The Corporate Education Reform Industry effort to buy control of Public Education

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The Progressive is the renowned magazine created in 1909 by the Progressive United States Senator, Robert M. La Follette Sr.  The Progressive is known for its investigative reporting, political commentary, cultural coverage, activism, interviews, poetry, and humor. It steadfastly stands against militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, and the disenfranchisement of the citizenry.  This is my third article in this magazine about the corporate education reform industry’s effort to undermine America’s public education system.

The Corporate Education Reform Industry effort to buy control of Public Education

This year’s election season provided a series of textbook examples of how corporate education reformers used their personal fortunes to contaminate the democratic process.

Let’s begin with the little state of Rhode Island, where former hedge fund owner and charter school champion, Democrat Gina Raimondo was elected governor with 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race—one in which there was an unprecedented level of campaign spending.

Raimondo, who as Rhode Island’s state treasurer won national acclaim from conservatives for successfully dismantling the state employee pension fund, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors associated with funding the education reform movement and profiting from the charter school industry. Her running mate, Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee, one of the state’s most vocal supporters of charter schools, was elected lieutenant governor with help from many of the same donors.

Over the course of her gubernatorial campaign, Raimondo collected checks from many of the major players in the charter school and “education reform” movement, including donations from billionaires Eli Broad and members of the Walton Family.  (The Broad Foundation and Walton Foundation, along with Gates Foundation, are the primary funders behind the overall education reform movement.)

Another billionaire, former Enron executive John Arnold along with his wife, not only donated directly to Raimondo’s campaign and her political action committee, called Gina PAC, but the couple’s $100,000 check made them the largest donors to the American LeadHERship Council, a Super PAC affiliated with Raimondo. The second largest donor to the Super PAC was Eli Broad with $15,000.

A proponent of doing away with public employee pensions, Arnold also donated as much as $500,000 to an advocacy group called Engage Rhode Island, which spent approximately $740,000 lobbying for Raimondo’s successful assault on public employee pensions. Over the past three years, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation has donated more than $100 million in support of charter schools and entities involved in the corporate education reform industry, including being one of the largest contributors to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Raimondo’s success in raising funds from the charter school industry includes at least $50,000 from the members of the board of directors of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter chain that recently opened a school in Rhode Island, adding to their existing schools in Connecticut and New York.

Jonathan Sackler, an investment manager and heir to the Purdue Pharma fortune, is not only a founding member of Achievement First, Inc, but a founder of a national charter school advocacy group called 50CAN. One of 50CAN’s related entities, 50CAN Action Fund, dumped $90,000 to run TV commercials to help Raimondo’s running mate win his primary race.

As a result of the Citizens United case and IRS regulations, the 501(c) (4) Foundation 50CAN Action Fund can accept unlimited donations from contributors and can participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as it’s primary activity is “the promotion of social welfare.”

Massive amounts of money flowed to Republican Governors Scott Walker and Rick Snyder helping ensure the education reform effort continues to expand in Wisconsin and Michigan.

In New York and Connecticut, the corporate education reformers strengthened their control of public policy with the reelection of Democrats Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy.

In other states, like Illinois, where both the Democratic and Republican candidates were supporters of school privatization, the big money behind the education reform movement couldn’t lose.

Getting control of governors’ offices wasn’t the only target for the education reformers.  Races for mayor and school board also attracted unprecedented levels of campaign spending.

In Minneapolis, charter school advocate Don Samuels lost his bid to become mayor of Minneapolis in 2013. However, with the help of record amounts of out-of-state campaign contributions, Samuels won a seat on the Minneapolis school board. As in Rhode Island, the 50CAN Action Fund spent significant amounts of money in support of Samuels.

Over the course of the campaign, donors to Samuels and the political action committees supporting him included an impressive list of  out-of-state corporate education reformers, among them: California billionaire, Teach for America board member, and Rocketship Charter School chain investor Arthur Rock, who donated more than $100,000; former New York Mayor and charter school advocate Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $100,000; and California charter school investor Adam Cioth, who added tens of thousands more to the campaign effort.  Even Achievement First’s Jonathan Sackler dropped in $25,000 to help the cause.

While the corporate education reform industry was extraordinarily successful across the nation, it came up short in its largest effort, which was to defeat Tom Torlakson, California’s state superintendent of education, and replace him with Mashall Tuck, a charter school executive and leading charter school advocate.

Torlakson won with 52 percent of the vote, despite the fact that his opponent raised tens of millions of dollars from the leading financial backers of the corporate education reform movement, including Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, and the Walton family.

Much of the corporate education reform industry money for Tuck, the poster child of the charter school industry, was funneled through a political action committee with the ironic name of “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent 2014.” The largest campaign contributions came from Eli Broad ($1,375,000); Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation ($1 million); William Bloomfield ($1 million), Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund ($950,000), the Walton family ($950,000); Laurie Jobs ($500,000), Michael Bloomberg ($250,000), John Arnold ($250,000), and Arthur Rock ($250,000).

As the dust settles on the 2014 campaign, it still isn’t clear just how much the corporate education reform industry pumped into races at the state and local level, but the total was well into the tens of millions and in a significant number of cases, the infusion of huge amounts of outside spending was instrumental in helping the corporate interests take more control of state and local education policy making process.

It’s likely to stay that way until we either get money out of politics or parents, teachers, and citizens who believe in the value of education expose those who seek to profit from dismantling the country’s public schools.

This article is part of the new December/January issue of The Progressive, which is devoted to the corporate education reform industry’s attack on public education.

The Progressive is so concerned about what is happening to our public schools that they created a whole website, Public School Shakedown, to expose the threat of school privatization and connect pro-public-school activists, nationwide.  Some of the best education writers in the country, who blog for Public School Shakedown, have written incredible articles for the new issue.  You can subscribe to The Progressive at http://progressive.org/ or get a digital subscription right now.

