Corporate Education Reform Industry pours money into Malloy campaign operation

10 Comments

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation…And to see how appreciative the corporate education reform industry is, one need only look at Malloy’s campaign fundraising program which has already raised more than $100,000 from the anti-public education industry.

As a participant in Connecticut’s public financing system, candidate Malloy is only supposed to rely on the taxpayer dollars that he will receive as a qualified candidate for governor.  But thanks to a gigantic loophole in the law, the Malloy political operation has been raising money for the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee in order to augment the millions in public funds he will get to pay his campaign expenses.

By the end of February 2014, Malloy’s fundraising program had already collected more than $2.4 million into just one of the two accounts managed by the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, Malloy has turned to the corporate funded pro-charter school, anti-teacher, anti-public education forces to help him raise record amounts of money.

The infamous Democrats for Education Reform, an anti-public education political action committee based in Washington D.C., has already provided Malloy with a check for $5,000.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife have donated a total of $36,000 to Malloy’s operation in just the past six months.  Sackler is the one who helped Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, create and expand Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company.  Sackler was also a co-founder of the Connecticut charter school advocacy group ConnCAN and went on to create the national charter school advocacy group called 50 CAN.  When Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch tried to eliminate the democratically-elected board of education in that city, he turned to Sackler for a last-minute campaign donation of $50,000 to help pay for what proved to be his failed effort to undermine democracy.

Another nationally-recognized corporate education reform advocate to pour money into Malloy’s campaign is billionaire Stephen Mandel Jr.  Mandel, who was behind the creation of the corporate-funded education reform advocacy group, Excel Bridgeport, Inc., has already written two $10,000 checks for Malloy’s political activities.

Los Angeles, anti-public education billionaire Eli Broad has also gotten in on the act donating $8,000 to Malloy so far in this campaign cycle. Broad’s foundation is one of the three major national foundations funding the corporate education reform effort across the country.

And Sackler isn’t the only member of Achievement First Inc. and ConnCAN’s Board of Directors to have ponied up for Malloy.

To date, board members of these two Connecticut-based education reform groups have donated well in excess of $50,000 to Malloy’s political aspirations and that doesn’t even count another $50,000 that these same people dumped into another political action committee affiliated with Malloy.

So much for campaign contribution limits…and with Election Day still seven months away, we can be sure that Malloy will continue to cash in on his anti-public education agenda.

Will State Board of Education over look conflicts of interest to approve more charter schools

5 Comments

While Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s budget fails to properly fund public schools in Connecticut it does provide for an increase in the number of privately run charter schools.

This Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the Connecticut State Board of Education will meet to consider applications for new charter schools in Connecticut.

The list of applicants includes,

  • Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven) – See Application [PDF]
  • Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Great Oaks Charter School  (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF]

Morgan Barth, an aide to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is the individual who is responsible for the State Department of Education Charter School review process and will be leading the discussion during the State Board of Education’s agenda item entitled, “Consideration of Charter School Applications.”

What isn’t clear is whether the members of the State Board of Education understand, appreciate or have even been informed about the significant conflicts of interest that exist with some of these applicants.

One of the leading applications for approval at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting is a new publicly funded charter school that is being proposed by Steve Perry.

As readers know, Steve Perry currently serves as the principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, a public school within the Hartford School System.

While failing to show up for his public school job  more than 20 percent of the time, Perry spent his time creating his own private company called Capital Preparatory Schools Incorporated.

It is that private company that is now trying to open a new charter school in Bridgeport.

According to Perry’s application, the “founding members” of his charter school are all full-time employees of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford although the application doesn’t explain how Perry and the other full-time employees of the City of Hartford will have the time to open and run a privately owned charter school in Bridgeport.

Leading Perry’s proposed “governing board” are Bridgeport’s Reverend Kenneth M. Moales, Jr. (Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and Love Christian Academy), Pastor Carl McCluster (Shiloh Baptist Church), and Reverend William McCollough  (Russell Temple CME Church).

Moales, of course, is the campaign treasurer for Mayor Bill Finch, the disgraced former Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and a member of the illegally appointed Board Education that was struck down and disbanded by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Kenneth Moales was originally appointed to Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education by the Malloy administration’s Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.

Perry’s application includes a letter of support from Mayor Bill Finch and Finch has been lobbying for the approval of Perry’s charter school.

The other primary proponent for Perry’s new school is Excel Bridgeport, Inc., the corporate funded education reform lobbying group that was created by Meghan Lowney and Nate Snow.

