FIRST ADD 1, JUNE 25, 2011 — Part three of our school department expose shall focus on the phony bus purchase deal. We will say for the moment that “APPROVAL OF BUS BID” was agenda item VI-a from the June 22 meeting. Naturally, wanting to work from the facts, we went to the School Department’s web site, School Committee, Agendas and Minutes. This being Pittsfield, no minutes were posted.

“Unfair, PLANET,” some will howl. “The meeting was just last night. How can they post them that soon.” Okay. We will relent, but tell me, then, why is it that there are no minutes posted for the June 8, May 25, and May 11 meetings? Is that the best the committee can do, which is to keep citizens and press six weeks behind the times? Again, just as the $10,000 theft of the junior class’s prom money gets dismissed as a “prank” and disappears from the radar, the School Department has little to no accountability with the taxpayers.

Voters, during this election cycle, are you going to simply sit back and not start a ruckus? If there is ONE SINGLE ITEM that DESPERATELY NEEDS IMMEDIATELY ACTION, it is the financial scam that is public education in the city. Press candidates on how they will vote — for taxpayers or the special interests.

Incidentally, the $10G heist at PHS included alcohol and drug use in the building that night, involving both adults and minors. Up to 200 people roamed the corridors, vandalizing and having their way. This came with the permission of both the PHS principal and vice principal. Ah, but all is well. ‘Twas only a “prank.”



This is the second in our series on the fraud and scam that has become public education in America, and, by extension, in the City of Pittsfield.

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, Thursday, June 23, 2011) —  All it takes in Massachusetts, and many other states, for a child to receive pricey Special Education status is that an “expert” diagnose the student to have a “learning disorder.” Oh, check that: they call it a “learning disability.”

If a psychologist, administrator, doctor, teacher, or the parents’ bartender (just kidding)

declares a pupil has some form of learning disability, the children can be and usually are placed in the district’s Special Education program. From there, the odds are that they won’t graduate, pass MCAS, or receive a diploma. In fact, for many of these students, who cost far more to educate than the typical student, being placed in Special Ed dooms them to failure. They remain unemployable and a constant drain on public resources. They become takers, not givers, in the net-sum-loss game that every citizen plays.

Special Ed: A Case of The Blind Leading the Not Blind

In the Pittsfield Public School, most Special Ed students aren’t blind, deaf, in wheelchairs, or in any common-sense definition of the word “disabled.” Most simply have trouble learning.

The Special Ed financial disaster that has strapped reeling taxpayers’ is the result of the misapplication of the nation’s Special Ed law of 1975 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that followed 25 years later. Both laws started with good intentions but have been pounced on by bureaucrats, politicians, teachers’ unions, and other special interest groups. As always, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Today, countless tens of billions of dollars are wasted nationally on this scam.

Special Ed students include the mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, the developmentally delayed (whatever that means), and the “otherwise learning disabled.” The latter is a broad category with practically no definition.  Boys make up approximately two-thirds of Special Ed students, which The American Spectator calls “an oddity given that learning disabilities should occur naturally among [sic] both genders.”

Here is a link with the definitions of disability under state law in Massacchusetts, taken from : //


As you can see, under these loose designations, practically any child could be diagnosed with a “learning disability” and put into Special Ed, where they generate far more state and federal dollars for the local school district.

Commonwealth Laws: Another Money-Making Racket

A review of the entire state Special Ed legislative package reveals a massive program hopelessly vague, incapable of swift response, and one that actually represses the education of most pupils in the jurisdiction. Why would the Department of Education and school districts such as Pittsfield allow this? Money.

From a much-needed reform to help those with actual, sensory impairment (deafness or blindness, for example), Special Ed in Massachusetts has morphed into another money making racket.

There are about 7 million special education students in the U.S. In Pittsfield, almost 20% of the 6,016 student population wallows in Special Ed. Teachers unions love “the new” Special Ed with extremely loose qualifiers because it creates layers of unnecessary bureaucracy — and the jobs that go with it — that otherwise would be unnecessary. For it’s true, according to almost all neutral and objective assessments, that most Special Ed students “are capable of the kind of academic performance expected of students in regular classrooms.”

