called ‘edu-fraud.’

Edu Shyster Diane Lam
Edu Shyster of the week Diane Lam

When leaders of a troubled charter school in Gloucester, MA needed emergency funds, they went to prominent charter advocate Diana Lam, who was happy to oblige—for a hefty fee.

We already know that charter schools are outstanding at achievement gap narrowing, test score soaring and expectations raising. But there’s a little something else that charters turn out to be exceptionally good at: taxpayer fleecing. You see, it turns out that when all of those innovation-stifling regulations are lifted, charter operators behave just like their colleagues in other scrutiny free zones—they lie, cheat and steal. A reporter in Arizona recently turned up staggering levels of charter school corruption in that state, including $70 million worth of contracts awarded by charter operators to friends and family members. And that was just in the nonprofit charter schools—records of for-profit schools aren’t publicly available.

Why so much edu-fraud? It turns out that state officials who are the biggest boosters of charter schools may not be the best people to ensure that the schools are following the rules. Which means that outright illegality, not to mention murky transactions, get swept right under the edu-rug. Reader: I invite you to pour yourself a stiff Dark n’ Stormy (don’t stint on the rum) and accompany me to scenic Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the briny sea air can’t quite disguise the scent of charterus odorus malus.

Back in September, leaders of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter found themselves with a wee problem on their hands. An unending series of mini-scandals, not to mention test scores that are among the worst in the state, resulted in plummeting enrollment—and a resulting dip in state-provided edu-bucks. So to remedy the shortfall, the charter leaders did what any school administrators might do. They reached out to the head of another charter school and arranged to borrow $75,000 for three weeks, secured by their next fix of taxpayer money.

-PROMISSORY-NOTE2-150x150A local tipster helpfully provided EduShyster with the promissory note for this unique arrangement, which you can view here or by clicking on the image at left.

But wait—there’s more. Our cash-strapped innovators didn’t hit up just anybody for emergency funds. They went to Diana Lam, a prominent reformer and charter-advocate who has left a trail of edu-destruction in city after city, including San Antonio, where she resigned as superintendent, after receiving a buy out worth nearly $800K.  A former “change agent” for Joel Klein in New York, Lam was forced out over nepotism chargers (Lam’s own employees tipped off reporters to the fact that her husband was working in a department that reported to her). Her brief tenure was characterized by what seems to have been a unique ability to alienate everyone she encountered. “Wherever she went, teachers hated her,” the Manhattan Institute’s Sol Stern told New York Magazine.

Read on here. Have these people no shame?

And finally, someone who makes sense.

From Publicola:

Legislature Should Suspend Unfunded Charter Schools Initiative

Former Democratic state Rep. Brendan Williams, who represented the 22nd legislative district.

Former state legislator Brendan Williams argues that—following the Seattle Times’ logic that unfunded initiatives should be suspended—the legislature should overturn the unfunded charter-school measure passed this month.

In a recent edict to governor-elect Jay Inslee–against whom they editorialized constantly (and donated $75,750 in ads for his opponent)–my conservative friends at the Seattle Times demand “leadership from Gov-elect Jay Inslee, who opposed Initiative 1240” in implementing the narrowly-passed charter school initiative.

There’s an interesting contrast to this demand.

Throughout the 2011 election cycle, and thereafter, the Times crusaded against Initiative 1163, which would have mandated additional training for long-term in-home caregivers, just as it had against its predecessor: Initiative 1029. The state legislature didn’t honor I-1029, prompting I-1163.

In one representative editorial against I-1163, on October 7, 2011, the Times wrote of I-1029 that voters “passed it, voting with their hearts, looking at the ballot title only. . . . Not one voter in a thousand really understood it. (Emphasis added). 

On November 8, 2011, 65 percent of voters backed I-1163’s stronger caregiver training and background checks with 65% of the vote. The very next day, the Times editorialized that the legislature should “suspend Initiative 1163, and send this message to all initiative sponsors: If you want something that costs the government money, provide a way to pay for it.”  (Emphasis added). 

On November 25, 2011, the Times wrote, “Even though voters supported the measure to pay for more training for long-term-care workers, the state cannot afford the additional $15 million.”

