Shadow of Paul Vallas hangs over Chicago’s Corporate Education Reform Industry scandal


UPDATED!  Chicago: Barbara Byrd-Bennett Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to 7 1/2 Years in Prison

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and one of the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s most prominent leaders, we be in federal court today – Tuesday, October 13, 2015 – to face charges criminal stemming from her indictment in a $23.5 million contract and kick-back scheme.  A guilty plea is expected.

Charges were also filed against The SUPES Academy LLC and Synesi Associates LLC, as well as against the owners of those two companies, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas.  According to the indictment, their role in the kick-back scheme includes charges of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

A third company owned by the two individuals, PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm that provided New Haven with Superintendent Garth Harries and Norwalk with Superintendent Steven Adamowski has also been caught up in the FBI’s investigation into the Chicago scandal.

As the Chicago Sun Times reported last week,

“Even before she was hired to run Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett set up a scheme to get a 10 percent kickback on all the CPS contracts she could steer to a former employer, in part to set up a college fund for her twin grandsons, authorities said Thursday.

The feds found damning, detailed emails between her and her ex-boss, Gary Solomon —


“I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit :)” the feds say Byrd-Bennett wrote in one of many emails discussing the alleged kickbacks.

In a follow up story the Chicago Sun Times added,

“In another email from December 2012, Solomon assured Byrd-Bennett that trust accounts had been set up in the names of two of her young relatives, each funded with tens of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors alleged. The cash would be hers once she stepped down from her public post and rejoined his firm.

‘It is our assumption that the distribution will serve as a signing bonus upon your return to SUPES,’ Solomon wrote, according to prosecutors. ‘If you only join for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day.’

Prior to being hand-picked by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run Chicago’s Public Schools, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant and lead teacher for The Supes Academy, worked as a consultant for Synesi Associates and was listed as a part of the management team at PROACT Search.

While many key actors in the Corporate Education Reform Industry have been involved with Gary Solomon and his companies, one of the most prominent names on Solomon’s list of close colleagues is the Great Paul Vallas, the Education Reform Guru and former CEO of the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans  public school systems.

More recently, Democratic Governor and education reform disciple Dannel Malloy brought Vallas to Bridgeport, Connecticut and then twisted Connecticut law in knots so that Vallas could stay for two years until local residents had finally had enough and forced Vallas to leave the job and return to Illinois.

As for the situation in Chicago, it could certainly be said that Gary Solomon’s ability to build such a “successful” corporate education reform company is due, in no small part, to his close relationship with Paul Vallas.

Vallas not only hired Solomon and his companies when he worked in Philadelphia, but brought Solomon with him to New Orleans.

And Vallas worked to bring other business to Solomon and his companies as well.

While Vallas has publicly claimed that he has no financial interest in any of Solomon’s consulting activities, in Vallas’ Philadelphia days Solomon’s consulting company advertised that it had “the exclusive rights to Paul Vallas’ model of education reform.”

Solomon’s Synesi Associates went on to bragged on its website that it had played a leadership role in, “‘the successful implementation’ of Vallas’ plans when Vallas was heading up the Louisiana Recovery School District.”

The close relationship between Vallas and Solomon was explored in a detailed expose published on Philadelphia’s education website, The Notebook, in April 2005.  In an article entitled Cashing in on ‘The Vallas model’ the Notebook laid out the story as follows;

Even with all the private company entrepreneurship revolving around Philadelphia School District initiatives lately, local observers expressed surprise at signs that District CEO Paul Vallas himself was appearing to be in on the action.

Evidence of a business initiative involving the use of Vallas’ name and reform approach recently surfaced on the websites of two related Chicago-based businesses. Information about the venture on one website was apparently pulled from the web minutes after Notebook inquiries. The other website disappeared the next day. (Images of several of the removed pages referenced in this story were saved by The Notebook, and are linked to in this story).

Solomon Consulting Services Inc. (SCS), a new for-profit enterprise that counts among its team a number of prominent administrators and leaders who’ve worked under or with Vallas, had obtained exclusive rights to “The Vallas Model,” according to the website of SCS’s partner and online marketing firm.

Vallas categorically denies any such deal. But questions linger about how a website devoted to marketing Paul Vallas’ accomplishments and approach came into being and what will become of the enterprise that created it.


Through a District spokesperson, Vallas said he has no commercial relationship with Solomon Consulting, adding that SCS had not been authorized to use his name or sell his reform model.

Spokesperson Cecelia Cummings said Vallas has acknowledged awareness of a number of his associates forming an enterprise. Cummings said the District had threatened legal action over the SCS website, which implied that the School District was a client of SCS.


SCS’s team list names Phil Hansen, a former Chicago chief accountability officer who served on Vallas’ Philadelphia transition team and who now works for Princeton Review; Cozette Buckney, Chicago’s chief education officer under Vallas and a member of Vallas’ Philadelphia transition team; Sue Gamm, chief specialized services officer in Chicago during Vallas’ tenure, who also served as a consultant to Vallas during his transition…

[…], disappeared from the web April 28, one day after the interview with Solomon. [Solomon had told the Notebook that a newly designed site was to be posted soon. A new SolomonConsulting was posted Saturday, April 30, with no references to Vallas and no list of personnel].