Snow serves as the director of the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and Lowney works for Steve Mandel, the billionaire corporate education reform industry leader who is also one of Governor Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors.

Nate Snow also serves as the Chairman of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and has worked closely with Pryor, Barth and senior staff at the State Department of Education to expand the TFA’s reach into Connecticut;s urban school districts.

However, the conflicts of interest and the perceived conflicts of interest associated with Steve Perry’s charter school and the other charter school applications go well beyond the information above.

Although it fails to show up in any of the documents associated with Steve Perry’s application, before becoming Pryor’s aide at the State Department of Education, Morgan Barth served as the principal for Achievement First Inc.’s Bridgeport Academy, another charter school in Bridgeport.

At the same time Morgan Barth also served on Excel Bridgeport Inc.’s Board of Directors.  Barth quietly resigned last year.

As part of its pro-charter school lobbing effort, Excel Bridgeport Inc. even featured its board member on their website:  See Excel Bridgeport Board Member Morgan Barth tonight on your TV.

During Barth’s tenure as a member of Excel Bridgeport’s Board of Directors, the corporate funded education lobbying group led the charge in favor of Mayor Bill Finch’s efforts to do away with Bridgeport’s elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.  Excel Bridgeport Inc. also lobbied extensively in support of Paul Vallas, Board Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. and the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, including the very charter school that Barth was running.

As Excel Bridgeport wrote at the time, “ It’s amazing how high expectations can change the life path of a child. Keep up the good work AFBA!” [Achievement First Bridgeport Academy].

But Barth’s connection with charter schools and the expansion of charter schools goes well beyond his direct connection with those pushing Steve Perry’s Bridgeport charter school proposal.

Barth worked for Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s charter school management company, Achievement First, Inc., for more than a decade before becoming the Director of Pryor’s Office of School Turnaround.

For at least six of those years Barth taught illegally at Achievement First, Inc.

Despite repeated warnings from the State Department of Education that Barth was not certified and could not legally work in a Connecticut public school, Barth continued to teach and serve as an administrator for Achievement First, Inc.

Fortunately for Barth and Pryor in 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly changed the law and allowed charter schools to have up to 30 percent of their staff un-certified.  Barth was one of those un-certified individuals who continued to work for Achievement First, Inc. until he joined Pryor at the State Department of Education.

In addition to those issues, the complex interrelationships between Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth, Steve Perry, Michael Sharpe (Sharpe’s application to open the New Haven Booker T. Washington Charter School is also up for a vote on Wednesday) and other charter school proponents is extensive and far-reaching.

Just last month, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry and Michael Sharpe were part of the Love Christian Academy’s annual education conference.  The conference is sponsored by none-other-than Kenneth Moales and held at Moales’ church in Bridgeport.

While Moales was unsuccessful in trying to get approval to turn his private religious school into an all-boys publicly funded charter school last year he has, as noted, returned this year as the founding member of the “Governing Board” that will oversee Steve Perry’s new Bridgeport Charter Schools.

The advertising for last month’s conference read, “This year’s theme is educational leadership and will feature Rev. Al Sharpton, Capital Prep’s Founder Steve Perry and State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.”

One of the highlights of the conference was advertised as the parent workshops put on by Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the very group that is now advocating for Perry’s new school and the group that had Morgan Barth as one of its Directors.

Further blurring the lines, Steve Perry’s Hartford lawyer has recently become Kenneth Moales’ attorney as Moales tries to fight off a foreclosure action that seeks to take his church, home and cars for his failure to pay his mortgages.

And back in Hartford, after spending nearly four years pushing his corporate education reform industry agenda, Governor Malloy has decided to seek re-election and is now trying to persuade teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is going to transform himself into a supporter of public schools.

But the truth paints a very different picture.

When the State Board of Education meets this week to consider diverting even more taxpayer funds to charter schools the public will see, yet again, why Malloy is considered the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the  nation.

Investigation needed into Malloy administration’s handling of Clark Elementary School Fiasco

17 Comments

Last October Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his corporate education reform industry allies teamed up with Hartford’s outgoing superintendent of schools, Christina Kishimoto, to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.

See Wait, What? articles?

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (October 25, 2013)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (October 28, 2013)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (October 31, 2013)

When parents, teachers and the Clark School community rose up in anger, even Governor Malloy’s close ally, Mayor Pedro Segarra, were forced to back off the backroom deal with Achievement First, Inc.

