Addendum: OCF Realty customer reviews point to disturbing pattern.

ORI FEIBUSH vs. HIS TENANTS:

Addendum: OCF Realty customer reviews point to disturbing pattern.

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A few weeks ago we wrote about Ori Feibush and OCF Realty’s history of illegally withholding security deposits from tenants until ordered by the court to return them.

In numerous cases, Mr. Feibush withheld security deposits from his tenants without cause, forcing them to take him to court. Only after a judge ruled that Mr. Feibush had to return the money would he finally relent and reimburse his disgruntled former renters.

Some of Ori’s supporters suggested that we were lemon picking; taking a few isolated incidents out of context in order to paint an unfairly negative picture.

We agree that it’s easy to discredit someone, if you’re willing to take things out of context. That’s why it’s so important to note what is an isolated incident and what is in fact a long-standing and documented pattern.

People familiar with the Point Breeze Organizing Committee know we’ve pushed very hard against the assertions from people like Mayor Nutter that Government is a business. A Government is for and by the people – democratic – it can do things for the common good, whether it proves profitable or not. It can invest in things like affordable housing and not focus narrowly on a rate of return. It’s not answerable to a select few, it’s answerable to all of us, and that empowers our Government to do things that can benefit all of us.

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However, if a candidate is going to run on a record of being a successful businessman, we believe it’s fair to ask how they define success. Do they define it as them making the most amount of money possible? Or were they able to provide a good or service, that helped people or benefited their lives or at least had basic standards of decency in regard to customer service.

That’s why we are asking the rest of the 2nd District to check out the below Yelp reviews – customers of OCF Realty have taken time to write detailed reviews of their experience, and they’re par and parcel with the Tenants’ experience we just documented and our on-going experience with this developer in our neighborhood.

Consider this one from Rich D. on Yelp.

“My personal experience with OCF was not at all pleasant. We had various problems the entirety of our stay (not all problems were caused by OCF initially), but this real estate management company did not make things better.

“One example would be when our apartment was robbed. Initially, OCF refused to give us an additional lock on our back door (which was the entrance used to rob the unit) and said that our security was our issue.”

Read more here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ocf-realty-philadelphia?hrid=h3R_jRBDIlSWV9HXO0Pjjw

Or this one from Rebecca N. on Yelp.

“OCF is out to make money and that’s it.  Bottom line.  They will work hard to protect the property manger so long as it means making money.  Keep in mind that if you rent from OCF and they are serving as property manager, their real client is the property owner, NOT you as a tenant.

“I wanted to like them and trust them because they have a big clean store front, fancy website, and the employees seemed nice, but it’s a facade.”

http://www.yelp.com/not_recommended_reviews/ocf-realty-philadelphia

Here’s one from Brian M.

“We have rented a house for the past two years in South Philadelphia.  Our landlord selected OCF realty to manage his 1 year old home (we were the first renters).  OCF did an absolutely horrendous job as property managers, and I finally convinced the owner to drop them last November.

“Bottom line:  OCF is not good for renters or landlords. They do not have the motivation, expertise or personnel to properly manage residential rental properties, and they hire cut-rate repairmen.”

http://www.yelp.com/not_recommended_reviews/ocf-realty-philadelphia

And one from Amelia C.

“I do NOT recommend renting or buying a home through OCF. I find that Ori, the owner, is a dishonest business person who has poorly trained staff. The negative reviews about this company have been spot on.”

http://www.yelp.com/not_recommended_reviews/ocf-realty-philadelphia?not_recommended_start=10

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A Princess, according to the story, upon hearing the peasants had no bread to eat, responded with disregard, “Let them eat Cake.” Mr. Feibush used the phrase to launch his coffee shop. It’s hard to see the humor given the actual disregard he’s shown for long-time residents.

We could go on and on, but we encourage you to read the reviews for yourself by following the links. There are plenty just like these.

On top of what we found on Yelp, we searched a site called whoseyourlandlord.com and found more of the same.

One reviewer’s comments were indicative of the general consensus, “Never follow through on anything they say. They would avoid calls and emails. I’m sure there are many other things I am forgetting, to sum it up the experience was terrible.”

Even one person who gave OCF Realty its best rating on the page warned, “they tried to cheat us out of most of our deposit and bill us for many issues that the previous tenant had done.”

