Connecticut General Assembly, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Program Review and Investigations Commitee, Sarah Darer Littman Connecticut General Assembly, Democratic Legislators, Program Review and Investigations Commitee, Sarah Darer Littman
CT Newsjunkie columnist Sara Darer Littman digs deeper into the incredible decision by Connecticut’s legislative leaders to dump the professional staff of its Program Review and Investigations Committee rather than trim the legislature’s partisan, political staff.
As explained in last week’s Wait, What? post entitled, Surprise! CT Legislature decides to function in the dark,
As the former House Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigation Committee, I’ve waited with baited breath as Connecticut’s legislative leaders’ contemplated ways to trim their generous legislative branch budget.
One option facing the Democratic-controlled Legislative Management Committee was to reduce the number of partisan, political staff that serve as the part-time legislator’s year-around aides.
Alternatively, legislative leaders announced that would have to consider taking the unprecedented and illogical step of eliminating the professional staff who work for the critically important Program Review and Investigation Committee, the primary entity that allows the legislature to investigate and oversee Executive Branch programs.
What, oh what, would legislative leaders do when faced with such a “difficult” decision?
Should they take a small step that might reduce their power of incumbency or decide it is better to simply fly blind when it comes to the Legislative Branch’s oversight function?
With the stark headline, CT legislature’s chief investigative panel to lose all staff, the CT Mirror reported on the recent decision made by the legislative leaders.
CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains,
State legislative leaders have eliminated the General Assembly’s chief investigative arm, reassigning most of the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s 11-member staff to other duties in coming months.
The committee was established 44 years ago over the veto of then-Gov. Thomas Meskill.
In her follow up to the initial news, Sara Darer Littman writes;
The bottom line is that fewer analysts will be looking at the financial consequences of our state legislation and programs, which cannot possibly be viewed as a good thing by any rational taxpayer.
What makes this move particularly disturbing, especially in light of what’s been happening with the state’s economic incentives, is that the program review staff would have been assigned to review hundreds of millions of dollars in business tax incentives if Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s bill — which was passed by both houses of the legislature — had not been subsequently vetoed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Some of us are old enough to remember when the Governor came to office pledging to run an “open and transparent” government.
Sara Darer Littman goes on to lay bare the vague rationale behind the legislature’s recent decision to destroy their oversight function. Her piece raises serious questions that every legislator should be forced to answer.
You can read and comment on her commentary piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_budget_changes_hamstring_good_government/
Charter Schools, Education Funding, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Budget, Wendy Lecker Charter Schools, Education Funding, Jumoke, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Budget, Wendy Lecker
Governor Dannel Malloy, with the support of Democratic legislators, has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools. Already inadequately funded, Connecticut’s elected officials are now truly undermining the opportunity for every Connecticut child to get the education the need and deserve.
However, Connecticut’s fiscal crisis isn’t stopping Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education from shoveling even more public funds to the privately owned and operated companies that run Connecticut’s charter schools – entities that refuse to educate their fair share of students with special education requirements or those who need extra help becoming proficient in the English Language (ELL students.)
At yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting (June 1, 2016)), Governor Malloy’s appointees voted to allocate even more funding for charter schools, while pretending their primary responsibility to adequately fund public schools wasn’t being undermined by Malloy’s actions.
In Charter school enrollment set to rise, the CT Mirror reported that the State Board of Education was moving forward with a proposal from Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to allow charter schools to increase enrollment at charter schools next fall, noting;
While the enrollment increase will cost the state an additional $4.1 million next year, funding for traditional public schools is being cut by $51.7 million and for regional magnet schools, opened to help desegregate city schools, by $15.4 million.
In recommending that 14 of Connecticut’s 23 charter schools be allowed to enroll another 401 students, Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell wrote the publicly funded schools had a “demonstrated record of achievement.”
However, Wentzell isn’t telling the truth. The reality is that many Connecticut charter schools are failing to provide equitable and adequate access to the full array of Connecticut’s public school students and that even after cherry-picking the students they will accept and keep, most charter schools are failing to do an adequate job.
