Another faux pro-public education group targets Connecticut

It started with Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Then came the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), the Connecticut Coalition for Advocacy Now, (ConnAD), Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (calling itself the Great New England Public School Alliance, GNEPSA) and Students for Education Reform (SFER, an off-shoot of 50-CAN, which, in turn, grew out of ConnCAN)

When Governor Malloy proposed his “education reform” legislation earlier this year, these groups, funded by millionaire and billionaire hedge fund owners, along with the Gates, Walton and Broad Foundations, engaged in the most costly lobbying, advertising and public relations effort in Connecticut history.

Since then, many of the same organizations funded Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s record spending effort to eliminate Bridgeport’s elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

Now, with the next session of the Connecticut General Assembly only a few weeks away, comes that news that a group called “Educators 4 Excellence” is opening operations here, as the corporate reformers seek to continue their efforts to privatize and undermine Connecticut’s public education system.

Educators 4 Excellence is a two year-old organization, funded by the Gates Foundation (among others) and set up by the corporate education reform trifecta of Education Reform Now (ERN), Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Most recently, these groups were among the primary funders behind the multi-million-dollar, anti-teacher, anti-union television advertising campaign that ran during this year’s Chicago teacher’s strike.

This week Educators 4 Excellence announced that it is hiring a “Founding Executive Director” for a new Connecticut chapter.

Educators 4 Excellence is headed by two former Teach for America (TFA) recruits.  Their stated goal is to create, “an elevated, prestigious teaching profession in which educators are leaders both in and outside of their classrooms to drive positive outcomes for students.”

In order to achieve that goal, Educators 4 Excellence campaigns to end seniority, institute merit pay and replace tenure with what the group calls “earned tenure,” in which teachers who are able to push up standardized test scores are provided with greater job security and financial bonuses.

Based in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence has already created chapters in Los Angeles and Minnesota, with Connecticut being their next target.

According to their advertisement, “Reporting directly to the Co-Founders/Co-Chief Executive Officers and serving as a member of E4E’s senior leadership team, the Founding Executive Director, Connecticut will help launch Educators 4 Excellence-Connecticut (E4E-CT). The Founding Executive Director will have strategic and operational responsibility for E4E-CT staff, programs, growth, and execution of its mission to elevate the voices of teachers in Connecticut state and local education policy.”

The organization has been growing quickly, if not in members, at least in resources.  Thanks to unnamed donors, the Educators 4 Excellence budget skyrocketed from $339,000 in 2010 to $1.9 million in 2011.

Or, as Educators 4 Excellence put it, “In just one year, we have grown into a national movement of teachers leading the charge to change our education system.”

Last year the group primarily focused on supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to destroy tenure in the New York City Schools, writing, “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to make tenure decisions more meaningful.”    This year, the group has also been one of the most vocal supporters of New York’s new, ill-fated teacher evaluation system.

Wait, What? readers may remember that here in Connecticut, the corporate education reformers ran television ads blasting the teacher unions and suggesting that legislators were modifying Malloy’s proposals in order to sell out to the unions.

Perhaps it is only an uncanny coincidence, but during the recent battle in New York, the Educators 4 Excellence partners, Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform ran television ads that included one parent saying, “Albany’s listening much too much to the teachers union,” and a second parent, looking to the camera and saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”

In Connecticut, some of the most offensive, anti-teacher ads that were run in support of Malloy’s education reform bill were paid for by ConnCAN’s sister organization, ConnAD.  Those ads were produced by a company called SKD Knickerbocker.

In the small world department, SKD Knickerbocker is the very same company doing the anti-teacher ads, but in this case they were paid for by Educators 4 Excellence’s allies, Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform.

The connections don’t stop there, but we’ll cover the next piece in a future blog post…