Connecticut Ed Reform Leader urges business leaders to say something when poor have too many children

“Speak your mind, if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support one through four – right –speak it …”

 – Paul Diego Holzer, Executive Director of Achieve Hartford! Achieve Hartford! is the leading corporate education reform and charter school advocacy group in Connecticut’s capital city.

The well-paid spokespeople for the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry are usually pretty good at staying on “message.”  Surrounded by public relations staff and consultants and aided by “media training” sessions, the proponents of charter schools, the Common Core, the Common Core Testing scam and various anti-teacher initiatives exude the aura of well-prepared snake oil salesman.

But from time to time, they drop their guard and their true opinions, philosophies, arrogance and ignorance come shining through loud and clear.

One of the most recent examples occurred last week, on September 17, 2015, when the Hartford Metro Alliance, which serves as the Hartford region’s major chamber of commerce, held their annual “Hartford Metro Rising Star Education Breakfast.”

The event was moderated by Oz Griebel, a one-time gubernatorial candidate and the President & CEO of the Hartford Metro Alliance.  The event featured a presentation by Hartford Superintendent of Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, followed by a discussion with the superintendent and Paul Diego Holzer, the Executive Director of Achieve Hartford!, the Connecticut‘s Capital City’s leading corporate funded education reform advocacy group.

As Paul Diego Holzer addressed the status of Hartford’s public schools he began by complimenting Superintendent Schiavino-Narvaez, decried and then mislead the audience about value of the recent Common Core SBAC results and then turned his attention to the issue of poverty.  A partial transcript of the comments follows, the full video can been seen via the link below;

On the problem of poverty, Paul Diego Holzer explained;

I think there is a question that comes up often about poverty which is are we really going to fix this if you know the situations at home are what they are and I challenge us to think about our own expectations of families in poverty

[…]

If you don’t speak your mind on to this issue of poverty and on families and where responsibility lies –right – you’re not helping.

Speak your mind – right – if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support 1 through four – right –speak it – we have to come together on this issue, but also at the same time think about what we are going to do for that family…

Putting aside the reality that the actual number of poor parents with four or five children in the school system is extremely low, the stunningly ignorant and disturbing approach to “doing something” about the crippling impact of poverty in Hartford is a stark reflection about how out-of-touch many in the Corporate Education Reform Industry actually approach the real issues that are limiting educational achievement in Hartford and other poor communities across Connecticut and the nation.

We know one overriding truth – poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs are what limit educational achievement.

Anyone who would suggest that the problem is that people need to speak up, “if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support one through four,” should not be part of any discussion about public education, poverty, children and American society.

Additional Background;

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded charter school and Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy group that spends more than $1 million a year lobbying and advocating for more charter schools and the implementation of Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reforms” in Hartford.

Achieve Hartford! even has a Chief Branding Officer.

The organization’s Executive Director Paul Diego Holzer collects upwards towards $150,000 to coordinate the organization’s activities. Holzer and Achieve Hartford! have been among the most vocal proponents of diverting scarce public taxpayer funds to Achievement First, Inc, the large charter school management company, to former charter school operator Dr.” Michael Sharpe and his disgraced FUSE charter school chain and Steve Perry, the controversial anti-teacher former Hartford school administrator and  self-described “most trusted educator in America,” who, thanks to Governor Malloy is opening his own privately owned but publicly funded “boutique” charter school company.

With an MBA in Education Management from Yale, Paul Diego Holzer, served as Achieve Hartford!’s Director of Education Programs where he managed the organization’s research and community engagement programs, before becoming the organization’s Executive Director.  Holzer was a founding board member of the YouthBuild Public Charter School in Washington DC

Achieve Hartford!’s Board of Directors is made up of corporate executives and business leaders heralding from the biggest corporations in the greater Hartford area including Travelers, New York Life Retirement Services, Hartford Healthcare, Prudential, Webster Bank, The Hartford Financial Services Group, MetroHartford Alliance, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As stunningly disgusting and inappropriate as Holzer’s comments were, equally telling is that neither Oz Griebel, the moderator, nor Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez made any attempt to challenge Holzer’s outrageous comment or even sought to set the record straight about the poor families or that telling poor women not to have “too many” children is not a useful, meaningful or appropriate way to go about dealing with Hartford’s extraordinary poverty problem.

You can see Achieve Hartford!’s Executive Director Paul Diego Holzer’s comments via the following YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV4siK2XNtI  The Achieve Hartford! portion begins about 47 minutes into the video.

Bronin spokesperson behind Charter School Mailing thanking legislators for Education funding sent to Bridgeport and Stamford!

While some Hartford voters turn their attention to tonight’s Achieve Hartford! “education” debate between Mayor Pedro Segarra and Luke Bronin, the truth is finally coming out about Bronin and his ties to the charter school industry and their pro-Common Core testing, pro-charter school, anti- teacher and anti-public school agenda.

