Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence E4E, Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence
Now here is some good news for Connecticut teachers… (For those of you who like irony).
A relatively new organization dedicated to giving YOU (teachers) a voice is expanding in Connecticut.
Just take a look.
They call themselves Educators 4 Excellence.
Their statement of purpose is based on their belief that, “For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table: the voice of classroom teachers.”
So a group of dedicated individuals formed a new, “teacher-led” advocacy organization that “elevates the profession by giving teachers a meaningful voice in the policies that shape our careers and classrooms.”
According to their website, “E4E teachers come together to learn about policy-making. We bridge the gap between those who make and implement policy by sharing our ideas with policy makers and influencers. E4E teachers take action in three different ways—we advocate for more teacher leadership and collaboration at our schools, push for district and state policies that include our ideas and get involved within our union and district to ensure that decisions elevate student achievement and the teaching profession.”
And now Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) is dramatically expanding their operation here in Connecticut where they are hiring a Managing Director of Policy, Connecticut, a Managing Director of Outreach, Connecticut and an Outreach Director, Connecticut.
Of course, those who have heard of E4E know they tend to skip over a few details about their history and their relationships.
Formed as a not-for-profit corporation under Delaware law in 2010, the group went from having a revenue stream of $339,000 in their first year to $1.9 million in their second. Their rent went from $5,800 to $56,000, you can now find them just off Times Square in New York City and their use of consultants went from 0 to over $200,000.
As explained in a December 2011 Wait, What? blog post, although Educators 4 Excellence is silent on the issue, their primary funding comes from the Gates Foundation and other national education reform groups. E4E was set up by the corporate education reform trifecta of Education Reform Now (ERN), Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Interestingly, those same groups were the primary funders behind the multi-million-dollar, anti-teacher, anti-union television advertising campaign that ran during the Chicago teacher’s strike.
Educators 4 Excellence is also headed by…
Wait for it…Two former Teach for America (TFA) recruits.
As a “teacher-led” advocacy group, their stated goals are to end seniority, institute merit pay and replace tenure with what the group calls “earned tenure,” in which teachers who are able to push up standardized test scores are provided with greater job security and financial bonuses.
In addition to their headquarters in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence has already created chapters in Los Angeles and over the past year have been targeting Minnesota and Connecticut.
In their first year, Educators 4 Excellence primarily focused on supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to destroy tenure in the New York City Schools. They wrote, “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to make tenure decisions more meaningful.” Last year, the group was one of the most vocal supporters of New York’s ill-fated teacher evaluation system.
As noted in last year’s Wait, What? post — and perhaps it is only an uncanny coincidence — but during the major education reform battle in New York, the groups that created Educators 4 Excellence ran television ads that included one parent saying, “Albany’s listening much too much to the teachers union,” while a second parent, looking to the camera, followed up by saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”
The company that produced those anti-teacher, anti-union ads was SKD Knickerbocker.
SKD Knickerbocker is the same company the produced the most offensive, anti-teacher ads that were run in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill and is the same company that was hired to do ads in Bridgeport in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s effort to eliminate a democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by him.
SKD Knickerbocker was also the company created the advertising that used in the two extremely expensive “independent expenditure” campaigns that took place during last year’s Connecticut legislative elections and that sought to elect two candidates that education reform lobbyists thought would be the most supportive of Malloy’s education reform efforts.
Meanwhile, if Connecticut isn’t your state of choice, Educators 4 Excellent are also filling or have recently filled positions for a Founding Executive Director, Minnesota, Outreach Director, Minnesota, Managing Director of Outreach, New York, Outreach Director, New York, Outreach Director, Los Angeles and Managing Director of Policy, Los Angeles.
So, the good news for all you teachers out there that feel our elected officials have turned their backs on the teaching profession, (other than at times of extreme crisis when there are cameras around), don’t worry because E4E will be changing all that.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor
Paul Vallas has pledged to do to Bridgeport what he did to New Orleans. However, there is still time to stop him.
Paul Vallas was the CEO of the New Orleans Recovery School District of Louisiana from 2007 to 2011…
According to his resume, Vallas says he was responsible for “developing, implementing and managing reform measures” for post-Katrina New Orleans. In that capacity Vallas says, among other things, that he:
(1) “raised test scores three consecutive years, at a growth rate that greatly exceeded that of the state” and
(2) “Implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) model, a three-tiered approach to ensuring the academic success of all students.”