The CT Mirror goes on to report;
One of the schools being recommended for an enrollment boost, however – Achievement First Hartford – was put on probation last month after an audit criticized the school for a high rate of disciplining students and having too few of its teachers properly certified. Achievement First Hartford includes an elementary, middle and high school.
The schools were first identified in 2013 as having some of the highest suspension rates in the state, but enrollment caps have been waived by the state education board for three years so enrollment could grow from 874 to 1,125 students. In a 2013 memo to the state board, the leader of Achievement First outlined plans to revise its “if-in-doubt-send-them-out” suspension policy, to better train teachers on handling disruptive students, and to reduce the offenses students could be suspended for. But data released in April showed the schools still have high suspension rates.
One other school, Jumoke Academy, is currently on probation, and two others were given notice they needed to improve last May.
Jumoke was at the center of a controversy surrounding questionable fiscal practices that were unveiled by The Hartford Courant. The school is in its second year of probation and is the only charter school that is being recommended for decreased enrollment. However, enrollment at Jumoke has increased since it was put on probation, from 705 students during the 2013-14 school year to 765 students next year.
Stamford Academy and New Beginnings in Bridgeport both had their charters renewed last May for shortened terms, and conditions for improvement were imposed. Stamford is being recommended for an enrollment increase and Bridgeport for a flat enrollment.
When Dannel Malloy took office in January 2011, Connecticut taxpayers subsidized charter schools to the tune of about $50 million a year. This coming year, after becoming one of Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash, Connecticut taxpayers are giving the private companies that run charter schools more than $125 million. No other area of the state budget has grown at such an alarming rate.
As noted here at Wait, What? and elsewhere, charter schools have a long and ugly track record of mistreating students, parents and teachers. Across the country, more and more charter school operators are also being investigated, indicted and/or convicted of fraudulent use of public funds.
One of the more noteworthy controversies surrounding charter schools occurred here in Connecticut when Jumoke Academy came under investigation for misuse of public funds and it was revealed that the company’s CEO didn’t have the academic degree he claimed but was living the high-life in a brownstone purchased and renovated by the charter school company.
Additional Background on Connecticut’s Charter School Scandals can be found via the following Wait, What? posts:
The downfall of another Charter School Management Company
What’s missing from the damning Jumoke/FUSE report – Part 1
FUSE re-lights Connecticut’s Charter School Scandals
Malloy and Pryor: The Connecticut Charter School Debacle Expands
An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker
Today’s MUST READ PIECE – Where’s the Accountability? Anyone? By Sarah Darer Littman
Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals
Education Reform, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, Teacher Evaluations Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing
Fellow columnist and public education advocate Sarah Darer Littman left Governor Dannel Malloy, the corporate education reform industry and their obsession with standardized testing no room to hide in her latest MUST READ article in CT Newsjunkie entitled, Garbage In, Garbage Out: A Reminder for PEAC and the State Board of Education
Using the adage that “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” or “GIGO” as it is known, leads to useless or even dangerous outcomes, Littman highlights a series of recent examples that reveal the very real and serious ramifications that result from the corporate greed and testing mania that is being pushed by Malloy and other “education reform” allies.
While the corporations win and the politicians collect big campaign donations, our children, teachers and public schools lose … along with the taxpayers whose scarce resources get diverted from educating children to pumping up profits for the testing companies.
In one example she explains;
Justice Roger D. McDonough of the N.Y. Supreme Court’s 3rd District provided a reminder of this on Tuesday when he ruled in the case of Sheri G. Lederman that the N.Y. Education Department’s growth score and rating of her as “ineffective” for the 2013-14 school year was “arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.”
Lederman is a fourth-grade teacher in Great Neck, Long Island. Great Neck’s Superintendent of Schools at the time she filed the lawsuit, Thomas Dolan, described her as a “highly regarded as an educator” with “a flawless record,” whose students consistently scored above the state average on standardized math and English tests. In 2012-13, more than two-thirds of her students scored as proficient or advanced. Yet in 2013-14, despite a similar percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards, Lederman was rated “ineffective” as a teacher.