With Achievement First, Inc. off the table, Pryor and his operatives concocted Plan B.

Plan B was designed to use Pryor’s “school turnaround process” to hand control of the Clark Elementary School over to a Washington D.C. charter school chain called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.  In addition to charter schools in Washington, Friendship runs a series of charter schools in Baltimore Maryland.

Despite promising that it would be the parents, teachers and the Clark School community that they play the lead role in making any decisions about the future of Clark Elementary School, Commissioner Pryor, his school turnaround director, Morgan Barth, and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson were already working to deliver a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have failed to persuade the State Department of Education to turnover email communications and documents about the early planning that occurred between Pryor’s office and Friendship Charter Schools.

However high-ranking officials within the State Department have confirmed that the Malloy administration had already “cut a deal” with Friendship Charter Schools, Inc weeks ago.

Information about the deal between Pryor and Friendship first appeared in the following Wait, What? posts,

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (Feb. 10, 2014)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (Feb. 13, 2014)

And early this month, the Malloy administration tried to move forward with Plan B.  See Wait, What? articles,

NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (March 6, 2014)

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else (March 9, 2014)

Once again, parents, teachers and the Clark School Community have been forced to come to the defense of their local elementary school

This time, in an attempt to defuse the community’s anger, the Hartford Courant is reporting that Commissioner Pryor has announced that he will allow the community,  More Time To Draft ‘Turnaround’ Plan For Hartford’s Clark School.”  

Although Pryor and the Malloy administration have consistently denied that there was any pre-determination in favor of Friendship Charter Schools, the Courant story reveals the truth with the statement that, “State education officials [now admit that] they recommended Friendship because the group has experience working with a teacher’s union and has the organizational means to take on a school with as many challenges as Clark — and in time for the 2014-15 academic year.”

In a truly laughable moment, Pryor’s Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth was quoted in the same Courant story as saying, “This talk of, ‘it’s Friendship or bust,’ and there’s an ultimatum from the state to have Friendship … that’s not true.”

While Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson added in equally absurd quote saying, “The state can’t want it more than the local community.”

Of course, the ongoing attempt by the Malloy administration reveals just how hard it has been working to give the school away to an out-side charter management company.  In case after case Pryor’s State Department of Education has made it absolutely clear to local communities that they have had little to no choice in what would happen once Pryor’s announced their school was a target for his turnaround program

The citizens of Connecticut deserve an investigation into the Malloy administrations actions surrounding the effort to first give Clark Elementary School to Achievement First, Inc. and then to give it to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Mayor Segarra and Matt Poland lead 6-2 vote to give TFA $650,000

26 Comments

There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.

While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford..  In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.

Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education.  All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.

In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.

Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.

Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.

The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,

According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors.  Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America.  Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.

Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors.  Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry.  Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.

In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr.  Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain.  KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.

Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island.  Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.

Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors.  Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.

Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.  Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.

ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative.  These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport.  They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas.  (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday).  Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country.  Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors.  50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.

Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr.  That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.

Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,

“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.

Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.

[…]

Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.

Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”

While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.

Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.

Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.

Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.

For Martin Luther King, it wasn’t “bad” segregation vs. “okay” segregation.

3 Comments

It was June 23, 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the Great March on Detroit, which has also been called “The Walk to Freedom.” Speaking to a crowd of more than 25,000 people at Cobo Hall in Detroit King said:

“For we have come to see that segregation is not only sociologically untenable, it is not only politically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Segregation is a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity. Segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality. 

[…]

 “I think we all will agree that probably the most damaging effect of segregation has been what it has done to the soul of the segregated as well as the segregator.”

And King reserved some of his most powerful words for the segregation in the North where he said;

“No community in this country can boast of clean hands in the area of brotherhood. Now in the North it’s different in that it doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South. And so if you want to help us in Alabama and Mississippi and over the South, do all that you can to get rid of the problem here.”

Dr. King did not differentiate between BAD segregation and segregation that was OKAY or that was acceptable.    

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made it clear that ALL segregation was bad.

But here we are 50 years later and multiple forms of segregation surround us.

Earlier today, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry tweeted that “Dr. Martin Luther, Jr was a huge critic of US public ed.”

Proving that even Steve Perry and those of us who believe in the importance of public education can agree on something… Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge critic of US public education.

But to use King’s words to defend the corporate education reform industry’s effort to expand charter schools and support the privatization of public education is beyond disingenuous.