So how is New Orleans doing today?
As Diane Ravitch recently noted on her blog, as a result of Vallas’ strategies, “New Orleans has a higher proportion of students in privately managed charters than any other district in the nation.”
Eighty-three percent (83%) of the schools in the New Orleans Recovery School District are now charter schools. According to the state’s school performance index, the Recovery School District of New Orleans is less than 2 points above getting a grade of F.
In fact, six years after Vallas began to promote his “Vallas Turnaround Model,” a Louisiana Education Research Group called Research on Reforms, determined that 79% of the charter schools in the Recovery School District were graded D or F by the state.
Meanwhile, another research group, The Cowen Institute of Tulane University, which has traditionally been a major supporter of charter schools, reported that 66% of the Recovery School District Charter Schools rated D or F.
The failing grades that hound Vallas’ charter school model is just the tip of a much larger record of failure when it comes to the broader “reforms” that Vallas implemented in New Orleans and now seeks to recreate in Bridgeport.
Teacher and Education Blogger, Mercedes Schneider, has written extensively on the real situation surrounding the “Vallas Miracle.” You can read her blog at: Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog
In one recent example she explored a favorite claim of the education reformers, who are fond of saying that their efforts dramatically improve the number of poor children who attend college.
According to the latest numbers, the percentage of children who qualified for the Louisiana TOPS program, which provides funds to academically proficient students who want to attend 4 or 2 year colleges stands at 42%;
TOPS eligibility for students in New Orleans is as follows:
Recovery School District state-run schools: 14%
Recovery School district Charter Schools: 29%
Orleans Parish direct-run schools: 38%
Orleans Parish Charter Schools 54%
All New Orleans schools: 37%
Louisiana schools overall: 42%
As Schneider explains, “Prior to Katrina in 2005, all New Orleans schools in the subcategories above belonged to Orleans Parish Public Schools. Now, one can see that in general, charter schools fare better than their corresponding non-charter counterparts regarding percentages of students eligible for TOPS. This is hardly surprising since students can be deselected from charters and returned to traditional public schools…The traditional public school must accept all students– this is both the glory and the burden of traditional public schooling.”
So, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, Vallas’ turnaround model has created a system in which the charter schools of New Orleans have “improved” TOPS eligibility while completely undermining the traditional public school system.
When the data is analyzed, the Vallas Turnaround Model is not a tribute to improving public education, but a lesson in privatization by replacing failing public schools with failing charter schools and creating a two-tiered education system where certain students get access to higher performing institutions, while leaving all the other students behind.
Vallas is moving forward with a similar strategy in Bridgeport. In just the last few weeks we’ve seen aggressive efforts to expand charter schools in Bridgeport including a new charter elementary school, a plan to turn over another elementary school to the FUSE/Jumoke Academy of Hartford and a proposal by the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Kenneth Moales, Jr. to create a boys-only charter school that would augment his present church affiliated school.
For the latest Bridgeport’s new charter school proposal see: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Charter-plan-draws-impassioned-arguments-4534361.php and http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Against-proposed-new-charter-school-4535321.php.
Of course, this all comes on top of continued expansion of the Achievement First Charter School in Bridgeport.
Education reformers are busy trying to replicate the New Orleans model around the country. Here in Connecticut, Paul Vallas has the strong backing of Governor Malloy and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
But unlike in New Orleans, and places like Chicago and Philadelphia, here in Connecticut there is still time to stop them before it is too late.
Budget Cuts, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Budget, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor Commissioner's Network, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight Company, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
Eighteen months ago, on January 5, 2012, Governor Malloy’s sponsored an Education Reform Workshop at Central Connecticut State University. During the first breakout session there was a panel discussion focused on the issue of “Low-Performing Schools and Districts.” The panel was moderated by Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education company.
A few weeks later, Mass Insight Education’s Justin Cohen returned to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill, Senate Bill 24. Cohen wrote, “To dramatically and systemically improve our nation’s failing schools, comprehensive state turnaround initiatives, like the Commissioner’s Network included in Senate Bill 24, must be pursued as part of a spectrum of interventions. As the President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education, I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for its consideration of Senate Bill 24 and strongly support its passage.”