When Solomon’s website reappeared there was also no mention that Gary Solomon had also served as assistant vice president of educational partnerships with the Princeton Review, but….

On April 20, the School Reform Commission approved a resolution for $2.6 million in categorical/grant funds for Princeton Review to provide curriculum, educational materials and professional development for the District’s summer program. Other Princeton review contracts this school year have been for $600,000 for consulting for four transitional high schools – Lamberton, Sayre, Vaux and Parkway Gamma High, and $750,000 for PSSA test prep materials, support and professional development.

During the interview, Solomon initially said he no longer worked with Princeton Review. However, in a Notebook phone call to Princeton Review’s New York office, an operator responded that the company did indeed have a listing for Gary Solomon. When the call was transferred, Solomon answered, and explained, “They’re a client of mine.”

And, has been repeatedly reported, the close bond between Vallas and Solomon was just beginning.

When Paul Vallas moved on to New Orleans to head the Louisiana Recovery School District, Solomon picked up even more lucrative contracts.

But it is a story out of Illinois that provides a true snap-shot and insider’s view into how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works;

While Gary Solomon and his companies profited greatly via Vallas in Philadelphia and New Orleans, it is the somewhat more hidden story surrounding the Rockford School District (PSD 150) in Illinois that provides telling evidence about how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works.

The December 13, 2007 headline in the Rockford Star newspaper proclaimed, Vallas will ‘assess and evaluate’ District 150 – for freeThe story read,

School reform trailblazer Paul Vallas is willing to assess the educational program at District 150 and develop a “vision” to effectuate change, all for free.

“My role would not only be to assess and evaluate but also to lay out a comprehensive vision for the district. … Given the fact that I would do it for free, there’s certainly no loss of investment,” the New Orleans superintendent said Wednesday.

But the question remains: Will District 150 take advantage of his services or hire consultants he has recommended to assist the district in reform efforts?

Vallas met with district leaders in November, and he and consultants offered educational services to the district. The consultants are Gary Solomon and Phil Hansen, of Synesi Associates.

Vallas is willing to help for free, but the consultants have a cost. School Board President David Gorenz said Synesi has quoted the cost of its consulting services at $600,000.

Vallas, the former head of schools in Philadelphia and Chicago, emphasized Wednesday that he is not affiliated with the consultants and doesn’t benefit financially from their services. They are, however, among a group of people he recommended be part of a successful school reform process.


“Should they decide that they want my help and should they decide that they want me to recommend a full team to come in and do the job … I will be very specific in identifying the people I feel (are) some of the best people out there to come in,” Vallas said.

The superintendent of Recovery School District in New Orleans said he’s inclined to help districts when he can. Plus, he has always enjoyed Peoria, and the city is close to his permanent home — his wife still lives in Chicago.

Days later, on December 22, 2007, the paper expanded its coverage reporting Vallas will meet with Peoria District 150 officials after Christmas,

Noted education leader Paul Vallas was in town Friday talking to local business leaders about school reform, and he plans to meet with District 150 officials sometime after Christmas.

Vallas has offered to help the district reform its educational system and bring in consultants to help implement changes. He first made the offer to district officials in November, after being asked to come to town by Mayor Jim Ardis.

The superintendent of Recovery School District in New Orleans stopped by Peoria on his way home to Chicago for the holidays. He spoke at a meeting of the CEO Roundtable Friday morning and met with the Journal Star editorial board afterward.

“All I’m going to do is try to tell them what I think works and what doesn’t work and to try to provide them with some guidance. The rest is going to be up to them,” Vallas told the editorial board.

Vallas is willing to help for free, but the consultants that he would recommend would have a cost. School Board President David Gorenz has said that a consulting firm that was represented at the November meeting quoted the cost of its services at $600,000

And while Vallas said he would work for free … who were the consultants that District 150 would need to hire?

The consulting firm that is in contact with District 150 is Synesi Associates. Company officials Gary Solomon and Phil Hansen were both at the November meeting. But Vallas said there are multiple people he is willing to bring to District 150, people he referred to as “the best seasoned educators around.”

 As the Chicago Scandal played out in the news this year, the Chicago Tribune reported that,

“No contract was ever signed in Peoria and Vallas disputed the assertion that he had pitched work specifically for Solomon’s firm.”

But there is often more to these types of situations than meets the eye.

Earlier this summer, Paul Vallas and his relationship to Illinois Public School District 150 surfaced yet again.  The local PJ Star newspaper reported, Efforts for independent review of District 150 continue despite rejections

PEORIA – … the current School Board already had rejected at least two attempts at outside evaluations orchestrated by Mayor Jim Ardis, with help from his recently retired education adviser Bill Collier and Peoria County Regional Superintendent of Schools Beth Derry.