The problem with the testing program in New York parallels the problem in Connecticut.
Despite the massive expenditure of public dollars, including more than $20 million a year in Connecticut state funds, the SBAC test and its sister version which is called the PARCC test, fail to adequately measure student achievement and have no appropriate role in the teacher evaluation process.
But the truth is irrelevant when it comes to Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, his political appointees on the State Board of Education or, for that matter, the members of the Connecticut General Assembly.
For them, the perceived value of looking “tough” on teachers and schools is more important than the reality of doing what it takes to actually ensure that every child gets the quality education they need and deserve.
As Sarah Darer Littman explains,
Four years ago, in a meeting with the CTNewsJunkie editorial board, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the outrageous, nonsensical claim that teachers leaving the profession had nothing to do with such punitive policies, and when provided with research to the contrary his reply was silence and a determination to stay his clearly detrimental course.
And there is more, much more.
Sarah Darer Littman’s Garbage In, Garbage Out: A Reminder for PEAC and the State Board of Education is an extremely powerful piece.
Go read it at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_garbage_in_garbage_out_a_reminder_for_peac_and_the_state_board_of_ed/
Sarah Darer Littman Sarah Darer Littman
In her latest column on CT Newsjunkie entitled, “The Time Is Now For Moral Courage – Politicians Can’t Be Bystanders To Hate Speech,” Sarah Darer Littman provides readers with a personal and powerful commentary on the rise of Hate Speech and the importance of standing up and speaking out against the fundamental principles that are supposed to serve as the foundation of our national values.
Sarah Darer Littman writes;
Growing up, I was profoundly influenced by my father’s stories of growing up in the Bronx fearing the hate-filled rhetoric of Father Charles Coughlin’s radio broadcasts. Like his modern day counterpart, Donald Trump, Coughlin was a bona fide media star, with millions of listeners. “When we get through with the Jews in America,” Coughlin spewed, “They’ll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing.” In December 1938, thousands of Coughlin’s followers took to the streets of New York City, chanting, “Send Jews back where they came from in leaky boats!”
I also remember the deep emotion my father expressed when we found out the method by which his grandparents, who’d remained in Ukraine when my grandfather emigrated to the U.S., were murdered by the Nazis during WWII. Our family knows from personal experience the real consequences of hateful rhetoric.
That is why I am so deeply appalled that the party my father supported is aiding and abetting hate speech. That is why I was so disgusted with former Congressman Rob Simmons’ answer to WPLR’s Chaz and AJ when they posed the question: “Donald Trump calls for a temporary ban on Muslims until our legislators can figure things out — is that nutty?”
Simmons said, “No, it’s not nutty at all.” Simmons claimed that Democrats from “Barack Obama on down” are scared of Trump. I’m an unaffliated voter, and I’m scared of him, but Simmons couldn’t be more wrong (not to mention condescending: “voters have short attention spans”) about the reason why.
Either Chaz or AJ stated that “someone donated or deposited” $28,500 in San Bernadino shooter Syed Farook’s bank account before the attack, implying that it was a payment from a terrorist organization. Instead of correcting this with the known facts, namely that San Francisco-based online loan company Prosper already admitted that they were the originators of that loan, Simmons decided not to let mere “facts” get in the way of some good, bigoted fear mongering.
“They were probably getting ready to do some Christmas shopping, don’t you think? To get some Christmas presents to put under the tree — maybe a blow-up Santa Claus to put on the lawn.” He also incorrectly stated: “Oh and by the way it wasn’t a holiday party, it was a Christmas party. These were Christians.” Father Coughlin must be up in heaven, smiling down at his new Connecticut protégé.
Never mind that people of all religions were injured and killed in this attack, including a Muslim woman, Anies Kondoker, who worshiped at the same mosque as the attackers. Her husband, Saladin, appears to understand American values and the U.S. Constitution better than Simmons or Trump ever will, observing: “The only way we can fight this crime is if we are united. If we are together I shall go to visit your church, temple, synagogues, and pray with you and mourn with you about our tragedy, and you should come to my mosque and pray with me.”
