The Connecticut House of Representatives convenes tomorrow at 10 a.m.
On the calendar is House Joint Resolution No. 75. , the resolution confirming the nomination of Andrea Comer of Hartford to be a member of the State Board of Education.
If the General Assembly confirms Governor Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer, the COO of the FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. charter school management company, she would be a member of the State Board of Education through February 2017.
While there has been extensive coverage of Comer’s nomination here at Wait, What? there has been limited coverage in the general media.
The entire situation is a sad commentary about what some people perceive to be a conflict of interest and the general acceptance of the corporatization and privatization of public education.
The Jumoke Academy Inc. collects millions of dollars in public funds for its school in Hartford.
In addition, Commissioner Stefan Pryor gave Hartford’s Milner elementary school to the Jumoke Academy to manage. The new Jumoke Academy at Milner immediately dismissed the vast majority of Milner’s dedicated teachers and instituted their own special “operating approach.”
As Wait, What? readers know that Jumoke “operating approach” is based on a strategy of not providing education services to non-English speaking students, students who go home to households where English is not the primary language or to their fair share of students who require special education services.
Instead of taking responsibility for providing a true public education, FUSE/Jumoke Academy responds by claiming that they deserve accolades and additional funds for producing better results on Connecticut’s standardized tests.
But of course, since poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the three greatest influences on standardized test scores, it comes as no surprise that a school that accepts fewer poor students, NO bi-lingual or ESL students and far fewer special education students than its fair share would end up with a population that would have higher test scores.
But the reason that Andrea Comer’s nomination is suspect goes well beyond the discriminatory and anti-Latino policies of FUSE/Jumoke Inc.
Connecticut law frowns on conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest, or at least it is supposed to. Those who have contracts and benefit from state resources aren’t supposed to be in a position to reward themselves or their friends.
If Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of FUSE/Jumoke Inc., finds herself on the State Board of Education, she will certainly be in a “unique” position to directly and indirectly impact her job, her employer and the industry she has worked so hard to represent. Prior to working for FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. she worked for Achievement First, Inc., the even larger charter school management company co-founded by Stefan Pryor.
In fact, together, Achievement First and FUSE/Jumoke control more than half of the $55 -$60 million plus in taxpayer funds that flow to charter schools each year.
Finally, as we now know, Andrea Comer also has extensive experience with the so-called crime of ‘stealing” public education when she decided to keep her child in one district despite the fact that she moved to another. Comer complains that raising this point was a personal attack and that she was just looking out of the best interests of her child. While Comer, and all parents, should do whatever they legally can to look out for their children, we now know that Comer’s case was treated very, very differently than more recent Connecticut case where a woman was arrested and convicted of “stealing” education.
Sometimes it’s the “little” votes that provide voters with the best snapshot of their elected officials.
The vote on Comer’s nomination is just such a vote.
Any legislator who votes to put the COO of FUSE/Jumoke Inc. on the State Board of Education is sending a very loud and very clear message to their communities about their definition of conflict of interest and their attitudes toward protecting public resources.
For more on Comer’s nomination here are some of the Wait, What? posts on the topic: