Oh, it’s good to be Michelle Rhee;

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Imagine.  Knowing you are always right…

And regardless of whether you are right or wrong, having the resources to influence public policy at any time and in any place around the nation.

GNEPSA – the group formerly known as StudentsFirst (well, the group StudentsFirst created to be their more politically acceptable front in Connecticut), dropped another $283,889 on behalf of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill in the last month of the legislative session.  That brings her reported total Connecticut lobbying expenditures over the past three months to just about $640,000 and counting.

Michelle Rhee, the woman Malloy refused to stand with at an “education” rally was, none the less, kind enough to pay for a half a million dollars in radio and television advertising proclaiming Malloy and his plan the savior when it came to putting Connecticut’s public education system on track.  Trashing teachers and their unions throughout the ad, Rhee’s operatives were kind enough to mention Malloy’s name no less than 8 times during the 30 and 60 second spots.

And on May 9th, as Governor Malloy crowed about his “victory” over the forces dedicated to the “status quo,” the most anti-teacher, anti-union force in the “Education Reform” industry packed up and headed on to the next battle ground.

Readers will recall the arrival of StudentsFirst and GNEPSA earlier this Session.

Initially StudentsFirst set up an office in Hartford and hired DePino Associates to lobby for them at the CapitolMichelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, came to Hartford on March 14th to speak at a Capitol rally, lobby officials and conduct media interviews.

But what stuck out was how the paperwork they filed with the Office of State Ethics didn’t reflect reality.  Actually, now it turns out that in February, StudentsFirst DID register but almost immediately withdrew their registration and, instead, a group called GNEPSA registered but listed StudentsFirst employees as their organization’s representatives.

By February 17, 2012, Angelia Dickens (StudentsFirst’s General Counsel) filed that second set of paperwork.  One of StudentsFirst’s Vice Presidents was listed as a “Principal Officer or Director” of GNEPSA and StudentsFirst’s Chief Operating Officer was listed as the person responsible for overseeing the group’s lobbying activities in the state.

Nearly 60 days later, on April 11th, Jeri Powell, another attorney with StudentsFirst filed amended paperwork, again under the name of GNEPSA, for 7 employees of StudentsFirst to lobby in Connecticut (including Michelle Rhee who had already been lobbying in the state a month earlier). The report also back-dated the names of seven StudentsFirst employees who were now listed as having been lobbying since about February 22, 2012.

On top of all that (two days earlier, on April 9th), Angelia Dickens, the StudentsFirst General Counsel who filed the original paperwork in February, filed GNEPSA’s mandatory quarterly lobbying report showing that GNEPSA had spent $1,684.45 in February and another $4,469.48 in March to lobby the Legislature, along with $326,120 for television ads, $18,225 for fundraising activities and $8,362.22 on other expenses.

Oh, and last but not least, on April 9th, the same day GNEPSA filed its quarterly report, StudentsFirst also purchased GNEPSA.org through GODaddy.com.  The required paperwork revealing that the Director of Technology at StudentsFirst was the individual purchasing the website name.

Why go through these gyrations?

Because someone, probably based here, was smart enough to appreciate that in a Democratic state like Connecticut it was far better to end the radio and television ads with the words paid for by GNEPSA rather than paid for by StudentsFirst, an organizations that has received its funding from some of the biggest anti-Democratic corporate leaders including Rubert Murdoch.

It was at that point that Brian Lockhart, the reporter for the Stamford Advocate and Hearst newspapers, started digging into the story and finally managed to get a response about all these developments from StudentsFirst.

The StudentsFirst spokesperson wrote;

“You got us. When we listed the CEO of StudentsFirst on GNEPSA’s public disclosure forms, designed GNEPSA’s logo to be derivative of the StudentsFirst logo and had the GNEPSA website take you to the StudentsFirst website* where you saw a StudentsFirst TV ad, we were sure no one would know GNEPSA and StudentsFirst were connected. All joking aside, it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names when carrying out different functions. Our 13,000-plus Connecticut members have been working in the state for over a year organizing at the grass-roots. And with this important legislation being debated now we are looking at a number of different vehicles to carry their voice to the legislature. You’ll be hearing more about GNEPSA and our other StudentsFirst effort in the coming days.”