As anyone who has been watching the mayoral campaign in Hartford knows, Luke Bronin has been attacking Mayor Pedro Segarra for not getting more education funding from Governor Malloy for Hartford’s public schools.

However, what has remained relatively secret is that Bronin’s PR person is a well-paid adviser for Families for Excellent Schools, the New York based charter school industry group that spent more than $1 million lobbying Connecticut legislators on behalf of Governor Malloy’s proposal to divert millions of dollars in scarce state funds so that Bridgeport and Stamford could get new, privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools —- one of which will make former Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry very rich.

Now, with days to go until Hartford’s Democratic Primary, the truth is finally coming out.

Bronin’s Communications Director, Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Dannel Malloy’s mouthpiece  until this past January, is behind an expensive, glossy mass mailing that is being sent to voters across Connecticut to “thank” Connecticut legislators for successfully funding the new charter schools while utterly failing to adequately fund Connecticut public schools, including those in Hartford.

Doba, who is both Bronin’s PR person and the hired gun for the charter school industry has been on Twitter regularly attacking Segarra on Bronin’s behalf.

In one Tweet, Andrew Doba[email protected] wrote;

Will the layoffs of teachers and other staff that’s going to happen because of your budget help Hartford Public Schools? #AskSegarra

In another, Doba, who works for a New York based public relations company said;

With strong push from @GovMalloyOffice, Leg. made the right call in meeting its financial commitment to charter schools

And Doba also retweeted his client’s tweet which cheered;

Thank you to our state leaders who showed a strong commitment to ensuring access to great school #ForEveryChild.

Now, in a mailing that looks surprisingly similar to the glossy campaign pieces Luke Bronin has been sending out to Hartford voters comes a expensive lobbyist-funded brochure telling state legislators that they did a great job when they decided to fund privately owned charter schools… rather than doing what they should have done and provided Hartford and Connecticut’s other cities and towns with the money needed to adequately fund local schools.

The Charter School Industry mailing is going to voters all over Connecticut, including voters in Hartford.

As CT Newsjunkie explains in today’s article entitled, Special Interest Group Sends Mailing To Thank Lawmaker For Charter Funding

State Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, is being thanked with a glossy mailer from a special interest group that has spent more than $1.1 million this year lobbying lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to make sure two new charter schools were included in the state budget.

The mailer was sent to constituents in McGee’s district, which includes the northend of Hartford and parts of Windsor, by Families for Excellent Schools.

“More kids now have access to a quality education, which means more opportunity and a brighter future,” the mailer reads.

It asks constituents to call McGee and thank him for his commitment to Connecticut kids.

It’s unclear still how much money was spent on the mailers because the filings are not due to the Office of State Ethics until the next quarter. It’s also unclear exactly how many other lawmakers may have benefited from the mailers by the pro-charter school group.

“The mailer thanked a number of legislators for their support for great schools for every child,” Kara Neidhardt, a spokeswoman for Families for Excellent Schools, said in an email. “The cost of the entire campaign will be disclosed in the next filing.”

McGee, who works in the Capitol Region Education Council’s school choice office, said Wednesday that he’s not offended by the mailing. He said he supports choice programs and participated in the school choice program when he was a child.

[…]

This isn’t the first time a pro-charter school group has expended funds on McGee’s behalf. In 2012, when he first ran for his seat, a school reform group with ties to StudentsFirst, the organization founded by the controversial former chancellor of the Washington school system, poured nearly $32,000 into his race.

The budget approved by the legislature in June included $4.6 million to open two new charter schools in Stamford and Bridgeport. Malloy insisted the two schools remain in the budget despite complaints from some of McGee’s colleagues in Hartford and Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools has lobbied hard this year for increased funding for charter schools. The group spent $1.1 million between January through June. It also hired public relations and political strategy firms that employ former Malloy staffers Andrew Doba and Roy Occhiogrosso.

Families for Excellent Schools held a rally on the New Haven green in December last year and one in May outside the state Capitol in Hartford. At the rally in Hartford, they spent $87,700 on transportation and $14,000 on food for the students and parents who attended.

You can see the complete MUST READ CT Newsjunkie article at:  Special Interest Group Sends Mailing To Thank Lawmaker For Charter Funding

And meanwhile, let’s get things straight when it comes to Luke Bronin and his campaign for mayor of Hartford;

Democrat Luke Bronin says it is Democrat Mayor Pedro Segarra’s fault that Democrat Dannel Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly didn’t give Hartford more education funding.  Bronin even blames Segarra for any tax increases that were necessary as a result of the state’s failure to give Hartford the funding it needed. Bronin says he will cut taxes and provide more money for education…

At the same time Luke Bronin says that HE deserves a good chunk of the credit for Malloy’s 2nd chance initiative because has Malloy’s lawyer he was involved in the policy process in the Governor’s Office, but none of the blame for Malloy’s failure to properly fund public schools.