As King noted over and over again, in the North the problem of segregation was just as serious as in the South but it came in the form of de facto segregation, just as the Supreme Court had ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education.

De facto segregation remains one of the greatest threats to our public education system, our society and our future.

But Perry and his charter school allies couldn’t be more wrong when they imply that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would support their vision of education policy.

Every single one of Connecticut’s major charter schools is even more segregated than the school districts that they serve and as proof of their use of de facto segregation, every charter school, along with Perry’s own Capital Prep., fails to enroll or maintain their fair share of Hispanic students, students that aren’t fluent in English or students that go home households where English is not the primary language.

As the following chart clear show, segregation comes in many forms and some of the most serious segregation can found in Connecticut’s charter schools and schools like Capital Prep.

District/School % Hispanic % not fluent in English % from homes where English isn’t primary language

Hartford School System

49.7%

18%

39.7%

 

Capital Prep

21.7%

3.4%

13.9%

 

Jumoke Academy

3.9%

0.2%

 

Achievement First – Hartford

13.9%

6.7%

7.6%

     

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not distinguish between BAD segregation and segregation that was OKAY.

King never minced words.  He was an American Hero and an American Revolutionary.  He spoke the truth no matter the result and he paid for that with his life.

The stark reality is that as a nation and a society we have made little progress in achieving King’s Dream.

But as we grapple with that failure don’t let anyone fool you…As King said, segregation is segregation and schools that segregate against certain ethic groups or segregate against those who are in need of special educational services are failing to achieve King’s Dream just as much as those who segregate based on the color of a child’s skin.

In addition to discriminating against Latinos and non-English speaking students, Connecticut’s Charter Schools and schools like Capital Prep do just as bad, if not even worse, when it comes to discriminating against students who require some additional special educational services.

District/School % of students needing Special Education Services

Hartford School System

13.5%

 

Capital Prep

6.3%

 

Jumoke Academy

4.1%

 

Achievement First – Hartford

6.7%

 

 

 

Addressing the unfinished tasks laid out by Martin Luther King is everyone’s responsibility but let’s start with an honest assessment of what is really going on in Connecticut when it comes to the de facto segregation that is undermining the ethical and moral authority of our public schools.

Malloy’s campaign donation haul from corporate education reform industry tops $70k

3 Comments

An updated review of the latest federal and state campaign finance reports reveal that Governor Malloy has collected in excess of $70,000 in campaign contributions from individuals associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Although Malloy has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election next year and he has not filed the necessary paperwork be a candidate, his fundraising operation is in full-swing and the corporate education reform industry has become one of, if not the, largest sources of campaign cash for his political aspirations.

Since Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation, the corporate reform industry has spent more than $6 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s initiatives.  One education reform group, A Better Connecticut, which was formed by the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN spent in excess of $2 million television advertisements “thanking” Malloy for his leadership in promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education.

Malloy has also been going to the corporate education reform industry for campaign contributions.

Last year Malloy, a held a lucrative fundraiser for the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee at the home of Jonathan Sackler, the corporate executive who helped finance Achievement First, Inc., ConnCAN, 50-CAN and other education reform organizations.  The fundraiser netted in excess of $40,000 for the Malloy related PAC.

This year the money from the corporate education reform industry has been funneled through the federal and state accounts of the Democratic State Central Committee.

Malloy’s recent contributions include another $20,000 from Sackler and his wife, at least $15,000 from other members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and at least $11,000 from members of Achievement First’s Board of Directors.  Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and the larger charter school management company has received a major increase in funding since Pryor took over the State Department of Education.

In addition to large contributions from ConnCAN and Achievement First board members, Malloy has collected $10,000 from billionaire Steve Mandel who serves on the TFA Board of Directors and $8,000 from billionaire Eli Broad who is one of the three largest funders of the corporate education reform industry.

According to the various reports it appears that Malloy has collected at least $70,000 for his various campaign related PACs and Committees from the charter school and education reform industry.

Did you see the “For Sale” sign that the Malloy Administration put up?

1 Comment

The evidence continues to surface…

Since Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly changed the law to allow individuals to donate larger amounts of money to the respective State political parties, the funds have been flowing in to the Democratic State Central Committee courtesy of those who do business with the state or want to “impact” public policy in Connecticut.

According to the most recent State Elections Enforcement Commission and Federal Election Commission reports on file, the pipeline to the State Democrats from people doing business with the state or trying to influence legislation has increased dramatically over the past few months.

