No real financial support for public schools, but plenty more for charter schools (especially Bridgeport)

When Dan Malloy was running for governor he pledged to make adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools a priority.

Instead Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education corporate education reform industry initiative of any Democratic governor in the country.

Rather than use state education funds to support local schools and take some of the pressure off local taxpayers, Malloy has used scarce public funds to push his own initiatives including implementing the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing scheme and an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system.

Compounding the problem has been Malloy’s devotion to diverting money to Connecticut’s charter schools.  In fact, the single largest beneficiary of Malloy’s charter school largesse has been Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

But Malloy and Pryor have been shoveling public funds to other charter school companies as well.

The charter school management company known as Jumoke Academy/FUSE has been given additional money and control of two neighborhood public schools.  The executives of Jumoke Academy have been given management control of the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.  The Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE was even appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education by Governor Malloy.

Meanwhile, other charter school companies have already been approved or are seeking approval to open new schools in Connecticut.

Last month, nine new charter school applications were submitted to the State Department of Education.

Despite the inadequate funding for existing public schools and a projected $1 billion state deficit for the year following this November’s gubernatorial election, Malloy’s budget includes funding for at least two new charter schools.

A primary target for the expansion of charter schools has been Bridgeport, in part because Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is considered a strong charter school advocate.  Bridgeport already has four charter schools.

As the Connecticut Post recently reported;

“BRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.

The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next….”

[…]

The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.

A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.”

Charter school companies see Connecticut as a prime target for expansion because not only does the state give charter schools money for every student they take in, but the cost to transport those charter school students and the cost to provide them with special education services continues to be paid by the local school district.

The Connecticut Post article goes on to summarize the three new Bridgeport charter school proposals;

Charter School Proposal #1

“STEAM

Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.

She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.

STEAM would open in the former Holy Rosary School near Washington Park with 108 pre-kindergarten through first-graders and grow to a 252 pre-K to fifth-grade school by its fifth year. The school would strive to be racially balanced, draw from the suburbs and city. Its preschool would be Montessori-based.

Christopher Finch, her son and a teacher in New York City, would serve on her governing board along with several Bridgeport educators and parents.

In a letter of support for STEAM, Bruce Ravage, director of Park City Prep, a charter school that has won permission to add a fifth grade, said Mastromonaco knows the student population well and is in a unique position to address its needs.”

Charter School Proposal #2

“Capital Prep Harbor School

Asked why he’d want to come to Bridgeport, Perry, a lightning rod for school reform issues, talks about the city’s waterfront location, proximity to New York City and its potential.

“Bridgeport has always been one of those cities you heard about,” Perry said. The charter school he would form here would be modeled after the public magnet school he has run in Hartford for nearly 10 years.

It would have a theme of social justice, a longer school day and year, require students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, and would strive — according to the 600-page application — to send all graduates to four-year colleges.

“Running it as a charter would be different,” said Perry. “It would create the opportunity for us to be more creative. Quite frankly, there are limits within the structure of a large school system. Even when people don’t want it to, it has to be the same. That sameness presents a challenge to schools like ours.”

Something else that is different is that Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a private management company run by Perry, would get 10 percent of the fee, $2.5 million over the first five years of the contract. Perry said that is common when charter firms run more than one school. It also remains unclear how much the school would pay for rent.

The Harbor School application said the city has dedicated space in the Bridgeport Technology and Trade Center on Barnum Avenue and the proposed budget shows no rental expenses. The city, however, doesn’t own that property.

Among supporters of the plan are Kenneth Moales Jr., a member of the city school board.”

Charter School Proposal #3

“Great Oaks

Great Oaks would be a college preparatory school geared largely toward English language learners, who make up more than 13 percent of students in the district.

The school day would be long, stretching from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., followed by after-school activities. The school year would be 200 days, compared to the normal 180 days a year.