I was so disgusted by Mr. Simmons’ remarks that I called CT GOP Chairman J.R. Romano and asked him if he would repudiate them, and speak out against the dangerous rhetoric that seems to be pervading the party. Although we had a lengthy off-the-record conversation, the only on-the-record comment he would give me was the same canned response he’s given every other reporter: “The presidential is months away, I am more concerned about what Dan Malloy and the democrats are doing to hard-working families in this state. The democrats are trying to avoid talking about their culture of tax increases and budget gimmicks.”
Please take the time to read the Sarah Darer Littman’s full piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_time_is_now_for_moral_courage_pols_cant_be_bystanders_to_hate_speech/
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Maria Pereira, Sarah Darer Littman Bridgeport, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Maria Pereira, Sarah Darer Littman
Yes, How many corporate education reform failures must there be. Before we know the scheme is a disaster?
Or to borrow from the great poet and songwriter Bob Dylan
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Sarah Darer Littman, fellow public education advocate and commentator, uses her most recent CT Newsjunkie column to ask the quintessential question about education reform by pointing readers to Dale Russakoff’s new book entitled, The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools.
Sara Darer Littman writes,
Although no Connecticut city is as high profile in the education reform battle as Newark, which received a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, there are interesting parallels to observe and lessons to be learned.
The reform movement has been characterized by jargon and combative rhetoric in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie described plans for Newark by saying the state needed to “grab the system by the roots, pull it out and start over.”
Other examples include U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s famous utterance: “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina,” and former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor and Students First CEO Michelle Rhee’s statement that, “Cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated.”
Is such rhetoric aimed at largely minority communities in which the schools to be reformed are based? Or is it geared toward a different audience: the powerful funders of the education reform movement?
Russakoff quotes Newark resident and teacher Princess Williams. “My calling is to fix the public schools … If something is broken and we have the power to fix it, why would we abandon it for something else?”
“It’s not about children,” observes former Bridgeport Board of Education member and current candidate, Maria Pereira, of education reform rhetoric. “It’s about the 39 percent federal tax credit they get when they open charter schools in urban communities.”
Look at the epicenters of school reform and you’ll see one critical thing in common – mayoral or state control. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Newark: If there’s an elected local school board, it’s merely in an “advisory” capacity.
The story then turns to Connecticut.
Read the full column at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_lessons_ct_can_take_away_from_dale_russakoffs_the_prize/
American Federation of Teachers, Hillary Clinton, Randi Weingarten, Sarah Darer Littman AFT, AFT-CT, Hillary Clinton, Randi Weingarten, Sarah Darer Littman
On Friday, fellow public education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman wrote an incredibly powerful piece in CT Newsjunkie entitled “Serving Up A Preferred Candidate,” in which she took issue with the obviously undemocratic process that the American Federation of Teachers was using to endorse a candidate for President of the United States.
Sarah Darer Littman opened her piece with the following observation,
I’ve been commenting privately for years that the unions don’t need the Koch Brothers to destroy them — they are doing a good job of that themselves by working against the interests of their own rank-and-file membership. I speak in particular of AFT President Randi Weingarten, who reportedly pulled in an AFT income of over half a million dollars in 2014, while the average teacher salary in the United States has declined by 2.3 percent since 2000 to $56,689.
Sarah Darer Littman went on to describe what appeared to be the AFT’s presidential endorsement process, which was hardly a model of openness and transparency.
Less than 24 hours later, AFT President Randi Weingarten, a close personal friend of Hillary Clinton and a member of Hillary Clinton’s “Super-PAC,” announced that that AFT was endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.
As Politico reported, Weingarten explained the endorsement by stating,
“Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities.”
The harsh reality is that Hillary Clinton has actually been a vocal proponent of the corporate education reform agenda and she has a long way to go before it can be said that she is the best choice for students, parents, public schools or the teachers who make up the American Federation of Teachers.