It is an investment well worth making.

The Progressive Save Our Schools el  The Progressive also produced a great new video by Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Mark Fiore: “ProfitShip! Cashing in on Public Schools.”

The short, sharable cartoon is designed to help get the word out about the attack on public education. Read more about it and spread the word by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter!

Remember, if you aren’t already a subscriber to The Progressive, you can get a digital subscription right now and read the whole issue immediately.

The Progressive releases great video on corporate education reform:

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Check out the great new video by Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Mark Fiore: “ProfitShip! Cashing in on Public Schools.”

The Progressive commissioned the short, sharable cartoon to help get the word out about the corporate education reform industry’s attack on public education.

This animated feature on school privatization stars little Timmy, a kindergartner who likes his public school. Timmy gets a confusing lesson in corporate education reform, starting with the right-wing mantra “Public Schools have failed.”

(The Bradley Foundation, a top right-wing think tank, has devoted more than $30 million to label public education as “failing” and promote privatization as the “solution.”)

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore uses his trademark humor to show the absurdity of this argument. Despite poor results, charter chains like Rocketship are replacing real teachers and classes like art, social studies, and gym with a computer-aided test-prep curriculum straight out of science fiction.

Please distribute widely – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opcHQ_v6PuU

Read more at http://www.publicschoolshakedown.org/

 

Malloy must come clean on his attempt to repeal collective bargaining rights

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In defense of its endorsement of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the Connecticut Education Association is using its EXAMINE THE FACTS campaign to tell teachers that Malloy, “Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions.”

At the same time, most of Connecticut’s other unions are trying to persuade their members that if elected, Republican Tom Foley will follow Wisconsin’s right-wing, anti-union governor and destroy collective bargaining altogether.

But the fact remains that Governor Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose unilaterally eliminating collective bargaining rights for a group of public employees.

In Malloy’s case, as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative, he proposed repealing collectively bargaining rights for public school teachers working in the poorest schools.

Had the Connecticut General Assembly not stripped Malloy’s anti-union provisions, 1,000 – 1,500 public school teachers, in up to 25 schools across Connecticut, would have lost their rights to collective bargain.

In response to Malloy’s proposal, the CEA wrote to its members on March 14, 2012 telling them that Malloy’s Education Bill would have “real and dramatic consequences for teachers.”

Leading the list of negative impacts, the CEA leadership explained that,

“The bill would take away collective bargaining rights from teachers in the lowest performing schools….”

The CEA letter went on to urge teachers to contact their legislators and tell them to “Fix the governor’s bill” and “Restore collective bargaining rights.”

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, Governor Malloy has an obligation to come clean about his position on collective bargaining. 

Malloy claims that he supports collective bargaining rights, the leaders of Connecticut’s unions are telling their members that Malloy supports collective bargaining rights…but it is worth repeating, yet again, that Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose repealing collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees.

To earn the votes of Connecticut’s teachers and other union members, Malloy needs to stand up, explain why he produced such an anti-union proposal and renounce his 2012 effort to repeal collective bargaining rights.

The Charter School Hoax

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They call themselves “public schools” when they want to collect nearly $100 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds each year, but refuse to come clean about how they spend that money pointing out that they are “private companies.”

Furthermore, here in Connecticut, they predominately refuse to educate Latinos, bi-lingual students and students who have special education needs.

And when they do happen to get students they don’t want through their so-called “open lottery” system they have a sophisticated operation for “counselling” or pushing out students who have behavior issues or otherwise don’t meet their limited “criteria” for the type of student they want in their school.

In fact, according to the most recent data available on the State Department of Education website, Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, manages to “lose” about 50% of its high school students over the course of four years.

In her latest, “MUST READ” commentary piece, public school advocate Wendy Lecker writes in the Stamford Advocate that it’s time to confront the truth about the charter movement.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Almost daily, headlines are filled with stories of charter school fraud or mismanagement. Recent revelations about possible illegal practices in charter schools in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have led even charter supporters to try to distance themselves from the “crony capitalism” fueling this sector.

It is cold comfort that Connecticut officials are not alone in allowing unscrupulous charter operators to bilk taxpayers. It is time to reassess the entire charter movement in Connecticut.

Recall the original promises made by charter proponents: that they would benefit all public schools — showing public schools the way by using “innovative” methods to deliver a better education to struggling students in an efficient, less expensive manner.

None of those promises have been kept. Charters cannot point to any “innovations” that lead to better achievement. Smaller classes and wraparound services are not innovations — public schools have been begging for these resources for years. Charter practices such as failing to serve our neediest children, e.g., English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and “counseling out” children who cannot adhere to overly strict disciplinary policies, are not “innovations” — and should be prohibited.

Charters often spend more than public schools. Charters in Bridgeport and Stamford spend more per pupil than their host districts. And while it appears that charters in New Haven and Hartford spend comparable amounts, they serve a less needy, and less expensive, population. Moreover, Connecticut charters need not pay for special education services, transportation, or, if they serve fewer than 20 ELL students, ELL services.

While Connecticut owes billions of dollars to our neediest districts, officials provide higher per-pupil allocations to charters. For example charter schools receive $11,500 per pupil from the state, but Bridgeport’s ECS allocation is only $8,662 per pupil. Bridgeport is owed an additional $5,446 according to the CCJEF plaintiffs, not including the cost of teacher evaluations, the Common Core, and other unfunded mandates imposed over the years.

Connecticut increased charter funding over the past three years by $2,100 per pupil, while our poorest school districts received an average increase of only $642 per pupil.

As former New York charter authorizer Pedro Noguera lamented recently, charter schools are a “black box”; fighting transparency in enrollment, educational, managerial and financial practices. It is time for taxpayers force the black box open. Charters receive billions of public dollars. We must ensure that these funds are spent to improve education for all children.