Cohen added, “Senate Bill 24 creates part of the structure and authority necessary for the state to perform this work and hold districts accountable…”
Two trips to Connecticut in a matter of weeks.
Talk about a dedication to Governor Malloy’s education reform proposal!
And now it turns out that just last month, on 4/13/13, the State of Connecticut wrote out a check to Mr. Cohen’s Mass Insight Education company for $123,930.00. It was an initial payment on a much larger contract signed by the Malloy Administration’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. Mass Insight Education was chosen, over a number of entities including Connecticut’s Regional Education Service Centers, to assist with Stefan Pryor’s Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Program. Funny…that was the very thing Cohen came to Connecticut to testify in favor of the year before!
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Rhee’s time there in Washington DC won her fame and fortune, as well as the demand for investigations into allegations about widespread cheating to inflate standardized test scores.
Before he worked as Rhee’s Director of Portfolio Management, Cohen worked as Director of Industry Support and Development for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
And before that, worked for the Edison Schools company. Finally, of course, having won a contract from Stefan Pryor, we shouldn’t be surprised that Cohen also went to Yale University.
Fellow education blogger Gary Rubinstein investigated and wrote about Mass Insight Education. Rubinstein observed that while Mass Insight claims to lead turnaround projects around the country, their track record is murky, at best. Rubinstein wrote, “On their School Turnaround Group [website] they list eight successful ‘turnarounds’ from around the country. Ironically, these eight ‘turnarounds’ were led by companies other than Mass Insight, but as Mass Insight doesn’t seem to want to put its own record up to scrutiny, they use these case studies to show the sorts of strategies that Mass Insight employs in its own turnarounds.”
Not surprising, Rubinstein discovered that the examples that Mass Insight Education relied upon are similar to what charter school companies here in Connecticut have been doing. The “improved test results” that they education reforms tout are simply the result of policy changes that allowed these schools to skim off students that are less poor, have fewer language barriers, need fewer special education services or display fewer behavioral problems. As usual, the “miracle turnaround” was a product of comparing apples to oranges, not comparing real “turnaround” in the existing population of students.
Meanwhile, Mass Insight Education has been raking in the money. According to research conducted by EduShyster, a public education blogger with extensive experience in Massachusetts, “In 2009, [Mass Insight] CEO William Guenther reported earning a cool $370,000–for 30 hours per week work. That works out to roughly $237 per hour.”
By 2011, Guenther, the Mass Insight CEO, was making $450,000.
Among its purported services, EduShyster discovered that “Mass Insight has moved into the highly lucrative consulting world, offering helpful tips to public districts and state officials around the country about how to “modify collective bargaining agreements .”
It figures that senior officials in the Malloy administration would hire a pro-charter, anti-union consulting company to advise his administration on how to undermine collective bargaining agreements.
And to further their standing, according to their IRS 990 filings, Mass Insight even engages in lobbying, although their most recent report fails to identify whether their 2012 efforts to support Governor Malloy’s education reform bill counted as lobbying.
But like all good lobbying, it would appear that their government relations expenditures can really pay off.
For example, last month’s check for $123,930.00 could have been spent here in Connecticut, supporting a Connecticut school or it could have retained the services of Connecticut residents, but instead it joined the millions of dollars flowing that are flowing to the corporate education reform industry outside of our state.
In this case, Malloy’s Department of Education is using Connecticut taxpayer funds to pay corporate consultants from Massachusetts, while Connecticut towns are left laying off teachers and reducing vital services.
Let’s hear it for the success of the corporate education-industrial reform movement!
Education Reform, Pelto, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Wendy Lecker Standardized Testing
(A Blog Post by Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto)
Ask any parent, high school student or teacher- 11th grade is hell. Aside from the heavy course-load, juniors have to suffer through a litany of standardized tests- and these count: SATs, SAT subject tests, ACTs, APs.
Could anyone make junior year any worse? Why yes! Thank President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and Connecticut’s esteemed legislators. They all pushed and/or voted to make the Common Core State Standards Connecticut law.
As we all know, the CAPT test, the only state standardized test in high school, is administered in 10th grade. That test will now be replaced by the Common Core test, which will now be administered in 11th grade.
