5/4/12 Education Update #1: “No Comment”

47 Comments

The Associated Press has published a story about the developing situation in which the Malloy Administration has repeatedly used “No-Bid Contracts” to select particular vendors to help them develop their “education reform” package. (Link below)

In response to the AP’s questions, the Connecticut Department of Education released a statement yesterday claiming that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor “has operated pursuant to preexisting practices and procedure.”

Much is still a mystery but what we do know, so far, is that there are at least three no-bid contracts (four if you count the one with “Special Master” Steven Adamowski) that the Malloy Administration has run through the State Education Resource Center (SERC).  These contracts total more than $600,000.

In addition, there is another consultant, William Cox, the President and owner of DSA Capital, who was paid by someone – we don’t know whom – to help Commissioner Pryor select and retain the various out-of-state consultants.

Last week, when the Connecticut Post’s Ken Dixon asked William Cox about these issues, Cox told him “I literally have no comment.”

Jonathan Gyurko, a principal at Leeds Equity, the firm being paid $195,000 through SERC, also declined to comment when Dixon asked about the situation.  Gyurko had previously served as the Director of Charter Schools for the City of New York.  Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that Stefan Pryor helped create and lead as one of its Directors for eight years until he resigned to become Malloy’s education commissioner, runs ten schools in New York City and ten schools in Connecticut.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that emails between the various players indicates that the contract with Leeds Equity was originally written to run through an organization called the Council of Chief State School Officers.  It now appears that some other organization or individual may have transferred $195,000 to CCCSSO to pay for that contract, but a decision was made, at the last moment, to switch strategies and run the Leeds Equity contract through SERC instead.

Last year at this time, William Cox, of DSA Capital, was playing a similar role for Governor Chris Christie’s Education Commissioner as they were ramping up their “education reform” package.

According to the Star Ledger Newspaper; “A private consultant is being paid $60,000 by a California philanthropic foundation to help reorganize the New Jersey Department of Education, acting education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said during today’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing…Cerf said he was working with someone on a part-time basis, describing the man as a “friend” who is “very well respected” in education reform circles across the country.”

Upon further investigation the newspaper learned that the Broad Foundation, a $2 billion “Education Reform” group, was paying DSA Capital to create “a high-level plan” for the [New Jersey] Department of Education.”

The Star-Ledger also reported that DSA Capital was a sub-contractor for a company called Wireless Generation, who had a $500,000 New Jersey state contract to review and help them prepare for what later became their failed “Race to the Top” application.  Rupert Murdoch and New York City’s controversial former education chancellor Joel Kline are apparently the driving entities behind Wireless Generation.

The AP story can be found here; http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2012/05/03/ap_interview_privatization_an_issue_for_ed_bill/ and Ken Dixon’s earlier story here; http://ccag.net/content/ct-post-emails-show-consulting-project-shopped-around.

Check back later for the 5/4/2012 Education Update #2

  • George P

    Great, the Broad Foundation is involved too, but this is no surprise.  They have been a big funder of these attacks on public schools around the country (as have the Walton Foundation – a major funder of ConnCAN).

    • jonpelto

      Just working on the piece now – making the hair on the back of my neck crawl…. Broad Foundation —- calling themselves “venture philanthropy”   

      • savage

        Venture philanthropy–how disgusting a term is that?!

        • sharewhut

          Venture philanthropy investing in Social Enterprise Businesses… 

      • guest

        Oh, I can’t wait!  Or maybe I can!  I swear I can hear the theme song from Psycho in the background.

      • Ongoingly

         “vulture” philanthropy is more like it.

    • savage

      Don’t forget Bill Gates. The Broads, the Waltons, the Gates’–those are the big three deep pockets involved in all of this. See this article:

      http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/a-guide-to-the-broad-foundations-training-programs-and-policies/

      • Ongoingly

        that article scared the bejeezies out of me. especially the part about “churn”. 

        • savage

          I know. It’s truly terrifying. But these people–Broad, the Waltons, Gates–amassed their fortunes through ruthless, unethical business practices. I think we’re all more familiar with WalMart’s shady practices. I know nothing about Broad. But there is plenty out there about Gates, and his ruthless manipulation of the market. Although through his manipulation of the media in the U.S., he has succeeded in quieting and subverting a lot of the negative chatter about his methods. He has been treated much more harshly in Britain than he has here. But because these families amassed their huge fortunes through ruthless manipulation and questionable morality, it should come as no surprise that they would then turn to using their money in the same way. There is something about manipulating other people that drives them, thrills them, brings them joy. I don’t know whether somehow they’ve convinced themselves that they are really “doing good” for society or whether they have nefarious motives. But it probably doesn’t matter. There is plenty of evidence that they are doing damage through many of their “venture philanthropy” initiatives, and something needs to be done to reign them in. It’s not just education. Look at Gates and his investment in Monsanto. There is clear evidence that Monsanto is doing harm to the very people that Gates purports to want to help. Is he stupid? Indifferent? Too egotistical to admit that he is wrong? Or are things going exactly as planned? I don’t think any of us knows for certain. The only thing we can know for certain is that harm is being done in the name of philanthropy.