Meanwhile, Luke Bronin’s spokesperson’s New York based company received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the charter school industry for coordinating the lobbying campaign on behalf of the charter schools, a proposal that diverted Connecticut taxpayer money that should have been spent on public schools.

And behind all that is the reality that a number of the key players behind charter schools are among Bronin’s biggest campaign donors… money that is so important to Bronin that he refused to give back those funds and thus lost the endorsement of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

Yup, Luke Bronin has arrived from Greenwich and is ready to save Hartford….

21,000 children head off to the 1st day of public school in Hartford, but not Luke Bronin’s

Last week Hartford, Connecticut parents got their public school children packed up, ready to go and sent them off to the first day of school.

But the man who aspires to be Hartford’s next mayor, and would have the responsibility of appointing a majority of the members of the Hartford Board of Education, wasn’t one of them.

Instead, Greenwich native Luke Bronin, who moved to Hartford and is running for Mayor, dropped his child off for their first day at the prestigious Renbrook private school in West Hartford, Connecticut where the annual tuition runs from $19,500 to $33,500 per year depending on which grade the child is enrolled in.

While the vast majority of children in the United States go to public schools, those with means have the choice to send their children to a public school or a private school.

Growing up, Luke Bronin only attended private schools.  Starting with the Greenwich Day School, where tuition starts at $33,500 for kindergarten and rises to $37,500 a year for the higher grades, Bronin then attended Phillips Exeter Academy, with a cost of $48,000 a year, although that does include the $180 a year “Linen Fee.”  Luke Bronin then spent ten years in the Halls of Yale, Oxford and the Yale Law School.

With privilege comes opportunity and while no one should ever begrudge a parent for doing everything they can to ensure that their child or children get a quality education, it is relevant when a politician who says he is ready to “turn-around” Hartford’s public schools won’t enroll his own child in the public school system he claims that he will serve.

As part of his campaign, Luke Bronin has been saying that taxes in Harford are too high and, if elected, he won’t raise them.

However, the harsh reality is that despite the fact that more than 80% of Hartford’s school budget is paid for by the State, Hartford’s public schools are inadequately funded.

Hartford class sizes are too large and there aren’t sufficient services to help students who come from poor families, those who aren’t fluent in the English language and those who need special education services.

So while Luke Bronin says he will “support” Hartford public schools, he is also promising not to increase revenue, which would leave Hartford schools with even fewer resources.

By comparison, while Bronin’s proposed policies would hurt Hartford schools, he is choosing a very different type of school for his own child.

According to Renbrook,

The Renbrook education is characterized by small classes and personal attention from faculty members. There are 189 students in Renbrook’s Upper School (Grades 6-9) and only 10-12 students in each classroom. In this small learning environment, students have the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and to learn from other students, as well as the teachers. Renbrook’s teachers are dedicated, passionate educators who support the advancement and achievement of each individual student.

The Student:Teacher Ratio at Renbrook is 7:1

The Student:Teacher ratio in the Hartford school system is more than double that number.

And in addition, while Hartford’s public school students, parents, teachers and school administrators are crippled by the Common Core, the Common Core SBAC testing scam and Connecticut’s unfair teacher evaluation system, Luke Bronin’s child is attending a school that DOESN’T adhere to the Common Core SYSTEM, doesn’t force children to take the unfair Common Core SBAC testing program and treats their school teachers like the education professionals that they are.

Bronin’s platform will lead to budget cuts for Hartford’s students, while his child will be attending a school that informs parents that Renbrook is located on;

Seventy-five acres of woodlands, wetlands, fields and gardens; four athletic fields, a high-and low-ropes course; three playgrounds, plus a natural pond for science study. Teaching space includes 11 buildings, 10 math, science and technology labs, seven music and art studios, two theaters, a dining commons, a Middle School Mathematics Center, and a 16,600 sq. ft. Library & Technology Center, heated and cooled with geothermal technology.

Meanwhile, many Hartford schools don’t even have functioning libraries and most certified library professionals have been laid off or their positions not re-filled.

This week, Achieve Hartford! Inc., the corporate funded education reform group in Hartford wrote,

The first day of school in Hartford Tuesday underscored the importance of community partnerships, parent support, and staff dedication. At Hartford’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Engineering and Green Technology Academy, and Breakthrough Magnet Schools, a key message was that, if indeed it takes a village to raise a child, a whole lot of villagers are on board.

Yes, as we know… It does take a village to raise a child!

It takes a village and sufficient public funds to provide a quality education to all of the children in Hartford and Connecticut’s public schools.

And it also takes elected and appointed officials who are committed to helping those public schools succeed.

If Luke Bronin wants to send his child or children to an elite private school and can afford to pay $20,000 a year, per child, to ensure they have a private school education, that is certainly his right as a parent.

