These Billionaires and Millionaires sure are “Interested” in “Education Reform”

Some readers may remember my earlier columns about the inter-connections between the various “Education Reform” leaders, organizations and the billionaires and millionaires that are funneling money into their efforts.

You may recall when Governor Malloy traveled to New York City to speak at some group’s annual meeting about economic development (although it was really a gala honoring charter school champion Jonathan Sackler). Malloy’s office responded that they had no idea it was a gala and that the Governor most definitely did speak about economic reform and most definitely did not stay to introduce the guest of honor (even though  the organization’s newsletter announced that he was being invited for that very purpose).

Coming to Malloy defense was the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green who used the opportunity to mock me and the underlying issue that I was raising and went on to claim that it was absurd to suggest that Governor Malloy, charter school proponents and their wealthy investors were part of some vast conspiracy to push Malloy’s “Education Reform” legislation.

At the time I observed that while that particular terminology was his, not mine, it was rather clear to anyone monitoring the situation that the organizations that are pushing Malloy’s anti-teacher plan and the people funding that effort were – as the saying goes – “closely related entities.”

With the Education Committee voting on Malloy’s bill tomorrow or Wednesday it seem like a good time to go back and reiterate that point.

Achievement First ConnCAN: CT Coalition for Achievement Now CT Coalition for Advocacy Now 50-CAN Students for Educational Reform Teach for America CT
Stefan Pryor* Nate Snow 
Dacia Toll*
Jonathan Sackler Jonathan Sackler Jonathan Sackler Jonathan Sackler Jonathan Sackler Jonathan Sackler**
Brian Olson Brian Olson Brian Olson**
Alex Troy Alex Troy Alex Troy
Andrew Boas Andrew Boas Matt Kramer Matt Kramer Matt Kramer
Have lobbyists working to pass Malloy’s plan Have lobbyists working to pass Malloy’s plan Lobbyists moved to ConnCAN’s budget

*please not I removed the reference to Nate Snow having worked for ConnCAN.  Although it appears he provided many “tweets” for ConnCAN he was not an employee – my apologies.

Connecticut Council for Education Reform StudentsFirst
New Education Reform Business group Michelle Rhee
Have lobbyists working to pass Malloy’s plan Have lobbyists working to pass Malloy’s plan


* Stefan Pryor and Dacia Toll led the effort to create the Amistad Academy and then created Achievement First as a vehicle for opening charter schools in Connecticut and New York.  Achievement First presently runs 20 schools but their goal is to grow to 35 schools in the coming years so that they can be larger than “95 percent” of school districts in the United States.  Stefan Pryor is now Malloy’s Commissioner of Education while Dacia Toll is now President and CEO of Achievement First

A Brief History of Connecticut’s Charter School and Education Reform Lobbying Effort.

  • Achievement First Inc. created in 2003 with Pryor, Toll and corporate executives Jonathan Sackler and Alex Troy.
  • Jonathan Sackler, Alex Troy and Brian Olson, another Fairfield County corporate executive, formed the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc. (ConnCAN) in 2004.  Jonathan Sackler served as Chairman and Alex Troy served as President of the Board.
  • Jonathan Sackler and Alex Troy then formed the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc.(ConnCAA) with Jonathan Sackler as Chairman and Alex Troy as Secretary.  The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. retained the services of Gaffney, Bennett, one of the state’s premier government relations and lobby firms, and over the next 6 years paid them over $540,000 to lobby Connecticut’s elected officials.
  • Jonathan Sacker formed 50CAN Inc. in order to develop Coalition for Achievement Now chapters in other states. Jonathan Sackler serves as a Director of 50CAN and Marc Magee, who previously served as ConnCAN’s chief operating officer for six years, is the President of 50CAN.  There are now CAN chapters in Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York and Maryland and they have announced that they will have 12 state campaigns by 2013 and at least 25 chapters by 2015.  RI-CAN, 50CAN’s Rhode Island affiliate, implemented the recent public relations and lobbying effort to get approval for Achievement First to open schools in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Today, Jonathan Sackler remains on Achievement First’s Board and 50CAN’s Board, Alex Troy serves as the Chairman of Achievement First’s Amistad Academy and the Elm City College Preparatory School, Andrew Boas, who served on Achievement First’s Board, now serves as Chairman of Achievement First – Bridgeport and also serves on ConnCAN’s Board.  Brian Olson remains chairman of ConnCAN’s Board.
  • Students for Education Reform is a new coalition put together to support “Education Reform” efforts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York and expanding to other states in the coming years.  The Chair of the group is from KIPP. The KIPP foundation runs 109 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving more than 33,000 students.
  • In addition to recruiting and training teachers for charter and urban school districts, Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter has been working behind the scenes on Malloy’s plan and in support of the state’s efforts to take over the Bridgeport and Windham school systems.
  •  Finally, calling themselves the “Connecticut Council for Education Reform” top executives from New Alliance Bank, The Hartford Insurance Company, UBS Private Wealth Office,  Yale New Haven Hospital System, Webster Bank, The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Nestle Waters North America, First Niagara Financial Group, Yale University, the Travelers Companies, Inc., the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, United Illuminating Holdings Corporation and GE Asset Management have joined together to hire staff and lobbyists to push Malloy’s “Education Reform” plan.


