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The National Action Network Convention

STORY UPDATE: New York Daily News, April 1, 2009

Rev. Al Sharpton's $500G link to education reform

by Juan Gonzales

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stunned the education world last June when they joined forces to reform the nation's public schools.

They called their ambitious venture the Education Equality Project, and they vowed in a Washington press conference to lead a campaign to close the decades-old achievement gap between white and black students.

What Klein and Sharpton never revealed is that the National Action Network, Sharpton's organization, immediately received a $500,000 donation for its involvement in the new effort.

The huge infusion of cash - equal to more than a year's payroll for Sharpton's entire organization - was quietly provided by Plainfield Asset Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, where former Chancellor Harold Levy is a managing director.

The money came at a critical moment for the National Action Network. Sharpton was then settling a long-running IRS investigation of his organization. As part of that settlement, he agreed in July to pay $1 million in back taxes and penalties both he personally and his organization owed the government.

The $500,000 from the Connecticut firm did not go directly to National Action Network. Levy funneled the cash to another nonprofit, Education Reform Now, which allowed his company to claim the donation as a charitable tax deduction.

The money was then transferred in several payments to Sharpton's group, which does not have tax-deductible status because it is a lobbying organization.

Sharpton and Levy confirmed the contribution.

"The money went mostly to pay for Charlie King's salary [National Action Network's outgoing director] and for promoting the new initiative with Klein," Sharpton said.

"Our goal was to increase public awareness of the problems of high poverty schools, particularly in the context of the presidential race," Levy said.

"The collaboration between Rev. Sharpton and Chancellor Klein is a novel alliance that we thought might help raise the visibility of the issue."

The odd pairing will be on display this week at the annual convention of the National Action Network, where Mayor Bloomberg, Klein, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and several mayors are expected to speak.

Levy says his firm came up with the idea to make the contribution, and neither Klein nor Bloomberg asked him to aid Sharpton.

At the time, Plainfield Asset Management, a major investor in gaming operations, was pressing city and state officials for approval of two deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Levy has been registered for the past two years as a lobbyist targeting City Hall to privatize the city's Off-Track Betting operations. Plainfield also provided more than $200 million in backing for Capital Play, one of three bidders on the state's proposed redevelopment of Aqueduct Racetrack. Neither deal has gone through.

Levy rejected any suggestion of a connection between the donation and his business interests.

"Our contribution was not a way of currying favor with anyone," he said.

The nonprofit that served as a pass-through for the money to Sharpton, Education Reform Now, is run by former Daily News reporter Joe Williams, who also directs Democrats for Education Reform, a leading national advocacy group for charter schools.

Williams is also listed as president and treasurer of the Education Equality Project. He declined to discuss how the Levy contribution was handled.

Williams said the EEP's board has not met in the 10 months since Klein and Sharpton announced its formation, and that city Education Department employees have so far made all day-to-day decisions. He referred any questions about the group's finances to Klein and Sharpton.

DOE spokesman David Cantor said the chancellor did not solicit the Levy donation.

"The money was paid to Joe Williams' nonprofit," Cantor said. "At that time, EEP was essentially no more than a name and had no mechanism with which to receive donations."

Since then, Cantor said, Klein has raised more than $1.6 million for EEP, and the group has hired its first full-time staff member.

Sharpton said his alliance with Klein should not be read as blanket support for Bloomberg's education policies.

"I am committed to cutting the achievement gap, but not necessarily to more mayoral control [of city schools]," he said. "I support more charter schools for local church and community groups, but I'm not for privatizing schools and corporate payoffs in education."


Al Sharpton's National Action Network's (NAN)annual gathering has a major focus on education (see below) and the benefits of Mayoral Control and Charter Schools. NAN is part of the national "Education Equality Project" which is funded by the Bloomberg-Klein types.

The Learn NY and Education Equality Project have gone unchallenged for such a long time that they feel confident that they can win over the majority of NY's citizens with there multimillion dollar smoke and mirrors hype machine.