I guess you have to give them credit for their honesty.  Their decision to break Connecticut’s ethics laws was because “it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names in carrying out different functions.”

I’m actually not sure if it is or isn’t common, but in Connecticut it is illegal.

And as pointed out in an earlier post, the StudentsFirst spokesman also admitted that they have been engaged in lobbying here in Connecticut for over a year, despite the fact that they only registered to lobby in February (if what they did even counts as registering.)

Now, one would assume the Office of State Ethics is presently engaged in an investigation into what appear multiple violations of Connecticut law by StudentsFirst, GNEPSA and Michelle Rhee.

If such an investigation is taking place, it will be interesting to see how and when it is resolved. Those of you who keep a close eye on Connecticut state government will remember that as a result of Governor Malloy’s state re-organization plan last year, the Office of State Ethics, which was originally created to be an independent watchdog agency, has now been folded into the new Office of Governmental Accountability where it reports to a Chief Operating Officer appointed by Malloy.

That said it’s not like Michelle Rhee doesn’t have the money to pay a few bucks for violating Connecticut Ethics Laws.  At worst, the penalties are only $10,000 per violation, pocket change for the likes of Rhee and her accomplices.

  • jonpelto

    PS, that doesn’t count the $462,000 that Patrick Riccards and ConnCAN spent  nor the nearly $100,000 spent by the Connecticut Council for Education Reform or what Achievement First and Students for Education Reform put down… nor even what CBIA, CABE or the superintendents dropped on this effort.  Suffice to say, the corporate world spent well over $1,000,000 on the great “education reform” debate of 2012.

    • guest

      And what’s Teach for America’s lobbying nom de plume?

      • jonpelto

        Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter is apparently claiming that they don’t need to register because they don’t engage in lobbying. My guess is that the Office of Ethics will be investigating that as well…..

        • guest

          The same office that ruled Stefan Pryor to be “conflict-free”?  I am not very hopeful.

      • Magister

        Here’s a question:

        An uncertified applicant can be hired for a teaching job under a Durational Shortage Area Permit, but only if there are no other certified applicants for the position. Does this apply to TFAers too, or do they get a pass when competing against certified applicants for a job?

        • guest

          Great point.  We will be investigating this!
          There are apparently plenty of loopholes for TFA to crawl through, but they certainly don’t want anyone watching while they do so.  It’s up to us to get the word out.
          Arguing the “durational shortage area permit” (the fact that most of the time, TFA is not filling in a shortage area) has actually been successful in some locales–stay tuned.  Additional suggestions are welcome–
          especially from specialists in labor law.

          • Magister

            All I could find in a quick google search was that TFAers are hired under a DSAP, but there was no mention of special dispensations granted to them even if certified applicants were available. What does a school do if it has contracted to hire a certain number of TFAers, but also has certified applicants for those positions? I hate the thought of professional teachers losing out to uncertified temp workers.

          • guest

            Exactly.  TFA initially only got placements in districts where there truly were labor shortages, due to economic devastation and/or racial segregation (not that such a temporary solution could ever truly help with such huge problems).
            However, extensive lobbying, fundraising, and hedgefund infusions have helped TFA to extend its lucrative reach–even to the White House, thus resulting in favorable legislation. 
            Was your google search specifically about Connecticut?
            I believe that Steven Adamowski, while Superintendent of Hartford, somehow replaced certified teachers–I will have to check whether it was through layoffs, forced retirements, or by some other nefarious means.  Connecticut is not a state with a shortage of certified teachers, most of whom are eminently qualified.

          • Magister

            My google search, although not all that thorough, specifically mentioned New Haven. All it said was that TFA people are issued DSAPs.

            I am curious about what Adamowski has in mind, since I have read that he has frequently referenced the importance of attracting and retaining exceptional staff, and is also pushing hard for bringing in TFA. The two approaches seem mutually exclusive.

          • guest

            Yes, don’t look for consistency from him.
            In this piece from 2009, it says (at bottom) that Hartford was facing 99 teacher layoffs; then Adamowski sequed into TFA.  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june09/stimulus_06-26.html
            I believe he did some big layoffs in Cincinnati–and NO lasting improvement (merely the same kind of number spinning for a year or two that he did in Hartford, as covered in this blog).