The Illinois State Board of Education apparently declined to get involved in a request made by Collier, according to Freedom of Information Act requests. Derry backed off after the school district attorney questioned the legality of her office’s involvement.

But Ardis and Collier haven’t given up on getting the board to agree to an independent review. The School Board’s make-up will change Wednesday with the seating of two new members who support the idea. Either the board or Superintendent Grenita Lathan could have a change of heart, Ardis said last week.

“Support has started to build,” Collier added. “It’s really for altruistic reasons.”

Local business leaders would have donated about $60,000 for a third-party evaluation conducted by a team led by nationally-known, but controversial, education reformer Paul Vallas, who has been school superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Bridgeport, Conn.


According to Vallas, he met with Derry and the teachers’ union leadership, all of whom were supportive. Ardis and Collier presented the proposal to school officials.

Board members were wary of the motives behind what Ardis, Collier and Derry say were sincere efforts to gain an unbiased analysis of District 150’s strengths and weaknesses.

“It was presented as a fait accompli,” said District 150 Chief Legal Officer Rick Rettberg. “The consultant had already been chosen, the scope of the review had already been decided and there was no disclosure of who was paying for it.”

By April, Derry was planning to incorporate the Vallas team’s evaluation into the standard compliance review her office conducts for all Peoria County school districts every four years. That plan was dropped after Rettberg pointed out an expanded compliance review was beyond the scope of her authority.

“What you are proposing in your letter is both extraordinary and problematic,” Rettberg wrote to Derry, reminding her the ROE’s office does not have authority to conduct a quality review, much less delegate it to a private consultant.


The letters between Rettberg, Lathan and Derry were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The letters show the district filed its own FOIA request to obtain copies of a contract and correspondence between the ROE’s office and Developmental Specialists Inc., or DSI, the consulting firm Vallas recently joined.

Vallas emphasized he was providing his services for free, a favor he has done for Ardis in the past…

The $60,000 cost would go to the four-person team he assembled to conduct the review.

So while the federal government was closing in on the contract and kickback scheme involving Chicago School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Gary Solomon this summer, Paul Vallas was a few miles up the road telling local officials in Illinois’ Public School 150 that he was willing to, once again, work for free.  All local taxpayers had to do was pay a hand-picked company selected by Vallas.

But this time Vallas was instructing them that they would have to pay a company that he had publically joined about sixty days earlier.

From a press release issued by DSI Civic Financial Restructuring, LLC on April 4, 2014,

Educational Restructuring Veteran Paul Vallas Joins DSI Civic Financial Restructuring, LLC Former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools Brings 20 Years of Experience to Leading Management Consulting and Financial Advisory Services Firm

Chicago, IL – April 4, 2014 –DSI Civic Financial Restructuring, LLC (DSI Civic), which specializes in government and municipal restructuring and reorganization, today announced that Paul Vallas has joined the firm, lending his considerable government experience and expertise to the group’s national distressed governmental and municipal practice.

Mr. Vallas, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools system, as well as school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Connecticut, brings a solid grasp of state and muncipal issues that complement the senior management team of DCI Civic, an affiliate of Development Specialists, Inc. (DSI), a worldwide consulting firm headquartered in Chicago with major offices in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities.

“Paul brings to DSI Civic a tremendous skill set that uniquely compounds the skills and diverse background of our executives. As a member of our staff our clients will benefit from the extensive knowledge he has built over time; he is an accomplished industry veteran who can navigate successfully through the complex and complicated issues that face many distressed municipalities and school districts,” said Bill Brandt, DSI’s President and CEO.


“I’m flattered to have been asked to join DSI Civic and its stellar team of professionals,” said Mr. Vallas. “I look forward to aiding this very distinguished team as they counsel school districts, diverse units of government and municipal leaders on how to address the difficult issues that governments are dealing with in this new era of constrained budgets. The main reason I am making this move is because Bill Brandt and DSI create jobs and value. They sustain communities and bring opportunities that just weren’t there before.”

Vallas’ $10m textbook farce means Bridgeport students don’t have Common Core aligned math textbooks


When the Common Core SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test results come back later this summer, about 7 in 10 public school students will be labeled as failures.

Considering that lower standardized test scores are a result of poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs, the number of children labelled as ‘FAILURES” will be even higher in Bridgeport and Connecticut’s other poorer cities and towns.

And while the Common Core SBAC test requires students to meet the Common Cores standards, it now turns out that the new textbooks students in Bridgeport and other Connecticut communities have been given are not appropriately aligned to those Common Core standards.

In Bridgeport the problem stems from a massive contract that education reformer extraordinaire and faux Bridgeport superintendent of schools Paul Vallas rushed through without proper oversight and signed on June 12, 2012.

Vallas, the darling of both Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, signed a contract with the Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt publishing company that committed Bridgeport to a $10 million deal in which payments were spread out over 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The contract was for 90,000 new textbooks, instructional materials, testing software and training for teachers on how to utilize the various materials.