Dirty Little Secret of Special Ed in Pittsfield Schools

The dirty little secret in Pittsfield and elsewhere is this: Kids are often placed in Special Ed simply because they are out of control. That’s a function of no discipline, love, or care in many families, who pass along their wild and unsocialized children to the schools. Teachers are afraid to discipline classrooms because of litigious parents and administrators who lack backbone. These out-of-control brats, who are that way through little fault of their own, provide “one reason for the nation’s abysmal levels of educational achievement.”

As The Spectator points out in a recent issue, President Barack Obama has made the situation worse by “unwisely deciding to toss even more money into these boondoggles.” Obama “has thrown [school] districts $11.3 billion in new subsidies … without requiring any accompanying accountability for their activities.”

Some Inconvenient Truths

Some other facts from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources:

  • Between 1976 and 2006, the nation’s Special Ed population increased by 63 percent.
  • Special Ed now accounts for about 15% of the nation’s school children.
  • Half of the Special Ed population are labeled as having a “specific learning disability.” That is a vague, catch-all category that allows virtually any child to be put there. Simple misbehavior in the classroom resulting from lack of ordinary discipline can put a child in expensive Special Ed.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has mushroomed exponentially. The “disorder” is ill defined. Many consider this “diagnosis” another catch-all category.
  • Also in the “catch all” class is “emotional disturbance.” Again, there are no definitions on what this is.
  • Still another “toss in” category is “developmentally delayed.”
  • Most of these students would not have been considered Special Ed cases 20 years ago, before the Special Ed scam hits school districts in full force.
  • Most Special Ed students do not need special accommodations to pass MCAS and other standardized testing.
  • Most of Special Ed cases today stem from poor parenting at home.
  • Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed Special Ed because “their natural rambunctiousness is of great contrast to the more-docile behavior of their female classmates.” (Spectator)
  • Special Ed means $$$ for school districts. In Pittsfield, a Special Ed student brings in three times more in state money than a “normal” student receives. That includes gifted and talented students. This fits in with a system that rewards failure and punishes success, as do the city’s schools.
  • States do not wish to reform this because they received from the Feds Medicaid funds for the Special Ed population. Forbes magazine writes: “Schools see a financial incentive to designate low-achieving students as disabled, while they may not actually be disabled at all.” (Forbes, August 2009 issue)

THE PLANET does not suggest that children with genuine special needs should not receive it. You will find no greater advocate of truly needed help that at this address. We do argue, however, that the Special Ed racket be stopped. Taxpayers and public-sector budgets cannot afford to keep the gravy train going.


  1. Allen
    June 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    You struck a gold mine with this SpEd subject Dan. The Planet is back!

    June 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Great article Dan on Special Ed and so true, its going to be the down fall of our educational system. Who will fix it, no one, not the elected official, unions, teachers, administrators. State and Fed laws will make it even worst than this idiots already have.

    By the way Dan what happened to Mr. Heller???

  3. rick
    June 23, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    looks like speranzo is having a tough go of it for magistrate at the hearings…. some tough questions being asked … one would wonder why they even try to clean up politics.. this time hes trying to hide behind the confidentiality clause of why he ran for two offices at the same cycle… and didnt let the voters in on his plans…these are the voters he swore to go to boston and protect and serve… where are the ethics in people we want in positions were ethics are needed. he should not be allowed this position nor should anyone else, we can save that money, because its proven that its not needed. we need to cut the head off cronyism in the pitts…just say no to speranzo.

  4. beezer
    June 23, 2011 at 4:07 am #


  5. kman
    June 23, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    THE Planet is @#$%^&* back!
    Hoo Rah!

