Who is Steering the Regents Fund Boat?


When I was in high school, I played basket ball. Truth is, I wasnt that great. I was team manager most of the time. But, thats ok. I was good at other things, like debate. Hence, I went into law not the NBA. I write alot. No wonder why.

But, I digress.

Parents and teachers, its time for a full court press.


For those who dont know, a full-court press is a basketball term for a defensive style in which the defense applies man-to-man or zone defense to pressure the offensive team the entire length of the court before and after the inbound pass. Some presses attempt to deny the initial inbounds pass and trap ball handlers either in the backcourt or at midcourt.

Defenses not employing a full-court press generally allow the offensive team to get halfway down the court (a half-court press) or near the basket before applying strong defensive pressure.

“It is important that we get right in their face, and let them know that we are not going to let them get near that hoop.”

NYSAPE has brought to my attention that the time is ripe for a full court press against State officials regarding upcoming Regent seats.

Contact them RESPECTFULLY, but firmly of course.

Our coaches are calling from the sidelines, and they are screaming  “pressure!”

Citing grave concerns about the State and direction of education reform. NYSAPE (New York State Alliance for Public Education) has issued a call to action alert http://www.nysape.org/change-nys-board-of-regents-elections—action-alert.html asking supporters to, essentially,  put on a “full court press” by contacting State officials to do the following:

Tell them there are 4 Regents up for re-appointment. They are Christine Cea (Staten Island), James Jackson (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster), James Cottrell (at-large), Wade Norwood (at-large)

Tell them you demand the appointment of Regents who support an immediate moratorium on Common Core, high stakes testing, and data sharing.

Tell them the public will hold NYS Assembly members accountable for their votes for or against the appointment of the NYS Board of Regents members.

As discussed by NYSAPE, this year 4 members of the NYS Board of Regents are up for re-appointment, Cea, Jackson, Cotrell, and Norwood. New candidates will be interviewed by the Education Committees in February, and State officials will be voting on these re-appointments in March of 2014.

As you can see from the tenor of my blog Schools of Thought NY, I too am very concerned about the damaging effects of Regents Reform Agenda, which includes Common Core and student privacy et al,  and have been advocating for a change. Turning over 4 members on the Regents Board would significantly alter the direction of education reform is heading.

With regard to Common Core, my concerns are encapsulated, in part, here: http://wp.me/p44iDJ-aQ

With regard to student privacy/PII/FERPA/data mining concerns, my concerns are encapsulated here http://wp.me/p44iDJ-67, http://wp.me/p44iDJ-7S and http://wp.me/p44iDJ-35, just to name a few. Feel free to skip those for now, read on then come back. Better yet, follow me. But, I digress.

A full-court press takes a great deal of effort, but can be an effective tactic. Often when “teams” are behind late in a game, they will apply full-court pressure as a means of attempting to produce turnovers as well as tire opponents.

That is precisely the strategy we need to employ if we want success!!  If the full court press works, it is my hope that State officials will hold NYS legislators accountable for their votes for or against the appointment of individual Regents and those Regents will be turned over and unseated with new ones who will steer the boat our way. I hate mixing metaphors, but it works.

Per NYSAPE, we need Regents who support an immediate moratorium on Common Core, high stakes testing, and the uploading of student information to the inBloom cloud. The Regent’s Reform agenda in NYS is destroying public education and violating student privacy. State officials MUST represent the interests of our children instead of acting as long arms of for profit enterprise and we MUST employ a full court press to get them moving.

So, what about it? Who is behind the Regents Reform Agenda anyway? Who is really steering this boat? Representatives of the foundations that support the RRF say donations to the fund are made:

“in the spirit of improving public education. Documents accompanying grants indicate support of the fellowship program, the reform agenda or, in the case of the Carnegie Foundation, to help the fellows design and implement virtual learning. “We are not prescriptive,” said Deborah Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $3.3 million to the fund.” See here: [http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Wealth-backs-reform-team-5006670.php?t=5abf8544d7#page-3][2]

But, some educators fear Regents Research Fund has its own agenda, is unaccountable to public.

Reading between the lines, I wonder who is really steering the education reform boat.


None of the foundation directors are public servants, per se. But, the proverbial ties that bind them are far from public servants, but they have provided alot of money.

From Union Times:

“Supported with $19 million in donations from some of the nation’s wealthiest philanthropists, the Regents Research Fund team makes up a little-known think tank within the education agency. It is helping drive reforms that affect the state’s 3.1 million public school students and employees of almost 700 school districts.

The three-year-old operation, which now comprises 27 full-time staffers and a half-time intern, is unique in public education systems nationwide.