Although the problems with the “Textbook Deal” were evident from the beginning [See Wait, What? Post], it turns out the situation is much, much worse than initially reported.

Vallas purchased the new textbooks claiming they were needed in order to prepare Bridgeport students to meet the Common Core Standards

However it is now clear the textbooks Vallas ordered fail to meet those standards.

Edreports is a new non-profit organization that is  funded – of course – by the Gates Foundation and other education reform foundations and was created to review whether the textbooks that are being used by the nation’s public school are aligned to the Common Core.

Vallas ordered Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Math in Focus Program, a package that included textbooks, printed and electronic instructional content and training for teachers.  The cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers for the math curriculum products was well in excess of $3 million.

But as reported by Education Week, the Washington Post and other media outlets, Edreports has determined that the Math in Focus series DOES NOT MEET the Common Core standards.

After a complete review of each of the math textbooks that is part of the Math in Focus program, Edreports’ review included the following observations.

The materials are not coherent or consistent with the standards.”

“Correct math vocabulary is not consistently used throughout the text.”

“There is not enough content for one school year.”

“Teachers using the materials would not be giving their students extensive work in grade-level problems.”

“Overall coherence and consistency of the standards is not achieved.”

“The materials do not provide a focus on the major work nor are the materials coherent.”

And the list goes on…

For details go to: and

The news is more than a bit disturbing.

While their textbooks are not aligned to the Common Core standards, students in Bridgeport (and across Connecticut) are expected to take and pass the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test, a test that is already designed to fail up to 70 percent of all students…and that assumes that students have actually been taught the materials they are being tested on..

Incredibly, the textbooks that Paul Vallas purchased aren’t the only ones to fail the review, which means public school children across Connecticut and the nation are being taught with textbooks that don’t prepare them for the Common Core testing program.

As Education Week reported in an article entitled, “Most Math Curricula Found to Be Out of Sync With Common Core,”

The first round of a Consumer Reports-style review for instructional materials paints a dismal picture of the textbook-publishing industry’s response to new standards: Seventeen of 20 math series reviewed were judged as failing to live up to claims that they are aligned to the common core.

“In general, the results are pretty bad for all the publishers,” said Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, who studies common-standards alignment but was not involved in the project. “I think people really will pay attention to this, and I think it will affect [curriculum] adoption processes going forward.”

In all, just one curriculum series stood out from the pack. Eureka Math, published by Great Minds, a small Washington-based nonprofit organization, was found to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards at all grade levels reviewed.

With every passing day we continue to learn that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is nothing short of a scam with our state’s children being used as little more than “profit centers” for the corporate education reform industry.

Another Charter School Front Group – More apparent ethics law violations (Re-post)


Here we go again… Yet another faux education advocacy group appears unwilling or unable to follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The number of corporate funded education reform and charter school front groups in Connecticut is popping up faster than the buds appear during a warm spring week and these groups seem virtually incapable of adhering to Connecticut’s ethics and lobbying laws.

You may need to read this post a few times to follow the bouncing ball…

It was just a few weeks ago that CT News Junkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman wrote a scathing column on the ethics problems associated with the New York based corporate education reform industry group called Families for Excellent Schools and its subsidiary, and entity called the Coalition for Every Child.

In the piece entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Darer Littman laid out the facts surrounding the Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child controversy.

The well-financed charter school advocacy group is the organization that is paying for the television ads promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget that makes historic cuts to public education while dramatically increasing funding for charter schools.

The group was also one of the sponsors of this week’s pro-charter school rally at the State Capitol that featured Malloy.

As the Hartford Courant reported, charter school students and parents were bused in to Hartford from as far away as Boston and New York City in an attempt to persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more money so that Steve Perry could open a charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx charter school chain could open up a charter school in Stamford.

As Sarah Darer Littman explained, not only had Families for Excellent Schools run into ethics issues in New York, but they were failing to report activities and expenditures here in Connecticut.

Now it looks like another new charter school advocacy group called “FaithActs for Education” is failing to report its lobbying related activities as required under state law – violations that should be met with thousands of dollars in fines.

Although FaithActs for Education was rolled out on February 15, 2015 in a well-scripted press conference featuring Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a number of Bridgeport ministers, the corporation called FaithActs for Education was actually formed in October 2014.

As the Connecticut Post reported in February, “With the public backing of Mayor Bill Finch, a faith-based education advocacy group, FaithActs for Education, conducted its first meeting on Monday declaring a dedication ‘to improving education for all children in Bridgeport, no matter what type of school they attend.’”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who participated in the event said,

“We know where we are and where we need to go. FaithActs for Education will help us to become even more of a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to supporting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Bill Finch, as he faces a difficult re-election campaign, FaithActs for Education’s immediate work has been to support Steve Perry’s plan to open a publicly funded, but privately owned and operated charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a press release issued by FaithActs for Education, the entity is led by,

  • Reverend William McCullough, Pastor, Russell Temple CME Church
  • Bishop John P. Diamond, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Faith,
  • Reverend Janene Hawkins, Pastor, Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church,
  • Reverend Carl McCluster, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church,
  • Reverend Cass Shaw, President & CEO, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport,
  • Reverend Jeremy L. Williams, Pastor, West End Tabernacle CME Church.
  • In addition, the infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales, Pastor, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is also playing a role with the group.

