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
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 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.