Connecticut officials do not help matters with their almost nonexistent oversight of charter schools. Our State Board of Education’s shocking blindness in the Jumoke scandal is only one example. In their rush to approve any new charter, the board fails to verify charter claims, ignores community opposition and disregards its own rules against segregation in and over-concentration of charter schools. While punishing poor school districts, SBE routinely reauthorizes charters with poor records, excusing their failure to meet academic targets. Connecticut’s state education officials clearly need a scripted curriculum.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Public Accountability for Charter Schools,” is a good starting point. The report outlines areas that demand equity, accountability and transparency: such as enrollment, governance, contracts, and management.

Connecticut must require, as a condition of continued authorization, that charters serve the same demographics as their host districts, through clearly delineated controlled choice policies.

Charter schools must maintain transparent and publicly available annual records and policies regarding enrollment, discipline and attrition. Charters must ensure that they do not employ subtle barriers to enrollment, such as strict disciplinary policies or requirements for parent participation as a condition of attendance. No such barriers exist in public schools.

Charters must prove that they meet the specific needs of the host community in a way the public schools do not. Charters must not be imposed over community opposition. State officials must assess the negative impact of charters on a district, including segregation and funding effects.

Charters must post all contracts and fully disclose revenues and expenditures. Charter officials, board members and employees must undergo background checks and disclose any relationships with contractors, state officials and others dealing with their school. Parents in charter schools must be allowed to elect charter board members.

Charters must show evidence annually that their unique educational methods improve achievement.

These are only some of the reforms that must be enacted — and enforced — for all charters, to ensure that these privately run schools are not shortchanging taxpayers, parents or children. In the meantime, Connecticut needs a moratorium on any new charter schools until this sector gets its house in order.

You can read the full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Reassess-the-charter-movement-5830482.php

Guest Post – Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy

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Editorial Note:  Many of the mot powerful and informative blog posts over the past three years have come in the form of guest posts from teachers, parents and public school advocates.  If you have a commentary piece inside you that you’d like to write down and have posted, just drop me a note – [email protected]

Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy ( A Guest Post by Jay Poppa)

[For informational purposes only, Jay Poppa is the Vice President of the Bridgeport Education Association; this commentary piece is his own and not associated with his position in the BEA]

On Friday, September 26 the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Board of Directors fell into the pit of lesser evilism by voting to endorse incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy for a second term.

CEA leadership ignored the recommendations of the CEA PAC, which was to not endorse any candidate running for Governor, a decision at least two of Connecticut’s largest teacher locals, affiliated Bridgeport (CEA) and unaffiliated Hartford (AFT), already made on their own.

The CEA is now committed to supporting the teacher attacking, pro-corporate education reformer Malloy. What’s more is that this decision highlights the failed strategies of the CEA in thinking that choosing a so-called “lesser evil” will help to protect teachers, students and schools from the greater evil represented by people like Republican candidate Tom Foley. However, Malloy is just as eager to carry out the education reform dictates pushed by the profit hungry corporate education reform industry, and has publicly stated so.

The CEA’s strategy of lesser evilism and their reluctance in calling out their Democratic Party political “friends” over the last few years has hampered the union’s ability to effectively fight for the schools we need. Supporting the Democrats is a political dead-end for any union. In this political climate only organizing a strong rank and file base with deep community ties will effectively combat corporate education reform and the general attack on the working class.

As the late historian Howard Zinn said, what matters most isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in. If social movements and workers aren’t in motion, making demands on politicians and struggling from below, mainstream politics will be shaped by the pressure from above, by the demands and priorities of the wealthy and the education reform industry they promote.

Over the past year the CEA leadership has made some positive efforts to be more responsive to their membership and move toward an organizing model of unionism. Unfortunately, endorsing Malloy will significantly undermine these efforts by eroding their leadership and the trust of their rank and file activist base and community allies. If the CEA is serious about its efforts to organize the teacher rank and file and their community allies they must retract their endorsement.

When looking at the CEA position it isn’t surprising to find their endorsement of Malloy falls in line with what many of the largest and strongest teacher unions in the country are doing.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) whose historic 2012 strike inspired and energized the US labor movement, voted to endorse Democratic Governor Pat Quinn whose running mate is former Chicago Public School superintendent Paul Vallas.  Vallas has been the poster boy for the “shock doctrine” style, pro-charter school, school privatization schemes.  He oversaw the wholesale privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in which he turned almost all of the public schools over to charter school operators. He then went on to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia, Haiti and Bridgeport, CT (where he was forced out by a coalition made up of the community and the CEA/BEA) school systems.

Lesser evilism as a strategy has plagued the American labor movement for decades. It has played a part in the ineffective response to the employers offensive on American unions and living standards over the past four decades. It is a strategy that hasn’t helped to overcome union retreat and defeat and has created a steady decline in the unionization rate from a high 1950s high of 35% to 11.3% of the total work force.

One aspect of this employer’s offensive has been the desire to eradicate American unions. After decades of steady attacks by the employers the unionization rate in the private sector is about 6.7%.

Now both Republicans and Democrats have set their sights on destroying public sector unions who make up about 35.3% of this workforce.  This attack has been a bipartisan effort aimed mainly at teachers, the largest section of organized labor, but this attack extends to all public sector workers.

The CEA Leadership Bungles SB24

In the winter and spring of 2012 Malloy proposed and helped to get passed his “education reform” bill SB24 that was written by the corporate education reform industry.

Connecticut teachers have been angry at Malloy’s verbal attack on their profession.  Malloy’s most infamous quote from his address to the 2012 Connecticut House of Representatives, “Basically, the only thing you have to do is show up for four years (to earn tenure)” is widely remembered for its vitriolic character. Malloy’s willingness to engage in some of the most outwardly heinous aspects of the corporate reform movement such as teacher bashing were only outdone by his actions which have positioned him as one of the most aggressive pro-corporate education reform Governor’s in the country.