There are already Great Oaks schools in New Jersey and New York, said Christina Grant, vice president of the Great Oaks Foundation, who acts a chief academic officer for both schools. The school would start with 100 sixth-graders and work its way up, providing two hours of individualized tutoring to students every day, according to the application.

It would also be located in the former Singer Factory on Barnum Avenue, where three other city charter schools (Bridge Academy, New Beginnings and Park City Prep) all got their start. Great Oaks would pay $10 a square foot for 6,366 square feet. It wants to open in the fall of 2015. Its management fee built into its budget would amount to $1.6 million over the five years.

One of the many letters of support for the proposal came from Meghan Lowney, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, and a behind-the-scenes player when the city school board was taken over by the state in 2011. Great Oaks’ plans, she wrote, are aligned with her efforts to rapidly improve public education opportunities for underserved children by pooling and leveraging financial, human and political capital.”

Although public hearings are required on each proposal, the decision to approve or reject a proposal rests with the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.   The charter school law severely limits the role of local boards of education.

 

 

  • Linda174

    “This past week, as the deadline approached for states to make their submissions to Arne Duncan’s Department of Education requesting monies appropriated under the Race to the Top initiative, we were reminded that the DOE has decreed that no proposal will be considered where the state government has put a cap on charter schools. In other words, the federal government has put its thumb heavily on the scales of local deliberations as to what approach toward charter schools best serves their communities’ interests. Penalties are being imposed on those who choose to limit, in any quantitative way, the charter school movement.

    http://dianeravitch.net/category/u-s-department-of-education/

    • JMC

      Wow, that article is terrifying! But necessary to read. Thanks, L. Count me a proud member of the beleaguered rearguard.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Finchy bird will give it to Mastromonaco in lieu of alimony. That’s the way Bridgeport works. None of this has anything to do with improving the lot of Bridgeport’s children and citizens. It’s only a cabal of crooked politicians whetting their beaks. And with all that inept leadership they citizenry of Bridgeport has ten times the balls of the Hartford crowd.

    • Fed Up in Hartford

      You’re so right! 10 times the balls and a mayor who’s at least not Asleep in Hartford!

  • Bob A

    I predict that Bridgeport will NOT give Steve Perry the contract, that because they are not going to want to deal with the controversy, lawsuits, and pushback by parents and community related to the inevitable problems that follow Perry.

    The reformers, I think, are catching on to the fact that Perry is not the face they want attached to their movement; he brings a lot of bad publicity with him.

  • notafanforeal

    My child a victim of Perry’s bullying called to inform me that he will be descending on her campus at Southern on February 26th! She is among several former C-Prep students are mortified!

  • notafanforeal

    Ugh….

    • Linda174

      This

    • Sleepless in Bridgeport

      Pardon me while I withdraw my annual donation. Don’t these State College people know that Stevie Wonder and his ilk are going to put them out of business. They won’t be making any money on 5 week teaching wonderkind.

    • Ebony in Inwood

      What do you mean? Steve’s an ICON! http://www.bet.com/video/news/national/2014/28-men-of-change-dr-steve-perry.html

      BET, that paragon of high culture and intellectualism, declared it so!

      • R.L.

        He’s going to fall hard……Real hard.

        • speaking up

          I’m afraid that this may or may not be true. Dr. Steve Perry’s fall seems inevitable, and it would be the right – the correct and fair – outcome, but the more I learn about public education in our nation today, the less sure I am of inevitable, right outcomes.

          Dr. Steve Perry may well be “given” another school in Bridgeport and his plan is to spread nationwide. He’s spent time in Ohio and North Carolina in the past week or so; he’s in DC right now – will speak in VA tonight – and he’s gaining followers everywhere he goes. People are eager to buy what he’s selling, and I don’t blame them – it sounds fabulous, As we speak, more people are reading or hearing the false data that he’s putting out there about “his” (Hartford Public) school, and no one “in charge” is stepping in to correct this false information.

