Free Trips Raise Issues for Officials in Education
STOP THE PRESSES! I don't think I've ever had a nice word to say about Michael Winerip, so I hope you're sitting down. I think this article is a good piece of research and raises legitimate issues – this stinks to high heaven:
Since 2008, the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation's largest educational publishers, has financed free international trips — some have called them junkets — for education commissioners whose states do business with the company. When the state commissioners are asked about these trips — to Rio de Janeiro; London; Singapore; and Helsinki, Finland — they emphasize the time they spend with educators from around the world to get ideas for improving American public schools.
Rarely do they mention that they also meet with top executives of the Pearson company.
The foundation's officials say the free trips are solely educational and have no business purpose. On the foundation's tax forms for the last two years, the line for listing "payments of travel or entertainment expenses for any federal, state or local public officials" has been left blank.
That may be a problem. Experts in tax law say that Pearson appears to be using its foundation to push its business interests, which would be a violation of the federal tax code.
"The Pearson conferences fit the same fact pattern as the influence-buying junkets that the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff arranged for members of Congress," said Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who was director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service for 10 years and is a former board member of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. "Those junkets were paid for by private charities."
The education commissioners may also be violating state ethics laws. After I wrote about the conferences last month, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board opened an inquiry to determine whether the recent trip to Brazil by its commissioner, Jason E. Glass, violated state law.
October 9, 2011