  • Buygoldandprosper

    OK. You are preaching to the choir. Dan’s lapdogs fired a very lame volley on his behalf and he obviously will be ignoring critics…because he can. With tough journalists like Rick Green on the job,the media in this state hanging on by a thread and not willing to rock the boat, and with some special interests at his back (reminds me of John Rowland in a way) and a legislature that has absolutely no sense of independence,the legislation will probably get passed. 
    What then?
    You have done a GREAT job covering this mess.
    Chances are you will get more grist for the blog-mill in the future.And as for this administration,expect much more of the same until The Nutmeg King is voted out or on. 

  • richwhite9

    Let’s take  a little of the conspiracy out of this John.

    We have failing schools and people are concerned. They really are. This includes businesses. 

    What’s more they don’t like the proposals coming from the teachers union, superintendents, the courts and the legislature.

    Attempts to get proof-of-concept schools out of people on all sides is like pulling teeth. The standard reply from the status quo  is “It works in Avon now bring the incomes of Hartford residents up to Avon and the problem is solved.” 

    Let’s call that a dead-in-the-water proposal to begin with.

    I prefer vouchers  indexed to 50% of the per-capita district expenditure. Charters should also receive vouchers.

    The Jumoke Academy in Hartford is an example of a successful Charter.

    There are  a number of great articles on Jumoke

    I can’t list them all here by URL  but the CT Mirror has a good article discussing ‘positivist segregation’ and neighborhood schools largely focused on Jumoke and the need for new thinking about issues such as integration.

    The Hartford Guardian has another touting their 8th grade Mastery Test Scores from 2009: Really impressive 90% stuff.

    Jumoke does extended hours, Saturdays and Summer Sessons. It’s exactly what’s needed.

    As far as providing them with an additional $2,500 per student I find that criminal. Jumoke had fantastic success getting $9,400 in stipends per student,  53% of the Hartford Schools District’s $17,525 per student.

    Successful Charter and Voucher Schools (as in Milwaukee) should be indexed at around 50% of the per-student expenditure for too many reasons to discuss here including population skimming or special education commitments and the ability to expel behavior problems.

    Increased  contact hours, remediation, Just-in-time intervention, banning social promotion, and picking up the additional costs by using vouchers to integrate charters, private, parochial and home schooling into one framework?

    I fail to see the rational objections except union job protection.  


  • Striking

    Outrageous. Kill this bill.

  • Follow the Money

    Preach it, brother!

    Here’s the real truth behind all the nonsense in the media, but who’s listening out there? The special interests are doing a spectacular job savaging all teachers in the state, creating a great distraction from the real issue, which is laid out in lavender, above. Thanks, Jon – keep it coming!

  • Money Follows The Politician

    Please add another column that shows any state BOE members with ties to ConnCAN.

    Thank you for all of your hard work. CT Post finally picked up on Article 18, and it is absoutely connected to your solid reporting that everyone else won’t do.

    • guest

      Yes–thank you for the work you’re doing to uncover these despicable goings-on. Re reporting that “everyone else won’t do”–it’s unfair to assume that simple laziness is at work here. As most of the mainstream media outlets are now under the control of the very people perpetrating the most despicable acts–and their cronies–it is quite possible that, even if a journalist WANTED to report on this stuff, he or she would not be permitted.  

      • jonpelto

        Sad but true!…. so we’ll plug along doing the best we can to turn over the stones and shine the light on these creatures as the scurry for cover.

    • jonpelto

      Thanks… I will definitely add some of the “interesting” connections between the board members and these external players as well as the connections these people have into the Governor’s Office. Off to read the CT Post – hopefully others will start reporting on some of these incredible sections – beyond the obvious ones associated with tenure, certification and evaluation,.

    • Marie12
      • jonpelto

        I’ve been meaning to post this – thanks so much – people please read this – very informative. I’ll add it to a blog as well.

      • guest

        Excellent.  We really need to get this information out to the public.

  • JM

    The Rick Green article is bogus.  I have received at least a dozen emails this last month asking me to contact people – preferably phone contact.  That email was meant for someone on the inside of CEA…not as a ‘gag order’ for teachers.  Then he writes that it apparently went to the wrong people.

    How can he get away with a title like that – and the article???

  • Buygoldandprosper

    Rick Green is obviously “taking some green” for his ridiculous comments.
    Bar tab too high? Getting ready for severance with a little cash-back writing?
    Back to pumping gas,Rick. You have failed as a journalist. 

  • Janezito58

    Keep following the money!!!

  • guest

    What the hell? Rick Green’s earlier two posts, and the associated comments, have totally disappeared. He has now consolidated them into a single, equally ridiculous post.

    • Marie12

      Yes he now says: “Over the weekend, before I received a copy of the CEA memo, I heard reports about teachers strong-armed for trying to talk with legislators on their own. Sunday’s memo reveals a union feeling increasingly cornered as pressure grows to come up with a compromise.”

