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Superintendent Moonbeam For the Children

by K. Lloyd Billingsley [commentator] 5/28/07

After a jury here recently increased an award to California Department of Education whistleblower James Lindberg from $4.5 to $7.6 million, Delaine Eastin, the former state education superintendent responsible for Lindberg's demotion, stepped up to the mic.

"It's the most unfair abuse of the system I've ever seen," Eastin told reporters. "It really is taking money away from children to give to a guy who's really no more entitled to it than a man in the moon." Legislators currently looking into the matter will find this lunar logic illuminating.

K. Lloyd Billingsley
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

The trouble all began when the California Department of Education that Eastin headed dished out more than $20 million to people who were no more entitled to it than a man in the moon. These included "Community Based Organizations" run by left-wing militants such as Bert Corona of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional. That group got more than any CBO, for a good reason. Powerful players in the CDE wanted to give Hermandad the money. And Hermandad's political allies leaned heavily on CDE leadership.

Whistleblowers such as Robert Cervantes found bogus accounting with Hermandad, also under fire on other fronts, and even at odds with its own employees. All the CDE needed to do in order to end the malfeasance right there was listen to its own employees and stop writing massive checks to Hermandad and other groups flagged by James Lindberg. After all, these bogus groups were getting money that should have gone "to the children." It was an abuse of the system.

A state auditor's report and subsequent court decisions all backed the whistleblowers. Authorities busted several of the CBOs, though not Hermandad, which should have been a no-brainer. The department repaid the federal government more than $3 million, another acknowledgement that the department improperly disbursed funds. Eastin recently told reporters that Mr. Lindberg did not uncover fraud, a serious charge, but offered no specifics. Neither did she do so at the time, and the courts have not uncovered any such failure.

The CDE did not fail to keep money flowing to attorneys defending the department against its own employees. The former superintendent did not decry this expenditure as money that should have gone "to the children." Indeed, she justified the spending. So has the current superintendent Jack O'Connell, whose department has not exactly been forthcoming about how much they spent. Legislatures should pursue the case, while California voters and taxpayers reflect on their superintendent problem.

Bill Honig, the superintendent before Delaine Eastin, was found guilty of felony conflict-of-interest charges. Eastin, now a visiting professor of education at Mills College, beat up on charter schools, opposed parental choice, and facilitated the scandal that resulted in the award to Mr. Lindberg. Her "man in the moon" quip shows defiance and denial, all in the face of the facts. She wanted to make a further example out of Mr. Lindberg, which failed when the courts not only agreed with him but boosted his award.

Jack O'Connell had ample opportunity to stop the appeal or settle. He failed to do so, and now legislators are demanding answers. They should keep pressing until they get them. Californians are entitled to know how much money is being wasted rather than spent on the children. CRO

copyright 2007 Pacific Research Institute




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