What our neighborhood is clear on, and what will become increasingly clear to the whole 2nd District through this election is we are the ones putting Mr. Feibush’s business practices into their proper context; the pattern is un-mistakable.

We are the ones saying: this isn’t about some media savvy millionaire and his harmless escapades. It is real people who’ve been mistreated, had their time wasted, or worse threatened with lawsuits for speaking up at zoning meetings.

Government is not business. Government is accountable to people not profits. However, if Mr. Feibush wants to govern, he wants to represent us in City Hall, and he submits he is capable because of his business record, then we would be wise to look at this business record.

If Mr. Feibush defines “success” as making the most possible out of money, then perhaps he has been successful. We on the other hand define success differently – it involves making a contribution and doing right by your fellow human being, and in that regard it’s hard to imagine a less successful businessperson.

We will let others decide if he’s fit for business. But we will decide if he’s fit to govern us. And he’s not.

 

 

Ori Feibush v. his tenants

Is this the type of businessman we want representing us in City Hall?

Ori Feibush, owner of OCF Realty and the OCF Coffeehouse establishments, is running for city council from the Second District largely on his record as a businessman in the district; it’s a bit ironic for those of us who lived where he does business.

His campaign literature promises “real results” and the promise to “fix Philly.”

His biography says his background inspired him to “pursue work that would lift up others, not just himself.” And it claims that he has the “right experience to bring common sense solutions to City Hall.”

OriFeibushFoxWe agree with Mr. Feibush, that his business practice and conduct will indicate precisely the type of councilperson he will be. We welcome the opportunity to talk about what business practices could look like if they were accountable to the community.

We invite the rest of the 2nd District to join us in looking past the image and publicity that money can buy, and scrutinize Mr. Feibush’s actual business practice.

The fact is Ori Feibush has often been nothing more than a typical, greedy landlord. He has repeatedly and illegally withheld thousands of dollars worth of security deposits from his rental tenants, forcing them to go to court and get a judge to order him to repay their deposits.

Take a look for yourself:

Court Rules Ori Feibush Illegally Withheld Security Deposit

Liza Tanihara paid Mr. Feibush’s OCF Realty a security deposit of $3,100 and a pet deposit of $300 when she first signed a lease with him. According to her lawsuit against OCF Realty, when she vacated the property on June 28, 2013 she left it in good shape, but Ori refused to return the money she was owed. On top of that, Tanihara claimed that Ori was overcharging her for her monthly water bills, which added up to $275 worth of overpayments. He agreed to refund the money, but never did. Two months after she left the property, Ori still had not returned any of what she was owed. She was forced to file a lawsuit to collect. The court ruled that Ori was, indeed, illegally withholding her money and ordered him to pay her $2,625.

[Liza Tanihara vs. OCF Realty, Philadelphia Municipal Court, 8/23/13]
[Statement of Claim, Notice of Judgement]

Court Rules Ori Feibush Illegally Withheld Funds . . . Again

Sometimes, even when people don’t decide to rent with Ori, he still keeps their money. Consider Kevin Minor. He was interested in renting property from Ori so on July 16, 2010, he put down $900 for the first month’s rent. When he asked to have a refrigerator and washer/dryer hook up included in the property, he was told that doing so would increase the monthly rent by $75 each month. Kevin decided he couldn’t afford that, so he asked for his first month’s rent back since he would not be renting from Ori. By October 2010, he still had not received his $900, so he was forced to file a lawsuit against Ori and OCF Realty for the money. Once again, the court ruled that Ori had illegally withheld money from a client and ordered him to return the $900, plus court costs, for a total of $1,016.

[Kevin Minor vs. OCF Realty, Philadelphia Municipal Court, 10/29/10]
[Statement of Claim, Notice of Judgement]

The Case of C. Francisco Buitrago

Mr. Buitrago entered into a lease with Ori’s OCF Realty on August 20, 2008 and put down a security deposit in the amount of $1,050. He vacated the property the next year on August 31, 2009. He requested his security deposit be returned, but he never got it back. He wrote another letter on October 29, 2009, but was still rejected. So in February of 2010, he filed a claim in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Finally, in April 2010, Ori’s firm gave in and settled the case with Mr. Buitrago.