The CEA, then led by Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine and President Phil Apruzzese, responded to SB24 in a manner that could only be characterized as top down, bungling and inadequate.

Apruzzese and Levine initially agreed to some of the most hated aspects of SB24 such as the new teachers evaluation that aimed to tie teacher certification to evaluations based heavily on standardized test scores. Apruzzese and Levine unilaterally released their “View From the Classroom” which was the CEA plan for education reform that included some of worst provisions of SB24.

Instead of sharply and aggressively critiquing SB24 which was what was needed to match the support put together by the corporate education reform industry and Malloy, the CEA hugged the line between collaboration and mild criticism effectively making their critiques weaker at a time when they needed to be stronger and sharper.

Current CEA Leadership

The current CEA leadership, under President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, has stated their desire to and actually has taken some steps to change the course of the CEA to focus more on organizing teachers and community members against education reform. These steps, however, have been slow and often inadequate. In fact, outside of the Summer Leadership Conference organizing workshops and the Bridgeport fight to keep an elected school board, the CEA has publicly continued on the path of compromise.

On some provisions of SB24 the current CEA leadership has quietly accepted or has positioned themselves as good partners in Malloy’s education reform plan.

Even critical participation has been absent in the conversations over the Commissioner’s Network a “turn around,” competitive grant style school funding scheme. In fact the CEA and local affiliates have done little to organize or discuss with the public that these programs seek to lower our expectations as to what we will receive in terms of funding and resources from the state and they also seek to curtail the rights of union members. The CEA could highlight these issues, along with some of the real problems our schools and students face, such as how our schools are underfunded by the state, or that our “underperforming schools” are predominantly in poorer, working class neighborhoods, and neighborhoods of color.

Token Gestures and Defending the Real Evil

Now election season is nearing and Malloy is behind in the polls. He has offered teachers a few token gestures; getting rid of Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and alleviating some of the provisions of the new teacher evaluation plan. Unfortunately for teachers and students most of the damage has been done. Malloy’s SB24 locks in additional state funding for charter schools when our public schools aren’t even adequately funded. It still uses standardized test data to evaluate teacher performance, which will lead to more “teaching to the test.”

In the coming days and weeks we will hear CEA leadership justify their decision in many ways. They will argue that not endorsing Malloy would have been irresponsible because it would allow Foley to get elected or that our allies and fellow union members were counting on us to help keep Foley out. They will tell us that Foley wanted to bring right to work legislation to Connecticut or bring about a “Wisconsin moment” and that supporting Malloy was a “hard choice” for the CEA to make. We will hear that Malloy isn’t what we want but he’s the best we can get. CEA will advise that we hold our noses and vote for Malloy anyway.

While Foley’s “money follows the child” position on education is lunatical and his pension ideas are frightening, the truth is that there is no good choice between the two mainstream parties.  However, supporting Malloy will only allow him to continue a rightward slide and attack on public education while saying to us, “Well, at least I’m not Foley.”

The reality is that the words and actions from the CEA leadership show a lack of understanding as to who the forces are behind the corporate education reform project.

Through the 2010 remarks of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch we can see how the richest 1% of the American ruling class see public education.

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching….”

They see it as a massive untapped market for private investment and profits.

The problem isn’t that the Democrats are too weak-willed to fight against the profit driven Murdoch and his ilk. As left-wing writer Doug Henwood clearly wrote about the nature of the Democrats:

“Another recurrent feature of the [“lesser evilism”] genre: a lament over the Democrats’ lack of spine, which is often treated as a curable condition. But in fact, the invertebrate status is a symptom of the party’s fundamental contradiction: it’s a party of business that has to pretend for electoral reasons that it’s not. Related to that, it’s getting harder to say what the party’s core beliefs are. Republicans have a coherent philosophy–loopy and often terrifying, yes, but coherent–which they use to fire up an impassioned base. The Democrats can’t risk getting their base too excited, lest it scare their funders.”

In fact among Malloy’s top two campaign donors are Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson, his wife. Sackler is the director of Purdue Pharma and a major proponent of charter schools in Connecticut. Of course Sackler and Corson are going to want something for their money.

We have to remember that by supporting politicians like Malloy we are helping to push the Republican Right even further to the right. A position of “no endorsement” could have sent a message to both candidates that their politics are not supported.  Instead the CEA’s message to the public and Malloy is, “there is no consequence for your attacks on us, keep it up.”

What’s more is that there is a genuine third-party candidate who is running and who has been a vocal opponent of corporate education reform. Jonathan Pelto, a progressive activist and pro-public education, pro-teacher blogger announced that he would be running for governor over the summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot although he is still running as a write in candidate.

The truly hard choice for the CEA would have been the most sensible. They could have put their money and political support behind Pelto’s campaign. Even if he didn’t win it would have excited thousands of teachers, parents and community activists. It would have spread the message of why corporate education reform is a bad thing and how Malloy is an advocate of it. It would have helped to organize allies together and it could have set the CEA and pro-public education forces up to wage a stronger fight against whoever gets elected Governor.

The Democratic Party has been called “the graveyard of social movements” for a reason, because once you accept the idea that defeating the Republicans is the most important political strategy, it makes sense to prioritize that over everything else. The result is that movements don’t stand up when the attacks come from Democrats, as they already have and will continue to in the future.

Even those in the CEA leadership who understand the importance of organizing but still engage in lesser evilism will continue to postpone organizing efforts and claim that the unions aren’t strong enough yet to pursue a strategy that doesn’t include endorsing bad politicians. This position ultimately allows activists to kick the can down the road to some imaginary future in which we magically have the right level of organizational strength to put forward a real alternative.  That magical future will never arrive if we don’t start organizing for it now and on a principled political basis.

