Charter School Industry raised more than $24 million in 2016 record breaking defeat In Massachusetts

The final campaign finance reports have been submitted and the Charter School Industry raised and spent $24,476,132 in its losing effort to raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts.

According to the Ballotopia website,

Question 2 would have authorized the approval of up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools per year.

Organizations in support of Question #2 in Massachusetts Total Raised
Yes on Two $710,100
Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools $2,418,570
Great Schools Massachusetts $21,198,748
Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee $722,040
Expanding Educational Opportunities $575,002
TOTAL $25,624,360

An incredible 95 percent of the money that flowed into the Massachusetts charter school campaign came from out-of-state donors, with 84 percent of the total funds coming from New York based Families for Excellent Schools, a dark money charter school group that advocates in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

According to the official reports filed with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, a total of five political action committees engaged in the effort to fund the ballot proposition aimed at lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts.  Together they reported raising a total of that $25,624,360, but that count reflects money funneled from one committee to another.  The actual amount raised was closer 24.5 million.

In addition to Families for Excellent schools, the list of corporate education reform donors included more than $1.8 million from Jim and Alice Walton of the Walmart fortune, $490,000 from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from former Enron executive John Arnold.  Education Reform Now and a variety of other groups that refuse to release the names of their donors also contributed to the Massachusetts pro-charter school effort.

 

Major contributors to Question #2 Amount Donated
   
Families for Excellent Schools, (Advocacy) Inc. $20,803,679
Jim Walton $1,125,000
Strong Economy for Growth, Inc. $1,060,000
Alice Walton $710,000
Great Schools Massachusetts $501,000
Michael Bloomberg $490,000
Education Reform Now (Advocacy) $469,317
John Douglas Arnold $250,000
Edward Shapiro $250,000
Bradley Bloom $150,000
Massachusetts Charter Public Schools Voter Education Fund $150,000
Ray Stata $125,000
Massachusetts Charter Public School Association $100,000
Paul Sagan $100,000
Charles Longfield $100,000
Cohasset VC LTD (TX) $100,000
Shari Redstone $100,000
Partners Healthcare $100,000
The Kraft Group $100,000
State Street Bank and Trust Co. $100,000
Suffolk Cares, Inc. $100,000
MassMutual Financial Group $50,000

Corporations donating to the anti-public education campaign included Partners Healthcare, The Kraft Group, State Street Bank and Trust, Co., Suffolk Cares and the MassMutual Financial Group.

The unprecedented effort to undermine public education in Massachusetts will go down as a stunning defeat for the charter school industry and the role of “dark” money in referendum politics.

The question was defeated with 62% voting against the measure and 38% voting in favor of lifting the cap and allowing more charter schools in Massachusetts.

Opponents of the measure included the Massachusetts Teachers Association, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and many local mayors, boards of education and teacher unions.

Proponents included the biggest corporate entities and individuals behind the corporate education reform movement including Families for Excellent Schools, Education Reform Now, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Walton Family and a who’s who list of donors from the charter school industry.

The official ballot summary from the State of Massachusetts read:

This proposed law would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools each year.

Approvals under this law could expand statewide charter school enrollment by up to 1% of the total statewide public school enrollment each year. New charters and enrollment expansions approved under this law would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them, and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them.

If the Board received more than 12 applications in a single year from qualified applicants, then the proposed law would require it to give priority to proposed charter schools or enrollment expansions in districts where student performance on statewide assessments is in the bottom 25% of all districts in the previous two years and where demonstrated parent demand for additional public school options is greatest.

New charter schools and enrollment expansions approved under this proposed law would be subject to the same approval standards as other charter schools, and to recruitment, retention, and multilingual outreach requirements that currently apply to some charter schools. Schools authorized under this law would be subject to annual performance reviews according to standards established by the Board.

Opponents of Question #2 organized through a political action committee called Save our Public Schools which was made up of parents, teachers and unions, with most of the money coming from teacher unions.  Save our Public Schools ended up raising just over $15 million ($15,406,897) in opposition to lifting the cap on charter schools.