Before Election Day 2016, Hillary Clinton may very well become the Democratic nominee and the best choice for President, but the AFT’s premature endorsement is actually a disservice to Clinton, and more importantly, to the nation’s teachers and the legacy of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is steeped in the history of American Democracy.
But Weingarten seems intent on leading a “modern” AFT.
Last summer, Randi Weingarten and the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter was committed to endorsing Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his effort to get re-elected to the governor’s office despite the fact that Malloy was the only sitting Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts.
However, rather than use the campaign and the endorsement process to focus attention on Malloy’s ugly record on public education and provide him with an opportunity to become a supporter, rather than an opponent, of teachers and the teaching profession, the union leadership throws out their “democratic” endorsement process in order to hand him the union’s support.
Despite being the only pro-public education, pro-teacher candidate in the race for Governor, the AFT-CT refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, refused to allow me to speak to the AFT-CT candidate endorsing committee, refused to allow me to address the AFT-CT executive committee and even prohibited me from speaking to the AFL-CIO’s annual endorsing convention, a meeting in which Randi Weingarten was the keynote speaker.
At the time, no one doubted that the leadership of the AFT and AFL-CIO would endorse Dannel Malloy, but prohibiting an open, transparent and democratic process was a sad reminder that being with the perceived winner – at all costs – has become the exclusive goal of some union leaders.
A year later and nothing has changed.
Once again, few doubted Hilary Clinton would get the endorsement from her friend Randi Weingarten and the union she runs.
But rather than ensure that the AFT provided for an open and honest discussion and an endorsement process that ensured that the membership was heard and their opinions taken into consideration, Weingarten pushed through an early endorsement thereby allowing Time Magazine to write;
Hillary Clinton Wins Key Endorsement From American Federation of Teachers –
Hillary Clinton has secured the first major union endorsement of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
The American Federation of Teachers, a powerful, 1.6 million-strong national union, voted on Saturday to endorse the former secretary of state, calling Clinton a “champion” for “working families.”
But the truth is the endorsement was from the union’s leadership, not the members.
Clinton and her historic candidacy would have been better off if the leadership of the AFT had actually engaged in a process to build a true consensus that Hillary Clinton is the best choice for teachers and public education.
And certainly the American Federation for Teachers would have been better off had its leaders approach the endorsement process in a truly democratic way.
Instead the AFT leadership’s actions undermine the extraordinary legacy of the AFT itself.
Begun in 1900, the American Federation of Teachers earned the right to represent more than 1.5 million members because the AFT leadership has always been dedicated to developing a union focused on improving the conditions for teachers and the public schools that educate America’s children.
It has been a difficult journey for the AFT.
Nearly three decades after it was founded, unprecedented efforts to undermine the union and convince teachers not to unionize resulted in the AFT’s membership to drop below 5,000 teachers in the years leading up to the Great Depression.
Even after the Depression and World WW II, the AFT failed to make great strides in the face of opposition to collective bargaining for teachers.
But then came the incredible work of Albert Shanker, Charles Cogen and other fearless labor leaders that changed the course of teachers and their unions.
In the ten years following 1960, a dedication to improving pay and working conditions for teachers and pushing policies that created schools that provided educational opportunities to all children, bolstered the number of AFT members from 65,000 to 400,000
A continued commitment to doing right for teachers and students grew the AFT to over 1 million members by the year 2000.
Shanker and those who built the AFT were never afraid to take controversial positions, fight for real change or push the union’s agenda, but they also understood the importance of including and representing their members in a way that has apparently become foreign to some of today’s union leaders.
Certainly Shanker made his share of mistakes over the years and received more than his fair share of criticism, but he profoundly believed in then notion that collective bargaining and democracy go hand in hand.
Those that know the story behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and The March on Washington in 1963 know of the incredible work that the AFT played in that event and throughout the Civil Rights Movement.
For those that don’t know, while many unions tried to hide on the sidelines, the AFT helped finance that historic March and many of Dr. King efforts. A glimpse at any photo from that momentous day reveals the AFT’s signs and their pro-education, pro-labor and pro-civil rights message.