Would anyone who has any familiarity with high school ever be moronic enough to add ANOTHER standardized test to 11th grade, losing weeks of learning time and adding stress to the pressure cooker that is junior year?
Of course not- but then again, students, parents and teachers were never consulted before the Common Core was rammed down our throats.
What could possibly be the justification for this move to eleventh grade testing? That “we” want to make sure students are “college-ready?” Do people really think that a standardized test, scored in seconds by a computer, will tell us whether a student is ready for the research, writing and in-depth learning she will face in college? Rather than imposing tests that pretend to measure whether they are college-ready, leave our kids alone- they already have enough exams on their plate. We want them to be well-rounded, healthy individuals, with time for extra-curricular interests and yes, even a social life.
Defenders of the Common Core, a set of standards written with virtually no teacher involvement, like to claim that its critics are right-wing nuts or left-wing nuts.
But we aren’t. We are parents, who care deeply about education and learning. We also love our children and unlike the geniuses that thought it would be a bright idea to add another round of high stakes testing in junior year, we understand their social and emotional needs.
When Sarah told her junior daughter that the Greenwich Board of Education had planned Common Core Alignment Testing to gather data for the State Board of Education this month, while she was also going to be taking AP Exams and preparing for the SAT, she said, “That’s just disrespectful.” She is right.
We adults expect respect from our teenagers. But to earn their respect, we must show them the respect they, too, deserve. Expecting them take an assessment test for data purposes when they are already facing so much pressure is not only disrespectful, it is unhealthy.
Greenwich parents rebelled and Greenwich was allowed to opt-out of testing – for this year. But just for this year. Meanwhile, across the state, juniors in other districts are suffering. Parents in the wealthy suburbs had better wake up and smell the coffee. This testing madness is coming for your kids too.
As adults, we should be modeling balance for our kids, not cruelty and insanity. The rate of suicide for the 15-24 age group has nearly tripled since 1960. Is it any wonder when the State Board of Education and the National Secretary of Education treat our already stressed out teens like lab rats instead of human beings?
This is not a partisan issue. This is a conflict between those driven by ideology alone, who clearly will never live with the consequences of their policies, versus those who live with children in our public schools. And for those of us who teach in, learn in or have children in high school, no matter what our political affiliation, it is time to rise up and shout: “Enough is enough!”
Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto are public education advocates and commentators. In addition to their pieces here at Wait, What? you can find many of Wendy’s commentary pieces at the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group papers and Sarah’s at CTNewsjunkie.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Wait What? ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Wait What?
“You may know a person by the company they keep.”
The quote’s profoundness is right up there with an Arabian proverb that goes, “Judge a person by the reputation of their enemies.”
In either case, the phrases prove that much can be said with just a few choice words.
This past weekend, I had the honor of providing the “key-note” address at a conference that took place at Central Connecticut State University entitled “Defending Public Education.”
The conference explored the corporate education reform movement. As readers of Wait, What? know – there was a lot to discuss!
I’ve been meaning to post a blog about the conference, but a reader sent me a review of the conference published on the pro-corporate education reform blog, CTEducation180.
In this case, I think that reposting their assessment probably gives Wait, What? readers a better and more accurate review of the conference than I could ever write;
Following their post, I’ve copied some background about the CTEducation180 blog which appears to be a blog that is used by ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.
Anti-reformer gathering puts Pelto in spotlight
This weekend, a teachers union funded and convened an anti-education reform conference, featuring who else but Jonathan Pelto on the list of speakers.
The event was hosted by the Central Connecticut State University Youth for Socialist Action, which describes itself on its Facebook page as “a group of revolutionary minded students and young workers.”
Really. You can’t make this stuff up.
Conference organizers make exactly zero attempts to be evenhanded, academic or honest. The flyer for the event goes off on a paranoia-laced rant about legislators “influenced by the profit motive” and “demonized” public workers.
Who is ponying up the dough for this nonsense? The Hartford Federation of Teachers, among others.
Called “Defending Public Education,” the conference appears to be little more than an anti-education reform rally. It features such panels as “Teachers Are Not the Enemy” and “Organizing Action in Your Community.”
And Jon Pelto headlined.