The group is an institute charged with helping the state Board of Regents and Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. find ways to improve student performance and ensure graduates are ready for college or careers.

Barely heard of outside education circles and a mystery even within them, the “Regent fellows” are paid from entities such as the Gates Foundation and some salaries approach $200,000 a year.

The arrangement is stirring concern in some quarters that deep-pocketed pedagogues are forcing their reform philosophies on an unwitting populace, and making an end run around government officers.

So, who is contributing to the Regents Fund and are allegedly funding the salaries of these elusive staffers?  I will look at many of them below so you can decide for yourself.

Regents Research Fund contributors per Union Times Article:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $3.3 million

James S. and Merryl H. Tisch Fund $400,000 (draw-down on $1 million commitment)

Leona and Harry Helmsley Charity $3.83 million

Amy and Larry Robbins Foundation $500,000

Tortora Silicox Family Foundation $975,000

GE Foundation $3.5 million

Ford Foundation $788,000

Carnegie Corp. $1.2 million

Tiger Foundation $560,000

Robin Hood Foundation $600,000

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation $900,000

So, what’s all the fuss about? Who are these people and their big money trusts and charities anyway?

Well, Bill and Melinda Gates you may know vigorously support Common Core and APPR.

From their mission statement:

OUR GOAL: to support innovation that can improve U.S. K-12 public schools and ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in

college. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/US-Program/College-Ready-Education.

By focusing on the common goal of improving education through innovation—and by building on and sharing effective tools, strategies, and standards—educators, school leaders, and nonprofit partners across the country can transform U.S. public education.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to ensuring that all students in the United States have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. We have two programs that work in concert toward this goal. Our College-Ready Education program aims to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, and our Postsecondary Success program aims to dramatically increase the number of young people who obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate with labor-market value. Areas of intersection include practical approaches and policy strategies to better align K-12 standards with expectations in college-level courses.

Their contribution of $1,600,000 went to the University of the State of New York.

The purpose? To support a “demonstration collaboration” between and among the NYSED and a cohort of school districts that seek to conduct high quality teacher evaluations that connect to meaningful effective teacher supports http://www.gatesfoundation.org/search#q/k=nysed

Bill and Melinda also contributed $600,000 to develop, pilot, and evaluate innovative approaches to Common Core-aligned professional development for teachers amongst other things.

They have contributed too much for me to list, check out their Grant site.

But, as you can plainly see, their agenda is to advance Common Core. Enough said.

In another vein, the Official Comedy Channel’s “Gates, the Movie” trailer is here:

James and Meryl Tisch. Well, unless you’ve been living under rock, you probably know by now that Meryl Tisch is Regent Chacncellor Tisch. Her husband James. a billionaire foundry via Lowes fame. How is this not a conflict of interest?

In this charming, NY Times article, here [http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/education/05tisch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0][4], the humble and oh so relateable Regents Chancellor Tisch remarks “When my refrigerator is broken, I don’t call the service department,” said Dr. Tisch, the newly elected chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and, by marriage, part of one of New York’s wealthiest families. “I call the head of G.E.”


I dont know about you folks, but when my fridge is broken, I call sears….and then I wait….and wait some more…. for the repair guy to show up. I usually wait around have been given a 4 hour window. You?

Here is James and Meryl Tisch Foundation’s  2011 Return of Private Charitable Trust 990 Tax form:

Golly, Im not a tax expert nor am I an accountant. So, I am in no way qualified to issue an opinion or suggest that there is a correlation regarding their 990 statement and the article raising concerns over Regents wealth and influence. But, I found it and thought it looked neat. In the meantime, wearing my Nancy Drew hat, I looked up the Economic Research Institute  site where I located it and see that the company generates compensation packages based off the 990 info provided by the NFP. Hmmm. Fancy shmancy comp package!

Here is a video of Regent Tisch. Unfortunately, this is not a parody.

The Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust:

 aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits. The Trust’s grantmaking focuses on five main areas: health and medical researchhuman serviceseducationconservation, and the security and development of Israel. The Trust also awards grants in other areas. http://helmsleytrust.org/program-areas/,

Sounds great. So, what’s the back story?

Well, please recall Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley (July 4, 1920 – August 20, 2007) was an American businesswoman. She was known for her flamboyant personality and had a reputation for tyrannical behavior that earned her the nickname Queen of Mean on the NYC scene. She was filthy rich and went to jail for tax evasion. She passed away, but her legacy lives on via the charitable trust she left behind.

As an aside, here is Nora Dunn’s parody rendition of Leona Helmsley a la SNL. Funny stuff.