  • sharewhut

    ” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor “has operated pursuant to preexisting practices and procedure.”
    Presumably none of these practices led to jail terms…

    • jonpelto

      We need to have a wait, what? stand up comedy show!

      • sharewhut

         That would require face time, leading to DRS audits, DMV checks, credit ratings suddenly dropping to 200…

  • Buygoldandprosper

    Let the sun shine and watch the not-for-profit (except for those in charge) folks slink away mumbling “no comment”.
    I keep thinking about why folks like The Kipp Foundation suddenly care about the common good. With people like Charles Hurwitz on board can ANYONE with any gray matter at all think that it is for the collective good of society?!
    Google old Charles and see what he did with Maxxam back in the day. Has he seen the light? No comment.

    • jonpelto

      Or for those of us in the right age range – we could go with “blinded by the light”

      • sharewhut

         And remember- it’s “Revved up like a Deuce, another runner in the night”

        • sharewhut

           Regardless of what Manfred Mann sings- I stick with “The Boss”!

      • Buygoldandprosper

        Hopefully Dan will join Manfred Mann in obscurity…a couple of hits on an unforgettable album:
        1) Retroactive tax increase
        2) Shared Sacrifice
        3)FirstFiveJive
        4)Education Reform,Land Swaps,Davos
        5)Balanced budget,three-card.Monty style.

  • sharewhut

    The blog date doesn’t really matter… content will still apply.

  • Buygoldandprosper

    Look out Jon. Dan thinks you are skating on thin ice and Daddy taught his boys how to stand up for themselves.

  • sharewhut

     Sorry for repeating myself, but this one keeps nagging at me, especially as I see the list of Non Profits grow…

    While not entirely related to SERC (but I have a sneaking suspicion
    that the underlying premise is to protect them, AF, etc.) this drew my
    attention the other day.At the hearing I caught (Senate Gen. Law
    ???) one of committee members was trying to find out why Directors,
    officers, etc needed protections. And why we even needed a designation
    of  “Social Enterprise Business” when they could do any of the involved
    actions without.And no state benefit (for now) involved.
    Answer was that investors like the term.
    But that little voice…. especially regarding indemnity for big wigs….Nah, I should stop listening to these voices…sHB-5466

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/BA/

  • guest

    “No comment”–but we can always distract everyone with a parade of virtuous “non-profits” and people of color and superintendents of urban districts begging for Malloy’s rheeform pryorities to be front and center.
    Just look at the newspaper of record today.  Lots of support for Christie’s, I mean Malloy’s, eduction bill.
    The standardized test regime meet the standardized reform regime!  That makes it easy to shuffle the players around.

  • Matthew Valenti

    Here is my OP ED Piece in the Register Citizen this morning:  http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2012/05/04/opinion/doc4fa32ec0b4a75214440909.txt 

    • Buygoldandprosper

      Nice work Matthew!

    • savage

      I like it–I especially like the fact that you brought up the state police raises. How freaking ridiculous was that? And Donovan and others just abdicating their responsibility–disgusting!

      • Magister

        Matthew,

        Nice recap of the problem for readers, now that it is starting to garner a bit more attention.

    • guest

      Thanks for a great column.

    • Jklaus

      So mr. Valenti, if teachers can be exchanged from school to school without any improvement in outcomes, and if socio economics determines how students do, then why do we pay teachers what we do? In fact, why not replace them with unskilled volunteers? We could save the state 3 billion a year! In fact, the academic outcomes could hardly get any worse than they have been for decades. I think you’re on to something…

  • Pingback: 5/4/12 Education Update #1: “No Comment” | Grumpy Opinions()

  • savage

    It’s easy to vilify the Walton family, Rupert Murdoch, the Broad family. But when you mention Bill Gates, the reaction is always “Oh, Bill Gates gives away so much of his money–he’s just a saint,” or something along those lines. But do some reading regarding his involvement in worldwide vaccinations and the resultant deaths/sterility problems in developing countries. Take a look at his involvement in Monsanto,the genetically altered crops giant. In fact, I’ll post an interesting article below–one of hundreds. There are equally as many suggesting that Gates’ involvement in “education reform” is doing more harm than good. Can such a “smart” guy really be making innocent mistakes about so many important issues?

    http://www.nationofchange.org/sorry-gates-gmo-crops-proven-be-ineffective-fighting-world-hunger-1330705495

  • savage

    Didja see the huge hoopla all over the news re the Hillhouse student who just received a Gates scholarship? Unwed mother, black senior. Think it’s just a coincidence that this kid should be awarded this scholarship right now, when the “reformers” are losing their battle in CT? That the media should make such a huge deal about it? I saw a feature on either Channel 3 or Channel 8 about the girl. Here’s a piece from the Courant:

    http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-hillhouse-student-gates-20120503,0,2459484.story

    Wow, a minority student overcoming adversity–a single mom no less!–being helped by Bill Gates–the saint.

