Hidden by the holidays, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman trotted out their budget chief, Ben Barnes, last week to quietly announce another $93 million in state budget cuts, many of which were targeted at the most critical services and vulnerable citizens in Connecticut.
As CT Newsjunkie reported in Malloy Administration Identifies Savings, But Not Everyone Is Pleased, the Malloy/Wyman administration’s latest cuts target municipal aid, mental health care, services for the developmentally and intellectually disabled, and healthcare services.
The most despicable cut may very well be Malloy’s expanded effort to refuse group home placements for citizens and their families who are in crisis.
However, while vital programs are cut, the companies that own Connecticut’s twenty-three (23) charter schools will be given more than $100 million in scarce public funds this year even though these privately owned, but publicly funded, schools refuse to educate their fair share of students who require special education services and students who need additional help with the English Language. Furthermore, the “no-excuses” discipline strategies used by Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools are nothing short of child abuse.
If a Connecticut public school consistently abused children or discriminated against Latinos and other English Language Learners or students with special needs, investigations would be conducted, people would lose their jobs and local boards of education would be sued. But that simply isn’t the case when it comes to the charter school industry – thanks to their special relationship with the Malloy/Wyman administration.
While Governor Dannel Malloy receives accolades for his “Second Chance” initiative, the truth about his administration’s discriminatory policies speak louder than its rhetoric.
Sarah Darer Littman, an education advocate and CT Newsjunkie columnist, examined the issue in a recent piece entitled, Second Chance’ Malloy Should Revisit First Term Malloy’s Policies.
Sarah Darer Littman wrote;
“The disconnect with second-term Malloy’s Second Chance Society is that he spent his first term pushing for costly legislation that contradicts the research on keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system in the first place.
A study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that one out of every four black K-12 students with disabilities was suspended out of school at least one time in 2009-10. This high risk for suspension is a full 16 percentage points higher than the risk for white students with disabilities.
According to a report by the National Center on Disability, 85 percent of incarcerated youth have learning and/or emotional disabilities, yet only 37 percent of these young people received special education in school. Most were either undiagnosed or didn’t receive adequate support in school.
Tell me about it. Bridgeport has had two complaints filed with the state Department of Education in the last two years alleging failures to provide special education services. Regarding the first complaint, state investigators found that under then-Superintendent Paul Vallas, Bridgeport “systematically violated” its IDEA Child Find mandate.
Meanwhile in Hartford, “no-excuses” Achievement First Hartford Academy settled a lawsuit alleging that it had failed to provide special education services and had punished students for behaviors relating to their disability. They promised to “do better,” yet in November a lawsuit was filed in New York citing similar issues at a Brooklyn AF school. Achievement First also topped the chart for elementary school suspensions in 2013.
At that time co-CEOs Dacia Toll and Doug McCurry wrote they’d received a wakeup call: “We recognize that our suspension numbers are simply too high, and we are committed to significantly reducing the numbers.”
The state Board of Education renewed Achievement First Hartford Academy’s charter for 3 years despite these concerns. On Oct. 4, the Courant reported that “only one student has been suspended so far at the Achievement First Hartford Academy Elementary School.”
Yet according to a recent Connecticut Department of Education Report, Achievement First schools still occupy four out of the five top elementary school slots in elementary school suspensions and expulsions and three of the top five in the middle and high school categories. Hartford Academy Elementary School is number two in the state.
- the suspension rate in the elementary grades in the Public Charter Schools (14 percent) is almost twice that in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (7.3 percent), both of which are substantially greater than the state average (3 percent).
- the suspension rates in the middle grades in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (22.3 percent), the Public Charter Schools (26.3 percent), the Endowed Academies (18.5 percent), and the State School Districts (24.3 percent) are substantially greater than the state average (10.1 percent).
- the suspension rates in the high secondary grades in the Public Charter Schools (29.9 percent) and in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (25.6 percent) are substantially greater than the state average (12.3 percent).
Given this data, and the fact that AF Hartford Academy’s charter is up for renewal this spring, it’s particularly troubling that Gov. Malloy appointed Erik Clemons, a board member of an Achievement First school in New Haven, to the state Board of Education. We trust he will recuse himself on AF’s charter renewal votes based on his conflict of interest.
Sarah Darer Littman goes on to explain more about Malloy’s “two-faced” approach when it comes to the issue of “education reform” and “social justice reform.”