But parents, teachers and the public in Hartford and across that state shouldn’t be fooled.  When the person who wants to be mayor, and who would appoint the members of the Hartford Board of Education, decides to enroll his child or children in a prestigious private school, rather than the city’s public schools, it sends out a powerful message about privilege and entitlement.

Of course, Luke Bronin isn’t alone when it comes to claiming that he is ready to oversee public schools while sending his own child or children to a private school.

Heck, even Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education and leading corporate education reform advocate, claims that he supports public schools while sending his children to one of the most elite and expensive private schools in the country.

Important Correction and Update – Educators 4 Excellence and UConn’s Neag School of Education.

Yesterday’s Wait What? post entitled, UConn’s Neag School of Education aligns with faux “Educators 4 Excellence” reform group, reported that UConn’s Neag School of Education had co-sponsored a “happy hour” on April 23, 2015 with the corporate funded education reform group that goes by the name of Educators 4 Excellence (E4E).

However, according to E4E and other sources, the Neag School of Education DID NOT co-sponsor the Educators 4 Excellence event at the Wood N Tap in Hartford that day and that the NEAG School is not, in any way, affiliated with Educators 4 Excellence or its activities.

Those knowledgeable about the event explain that the misunderstanding was due to the fact that E4E posted the following to the NEAG School for Education Facebook page;

[email protected] alums/school teachers are working together with Educators for Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization that works to ensure that the voices of classroom teachers are included in the creation of policies that shape our classrooms and careers. They are having a happy hour to discuss the organization and to get feedback from current Hartford teachers. Share your feedback at the discussion: Hartford @WoodNTap, 4/23, 5 p.m.”

Apparently the message was not meant to suggest that the Neag School of Education was sponsoring the event but that students and alumni of the Neag School were individually working with Educators 4 Excellence and that anyone associated with the Neag School of Education was invited to join the April 23rd social, which was being sponsored exclusively by E4E

Part of the confusion may be due to the fact that while the Neag School of Education was not working with E4E on their event, it was, at the very same time, working to publicize an event it was co-sponsoring with another corporate funded education reform group called Achieve Hartford!

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded education reform group that is has been at the forefront of the effort to expand the number of charter schools in Hartford, while implementing other aspects of the education reform agenda in the Capital city.

Ironically, at the very time that the E4E Happy Hour was about to begin on April 23, the Neag School of Education tweeted.

Neag [email protected] Apr 23

Neag School retweeted Achieve Hartford!

We’d love for you to join us, 4/29, 4 p.m. @kateschimel @eduflack @CBIANews @Ed4Excellence @conncan @CTedreform

However, please note that the tweet had nothing to do with the E4E event but was merely inviting E4E and other corporate education reform groups in Connecticut to participate in the event that the Neag School was co-hosting with Achieve Hartford! a week later.

Achieve Hartford! has been among the most vocal supporters of Steve Perry, the would-be charter school management company operator who is relying on Governor Malloy to force the  Connecticut General Assembly to fund Perry’s plan to open a privately owned, but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Achieve Hartford! was also an outspoken proponent of the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school enterprise until that charter school chain collapsed amid revelations about the criminal past of its CEO, his lying about his academic credentials and an FBI investigation into the potential misuse of public funds.

Achieve Hartford’s funding comes from a wide variety of individual and corporate sponsors including Connecticut’s leading charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN, as well as from Teach for America.

Apologies for any confusion that was caused by yesterday’s post.

Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting

The uncomfortable truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and key members of the Connecticut General Assembly continue to side with the Corporate Education Reform Industry rather than with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

The most recent indicator of the warped approach being taken by Connecticut’s “political leaders” was the outrageously inappropriate and misleading memo that was sent out this week by Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

The Education Commissioner’s directive sought to further harass and scare Connecticut parents into falsely believing that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

See: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

The question that arises over and over again is why Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials are engaged in their ongoing effort to undermine and privatize public education in Connecticut, denigrate teachers and turn our public schools into little more than taxpayer funded testing factories.

The answer, sadly, is rather simple…

The Corporate Education Reform Industry has spent a record-breaking $6,767,957 plus in support of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” agenda – – – An Agenda that includes forcing the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme on Connecticut’s public schools while cutting taxpayer support for public education and increasing public funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.

Since Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” agenda, the charter school industry and the corporate funded “education reform” advocacy groups have hired dozens of lobbyists and spent nearly $7 million, or more, to “persuade” Connecticut officials to adopt policies that are diametrically opposed to what is in the best interests of Connecticut students, parents, teachers and public school system.

Corporate funded and affiliated groups like Achievement First, Inc.; A Better Connecticut; Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy; StudentsFirst/GENEPSA (Michelle Rhee); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.; Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); North East Charter Schools Network ; Bronx Charter School of Excellence; Students for Education Reform; Educators 4 Excellence; Excel Bridgeport, Inc.; Achieve Hartford, Inc. and  their newest front group, the Coalition for Every Child, are pumping more and more money into lobbying and advertising programs.