When we support the lesser evil, even if we do so reluctantly, we make it harder to fight against the greater evil of education reform. Whoever gets elected will aim to gut the public education system and scapegoat teachers. The battle against this will need to be waged by the rank and file teachers, their allies. Unfortunately, we will be starting from a position in which our leadership just spent money and time defending Malloy, helping to put him back into the Governor’s seat.

If the CEA truly wants to wage the fight necessary to defeat the education reform industrial complex, they will need to rescind their endorsement and truly move completely into an organizing model of unionism. Any other gesture from the CEA will seem disingenuous and conciliatory. If the CEA leadership isn’t willing to change course on its own then it will be up to the hundreds of rank and file teachers that have more recently emerged inside the CEA to put forward the ideas, politics and strategies we need to win.

You can reach Jay Poppa at [email protected]

Are we there yet?  A big weekend for Wait, What? Blogs about the political landscape

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And this list doesn’t even include the ones in the pipeline:

Malloy’s commitment to coddle the rich!

In a new interview with the Hartford Business Journal, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy explains why we can’t ask the rich to pay their fair share;

Call it his most stunning, albeit honest, statement about his dedication to coddle the rich and ensure that the wealthy are not required to pay their fair share in taxes. In an interview with the Hartford Business Journal this week, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy reiterated his profound commitment to trickle-down economics and the notion that it is bad public policy to ask the rich to pay their fair share in taxes. Malloy told the Hartford Business Journal;

Maintaining, if not widening, the maximum differential between Connecticut’s taxes and New York and New Jersey’s is very important. I took a lot of heat amongst Democrats when I insisted that we maintain that differential in 2011, and I think it is important to do that. We know that the hedge fund industry in Connecticut has an advantage in Connecticut. Let us keep it. We know high-end earners [in Connecticut] have a tax advantage over New Jersey and New York. Let us keep it. Let us look at those areas that will allow us, particularly on a regional basis, to be a lower tax alternative.

Read the full blog at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/04/malloys-commitment-coddle-rich/

 

Gates Foundation and Scholastic Corporation report that teachers love the Common Core!

Turns out teachers – LOVE – the Common Core.  In fact, an incredible seven in ten (68%) public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms,”

Teachers, parents and public school advocates may want to play the YouTube video of Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy song while reading this blog post.

The USA Today headline reads, “Survey: Common Core standards working well.”

In other words, the USA Today and other “main stream media outlets” are telling the Common Core naysayers to sit down and shut up with all this anti-common core mush.

How do we know the Common Core standards are working well?

Because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the driving force behind the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme, along with one of the companies that will profit most from the implementation of the Common Core, have a new public opinion survey showing that public school teachers love the Common Core.

Read the full blog at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/03/gates-foundation-scholastic-corporation-report-teachers-love-common-core/

CEA and AFT-CT not alone in endorsing anti-teacher, corporate education reform champions

And finally, take heart Connecticut teachers…

Last month, the New Jersey Education Association voted to endorse U.S. Senator Cory Booker for re-election.  Booker, like Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, is among the nation’s most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic elected officials.

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was Mayor Booker’s top aide in Newark, New Jersey before he returned to Connecticut to lead Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative with its anti-tenure, anti-teacher, pro-charter school provisions.

In New Jersey and Connecticut, teacher unions have caved in and handed their support to people who have spent years knocking down and stomping on teachers, parents and our public schools.

You can read the full post at: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/05/cea-aft-ct-alone-endorsing-anti-teacher-corporate-education-reform-champions/

Look out Malloy and Foley – you are both on the wrong side on education

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A new National Poll on Public Education was released today.  The poll was paid for by a Democratic leaning advocacy group and conducted by Harstad Strategic Research – a Colorado-based firm which worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 re-election.

The poll reports….

Solid majorities back more funding for public schools and teacher pay, and overwhelming majorities rate local public schools and their teachers highly.

  • A 61% majority of voters believe that state funding for public schools should be increased – including 79% of Democrats, 57% of Independents and even 45% of Republicans.
  • And 56% of voters with an opinion believe pay for public school teachers falls short of what it should be.
  • Fully 82% of voters able to rate their local public school teachers rate them as excellent, very good, or good – versus just 8% who rate them as marginal or poor. Among public school parents, 93% rate public school teachers as excellent, very good, or good.
  • Speaking of public school parents, 84% give their children’s schools an A (53%) or B (31%) grade. Ten percent offer a C, and 3% say D or F. While there is certainly room for improvement, the median grade would in effect be an A-minus.

When given four broad reasons for why public schools might not be performing better, virtually no one puts the blame on “bad teachers.”

  • 40% Lack of parental involvement and support
  • 29% Inadequate funding and resources for public schools
  • 18% The effects of poverty, hardship and problems kids bring to school
  • 3% Bad teachers (including 4% of Republicans and 3% of conservatives)
  • 9% Don’t know

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

  • Neighborhood schools should be our top priority because they educate a huge majority of our kids;
  • Teachers should be held accountable by principals, supervisors and parents– not by standardized bubble tests;
  • Taxpayer money should pay for children’s education– not for corporate profits, CEO bonuses, or advertising budgets;
  • Educators should be teaching critical thinking and problem-solving– not just teaching to the standardized bubble test; 
  • We must let teachers do what they know best– teach our kids and prepare them for college and careers. Politicians and corporations should get out of the way; 
  • Everyone has a favorite teacherwho made a real difference in their lives – and we need to support and promote those kinds of classrooms.

More about the poll can be found at: http://www.democratsforpubliceducation.com/news/dems-public-ed-releases-poll-showing-overwhelming-support-public-schools/

 

Why Connecticut Teachers SHOULD NOT VOTE for Governor Malloy

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Here is a long but important blog.  If you are a teacher, parents or supporter of public education, please take the time to read it.