The organization’s chairman, Reverend McCullough, along with Reverend Moales and Reverend McCluster are all listed as original members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport and all have been engaged in lobbying the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on Perry’s behalf.

Although we’re led to believe that FaithActs for Education is a homegrown group of religious leaders working to promote educational opportunities for all of Bridgeport’s children, the real story is very different.

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State, FaithActs for Education Inc. was created by Jamilah Prince-Stewart, who now serves as the entity’s Executive Director.

At the time of incorporation she served as the Director of Community Engagement for ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school lobby group.  In addition, FaithActs’ Director of Operations and Programs left her position as Special Projects Manager at ConnCAN to join the new advocacy group.

At the February 2015 press conference to roll out FaithActs for Education, both ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and former ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnson were in attendance.

In addition to their lobbying work with ConnCAN, Alexander and Johnson were the individuals who formed A Better Connecticut, Inc. yet another education reform industry front group that spent more than $2 million on television ads during the year before the last gubernatorial election to “thank” Governor Malloy for his “leadership” on behalf of the corporate education reform agenda.

FaithActs’ initial press conference was orchestrated by the new group’s spokesman, Bob Bellafiore.

As public education advocate Maria Pereira noted at the time, Bellafiore is the founder of Stanhope Partners, an Albany PR firm that works for the charter school industry.

Before setting up his own company, he served as a Vice President of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter chain that owns and operates 75 charter schools in nine states, making it the third largest for-profit charter school company in the United States.

Just last year, National Heritage Academies made national news when it was discovered that it was charging one of its’ Brooklyn charter schools $2.3 million in rent per year even though it was leasing the property for much less.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, FaithActs for Education purports to be a, “grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We exist to help faith leaders and their congregations step outside their place of worship to advocate for improved educational opportunities for their own children and the children of Bridgeport.”

The organization’s rhetoric goes on to say that, “created as a 501(c)3 Foundation,” FaithActs receives funding from various foundations and individuals, although, to date, it has failed to reveal which foundations or individuals are underwriting the organization’s lobbying and advocacy activities.

FaithActs for Education also shares an address with Educators 4 Excellence, another corporate funded advocacy group that claims to speak for teachers who are opposed to tenure and other collective bargaining rights.  (See Wait, What? Post Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group)

But even if all of that wasn’t indicative enough of the power and inter-relationship of the corporate education reform industry, there is more….

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office, FaithActs for Education’s agent of service is its Executive Director, Jamilah Prince-Stewart.

However, rather than recording the organization’s actual physical office in Bridgeport for corporate related service issues, the official corporate filing lists the following;





Public Square Partnerships is a relatively new company whose agent of service is none-other-than Nate Snow, the Director of Teach for America’s Connecticut Chapter.  Snow also serves as President of Excel Bridgeport Inc., another Bridgeport based charter school advocacy group that had its own run-in with the Connecticut Ethics Commission when it failed to register with the Office of State Ethics despite the fact that it was lobbying state government in favor of Governor Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Excel Bridgeport, Inc., along with Steve Perry supporter, Reverend Kenneth Moales, were the biggest supporters of education reform guru Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s inappropriately certified superintendent who was forced to leave after two years.  Vallas being best known for “charterizing” the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans schools system before being recruited by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to “save” Bridgeport.

Although based in Bridgeport, Public Square Partnership not only lists TFA Director Nate Snow as its agent, but they use Teach for America’s New Haven office address as their official agent of service.

According to their website, Public Square Partnerships “focuses its investments on innovative change efforts that have attained tangible results for children attending schools in high-need communities or that have the potential to do so for sustainable and scalable impact.”

The company adds, “We partner with education organizations that develop educators, schools, and engage parents and community members in creating high-quality schools.”

Public Square Partnerships further reports that in its first year of operation, the company had contracts to help five schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, three of which were public schools and two were charter schools.

Among its clients, we are told, are the new Booker T. Washington Charter School Academy in New Haven and the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport.

While Nate Snow serves as the Agent of Service for Public Square Partnerships, the President and CEO of the company is Diane Robinson who has spent the last twenty years working for the massive KIPP Charter School chain and Teacher for America.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer most recently worked as a Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer with the New York City Department of Education and before that was with the Washington DC Public Schools system.

The company’s third employee comes to Connecticut via the large education reform industry consulting firm called Schoolworks.

While more and more of the pieces of the puzzle come into view, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there are a whole lot of organizations, spending a whole lot of money to further Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school and anti-teacher education reform agenda.

Forces behind effort to eliminate democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education donate to Kenneth Moales Jr.


Let’s hear it for less democracy!