This year, more than two dozen paid lobbyists are running around the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building working to divert more money to charter schools, while supporting the Common Core SBAC testing scam and other “education reform” agenda items.

According to the latest filings with State Ethics Commission, Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars on lobbying during this legislative session.  These groups are dropping millions more on advertising.

Connecticut’s Parents, teachers, public education supporters and taxpayers deserve better from their elected officials but Governor Malloy has made his position clear.

Malloy has said he is “staying the course” on his “education reform” agenda even if his education policies “aren’t popular.”

But what about state legislators?

Will the members of the State Senate and House of Representatives continue to turn their backs on the people who elected them?

The answer will come in the coming weeks, along with even more spending on lobbying and public relations by the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

The following chart reveals just how much money has been spent to push through Governor Malloy’s anti-public school, anti-teacher and anti-parent agenda.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,731,504
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $1,113,587
   
A Better Connecticut $2,326,391
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $911,950
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $292,684
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $277,987
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,954
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $62,900
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.Note:  Does not count the recent multi-million dollar television advertising campaign that Families for Excellent Schools failed to report, despite state laws requiring full disclosure $35,000
EDUCATION REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES as of 2/1/2015 $6,767,957

When the Corporate Education Reform Industry tramples the 1st Amendment

Fellow Education Blogger and Public Education advocate Marie Corfield (From New Jersey) has a blog today that will concern everyone in the battle to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Marie is a mother, artist, teacher, education activist, former NJ State Legislature candidate and is “that” teacher in the infamous Chris Christie You-Tube video of the thug bashing teachers.

Her blog is about the incredible maneuver being taken by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and it highlights the despicable and UnAmerican actions being taken by the charter school industry and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Here in Connecticut there are a number of charter school front groups including ConnCAN, Northeast Charter Schools Network, Families for Excellent Schools, the Coalition for Every Child, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Excel Bridgeport, Achieve Hartford and others.

Marie Corfield writes;

When the facts aren’t on your side…

When you’re up against the wall…

When you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar…

You take the cheap shot.

That’s what the New Jersey Charter Schools Association did last week when they filed ethics charges against Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin who, along with doctoral student Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman) published this study on the segregationist practices of the state’s charter schools which concludes what we already knew (from JJ’s post):

New Jersey’s charter schools do not serve nearly as many children in economic disadvantage, who have special education needs, or who are English language learners as their host districts’ schools. 

Here’s the crux of the NJCSA’s complaint:

As an association of educators [more on this below], the NJCSA embraces the right of all educators to speak on matters of public debate. But the NJCSA and its members will not stand by as Dr. Sass Rubin devalues the reputation of our State University, a reputation that has been earned over years of excellence in research and academic achievement, to endorse her personal opinions and advance her personal advocacy interests. Because Dr. Sass Rubin has promised two further ‘studies,’ the NJCSA has filed this complaint today to ensure appropriate corrective action is taken before Dr. Sass Rubin releases her personal views as Rutgers research and creates further embarrassment for Rutgers University. (emphasis mine)

Does anyone besides me find it interesting that this press release is not on the NJCSA’s website? I mean c’mon, this is big ‘reformy’ news! Sadly, I found it on the uber-‘reformy’ and always entertaining (for its sheer lack of veracity) NJ Left Behind blog.

Why? Maybe because the NJCSA knows it got caught red handed. Maybe because they know these are not Julia and JJ’s personal opinions. The data they presented is right out there for the whole world to see on the NJ DOE website—data that the charter schools themselves reported. There was nothing to OPRA. Any 5th grader who knows how to do a simple web search can easily find it.

Ooops.

They’re backed into a corner and have nothing left to do but pull a trick out of the bag of their biggest cheerleader: Gov Christie. They launched a personal attack. They skirted the real issues and went for the low-blow. Educator/blogger Peter Greene reports

The NJCSA is behaving like a punk, and like a weak punk at that who lacks the tools or the skills to come at Rubin and Weber directly. And they have more work to do, because as Weber points out on his own blog, the conclusions have already been acknowledged as the truth by [‘reformy’ Newark Superintendent] Cami Anderson and [‘reformy’ Camden Superintendent] Paymon Rouhanifard, so NJCSA better start ginning up a full scale job-threatening division for the entire state.

You should read Marie’s full post.  It can be found at: http://mcorfield.blogspot.com/2015/01/njcsa-attacks-1st-amendment-rights.html

Hartford Courant story highlights bizarre effort to privatize Clark Elementary School.

A Hartford Courant article entitled, Hartford School Board Asks Education Commissioner To ‘Impose’ Turnaround Plan reveals some of the contradictions and bizarre actions taken by the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, senior Hartford board of education officials, and corporate education reform industry advocacy groups in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reports,

“Despite objections from the teachers’ union, the city board of education asked Tuesday night that state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor use his statutory power to impose a “turnaround” plan for Clark School that would include management by an outside group.

