You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest ---- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . 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 State 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.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (by Sarah Darer Littman)

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Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (CT Newsjunkie)

Sarah Darer Littman, pro-public school advocate, award winning columnist and parent has written one of the most powerful commentary pieces about the state of the state when it comes to the Charter School Industry and how the Malloy administration has allowed tens of millions in taxpayer funds to be diverted to people and companies that are literally felons, liars and cheats.

If there is one article to read about Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the rise of the corporate education reform movement in Connecticut, this is the one.

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The traditional definition of chutzpah  is someone who kills his mother and father and then claims being an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.

I’ve been reminded of this word constantly as the FUSE/Jumoke charter scandal unfolded over the last two weeks.

L’Affaire Sharpe has been quite astonishing, because as a mere mortal, not a Crony of Dan Malloy or part of the Charter Chicanery Circus, I underwent more due diligence than Sharpe to become a creative writing instructor for an after-school program at one of the local elementary schools for the non-hefty fee of a few hundred bucks.

To teach this Afters program, run by the Cos Cob Elementary School PTA, I had to undergo a criminal background check.

Last year, when I was hired as an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and we know how well adjuncts are paid), before my appointment was confirmed I underwent another criminal background check, and also had to have my transcript sent from the institution where I’d received my Masters Degree. Funnily enough, it was New York University, the educational establishment where Michael Sharpe received his fictional doctorate.

Yet the members of the state Board of Education, all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, required no such due diligence before forking over $53 million of our taxpayer dollars to “Doctor” Sharpe’s organization. Just to make things even cozier, Gov. Malloy appointed FUSE’s chief operating officer, Andrea Comer, to the state Board of Education. Comer resigned earlier this week, in order to avoid being a “distraction.” I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

Every word of Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsjunkie commentary piece paints the ugly story surrounding Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Pryor’s hand-picked employees and high-paid consultants and the State Board of Education.

In addition, Littman traces the relationship to no-nothing policy makers who have allowed scarce public resources to be squandered on the make-a-fast-buck industry that has been the foundation of Malloy’s education reform effort.

As you read Littman’s piece, remember that these are the same people who have forced the Common Core on our children, promoted the absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme and the equally absurd, unfair and wasteful new teacher evaluation program.

No amount of political spin coming from Malloy or his education reform industry allies will disguise the fact that by introducing a bill to do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining rights for teachers in “turnaround schools,” Malloy became the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation.

As Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

“I guess no one in Hartford was watching the cookie jar — too much cronyism and not enough good government.”

You can find this MUST READ piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_charter_advocates_give_new_meaning_to_chutzpah/

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

Charter School company collapse continues

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Andrea Comer, the former COO of Jumoke/FUSE charter school company has resigned her position on the State Board of Education, while the Bridgeport Board of Education prepares to end ties with Jumoke/FUSE, the charter school company that was given a lucrative no-bid contract to run Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas, the ousted former head of Bridgeport’s Schools.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Malloy appointed Comer to the State Board of Education in the spring of 2013.  Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about Comer, Malloy and his inappropriate decision to put the charter school executive on the State Board of Education.

News of Comer’s resignation came late today following today’s State Board of Education meeting.

The following statement was released by the Pelto/Murphy 2014 campaign following the announcement:

Statement of Jonathan Pelto, Candidate for Governor, Education and Democracy Party, On the resignation of Andrea Comer from the Connecticut State Board of Education

“The fact is that Governor Dannel ‘Dan’ Malloy should never have put Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, on the State Board of Education in the first place.  In April 2013, I wrote that the decision to nominate and confirm a high-ranking charter school executive to Connecticut’s education policy board was yet another attack on Connecticut’s school teachers, the teacher unions, and the 99% of students who attend public district schools.

As recently as three weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled, ‘Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut.’  Comer’s departure is an important step, but Connecticut’s public schools students, parents, teachers and citizens will not have the Department of Education they deserve until Malloy, Pryor and the remaining members of the State Board of Education are gone, as well.”