DC37, BNYEE and the NY Coalition for Neighborhood School Control have put out a call for all antimayoral control forces to join us in an emergency meeting...
Monday 30 March at 6pm at DC37 (125 Barclay & West Side Hiway).

People who care about public education elsewhere in the country should be aware that the same move to turn public schools over to corporate interests moves ahead in the rest of the country. Today it is New York City and Chicago; tomorrow it will be your city. Follow the hot links below and maybe you will become an active resister.

THE NAN Convention Announcement

Join us in New York City on April 2nd and 3rd as leaders like U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoso, Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings discuss how to close the achievement gap in our public schools and restore the civil rights of children to an equal education.

The event, which is part of the National Action Network's annual convention, will be co-sponsored by Education Equality Project (EEP)

including such equality luminaries as Michael Bennet, More. Broad Residency Curriculum. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jeff Bush, Christopher Cerf, Broad Residency Curriculum, More. Howard Fuller, Newt Gingrich, heads of Education Trust, Broad Residency Curriculum, Democratic Leadership Council, Aspen Institute, La Raza, Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, National Council on Teacher Quality, Strong American Schools - ED in '08, Democrats for Education Reform], Joel Klein, Paul Vallas,Tom Vander Ark, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Roger Wilkins.

You will note several alliances with the Broad Residency Curriculum. To check whether your school district host an alumnus of this program check here
It brings together leaders from government, nonprofits, and the business world to discuss today's pressing civil rights issues. The discussion will focus on the building blocks we can put in place today to close the achievement gap.

NAN Convention Details:
April 1-4th
Sheraton Hotel & Towers (811 7th Ave., NY, NY)

Thursday, April 2nd

10:00 -11:00 am: Plenary Session: Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education [Put Arne Duncan" into a search at Substance News and you will get hundreds of specific instances of Duncan's actions to destroy public schools in Chicago. AND Broad Residency Curriculum.

6:00 - 7:30 pm: American Conversation: Reverend Al Sharpton Anybody wonder where and how Al acquired enough riches to owe $1.8 million in back taxes? AND Celebration of NCLB anniversary, and Newt Gingrich.

Friday, April 3rd: Education Equality Project Day

10-11:30 am: "How to ensure a high-quality education for your child"
Joe Williams, Democrats For Ed Reform
Ginny Ford, Executive Director of D.C. Parents for School Choice
Kyesha Bennett, Harlem Parents United Bill Jackson, GreatSchools.net [funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Hewlett Foundation and The Robinson Foundation]

11:30 am - 2:30 pm: Luncheon - A Conversation on Education
Reverend Al Sharpton - President/Founder, National Action Network
Joel Klein - Chancellor of New York City Public Schools Approval rating
James Mtume - Radio Personality
Margaret Spellings - Former United States Secretary of Education
Adrian Fenty - Mayor, Washington, DC
Mike Bloomberg- Mayor, New York City
Antonio Villaraigoso [sic] - Mayor, Los Angeles
Kevin Johnson - Mayor, Sacramento
Claudio Sanchez - National Public Radio

4:00-5:30 pm: Panel: "Schools that work"
Kevin Chavous, Former Chair of the Washington D.C. Council Education Committee
David Whitman, Author of Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism, foreword by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Marci Kanstoroom, published by the Thomas E. Fordham Institute. Whitman details the strategies of 6 high-performing inner-city schools: 4 charter, 1 neighborhood, and 1 private (American Indian Public Charter School, Amistad Academy, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, KIPP Academy, The SEED School, and University Park Campus School) For the strategies of the American Indian Public Charter School, see Ben Chavis below.
Jarvis Sanford, Principal of Dodge Renaissance School
Ben Chavis, Principal of American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland. More.
Ryan Hill , TEAM Academy, a Network of KIPP Schools. Advocate for a national test
Steve Barr - Green Dot Schools

— NAM Press Release and Juan Gonzalez
ICOPElistserv & NY Daily News




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