[…]

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, contended that Clark teachers and parents were given inadequate information throughout the turnaround process, which she said amounted to “bullying and intimidation” in favor of Friendship.

“Unfortunately, the Hartford BOE just can’t allow the process to proceed as it should,” Johnson said.

Although senior staff in Governor Malloy’ State Department of Education have consistently denied that they had any role in pushing the effort to direct a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Courant now reports,

“The state had recommended Friendship, which operates four public schools in Baltimore in addition to its charter schools, to the turnaround committee that has been developing an improvement plan for the prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade-school on Clark Street…”

In the days leading up to last night’s Hartford Board of Education vote, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, his hand-picked board Chairman, Republican Richard Wareing, and the corporate education reform groups, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART), Hartford Parents University and others tried to claim that the Clark School parents and community unanimously supported the move give the school to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

However, no such consensus ever existed.

In order to maintain the fantasy that the Clark School community unanimously selected Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Board of Education had to vote without allowing public input and systematically overlook information such as an email from the co-chair of the School Governance Council and member of the Clark Turnaround Committee who wrote,

“PLEASE VOTE NO TONIGHT,” adding, “our unified voice was to see other [school] models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us.”

And to make the charade complete, the Hartford Courant reported that Commissioner Pryor was up for his part of the whole scam when his spokesperson concluded,

“We’re grateful for the thoughtful dialogue and respect the local process in Hartford,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We will certainly take the views of the Hartford Board of Education, Mayor Segarra, and the Clark school governance council into account as we consider the potential paths forward.”

Thoughtful dialog?

Respect for the local process?

The truth is that State law requires that the district school turnaround process be driven by parents, teachers and the local community.

In the case of Clark Elementary School, that process was still on-going.

In fact, Clark School parents were supposed to go see schools in New York City last week and in Cincinnati this week, but those trips were suddenly cancelled.

Faced with the potential that their hand-picked private vendor would not be selected by the local community, the Mayor of Hartford, the Hartford Board of Education, corporate education reform industry advocacy groups AND the Malloy Administration conspired to concoct a strategy that effectively eliminated appropriate parent involvement.

Instead of following the law and doing the right thing, Malloy et. al. simply aborted the process and will use a no-bid contract to hand the out-of-state charter school management company a Hartford public school along with millions of dollars in state and local taxpayers’ funds.

The Clark Elementary School process has become a quintessential example of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-privatization political agenda.

In this case the winner is a private out-of-state charter schools company, while the losers are the students, parents and teachers of Clark School along with the taxpayers.

You can read the Hartford Courant story here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0409-20140408,0,3652613.story

UPDATED AT 7:30 PM – Malloy administration and Hartford Mayor team up to undermine American Federation of Teachers and Clark Elementary

UPDATED with Hartford Board of Education vote.

With Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra leading the way, the Hartford Board of Education voted 7 -1 (With only Working Families Party Robert Cotto Jr. voting no) to ask Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to short-circuit the legislative mandated school turnaround process and give Friendship Charter School, Inc. a no-bid contract to take over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School.

During the course of the discussion, the Hartford Board of Education chairman read letters from Clark Parents in favor of the move to give Friendship their school but failed to read letters from parents who opposed the give-a-way program.  In addition, the Board of Education dismissed the first hand reports that the so-called 10-1 vote in favor of Friendship  Charter Schools by the Clark School Governance was actually a vote in favor of having Friendship as an option but WAS NOT a vote exclusively in favor of the out-of-state charter school company.

Perhaps the single most important development at the meeting was the fact that the Mayor and administers with the City of Hartford admitted that the Malloy administration was behind the Friendship and that the city was told that Clark would lose the funds state funds if the parents, teachers and local officials did not agree to the Commissioner’s demand.

The Malloy administration’s willingness to abuse its powers and its commitment to privatizing Connecticut’s public schools apparently has no bounds.

UPDATED with email to Hartford Board of Education from Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member)

When Paul Hozler, the Executive Director of the corporate funded education reform group Achieve Hartford! wrote to two high-ranking Hartford Board of Education administrators that he was concerned that,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT,” 

Hozler revealed far more than he probably meant to about the strategy behind the on-going effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to an out-of-state charter school management company called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

As reported yesterday on Wait, What?, in a hastily called special Hartford Board of Education meeting scheduled for late this afternoon, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his appointed majority on the Hartford Board are expected to vote in favor of a resolution asking Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to step in and unilaterally eliminate the involvement of the parents and teachers of the Clark Elementary School.

The rush to put an end to the legally mandated school turnaround process is part of a broader effort to ensure that Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. gets a lucrative state taxpayer funded management contract to take over the Clark Elementary School.

