June 14, 2021

Mercedes Schneider: Democracy Prep Founder and Thief, Seth Andrew: Spinner of Chaos

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Mercedes Schneider is a teacher, author and researcher who digs up ed reform shenanigans. Seth Andrew is the founder of Democracy Prep charter schools who was recently arrested for stealing from that chain. As Dr. Schneider outlines here, that’s not the only chaos he’s been sowing in the education world lately. Reposted with permission.

Seth Andrew is the founder of Democracy Prep charter schools. After serving in the Obama administration and then leaving Democracy Prep, he decided to rob the charter chain’s escrow accounts, for which he was arrested on April 27, 2021.

Andrew was in the process of promoting another ed venture, Degrees of Freedom, billed as “a new kind of higher ed experience that is affordable, flexible and inclusive,” but do read the fine print because Degrees of Freedom– though it sounds like it is a degree program– is not able to confer any degrees and is dependent upon accredited, third-party higher-ed programs:

Degrees of Freedom is a non-profit hybrid leadership program. DoF provides comprehensive wrap-around services to students pursuing a degree at an accredited institution including work-based learning, social-emotional support, on-campus community building, intensive academic coaching, travel opportunities, and professional training. Degrees of Freedom does not yet possess a certificate of approval or a certificate of degree-granting authority from the Vermont State Board of Education to operate an independent school, college or university. Degrees of Freedom is not yet accredited by any accrediting body or a candidate for accreditation by any accrediting body.

In other words, though Andrew is publicized in May 2020 as having purchased the grounds of now-defunct Marlboro College (VT) through his nonprofit, Democracy Builders Fund, the presence of his non-accredited Degrees of Freedom program on what once was a college campus does not make the program an accredited, degree-conferring program.

In what seems to be an effort to build a partnership in order to financially support his non-degree-conferring Degrees of Freedom program (wrap-around services to prop up his wrap-around services so to speak), Andrew’s Democracy Builders turned around and sold Marlboro College to LLC, Type I Civilization Academy. That was February 2021.

One month later, in March 2021, Andrew purportedly canceled the sale, telling the Bennington Banner and others in a community Zoom meeting, “We were engaged, not married.”

So. After Andrew was arrested in April 2021 for stealing money from Democracy Prep, Democracy Builders Fund cut ties with Andrew. Furthermore, according to the June 09, 2021, Brattleboro Reformer, Democracy Builders says that it had not finalized the sale of the Marlboro campus to Type I Civilization Academy. However, Type I disputes this fact, with the ownership now a matter for the Windham Superior Court.

The sale of Marlboro from Democracy Builders to Type I would have generated revenue to support Degrees of Freedom, with Democracy Builders leasing the Marlboro campus from Type I.

Degrees of Freedom– already shaky because it does not confer degrees though its website reserves this stark reality for small print at the bottom of its web page– is supposedly seeking to become a stand-alone nonprofit, with no mention of any connection to Democracy Builders on its site. For that matter, the Degrees of Freedom site fails to mention any single human being associated with this sell.

On its site, Degrees of Freedom is still recruiting for 2022 (In large letters: “Learn online and on-campus for $0 out-of-pocket”), though it nixed its September 2021 launch when Andrew was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Marlboro School of Music, which retains a 99-year lease to hold its annual music festival on the Marlboro campus, is caught in the middle of this chaos chiefly attributable to one man.

What a guy.

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