First came four checks totaling $30,000 from major players in the corporate education reform industry including at least two members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors.  Achievement First, Inc. is the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  (See Wait, What? post: Malloy/Democrats make mockery of Connecticut’s once prominent role in campaign finance reform)

Then came the news that “Eight donors affiliated with HAKS Engineers – a company paid millions a year by the state Department of Transportation – contributed $45,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party last month.” (See Wait, What? post: Meanwhile…..John Rowland? No Dannel Malloy and the Raising Hale Blog post: “Employees, family of DOT contractor gave $45,000 to Conn. Democratic Party last month

And now comes yet another example in which, “A husband, wife and son each wrote $10,000 checks to the Connecticut Democratic Party weeks after learning the Department of Transportation selected their company for a $500 million Stamford redevelopment project.”

As fellow investigative reporter and blogger, Zachary Janowski, explains in a post entitled, “DOT contractor gave $30,000 to Connecticut Democrats weeks after selection,”  The state will provide $35 million for parking garages near the city’s train station, while the preferred developer, the joint venture Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures, will finance the rest of the “transit-oriented development” project.

The development, to be called Station Place, is expected to include office space, a hotel and residential units amounting to 1 million square feet, according to the Stamford Advocate.”

The contributions were made to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “Federal Account” on July 1, 2013.   The company’s owner also gave an additional $2,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “State Account” this year and also donated to the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee, a separate Malloy-affiliated entity that has held 15 fundraisers since Malloy took office. (Three of those fundraisers were held in Washington D.C., three in New York City and the rest in Connecticut).

The most successful Prosperity for Connecticut PAC fundraiser was the one targeted for supporters of the corporate education reform industry and held at the home of Jonathan Sackler the day Malloy’s education reform initiative became a Public Act.  The fundraising event brought in more than $40,000 and that amount DOES NOT include the $10,000 checks Sacker and his wife sent directly to the Democratic State Central Committee this year.  Sackler is a member of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors and is the leading force behind 50-CAN, a national education reform advocacy group.

You can read more about the pipeline between state contractors and the Democratic Party at http://www.raisinghale.com

David Samuels: The Community Party’s Powerful Voice for Social Justice

8 Comments

David Samuels is the founder of the Community Party.  The Community Party is a Connecticut statewide network of activists dedicated to addressing issues of social justice and criminal justice reform.  Samuels and the Community Party have been working to educate people and change public policy on a wide variety of issues.  In particular, Samuels and the Community Party have been the driving force behind the effort to force Connecticut’s elected officials to confront the unconstitutional policies of racial profiling in Connecticut. 

The group is also playing a fundamental role in pushing for an effective workplace bullying law in Connecticut and highlighting rampant discriminatory practices the remain in Connecticut state government.

Samuels writes a regular commentary piece for the Hartford News.  His blog, which features those columns and other pieces he has written can be found at: No Sellout.

His twitter feed is @CommunityParty1  and the Community Party’s Facebook Page is https://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction.

As those who have followed Samuels and the Community Party already know, the organization has become increasingly involved in supporting and highlighting the role parents can play in the fight to ensure local schools are adequately funded and supported and that they are not turned over to the corporate education reform industry.

Parents, teachers, public school advocates and community activists across Connecticut should make the Community Party’s work mandatory reading and seek ways to join forces with the Community Party on these vital issues.

Here is a column David Samuels wrote for the Nov. 21 – 27 edition of the Hartford News.  It can also be found at Clark and SAND School Parents Push Back Against the Charter School Hustle.

In addition, Samuels’ Facebook page features great videos on the Clark School and S.A.N.D. School parent uprisings.

Here is Samuels recent commentary piece entitled;

Clark and SAND School Parents Push Back Against the Charter School Hustle

Tuesday night Clark Rising, a grassroots group of Clark Elementary School parents, SAND Elementary School parents and local public school advocates joined forces to fight back against the corporate takeover of both schools by Achievement First, Inc. and Capital Preparatory Magnet School, respectively. The showdown took place at the monthly Hartford Board of Education meeting. Parents told me their chief complaint was that they are being excluded from conversations about the direction of Hartford schools such as Clark, SAND and Rawson, the site of the BOE meeting. I spoke with Rawson Principal Gerald Martin, who claimed that he has been making an effort to reach out to parents. Martin said that he had no personal opinion on the charter school concept and that the decision on privatization should be left up to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the parents.