Sources inside the State Department of Education and within the Hartford School System now confirm what internal emails had already revealed.

Prior to the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Commissioner Pryor, his turnaround team, the Hartford school administrators and a group of corporate education reform organizations were intending to allow the Clark parents and teachers to complete the legally mandated turnaround committee process.

The privatization proponents have envisioned a process in which the steps to reach consensus about Clark School would be achieved with a site visit to New York City and Cincinnati to provide the Clark School community with an opportunity to explore other turnaround options, in addition to Friendship Charter School.

However, growing concerns about the possibility that the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) and the community organization known as Hartford Rising might convince parents to choose another management model for Clark Elementary School led the supporters of privatization to a last minute change of strategy.

Starting with a meeting on Sunday evening, March 30th, the public and private funded groups promoting Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. met with a small group of Clark parents to scare them into thinking that if they did not choose Friendship Charter Schools immediately, they would lose out on the Malloy administration’s promise to allocate $1.5 million to help enhance the Clark Elementary School.

The Clark School parents were told that the site visit to New York was postponed and that Clark parents needed to attend the State Board of Education Meeting on April 2nd and speak up in favor of additional funding for Clark. 

In an interesting twist, apparently Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART) and the other groups failed to cancel the trip and a coach bus actually showed up at the Clark School to take parents to see the New York City schools, but the bus was turned away when there were no parents to go on the trip.

At the Sunday meeting, and in the days that followed, the corporate education reform groups also planned a demonstration that is set for this afternoon in which Clark Parents were told to come to the school, put on tee-shirts and march to the Board of Education meeting to demand that the Hartford Board of Education vote to ask the Commissioner to unilaterally give the management contract to Friendship Charter Schools.

The fact that the demonstration planning has been going on for days is particularly noteworthy since the notice of the Board of Education’s special meeting wasn’t even released until 5pm last night.

The coordinated effort to give Friendship Charter School a no-bid contract is not only evident in the package of internal emails but the effort has now been independently confirmed by people directly involved in the process.

And perhaps the most disturbing development in this whole, bizarre charade is that it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Hartford Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers despite state laws that not only allow, but require, the full participation of teachers and their union in the turnaround process.

Making the situation even more disgusting, in an effort to cover-up the privatization strategy, the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the corporate education reform groups are trying to make it appear that the whole effort to close down the turnaround committee process is simply a response to “service” the Clark parents.

As part of that strategy, Mayor Pedro Segarra released a statement earlier today claiming that the vote to request Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to stop the turnaround process and simply hand pick Friendship Charter Schools is at the request of the Clark Parents.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s statement was as follows,

MAYOR SEGARRA statement on parents decision regarding turnaround plan for clark elementary school

— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—

 (April 8, 2014) Today, Mayor Segarra made the following statement regarding the proposed turnaround plan for John C. Clark Elementary School:

“It has always been my belief that when a school partners with its families and community groups, children will stay in school longer and have a better chance of success.  A critical component of a providing a quality education is making sure the parents have a voice in the school process.  Parents who are actively involved in their children’s education are helping to build a foundation for their children’s future success.  The parents at Clark Elementary School have actively engaged in discussions surrounding the reform process for the school and have made their desires clear.

“The Clark School Governance Council voted unanimously in favor of partnering with the Friendship Public Charter Schools to assist in the school’s turnaround work.  It is disappointing to see that despite this clear recommendation from the School Governance Council, the Clark Turnaround Committee failed to reach consensus on a plan that would have provided the Clark Elementary School with the resources that are needed for a successful turnaround plan.  As Mayor, I support the School Governance Council’s recommendation to partner with Friendship Public Charter Schools to undertake this important work.

“I am asking that Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut, exercise his statutory authority and contact Friendship to formally request that they reconsider being the lead partner with Clark Elementary School.”

###

Mayor Segarra’s claim that he is “doing it for the parents” is particularly insulting since Hartford parents that have been directly involved in the process have made it clear that the purported vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools was not intended to be a vote in favor of giving the contact to Friendship Charter Schools but only a vote that Clark parents wanted Friendship Charter Schools as one of the options on the table as they explored other potential management models.

But as we have learned over and over again, when it comes to the privatization of our public schools, the truth is a dispensable commodity for the Malloy administration.

4 P.M. UPDATE:

Earlier today, Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member sent the Board of Education the following email;

Good Afternoon Mayor Segarra and Board Members,

My name is Lakeisha McFarland I am the PTO President, SGC member and turn around team committee member at Clark school. I feel it is necessary to inform you that the SGC 10-0 vote that everyone is talking and writing about was NOT to partner with Friendship but it was to ask them to return to the table to be considered as ONE of the options for Clark.  A couple of parents are being misled to change their voices completely. Our unified voice was to see other models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us as the option we must partner with. As the PTO President I am responsible for communicating with parents and the last meeting that was held we all agreed as a parent body that more options and other models needed to be visited.  It is unfair that an organization can change the minds of a couple and pretend that this is what the majority of parents want.  Despite the couple of parents that are being misled to believe that we must pick Friendship, parents at large still stand on our original demand of seeing more options other than Friendship. It is a sad day when an organization that is hired to get the consensus of the parents and stakeholders in the Clark community are doing the opposite and trying to deliver us to Friendship on a silver platter. Parents at Clark are asking you NOT to intervene in the process of the turn around team and PLEASE don’t take our voices away.