You might remember Pelto from his continuing series of blog posts attacking the state’s education commissioner, the governor, the schools chiefs from Windham, Hartford and Bridgeport, and many, many other folks who have made improving Connecticut’s schools their life’s work.
It would be nice if people could engage in a real discussion about how to better help Connecticut’s failing schools, and how to better support Connecticut’s students. But with gatherings like these which only engender fear, skew the facts, and prop up hacks like Jon Pelto — funded by our teacher unions — that remains a dream, rather than a reality.
So who is CTEducation180?
CTEducation180 is a blog that was created by public relations consultant Pat Scully, whose own blog is called the “hanging shad.” It now appears that CTEducation180 has become a communication vehicle for ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy organization created by members of Achievement First, Inc’s Board of Directors. Achievement First, Inc. being the charter school management company co-founded by Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
The “about” section of the blog reads, “The education reform bill passed last year by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy raises standards for educators, allows immediate action to improve failing schools, increases access to high-quality public school choices, and improves how education dollars are spent.
Unfortunately, bold steps forward on education reform have spawned a vocal chorus of opponents that are willing to say and do anything in order to maintain the status quo and prevent children from attending the high-quality public schools they deserve.”
Bridgeport, Education Reform, New London, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker, Windham Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker
Fellow pro-public education advocate and columnist hits the mark, yet again, with her column in this past weekend’s CT Post, Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media Group outlets. Her piece is entitled, No need to break the law — just have it changed for you.
In the piece, Wendy writes, “The education “reform” movement has been rocked recently by revelations that its biggest stars are more concerned with the appearance of success than whether children actually learn.”
With that she outlines the two major scandals involving cheating on standardized tests that have been in the news.
But the core of her column is about the approach the corporate education reformers are taking here in Connecticut.
“Not to be outdone, we Nutmeggers have employed our Yankee ingenuity to game the system, as well. While superintendent of Hartford, Steven Adamowski boasted major increases in test scores — a result, he claimed, of his reform methods, including school closures, school choice and merit pay. However, as revealed by Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto, the gains in test scores in Hartford during that period can largely be explained by the district’s exclusion of a significant percentage of students with disabilities from the regular test and having them take a modified assessment that did not count in Hartford’s test scores. As Cotto described, it Hartford engaged in “addition by subtraction.” Neat!
Connecticut’s Legislature and state Board of Education can be crafty, too, and it’s all legal. Connecticut law provides that school administrators be certified, to ensure that our schools and school districts are led by individuals with the knowledge and experience to properly oversee the education of our children. All of Connecticut’s permanent superintendents are certified to be superintendents — except one: Paul Vallas, superintendent of Bridgeport schools, serving approximately 20,000 students. To remedy this problem, Governor Malloy wrote a law enabling Vallas to be certified if he completed an educational leadership course approved by the state board of education. But then, another problem arose: the state Board of Education did not approve any course and Bridgeport already hired Vallas permanently.
Not to worry! UConn quickly devised a course it claimed was just like what all other superintendents must pass. As Jonathan Pelto has pointed out, though, a regular superintendent candidate must have 15 credits beyond a master’s degree; go through a rigorous application process that requires a full faculty review of one’s application; complete an additional 15 credits of course work in the program; and pay approximately $30,000 in tuition and fees. UConn’s program, hastily approved by the state Board of Education, only requires Vallas to enroll in a three-credit, one semester independent study course at a cost of about $4,000. More legal cheating!”
Wendy ends with a reminder to our children writing, “So, kids, if you want to grow up to change the world like these star reformers, you don’t need to learn anything of substance (don’t worry, with standardized tests in every grade and subject, soon you won’t be learning anything of substance, anyway). But don’t break the law! Simply ally yourselves with those who make the laws and they will bend and twist them to make your dreams of greatness come true!”
The column is well worth the read and you can find the complete column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-No-need-to-break-the-law-just-4448335.php#ixzz2RCIUZ79S
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Andrea Comer, Conflict of Interest, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
The Connecticut House of Representatives convenes tomorrow at 10 a.m.
On the calendar is House Joint Resolution No. 75. , the resolution confirming the nomination of Andrea Comer of Hartford to be a member of the State Board of Education.
If the General Assembly confirms Governor Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer, the COO of the FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. charter school management company, she would be a member of the State Board of Education through February 2017.