Charter lobby chases cut of public funds (By Wendy Lecker)

Beware parents, teachers, school administrators, local education officials and Connecticut taxpayers! 

Not satisfied with diverting more than $110 million a year to privately owned, but publicly funded, charter school companies in Connecticut, the charter school industry is about to make a massive grab for even more public funds via a gimmick called “Money Follows the Child.”

Counting on the support from the ally, Governor Dannel Malloy, the charter school industry is intent on leaving Connecticut public schools will fewer resources and Connecticut residents with higher tax bills.

In her latest commentary piece entitled, Charter lobby chases cut of public funds, and first published in the Stamford Advocate, public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, lays out the issue.

As soon as Connecticut’s school funding decision in the CCJEF case was rendered, charter lobbyists in Connecticut began salivating at the prospect of using their political influence to craft a new school funding system that would benefit charter schools. Families for Excellent schools planned a rally for “fair funding” for charter schools and ConnCAN kicked its propaganda machine into high gear with polls and statements about the horrors of inequitable funding in Connecticut. The case is now on appeal, but the charter lobby is pressing its agenda now.

The embrace of the CCJEF decision by the charter lobby was extremely disingenuous, given that since the case was filed in 2005, neither ConnCAN nor any of the charter advocates even acknowledged the existence of CCJEF.

CCJEF was never about funding privately managed charter schools serving 1 percent of Connecticut students. The CCJEF plaintiffs seek adequate and equitable funding for the vast majority of children who attend Connecticut’s public schools — particularly in Connecticut’s poorest school districts.

However, ConnCAN, Families for Excellent Schools and Northeast Charter Network now see their opportunity to use the language of equity to serve their interests.

If you think it is illogical to call diverting public money intended for poor school districts serving the many to privately managed schools that serve the few “equity,” you are not alone.

In a growing body of case law, courts across the country are rejecting attempts to use their state constitutions to obtain equal funding for charter schools.

The most recent loss was suffered this month in New York by Northeast Charter Network — a well-funded lobby active in Connecticut — where an appellate court dismissed its attempt to get equal facilities funding for charter schools in Buffalo and Rochester.

New York’s decision is consistent with decisions in Arizona and New Jersey, where charter advocates sued for equal funding, and in Massachusetts, where charter advocates attempted to force the state to lift the charter cap. Washington State’s Supreme Court also ruled that charter schools are not entitled to equal funding, though on different grounds.

Charter advocates used similar arguments in these cases. They claimed that poor school districts have low student outcomes, so if a child chooses to go to a charter school they claim has better outcomes, that charter school has the right to equal funding.

In deciding these cases, courts have exposed the claims of charter schools as being at odds with the nature and purpose of the constitutional right to an adequate education.

First and foremost, these courts point out, charter schools do not have a constitutional right to anything. State constitutions protect children, not schools.

Choice is not a constitutional right, either. As the Massachusetts court explained, while the state must educate all children, there is no “constitutional right to choose a particular flavor of education.” Charters are the prime example of how school “choice” undermines constitutional notions of equality, as they often increase segregation, fail to serve English Language Learners, students with disabilities and other vulnerable children, and impose disproportionately harsh discipline on children of color.

The courts also note that while a state must adequately fund public education, there is no right to two parallel public school systems. They ruled that if a child can attend a district public school that is fully funded, then her right to an education is sufficiently safeguarded.

The courts emphasize that if the public school is not fully funded, the solution is certainly not to divert public funds to a charter school. As the New York court observed, funneling public dollars into a charter school is inconsistent with the State’s constitutional obligation, because “to divert public education funds away from the traditional public schools and toward charter schools would benefit a select few at the expense of” the majority of students in public schools.

These courts also note that charter schools are not like public schools. They are exempt from requirements that traditional public schools must follow. Most notably, they do not have to serve all children in a district nor provide all programs that public schools must provide. They were always envisioned as transitory, and can have their charter revoked if authorizing agencies conduct proper oversight.