Last week Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced that he would not support an Achievement First takeover of Clark School. However that doesn’t mean this plan is dead; the BOE made that clear at the meeting. During the public comment portion city resident Hyacinth Yennie accused the BOE of pitting parents against each other “with so called choice.” She brought up the “blue ribbon” Dwight School which was shut down as an example of the BOE using “failing schools” as a ruse to justify privatization. The crowd at Rawson roared in approval when Yennie urged city officials to “put a leash on Dr.(Steve) Perry.” Perry is the principal at Capital Prep. BOE Chairman Matt Poland was unconvincing as he denied being a pawn of the charter school power brokers and attempted to demonize public school advocates. Achievement First was co-founded by Stefan Prior, Gov. Malloy’s Commissioner of Education. Perry is the central figure in the plan to privatize SAND School. Apparently Mayor Segarra and the BOE are allowing Perry to take a quasi-paid leave of absence from his taxpayer funded job (he’s been absent 20% of the school year and arrived late or left early numerous times) so he can act as an agent for the charter school industry. Charter schools are big business. Really big business. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reported on the charter school hustle in 2010. He explained how Wall Street investors are reaping huge windfalls from school privatization.

“One of the things I’ve been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans, big banks and executives of Wall Street banks have all lined up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. And I think I may have come across one of the reasons: there’s a lot of money to be made in charter schools. And I’m not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.

“It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets Tax Credit. And what this allows is it gives an enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities, and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. And I focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools. Twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany are now attending charter schools. And I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets Tax Credits.

“And what happens is, the investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit. They piggyback the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.

“And the problem is that the charter schools end up paying in rents the debt service on these loans. And so, now a lot of the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt — their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year, or huge increases in their rents, as they strain to pay off these construction loans. And the rents are eating up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

“So, one of the big issues is that so many of these charter schools are not being audited. No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. And often there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans. And so, there needs to be sunlight on this whole issue. And the state legislature right now is considering expanding charter school caps, but one of the things I press for in my column, there has to be the power of the government to independently audit all of these charter schools, or we’re not going to know how public dollars are ending up in the coffers of Wall Street investors.”

Black Agenda Report commentator Bruce Dixon recently wrote a column on charter schools. Dixon talked about the true socioeconomic and political purpose of school privatization. ”Doug Henwood, a radical economist and founder of Left Business Observer, says it as succinctly as anyone when he sums up the goal of bipartisan corporate education reform imposed on poorer neighborhoods as ‘…low cost privatized holding tanks leading to McDonalds jobs for the lucky, or to prison for the not so lucky…’ along with classes delivered by computers rather than unionized teachers. But as useful as this summation is, it leaves out one element worth noting. You can’t run a global empire without a military class, any more than you can run a prison without prison guards… Before the era of corporate reform there was at least one achievement of genuine small d democratic education reform pushed through by the administration of Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s. Since then parents in every public school have been allowed to elect parent councils, with reps from among rank and file teachers, which have veto power over title one funds and principal’s contracts, which are limited to two years. The ‘innovative’ answer of downtown bureaucrats, corporate elites and subsequent mayors to parents taking a hand in running the schools has been to simply close Chicago public schools and replace them with charters over which parents have no say. What mayor and what alderman really want organized parents running their own neighborhood institutions? It’s bad for business if you’re a privatizer, or a politician who takes cues and campaign contributions from privatizers. And ultimately habits of local democracy are bad for empire.”

Last week Jonathan Pelto exposed how Perry used workplace bullying to further his attempt to take over SAND School and start his own charter school management company. Jonathan reported that Capital Prep teachers came forward to complain about Perry’s administrative team pressuring them to write letters to the BOE supporting Perry’s plan. Administrators told teachers to use their work emails to send these letters and to copy Perry on the emails, which would provide Perry and his team with a record of which teachers were playing ball. Jonathan pointed out that Perry using his subordinates to lobby the BOE is a clear violation of BOE policies, which prohibit the use of work emails for political activity. Late Tuesday night the school board voted 5-3 against the SAND proposal. Mayor Segarra said he would not support the plan due to a lack of support by the parents. Congratulations to the Clark and SAND school parents and public school advocates on their victory! The link to Jonathan’s report, DN’s archive on charter schools, Gonzalez’s New York Daily News column on the school privatization cash scam and Dixon’s commentary are available in our Resources section.