On Friday night the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Education Association voted, on behalf of their 45,000 members, to endorse Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy.

With that move, the CEA joined the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter in throwing their support and money behind the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest districts.

You can read about the CEA’s vote in the Wait, What? blog post entitled, “In a stunning move, Connecticut Education Association Board of Directors Endorses Malloy.”

That blog has generated more than 141 comments, a Wait, What? record.  Among the comments is an impassioned defense of Malloy by a few of the blog’s readers, including one named Tom,  who I know and respect as a dedicated teacher, union leader and defender of teachers.

It seems that the fundamental argument driving Malloy’s supporters is that the alternative to Malloy (a Foley administration) would be worse.

When it comes to the issue of education, I think reasonable people can disagree on whether Foley, challenged by a Democratic General Assembly, would be worse than a Malloy administration, backed by a Democratic legislature.

Over the past thirty years, I served as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives under a Democratic Governor and a Republican/Independent Governor and worked with a variety of progressive and liberal groups, including unions, as we advocated for policy changes under two different Republican governors.

In each situation, the General Assembly played a very different role in the process, often successfully taking on or co-opting the Republican governor and proving that, with a backbone, the legislative branch of government can have an important and positive impact on public policy.

The role of the Democrats in the legislature was especially evident last week after Republican Tom Foley borrowed heavily from Malloy’s education agenda and introduced his own pro-corporate education reform industry plan for Connecticut.  Within hours, Democratic legislators held a press conference blasting Foley for his outrageous plan.  The irony being that those same legislators voted for many of those same proposals and concepts when they were previously introduced by Governor Malloy.

But before we get to the “Foley would be worse” argument, teachers, parents and public school advocates need to ask the question of whether Dannel “Dan” Malloy does or does not deserves to be re-elected based on his record on public education issues.

The fact is that no Connecticut governor in the last forty years has done as much damage to Connecticut’s public education system than Governor Malloy and that includes a realistic assessment of disgraced Republican Governor John Rowland.

Here are the facts about Dannel Malloy and his education policies.  [And let me add that Malloy, the AFT or the CEA are welcome to provide a substantive response to the following and I will publish it, unedited.)

The good news is that over the past few weeks, education policy has finally become a top tier issue with Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates.

The bad news is that during this period, Malloy has repeatedly pledged to “stay the course” on his destructive education reform initiatives.

Just last week Malloy told the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper, “What we’ve done needs to continue to be implemented and rolled out,”  A few weeks earlier, after meeting with the editorial board at the Day newspaper of New London, the newspaper wrote, the governor assured us he will stay the course on education reform if re-elected.”

So what are the initiatives that Malloy promises to “stay the course” on?

#1:  As has been stated over and over again here, and elsewhere, Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.

The truth is that Malloy has never publicly renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.

The Malloy camp claims that Malloy has apologized for his anti-tenure position.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What Malloy said was,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

The sad truth is that Malloy’s HAS NOT retracted his anti-tenure stance and his effort to “apologize” to teachers only made his anti-tenure position clearer.

 

#2:  Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that the state’s teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students.  Every major academic study has determined that standardized test scores ARE NOT A VALID MEASURE of teacher performance.  To date, the only substantive change that Malloy was willing to make to his unfair, inappropriate and inaccurate teacher evaluation program was to propose using the average of at least two standardized test scores rather than using just one.  In this case, two wrongs do not make the system any less absurd, unfair or inappropriate.

The truth is that Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.

 

#3:  Dan Malloy knows that Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing Formula is inadequate and unconstitutional.  Malloy even pledged in his 2006 and 2010 campaigns to take a leadership role in developing a new, comprehensive education funding formula that would be designed to reduce the present burden that falls on the backs of local property taxpayers.   As Mayor of Stamford Malloy was even one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, a lawsuit that seeks to throw out the unfair and unconstitutional school funding formula and replace it with one that meets the requirements of Connecticut’s Constitution and would be better for Connecticut’s schools and taxpayers.

Hover, rather than do the right thing, Malloy has spent the last four years trying to get the CCJEF lawsuit dismissed and when that failed, to get it postponed until after this year’s election.

Incredibly, Malloy refuses to promise that, if given a second term, he would settle the CCJEF lawsuit and use the expertise of the CCJEF plaintiffs to develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.

 

#4:  No Connecticut governor, in history, has wasted so much public money on unaccountable, privately-run charter schools.  During his four years in office, Malloy has increased state spending on charter schools by 73.6%, while increasing state aid for Connecticut’s public schools by only a 7.9%.

Making the situation even more unfair, Malloy has provided no meaningful additional support for public schools in Connecticut’s middle-income communities meaning that the burden of local property taxes has become even more unfair for middle-class families.

 

#5:  What is particularly offensive about Malloy’s pro-charter school policies is that Connecticut’s privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools refuse to educate their fair share of non-English speaking students or students with special education needs.  They take public funds but refuse to abide by the laws governing public schools.

In addition, Malloy’s pro-charter school policies are nothing short of corporate welfare for a few select companies.  The charter school chain that has received the most money under Malloy is Achievement First, Inc., the company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.  In addition, Malloy and his commission provided no-bid contracts to the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company.  Not only has Jumoke/FUSE taken more than $53 million in public funds for their charter school but they were given control and the associated public funding to take over public schools in Hartford and Bridgeport and approved for another charter school in New Haven before the Hartford Courant reported on the criminal background of the company’s CEO and the FBI raised the company’s offices.

The truth is that Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen and that charter schools must not discriminate against Latinos, non-English speaking students and students with special educational needs.

 

#6:  Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration have consistently lied to Connecticut parents, teachers and citizens about the Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Standardized Testing scheme.  It is bad enough that Malloy is wasting millions of dollars in scarce taxpayer funds to push the Common Core and its unfair “SBAC” Common Core Test, but it is even worse that Malloy and his administration have been lying and misleading parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.