Connecticut must reform its school funding system. But it cannot be misled by the charter lobby’s warped “save a few, forget the rest” mentality. Our leaders must ensure a well-funded public school system that serves all children, no matter what their needs. True equity means an adequate education for all.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Charter-lobby-chases-cut-of-public-10594980.php

Charter School Industry targets Massachusetts

A group of billionaires and corporate executives are using a front group called Great Schools Massachusetts and the New York based charter school advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, to pour an unprecedented  amount of money into a campaign to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.

According to published reports, the charter school industry is on track to dump up to $18 million into a record-breaking campaign in support of Massachusetts Question 2, a referendum question on this year’s ballot that would effectively lift the legislative mandated cap on the number of charter schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter school, pro-Governor Andrew Cuomo, anti-teacher group has led a series of expensive advocacy campaigns in New York State and Connecticut on behalf of the charter school industry.

Expanding first to Connecticut and then to Massachusetts, Families for Excellent School has become the preferred money pipeline of choice for a group of corporate elite who seek to anonymously fund the effort to privatize public education in the United States.

Thanks to the demise of campaign finance laws at the federal and state level, Families for Excellent Schools can accept unlimited donations from those who profit from or support the rise of charter schools, the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme.

While most of the money flowing into the Massachusetts Question 2 campaign can’t be traced, public documents reveal that a handful of hedge fund managers and corporate executives donated $40,000 each to kick start the campaign aimed at diverting even more scarce public funds from public schools to charter schools.

Most of the key players in the Question 2 operation are directly or indirectly associated with a handful of hedge fund companies including, Bain Capital, the Baupost Group and Highfields Capital Management.

Leading the effort from Bain Capital is Josh Bekenstein, the managing partner at the infamous company.  Bekenstein is a long-time charter supporter having donated massive amounts of money to pro-voucher, anti-teacher, pro-charter school groups including Stand for Children, Teach for America, and the KIPP and Citizen charter school chains.

In addition, Bekenstein has played an instrumental role for both New Profit, Inc. and the NewSchools Venture Fund, two of the major funders behind the charter school movement in Massachusetts and across the nation.

New Profit, Inc.’s “investments” include major donations to underwrite the faux teacher advocacy group called Educators 4 Excellence, which is actually another New York based, anti-union front group.  New Profit, Inc. also funds Achievement First, Inc., a charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the Achievement Network and Turnaround for Children, two more pro-charter school lobby and public relations organizations.

Through Bain Capital, and on his own, Bekenstein’s has also helped fund and lead Bright Horizons, yet another charter school chain with operations in multiple states.

Another Bain executive helping to fund Question 2 is Paul Edgerley, Bain Capital’s former managing director.  Edgerley has also donated millions in support of the privatization of public education, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to New Profit, Inc. and Strategic Grant Partners, a Massachusetts based foundation that has been funding the expansion of charter schools and charter school advocacy groups in that state.

Edgerly has also donated heavily to the Excel Academy Charter School system, which is managed by the for-profit National Heritage Academies.

Seth Klarman, President of the Baupost Group is a major Republican campaign donor at national level, and yet another key player in the Massachusetts pro-charter school campaign.  Klarman, who gave in excess of $3 million during the 2014 federal elections cycle, was also a major donor to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a political action committee created to benefit Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo and ensure Republican control of the New York State Senate.

Klarman has close ties to Eli Broad, serving with the billionaire on the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In addition, Klarman has been a major source of cash for a series of charter schools and pro-charter school sponsors including EdVestors, a Boston-based operation that, in turn, has funneled millions to a variety of charter school chains including the KIPP charter school chain.

Brian Spector, like Klarman, heralds from the Baupost Group and is another major Republican donor.  Spector’s involvement includes a leadership position with The Boston Foundation, an entity that funds a variety of charter schools in Massachusetts including Excel Charter Academy.

Charles Ledley, of Highfields Capital Management, is the groups token Democrat, having served as key donor and operative with Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now and Students for Education Reform, Ledley also provided funding for the successful effort to pass a major anti-teacher evaluation law in New Jersey, a law that requires that teacher evaluations in the Garden State be based on the results their students get on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory common-core standardized tests.