And CBS news footage in the wake of her passing reveals alot of controversy in her life:


Larry and Amy Robbins. Who? Here is the NYSED memo on that:

This grant from the Amy and Larry Robbins Foundation is awarded to support the Regents Research Fund Fellowship Program.  The Fellowship will provide supplemental expert personnel to assist in the design of the initiatives essential to the Board of Regents and NYSED Reform Agenda.

This critical Reform Agenda support will enable identification and retention of Regents Research Fellows who will be responsible for critical research and analysis to advise the Board of Regents and Department on policy and subsequent implementation. http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2011Meetings/January2011/111bra3.html

So, what’s the back story?

The Amy and Larry Robbins Foundation states:

was established in 2003 to support and create meaningful education programs in the United States and to respond to the urgent need to improve opportunities for children globally through new and innovative initiatives and partnerships. Notable programs include a partnership with KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools in the creation of a leading Teachers College in New York City, partnerships with local business leaders in several African countries for in-country production of life-saving Plumpy Nut food supplements and the endowment of an emergency response fund in partnership with Unicef.

Well, the Robbins are also affiliated with Teach for America, this is controversial. TFA hires newbie teachers from Ivy leagues primarily.

Here is the story from the New York Times in September.

“Global Effort to Recruit Teachers Expands”



Teach for America Press Release


It is my understanding that many laid off teachers not being hired back, instead they are being replaced with recruits from Teach for America which is supported by Amy and Larrry Robbins. These are career teachers, some fired or laid off before pension eligibility, being replaced by people who have five weeks training. The districts, instead of calling back in local teachers for free….are paying thousands to hire trainees from TFA. Michael and Susan Dell together with Larry and Amy Robbins are strong supporters.

Meet Yale graduate Daniel Hoffman. He entered Teach for America with high hopes, but one year later, Daniel was out of the classroom. Sometimes even the best of intentions aren’t enough.

Daniel was given 2 months training and was assigned to teach math in 10th grade in a low performing poverty ravaged school. It wasnt going well. Soon, he was transferred from his 10th grade class and assigned to an 8th grade class instead. But, he needed help and there was no support available. At the end of the year, he was simply terminated.

It is alleged that what happened to Daniel Hoffman happens to all of the newbie teachers around the country who teach through TFA. A high poverty school is a very tough place to teach. It requires a combination of toughness, patience, and willingness to use humor and open up a little to your students to gain classroom control. It takes years to learn it. Daniel is attempting to do all of this with no training, little experience and in a setting where very likely he has no support from veteran teacher mentors or a teachers union. In other words, he is being set up to fail but will quickly be replaced by another TFA recruit.

TFA are frequently recruited from Ivy schools, so I am told. Daniel, graduated form Yale.

The Tortora Silicox Family Foundation mission statement provides:

The mission of the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation is to contribute to the steadily growing number of young people in New York City who overcome socioeconomic barriers to graduate from public high school – and then from college – prepared for meaningful employment and robust civic participation. Increasingly our economy and society are knowledge based. New York’s young people seek economic security and rewarding lives, and our city requires a skilled workforce and citizens who can solve complex problems.

Meeting both the individual and the collective needs will be a function of education, but a high school diploma is no longer enough to ensure successful participation in the rapidly-evolving economy and vibrant civic society of New York City. Organizations supported by the foundation advance the foundation’s mission by increasing the level of academic rigor and the level of guidance and support for students, resulting in increased rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and college persistence.

The foundation achieves its mission through support of non-profit organizations that: · Educate and guide underserved young people, thus helping them to live civically responsible and financially secure lives; · Provide intellectual connectivity, organizational capacity, human capital development, and opportunities for efficiency to schools that effectively serve young people living in poverty; · Communicate the needs of low-income students and effective urban schools to the public and policy makers; · Provide strategic guidance to state and local governmental employees with the responsibility for implementing school reform initiatives.

So what’s the back story? Im not really sure. The Nancy Drew in me has hit a wall. But here is what I do know. I that the Common Core is key to Commissioner of Education John King.  That is what he told teachers at a training session in Albany this past July. “This work is the bridge between what we hope for our students and where we are.”

But, despite the fact that NY state’s educators are being forced to move ahead full speed with Common Core—and as many gain a complete picture of what the work will entail for the first time—teachers and administrators still have mixed feelings.

Many are worried that the work will be so hard it will leave their students further behind. They also wish they’d had more time to work with the new curriculum materials; some schools didn’t get new books until after the first day of school, while the state’s curriculum units for some grades are still not ready.