Connecticut parents have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing program.  There is no state or federal law that supersedes parents’ rights to opt their children out of these inappropriate and wasteful tests nor is there any legal action the state or school district can take to punish parents.  Instead of supporting Connecticut’s parents, Malloy and his administration have engaged in scare tactics and used school superintendents and principles to coerce parents into believing the Common Core testing is not option.

Even if Malloy wasn’t committed to implementing the corporate education reform industry agenda, lying and misleading parents is reason enough for voters to refuse to give him a second term in office.

 

#7: Over the past four years, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor have been engaged in an unprecedented effort to privatize the State Department of Education.  Instead of using the expertise available here in Connecticut, they have wasted tens of millions of public funds on high-priced, less qualified out-of-state consulting companies.  In many cases, these lucrative contracts have been given out on a no-bid basis, violating the spirit and letter of Connecticut law.  In addition, an ongoing effort to demoralize and destroy the professional capacities of Department of Education has been taking place.  For example, as the point-person for Malloy, Pryor has undermined the State Department of Education by eliminating the Leaders in Residence Program, removing three experienced former Connecticut superintendents and four other expert administrators, as well as transferring a number of nationally-recognized experts including one in English as a Second Language, one in Multi-cultural Education and one in School Climate and Bullying.  In their place, these tasks were outsourced to an inexperienced, out-of-state company for nearly $2 million dollars.

 

#8:  While overfunding Connecticut’s charter schools, Malloy and his administration purposely underfunded Connecticut’s successful Magnet School program.  Magnet Schools serve as an important and accountable mechanism for giving students and parents additional choices.  However, rather than provide the funds necessary to maintain Connecticut’s long-standing commitment to Magnet Schools, Malloy purposely left out nearly $50 million in funding for these schools.  The result is that after spending public funds to build and expand Magnet Schools, classrooms are now being left empty.

 

And the list of Governor Malloy’s failure when it comes to public education goes on and on.

Connecticut teachers, as well as, Connecticut’s parents, students and those who support public education have a right to know the truth about Malloy and his record of failure.

The truth is that Dannel Malloy’s own actions have voided his right to continue to serve as governor in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers would have their members, and all voters, believe that Malloy deserves to be re-elected.

On the issue of education … Malloy deserves to be defeated.

And if, on the other hand, Malloy, the CEA and the AFT want to claim that Malloy is the “better of two evils,” then at the very least they have the obligation to tell the truth about Malloy’s record.

Governor Malloy’s failure on education issues is unprecedented. His policies have rightfully earned him the title as the most anti-teacher, anti-public education democratic governor in the nation.

And adding insult to injury, Malloy has made no substantive changes or commitments that he would do a better job if given another four years.

Before endorsing Malloy, the leadership of the CEA and the AFT should have used their positions to force Malloy to retract his support for his anti-public education policies and lay out a new pro-public education agenda for Connecticut.

But in that task they failed, which only makes Malloy’s failure that much clearer.

 

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

*** Please excuse the typos ***

Tom Foley’s bizarre move on Education Policy and its potential impact on the CEA endorsement

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In what appears to be an ongoing effort to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, has proposed an education policy that looks eerily similar to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.

Over the past four years Governor Malloy has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation and remains the only Democratic governor to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

However, instead of providing Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates with appropriate policies that would support and strengthen public education, Tom Foley has proposed an education plan that appears to be designed by the very same corporate education reform industry groupies that are behind Malloy’s ill-conceived education initiatives.

In fact, elements of Foley’s plan appear to be a virtual copy of the proposals being pushed by Steven Adamowski, one of Malloy’s top advisors who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and formerly worked in the same capacity in Windham.

While Foley’s plan is vague and lacks details, the foundation of his education agenda, according to media coverage, would “mandate that parents in struggling schools be allowed to move their students anywhere within their local school systems, with money following the child.”

It is a system that has been tried and failed repeatedly around the country and is a particular favorite of Steven Adamowski, who previously served as superintendent of schools in Hartford before taking that same inappropriate approach with him to New London and Windham.

Tom Foley is quoted as saying,

“What I’m hoping is that when you have in-district public school choice and money follows the child that the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better…So, right away, that schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to try to make sure this gets passed and implemented, so if they should start trying to be better schools right away, to the extent they can.”

The Foley plan would be a disaster for Connecticut, but in what may be one of the biggest ironies of the entire 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy and his legislative supporters have blasted Foley for announcing his plan…despite the fact that Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly have supported very similar policies.

In a story entitled, Malloy sees, seizes opportunity in Foley’s school plan, the CT Mirror reported,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved quickly Thursday to exploit what Democrats say is an ill-considered and impractical proposal by Republican Tom Foley to allow urban parents to pick the local public school of their choice and strip money from failing schools as their children go elsewhere.

Malloy said the education proposals Foley made Wednesday as part of a larger urban agenda show that the Greenwich businessman has no grasp of current education policies and resources, nor does he appreciate how devastating it would be to urban school systems to begin denying funds to schools that need more resources.

“You can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work,” Malloy said.”

This from the Democratic governor whose “Commissioner’s Network” program has undermined local control, handed public schools over to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain in Hartford and Bridgeport and devastated a number of urban schools by implementing a “money follows the child” system that has left troubled schools without the resources they need to even serve the students that have remained in those schools.

According to the news article, Malloy went on to blast Foley saying,

“It’s a bunch of mush. It’s a mouthful of mush is what it is, except it’s dangerous,” Malloy said of what he called an ill-defined plan. “It’s defeating. It underlies an absolute lack of understanding of how education works in Connecticut. He gets an F for homework. He gets an F for plagiarism. And he gets an F for new ideas.”