[C. Francisco Buitrago vs OCF Realty, Philadelphia Municipal Court, 2/16/10]
[Statement of Claim, Settlement]

Ori Feibush’s Company Promises, but Never Delivers

In August 2008, three plaintiffs, Andrea Roble, Glenn Roble, and Kathleen Barnes, entered into a rental agreement and paid OCF Realty with two certified checks totaling $3,600. The three tenants moved out in August 2009, returning the keys and leaving the property in good condition. In September 2009 the plaintiffs received a letter from OCF Realty promising to return their $3,600 security deposit. By November 2009, the deposit was still unreturned, so the plaintiffs filed suit in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Not until February 2010 did Ori and his firm finally throw in the towel and settle the case.

[Andrea Roble, et al. vs. OCF Realty, Philadelphia Municipal Court, 11/5/09]
[Statement of Claim, Settlement]

If, as Mr. Feibush has asserted, he believes his business experience is what best prepares him to serve on council, it appears that he’s raising more questions than he’s answering.

Our neighborhood and Philadelphia itself is at a crossroads, as issues have emerged and at every decision point, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee has raised the questions, “Who benefits? Who decides?”

The above pattern is a disturbing reminder of who benefits when Mr. Feibush is in charge and more importantly, who doesn’t. However, it is the voters of the 2nd District who will get to decide who represents us in City Hall.

The 2nd District is not for sale! Vote May 19th!

 

 

8 jarring facts about income and housing in Philadelphia.

The below facts have been identified through research of The Development Without Displacement Campaign of which The Point Breeze Organizing Committee is a proud member.

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1.  37% of Philadelphia households today earn less than $25,000/year

2.  42% of renters in the year 2000 paid too much of their income on rent.**

3.  52% of renters in the year 2012 paid too much of their income on rent.

4.  Every Council District has at least 45% of households that pay too much on rent.

5.  In North Philadelphia, from 2000-2012, incomes decreased by 6%.  At the same time, the average sale price of a house increased by 200%

6. In West Philadelphia, from 2000-2012, the average rent increased by 19%. In that same period, income decreased by 11%

7.  In South Philadelphia, from 2000-2012, the average cost of a house increased by 184%.  In that same period income increased by 4%. *^

8.  In South Philadelphia, from 2000-2012, the racial composition became 29% less Black.

**Too much is defined as more than 30% of their income.

*^ As is suggested by looking at fact #7 & #8 next to each other, even though there was an income increase in the district, there is unfortunately no reason to believe, that the income increase was experienced by long-term residents, rather it appears the new composition accounted for the increase in income level.

Corbett’s Gifts and Favors

Originally posted on Progressive PA Rising:

Government benefits received by some who gave gifts to Corbett
The Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, Progressive Philly Rising


Executive Summary: Is Tom Corbett Above the Law?

While the legislature and the attorney general’s office have investigated gift-taking by members of the General Assembly and a judge, no investigation has begun of the governor’s taking of gifts and the receipt of government benefits by some of those who gave. This report documents shocking facts that demand an investigation and pose a stark question: is Gov. Corbett above the law?

Gov. Corbett has delivered substantial benefits to several people and companies that have made large gifts to him and his wife. The benefits provided by the governor include appointments to state commissions, appointments to the board of the state-funded and controlled Team Pennsylvania which the governor co-chairs, a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars entered into without competitive bidding, and regulatory relief…

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Vote to Put People First; Endorsements for 36th Ward (D) Committee people.

(***Endorsements below)

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The Point Breeze Organizing Committee would like to remind Philadelphia and specifically the residents of Point Breeze of the importance of voting this tomorrow, May 20th.

As most of you are aware, this election is especially important given the recent litigation efforts made by real estate developer Ori Feibush to challenge long-time committeeperson incumbents and replace them with people more inclined to support his profit-over-people form of development.

Mr. Feibush, a millionaire, used his resources to support the filing of 75+ lawsuits to push many long-term residents and incumbents off the ballot.  It is yet another sign that Mr. Feibush and many of his supporters have no plans of integrating into the neighborhood, rather they are attempting a hostile take-over.

It is also another step in his political effort to oust 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson next May.  Councilman Johnson, is from the neighborhood, the first African-American to hold the seat, and has maintained that there must be a place for affordable housing, and other policies that protect long-term residents from economic displacement.