For the full commentary piece including some valuable resources go to: Clark and SAND School Parents Push Back Against the Charter School Hustle.

School Choice or Extortion (By Wendy Lecker)

13 Comments

Public education advocate and fellow commentator Wendy Lecker has an outstanding piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media outlets about Hartford’s recent “school choice” debacle.

You can find Wendy’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-School-choice-or-extortion-5022275.php.  Below is a somewhat longer version.

Both do an excellent job laying out the issues surrounding Achievement First, Inc., Capital Prep and Hartford’s Clark and SAND elementary schools.

The entire story is a great case study in how the corporate education reform industry is trying to destroying our public education system and how parents, teachers and communities can fight back.

School Choice or Extortion (By Wendy Lecker)

Driven by their Madison Avenue advertising mentality, the corporate education “reform” industry’s narrative seeks to convince our nation’s citizens that our public education system is failing,” parents need market-based “ school choice” so their children can escape dismal neighborhood schools.

A primary solution, according to these education reformers is to remove public schools out of the control of local community school boards and hand them over to boards made up of corporate leaders or even hand them over to private management companies.

As a result of this business first mentality, rather than properly fund neighborhood schools, officials in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York and even right here in Connecticut push a political agenda in which underfunded community schools are closed and replaced with privately-run “schools of choice.” In nearly every case, our most vulnerable children are the first to be excluded from these “new” schools, while the remaining students are faced with barely-trained, inexperienced and often temporary teachers.

One of the most interesting developments has been the fact that voters simply don’t buy the corporate education industry’s version of the world.

In a recent 2013 Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup national poll on public education, the largest majority of parents ever recorded gave their community schools a grade of A or B.

The fact is most parents do not think their schools are failing their children. The poll revealed that the majority of parents trust teachers. The most serious problem facing public schools, according to parents polled, contrary to claims by reformers, is the fundamental lack of adequate funding, with school overcrowding being the second most serious concern cited by parents.

Rather than close and replace their schools or fire their children’s teachers, the vast majority of parents in the United States want their schools funded sufficiently so they have the capacity to provide all children with the resources, services and support they need to succeed.

A powerful example of the clash between reformer rhetoric and parent reality can be found in Connecticut’s Capital City.

In recent weeks, parents from two community schools have risen up to successfully oppose proposals by Christina Kishimoto, Hartford’s outgoing “reform” superintendent, and Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor to hand over their neighborhood schools over to private companies. Neither school community was consulted before the plans were developed.

The reformers initial proposal was to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary school over to Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

Almost 18% of Clark’s students have disabilities, and 15.2% are English Language Learners. Clark’s school governance council has begged the district, in vain, for additional resources, including teachers, a psychologist, a guidance counselor and basic school repairs such as a functional heating and cooling system.

Only 6.7% of Achievement First’s students have special needs, 6.7% are English Language Learners. Moreover, Achievement First has the highest rate of suspensions in the state for children under 6 years old, and has been investigated and cited for federal violations in mistreating students with disabilities.

Upon hearing of the proposed Achievement First takeover, Clark’s parents fought back.   They openly feared that their special needs children would “not have a place” at an Achievement First school.  One parent said “Our teachers work very hard and they love our kids.” Another remarked that when children do not listen, Achievement First suspends them. “Our teachers find a way to keep them in school, find out what is behind their [behavior].”  Noting the school was praised by the district in 2013 for its academic progress, a parent declared, “We didn’t ask for our school to be redesigned but only for supports to keep making improvements.”

In the face of the strong opposition from parents, the mayoral-controlled majority of the school board backed down.

The same scene recurred about a week later.  This time the Hartford BOE was presented with a plan to hand the SAND elementary school over to Steve Perry’s new private management company. Perry currently heads Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School.  Kishimoto and Pryor tried to shift both SAND and Capital Prep to Perry’s company.

At Capital Prep, 6.3% of the students have disabilities, 3.4% of the students are English Language Learners, and 51.4% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.  Mr. Perry bills Capital Prep as a “no excuses” school. The school has a high attrition rate for teachers and students; and allegations of bullying abound.

Mr. Perry has been absent for almost 20% of the year so far, traveling and giving speeches. In one speech, he claimed that public schools are “over-feminized.”

In SAND school, 14.9% of the children have disabilities, 21.4% are English Language Learners, and over 95% of the children are eligible for free-or-reduced-priced lunch.

