Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oh What a Tangled Web: Millot, Russo and Rotherham Battle As Millot Charges Arne with Conflict of Interest

I somehow am involved in a national blogging story that involves some pretty well known bloggers, with lots of intrigue tossed in and I'm probably in over my head.

The skinny is that Alexander Russo at TWIE pulled down a post by Marc Dean Millot charging Arne Duncan with conflict of interest after coming under pressure from Andrew Rotherham, one of the slugs of the ed deform movement. (Well, I don't like Andy because as I documented a few years ago he sent the attack dogs after the great blogger Eduwonkette. (I wrote about the day two years ago that I and Kette (Jennifer Jennings), who was anonymous at the time, sat in on an Aero session with Russo and Rotherham and the Times' Jenny Medina. See aeraplaning - don' need no stinkin' research))

Millot sent out a request for bloggers to host his response and Ed Notes was on the list. I responded and Ed Notes will be hosting part 2 of his report, though I warned Millot that we do not exactly exude the kind of classy research-based reporting he is used to. Well, he doesn't seem to mind a muckraking rag, though if he takes a close look he may run away screaming.

Now I should point out that Millot is a pro-market ed guy and has connections to Rand so we are not on the same page and our interests do not often intersect. But he's done some very interesting work on charters at TWIE and this can turn out to be an important story.

This will take a couple of posts over the next few days, but try to keep up because this story may go deep.

So, here goes:

Ken Libby at Schools Matter posted this on Friday

From Dean Millot over at ThisWeekInEducation (Three Data Points: Unconnected Dots, or Warning?)

I have now heard the same thing from three independent credible sources - the fix is in on the U.S. Department of Education's competitive grants, in particular Race to the Top (RTTT) and Investing in Innovation (I3). Secretary Duncan needs to head this off now, by admitting that he and his team have potential conflicts of interests with regard to their roles in grant making, recognizing that those conflicts are widely perceived by potential grantees, and explaining how grant decisions will be insulated from interference by the department's political appointees.

We do know that the Secretary benefited from a strong relationship with the new philanthropy in Chicago. We know that the Secretary is high on charter management organizations and the new teacher development programs that benefited from the new philanthropy. We know that RTTT czar Joanne Weiss was senior staff member at New Schools. We know that Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton was a senior program education officer at the Gates Foundation and NewSchools. We know that both managed investments in the organizations' Duncan favors.

Be sure to read the entire entry here - it's good and juicy.

(I clicked on the link and it didn't come up but then I found the URL on TWIE)

Read the rest of Libby's post here: Millot Asks About Conflict of Interest in Duncan's DOE

Below the above post was a comment from Millot:

Marc Dean Millot

At 1:45 Friday afternoon, I posted a brief commentary in This Week in Education, where I have been a guest columnist. "Three Data Points. Unconnected Dots or a Warning?" was one of many appearing in the edu-blogosphere over the last two week's expressing concerns over the lack of transparency in the Department of Education's implementation of the Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation discretionary grant programs. Within a few hours the commentary generated a modest amount of interest from some of our community's leading bloggers.

A little after 5 pm that day it was taken off the site by TWIE editor Alexander Russo. Russo informed me that he had been directed to do so by TWIEs sponsor, Scholastic as the result of a call from Andrew Rotherham to someone at the firm that Russo thought might be Rotherham's friend.

Over the weekend Russo struggled mightily to fix the problem. He emailed me, "Please be assured that this isn't really about you or the substance of your post." I agreed to sit tight till Monday. Sometime around 10:15 Monday evening I was fired by Russo or, to be more precise, he activated TypePad software on TWIE prohibiting me from publishing. The act was in breech of a six-month contract giving me "complete editorial control" over my columns as well as the princely sum of $200 a month.

I've been asked by my readers to explain what happened. I'm posting here because Kenneth Libby was the first. I intend to tell my story from start to finish. Yes, I have something at stake here. Yes, I intend to draw on materials that don't normally see the light of day - like emails and private conversations. But this situation is also an opportunity for readers to gain some insights into the personal side of Washington policy debates, the ways people with influence use it, the challenges faced by those who seek a commercial model for the new media, and the role of the blog in public discourse over education policy. These are worthy goals, rarely pursued.

I could go out and start my own blog, but I ran one for a year at and prefer to be a columnist. I would be grateful for perhaps five days access to an edublog as a guest blogger. In return, I can only offer my best efforts to provide the facts, a good faith interpretation, and the full record in my possession for readers can come to their own conclusions.
Millot came out with part 1 of his story today at Schools Matter:

Millot: Sound Decision or Censorship at TWIE? (I)

Millot closes part 1 with:

The defense rests

Russo did not pull the post on substantive grounds. There are no substantive grounds. TWIE's editor pulled it because of Rotherham's influence over a colleague at Scholastic, and that Scholastic employee's order to Russo.

Next: the pressure-cooker Rotherham created for Russo. Watch for me at EdNotes.

Oh, joy. Ed Notes gets the dope on Rotherham.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.


  1. This all appears to be of a piece with the extremely incestuous nature of corporate ed deform, where the same funders, flacks and pols create the echo chamber that has come to dominate debate about education.

    It also sounds like they are running a little scared, since resistance to their hostile takeover of the schools is emerging. I think they sense that they must smash and grab as much and as quickly as they can, before they are exposed as the dupes, frauds and profiteers that they are.

  2. No matter whether Millot's post is *asking* or *charging* -- and I will add that it's not censorship for a private blog owner to decree what it wants on its blog -- we still have to note that there have been two high-profile cases of stifling voices critical of the ed-reform machinery in the past couple of weeks. I'm referring to the editing of Bill Turque's Washington Post blog as well.

    If there are any sincere, honest, ethical and independent-thinking supporters of the ed-reform machinery out there, shouldn't they be asking themselves WHY they feel they need to stifle critical voices? If your ideas are sound and the forces behind them pure, Mr. Rotherham et al., shouldn't they stand up to sharp questioning and criticism?


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.