Mr. Feibush, OCF Realty, and the moneyed interests they represent rely on the weakening of democratic institutions to advance their profit over people development ambitions.  So, it is of the utmost importance that people get out and VOTE.

VOTE TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST.

After careful consideration, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee is proud to endorse the following candidates for 36th Ward Democratic Committee Person:

 

Div Name  Press Button#
1 Tiye Thompson 134
1 Anthony Tappe Write-In
2 Constance Goodwin 133
2 William Goodwin 137
3 Dawn Chavous 134
3 Dita White 136
4 Delores Richardson 133
4 Gaynell Scott Write-in
5 Harold James 133
5 Linda Thomas Write-In
6 Karen James 133
6 Mary Smitherman 134
7 Jokon Brown Hart 133
7 Tiphanie White 134
8 Nakia Carr 136
8 Maxine Hayman 137
9 Tanasha Vann Write-in
9 Wilma Frazier Write-in
10 Lisa Birckett 133
10 Jonathan Abbott 134
11 Luther Carr 133
11 Jacqueline Johnson 134
12 Marie Hightower 133
12 Dorothy Wright 134
13 Daralis Lippett Simms 133
13 Carolyn Ramsey 134
14 Marlene Schuck 133
14 Thomas Dever Jr 134
15 Joseph Middleton 133
15 Donald Dudley 135
16 George Upshur 133
16 Ralanda King 135
17 Darlene Swint Write-in
17 Audrey Hill 134
18 Malik Cherry 133
18 Ethel Charles Write-in
19 Beresford Gabbadon 133
19 Alice Gabbadon 137
20 Terry Wiggins 133
20 Angela Parks 134
21 Willie Allen III 133
21 Ervin Davis Write-in
22 Patricia Cormier 133
22 Mary Blackwell 137
23 Edmond Wiggins 134
23 Sherri Stanford 135
24 Katherine Thomas 133
24 Joseph Cifoni 134
25 Barbara Gillespie 133
25 Joanne Kopaczewski 134
26 Tammy Smith 133
26 Basym Hasan 134
27 Thomas McCormick 133
27 Robert Gormley Jr 134
28 Roosevelt Brant Jr 133
28 Valerie Carr 134
29 Tulsa Wills 133
29 Jennifer Norwood 134
30 Christal Heath 134
30 Harriett Henley 135
31 Daria Ward 133
31 Jefferson Branch 134
32 Kevin Hannah 134
32 Tara Hannah Taliaferro 135
33 Shawn Gormley 133
33 Kellyann Haggerty 135
34 Rita Butler Write-in
34 Stanley McCant Write-in
35 Juanita Jarrett 134
35 Michael Bell 137
36 Pamela Stroman Gibson 134
36 Alexandria Gibson 136
37 Jennifer Devor 133
37 Rashid Hughes 134
38 William Ryan Jr 133
38 Juanita Davis 134
39 Marjorie Jones 136
39 Jennie Burton 137
40 Karen Harris 134
40 Judy Walston 135
41 Darlene Lewis 134
41 Dionne Bracley 135

 

 

 

4/16/14: Unity Statement on the ICE Hold victory from the Philadelphia Family Unity Network

Originally posted on :

We stand here today as members of the Philadelphia Family Unity Network to celebrate the historic victory of ending ICE holds in Philadelphia. This moment represents years of organizing, coalition building, and hard work by community groups across Philadelphia against immoral deportation policies. It also represents successful partnerships with Mayor Nutter’s administration and City Council, who have worked alongside our community organizations to make Philadelphia a more welcoming city.

 

Today, we are proud to show what a community united for justice looks like in Philadelphia. Our coalition led this campaign by building strength and solidarity across all communities, and fought for the rights of all individuals to remain in the city they call home, including our members and our loved ones who are currently or formerly incarcerated.

 

On March 12th at the City Council hearing on ICE holds, Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick testified on the city’s…

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Stardom Doesn’t Change Where You’re From

pointbreezeorganizing:

Richard Sherman writes about DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles.

Originally posted on The MMQB with Peter King:

I’m not going to tell you that DeSean Jackson isn’t in a gang, because I can’t say unequivocally that he isn’t. I can’t tell you whether his friends have done the things police have accused them of doing, because I wasn’t there. I can’t tell you what DeSean does with his time, because we play football on opposite ends of the country. I can only tell you that I believe him to be a good person, and if you think, say or write otherwise without knowing the man, you’re in the wrong.