      He “heard” this over the weekend. Oooooh!

  • am

    Here’s my issue:  We have plenty of well functioning, successful schools and we are going to put them under state control and make them worse if this bill passes.  

    I keep hearing “Let’s follow the New Haven model” No thanks, let’s follow the Westport model.  I might not pay the property taxes they do , but I can at least strive for what they have and come up with excellence in the process.  But from the businessmen and politicians point of view, it’s so much easier to make the good schools worse than it is to improve the struggling schools.

    The fact that ConnCan actually said that Greenwich wasn’t doing a good job says so much about them.

  • Follow the Money

    It’s all ridiculous! There was an editorial in the Courant this morning. I responded to it, along with 10 million others, and suddenly it disappeared. Could it have been the suggestion that their “editorial” was just another example of yellow journalism?

    Follow the money indeed!

  • guest

    There is so much to comment on here.  But I can’t get over the part about, let’s just forget about integration; we need “new thinking about issues such as integration”–actually, it sounds like pretty old thinking.

  • FreeWilli

    There are several rational objections to your framework, beginning with your portrait of Jumoke as a model school.  The comparative per pupil expenditure between Jumoke and HPS needs to be adjusted for at least two factors: HPS pays for transportation for Jumoke students (a net loss for HPS and gain for Jumoke), while over $4,000 of HPS ppe goes to building and debt services relative to Jumoke’s $244. 

    This evens out ppe on educational services considerably, though it doesn’t factor in student needs, which is the crux of the charter school issue.  The differences between charters and traditional public schools that you gloss over in explaining your 50% index constitute a set of variables that requires substantially more resources to attend to.  Students in traditional urban public schools tend to live in more intense poverty than those in charters (as measured by the % of students receiving free lunch- the commonly cited, and somewhat misleading, indicator of poverty is the undifferentiated free/ reduced %).  Charter students have applied to their schools because they have strong adult advocates, an indicator of academic success.  And the right to return behaviorally problematic students to sending districts eliminates for charter schools a huge expenditure of human resources that is displaced onto the receiving school. Increasingly subsidizing charters will certainly intensify the segregation of students who’ve grown up in distressed environments and thus need more support in pursuing academic success.  This is already happening in districts where charters are gaining hold.  Until we as a society determine that we are ready to spend what it takes to educate our most disadvantaged students, those who will not and are not meant to benefit from the existence of the two-tiered structure imposed by the official model of school reform, there is no rational plan on the table. There is only shameful compromise.

    Furthermore, that compromise is driven the greedy self- interest of the key players in the business class. This is clear from the precise ways in which that class would constitute the true beneficiaries of SB 24.  The largest unionized workforces in the nation are disciplined, sending the message that any hope for agency on the behalf of employees is universally weakened.  Their is further contraction of the public domain, one of the only spaces left where values other than greed, ruthless efficiency and profit hold sway.  Public schools will be compelled to form “cooperative relationships” with private sector interests- further eroding their capacity to engage with ideas that aren’t amenable to the business agenda.  And an investment market is wrenched wide open, and a vast array of services now performed by public servants are privatized. 

    It is popular to condemn teachers’ objections to SB 24 as a function of union-driven self-interest.  If SB 24 goes down, I get to keep my underpaid, overly stressful job, a job I stay in only because I believe I can help the students of my district.  If I left to go to a suburban district I could immediately make $15,000 more a year and stop going to therapy- and I could leave, for I’ve received nothing less than an exemplary evaluation in my years of teaching and have been asked to apply elsewhere.  There’s my rational self-interest.  Compare that with the gains at stake for the strongest proponents of this bill.  For them, it is about the money, not the success of poor kids.  There is no other explanation for the substantial investment of Connecticut’s financial class in this agenda- largely on the part of Malloy’s Fairfield county FIRE pals.  

    • guest

      Thank you for pointing out the cost-per-pupil calculation inequalities at work here. Even in suburban districts, the PPE comparisons can be misleading. Some districts include CIP projects–such as a roof replacement project or a parking lot repaving–within their overall town expenditures, others within their school budgets. Costs such as snow clearing, same thing. So a superintendent who holds up his or her low relative PPE as an excuse for increased expenditures may be misleading residents. Until/unless such inequalities are accounted for, PPE figures are meaningless.

      “Compare that with the gains at stake for the strongest proponents of this bill. For them, it is about the money, not the success of poor kids. There is no other explanation for the substantial investment of Connecticut’s financial class in this agenda- largely on the part of Malloy’s Fairfield county FIRE pals.”

      100% agree. Couldn’t have said it better.

    • jonpelto

      Excellent assessment of the real problem and how many of those who support “education reform” overlook the reality of the situation.
      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

  • guest

    Someone in the Courant comments finally pointed out the reason for the confusion. The first two articles were on Rick’s blog. The third was his actual column with the newspaper. The confusion of course stemming mainly from the fact that the paper replaced the first headline in their “teaser column” with a link to the third article. So the first two pieces are still there, along with their associated comments–you just have to search for them now because the link on The Courant’s front page takes you to the column, not the blog. Confusing and the Courant should change it, in my opinion.