Using Education Reform Now as his funding vehicle, Ledley played a pivotal role in providing the money that Families for Excellent Schools needed to set up its operation in Massachusetts.  In addition to a six figure donation to Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Ledley loaned Education Reform Now $250,000 to subsidize Family for Excellent School’s operating expenses in Massachusetts.

In addition to his own involvement in the charter school industry, Ledley’s wife, Rebecca Ledley, served as a board member of Students for Education Reform and the UP Academy Charter School chain.  She was also a director for K12, Inc., the major on-line, for-profit education company that has made millions from the corporate education reform movement.

Another $40,000 contributor to the Question 2 campaign in Massachusetts is Joanna Jacobson, the managing partner of Strategic Grant Partners.  Like the Boston Foundation, Strategic Grant Partners is a leading pro-charter school foundation that has provided funding to charter schools and advocacy groups supporting charter schools.  The entity has donated to Families for Excellent Schools, Stand for Children, Educators 4 Excellence and Teach for America’s Leadership for Educational Equity.

Jacobson is married to Jonathan Jacobson, the founder of Highfields Capital Management.  She also serves on the board of directors of the Brooke charter schools, a position she shares with Charles Ledley.

Meanwhile, billionaire Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity Investments, also provided a $40,000 check to the Question 2 campaign.   Johnson, yet another major Republican donor, has also donated to a variety of charter schools including the Steppingstone Foundation, which operates College Success Academy. A fellow member of her family, Allison Johnson, serves on the Steppingstone board, while Joanna Jacobson, the managing partner of Strategic Grant Partners serves on the charter school’s advisory board.

Finally, yet another player in the Question 2 campaign is Paul Severino, , a major Republican donor who also matched the original $40,000 donation to kick off the Question 2 operation.

Together these corporate elite are part of an unprecedented effort to privatize public education at the state level.

Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races

Look out, here they come again…

Outside groups have begun a campaign to persuade voters in New London and Bridgeport to support Democratic candidates committed to diverting even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s budget and corporate education reform agenda, while Connecticut public school students, teachers and schools are reeling from their deepest cuts in state history, charter school companies in the state will collect more than $110 million from Connecticut taxpayers, this year.

A massive amount of money considering these entities refuse to educate their fair share of students who face English Language challenges, children who need special education services, and students who have disciplinary issues.

But these schools simply aren’t satisfied with skimming off more than $110 million that should be going to help fund public schools and keep a lid on property taxes.  Charter schools want more and now they are trying to buy up candidates who will be loyal to their cause.

A national, pro-charter school, anti-teacher, corporate-funded group called Democrats for Education Reform has formed a new political action committee in Connecticut called Change Course CT.

Another New York based pro-charter group called Northeast Charter Schools Network has formed a second political action committee in Connecticut called Charters Care.

And these two big money groups are coming into Connecticut to add even more fire power to the existing pro-charter, anti-teacher groups that are already trying to influence public policy and elections.  ConnCAN, New York based Families for Excellent Schools and their political action committee, Connecticut Forward, are only three of a growing number of groups that are spending millions of dollars to persuade Connecticut legislators and candidates to turn their backs on Connecticut’s real public schools.

According to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, Charter school advocates playing in General Assembly primaries;

Change Course CT, a PAC associated with Democrats for Education Reform, a national group Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addressed during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, has polled voters on two primaries in Bridgeport and one in New London.

“We just want to know what the dynamics of the races are,” said Amy Selib Dowell, the Connecticut director of Democrats for Education Reform.

She declined to say what they are doing with the polling data gathered in three districts: the 39th House, where Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London is challenged by Chris Soto; the 23rd Senate, where Sen. Ed Gomes of Bridgeport is challenged by Dennis Bradley; and the 126th House, where Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth of Bridgeport is challenged by Maria Pereira.

Charters Care is spending their money on “literature and T-shirts promoting Stallworth over Pereira, an outspoken opponent of charter schools, and Rep. Terry Adams of Bridgeport over Dan Dauplaise.”

As noted, these pro-charter groups are closely aligned to Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his anti-public school agenda.  The groups have spent more than $9 million lobbying Connecticut public officials since Malloy rolled out his corporate education reform agenda in 2012.

The timing could not be more suspicious.