And if it’s true the Eagles terminated his contract in part because they grew afraid of his alleged “gang ties,” then they did something worse. [Editor’s note: Jackson has agreed to terms with the Redskins.]

I look at those words—gang ties—and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all…

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Karen Lewis. Standardized testing and the Eugenics movement.

Originally posted on Fred Klonsky:

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Karen GJ Lewis is the President of the Chicago Teachers Union and National Board Certified Teacher.

Many people who are convinced that standardized tests are reliable and valid indicators of student learning are not only sadly mistaken, but they are often people who also support policies that harm children, teachers and schools. This is unfortunate for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that unions, think tanks and other entities no longer pursue alternatives—multiple measures. Researchers have pointed out that standardized tests do not cover 70 percent of teachers, but rather than invest in multiple measures, companies respond with a plan to develop more tests.

What many people do not know is that the use of standardized tests has its origins in the Eugenics movement, where basic tenets assert that certain races are inferior to others biologically and intellectually. From our 21st century perspective, we can look back in…

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McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management.

McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management company that privatized entire Chester Upland School District, then cashed out.

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In early, January, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee (PBOC) released a statement, “Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?”  It documented the role a Rob McCord led venture capital firm played in privatizing the Chester Upland School District; a move that not surprisingly, quickly led to a fight with the Teacher’s Union.  McCord’s involvement was also documented by AP Ticker on Scrapple TV highlighted by Philadelphia Weekly.

PBOC submitted the statement to the Progressive Democratic Caucus (PDC), which was asking for verifiable information about candidates, in order to develop their scorecard.  PDC was successful in getting a response from the McCord Campaign.

The McCord Campaign’s response was defensive and disturbing.  It is immediately below, followed by our response.

Rob went to Pennsylvania public schools and credits them with giving him the foundation for his future academic and professional successes.  He’s not a proponent of school privatization, he is a full-throated advocate for Pennsylvania’s public schools.
Here are the facts:

-  When Rob was at PA Early Stage Partners, the firm, on behalf of the teachers’ pension fund, invested in a small, start up company called Learn Now.  It was founded by two Morehouse grads who wanted to make a difference in the education sector.  One of the founders, Jim Shelton, is now the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.  Here’s his bio: http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/shelton.html.  The other, Gene Wade, continues to be an advocate for innovation in education.  Here is his bio:  http://unow.com/team_members/gene-wade/

-  This is really nothing more than PA Early Stage Partners investing in two start-up business owners from an inner city background who were trying to find ways to improve the educational system.

-  When Learn Now was bought by Edison, the teachers’ pension fund made a small profit and got their initial investment back.  Rob and his partners did not make any money from the sale of Learn Now to Edison.  It’s worth repeating that last part: Rob and his partners did not profit from the sale of Learn Now to Edison!

-  Once the sale of Learn Now to Edison was complete, PA Early Stage Partners no longer had any stake in either company.

We believe the McCord Campaign response sidesteps fundamental questions about his policy beliefs and responsibility.  We believe we deserve more from a candidate for Pennsylvania’s highest office.

What roles does he believe for-profit education management companies should play in public education?

Would he have led Early Stage Partners to invest in Learn Now, if he knew, that just three months after it won the contract, it would break its word to the Chester Community and sell to Edison Schools?  – that shortly thereafter Edison Schools would fight the Teacher’s Union?

Rob McCord has not once on the campaign trail referred to the attack on public schools as a privatization effort – rather his rhetoric, along with some other candidates, has attempted to narrow the scope and define it simply as a funding issue.

Further, as a matter of policy the McCord Campaign saying he is “not a proponent of school privatization” is contradicted by the later stated support of Jim Shelton and Gene Wade.  They both have personally have profited from for-profit education management companies that have not served students.  Wade continues to do so and Shelton went on to advocate policy that enables privatization.

His bio page at the Department of Education uses code words like “Teacher Quality” and “School Choice” and while the McCord Campaign holds up his position at the U.S Dept. of Education to validate his legitimacy, that office has been at odds with Public Education movements and the policies advocates like Diane Ravitch have called for.  Indeed, the head of that department, Arne Duncan’s visits to Philly, have been often met with protest.  What’s more is Shelton’s career includes time at the Gates Foundation, a huge proponent of privatization.  Pittsburgh’s elected school board is being threatened by the Gates Foundation right now, precisely because it has cancelled contracts rather than close schools and is standing up for high quality public education and against privatization efforts that the Gates Foundation advocates.