On January 31, 2012, the Times dismissed I-1163 as “another warm, fuzzy idea that sounds good until the bill arrives.”  On February 20, 2012, the Times editorial headline read: “Repeal unfunded voter initiatives 728, 732 and 1163”.

So let’s compare these past accusations that voters are inattentive and fiscally irresponsible–and the Times’ position that unfunded initiatives should be suspended–with the Times’ current enthusiasm for charter schools.

On November 18, the Times wrote of Initiative 1240, whose proponents outspent opponents 15 to 1, and which 49.3 percent of voters opposed and was opposed by 49.3% of voters, “Voters have spoken on charters. They now fully expect the governor, the Legislature and other education leaders to get on board.”

The Times’ position on charters is inconsistent with its earlier opposition to unfunded initiatives. In applying the Times’ previous standards on I-1163, legislators should feel no obligation to honor I-1240. According to the Office of Financial Management, I-1240 will cost the state a minimum of $3.09 million over five years. None of this is funded, and the state faces a huge revenue shortfall. 

While I-1163 served the laudable imperative of protecting vulnerable adults, saving the state liability costs, I-1240 is simply a social science experiment wholly funded by a handful of multi-millionaires (for example, Wal-Mart’s Alice Walton of Arkansas gave $1.7 million). Grotesquely, the $10.9 million I-1240 raised – ostensibly just to create 40 charter schools–was not far off the $12 million Inslee raised in his winning campaign for governor.

Further, as the Washington state supreme court ruled in the McCleary decision, the state’s educational needs are woefully underfunded. Special education is among the casualties, as the Times itself acknowledged in a November 5, 2012 editorial, headlined “Seattle must do more to improve special education.”

All empirical evidence shows charter schools underserve kids with special education needs, which would only compound the problem the Times has highlighted. The nonpartisan General Accounting Office could only conclude that, nationally, “charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling.”

Moreover, applying the Times’ conclusion that only 0.1% of voters understood caregiver training, it’s reasonable to ask if voters knew all the details of the vastly more complicated I-1240 – particularly given that it lacked any visible opposition campaign. 

For example, I-1240’s “trigger” language is drawn straight from the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – allowing a simple majority of teachers, or parents, at any public school to hijack it and convert it to a charter with no public notice or disclosure of the funding backing their petition drive. Did anyone really think the Lakeside School crowd would spend almost $11 million just to create 40 charter schools? 

This ALEC language is buried on page 19 of the 40-page initiative.  Did all of the 50.7% of voters approving it know that? 

Rather than create a new educational bureaucracy, the Legislature should follow the Times’ previous advice: “If you want something that costs the government money, provide a way to pay for it.”  I-1240 is a “warm, fuzzy idea that sounds good until the bill arrives” – it should be suspended by a cash-strapped state. 

fund education

And now onto online charter school$.

Are they selling education or pop tarts? Or is it one in the same to these carpetbaggers?

Online schools spend millions to attract students

Virtual, for-profit K-12 schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising, an analysis shows.

If your local public high school has empty seats, the district might lay off teachers. If it’s operated by K12 Inc., the company will take out an ad on CNN, The Cartoon Network or and fill those seats.

An analysis by USA TODAY finds that online charter schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising over the past five years, a trend that shows few signs of abating. The primary and high schools — operated online by for-profit companies but with local taxpayer support — are buying TV, radio, newspaper and Internet ads to attract students, even as brick-and-mortar public schools in the districts they serve face budget crunches.

Virtual schools have become lightning rods for critics who say their operators are profiting from students’ dissatisfaction with neighborhood schools, but don’t produce better results. Supporters say the schools, operating in more than 30 states, are giving kids and families second chances.

Nationwide, about 275,000 K-12 students attend school online full-time, according to the Evergreen Education Group, a Colorado consulting firm. Many virtual students are former home-schoolers taking advantage of the schools’ public funding — virtual schools typically get most of the per-pupil allowance that a local school does.

The USA TODAY analysis finds that 10 of the largest for-profit operators have spent an estimated $94.4 million on ads since 2007. The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., has spent about $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012.

The analysis is based on ad buys and rates compiled by Kantar Media, a New York-based provider of “media and marketing intelligence,” but the figures are only estimates. In an interview, K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski wouldn’t say whether the estimates are accurate or provide actual K12 figures. But he said the company’s agreements with local school districts and charter school authorizers require K12 to publicize its programs, often over large geographic areas.