“The general apprehension is palpable,” said Don O’Shea, a middle school English teacher at St. Joseph’s, a small parochial school in Kingston, N.Y. “I think we’re getting a lot thrown at us and we’re expected to rise to the challenge, which we will, but there’s a sense of there’s a lot going on and how do we digest that and how do we translate that for our students.”

Some of those apprehensive teachers gathered in a classroom at John Jay College in Manhattan this August to learn about the new Algebra I curriculum developed for the state by a nonprofit known as Common Core. To start, the teachers took the quiz with the skyscraper question, to see what their students would be expected to learn in the first month of school.

Their trainer, Jacob Koehler, was a former teacher who was hired through a grant from the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation. After 20 minutes, he asked what they thought. The teachers—eyebrows raised, heads shaking—talked over each other as they responded.



They gave quite a bit to the Urban Assembly. The Urban Assembly

depends on private philanthropy to support the research, programs, and personnel that public funds cannot cover. Our generous donors are essential to the success of the Urban Assembly’s public-private partnership


The UA Schools are located in NYC and are considered “college and career” minded visionary schools.

Media can be found here:


GE Foundation Mission Statement provides:

For more than 50 years, the GE Foundation has invested in education programs based on a fundamental premise: a quality education ushers in a lifetime of opportunity and helps build a strong, diverse citizenry able to work and live in an increasingly competitive world. The GE Foundation’s Developing Futures™ in Education program addresses this education imperative by supporting high-impact initiatives that improve the equity and quality of public education to ensure that young Americans are prepared for careers in a global economy. Successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards for College and Career Readiness is the next step to achieve this end.

To apply proven GE business practices to accelerate change and foster a culture of collaboration, innovation and accountability in support of the Common Core State Standards for College and Career Readiness. 


Sounds nice, right?

Well we already know from above that Tisch calls the head of GE when her fridge is broken. But, beyond that what’s the back story? None. They are straight up about their agenda –  pro Common Core having invested over $18 million to advance Common Core work.


The $18 million grant is one of the biggest that the GE Foundation has made in education, its president and chairman, Robert L. Corcoran, said during the conference call. It has made five-year grants of between $20 million and $25 million to several of its large “Developing Futures” districts, focused narrowly on specific aims, he said. The grant to Student Achievement Partners is an investment in “infrastructure,” to enable “something that can help millions of children” over many years, he said.

Please recall, David Coleman is the father of Common Core and he is currently revamping the SATs.

Unabashedly pro Common Core and issued grants in support of Core Math also:


Supported  and organized Achieve an organization whose purpose is to support and implement Common Core


Moreover, GE Foundation Grant helped the National PTA  expand and support Common Core work.



I addressed the NYSPTA link to Core in a blog post also, ironically. You can read it here http://wp.me/p44iDJ-91

United Opt Out International has created an informative video entitled “Walking the Labyrinth of the Corporate-Owned-Common Core.” http://youtu.be/vvUMk1ro27E

Here are the corporate connections in a flow chart that show how many of the above aho are involved with the Regents have their fingerprints all over Core:

Cor Flow Chart

I stumbled onto this about 2 hours in to my research. I wish I had stumbled upn it 2 hours ago, but I digress.

Per Truth Out:

U.S. education reform isn’t so much a “Race to the Top,” because no matter which schools climb to the top of the ladder first, corporations always win.

Morna McDermott mapped the Common Core State Standard Initiative’s corporate connections in a new flow chart, which reveals how corporations and organizations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funded and perpetuated Common Core standards throughout the states.
ALEC has been funded for decades in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, about 98 percent of ALEC’s funds come from corporations such as Exxon Mobil and corporate foundations like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
The Common Core State Standard Initiative is part of the larger Race to the Top educational policy announced by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2009. It seeks to implement new Common Core educational benchmarks to replace varying educational standards from state to state by awarding grants to states that comply with the initiative. The standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
The chart illuminates a larger corporate agenda that seeks market-based education reforms and increased influence over public education in the United States. With defense and security expenditures slowing, corporations are looking to profit from new cloud-based software used to collect and mine information from student records to create individualized education programs designed by third-party companies.

You can read more at:


Conspiracy theories aside, the point is NYSED is headed in the wrong direction and Regents steers that boat. Much like the Titanic, Regents fund staffers are directing our kids on a boat destined to sink after crashing into an iceberg of epic proportions.

So, we need new drivers steering that boat. Lets turn over Regents and replace them with members who will support education instead of profit making endeavors.

While this piece is still under construction, enough has been said to make my point. I am writing this post in support of NYSAPE – the time is right for a full court press. Like the Titanic, we are headed for that proverbial iceberg. We must change course or the boat will sink.



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