          It would seem that the liability would be obvious and that Dr. Steve Perry’s fall would be inevitable, but we are living in an interesting time with unbelievable realities.

          I sincerely hope that the administrative personnel who should have reined Dr. Steve Perry in when he was “only Hartford’s problem” will be held accountable if and when his school is replicated elsewhere and the truth is known. He has harmed children in Hartford; when and where will it stop?

  • cindy

    How many times over do CT taxpayers pay for this state-funded fraudster? SCSU advocates the like of him as a role-model for education? WTH!

  • Guest

    I am a teacher in Hartford. I have been reading this blog for a short while. It helps to alleviate feelings of outrage over the state of education in this country, state, district, and school where I teach. Thank you all for that. While this forum has much value, I question what else can be done to prevent the seemingly endless barrage of injustices against teachers, parents, and students, especially those in urban districts.

    Trying to work within the system seems destined to fail because the system itself is rotten. It’s not about education. Maybe it never was. It’s about money and power and ego, but mostly money. While we express our outrage at the incompetence, injustice, and corruption at the local, state, and national levels, of certain administrators, superintendents, BoEs, HFT, the DoE, and politicians, they are planning and executing their next moves right under our noses. I, personally, feel powerless against all of the forces involved, one as bad as the next.

    Thus, like many other teachers, I would love to be a part of real change and not what passes for education reform. But, so far, we have had to limit our influence to the classroom, teaching our hearts out despite repeated assaults on our intelligence, knowledge, experience, and professionalism and in spite of the endless reforms we are required to implement against our better judgment.

    Some on this blog have suggested that we teachers are idiots blinding following bad leadership like sheep. We certainly are not. But, personally, I feel paralyzed to try to effect change when the system stinks and when speaking out would threaten my livelihood.

    • brutus2011

      I appreciate your post. And I am probably the one you protest has labelled teachers “idiots.”

      Look, I am a teacher. Or was, as I am now pursuing another field. I have reached my conclusions based on my teacher prep at SCSU (they do a good job by the way) and my teaching in West Haven, New Haven, and tutoring in Bridgeport.

      The system is rotten. And it is about money (salaries and pensions), ego and power. You hit the nail on the head. If you think Hartford is bad, you should try New Haven or Bridgeport.

      However, I submit that we teachers have submitted to all that has gone on around us with little or no protest. Of course, teachers are not idiots but our actions could be construed otherwise.

      I know that we all need our jobs to support our families. I know that one cannot sacrifice one’s own children if few will buck a corrupt system. Unfortunately, this is what the powers that be are counting on.

      What is the answer? Look at these and other pro-public education blogs. There are people who are waking up and talking to each other and to those who are as yet clueless.

      • Guest

        I hear you and agree.
        Everyone on this site concerned with the issues should tell everyone
        they know what’s going on and refer them to the blog and other resources
        mentioned here. (Come to think of it,
        that’s how I became involved.) We need
        to put up a fight at every opportunity and not let the bad guys get away with
        it. We need to collectively use our
        voices to oppose unethical and downright dangerous educational “reforms.” We need to make it unpleasant for those seeking
        their own ends and using our money and our students in the process.

        The money I spoke of is much more than salaries and
        pensions. There are millions of dollars
        to be had. Whenever there is a lot of
        money at stake, you know unsavory people with selfish motives will be looking
        for ways to get a cut. Let’s face
        it. Education in America has become big
        business. It has also been politicized,
        which is unfortunate because some things, like education, are too important and
        basic to a well-functioning society.
        Education should not be for sale to be bought by money or votes.

        While teachers can and should be involved, I
        still think teachers’ power is limited if exercising their free speech leads to
        job loss. How ironic. In America.
        The unions should protect teachers’ rights but are meaningless since
        they are in cahoots with all the other bad apples. More irony.
        I am ready to do all I can, but people need to know why teachers largely
        remain silent.