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;
FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,
C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,
1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,
BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605
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.