PTA Ponzi moms plead not guilty

The three California women accused of bilking investors out of $4 million dollars have pleaded not guilty to the charges.  (See original post.)

According to Diamond Bar Patch:

Maricela Barajas, 41, also known as Maricela Torres, Julianna Menefee, 50, and Eva Perez, 51, together face 22 felony counts of theft and securities fraud.

Perez is already serving an 11-year sentence on similar charges from a San Bernardino County scheme. Her attorney told Commissioner Wade Olson, the presiding judge, that her case would be resolved separately from Barajas and Menefee.

Prosecutors allege the three bilked their victims out of up to $4 million. Both Menefee and Perez were part of the Armstrong Elementary School PTA; according to the Pomona Unified School District, there is no record of Barajas being involved with the school’s PTA. Prosecutors say that the women used their positions as PTA members to push fraudulent investments at school functions.

Money talks and schoolkids walk

They called in sick. There were rain delays. Bridge traffic. The dog ate their schoolbus.

Actually, officials at Student Transportation Armerica, a transit company that provides school bus service to Duval County, Florida, aren’t talking much. But it looks like dozens—maybe even hundreds—of schoolkids in the Jacksonville area were left stranded because their regular bus drivers were out of town Monday, providing shuttle service to NASCAR fans for the rain-delayed Daytona 500.

According to the Florida Times-Union:

… (S)chool bus drivers in the Jacksonville area have been buzzing about the incident. But schools officials would not say how many children were left stranded or even how many schools were affected.

Al Stewart, a bus driver for Durham Bus Service who works with many drivers at STA, said the Daytona contract disrupted the service.

“As far as I can tell, and after the STA drivers that I talked with, it was 37 drivers missing Monday,” Stewart said. “They went down Sunday and they sent them back Monday. They were there for the day shuttling.”

STA faces fines over the missed routes. A company official said, “We had one bad day and we’ll pay the fine with a smile.”



AZ lawmaker pulls rug from under students: “Welcome to life”

Republican lawmakers in Arizona, apparently in a fit of pique over the fact that some students receive grants or scholarships that cover the cost of tuition to the state’s universities, have recommended a measure that requires all students to come up with a minimum of $2,000 out of their own pockets to pay tuition. This comes on top of a tuition increase–often if not usually the result of decreasing state support for the schools.

Never mind that tuition makes up only part of a student’s college expenses. Or that the students involved have somehow—through merit or need—come up with the money to pay tuition. GOP lawmakers are determined to make college more of a sporting prospect.

Besides the fact that the bill has the practical effect of knocking lower-income students off the educational ladder, this sounds like a terribly intrusive measure to begin with. How is it legislators’ business how students pay their (ever-increasing) bills?

The Arizona Board of Regents opposes the bill, which passed out of committee on a party-line vote.

To add insult to injury, there’s this, reported by the Arizona Republic:

About 100 students signed in to oppose the bill, and a handful spoke out against it. James Allen, UA student-body president, told legislators that by passing the bill, legislators would make it harder to achieve a higher-education degree.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, replied, “Welcome to life.”

A few minutes later, Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, admonished his colleagues for their comments.

“I feel these students are being greeted with open hostility,” said Heinz, who later voted against the bill.

Read more.

Rick Santorum’s latest OMG moment: Obama a “snob” about college ed

No need for much commentary here. Let’s just let the man speak for himself. GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum opposes the president’s push to help everyone get a higher education. (By the way, Santorum thinks someone who wants to be an auto mechanic doesn’t need postsecondary training, apparently believing that vocational colleges aren’t colleges.)

Inside Higher Ed has a good article, and here’s the most telling passage:

While Santorum’s implication is that President Obama wants everyone to have a college education like his (a liberal arts degree followed by a law school, attending elite institutions), most of the Obama push for expanded higher education has been about community colleges and job-training programs. He has spoken far more about the need to give working class people tools to advance their careers (through certificate and associate degree programs) than he has about four-year liberal arts degrees.

On Sunday, Santorum stood by his comments about higher education not being needed by many Americans. On ABC’s “This Week,” he said that ”there are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don’t include college. To sort of lay out there that somehow this is — this is — should be everybody’s goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work” of “people who, frankly, don’t go to college and don’t want to go to college.”

Talking Points Memo, a liberal news site, on Saturday reported that Santorum — in his unsuccessful re-election campaign to the Senate in 2006 — seemed to endorse higher education policies remarkably similar to those of President Obama today. The site found a copy of Santorum’s campaign website from that year, which said: “In addition to Rick’s support of ensuring that primary and secondary schools in Pennsylvania are equipped for success, he is equally committed to ensuring [that] every Pennsylvanian has access to higher education. Rick Santorum has supported legislative solutions that provide loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable.”

Read more.

Education group pulls meeting from Atlanta due to Georgia immigation law

Actions have consequences. By the way, the Georgia legislature also is considering a bill to ban illegal immigrants from attending any state college or university, despite the fact that very few do. This, of course, is taking the opposite course from passing the DREAM Act.

Currently, the Board of Regents does not allow undocumented immigrants to attend the state’s most selective schools (i.e., those that turn away qualified applicants): Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia College, and Georgia Health Sciences University.

From the association’s announcement:

The 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association will be held in San Francisco, California, Saturday, April 27 through Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Although AERA had planned to hold the 2013 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, the AERA Council began reconsideration of Atlanta as the venue for the Annual Meeting after passage in May 2011 of , the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, by the Georgia State Legislature. In a related action, in April 2010, the AERA Council had passed a resolution that the Association would not site meetings in Arizona until that state’s similar legislation in question was repealed (Arizona SB1070).

In June 2011, the AERA Council began an intensive process of consideration of HB87, how best to proceed in light of AERA’s mission and policies, and options for the 2013 Annual Meeting. On October 30, 2011, the Executive Board decided to relocate from Atlanta leading in early February 2012 to the final selection of San Francisco as the site.

Read more.

Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest: A look at Round Two

As you may know,’s Breakthrough Novel competition has moved on to the second round. Up to 5,000 novelists entered each of two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult. Only 1,000 in each field, including my own Chain Gang Elementary, made the first cut. It will be down to 250 in the next round. The two ultimate winners get a $15,000 contract with Penguin to publish their works. For more information, and to see a list of writers who survived the first round, check out the competition website.

Good luck to all, but a word of warning: It’s about to get real. Here’s a scene from last year’s competition.