Bridgeport’s Democratic Primary to select Board of Education candidates will be held tomorrow and campaign finance reports filed last week reveal that Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, continues to play a dominant role in the effort to control Bridgeport’s public education system.
The latest effort in support of the candidates loyal to Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, is being directed by Andrew Boas, the founder and principal investment officer of the Carl Marks Management Company and its related entity, Carl Marks Strategic Investments LP. Boas’ claimed expertise is making money from “distressed investment activities.”
When not picking clean the bones of people and projects that have fallen on hard times, Boas is a major player on behalf of the corporate education reform industry and one of Achievement First’s most important supporters.
Boas is a long-time member of the Achievement First Board of Trustees. He presently presides as chairman of the Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy Board. He also serves on the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation, one of the vehicles that the corporate reformers have used to funnel money to Vallas and Bridgeport privatization efforts.
Most recently, Boas has been rounding up money for the Finch endorsed slate of candidates.
In one email Boas wrote,
“We need your help. The landscape for education reform in Bridgeport will be forever altered by the Board of Education (BOE) elections slated for this November. We have several hurdles to overcome, including an unexpected Democratic primary on September 10, 2013.”
“I need your help in getting Katie Bukovsky, Brandon Clark and Rev. Dr. Simon Castillo selected as the Democratic candidates in the upcoming primary election. The other democrat challengers running have been handpicked by the teacher union, and I believe will not serve the best interests of the children and families of Bridgeport.”
“If we lose, the opposition wants to make sure the Union contract is not touched in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement and they want to ensure high performing programs like Achievement First and turnaround models cannot expand in our City”
Boas went on to ask his friends and colleagues to give up to the maximum legal limit to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and to also give the maximum to a political action committee that he helped create called Citizens for Students.
So who responded to his call to give money to Citizens for Students?
The list of new donors is headed by Jonathan Sackler of Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN and Sackler’s wife, who each threw in $1,000. Sackler, Wait, What? readers will recall, donated $50,000 of his own money to Finch’s failed attempt charter revision campaign to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.
Other donors to Citizens for Students included the City of Bridgeport’s Parks Director and the City’s Personnel Director, each of whom donated $500.
Another $500 showed up from Megan Lowney, the founder of Excel Bridgeport and assistant to billionaire Stephen Mandel.
Joshua Thomson, Finch’s “education adviser,” who used to call himself Deputy Mayor for Education but now reports that he is Bridgeport’s Director of Education and Youth Policy also responded to Boas’ call for donations.
And the latest Citizens for Students campaign finance report included a contribution of $500 from Attorney Ed Maley. Maley is rather famous in the circles of Connecticut government. Not only does he bill the City of Bridgeport for legal work but as the Democratic Legislative Commissioner for the Connecticut General Assembly he collects $56,000 a year on top of his Connecticut State pension of $111,000.
Lest anyone miss the message, as Bridgeport voters prepare to vote in tomorrow’s Democratic Primary, the corporate reform buzzards circle.
Oh, and as if the flow of money wasn’t enough to show how Finch and the corporate education reformers control the endorsed slate, in a weekend editorial entitled, CT Post Endorses Baker, Gardner, Hennessey in Tuesday’s Primary for Board of Education, the City’s paper endorsed the challenge slate writing;
“But one thing voters should expect from their elected officials is a degree of independence. No one wants school board members who will simply enact the policies desired by the city’s political powers, whether that’s a mayor or a party boss. There is good reason to believe the endorsed slate would be unable to offer that independence.
Upon meeting with Post editors last week, the three endorsed candidates were joined by Joshua Thompson, who works in the mayor’s office and is charged with carrying out City Hall’s education policies. The message, far from implicit, was that the mayor will be watching. If the mayor has worthy ideas for the future of the school system, by all means, the school board should listen. That’s a far cry from putting in place elected officials who will do the mayor’s bidding.
The city held a vote on mayoral control of the school board. It failed.”
It reminds everyone that above all else, it is fair to say that the concept of “finesse” is clearly not a strong point when it comes to Finch, Boas and the rest of the people trying to undermine Bridgeport’s public education system.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: The original version of this blog post identified Andrew Boas as a member of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and reported that the Fund was part of the effort to funnel money to cover Paul Vallas’ expenses. Although his bio reports that Boas remains active on these local boards, he actually left the Bridgeport Public Education Fund Board in 2011. More importantly, for over three decades the mission of the BPEF has been “to develop programs and mobilize the community for quality public education in Bridgeport.” The work of the BPEF has been highly recognized nationally by the Public Education Network. The Annenberg Foundation, The Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda. The Funds work has been focused in three areas that ALL support the work of the Bridgeport Public Schools – teachers and students. I apologize for suggesting that the BPEF was part of the education reform debate that is now swirling through Bridgeport.