“We try our best to ensure that all families know that these options exist,” Kwitowski said. “It’s really about the parents’ choice — they’re the ones that make the decision about what school or program is the best fit for their child.”

A look at where K12 is placing the ads suggests that the company is also working to appeal to kids: Among the hundreds of outlets tapped this year, K12 has spent an estimated $631,600 to advertise on Nickelodeon, $601,600 on The Cartoon Network and $671,400 on, a social networking site popular with teens. It also dropped $3,000 on, which calls itself “the Web’s largest community for dark alternative culture.”

To read this article in full, go to USA Today.

More on K12, Inc. here:

K12 Inc. Defends Colorado Virtual Academy After Hit On Wall Street

Poor academic performance and control issues at Colorado’s largest taxpayer funded online school put its Virginia-based management company on the defensive Monday.

Update 4:00 p.m. 11/20/2012: K12 Inc.’s stock continued to slide Tuesday. A report coming from the Colorado Charter School Institute presented more bad news, with a recommendation to deny transfer of COVA to the district.

Wells Fargo initiated a stock downgrade for K12 Inc. from Outperform to the neutral ranking of Market Perform Monday citing issues at Colorado Virtual Academy:

We are lowering our rating on LRN shares to Market Perform over performance issues that have come to our attention at one of the company’s longest-standing schools, Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), which enrolls approximately 4,500 students and generates, we est, around $23MM in annual revenue (~3%) at an above average margin. We believe this latest example of K12’s declining academic performance could weigh on shares at least until the problem seems addressed or new school growth meaningfully accelerates.

The report also referenced an application by Colorado Virtual Academy to transfer its charter to the Colorado Charter School Institute. That application is expected to be denied by CSI, which cited concerns over academic performance and board control issues.

And to think that K12 Inc. has their eye on our state now.

Buyer beware!

In Georgia:

Georgia DOE blasts Georgia Cyber Academy, threatens to pull charter in report

The Georgia Department of Education has told the Georgia Cyber Academy that it will begin proceedings in April to shut down the online charter school if it fails to address numerous issues in its handling of special education students.

Those concerns, spelled out in a report delivered to GCA on Tuesday, include failure to obtain individualized education plans special education students are taught from, problems in resolving parental complaints and failure to offer the individualized instruction special education students are eligible to receive under federal law.

With 12,000 students, GCA is the largest public school in the state. The report says GCA’s special education problems stretch back to 2009, when the scores of its special needs students were among the lowest in the state.

GCA’s head of school, Matt Arkin, has maintained that the school has met special education targets established by the department. Those claims, however, are refuted by the report, which says the school “is in violation of critical federal special education laws and regulations.”

During an October review of GCA, department officials found “continuing and significant failures to comply with federal and state laws and regulations,” according to the report.

In an emailed response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, Arkin said: “GCA received a copy of the report this morning around the same time you did. We are currently reviewing and investigating the report, and we have a number of questions on some of the items in the reports upon an initial review.”

Some of those items, Arkin said, include questions about documentation of how the school is using federal special education funds.

To read this article in full, go to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And finally, a school to prison pipeline, literally.

Private Prison Company Used in Drug Raids at Public High School

Corrections Corporation of America used in drug sweeps of public school students in Arizona

by Beau Hodai

corrections In Arizona an unsettling trend appears to be underway: the use of private prison employees in law enforcement operations.

The state has graced national headlines in recent years as the result of its cozy relationship with the for-profit prison industry. Such controversies have included the role of private prison corporations in SB 1070 and similar anti-immigrant legislation disseminated in other states; a 2010 private prison escape that resulted in two murders and a nationwide manhunt; and a failed bid to privatize nearly the entire Arizona prison system.

And now, recent events in the central Arizona town of Casa Grande show the hand of private corrections corporations reaching into the classroom, assisting local law enforcement agencies in drug raids at public schools.

Trick or Treat

At 9 a.m. on the morning of October 31, 2012, students at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande were settling in to their daily routine when something unusual occurred.

“To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen,” —Caroline Isaacs, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Vista Grande High School Principal Tim Hamilton ordered the school — with a student population of 1,776 — on “lock down,” kicking off the first “drug sweep” in the school’s four-year history. According to Hamilton, “lock down” is a state in which, “everybody is locked in the room they are in, and nobody leaves — nobody leaves the school, nobody comes into the school.”

“Everybody is locked in, and then they bring the dogs in, and they are teamed with an administrator and go in and out of classrooms. They go to a classroom and they have the kids come out and line up against a wall. The dog goes in and they close the door behind, and then the dog does its thing, and if it gets a hit, it sits on a bag and won’t move.”

While such “drug sweeps” have become a routine matter in many of the nation’s schools, along with the use of metal detectors and zero-tolerance policies, one feature of this raid was unusual. According to Casa Grande Police Department (CGPD) Public Information Officer Thomas Anderson, four “law enforcement agencies” took part in the operation: CGPD (which served as the lead agency and operation coordinator), the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Gila River Indian Community Police Department, and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

It is the involvement of CCA — the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison corporation — that causes this high school “drug sweep” to stand out as unusual; CCA is not, despite CGPD’s evident opinion to the contrary, a law enforcement agency.

“To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen,” said Caroline Isaacs, program director of the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organization that advocates for criminal justice reform.

“All the research shows that CCA doesn’t properly train its staff to do the jobs they actually have. They most certainly do not have anywhere near the training and experience–to say nothing of the legal authority–to conduct a drug raid on a high school,” Isaacs added. “It is chilling to think that any school official would be willing to put vulnerable students at risk this way.”

Welcome to Prison Town, U.S.A.

CCA, the nation’s largest for-profit prison/immigrant detention center operator, with more than 92,000 prison and immigrant detention “beds” in 20 states and the District of Columbia, reported $1.7 billion in gross revenue last year. This revenue is derived almost exclusively from tax payer-funded government (county, state, federal) contracts through which the corporation is paid per-diem, per-prisoner rates for the warehousing of prisoners and immigrant detainees.

And, CCA has a substantial presence in Casa Grande and throughout Arizona’s Pinal County (Casa Grande is the largest town in Pinal County). The corporation owns and operates a total of six correctional/detention facilities in the county, distributed through the towns of Florence and Eloy.

These facilities hold a mixture of prisoners from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety Division of Corrections, TransCor (a detainee/prisoner transportation subsidiary of CCA), the Pascua Yaqi Tribe, the U.S. Air Force, the Vermont Department of Corrections, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In September of this year, CCA was awarded a contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to house 1,000 medium security prisoners at the corporation’s Red Rock Correctional Center in Eloy.

In 2009, the Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation listed CCA as the largest non-governmental employer in Pinal County. To boot, CCA is a “Board Level” member of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a powerful trade/lobby organization, and is active in the Eloy, Florence, and Casa Grande chambers of commerce. (For more on CCA’s political influence in Arizona, see “Brownskins and Greenbacks,” DBA Press, June 2010.)

This CCA presence, coupled with the location of two correctional facilities operated by GEO Group (the nation’s second largest for-profit prison/immigrant detention center contractor) in the county, as well as two ADC-run prison complexes, makes Pinal County — which once cited mining and agriculture as its economic bedrock — a de facto prison industry community.

Despite the obvious differences between CCA and actual law enforcement agencies, those involved in the Vista Grande High School drug sweep seem unable to differentiate between CCA employees and law enforcement officers.

“CCA is like a skip and a hop away from us– as far as the one in Florence,” said Anderson. “We work pretty closely with all surrounding agencies, whatever kind of law enforcement they are– be they police, or immigration and naturalization, or the prison systems. So, yeah, this seems pretty regular to me.”

For his part, Hamilton seems equally unable to differentiate between law enforcement officers and employees of a for-profit prison corporation.

“To be honest with you, I couldn’t tell if they were Casa Grande Police, Pinal County police, Gila River, the sheriff’s department– they all look the same,” said Hamilton.

Questions of Legality

But they are not the same.

Aside from the fact that CCA is a private corporation that derives its profits from the incarceration of human beings– such as minimum and medium security drug offenders — Arizona Administrative Code provides that, in order for any individual to engage in the duties of a “peace officer,” that individual must obtain certification from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board. Arizona Revised Statutes defines “peace officer” to include such law enforcement personnel as: municipal police officers, constables, marshals, Department of Public Safety personnel, and community college/university police.