Sincerely,

Lakeisha

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

Clark Elementary School parents played like puppets

As Wait, What? readers will recall, first came the effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company formed by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

When parents, teachers and the Hartford Federation of Teachers fought back, the backroom deal between Pryor, his State Department of Education staff, out-going Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and some of her senior staff collapsed.

But not to be outdone, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his aides refocused their Clark Elementary School privatization effort, this time looking to hand the Hartford Public School over to a Washington D.C. based charter school company known as Friendship Charter Schools.

A batch of internal emails recently acquired by Wait, What? reveals just how deep the conspiracy to play Clark’s parents goes.

The emails paint a disgusting and potentially even illegal effort to give a private company a no-bid contract to run a Connecticut public school, all at taxpayer expense.

The emails reveal that the fix was in for the Clark Elementary School and its students, parents and teachers long before anyone from Clark was involved in the process.

From the very beginning of their effort, Connecticut State Department of Education employee, Andrew Ferguson, has served as Pryor’s point person in the widespread effort to force Clark to “accept” Friendship Charter School Company as their new masters.

The emails also make clear that the strategy moved forward with the help of a number of senior Hartford Board of Education employees, including Superintendent Kishimoto.

On February 13, 2014, long before the Clark School Turnaround Committee had even begun the extensive process of assessing what would be the best solution to improve academic performance at their school, Andrew Ferguson and Oliver Barton, a Portfolio Director for the Hartford Board of Education, were already working on how best to insert Friendship Charter Schools successfully into the final plan.

Concerning an upcoming forum, Andrew Ferguson wrote,

“Do you want Friendship to attend?”

To which the City of Hartford’s Oliver Barton responded,

 “I don’t think we’re there yet….If we get enough of the committee to a readiness level, we could have them up to discuss how a partnership would actually work.

At the same time, investigative blogs published on Wait, What? started to shine a light on the growing conspiracy.  NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (February 10, 2014) and Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School (Feb 13, 2014).

In response to the 2nd Wait, What? post,  Kevin McCaskill, the Hartford Board of Education’s Director of School Design and Programming, wrote to Oliver Barton warning him,

“Jonathan Pelto again on the blog – talking about the CSDE’s attempts to privitize.”

To which Oliver Barton responded,

“Clark parents spoke with Vanessa at courant to disput blog claim that the model is predecided.  Should be in tomorrow, wed.” (Spelling mistakes are original parts of email)

Fears that the strategy wasn’t taking shape fast enough appeared just two weeks later when, on February 26, 2014, Paul Holzer, the Executive Director of Achieve Hartford! wrote to Oliver Barton and Kevin McCaskill.

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group dedicated to privatizing Hartford’s schools and implementing the corporate education reform industry’s political agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

In his email to the two Hartford Board of Education employees, Achieve Hartford’s Paul Holzer wrote,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT…”

And Holzer added,

“I just need to know from the District’s perspective how this is playing out against the game plan, so to speak.”

Taken in total, the various emails back and forth between the Malloy administration, the Hartford Board of Education employees, Friendship Charter School and outside education reform advocacy groups explain how hard these “public” officials have been working to force the Clark School community to accept their “destiny” of seeing their school handed over to a private corporation named Friendship Charter Schools.

The communications also reveal an utter disdain and disregard for Hartford’s teachers and especially for the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

And although the process raises serious ethical and legal questions about state and local public officials using their positions to steer public dollars to private corporations, the Malloy administration clearly believes that it has “won” the battle.

A sign of their arrogant sense of accomplishment could be seen just this week.  Although the future of Clark Elementary School wasn’t even on the recent State Board of Education’s agenda, a group of Clark Parents were persuaded to sign up and spoke “in favor” of the so-called “Friendship Charter School Partnership,” despite the fact that just a week earlier Friendship Charter had withdrawn their proposal to run Clark Elementary.

This latest move by Pryor, Hartford, Achieve Hartford! and Friendship Charter Schools is nothing short of a late breaking effort to isolate and undermine the role the Clark’s teachers and the guaranteed role that the Hartford Federation of Teachers is supposed to play in the turnaround process.

This package of emails is yet another reminder of just how committed the Malloy administration has become in their effort to silence parents, teachers and public school advocates as part of their ongoing effort to push through their corporate education reform industry agenda.