While there has been extensive coverage of Comer’s nomination here at Wait, What? there has been limited coverage in the general media.
The entire situation is a sad commentary about what some people perceive to be a conflict of interest and the general acceptance of the corporatization and privatization of public education.
The Jumoke Academy Inc. collects millions of dollars in public funds for its school in Hartford.
In addition, Commissioner Stefan Pryor gave Hartford’s Milner elementary school to the Jumoke Academy to manage. The new Jumoke Academy at Milner immediately dismissed the vast majority of Milner’s dedicated teachers and instituted their own special “operating approach.”
As Wait, What? readers know that Jumoke “operating approach” is based on a strategy of not providing education services to non-English speaking students, students who go home to households where English is not the primary language or to their fair share of students who require special education services.
Instead of taking responsibility for providing a true public education, FUSE/Jumoke Academy responds by claiming that they deserve accolades and additional funds for producing better results on Connecticut’s standardized tests.
But of course, since poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the three greatest influences on standardized test scores, it comes as no surprise that a school that accepts fewer poor students, NO bi-lingual or ESL students and far fewer special education students than its fair share would end up with a population that would have higher test scores.
But the reason that Andrea Comer’s nomination is suspect goes well beyond the discriminatory and anti-Latino policies of FUSE/Jumoke Inc.
Connecticut law frowns on conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest, or at least it is supposed to. Those who have contracts and benefit from state resources aren’t supposed to be in a position to reward themselves or their friends.
If Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of FUSE/Jumoke Inc., finds herself on the State Board of Education, she will certainly be in a “unique” position to directly and indirectly impact her job, her employer and the industry she has worked so hard to represent. Prior to working for FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. she worked for Achievement First, Inc., the even larger charter school management company co-founded by Stefan Pryor.
In fact, together, Achievement First and FUSE/Jumoke control more than half of the $55 -$60 million plus in taxpayer funds that flow to charter schools each year.
Finally, as we now know, Andrea Comer also has extensive experience with the so-called crime of ‘stealing” public education when she decided to keep her child in one district despite the fact that she moved to another. Comer complains that raising this point was a personal attack and that she was just looking out of the best interests of her child. While Comer, and all parents, should do whatever they legally can to look out for their children, we now know that Comer’s case was treated very, very differently than more recent Connecticut case where a woman was arrested and convicted of “stealing” education.
Sometimes it’s the “little” votes that provide voters with the best snapshot of their elected officials.
The vote on Comer’s nomination is just such a vote.
Any legislator who votes to put the COO of FUSE/Jumoke Inc. on the State Board of Education is sending a very loud and very clear message to their communities about their definition of conflict of interest and their attitudes toward protecting public resources.
For more on Comer’s nomination here are some of the Wait, What? posts on the topic:
Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education
One Adam-12, One Adam-12, we have a COI in progress
Stamford Advocate joins effort to warn about conflict of interest on State Board of Education
The complex issue of stealing public education…Just ask Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education
Courant focuses attention on Malloy’s nominee for State Board of Education
Oops, Malloy’s nominee to the State Board of Education didn’t quite tell the whole story
Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.
“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.
As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.
School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law
Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;
“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”
As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.
Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.
Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm
“Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”
Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;
“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.
First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?
That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time. ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’
Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.
In the report, the auditors state:
‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’
On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:
‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’
It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Education Reform, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, No-Bid Contracts, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Otherwise known as, “What do you mean we can’t get paid for work provided after our contract end date has occurred, but you promised!”
Today’s “MUST READ” news article comes via CTNewsjunkie and is entitled “Lawsuit: State Still Owes About $235,000 to Education Reform Consultants”
As Christine Stuart explains;
“Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.
Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.”
Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about how Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, brought in Leeds Global Partners and the other corporate education reform consultants though no-bid contracts to help him write and push through Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.
Rather than have to deal with the state’s pesky competitive bidding, Pryor and his team simply told the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Pryor’s hand-picked consultants sans any process whatsoever.
The Connecticut Department of Education then transferred money to SERC to pay for the outside consultants plus an extra percentage for SERC to keep for themselves for overhead and coordination.
The group of companies in question had either done work with Pryor when he was working for Newark Mayor Cory Booker or were other education reform associates who had done work in New Jersey. More