And the letters keep rolling in… this one is from fellow Chicagoland SaveOurSchools Member Roger Sanders.
January 9, 2012
Honorable Patrick Quinn
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Governor Quinn:
I am writing to ask that you demand the resignation of Dr. Christopher A. Koch, State Superintendent of Schools. It is with continued dismay that the citizens of Illinois live under the cloud of corruption that has become the hallmark of too many elected and appointed officials. As a life-time resident of Illinois for 60 years, and a career educator of 40 years in Illinois, I feel it is imperative that our educational system be seen as above reproach. Sadly, our State Superintendent has joined the ranks of those who make us question the motives of policies and contracts set by Illinois’ public officials.
The New York Times (January 3, 2012) reports that:
“Christopher Koch, state superintendent of education in Illinois – which has $138 million in contracts with Pearson [the nation’s largest education publisher] – went to China, Brazil and Finland with the [Pearson] foundation. The only Pearson compensation he listed on state ethics forms was the cost of the flight to China, $4,271 for business class. Asked why hotels, meals and the other flights were not documented, a spokesman for Dr. Koch, Matt Vanover, said , “What we’re looking at is a litmus test; they just want to make sure he’s not traveling first class.”
The New York State’s attorney general has been investigating similar trips involving other education officials from around the country who have taken world-wide junkets as guests of the Pearson Foundation. I have included the full article for your review. How shameful it is for Illinois to be in the national spotlight, AGAIN, among the infamous allegations of crooked politicians and officials who are supposed to be protecting the public trust. And if the only thing we are looking at is to see if Dr. Koch is traveling first class, then we need to look even further at the people and processes that are supposed to be watching for ethical malpractice. Frankly, if that is the standard for Illinois, then we need new people and new standards to protect the public interests.
First, Dr. Koch should have had enough common sense not to bring his motives into question in such a way. At best he has used poor judgment. Or perhaps he believes that in his role as President, now Past President, of the Council of State School Officers, it was O.K. for him to accept such trips. Or perhaps he just doesn’t think it is wrong. Or perhaps there is more to his motivation than we would like to think. I suppose only Dr. Koch knows for sure. Do we really think we are going to learn a lot from countries such as China or Brazil about how to “improve” our educational systems? Having been to China myself, I would question that rationale. And even if we thought we might learn from Finland or Brazil, if it is that important, then the Illinois State Board of Education should pick up the tab. And if we are sharing with those countries all the great things we are doing, then those countries should pay the freight. It’s crystal clear to any objective observer that these trips were neither necessary, not important for the people of Illinois, nor more than a “free” way for Dr. Koch to travel the world with money laundered through a foundation associated with a company with which Illinois has a huge contract for services. Plus, the funds were further brokered through an organization in which Dr. Koch had a high-level position.
Second, Dr. Koch should report his full expenses, or should we not expect such high-profile officials to be accountable at the same level that we hold our students, teachers and administrators. As a teacher, administrator and former school superintendent, I was always acutely aware of the compelling need to be above any question regarding contracts for services. Had I taken such trips as Dr. Koch with a company that has such large contracts with my employer, I would fully expect my Board of Education to ask for my resignation. If they did not, I’m sure community members would have. And rightfully so. To suggest that you can maintain objectivity in contract decision making in those types of arrangements is ludicrous.
Third, our compulsion to test, test, and test our students and evaluate teachers based upon standardized test results has gone so far beyond reasonable, and is so pedagogically unsound, that it is crystal clear to me that policy making at the highest level has more to do with business economics and political ideology that teaching and learning. Dr. Koch’s willingness to accept such travel perks certainly reinforces many educators’ beliefs that our educational policies are less about what is in the best interest of students and more about what is in the best interest of business.
I guess Dr. Koch didn’t think we would find out. I guess Dr. Koch didn’t think he needed to report all his expenses paid for by Pearson. I guess Dr. Koch thinks it’s alright to accept such perks from a company who he oversees a $138 million contract with. I guess Dr. Koch thought the tens of thousands of dollars for these trips, when laundered through the Pearson Foundation and then brokered through an organization that he was president of, would go unnoticed.
Well, we did find out and it is not alright. How many corrupt governors, how many corrupt elected officials, how many corrupt appointed officials must Illinois’ citizens endure?
I have always viewed you as an advocate for the citizens of our great state. I am confident that you have our interests and well-being foremost in your thoughts. Your long-standing and steadfast fight for equity and fairness are without question. I’m asking you to do the right thing. I’m asking you to demand that Dr. Koch resign. Then, I’d like to see you ask the Illinois Attorney General to launch an investigation into state contracts with Pearson, just as New York State has done. And, I’d like to know that Illinois has a higher level of concern than just whether Dr. Koch flew first class or not. Surely our standards for ethical behaviors can be higher than that.
You can send a clear message to every appointed official. Illinois’ citizens expectations for ethical behavior and sound judgement must be reflected at the highest level of our government. Certainly the school children and educators of Illinois deserving nothing less.
Roger L. Sanders
105 Wilson Place
Oswego, IL 60543
c: Mr. Gery Chico, Board Chair, Illinois State Board of Education
Members, Illinois State Board of Education
Honorable Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House
Honorable John Cullerton, Senate President
Honorable Tom Cross, Representative
Michael Winerip, New York Times
Chicago Sun Times