Gene Wade is a pioneer of for-profit education, that the NY Times described as “more entrepreneur than educator.”  He has a long track record of educational failures, including in Chester with Learn Now.

So, again, here are the facts:

A venture capital firm that Rob McCord led, invested in a for-profit education management company – LearnNow, that was a driving force in the privatization of the entire Chester Upland School District.  Even worse, LearnNow made promises to Chester and emphasized it had differences with Edison Schools, but 3 month later cashed out for over $30 million by selling to Edison Schools – a fact McCord’s company prominently displayed on it’s website, as a win.  Edison Schools, then with more power took on the Teacher’s Union in Chester, on its way just a few months later to attempting privatization of the entire Philly School District.

If Rob McCord is unapologetic about investing in for-profit education management companies, then he should make that case, and see if Pennsylvanians agree with him.  If he recognizes people were wronged and that this is the wrong direction, then he should take responsibility for that mistake.

Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?

and other questions about the soul of the Democratic Party.

The struggle for a well-funded and vibrant Public Education system in Philadelphia has been long and storied.  The School Reform Commission’s announcement that it would close 23 schools, was the latest outrageous development, and one of the many severe consequences of Governor Corbett’s decision to cut $1 Billion from the state education budget.  The school closings, as has been well documented, happen in almost exclusively low-income and majority African-American neighborhoods.

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The resistance has been fierce.  It has been led by young people, parents, teachers, school safety staff, and unionists from many industries.  It has included massive student walk-outs, hunger fasts, civil disobedience, and much more.  The resistance has operated with a unity and clarity of purpose that brought organizations together, and engaged thousands of people, who sought to put their outrage to good use.

There is nothing that will challenge that unity and clarity more than the Pennsylvania Governor’s race.  It is with this in mind, that we believe we need to examine Rob McCord’s candidacy, particularly as his campaign just released a video that puts forward his experience as a businessman as giving him perspective on the need for Education.  This is in line with Mayor Nutter’s governing strategy, which has often suggested that “government is a business.”

However, Philadelphians and Public Education activists who have had to fight Mayor Nutter are clear that this type of thinking has been detrimental and in some cases devastating to Public Education.  It is precisely the approach that has led to schools that run like factories or worse, prisons.  It is exactly that “cost-effectiveness over everything” mantra that has led to program cuts, school closings, and attacks on teachers.  In fact, leading anti-privatization activist Diane Ravitch just posted a blog praising new elected NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio for appointing an educator – not a businessman, to be the city’s Chancellor of Education.

On this key point, it is not just Rob McCord’s recent campaign video that is disturbing, but more importantly, his record.

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In 2001, Public Education activists fought against the state take over led by Republican Governors. This included fighting against a for-profit education management company, Edison Schools’ bid to privatize the entire Philadelphia School District.

Rob McCord, at that same time, was a leader of Early Stage Partners PA, a venture capital firm.  Under McCord’s leadership, Early Stage Partners PA invested in LearnNow – a for-profit education management company with revenue of $38 million dollars per year.[1]

LearnNow’s CEO was a fellow Wharton School grad, a businessman by the name of Gene Wade.  The NY Times described him as “… more education entrepreneur than educator.”[2] LearnNow, with Wade, at the helm worked to establish private, for-profit, management of Chester Schools.

Early Stage Partners PA’s website, at the time, boasted LearnNow as part of it’s portfolio,

“LearnNow won a very important contract representing a total of 2,350 students in the Chester, Pennsylvania Upland School District. Shortly thereafter, in July 2001, Edison Schools (Nasdaq:EDSN) acquired LearnNow in a stock transaction valued at approximately $30 million.”[3]

LearnNow received a contract to manage Chester Schools and just three months later, sold the company to the main competitor, they had sought to distinguish themselves from.  The New York Times put the sale even higher, at $38 million.  That sale meant profit – good returns on investment for Rob McCord and other Early Stage Partners PA investors, but it did not sit well with those tasked with the education of Chester’s young people.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted at the time, the concern this caused Public Education activists like Keith Reeves, director of Swarthmore College’s Center for Social Policy Studies, he said,

“LearnNow really knew how to focus in on and energize the community. They had persuaded us that they could offer us something very different [from Edison]. One has to question whether they can deliver that now.”

