Former Cleveland, Chicago schools CEO pleads guilty

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former head of Chicago Public Schools, pleaded guilty to fraud on Tuesday, “admitting she steered $23 million in no-bid contracts to education firms for more than $2 million in kickbacks,” according to ABC World News. Associated Press reported that Byrd-Bennett “faced 20 fraud counts, each with a maximum 20-year prison term.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Byrd-Bennett faces up to about 7 1/2 years in prison” for a single fraud count that her plea agreement required. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Byrd-Bennett issued a “tearful apology” following her plea, in which she said Chicago’s children and educators “deserved much more, much more than I gave to them.” Byrd-Bennett served as CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District from 1998 to 2006.

Ohio charter schools: Questions continue

Education Week reported that “state and federal leaders, along with some advocates, are raising concerns that the state’s beleaguered charter sector may not deserve, or be ready for, such a windfall.” The article describes years of “scandal-ridden headlines” about Ohio’s charters, and notes that voices on both sides of the charter question “point to the Ohio charter sector as an example of the dysfunction that can arise from lax oversight.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Democratic members of Ohio’s congressional delegation are asking Education Secretary Arne Duncan “pointed questions about the $71 million grant Ohio just received to expand charter schools in the state.” (NEA Opening Bell)

False pretenses?

Ohio Department of Education officials applied to the U.S. Department of Education for a boost in charter school funding despite the schools’ poor performance. A number of news outlets reported that federal lawmakers are investigating the details of Ohio’s $71 million charter expansion application because State Superintendent Richard Ross apparently waited until the application was submitted before addressing evidence of charter-school score scrubbing. Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature has sent to Gov. Kasich a bill overhauling charter school regulation.