Public Education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker had yet another “MUST READ” piece in the Stamford Advocate about Governor Dannel Malloy’s un-paralleled attack on public education and his unending commitment to divert scarce public taxpayer dollars to privately owned, but publicly funded charter school operators. The strategy may result in more campaign donations for Malloy, but it comes at a terrible price for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and the state’s taxpayers.
Wendy Lecker’s original piece can be found at: Governor intent to undermine public education.
Wendy Lecker writes,
Governors, being politicians, spout a lot of rhetoric. However, during budget time, their true priorities emerge. Looking at three real-life situations from this year’s budget season, try to guess who the Democratic governor of Connecticut is.
One governor announced a 2-billion dollar increase in public K-12 funding, a relatively modest increase because it is spread over the next decade; but he publicly acknowledged the need to fund public schools before reforming them. The second, incensed that the legislature would not increase public school K-12 funding to adequate levels, nor adequately fund pre-K, threatened to hold up the budget. The third slashed funding for social programs, gave no increase for public K-12 education, despite a pending lawsuit alleging that the state owes almost 2 billion dollars to its public schools, and threatened to veto the state budget unless the legislature agreed to fund two charter schools in communities that vehemently opposed them.
The first governor is Republican Doug Ducey of Arizona. The second governor is a Democrat,Mark Dayton of Minnesota. The third? You guessed it — Dan Malloy of Connecticut.
Governor Malloy’s tenure has been characterized by denigrating teachers, vigorously opposing adequate funding of public schools and vastly increasing financial support for privately run charter schools which fail to serve the state’s neediest children, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, have disturbingly harsh disciplinary policies, increase racial isolation, drain public money from needy public schools and have even been implicated in fraud and theft.
Why would Malloy favor these questionable privately run schools over underfunded public schools? One answer lies in an article reported on by the Hartford Courant, piggy-backing off the years of reporting blogger Jonathan Pelto has done on this issue.
The Courant reported that this year, unprecedented amounts of money were spent to push the charter agenda by ConnCAN, the charter lobby; Northeast Charter Network, another charter lobby founded by disgraced Jumoke leader Michael Sharpe and others; and a newer group operating in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts: Families for Excellent Schools (FES).
The Courant further noted that the same millionaires and billionaires who copiously donated to Malloy’s campaigns are also major donors to charters and charter lobbyists. This list includes Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler, the founder of ConnCAN and original board member of the Achievement First charter chain; Greenwich hedge funder Steve Mandel, who funded the players behind the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education; embattled SAC Capital chief Steven Cohen and his wife; ConnCAN board members Arthur Reimers and Andrew Boas; Andrew Stone, a board member at Success Academy charter chain, a close ally of FES; and ConnCAN donor Marianna McCall. FES even hired two public relations firms that employ Malloy’s recently departed top aides: Roy Occhiogrosso and Andrew Doba.
The web of charter money is so thick it must have blinded Malloy to the needs and wishes of constituents from Stamford and Bridgeport.
The local opposition to these charters, by both local officials and parents, is well-documented. Malloy’s State Board of Education rubber-stamped the charters’ authorization in April 2014, ignoring local opposition and the fact that the legislature had not appropriated the funds for them.
Despite warnings by legislators that these schools might not be funded, the charter operators, Steve Perry for Bridgeport and a Bronx charter operator for Stamford, advertised widely for students in order to pressure the state to fund them.
Stamford and Bridgeport officials and residents opposed any appropriations for these schools they did not want. Bridgeport grassroots activists traveled to Hartford every week to show their opposition. Stamford residents wrote to every legislator imploring each not to fund these schools when public schools were being starved.
On the other side, the Malloy-connected, billionaire-backed charter lobbyists bused in demonstrators from Massachusetts and New York to stage demonstrations in Hartford in support of these two unwanted charters.
Legislators assured Bridgeport and Stamford residents that they were not swayed by the charter lobbying and they would not fund these schools.
But then Malloy threatened to veto the budget unless his pet charters were funded and the legislature caved. They received, as a token consolation prize, an insignificant increase in state school funding.
Connecticut has a governor intent on undermining public education and a spineless legislature that collapses when the governor so much as sneezes. Unless our citizenry elects some leaders with principles, who actually care about our public institutions rather than wealthy donors, things are looking grim for the over 95 percent of Connecticut’s children who attend our public schools.