The POST Board is comprised of the Arizona Attorney General, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, municipal police department chiefs, county sheriffs, state university personnel, and other public safety/law enforcement personnel. POST’s essential purpose, as defined by Arizona law is to “prescribe reasonable minimum qualifications for officers to be appointed to enforce the laws of this state and the political subdivisions of this state and certify officers in compliance with these qualifications.”

And, Arizona Administrative Code is very clear on this point: “a person who is not certified by the Board or whose certified status is inactive shall not function as a peace officer or be assigned the duties of a peace officer by an agency . . . “

According to POST Executive Director Lyle Mann, POST provides two types of certification: standards and training certification for “peace officers,” and standards and training certification for correctional officers. Arizona Administrative Code mandates that ADC officers be POST certified. However, according to Mann, employees of private prison contractors are exempt from this standards and training requirements. As such, said Mann, no CCA employee is POST certified — as either a “peace officer” or a correctional officer.

It is important to note that Arizona Administrative Code explicitly states that non-regular “peace officers” — secondary parties engaging in certain limited aspects of law enforcement under the command/supervision of regular peace officers — must also be POST certified.

According to Arizona Administrative Code, a “limited-authority peace officer” is defined as “a peace officer who is certified to perform the duties of a peace officer only in the presence and under the supervision of a full-authority peace officer.” The Code goes on to state that duties which may be performed by a “limited-authority peace officer” in the presence of a “full-authority peace officer” include: “investigative activities performed to detect, prevent, or suppress crime, or to enforce criminal or traffic laws of the state, county, or municipality.”

This definition seems to fit the description — with the exception that CCA employees aiding CGPD “peace officers” are not POST certified — of what occurred at Vista Grande High School on the morning of October 31, 2012.

According to Officer Anderson and Principal Hamilton, the raid was organized and conducted at Hamilton’s request.

“We need to keep drugs off our campus,” said Hamilton when asked why he requested the raid. “We wanted to make sure our campus . . . we wanted to send a message to kids that we don’t want that stuff on our campus.”

Hamilton stated that, outside from this desire to send a “message to kids,” he had no knowledge of any particular drug use problem on his school’s campus.

CGPD then issued a request for assistance to what it considered to be other local law enforcement agencies — including CCA.

According to Anderson, CCA provided two canine units (handlers and dogs) to aid in the high school “drug sweep.” These CCA canine units worked under the command of the lead CGPD canine unit.

According to Anderson, there is no contract or formal agreement for such services extant between CGPD and CCA. Rather, said Anderson, CCA simply agreed to participate in the raid when approached by CGPD “K-9” officers. Anderson stated that he does not know whether CGPD ever contacted POST-certified correctional canine units at either of the two nearby ADC-operated prisons.

As to the general role canine units play in such school “drug sweeps,” Anderson stated that the dogs and their handlers are typically utilized to detect the presence of illicit materials in classrooms and school parking lots.

This activity, as was conducted by CCA employees, would seem to fall squarely under the Arizona Administrative Code description of duties performed by “limited-authority peace officers” — officers who may perform “investigative activities” for the purpose of detecting, preventing, or suppressing criminal activity, and who are only authorized to do so while in the presence of “full-authority peace officers,” such as CGPD. Such “limited-authority peace officers” are required to be POST certified.

Regardless, according to both Anderson and Hamilton, this type of activity has been going on for years in Pinal County.

According to Anderson, a similar “drug sweep” — utilizing CCA canine units — was conducted at Casa Grande’s Union High School in 2011. Anderson has been unable to provide further details relating to this event.

According to Anderson, the Vista Grande High School raid is unlikely to be the last instance of CCA partnership with local law enforcement, as he assumed CGPD would use the corporation’s canine teams again, if needed.

And, according to Hamilton, he requested and had executed “drug sweeps” utilizing CCA canine units “two or three times a year,” while serving as principal at Coolidge High School in Coolidge, Arizona — also located in Pinal County, roughly ten miles from the private prison mecca of Florence. Hamilton was principal at Coolidge High School from 2003 through 2007.

CCA did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding their involvement in law enforcement operations at public schools in Pinal County.

To read this article in full, go to The Center for Media and Democracy.

Much to ponder this weekend.