Chester Public Education advocates also pointed to the duplicitous nature of an education management company that “won” a contract in March 2001, and just three months later sold the company to Edison Schools for $38 million.

Charles Gray, whom headed the Chester Upland district task force that crafted the recovery plan said,

“I’m disappointed. I have some problems with it. . . . If [the two firms] had initially come to the process with this arrangement, I’m not sure it would have been accepted.”

It is no surprise that just a few months later, when Edison Schools, who had since brought former LearnNow CEO, Gene Wade on-board, would push to demand concessions from teachers.  Their for-profit approach demanded they please their investors at all cost, and they were more than willing to fight educators on the ground for resources and power.  Businessmen were to get richer.  Teachers were to get poorer.

These types of decisions, those made to maximize profit at the expense of young people, mislead public officials and parents, and fight Teacher’s Unions are at the core of the privatization agenda that Early Stage Partners PA under Rob McCord’s leadership, participated in.

The Democratic Primary for Governor offers many candidates who, in the primary, will commit to restore funding.  However, the primary offers few candidates, who dare to take on the problem at its root, and challenge the privatization agenda.  Could this be because candidates like Rob McCord have donors and friends who like him have personally profited from the privatization agenda?

The future of Public Education in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania is in many ways a question of who will win the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.  The struggle for how to address Public Education challenges has a strong relation to another key aspect of this battle: how Democratic Party fundraising is conducted.

What we see is that big donors are largely businessmen who invest in elections to see a return, what will the return be in this election?

The “Third Way” – Wall Street-financed wing of the Democratic Party has pushed to abandon the fight for democratic campaign finance laws.  They’ve done so because their donors demand that their “right” to influence elections (disproportionately) be protected.  So more and more we see even Democrats opposed to what the majority of working people need and want, such as Public Education and Public infrastructure broadly.

BLANK-ROME-Sam-Lerner-Rob-McCord-Larry-Flick*

Rob McCord puts forward his “prolific fundraising” as an asset – but an asset for who? How does that shape his accountability?

It is Democrats who fight for real campaign finance laws and democratic regulations on investment who are assets to the majority of us.  The majority of us could not, like Rob McCord, rely on millionaire friends or donate $200,000 of our own money, to fund a campaign, like he did in his bid for PA Treasurer.  It is a history that’s only made more disturbing with the perspective on how this money is made – in one case, through the privatization of Chester Schools.

The vast majority of Americans believe there is too much money in politics.  Seventy-Six percent believe it gives rich people disproportionate influence.[4]  It is this pay-to-play electoral terrain that has incubated the destruction of Public Education in Philadelphia and beyond.

It is no time for a Democratic Party nominee whose rise to power was an egregious abuse of Pennsylvania’s lack of campaign finance laws.  This is no time for a nominee who has personally profited from the privatization of schools.

***

References:

* This photo was published by the Philadelphia Public Record on Dec. 13th, 2013.  It shows Rob McCord at the Blank Rome party at the Pennsylvania Society gathering.  Blank Rome is a law firm that specializes in services like White Collar defense, Banking, and Finance.

A)  “It’s in the Country’s Best Interest for Poor Folks To be Smart’: The most compelling opportunities for social entrepreneurs are the public schools.”, Fast Company, Rekha Balu, November 2000. http://www.fastcompany.com/40961/its-countrys-best-interest-poor-folks-be-smart

[1] “Edison Schools to Acquire LearnNow, Inc.: Combines Nation’s Largest Schooling Company With One of Industry’s Fastest Growing ”, PRN Newswire, June 4, 2001 http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/edison-schools-to-acquire-learnnow-inc-72019022.html

[2] “For Profit and People: UniversityNow Rides a Low-Cost Wave”, The New York Times, Anya Kamenetz, November 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/universitynow-rides-a-low-cost-wave.html?_r=0

[4] “Reuters Poll: Most Americans Think Too Much Money in Politics”, NewMax, Thursday, 24 May 2012,http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/americans-money-politics-elections/2012/05/24/id/440238
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