###

Meanwhile, as the Hartford Courant is reporting;

In another blow to a Hartford charter school group, Bridgeport Interim Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz said Wednesday she intends to end the district’s partnership with FUSE.

Rabinowitz will present the plan to the Bridgeport board of education on Thursday evening. State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, who was a supporter of FUSE until recently, said he agreed with the action.

FUSE had a state-funded role managing Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

The announcement comes a week after published reports that FUSE, which also manages the heavily state-financed Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford, had employed a registered sex offender at Dunbar despite a management agreement stating that “no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

“Recent revelations regarding FUSE have given rise to significant concerns regarding the organization’s ability to continue working with Dunbar,” Pryor and Rabinowitz said in a joint statement. “Teachers, students and parents have demonstrated commendable resolve to turn around Dunbar. They deserve a partner who will be able to provide the attention and support necessary for the work that lies ahead.”

Rabinowitz had told The Courant that FUSE failed to inform her of the employee’s criminal record, which included drug convictions, until last week and that she was “incredibly concerned.”

Rabinowitz questioned whether the embattled charter organization, also known as Family Urban Schools of Excellence, should continue running Dunbar School under a year-old arrangement through the state Commissioner’s Network, a reform initiative that gives millions in extra funding to struggling schools that implement a three- to 5-year “turnaround” plan.

You can read more about this breaking story at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-bridgeport-school-0710-20140709,0,2832863.story

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

Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

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Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

Malloy and Pryor:  The Connecticut Charter School Debacle Expands

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Thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s charter school industry has been sucking up tens of millions of dollars in public funds that could have been going to help Connecticut’s real public schools.

Malloy’s unlimited commitment to charter schools runs so deep that when he brags that he has increased spending on “public schools” during his time in office, he actually has the hubris to include the millions he and his administration have handed out to the corporate education reform industry.

The former charter school operator formerly known as “Dr. Michael Sharpe,” who turns out not to have even finished his academic training, but did serve about five years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, is but the tip of a much larger iceberg of lies, deceit and corruption that surround the charter school industry in Connecticut and across the nation.

And you can almost see and hear Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor looking into the TV cameras and saying – “who me?…If we had only known that they were crooks and liars we’d never have given these people no-bid contracts to run public schools or permission to open lucrative new charter schools on top of the $53 million we’ve already given them.”

The only problem is that if Malloy and Pryor did not know the truth about Jumoke/FUSE then it is an even greater indictment of their incompetence and inability to manage the State of Connecticut on behalf of our citizens.

Here is the latest on the Jumoke/FUSE scandal.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE (Hartford Courant)

A community outreach coordinator for a Bridgeport school run by FUSE, the embattled charter school group, has a criminal conviction background that includes drug offenses and a listing on the Texas sex offender registry.

The record of Mack Allen, 49, of Bridgeport, surfaced in a confidential background check that FUSE had a law firm perform in January after he had begun working. But the organization didn’t inform Bridgeport schools Supt. Frances Rabinowitz about it until Tuesday night, after she requested background information on several FUSE employees as part of an audit.

[…]

Allen, a member of the city of Bridgeport’s ethics commission, told The Courant Wednesday that he fully disclosed his criminal past to Sharpe and others at FUSE when they hired him for the job that he said paid him less than $30,000 this past year.

[…]

“I don’t hide my past. What I’ve done, I’ve done,” he said, adding that he had been a gang member heavily involved in the cocaine trade, and had served several prison stretches totaling more than nine years, the last one ending in Texas in 2001.

But Allen said he never should have been in the Texas sex offender registry because it resulted from a conviction as a juvenile in California, in the 1970s, of a charge he described as “accessory to attempted rape,” and that he never tried to sexually assault anyone.

[…]

FUSE’s agreement with the state for its operation of Dunbar includes a provision that the Jumoke charter organization “agrees that no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

It was not clear what led FUSE to have the background check done on Allen after the start of the 2013-14 school year. Lawyer Andrew R. Crumbie, whose Hartford firm performed the check and submitted it Jan. 6, declined comment Wednesday.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE  (CT Post)

A Dunbar School aide who is listed as a sex offender in Texas — and who has felony drug convictions — is the latest Family Urban Schools of Excellence employee found to have a criminal record.

Mack Henry Allen, 49, who in addition to working at Dunbar this year was appointed in March to the city’s Ethics Commission, has first-degree drug convictions in Houston and is listed as a low-level offender on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.

“It’s a scathing background,” Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz said Wednesday. “Just scathing. I have major difficulty with it.”

The news is the latest in a series of revelations that has prompted a local and state investigation of FUSE, a private group entrusted by the state Department of Education to run charter schools and two public schools in Bridgeport that are part of the state’s Commissioner’s Network. One of the schools is Dunbar.

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CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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The Connecticut Post has published a powerful editorial about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school debacle and the Malloy Administration’s failure to properly oversee the growing charter school industry in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s minions of charter school allies are diverting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that have been allowed to open up charter schools or have been given no-bid contracts to run local public schools in Connecticut’s poorest communities.

The editorial lays out the stark facts about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and its contract to run the Bridgeport neighborhood school known as Dunbar.

The CT Post doesn’t even get to the fact that Commissioner Pryor, Pryor’s Division Director in charge of turnaround schools, and their new Bureau Chief in the turnaround schools division all worked for Achievement First, Inc., Connecticut’s largest charter school management company, before getting their state jobs.

Together, Pryor and his two top charter school lieutenants are earning about $500,000 in salary and benefits, courtesy of Connecticut’s taxpayers.  And while we pay, they are spending their time undermining Connecticut’s public school system.

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

It is almost beyond belief that the state Department of Education, its hand finally forced, is just now ordering all charter schools and charter school management firms in Connecticut to conduct background checks on the people being entrusted with the care of children.

The department acted only after Michael P. Sharpe, director of a company the state picked to turn around Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, was discovered to have convictions for forgery and embezzlement, and no doctoral degree, as claimed.

So, in this case at least, with the horse long out of the barn, the department announced with a flourish that it will sic a special investigator on FUSE — Family Urban – and Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school that FUSE also runs.

The state department also said it will make charter schools and their management companies to adhere to anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies established for public school districts.

Well, how about that?

“Today’s actions may not be the limit of what we undertake,” intoned Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

What’s next? Triple secret double-dog probation?

[…]

FUSE, for one thing, received $435,000 from the state in so-called Commissioner’s Network money, money designed to help turn around particularly low-functioning schools in the state.

You can read the complete editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-long-overdue-step-on-charters-5593806.php

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The battle against the corporate education reform industry takes center stage

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Charter School Scandal Continues to Rock Malloy Administration…

However, rather than conduct a truly independent investigation into the fall of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education decided to hire a lawyer to conduct an “investigation.”

Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner added that his agency’s lawyers would be “extremely involved” in the investigation… this despite the fact that Pryor and his leadership team should be among those being investigated.

While the State Board of Education put FUSE, the parent company of Jumoke Academy on “probation,” they spent much of the meeting lavishing praise on Jumoke Academy.

But the two entities are so intertwined that the State Board of Education’s action deserves nothing but ridicule.

The fact is that the deal to hand Hartford’s Milner Elementary School over to Jumoke was made in March 2012.  The State Board of Education voted to give Milner to Jumoke at their meeting in August 2012, but FUSE, the parent company that signed the contract to run Milner, wasn’t even formed until October 2012 —– more than six months AFTER Pryor and his team had decided to hand over millions of state taxpayer dollars to run Milner.

To investigate FUSE and not Jumoke Academy  is nothing more than a blatant effort to sweep the problem under the rug.

But regardless of the State Board of Education’s action, the battle against charter schools and the corporate education reform industry is finally being brought to light.