Malloy may be on his way out, but one of his key life lines for his aspirations in Washington D.C. is the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Or, as the CT Mirror noted;

Malloy, the co-chair of the DNC’s Platform Committee, was a featured speaker at a Democrats for Education Reform event in Philadelphia…”

“Payment” to be collected later…

For additional background on these groups and their antics in Connecticut read the following Wait, What? posts;

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

According to the latest lobbying reports filed with the Connecticut Ethics Commission, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies spent another $555,000 during this year’s legislative session in their ongoing effort to support Governor Malloy and persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more public money to the privately owned and operated charter schools in the state.

While Governor Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly instituted the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy and the Democrat’s new budget actually increased the amount of scarce public funds going to the charter schools.

At the same time, the charter school front groups were working with Malloy to fight off efforts to fix Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation program.

Malloy and the charter schools are intent on keeping the scores that student receive on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC standardized tests as a prominent factor in determining teacher quality, despite the fact that every major academic study has revealed that individual teachers have an extremely small impact on how individual students do on standardized tests.

Rather than develop a teacher evaluation system based on how well that educator is actually doing, Malloy and the education reformers want to stick with a faulty system that will unfairly judge teachers on factors beyond their control.

Meanwhile, as Wait, What reported earlier this year, the charter school industry and their corporate funded front groups have spent in excess of $9 million on lobbying since Governor Malloy took office in 2011.  See: Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

The latest ethics reports indicate that, once again, the New York based Families for Excellent Schools continue to spend the most on lobbying in Connecticut, having reported an additional $300,000 in lobbying expenditures since the beginning of this year’s legislative session.  The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) took the 2nd and 3rd spots on the charter school lobbying chart.

While Families for Excellent Schools and the entire charter school industry continue to expand their lobbying efforts, Neil Vigdor, of the Hearst Media Group, reports that Families for Excellent Schools and other so-called education reformers have set up another Political Action Committee that they will be using to reward and punish candidates who support or oppose their agenda.

In Charter schools step up political action Vigdor reports;

The charter school movement — backstopped by a billionaire club that includes Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones and Ray Dalio — wants to put its stamp on the Legislature in Connecticut.

CT Forward, a newly launched nonprofit advocacy group, will survey House and Senate candidates across the state on their support for public charter schools. The litmus test will determine which candidates receive financial and grassroots support from the group’s dues-paying members, who will be made up heavily of parents.

Families for Excellent Schools, which has wrangled with Bridgeport administrators over education reform, is behind the election-year initiative.

[…]

For giants of the hedge fund industry such as Jones and Dalio, both Greenwich residents, charter schools have become a favorite cause. Each has contributed to Families for Excellent Schools, which reported $17.6 million in contributions and grants for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the IRS. [FES Director] Kittredge’s compensation was $222,297 for that time period, more than Connecticut’s state education commissioner and New York City’s schools chancellor.

A spokesman for Jones declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment were left for Dalio, whose Westport hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the largest in the world. Bloomberg has not contributed directly to FES, but has been strongly linked to the charter school movement.

Lobbying legislators, handing out campaign cash…it is all part of the effort to privatize public education in Connecticut and across the country.

LMAO – Charter school front group hires “Tactics Manager”

Families for Excellent Schools, the corporate funded, New York based charter school lobby group, with chapters in Connecticut and Massachusetts, is looking for a manager of tactics.

A Manager of Tactics?

Not just any Manager of Tactics.  They are hiring a National Director of Tactics…

Perhaps they find their calling in the words of Sun Tzu, who wrote about tactics in his epic entitled, The Art of War;

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” –  Sun TzuThe Art of War

So it is that the billionaire funded Families for Excellent Schools has posted a job listing searching for a National Manager of Tactics.

What an incredible and disturbing commentary about the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies.

According to the FES job posting, the pro-charter schools, anti-public education, anti-teacher lobby group’s job posting states;

As National Manager of Tactics, you will support the Tactics team in strengthening best practices and logistics around campaign tactics, such as rallies, press conferences, and other field tactics in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Your primary responsibilities will be producing internal reports on campaign tactics and organizing resources, such as event assets and project tools. You will report to and work closely with the Director of Tactics and work closely with the Managing Director of Tactics as well as collaborate with the rest of the organization on executing its mission.