Just days before the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s bizarre 2012 proposal to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor, millionaire charter school champion Jonathan Sackler quietly wrote a personal check for $50,000 to help pay for the final set of mailings and advertisements designed to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to vote for those who oversee their City’s public schools.

Now Jonathan Sackler and many of the same pro-charter, anti-public education, pro-corporate elite are pumping money into Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.’s campaign for State Senate with the goal of helping Moales qualify for a taxpayer-funded state campaign grant that he would use to pay for his campaign in the February 24th 2015 state senate special election.

It won’t come as any surprise to those who have watched the ongoing effort to undermine and denigrate the people of Bridgeport that the very same individuals and groups that worked so hard to take away democracy in Bridgeport and keep Paul Vallas in charge of Bridgeport’s schools are now working overtime to put Moales – a Malloy/Finch ally and disgraced former chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education – into the Connecticut State Senate.

The corporate elite, education reform industry and charter school advocates know that Kenneth Moales Jr. will be a safe vote for their anti-public education agenda, even if it means hurting the people of Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler, whose pharmaceutical company makes OxyContin, is a founding member of Achievement First, Inc., the large Charter School Management Company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Sacker is also the corporate education reform industry advocate who formed ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.  Sackler was one of the largest donors to Finch’s anti-democracy effort and now he tops the list for Moales as well.

Another key player for Moales is Andy Boas, the Chairman of the Board for Achievement First – Bridgeport, a member of the ConnCAN Board of Directors and the founder of The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.  In 2012 Boa was also one of the largest contributors to Finch’s campaign to do away with an elected school board in Bridgeport.

And now Boas and his wife, like Sacker and his wife, have both donated the maximum amount to Moales’ campaign.

In total, more than half a dozen of Moales’ largest campaign contributions have come from members of the Achievement First, Inc. or ConnCAN Boards of Directors.

Yet another major player in Finch’s failed charter revision effort was Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform group that lobbied for the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools and then dumped more than $101,000 to support of Finch’s charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education.  Excel Bridgeport’s founder, Megan Lowney, who is also one of Malloy’s political appointees, recently gave Moales the maximum donation allowed under law.

Others who helped pay for Finch’s failed anti-democracy campaign and are now stepping up with donations for Moales’ campaign include;

Paul Vallas and his wife (now re-located back to Illinois)

Robert Trefrey

Trefrey is the former President/CEO of Bridgeport Hospital.  Trefrey chaired the illegal board that was handed control of Bridgeport’s schools by Governor Malloy’s administration.  When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Malloy’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools was illegal, Malloy appointed Trefrey to the State Board of Education’s Committee that oversees the state’s technical high schools.  Bridgeport Hospital gave Finch’s charter revision campaign the maximum allowable donation, even at a time it was laying off staff.  Trefrey has not given Moales the maximum allowable contribution.

Jeremiah Grace

Grace is the Connecticut State Director of the Northeast Charter School Network.  The organization not only lobbies for more charter schools but helps private charter school management companies develop applications to get public funds.

Lee Bollert

Bollert was an education advisor to Mayor Bill Finch and helped create Excel Bridgeport, Inc.

William McCullough

McCullough serves with Moales on the Board of Directors of Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school.

Kadisha Coates 

Coates is a charter school advocate, member of Families for Excellent Schools and is the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education. Coates and her husband are both donors to Moales.

Liz Torres

Torres is a member of the Great Oaks Charter School Board of Directors.

Joshua Thompson

Thompson is the former Finch aide and Vallas assistant who posted on his on-line resume that he was the Deputy Mayor for Education in Bridgeport, even though he was no such thing. Thomson is now an executive New Leaders Fund, a corporate education reform advocacy group in New York City.  Brandon Clark, who ran on the Finch slate for Board of Education with Moales in 2013 but lost, also works with the New Leaders Fund with Thompson and also recently donated to Moales’ campaign.

Other Moales donors include a number of employees, lobbyists and consultants associated with ConnCAN, Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools organizations in Hartford, New Haven and out-of state.

In order to get the full taxpayer funded grant of Moales has filed the paperwork to get a state taxpayer funded grant.  In order to get the money he must raise a total of $11,250, of which 225 must come from people living in Bridgeport or Stratford.  Depending on the number of signatures collected, Moales could receive a public grant of up to $71,000

Although Moales submitted the paperwork to get a grant last Friday, a review of his public financing report reveals a variety of problems and suspicious donations that could prevent him from qualifying for the public funding.

Note:  A special thanks to Maria Pereira who also researched Moales’ recent campaign finance report and provided her findings to the “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

In the news again – Steve Perry’s point man in Bridgeport – The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

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The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is running for the Connecticut State Senate in a special election to be held on February 24 2015.  Moales is one of three candidates seeking to fill the open seat in Bridgeport.

Not only is Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. the notorious ally of Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, but Moales is the leading member of the “Governing Council” of Steve Perry’s proposed Harbor Prep Capital Charter School, the charter school that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and political appointees on the State Board of Education jammed through despite the fact that there is no funding in the state budget for Perry’s growing aspirations to  open a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.