Yet another extraordinary event in the AFT’s history was the decision by its affiliate, the UFT of New York City, to take a position, decades before others, to refuse to invest their funds in any bank or company that was associated with South Africa’s apartheid system.
Over the decades the American Federation of Teachers never lost sight of the importance of winning, but perhaps even more importantly, it never backed down for its commitment to stand on principle and promote a union that was dedicated to the democratic rights of its members and the nation.
But the passage of time has brought uncomfortable changes and it would appear that “winning,” however narrowly defined, has become the primary goal.
In Connecticut, the AFT’s notion of winning was re-electing a pro-charter school, anti-public education, anti-teacher candidate, rather than allowing a supportive, third-party candidate to even be considered.
And yesterday, the “modern” AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton without utilizing an open, transparent and democratic process.
In the real world, this approach is often referred to as the notion that “The end justifies the means” and, as we know, it is a concept that has been used to explain away some of the most inappropriate actions in history.
Hilary Clinton could become the best choice for teachers, students and our public schools, but she needs to do far better to earn that support.
And teachers, the members of the AFT and the AFT’s legacy deserve better than they got with the Clinton endorsement.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence, Excel Bridgeport Inc., FaithActs for Education, Families for Excellent Schools, Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Jennifer Alexander, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Public Square Partnerships, Sarah Darer Littman, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Teach for America Capital Prep Charter School, ConnCAN, Corporate Education Reform Industry, FaithActs for Education, Families for Excellent Schools, Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Jennifer Alexander, Kenneth Moales Jr., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, Steve Perry, TFA, the Coalition for Every Child
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.
Budget Cuts, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Budget, Taxes Budget cuts, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Budget, Taxes
As we know, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy promised that he would not propose or accept any tax increase if he was elected to a second term and then went ahead and proposed over $900 million in revenue “enhancements” in his budget address this week.
Malloy also used his re-election campaign to promise that he would maintain funding for local cities and towns and would not cut vital services.
On budget day, in the same document he proposed flat funding Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing education funding formula; he cut about $70 million from a variety of important public education programs that assist local schools as they seek to serve some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.
And as if all of that wasn’t revolting enough, Malloy reserved his most drastic and draconian cuts for some of the state’s most important social service programs.
In a powerful and MUST READ commentary piece, Sarah Darer Littman lays out the truth about Malloy’s devastating budget plan in her commentary piece at the CTNewsjunkie;
Governor’s Budget Ignores Evidence, Hits Vulnerable (By Sarah Darer Littman)
Last week, after two years of hearing testimony, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission issued its draft report.
One hundred and thirty pages of the 198-page report relate to mental health issues, and the importance of building “systems of care that actively foster healthy individuals, families and communities,” particularly in light of research showing that “approximately half of young people qualify for some behavioral health diagnosis by the time they reach 18.”
Yet less than a week later, when Gov. Malloy revealed his biennial budget for 2016-2017, it was as if the Commission had produced an expensive paperweight, for all the attention it received from the administration.
According to an analysis by CT Voices for Children, the “Children’s Budget” – state government spending that directly benefits young people – makes up only a third of the overall state budget, yet over half (54 percent) of the governor’s proposed cuts come from programs affecting children and families.
That’s before we even get to health care and education.
The Sandy Hook report specifically mentioned the importance making it easier for families to obtain mental health services for young people. Yet the budget reduces funding for the Young Adult Services program by $2.7 million (3.3 percent) and reduces funding for school based health centers by $1 million (8.5 percent).
In the Department of Education, the governor plans to eliminate funding for “lower priority or non-statewide programs” by $ 6.2 million. Here we’re talking about programs such as Leadership, Education, Athletics in Partnership (LEAP); Connecticut PreEngineering Program; Connecticut Writing Project; neighborhood youth centers; Parent Trust; science program for Educational Reform Districts; wrap-around services; Parent Universities; school health coordinator pilot; technical assistance – Regional Cooperation; Bridges to Success; Alternative High School and Adult Reading; and School to Work Opportunities. Not only that,he’s cutting $6.49 million annually for Extended School Building Hours and Summer School components of the Priority School District Grant (i.e. grant program for districts with greatest academic need).