So there you go…

“As National Manager of Tactics, you will support the Tactics team in strengthening best practices and logistics around campaign tactics…”

And to do that, you will called upon to “produce internal reports on campaign tactics.”

And sadly, these people are for real and their job post is no joke.

They love corporate and military terms, interspersed with as much hyperbole as possible.

Their “non-profit” lobbying groups are headed by people with titles of CEO and make in excess of $150,000, along with plenty of COO and CFOs added for good measure.

And now they are hiring for titles like Director of Tactics, Managing Director of Tactics and other positions within “tactical” teams.

And this is how they intend to provide the nation’s children with the comprehensive education they will need to succeed in the 21st Century?

Me thinks they have watched too many made-for-TV movies about Seal Team Six.

God Help Us.

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy has been able to count on the consistent and lucrative support of the charter school industry and their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher corporate education reform allies.

In addition to being one of Malloy’s largest sources of campaign cash during his 2014 re-election campaign, the owners and operators of Connecticut’s charter schools, along with the corporate elite who support Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have dumped more than $9 million into the lobbying effort to support Malloy’s agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

This lobbing frenzy makes the corporate education reform effort the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

Funneling money through a variety of different organizations and front groups, the charter school advocates have been able “transform” public education in Connecticut by promoting Malloy’s plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

While Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly are instituting unprecedented cuts to public schools, thanks to the  “reformers” lobbying effort, more than $110 million in public dollars will be handed over to charter schools this year alone.

In addition, these groups have spent their millions pushing the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, a program designed to label a vast number of Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools as failures.

The following chart highlights the Step Right Up, Buy Public Policy organizations that have lobbied on behalf of Malloy’s charter school and anti-public education agenda.

Organization Lobbying Expenses
A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN front group)  $2.3 million
ConnCAN  $1.9 million
Families for Excellent Schools  $1.8 million
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee)  $891,000
CT Council for Education Reform  $349,000
Students for Education Reform  $16,000
Achievement First  $422,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network  $132,000
Bronx Charter School $35,000
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA)  >$1.2 million
TOTAL $9 Million+

This past legislative session, these charter school and education reform entities spent in excess of $500,000 successfully persuading legislators to cut their own district’s public school funding, at the same time they were sending even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that these private institutions have traditionally refused to educate their fair share of students who need special education services, children who require help learning the English Language or those who have behavioral issues.

More taxpayer money for the private sector, less public funds for public schools.

Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly should be sent packing and replaced with people who will put our children ahead of political and private interests.

Bridgeport’s Former “Deputy Mayor” Josh Thompson running for Mayor of New York City

Although it is undoubtedly purely coincidental, with fans eagerly awaiting the much anticipated release this Friday of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” along comes the news that Joshua Thompson, former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide, who claimed on his on-line biography that he was actually Bridgeport’s “Deputy Mayor,” is now focusing his attention on defeating New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

No, Josh Thompson isn’t working for one of the potential candidates who are considering challenging de Blasio in the November 2017 election.  Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide is running to BECOME New York’s next mayor.

Josh Thompson’s time as a member of Bill Finch’s Brain Trust highlight the recent challenges that have been dragging down Connecticut’s charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies who continue to undermine public education in Connecticut.

As some readers may remember, in March 2013, Wait, What? reported that Joshua Thompson was garnering media attention when he updated his on-line biography to read:

Joshua Thompson is the Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT. Prior to this position, he was the Program Analyst and Projects Manager for the Deputy Mayor for Education in the Executive Office of the Mayor in Washington, DC.

In this capacity, he served in a direct oversight role in the District’s schools, working in partnership with charter schools, as well as the federal government on policies such as Race to the Top and other major initiatives that impact the District at large.

But, of course, few of the claims made by the 20-something political operative were true.