Kenneth Moales Jr. was also a leading force on the illegal State Oversight Board that was appointed by the Malloy administration when the State of Connecticut illegally took over the Bridgeport School System.

Following the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to restore the rule of law and the notion of democracy by returning Bridgeport’s Schools to an elected Board, Moales got onto the new elected Board of Education thanks to the help of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.  [Moales had served as Finch’s campaign treasurer in his run for mayor].

As a member of the elected Board, including a stint has its chairman; Moales continued to serve as Education Reform Guru Paul Vallas’ biggest cheerleader.

Moales also used his time on the Board to garner a $1 million, no-competitive bid contact, to expand his family’s state-funded daycare centers – daycare centers that rent space from the very church that Moales owns and operates.

The list of three day care centers included one – the largest – that was housed in a building that never had a certificate of occupancy or even met fire code.

The very same church that owns Moales’ house, and at last check, his Cadillac Escalade and a couple of Mercedes Benz sedans…

The very same church that has been facing foreclosure proceedings for over a year…

And now it turns out that Moales hasn’t even being paying his property taxes to the City of Bridgeport going all the way back to 2007.

The latest chapter in this charade comes via a breaking story on the “Only in Bridgeport” Blog entitled, “Moales’ Day Care Facility Owes $10,000 in Back Taxes, Joins DeJesus For Arrearage Battle,”

As the Only in Bridgeport Blog reports,

The campaign of State Senate candidate Ken Moales says they welcome the support of political activists turned off by the $140,000 that Democratic-endorsed Richard DeJesus owes in personal property taxes on businesses, as well as his child support issues. Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare for which Moales serves as chief executive officer owes $10,000 in personal property taxes going back to 2007, according to city tax records.


Moales, a member of the school board, has been a lightning rod in city politics in recent years, particularly when he served as head of the Board of Education. He served as Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer for Finch’s first two runs for mayor. But then tax and foreclosure issues about Moales surfaced. He no longer serves as Finch’s campaign treasurer as the mayor seeks a third four-year term this year.

City tax records show past-due personal property taxes for Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare going back to 2007 and rising.

For more go to:

For lots, lots more on Moales and his inappropriate, often illegal antics, just search his name here on the Wait, What? Blog.

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


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


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:,0,3308874.story

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


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.

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

Will Bridgeport learn from the Michael Sharpe and Jumoke/FUSE disaster?


As more and more facts come out about Michael Sharpe, the CEO of the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School Management company, parents, public school advocates and the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut are turning their attention to the decision by Paul Vallas and former Bridgeport Board of Education, Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. to hand over Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, its students, staff, parents and millions of dollars in public funds to the disgraced charter school fraud.

In the fall of 2012, thanks to the intervention of the Malloy administration, Michael Sharpe and the Jumoke/FUSE company won a no-bid contract to run the Milner School in Hartford.  The following year, Jumoke/FUSE won a no-bid contract to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport and this year, Sharpe and his company received permission to open a new charter school in New Haven.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education are all claiming that they didn’t know that Dr. Michael Sharpe wasn’t a “Dr.” or that he served approximately five years in prison for embezzlement and tax fraud when he lived in California.

In Bridgeport, the Dunbar School was handed over to Sharpe through a backroom deal that included education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr., the Malloy and Finch ally who was then serving as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education when the lucrative contract was given to Sharpe.

Just last week the Hartford Board of Education announced they were severing their relationship with Sharpe and Jumoke/Fuse due to fact that Jumoke/FUSE was failing to properly educate the children of the Milner School as required under their Memorandum of Understanding.

Then, thanks to the outstanding investigative reporting of the Hartford Courant, we’ve learned that Sharpe is a fraud having faked his resume and served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion.

With the Bridgeport Board of Education meeting tonight, the eyes of the state are turning to Bridgeport to see whether they will stick with the backroom political deal or do what is right for the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut.

Although the details remain murky, one thing is clear – the Dunbar School Deal would not have taken place without the assistance of Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales, Jr.

As readers know, Kenneth Moales is already an extremely controversial figure.  The man who served as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer has also been one of the most pivotal supporters of Governor Malloy in Bridgeport, the city that “gave” Malloy the margin he needed to beat Tom Foley by 6,200 votes in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Unable or unwilling to follow the law, Moales and his family have been running three daycare centers that illegally overcharged taxpayers and continue to put children in classrooms that do not meet the most basic requirements when it comes to having a permanent certificate of occupancy.

Wait, What? readers will recall that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. received a temporary certificate of occupancy on July 23, 2013, shortly after the CT Post reported his church, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, had been operating illegally as early as 2011.

On July 23, 2013, the Chief Building Official emailed Andrew Nunn, Mayor Finch’s Chief Administrative Officer, stating “All outstanding items have been resolved and the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy has been issued effective today.”  Andrew Nunn responded by writing “Thank you. Please work on outstanding issues and a timetable for a full CO and report back to me.”  Those cc’d on the email include Mayor Finch’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Administrative Officer, Director of Economic Development, City Attorney, Fire Chief, Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director and the Chief Fire Marshall.

But a year later, Moales still hasn’t resolved “those outstanding issues” and doesn’t have a permanent certificate of occupancy, although he continues to collect on what is nearly a $1 million-a- year daycare grant from the Malloy administration.

Although Moales’ isn’t meeting his legal requirements, neither the Malloy administration nor the City of Bridgeport have stepped in to close down Moales’ daycare operation….even though it is inconceivable that any other daycare provider in the state would be allowed to stay open without a permanent certificate of occupancy.

What makes the Moales situation particularly relevant is that despite being Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Moales never briefed his fellow board members on the controversy engulfing his daycare operation – an operation that is almost exclusively paid for with state funds that go through the Bridgeport Board of Education.

And while Moales was able to fly under the State Department of Education’s rules on daycare programs, he was helping Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s friend, Paul Vallas, give a multi-million dollar contract to Jumoke/FUSE’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, to run the Dunbar School.  Sharpe got the contract despite the fact that he and his company had no experience running a school outside of Hartford and was already running into problems with the Milner School in Hartford.

The action the Bridgeport Board of Education takes tonight will speak volumes about just how much power the Malloy administration has to divert scarce public resources to favored private companies or whether those days are coming to an end.

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

Hashtag – #ConnecticutisnotWisconsin 


To the  unions, public employees, and the voters of Connecticut – Let’s take a moment to set the record straight…

While preventing me from even speaking to the union members responsible for endorsing candidates, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and AFT-CT were among those claiming that voters must choose Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy or Connecticut would become another Wisconsin – a reference to the damage Wisconsin Tea-Party governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican, right-wing controlled Wisconsin Legislature have done to public employees and their right to collectively bargain in that state.

In order to drive their point home, the Connecticut union leaders brought in Stephanie Bloomingdale, the secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, to give a speech at the AFL-CIO political endorsing convention.  Bloomingdale reported, “They came for us in Wisconsin and they are coming for you in Connecticut. We were the first target. Now it is your turn to stop it…

Lee Saunders, the national president of AFSCME, was also given the microphone at the event and explained that “Connecticut’s governor’s race nationally and how the labor movement can’t afford Connecticut becoming another Wisconsin.”

 But Connecticut will not be another Wisconsin. (Regardless of what happens in November)

While one can be rightfully suspicious of Republican Tom Foley, Connecticut has and will continue to have a Democratic legislature.  Wisconsin’s governor got away with undermining collective bargaining BECAUSE he has a right-wing Republican legislature to support is anti-union, anti-public employee, anti-teacher, anti-public education initiatives.

Thanks to the way districts were drawn in the last three rounds of re-districting, Connecticut will have a Democratic legislature for decades to come.

But the #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument fails on a second group.

At last week’s AFL-CIO Convention, Governor Malloy took the stage and in an attempt to revise history by saying,

“I stand with labor, I always have. I always will.”

Not one union representative during this heavily scripted event challenged Malloy or even asked him to explain why he is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure and repealing the collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround school.

And no one confronted Malloy in order to force him to explain to state and local public employees how he intends to govern and meet our state’s obligations, including public employee salaries, healthcare and pensions when he has promised that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during his second term as governor.

Faced with a $1.3 billion projected state budget deficit next year, Malloy has promised no taxes, no cuts to vital services and no concessions from state employees.

But even putting aside salary issues, the state of Connecticut will be required to allocate more than $120 million next year just to maintain minimum funding for pension obligations and health benefits.

Furthermore, the last state employee concession agreement cut salaries by 3%, so that those dollars could be shifted to the state retirees’ healthcare fund.  As state employees know, the state of Connecticut is supposed to start matching that $125 million a year in July 2017.  But Malloy’s no tax pledge makes is virtually impossible for the state to fulfill that financial obligation. This means that state employees will learn that they took a pay cut to help fund retiree health benefits but the state walked away from its side of the bargain.

The #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument is simply a way to scare union members into voting for a governor who has failed to match his actions to his rhetoric.

Perhaps even more telling, the “Don’t let us become Wisconsin” is the campaign strategy that some union leaders are utilizing in other parts of the nation.

In Illinois, for example, the argument is the same.  Don’t let Illinois become Wisconsin.

And so who are voters being told to vote for?  An incumbent Democratic governor who has pushed anti-labor bills and his running mate, Paul Vallas, one of the nation’s leading champions in the effort to destroy public school teachers, their unions and the public education system.

Voters, including union members, deserve the right to vote for a candidate who will look out for their interests, not just the option of choosing one failed politician over the other.

Just take a look at this political cartoon developed by fellow education blogger, Fred Klonsky who is one of the most important pro-union, pro-teacher, pro-public education voices in Illinois.


The cartoon savoring the facts of the career of Paul Vallas first appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog on June 12, 2014. The URL for the blog is

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

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