Wrap-around services, longer school days, and enrichment for students, particularly in the more disadvantaged districts, were something Malloy touted when he was selling his education reform package back in 2012. “It’s not as if we don’t know what works,” Malloy said in an article in the New Britain Herald: “wrap-around services, longer school days and longer school years, Saturday enrichment options.”
On top of what Malloy said, there’s over 100 years worth of research on summer learning loss. It disproportionately affects lower-income students whose parents can’t afford to send them to pricey summer camps or other enrichment activities. What’s more, the effects are cumulative, contributing to the achievement gap.
Take the time to read Sarah Darer Littman’s entire commentary piece.
You can find it at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_governors_budget_ignores_evidence_hits_vulnerable/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Booker T. Washington Charter School, Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jennifer Alexander, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jennifer Alexander, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Quite simply it is the single best assessment of the issues surrounding the Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.
The article, written by Sarah Darer Littman is called, “Where’s the Accountability? Anyone?” and it can be found in its entirety on the CTNewsJunkie website – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/
Read it and ask yourself…. Where is the accountability?
Sarah Darer Littman open with;
Dumping embarrassing news on the eve of a holiday is becoming a habit for the Malloy’s administration — and there’s been plenty of it to ring in the inauguration of his second term.
Late last Friday it was the release of the FUSE/Jumoke investigation report, which revealed financial mismanagement, nepotism, and misuse of public funds by a charter operator lauded by the Malloy administration. But the most disturbing part of this whole affair is that it reveals how millions of our taxpayer dollars are being handed out to private entities with little or no due diligence based on the recommendation of a closed, closely entwined loop of foundations, political allies, and corporate beneficiaries.
What investigating attorney Frederick L. Dorsey left out of his report, perhaps because he was hired by the state Department of Education, is how the department and the state Board of Education and so many others enabled Michael Sharpe in his unethical endeavors.
Take for instance, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who appointed former FUSE Chief Operating Office Andrea Comer to the state Board of Education. Or the state Ethics Commission, which ruled that there was no conflict in having Comer, the chief operating officer of a charter management company benefiting from millions of dollars of public funds, serving on the board that grants them. Then we have our state legislators, who unanimously confirmed Comer to the position. Maybe they were too busy playing solitaire when the vote was taken.
What about Stephen Adamowski, Paul Vallas, and the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education who voted to bring FUSE to Bridgeport as part of the Commissoner’s Network? The Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr. said he was “honored” to have Sharpe and FUSE in the district. Moales, of course, has — according to education reform critic Jonathan Pelto — had his own ethical challenges when it came to overbilling the state for daycare slots.
And she then closes with;
Last April, the state Board of Education voted to authorize the Booker T. Washington/FUSE charter school in New Haven. Perhaps they were influenced by glowing letters of recommendation from well-known political figures in the state: New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander, to name a few.
With messaging consistency that would make Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz proud, both Mayors DeStefano and Harp opened with exactly the same phrase: “I enthusiastically support the application for the Booker T. Washington Charter School, here in New Haven, CT. The proposed school will teach our young moral character, self advocacy, and common core standards, in order to impact their success in our diverse global environment.”
Having read Attorney Dorsey’s report on what took place at Jumoke Academy, there are definitely lessons to teach our young, but “moral character” isn’t the one that springs to mind.
Here’s ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander: “Two key reasons for my support for the Booker T. Washington [school] is its collaboration with a proven high-quality provider, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) . . . FUSE has a track record of success.”
That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013, I guess FUSE did have that track record.
Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.
The commentary piece written by Sarah Darer Littman is, as they say, “on point.”
Go to CT Newsjunkie right now and read the complete article at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/
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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)
Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?
Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.
Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.
Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/
A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)
It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.
Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.
And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.
On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”
Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.
Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.
Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php
Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)
You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”
On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.
That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.
Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.
A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.
As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.
The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.
Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.
“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.
Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column
And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?
PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies
Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto