Second in a series on the attempt by Achievement First Inc. to collect even more money from Connecticut’s taxpayers. Part 1 can be found here: Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven
As the New Haven Board of Education considers approving the deal to hand over money to help fund Achievement First Inc.’s new Elm City Imagine school, a question that arises is who exactly is behind the proposal to divert scarce taxpayer funds from New Haven and Connecticut residents to subsidize Achievement First Inc.’s effort to create the Elm City Imagine School in New Haven?
If you ask the corporate education reform industry executives who are pressuring the New Haven Board of Education to vote yes they will tell undoubtedly tell you that they are doing it – “For the Children!”
But when you begin to pull back the curtain, you’ll find a very different story.
Here is just part of the reality facing the people of New Haven;
The Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors is chaired by William Berkley, the Chairman and CEO of W.R. Berkley Corporation of Greenwich, Connecticut and Doug Borchard, the Chief Operating Officer of New Profit, Inc., a financial investment company that “invests” in companies and entities associated with the corporate education reform industry.
Pulling in over $219 million in salary and compensation over the past five years from his insurance company, the Chairman of Achievement First Inc. ranks #29 on Forbes’ highest paid CEO list and Berkley is the #1 highest paid CEO in the insurance industry. Berkley was recently appointed to head New York University’s Board of Trustees, where the tuition and fees are now in excess of $75,000 a year.
One of William Berkley’s claims to fame in Connecticut is the controversy surrounding Berkley’s role in giving free plane trips to disgraced Governor John Rowland and the curious appearance fees his company gave to Rowland’s wife while Berkley’s company had state contracts with the Rowland administration. Bloomberg.com puts Berkley among America’s billionaires club.
Achievement First’s Vice Chair may not be in the same financial league yet, but he is a well-recognized force in the corporate education reform industry thanks, in part, to his leadership role at New Profit, Inc.
It turns out that Achievement First, Inc. is a particular darling of the New Profit Corporation.
In their most recent annual report, New Profit Inc. brags that Achievement First Inc. is a key investment for New Profit Inc, telling investors that its relationship with Achievement First Inc. goes back a number of years and noting that Achievement First Inc. already collects in excess of $130 million a year in revenue from its charter school operations.
According to New Profit, Inc.
“Achievement First has grown into a network of 22 public charter schools in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, CT, and Brooklyn, NY, serving 7,000 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Over the next five years, Achievement First plans to grow to a network of 38 schools serving more than 12,000 students.”
And who exactly is New Profit Inc?
The Chairman of the New Profit Inc. Board of Directors is Josh Bekenstein, a managing director of famous, or infamous, Bain Capital. The Board includes two other senior corporate officers of Bain Capital, the Global CEO of Deloitte Touche, the President of Carlin Ventures Inc., the Chairman and Managing Director of Raptor Capital Management and a variety of other corporate elite.
New Profit, Inc. also “invests” in a variety of other corporate education reform industry companies and front groups including Educators 4 Excellence, a New York based anti-union advocacy group that recently opened offices in Connecticut; the Kipp Charter School Chain, a company that runs well over 100 charter schools around the nation; the “Achievement Network” and “Turnaround for Children,” two other corporate education reform organizations.
New Profit also “invests in “New Leaders,” the education reform entity that was formerly known as “New Leaders for New Schools,” which claims that since 2001, it has “trained more than 800 principals and vice principals who now serve more than 250,000 students…Principals trained by New Leaders fundamentally improve school and student achievement through innovative and results-based leadership.”
One of New Profit’s most recent “investments” is in “New Classrooms Innovation Partners,” a company that bills itself as an on-line, personalized learning technology company that will serve as an “innovative partner for learning.”
New Classrooms Inc. is led by Joel Rose, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Rose previously worked as the Chief Executive Officer of School of One, “an initiative within the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) that uses a mix of live, collaborative, and online instruction in order to provide students with instruction customized to their unique academic needs and learning styles.” Rose also worked as senior executive at the massive public education privatization company known as Edison Schools where he served as the company‘s Associate General Counsel, Chief of Staff, General Manager, and Vice President for School Operations
The Board of Directors for this company not only includes corporate education reform industry champion Mike Bezos of Amazon, but none-other-than Doug Borchard, the executive at New Profit Inc. and Vice Chair of Achievement First Inc.
Meanwhile, as Achievement First, Inc. continues to claim that they need the scarce funds from New Haven in order to help the City, the company stays mum on its multiple relationships with the billions of dollars associated with the corporate education reform industry.
Achievement First Inc.’s Board of Directors also includes James Peyser, a senior official at the NewSchools Venture Fund; Jonathan Sackler whose family owns PurduePharma (the maker of Oxycontin); Elisa Villanueva Co-CEO for Teach For America; and Ariela Rozman the CEO of TNTP ( The New Teacher Project.)
Sackler, who financed the creation of Achievement First, Inc. ConnCAN and 50CAN coincidently also serves on the Board of Directors of the NewSchools Venture Fund, while the TFA Board includes such notables as one of Connecticut’s other billionaires, Stephen Mandel, who not only donated more than $50 million to Teach for America and serves as the Treasurer of the TFA Board but is also a major donor to Achievement First Inc., ConnCAN and Excel Bridgeport, the pro-charter lobby group that has been working with Mayor Bill Finch to divert Bridgeport’s public funds to Achievement First, Inc. – Bridgeport and other charter schools in that city.
And the inter-relationships go on and on.
Yet with all of these billionaires and multi-millionaires and investment companies and corporate elite, Achievement First, Inc. is claiming, with a straight face, that it can only help reduce class sizes in New Haven’s Public Schools if the public school system hands over more money to fund the company’s expansion plans.
Now just who is zooming who in this charade?
Check back tomorrow for more on Achievement First’s money grab.