          • jonpelto

            Good question and points

          • Sue

             My school hired an uncertified special ed teacher, only to certify her later – without have the necessary coursework.
            Of course they paid her a sub’s salary.

          • guest

            Is she fully certified through ARC (which is valid–it’s the certification procedure even TFAers use–if they complete it, which is another issue–they get the provisional certificate, do some credit work toward certification while working at a school, but for most who leave after two years, they never go any farther).

        • guest

          This may have been linked by Linda174 at some point, but it is a great piece and the comments are illuminating,
          http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/03/19/why-some-people-like-tfa-somewhat-less-than-others-do/

          • Linda174

            Just read it….Wendy Kopp…quite full of herself, isn’t she? These TFAers have no shortage of overwhelming confidence and delusions of grandeur. I wonder where their kids go to school.

  • Guest

    The Courant is Rupert Murdoch, isn’t it?  It’s Fox News.  That would definitely explain their warped reporting.

  • Linda174

    She is a fraud and nothing more. She is the Bernie Madoff of
    School reform. She will continue to spend millions as she slithers
    From state to state. (sorry for typos). From rheefirst.com:

    http://www.rheefirst.com/students-first-tries-fails-to-be-a-real-grassroots-organization

    Students First Tries, Fails to be a Real Grassroots Organization
    Written by Parker for FiredUpMissouri.  Read the entire post here.
    “On Wednesday, Students First held a luncheon for their grassroots activists in Kansas City…

    The funny part? No one showed up.  Not one grassroots activist came.  Event organizers were forced to cancel the luncheon. …

    But here’s the real question: are you really grassroots if no one shows up? Can you call yourself a grassroots organization if you spend millions upon millions of Rupert Murdoch and Koch Brothers’ money to advance legislation that attacks working families and even your astroturf activists don’t show up?

    Here’s the thing, this isn’t the first time Rhee and her Students Rhee First campaign has had such an epic “grassroots” failure. Back in Connecticut, her campaign tried to hold a huge rally for education reformers and… you guessed it, no one showed up.”

    • guest

      Thanks, LInda174.  From your link, I went to this blog, that discusses how a charter school bill was defeated in Alabama (go Alabama!)–they are still unsure of where Rhee’s lobbying funds came from, so maybe we should clue them in about GNEPSA!
      http://blog.al.com/school-journal/2012/05/charter_bill_dies.html
      Note how similar this Republican-led initiative was to Malloy’s!  And how they argued, intelligently, against 2 different school systems when the state is not running one very well.  We could say that in urban Connecticut–why have the charters and public schools, rather than well-funded (ECS, anyone?) public schools (Stan Simpson should read this).

      • jonpelto

        Excellent Point

    • Follow the Money

       Can you be “grass roots” if you have no roots to begin with in the place you seek to stir up? Just saying…

      • Linda174

        It is also difficult to plant roots to a particular location or issue when the only thing she is dedicated to is herself.

        Combine extreme narcissism and delusions of grandeur with the ability to lie, cheat and spin and you have the need for Rheehabilitation.

        It seems many of the TFA drop outs or alums, depending on how you look at it, are quite impressed with themselves. Is it an Ivy League thing, not sure?

  • Buygoldandprosper

    Like BigPharma chasing health care, you have private equity chasing the “knowledge industry” because so much money is at stake. Easy money with benefits for life and very little paper trail to follow.
    Dan has opted to pander to that sector, no doubt looking forward to a DanSuperPac for his next election.Can you say quid pro quo?
    As for enforcing the laws…unless you get the Feds to do it,forgetabout it. GeorgeJepsen? Ha! He and Dan go waaay back and he is part of the Malloy Krewe,big time.Laissez les bons temps rouler !!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4IUD4D2BEZMBUKPABNJJAY5CZU Thomas B

    Jon–you are the best investigative reporter I have ever seen–thanks for what you do–but we need a normal guy like you running our state–are the bridges burned??? as you stood for what is right—–the Dems will certainly need another candidate next time–are you up to it–will the political machine allow you–you are impressive in all you write and all you do—keep on keeping on–