Malloy’s quote is truly incredible considering the ideas that Foley is “stealing” come from Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and the gaggle of education reform industry supporters that surround Malloy.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and his campaign operatives are hoping that they can use Foley’s blunder on education to persuade the Connecticut Education Association to endorse Malloy tonight when they meet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for governor or make no endorsement in this year’s election.

The fundamental problem with Malloy’s latest strategy is that it would require the CEA leadership to overlook Malloy’s record of failure and destruction when it comes to his own policies on public education.

To endorse Malloy, the CEA would be throwing their members “under the bus” since Malloy’s record includes the following:

  • Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.
    • To date, Malloy has never publically renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.
  • Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.
    • To date, Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.
  • When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate (even unconstitutional).  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.
    • To date, Malloy has not promised to settle the CCJEF lawsuit and develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.
  • As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Connecticut has learned from the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School debacle that charter schools are not held accountable and it took a raid by the FBI to ensure that charter schools are held responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
    • To date, Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen.
  • And while tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive Common Core Standardized Testing Program, Malloy and his administration have repeatedly lied and misled parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.
    • To date, Malloy and his administration have FAILED to tell parents that they do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing scheme.

Despite Tom Foley’s decision to join Malloy in backing the corporate education reform industry’s agenda, any endorsement of Malloy – prior to him publicly reversing course on the issues listed above – would be an insult to every Connecticut teacher and the tens of thousands of parents and public school advocates who are counting on the Connecticut Education Association to stand up for public education in Connecticut.

You can read more about Foley and Malloy’s antics in the following articles:

CT Mirror:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-sees-seizes-opportunity-in-foleys-school-plan/ and http://ctmirror.org/foleys-urban-agenda-something-borrowed-something-new/

CT NewsJunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_stands_his_ground_on_education_policy/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democratic_lawmakers_criticize_foleys_education_policies/

Courant: Malloy, Unions Criticize Foley’s Education Plan

 

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy’s administration to tout Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda at National Conference

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While wooing teachers with false promises of a change in policy here at home, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration continue to trumpet their Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda far from the gaze of Connecticut voters.

Next month Connecticut taxpayers will pick up the tab to send the Connecticut delegation to the annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting in Colorado. Of course, ever year, the taxpayers also pick up the tab for Connecticut’s membership in the organization.

The National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE) claims that it “exists to serve and strengthen State Boards of Education in their pursuit of high levels of academic achievement for all students.”

How do they go about doing that? Well just last year the NASBE accepted an $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spend the next two years pushing the Common Core with state boards of education and other “stakeholders” involved with running public education around the country.

So while Malloy will spend his October trying to persuade Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is “softening” his pro-corporate education reform stance, his delegation will be jetting off to Colorado to showcase Malloy’s “record of success” when it comes to dramatically increasing the use of standardized tests, expanding the role of charter schools and undermining the role and rights of parents, teachers and school boards.

One session at the NASBE national conference is entitled “State Policy and Practice for Turnaround Schools.” Lead presenters include Morgan Barth, one of Stefan Pryor’s top appointees at the State Department of Education and State Board of Education member Stephen Wright.

Barth is the former Achievement First Inc. employee who, with no state certification, illegally taught and worked at Achievement First for at least six years before Achievement First’s lobbyists managed to get the law changed to allow charter schools to have up to 30% of their teaching and administrative staff be non-certified.

Although repeatedly warned by the State Department of Education that Barth’s lack of appropriate certification meant he was teaching illegally, Achievement First, Inc. kept him on the payroll and in the classroom the entire time.

When Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Pryor hired Barth to play the key role in the SDE’s “turnaround office” where he has spent his time getting Alliance Districts to turn over their schools to charter companies, most notably, to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain.

Connecticut’s other representative at the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting is Steven Wright, a Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education who served as chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education.

Wright has been one of Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s strongest allies and safest votes on the State Board of Education.  Reporting on another national conference earlier this year, the conference wrote,

“Wright hailed the state’s work to adopt Common Core standards, saying the standards are the best thing for students and teachers…’They are empirically superior and age-appropriate — developed by educators,’”

And in 2012 when the Trumbull Education Association refused to accept an “award” from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, Wright, in his role as Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, attacked the union saying,

“I read with no small measure of disappointment the letter of the Trumbull Teacher’s Association rejecting the prestigious recognition the high school received from ConnCAN… through an obvious display of ignorance of the goals of ConnCAN and an undertone of an elitist attitude, the authors of the letter have managed to alienate trusted allies and provided the missing ingredients that will sway those who were on the fence with the education reform legislation to side with the Governor and give wholesale support to the reforms proposed in Senate Bill #24.”

And if Barth and Wright’s participation wasn’t telling enough, another speaker at the October National Association of State Boards of Education will be a senior corporate officer from Global Strategies Group, the political consulting group that serves as Malloy’s lead campaign consultant while running the public relations program for Connecticut’s corporate education reform groups.

In the past year or so, Global Strategies Group has collected at least $297,000 from the Malloy campaign and his shadow political operation at the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

During the same period, Global Strategies Group has billed ConnCAN and A Better Connecticut, Connecticut’s two leading education reform groups, more than $2.5 million for consulting services and media costs.  Global Strategies produced and broadcast nearly $2 million in television advertisements “thanking Governor Malloy” for his leadership on the education reform effort.

And what will the Global Strategies Group representative be speaking about?

“What’s in Store on Election Day and What Does It Mean for Education?”

One wonders how many times he’ll mention Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the most pro-education reform, anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation.

But one thing will be certain — While Malloy’s operatives will be singing his praises at the NASBE meeting in Colorado, Malloy himself will be here, at home, telling teachers, parents and public education advocates that he has “seen the light” and will spend his second term supporting teachers and Connecticut’s public education system.

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