Emergency Manager to MCS Has a Conflict
Steve Edwards Received Campaign Monies from Teachers Union
By: Todd Smekens
BLOG – Muncie Community Schools’ emergency management team has a conflict of interest before he even starts, along with several other issues which can’t be glossed over with an opinion piece floated at the self-congratulatory propaganda arm of WLBC called the Muncie Journal. It’s a great place to have your public relations or news releases published without being questioned by a reporter or journalist.
In his article, Steve Edwards, one of the principal members of Administrator Assistance (AA), introduces his team to the community. They sound like a quality team of knowledgeable professionals. Steve writes about AA’s plans:
“Administrator Assistance, a 10-year-old company specializing in strategic planning for public schools, work for the State of Department of Education and under the direction of the state’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB). Our charge is to assist the district in implementing an effective debt reduction plan, and we have a December deadline to meet.”
Here’s the problem: Steve Edwards received a campaign donation from the local teachers union headed by Pat Kennedy. He wasn’t the only one. Will Walker and Jason Donati also received monies from the teachers union. Steve and Jason won seats on the school board, but Steve had to resign his 2018 school board position once appointed as emergency manager. Will Walker announced this past week that he’s applied for the open position.
I already see where Steve is hedging because of his monetary contributions. In the propaganda piece, he writes:
“How Muncie got to this point is a complicated answer. More important now is how we climb out of the hole we’re in and emerge a better, stronger school system.”
Hardly. Several sources have told me the FBI is looking at MCS and the M&M Bus Company. We already know that the union was active in subverting a reduction in wages and benefits for nearly a decade. We also know that for some mysterious reason, the same bus company maintained its contract for years. Once a legitimate bidding process took place, a new bus company provided millions in savings to taxpayers. Was the bidding process rigged to protect the single bus supplier?
During my interview with the former chief financial officer, he said teacher benefits were killing the district. Why had they been allowed for years at such a high rate?
Nearly a decade ago, the school board recommended that too many schools were being operated by the district, so they recommended closures. School administrators and the board dragged their feet avoiding closures. Once the significance of the fiscal deficit became known, the current superintendent and board moved quickly to remedy the problem. They received strong push back from the teachers union and retirees of the school district.
So, why did the newly appointed emergency manager gloss over financial mismanagement? Why did the recently appointed manager not discuss past corruption at the school district?
Did his generous campaign donation from the teachers union impact his decision to ignore these circumstances in our backyard? Did he look the other way to protect his donors?
We’ll see how this plays out for Steve Edwards. I suspect the next six months will be uncomfortable for him, especially when Republican lawmakers want nothing more than to catch leaders of the teachers union running a racket against taxpayers within our state.
Hopefully, the principals won’t hide behind a propaganda media source like the Muncie Journal. Local taxpayers need to know the truth about the school district’s $14 million deficit, especially if the school district plans to raise money via a public referendum. If corruption played a hand in our problems, I could not imagine local taxpayers being willing to bail out the district with more taxes unless the guilty parties are held accountable.