    Anyway–where is Michele Rhee who stated many times that CT was her target for if she got the bluest of blue states to fold–it was over–but she disappeared like the coward she is—because she knows she stands for nothing and has accomplished nothing and that she may be outed for the fraud she is——–

    Goodbye Michele–but people like you wont go away until you go to prison—so be careful–keep making your unearned money and lighten up before you are caught—-Time Magazine–Oprah–are you kidding??? WHat have you ever achieved lady–except enriching yourself–you will pay in this world for your misdeeds or possibly in the next–and I know you are smart enough to understand your charade cant go on forever—

    Well our Government said get lost loser–and I am proud of them for doing so–except for one–Mr. Malloy (who didnt stand with you–but stands for all your Blarney)–Dannel would know what that means——-Dannel, you have disappointed myself and all the teachers in CT—I voted for you and I am ashamed–your uninformed childish rhetoric concerning education is a major concern—to all citizens of CT–except those with power—–

    The gall of the group of HIGHER UP educators(Cabe, Cass, CCER…) that aligned with the biggest joke of an organization(ConnCon) must never be trusted–until they are removed–I have never seen more self-serving uninformed individuals in my life–Well thank you legislators for readin, understanding and standing up for what is right for our children and our communities as a whole—Tom

    • Follow the Money

       And this is why people can’t step back from this and go on with business as usual. These vipers will return. The question is, will people remember? Will they still care?

      • Linda174

        People who vaue education will and if the charter schools are forced to recruit, retain ALL students (ELL, SPED, non English speaking homes) their success will be limited. Their methods are tied to rigid rules, complete submission and test prep, test prep, test prep..who would want that for their child? Read the NY Times tomorrow.

  • jschmidt2

    “StudentsFirst, an organizations that has received its funding from some
    of the biggest anti-Democratic corporate leaders including Rubert
    Murdoch. ” So why is Malloy, a Democrat, backing them? It can’t be in his best interests or is there a ‘hot tub’ coming in his future?
    A have no problem an organization taking shots a the union since that special interest is only interested in themselves and the teachers. But saying that teachers with no group backing them up are probably at the mercy of the budget cutters.

    • CTVeteran

      Because money is green, not red or blue.

  • guest

    Another good summary regarding Teach For America (gala coming soon to an entertainment venue near you!):  http://www.geekpalaver.com/2011/11/15/good-vs-poor-studies-of-teach-for-america/

  • Linda174

    Please read if you have time. Get the NY Times tomorrow or check online.

    One more link and excerpt coming next.

    Separate and Unequal

    This Sunday’s New York Times features a hard hitting piece entitled ‘Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?’ as part of the series “A System Divided.” It delves into the racial schisms of Explore Charter School, a K-8 school in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Of the school’s 502 students from kindergarten through eighth grade this school year, 92.7 percent are black, 5.7 percent are Hispanic, and a scattering are of mixed race. None are white or Asian.  

    As more charter schools take over “failed” public schools, the resegregation of New York’s public school system has transpired. As a country, we are still attempting to justify the concept of separate but equal schools — the idea overturned by Brown v. Board of Education more than half a century ago. The 2010 campaign by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration to expand charter schools was dubbed “the fight of our life” in a recently released email by the city.  

    The current obsession with creating even more charter schools has done very little to improve the outcomes of poor black and Latino students. The evidence suggests that charter schools are not a systemic silver bullet to America’s education crisis. In fact, they make the crisis worse, not only exacerbating inherent inequalities, but also distracting the public’s attention from our society’s ills.  

    http://goyalnikhil.tumblr.com/post/22931635402/separate-and-unequal

  • guest

    This is truly national in scope: http://www.plunderbund.com/2011/03/21/how-hb21-lowers-the-standards-for-becoming-a-teacher-in-ohio/
     

  • jonpelto

    Yup

    Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

  • Mbracksieck

    Quick question.  How do we keep the pressure on to investigate Pryor’s shady dealings?  Is there a body within the legislature with that responsibility?  Is there a non-partisan office?  

    • jonpelto

      Excellent Question – I’ll do a post on the issue but it pretty limited. The “main stream media” is really the only vehicle. The Ethics Commission would only get involved if there was “new” evidence of a financial connection between him and the entities he is giving contracts out too