At the time Josh Thompson was hired in August 2012 to join Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s staff, the Connecticut Post wrote that the newcomer would be working as Finch’s education aide.  The paper explained,

“Joshua Thompson will develop and carry out public education policy and shape new initiatives. He will earn $102,000 as an at-will employee of the mayor. Funds for the salary were approved by the City Council and come from a dedicated line in the budget, said Adam Wood, Finch’s chief of staff.”

However, neither Mayor Finch nor his Chief of Staff, Adam Wood, bothered to explain to the City Council that the “dedicated line” they were referring to was actually the City’s education budget and their tactic meant money intended for educating Bridgeport’s children would, instead, be used to expand Finch’s political operation.

While Thompson’s official position remained that of a deputy chief administrative officer, the Finch Administration started referring to Thompson as the Mayor’s “Director for Education and Youth.”

Initially, Director of Education and Youth is how Thompson referred to himself on his LinkedIn social networking account, although he bulked up his title a bit more on his  twitter account, calling himself, “Director of Education in Bridgeport, CT.”

But Thompson’s amazing, meteoric, self-promotion was most evident when it came to his biography on The Council of Urban Professionals’ website.  The CUP is a New York City based entity that claims to be, “an energetic 21st century leadership development organization that molds diverse business and civic leaders, and empowers them to exert influence, achieve their individual goals and create collective impact through a range of programs and initiative.”

After Thompson was done doctoring his biography on the site it read;

“Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT.”

Of course, the claim was more than a little far-fetched considering Bridgeport City Charter doesn’t even allow the use of the title, Deputy Mayor.  After Thompson’s enhanced biography was published on Wait, What? he modified it to remove his status as the Park City’s self-appointed Deputy Mayor.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, Thompson’s first task was to help pass Mayor Finch’s plan to do away with the city’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.  The Mayor’s charter referendum initiative went down in a stunning defeat.

Undaunted by the will of the people, Finch then had Thompson take on the role of bullying the Bridgeport Board of Education into extending the contract of education reformer extraordinaire, Paul Vallas, who had arrived in Bridgeport after successfully undermining and the public school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Thompson’s role as Finch’s education reform enforcer was covered in a number of Wait, What? blog posts, including, Bridgeport: Finch puts Deputy Mayor Thompson in attack mode to protect Paul Vallas…Mayor Finch and Bridgeport City Council move to cut education funding? And  last but not least, in Finch/Vallas land…

Leading the Custer-like effort to defend Vallas, Thompson issued a threatening statement to the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education that appeared in the Only in Bridgeport” blog.  Thompson opined;

“I want to make something 100-percent clear…I am very concerned that we have elected board members whose values are tied to that of the Working Families Party…. With Superintendent Vallas’ evaluation coming up this Monday, it is clear that anyone who is part of the Working Families Party did not objectively evaluate the Superintendent’s performance…”

Finch also gave Thompson the task of helping make sure that only pro-charter school Finch loyalists were elected to the Bridgeport school board, an effort that also ended in failure.

Failure was also the outcome of Finch’s re-election plans, when the incumbent mayor was defeated in November 2015 by former Bridgeport mayor, Joe Ganim, who had returned to Bridgeport after serving seven years in federal prison for corruption.

But by then, Thompson’s dreams of glory had taken him back down the road to New York City.

As Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll noted (purportedly while on drugs);

alice quote

As for his time in Bridgeport, Thompson explains on his new campaign website;

In 2012, as I was finishing up in DC, I received a call that Bridgeport’s education system was in crisis and drove straight there. When I arrived in Bridgeport, there was a $13 million education budget deficit, a dropout rate of nearly 50%, and textbooks that still said George H. W. Bush was president. During my tenure, we eliminated the deficit without letting go of a single teacher or closing a single school. In fact, we opened 9 schools, some of which are now among the highest performing schools in Connecticut. Instead of outdated textbooks, every high school student in Bridgeport now has a tablet….

As an aside, the tablet statement isn’t true and the $10 million no-bid contract to purchase new textbooks not only ended up with “new” books that are not Common Core complaint but the outrageous and lucrative payment schedule ended up diverting scarce dollars from critically needed instructional costs for years after Vallas and Thompson left town.

