Morning Must Reads: Accountability in the Private and Public Sector or Making Money the Old Fashioned Way

It never ends - ILGWU Local 111 picket in Allentown, PA, March 15, 1964. (Photo: Kheel Center, Cornell University, flickr)
It never ends - ILGWU Local 111 picket in Allentown, PA, March 15, 1964. (Photo: Kheel Center, Cornell University, flickr)

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

While cruising by Allentown on I-78 with Billy Joel’s greatest hits blaring on your stereo, you may have noticed just along the highway a big sign for the camera maker Olympus. Turns out the North American headquarters for the Olympus Corporation of the Americas is located in Allentown. The Allentown Morning Call reported Friday that the CEO of the parent company has been dismissed. Businessweek is reporting this morning there is more to the story:

Fired Olympus Corp. President Michael C. Woodford said he met with the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office to request an investigation of payments made by the Japanese company to advisers in a 2008 acquisition …

Olympus … paid $687 million to two advisory companies related to its purchase of Gyrus Group Plc in 2008, the PwC report said. The fees were more than a third of the $2 billion purchase price, according to the report. Merger and acquisition advisory fees usually range from 1 percent to 5 percent.

As the Allentown Morning Call reported on Friday, the company had been seeking to aggressively cut costs via an undisclosed number of layoffs in Allentown over the summer.

Two words:

Job creators?

Rather than lay off workers while paying fat fees to “advisers,” The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning reports on an emerging approach to job creation, spending money to fix things!

The roof [of Furness High in Philadelphia] leaks badly. Parts of the building are shut off because of water damage. There is asbestos contamination on the fourth floor, and chunks of plaster scattered on the beautiful, crumbling second floor of the auditorium.

Furness High, built in 1914, would cost $26 million to repair or $51 million to replace, and that’s money the cash-strapped Philadelphia School District doesn’t have …

Union and district leaders gathered Monday at Furness with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) to tout the American Jobs Act, which President Obama has said would pump $944 million into Pennsylvania school-modernization projects. Of that, $396 million would go to Philadelphia school projects …

In addition to providing school-modernization money, Obama’s jobs bill would provide funds to hire and keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

The legislation is in trouble. The Senate defeated it last week…

Silly people, you are never really supposed to focus on the problem at hand. Case in point: The Patriot-News leads with a story evaluating the performance of charter schools, which were supposed to improve the performance of public education.

While some charter schools are succeeding, others have failed to achieve what is termed making adequate yearly progress, or AYP. The state’s benchmarks call for the schools to have at least 67 percent of students perform at grade level in math and at least 72 percent at grade level in reading.

— Of the 12 cyber charter schools that are independent public schools and deliver instruction over the Internet, only two made AYP [16%].

— Of the 142 brick-and-mortar charters whose students took the state exams, 86 made AYP [61%].

— 44 percent of charter schools did not reach the state’s performance targets.

— Of the 499 school districts that administer the state exams, 467 made AYP [94%].

— Of the 3,096 school buildings in the state, including cyber and brick-and-mortar charter schools and career and technology centers, 2,326 schools made AYP [75%]

The Patriot-News story also mentions a desire to increase accountability and oversight of charter schools, which seems warranted given their performance. WITF News reports this morning that some people think accountability is only for public entities; accountability when giving public money to private entities is way too burdensome! I’m sure the board of directors of Olympus Corporation and their “advisers” agree that nobody ever got rich from having accountability in financial transactions.

A GOP lawmaker says increasing accountability measures in a state program that sends tax dollars to private schools would make businesses and schools jump through too many hoops …

He said concerns about financial accountability are unwarranted..

As my colleague Stephen Herzenberg noted in that story:

Not having accountability as you expand the state funds going to private schools is just a set-up for hearing stories down the road of financial abuse and really of abuse of kids’ education opportunities.

You can read Stephen’s full analysis of the State EITC program here.

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