Parents came out to contest the “hostile takeover” of their school. One student claimed that “Capital Prep does not understand the [SAND] students” and feared that Capital Prep would “kick [neighborhood kids] out.” Another remarked that “We know these teachers and they know us.” He continued,” If you want kids at SAND to learn better, give kids the same support you do at fancy schools like Capital Prep. If I had fifteen kids in my classroom and two teachers, I would learn better too.”

The school board backed down again.

But this retreat may only be temporary. The school board subsequently met in private, in executive session, and emerged with another “turnaround plan.” Digging up an obscure law, the board suggested finding a school to become a “lighthouse” school.  A lighthouse school is an existing school that is “redesigned” to have a specialized curriculum and be open to intradistrict and interdistrict choice.  Such a school would be eligible for additional funding if it is subjected to this “redesign.”

According to approach being taken by the corporate education reformers, the only way parents will get more resources for their inadequately funded schools to acquiesce to a redesign- a redesign that will necessarily disrupt their school community – fire teachers, exclude children.

But of course, that is not really school choice- in the real world it’s called extortion.

It remains to be seen whether Hartford officials will listen to parents- those who know best what their children need. If they don’t, as one parent reminded Hartford officials- “We voted you in. We can vote you out.”

You can read the piece in the Stamford Advocate here:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-School-choice-or-extortion-5022275.php

 

 

Kishimoto’s Agenda: “Process for Identifying Schools for Redesign”

8 Comments

The Hartford Board of Education will be holding a “Workshop Meeting” tonight, November 6, 2013.

Before the meeting, parents, teachers and public school advocates will hold a press conference about Kishimoto’s plan to close Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First, Inc.

The press conference and rally is in response to the Hartford Board of Education Agenda tonight that reads:

“Process for Identifying Schools for Redesign”

In the real world, we would call the phrase, “process for identifying schools for redesign,” Doublespeak.

“Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs, “servicing the target” for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language” – Wikipedia

The term is usually associated with George Orwell’s book, 1984.

In this case, Hartford Superintendent of Schools has identified a group of “failing schools.”  Her plan is to close two of the schools and hand one over the Achievement First Inc. and the other to Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Magnet School.

A “process for identifying schools for redesign” really means – how does Kishimoto and her supporters pull this off without students, parents, teachers, public school advocates, voters and residents getting in way.

The primary tactic will be to continue to limit public information, limit public input and use doublespeak to make bad things look good.

First up is Kishimoto’s plan to close Hartford’s Clark School and give it to Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Achievement First, Inc. already owns one school in Hartford.

And Achievement First, Inc. is notorious for failing to take its fair share or provide adequate services to Latino students, students who face English language barriers and children who require special education services.

For example:

The number of students coming from households where English is not the primary language.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 26% 8%
2010-2011 26% 5%
2009-2010 26% 5%

 

The percentage of students requiring special education services.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18% 7%
2010-2011 16% 8%
2009-2010 14% 8%

 

The number of experienced Special Education Teachers and Special Education Paraprofessionals.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 19.5 2
2010-2011 17.5 1.5
2009-2010 14.5 1.5

 

Teachers: Average Number of years of experience in education.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18.9 years 2.4 years
2010-2011 16.2 years 2.2 years
2009-2010 13.2 years 2.0 years

 

% of Teachers with Master’s degree or above

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 76% 40%
2010-2011 72% 34%
2009-2010 70% 28%

 

But the parents and teachers of Clark School, along with the Hartford Federation of Teachers and other public school advocates are fighting back.

Here is the latest from Clark’s parents and teachers…

“Clark Rising” is a response to the proposed take-over of Clark School.

WHEN:  Wednesday, November 6 at 5:00PM ahead of the Hartford Board of Education workshop meeting at 5:30PM.

WHERE:  Jumoke Academy Honors at Milner, located at 104 Vine Street in Hartford’s North End.

WHAT:  Parents of students at John C. Clark, Jr. Elementary and Middle School will discuss the recently announced “redesign” and hand-over of the community school to a charter operator. They will be joined by local community activists, civil rights leaders, and Hartford Public Schools teachers and education support staff who are supporting the parents’ efforts.

INFO: The “Clark Rising” movement is a grass-roots response to the proposed displacement of Clark School students in order to make way for the expansion of charter operator Achievement First. The press conference is being organized to announce efforts by the parents of the community school’s students in advance of an expected vote by the Hartford Board of Education on the proposal.

Older Entries