But none of the uncomfortable details matter to Connecticut’s charter school industry and those associated with the anti-teacher, anti-public school education reform agenda.

Annoyed with New York Mayor de Blasio, the moneyed interests associated with Connecticut’s charter schools are stepping up to help their guy “challenge” New York’s Mayor..

According to Thompson’s first campaign finance report, Bridgeport’s former “Deputy Mayor” raised a total of about $15,000 during his first reporting period.

Thompson’s largest donor, of course, is none-other-than Jonathan Sackler, the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical executive who was also Governor Dannel Malloy’s largest campaign contributor.

Thompson’s other donors include;

Jennifer Alexander (CEO, ConnCAN)

Andrew Boas (Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors)

Adam Goldfarb (Former Chief of Staff to Former CT Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor)

Jeremiah Grace (Director of the NY based charter school front called Families for Excellent Schools)

Alex Johnson (Former CEO, ConnCAN)

Megan Lowney (Co-founder of the charter school advocacy group Excel Bridgeport)

Adam Wood (Former Chief of Staff to Former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch)

And others who names appear regularly here at Wait, What?

It just goes to show you…. Although what exactly is goes to show is a bit of mystery.

NYC based Charter School Lobby attacks CT State Senator Len Fasano for his support of public education

Families for Excellent Schools is the corporate funded, New York based, charter school industry lobbying group that bused in students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston, last year, to attend a rally in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s effort to divert even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Over the past year and a half, Families for Excellent Schools  – using a variety of aliases – has spent nearly $1.5 million in a record-breaking effort to lobby and persuade Connecticut legislators to support Governor Dannel Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “education reform” initiatives.

Now, in a dirty and underhanded maneuver, the outside lobby group is targeting Republican State Senator Len Fasano.  His crime?  Unlike Malloy, Fasano actually supports Connecticut’s real public schools and Connecticut’s public school teachers.

The truth is that Governor Malloy’s 2016 budget proposal includes plans to cut Connecticut’s public schools by approximately $58 million while increasing state aid to his pet-project, the privately owned and operated charter schools.

Thanks to Malloy’s education reform effort, Connecticut taxpayers already subsidize charter school companies to the tune of more than $100 million a year and while Malloy laments the state budget deficit, his budget plan is to actually give charter school even more taxpayer funds even though these companies refuse to educate their fair share of students who need special education services or those who require extra help when it comes to learning the English Language.

State Senator Len Fasano has been calling Malloy out on his irresponsible budget plan.

Fasano has made it clear that public schools should be treated more fairly and that charter schools should not be exempt from the efforts to balance the budget.

Fasano has also been one of the most outspoken leaders in opposition to the Common Core SBAC testing frenzy and is a leading co-sponsor of the legislation prohibiting Common Core SBAC test results from being used as part of Malloy’s ill-conceived and unfair teacher evaluation program.

Paid to promote the Common Core, the Common Core testing and more state aid for charter schools, Fasano’s pro-public education stance is just too much for these charter lobbyists to handle and so they are targeting him.

Of course, beyond the immediate attack on State Senator Fasano is the question of who is really behind these tactics?

According to the official reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, New York’s Families for Excellent Schools has become a major source of income for Malloy’s “former” top aides.

Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Malloy’s Press Secretary before leaving the state payroll to take a PR position with a New York company, has already collected $78,000 from this charter school lobbying front and it appears that he is now collecting $8,500 a month to support Malloy’s education reform proposals and attack Malloy’s opponents.

In addition, since setting up shop in Connecticut, Families for Excellent Schools has handed Roy Occhiogrosso’s company at least $232,350.  Occhiogrosso is Malloy’s alter-ego and worked as the governor’s chief adviser during Malloy’s first term in office.  The political operative is widely credited with writing Malloy’s 2012 anti-teacher speeches in which Malloy proposed doing away with teacher tenure and observed that he didn’t mind having teachers teach to the test as long as test scores went up.

More money for charter schools…

More money for Malloy’s closest advisers….

Next time you see the Families for Excellent Schools ad attacking Len Fasano… 

You’ll know who is behind the effort.

FASANO ATTACK

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.