    • guest

      Isn’t Hillhouse a traditional public school (i.e., not a charter)?  I am happy for this young woman.  Although other schools don’t offer on-campus housing for parents and children, many single parents attend community colleges and state universities, usually living in apartments or with family.  It might behoove state universities to look into family housing options for undergraduates.  Of course, housing is one thing, childcare is another (which is why many single mothers cannot be full time students).
      So we are back to some kind of publicly funded daycare and preschool.
      I am not THAT old, but apparently during a euphoric student activist moment at the University of Connecticut in the 1970s, students took over an ROTC facility and demanded that it be converted to a daycare.

      • savage

        Yeah, Hillhouse is public. And I’m happy for her too–don’t get me wrong. She sounds like a very deserving kid with a tremendous future. And someone who has overcome some tough odds. I wish her all the best. But I just can’t help feeling that it’s really a tremendous coindicence that her Gates-funded scholarship is getting so much airtime (and page space) right when the “reform movement”, for which Gates is one of the Big Three backers (along with the Waltons and the Broads), is facing so much opposition in the state. While I’m glad this girl is benefitting, all of the publicity just feels wrong.

        • guest

          Agreed regarding Gates.  I am much more impressed by most New Haven and Connecticut public school students, and teachers, than I am with Gates, Walton, Murdoch, etc.  I wish for an update of More’s Utopia, where silver and gold were only used for chamber pots and prisoner’s shackles–we could use greenbacks for toilet tissue.

        • sharewhut

           Yes it’s public, also a magnet rather than ‘traditional’ high school.
          Pointing out the differences in ‘Community Partnerships’, if some of these outside resources were spread to/shared with the ‘traditional schools’… it’s easy for the colleges & universities to go into a situation where success is preordained (magnet) and say “we made a difference” than go into a tougher school and have less glamorous, but perhaps more meaningful results.
          Like being the backup QB running the scout team for the Giants- you’re a participant, helping the team, but they’d probably win without you, compared to being starter for the Browns and having them win a few more games because of you.
          The Browns’ QB won’t be able to wave around a ring, but the contribution he made to the team is greater…

    • sharewhut

      (I believe) Hillhouse is a Magnet School still operated by the city. At least their impressive list of educational partners, including the Gate’s Foundation doesn’t include AF.
      But the lists of partners at the Magnets! Business, theater, Universities and on and on. While the strictly public ones are limited to one or two.Wilbur Cross has one. Also noted it’s the only high school with bilingual info (not needing to link to a ‘para espanol’ on website.
      How ’bout some of these universities direct some of that talent to the non-magnets? Where they could possibly have more impact? For gosh sake’s Wesleyan sends students into CCI-Cheshire to give writing classes to inmates! (Used as an example, didn’t look into what Wesleyan does in Middletown Schools, which I’m sure is a lot). Leave the prisons to the Wally Lambs and put these students out where they’ll do a greater good.

  • Buygoldandprosper

    A “deal” or a special session…what’s the rush? Pressure from big money interests?

    • sharewhut

      Neither deal nor session- ‘Executive Order’
      Look at House & Senate scrambling to get back control of PCA unionization order.
      Senate Repubs are more than a little miffed at Danny’s overstepping his ground, and Dems are trying to come up with an expanded version!

  • sharewhut

     Don’t forget the express drug bus

  • Mariposa464

    You have no idea  how many teachers are grateful for your reporting. Please know you have a larger audience than you know.

    • Linda174

      Yes, Jon….I forward to many and encourage all to sign up for your
      Email posts. Thank you for all your research and commitment to
      Our kids. Sorry for typos. On iPhone.

  • Jenn

    I just want to say thank you….thank you for researching and reporting what this is all really about.  Keep up the great work!

  • DT

    Thank you for being our voice.

  • DT

    http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/150109845.html#

    Minnesota’s Governor veto’s education bill in support for teacher’s. Can we trade Governors?

  • Linda174

    Isn’t that actually what you are trying to do, Mr. Klaus-Toll? Deprofessionalize teaching? Turn it over to a cheap revolving workforce managed by those who once dabbled in teaching and thought they were too good for that (and with high salaries of course). I need my daily dose of JeffK to hear how it is all about the children, which is why you are a banker.

    Keep trying, but we aren’t buying. You and Riccards…good comedy team.

  • savage

    I’m not following your logic Mr. Toll, er…Mr. Klaus. Please elaborate.

  • Follow the Money

     So, Just Kidding Laus, did you read the rest of the article before picking out this example? And yes, isn’t that what you and your minions are trying so desperately to do here in Connecticut? It’s all about the kids, though, isn’t it?