On December 5, 2000, Carl McCluster was sentenced to five years’ probation for embezzling $114,000 from a program meant to help homeless veterans in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
According to the court order, the defendant was placed on home confinement for the first six months. (The Judge order that, “The defendant shall pay none of the costs associated with monitoring.”) The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to the Veteran’s Affairs, Homeless Providers Grant Per Diem Program.
McCluster was back in federal court five years later to deal with the payment issues and a related garnishment of his wages from his employer, Shiloh Baptist Church.
The issue of convicted felons being associated with Charter Schools is unfortunately not new to Connecticut.
Just last year Connecticut witnessed the collapse of the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school chain as a result of revelations that the company’s CEO “Dr.” Michael Sharpe didn’t actually have the academic credentials he claimed and, to boot, had been convicted of embezzling public funds when he was working in California.
The State Department of Education claimed they had no knowledge that the CEO of Fuse/Jumoke Charter School company wasn’t exactly who he claimed to be.
So action was needed and with the Jumoke debacle fresh in their minds, the leadership of Connecticut’s Education Committee introduced Senate Bill 1096 – AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.
The legislation has passed the Connecticut State Senate and it presently sits on the House calendar waiting for its potential passage prior to legislature’s midnight deadline tomorrow, Wednesday, June 2, 2015.
The bill requires greater transparency for Connecticut’s charter schools, something that Dacia Toll, the CEO of Achievement First, Inc., a large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island opposed, having told the Education Committee that it would be a “burden” for charter schools to have to be more transparent. Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain co-founded by Malloy’s first term commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor.
While much of the charter school accountability bill is waiting for action by the House deals with fiscal transparency, there is also a critically important section on criminal background checks.
As the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research explains in the bill summary,
“Beginning July 1, 2015, the bill requires various individuals who manage and work in charter schools to submit to several types of background checks. Specifically, SBE must require governing council and CMO members to submit to Department of Children and Families child abuse and neglect registry checks and state and national criminal history records checks (1) prior to SBE granting an initial certificate to the charter school or (2) before the governing council or CMO may hire new members.”
Submit background checks before a charter school can be granted approval to open?
But what about schools that already have the approval of the Connecticut State Department of Education to open, but haven’t actually received the funding they would need to start operating?
The bill’s language is clear – Beginning July 1, 2015 – Charter school applicants must do complete background checks and provide that information to the State Board of Education in their application material.
The two charter schools that Governor Dannel Malloy is demanding funding for were already approved in 2014, they have an approved application in place….just not funding (yet.)
So if you were listening closely, that sound you just heard was probably the wannabee charter school chain operator Steve Perry dancing a jig based on the fact that he won’t have to go through the trouble and burden of providing the state with information about the criminal backgrounds of members of his charter school’s governing council.
Because if he did, that would be a problem!
A big problem…
The charter school application submitted by Steve Perry and approved by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education included the names of the members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school…
And leading the list of governing board members is Carl McCluster, who also happens to be one of Perry’s biggest cheerleaders in Bridgeport.
Having testified for Steve Perry’s charter school and spoken at rally’s in support of Perry’s plan, Carl McCluster and Steve Perry certainly don’t want to face what would be an awkward situation if Perry was required to reveal whether any of his governing board members are convicted felons.
The charter school industry is certainly hoping, and undoubtedly working, to make sure that Senate Bill 1096 is not taken up in the House of Representatives today or tomorrow. Failure to pass the bill in the next 30 hours will kill the legislation.
However, even if the bill passes and is signed into by Governor Malloy, McCluster and Perry can rest easy because as it is presently written the law only applies to charter school applications that are submitted on or after July 1, 2015.
Phew, that is good to know