  6. Joe Pinhead
    June 23, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    There are a few other components to the story as well, While no one is suggesting that some students do not need or do not benefit from the program (s) what of those on the opposite side of the spectrum?
    The students who excel are they getting an individually structured program designed to ensure that they reach and maintain maximum performance? Are they getting the same level of attention? Or are they being denied due to a lack of resources that are shifted towards the special education needs?
    If this is so and we are to believe that “Teachers are afraid to discipline classrooms because of litigious parents and administrators who lack backbone” are they vigorously and vehemently advocating for these kids? Or is a blind eye being turned by all as long as the cash keeps coming in? I don’t know I’m asking.
    How does this impact our Economic development? There are firms that mine this data and put it into formats for companies to digest as they put together expansion plans. It factors into that equation in a number of ways. Example if XX percent of my available human resources are in fact “learning disabled” how much extra time will be needed to ensure they are adequately trained to perform the tasks assigned to them? If I as a company institute a new policy and reduce it to writing can I be assured that it is understood by all who have read it? If I hire people who were identified as “learning disabled” and they operate manufacturing equipment will my insurance premiums be higher? Will training cost more? Can my company be sued if someone is injured? If I relocate to the area will all of my employees have access to the same educational resources for all of their children regardless of which side of the spectrum they reside on? I have been in negotiations were similar questions have been asked.

  7. Carol
    June 23, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    If only this were true… Getting a child Special Ed services is one of the most difficult battles parents fight. Many of the families who choice out of Pittsfield Public Schools do so because their children are not recieving appropriate services. Please talk to parents who have had to fight for services for their children. BTW, children labeled Special Ed. still have to pass the same MCAS tests as everyone else. Check out the websites and for extensive exploration of parents’ struggles to get services accroos the United States.

    I can also tell you that there are no gifted and talented programs in the Pittsfield Public Schools.

    • danvalenti
      June 23, 2011 at 7:44 am #

      I don’t deny it is difficult for some parents to get Special Ed designation. For others, though, it is ridiculously easy. Why? Because the school department plays politics with who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s not what you know but WHO you know and also WHAT YOU ARE (demographics plays a role). Thanks for advancing the discussion.

  8. khaleel
    June 23, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Thank you for your kind words. You are absolutely right.what entice you to post an article. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject .Many thanks for this entry and for your website on the whole. I’ve just liked it. It’s always a pleasant surprise whenever a post is both beneficial and enjoyable! Thank you,one more link for learning disabilities children

  9. beezer
    June 23, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Dan, did you happen to see the Bus purchasing meeting. The lady next to Salty Douglas, did the ol head bobbing technique, you know she is right on everything, the whole time she talked. But when you do the affirmative head bobbing, sometimes you bobb at the wrong moment, thus showing your dopeyness. Kudos to Alf Barbulunga for voting against the buses.

  10. danvalenti
    June 23, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    I didn’t see the meeting but heard about it from our spies, who were there. Love your comment about the head bobbing. When it’s done in the manner you describe, it’s known as ass kissing. Alf Barbalunga, THE PLANET owes you a beer for having the balls to vote for THE PEOPLE and not the special interests. See PLANET archives for the bus scam details. Go to the April 16 posting. Archives can be Googled. From the Planet, go to BLOG in the black toolbar. You will see ARCHIVES in the yellow, just below it. Click on that. All the posts will be listed.

  11. beezer
    June 23, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Dan, have to give you a lot of credit. You have appeared on probably the bnest bootlicking radio show, with a host who cannot, nor wiil, tell the Superintendent of Pittsfield Schools, that it is his total responsibilty what happened at P H S prank night, Not say how great he is. As far as the buses go, the replacement bobblehead was at the meeting, doing the up and down head confirmation. One particular bobble was not supposed to be a bobble. The phoney basts are alive and well everywhere.

  12. beezer
    June 23, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I swear the bus drivers tear these buses up before the fifth year trade in value. I’ve seen them take some corners, that Emerson Fitipaldi wouldn’t dare go that fast.

  13. danvalenti
    June 23, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I can’t speak for anyone else and how they conduct their show. I can only say if THE PLANET had the principal of PHS on as a guest, he would have been put under the McDonalds French fry lights and read to riot act. Funny how this little $10G “prank” gets forgotten so soon. It involved booze, drugs, and vandalism inside the building. Oh, but we’re supposed to forgive it as a “prank,” as if we were talking about TPing the principal’s office.