As the CT Mirror explains in their leading news story this morning,

The inquiry comes as charter schools, once celebrated as laboratories of urban educational achievement and innovation, increasingly face a backlash from teachers’ unions and political figures ranging from the mayor of New York City to a third-party candidate for governor of Connecticut.

See CT Mirror: Scandal called ‘important moment’ in charter movement

The CT Mirror adds,

Anger over charter schools and the private non-profit companies that run them is helping fuel the third-party gubernatorial campaign of Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic legislator.”

To Pelto, the exposure of Sharpe’s record by The Hartford Courant is evidence of the shortcomings of a state education bureaucracy overly sympathetic of charter schools.

“I think it’s evidence there is no oversight, no meaningful oversight,” Pelto said.

On the same issue, CT Newsjunkie, has an article entitled, State Board of Education Launches Investigation, Requires Background Checks for Charters.  CT Newwjunkie reports,

Critics of charter schools who attended Monday’s meeting, including gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, say this is just proof that the charter model doesn’t work.

Pelto said these issues need to be investigated by an outside investigator because the allegations of inappropriate activities go all the way up into the commissioner’s office.

He said the board should have put the charter management group and its flagship charter school, Jumoke Academy, on probation.

And the Hartford Courant, the newspaper that produced the investigative news stories that brought down the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain has a story entitled, State Board Approves Probe Of Charter School CompanyThe Courant’s story includes my assessment of the State Department of Education’s action, in which I say,

It’s not just the fox dialing 911 when the chickens have disappeared – it’s the fox with the chicken feathers hanging out of their mouth dialing 911,” said Pelto, who suggested the state auditors should conduct the probe.

You can read much more about the is developing story by clicking on the titles of each of the articles

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News Flash:  Malloy/Pryor hand another top job to an Achievement First Inc. staffer

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The Malloy administration has given the one-hundred thousand-dollar-a-year-plus job of “Bureau Chief for District and School Transformation” to William (Billy) Johnson, a former employee of Achievement First Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. being the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner.   The company now operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been the largest beneficiary of Malloy’s effort to shovel funds to the charter school industry.

The new “Bureau Chief” will report to Morgan Barth, the State Department of Education’s ‘Division Director.”  Before getting his lucrative management job in the Malloy administration, Barth also worked for Achievement First, Inc.

And Barth reports to Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Not only did Pryor play a key role in the creation of Achievement First, Inc., but he served on its Board of Directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s “education reform” point-person.

The timing of this hand-out to another Achievement First Inc. employee is particularly noteworthy since it takes place at the very moment that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are circling the wagons in an attempt to deny any responsibility for the Jumoke Academy/FUSE Charter School Management Company debacle of the past few weeks.

Their claim that they didn’t know anything about the problems associated with Jumoke Academy/FUSE certainly lacks credibility since it was Pryor, Morgan Barth and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson, who worked directly with Jumoke Academy/FUSE to get them their two no-bid contracts – one to run the Milner School in Hartford and one to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  In addition, it was the same cast of characters who successfully got Jumoke Academy/FUSE their new charter school in New Haven.

But as we’ve seen throughout Malloy’s tenure in office, the charter school industry is a priority.

And now another senior position is being given to someone affiliated with Achievement First, Inc. and charter schools.

Billy Johnson worked for Achievement First, Inc. from 2004 to June 2009 and returned to Achievement two years ago to become a consultant for Achievement First’s “AF Residency Program for School Leadership in July 2012.

Johnson has also worked for the Domus Academy, another charter school company and for the Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut.

And what is Johnson’s most recent academic achievement? A 2014 graduate of the UConn’s infamous 093-CT Superintendent Executive Leadership Certificate Program, the very program that Pryor and the State Department of Education sidestepped in granting Paul Vallas his “certification” to run Bridgeport’s schools.

Although Johnson’s salary has not been released yet, the position was advertised for $102,546 – $131,539 per year plus benefits.

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