  14. Joetaxpayer
    June 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Heard the teachers voted for there 1 year contract.Can already see work to rule in another year.That should help boost enrolement.Of course they didnt put in the 8 minutes a day extra in there contract.I thought they were on salary.They want to be compensated,I say lets pay them to teach, and teach only no field trips,corridinate this with parents to go with the students teachers stay behind.Hopefully corridinate this with there in house training then we can eliminate are 10 or 11 half days and stop screwing the kids out of there full school days.Lastly stop all the mid terms and end of school exams where the kids have only one class a day for about 4 days.Let those teachers teach the FULL MANDITORY STATE DAYS OF SCHOOL.Stop using loopholes,lets see how they like those apples!

    • danvalenti
      June 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      JOE THE T
      Teachers’ unions are the biggest impediment to quality public education. I should know. I am a member of three teachers unions.

      • Jake
        June 24, 2011 at 5:28 am #

        Dan If you hate unions then why do you belong to 3? Please don’t say your forced to belong because thats not true.

        • danvalenti
          June 24, 2011 at 7:09 am #

          First, I don’t hate unions. I don’t hate fire, either. In fact, when it cooks my hot dogs, I love fire. When it burns my hand, I don’t. I love what unions did to even the playing field back in the day, but I don’t love what they’ve become: politicized and detrimental to the public good, in the case of public workers.
          Second, I belong to three because I have to. That’s a condition of employment as a faculty member at the college. The alternative is paying an agency fee, whatever the heck that is, and paying more. That’s not a choice.

  15. dave
    June 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm #


    A former Massachusetts scientist and businessman was convicted in federal court on Tuesday of conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with funds he siphoned from a multi-million federal research grant earmarked to develop battery-powered buses.

    Christopher D. Willson, a Canadian resident who was once chief scientist and senior vice president of EV Worldwide, a former Pittsfield-based company, was convicted of conspiracy and six counts of wire fraud and acquitted of three counts of fraud and other charges after a trial in U.S. District Court in Boston.

    The company was founded by Michael J. Armitage, an energy-focused entrepreneur who once owned Berkshire Power in Agawam and has backed various other power projects.

    Testimony showed the bus venture tanked before yielding a product but the taxpayer funds paid a $250,000 salary to Armitage and $100,000 to Willson while the two launched a separate Canadian research company with another $110,000.

    The Federal Transit Administration provided $4.3 million for the project, which was funneled through the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority. The grant required EV Worldwide to match each grant dollar with its own money, according to testimony.

    “From 2004 to 2005, Willson submitted 10 fraudulent invoices in which he falsely claimed that EVW was matching the (federal) funds, when in fact, EVW was millions of dollars in debt and had nearly no other non-public source of funds,” according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

    Willson and Armitage were originally charged together in U.S. District Court in Springfield but the defendants were separated as Armitage faced a complicated set of tax fraud charges that excluded Willson.

    Armitage, once a political gadfly, fund-raiser and frequent presence on Springfield’s club scene, pleaded guilty in October to failing to file tax returns for 13 years, bank fraud and the federal grant fraud. He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 26 in Springfield.

    Armitage, who now lives in Florida, did not testify at Willson’s trial.

    However, U.S. Congressman John D. Olver, D-Amherst, was among the prosecution witnesses and told jurors he helped secure the funds and fully expected to see a clean energy bus, not a criminal indictment, as the result.

    Willson faces a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison for each of the fraud counts. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 6 in Boston.

    Related topics: Christopher-Willson, EV-Worldwide, John-Olver, Michael-Armitage

    • danvalenti
      June 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      Thanks much for this. EV Worldwide! 1,000 Jobs, the Boring Broadsheet blared on page one. They enabled this fraud. By the way, was Armitage, the man that Gerry Doyle fell in love with while the latter was mayor, ever sentenced? He was convicted and supposed to be sentenced in April, but that seems to have disappeared. What’s up with that? Joe Pinhead, would YOU know?

      • dave
        June 24, 2011 at 6:25 am #

        He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 26 in Springfield.

  16. Dusty
    June 24, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    I do seem to recall Armitage being praised by Doyle as someone who would save Pittsfield. Doyle kept some suspicious company.

  17. rick
    June 24, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    you cant really blame doyle.the give away system is a feeding frenzy for scam artist and free loaders, as to see with north street and robertos relationship with chung of spice.and all the buissnesses that folded.