Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Special Education Bridgeport, Easy IEP, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Special Education
It was one of the first non-bid contracts that Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas pushed through. Using a half-baked “sole-source” rationale, Vallas hired a company that he had worked with in Chicago and Philadelphia without using any bidding process.
The contract promised Bridgeport a state-of-the-art special education software program “for free,” as long as the Public Consulting Group was given a lucrative Medicaid reimbursement contract.
The new software was scheduled to come on-line July 1, 2012.
Soon, free became $100,000 plus with more “option costs” to come.
July 1, 2012 came and went…with no Easy IEP software
Then August, September, October, November, December 2012 and still no software.
January, February and March 2013 came and went without a working version of the Easy IEP special education software.
Finally, Easy IEP was scheduled to go live on April 1, 2013 with a complete shift by the end of April.
Here we are in May 2013 and multiple Bridgeport teachers and professional staff have reported that the “state-of-the-art” software is such a mess that special education teachers are relegated to hand-writing their IEPs and producing reports in the same way they were doing it 40 years ago.
This is the most important part of the year for updating IEPs and meeting state and federal mandates for special education reporting.
Instead of the promised comprehensive system, teachers and staff are reporting chaos.
Not only are students in need of special education services being short-changed but the cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers could be astronomical.
Just take a look at the news out of New York City when the software system implemented by the Bloomberg Administration fell apart;
“NEWS: Overtime bill for staff using special ed system totals $38.5M
The city doled out $38.5 million in back pay to schools staff who were wrongly required to work overtime on a buggy special education data system, according to payment details released today by the education department.
Nearly 30,000 therapists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists received the overtime payments this month after an independent arbitrator ruled in January that the Department of Education violated the United Federation of Teachers’ contract. The first round of payments, on April 12, totaled $2.6 million for 1,700 occupational and physical therapists and the second and final payment — $35.9 million — went out to the rest of employees today.
The total number of educators who qualified for overtime far exceeded UFT’s estimates, which hovered at around 10,000. The UFT filed the labor complaint in mid-2011, charging that staff should not have been required to work outside of their contractual school day.
The unintentional overtime centered on time that educators spent plugging data into the Special Education Student Information System. According to teachers and union staff, the program does not have basic functions that are routinely found in other computer programs, such as an ‘auto save’ feature.
In a statement today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that SESIS continues to be unnecessarily time-consuming for teachers and a wasteful example of the city’s pricey technology contracts.
“Thousands of hours that teachers could have spent helping kids were wasted trying to get this boondoggle of a computer system to work,” Mulgrew said. “But just as CityTime cost the city millions of dollars year after year, until SESIS is fixed or scrapped it will continue to be a money pit.”
Department of Education officials defended SESIS, which tracks student attendance and keeps a record of services that special education students receive.
“Keeping accurate and complete records on services provided to special needs students is necessary to ensure that we are providing quality services, and we are working to ensure that all staff are properly compensated in accordance with the arbitration award,” Connie Pankratz said.”
Meanwhile in Connecticut, neither Mr. Vallas nor the Bridgeport Board of Education has explained what is actually happening with Vallas’ “no-bid” special education software system in Bridgeport.
Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Special Education Bridgeport, EasyIEP, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group
It started as one of Paul Vallas’ notorious “no-bid” contracts.
Vallas signed the contract with the Public Consulting Group on April 23, 2012. Vallas had worked with the Public Consulting Group (PCG) numerous times in his previous positions. As a result of those contracts, the Public Consulting Group has made millions of dollars. In fact, the firm highlights their experience with Vallas in Chicago and Philadelphia as a way to showcase their accomplishments on their company website.
When Vallas arrived in Bridgeport he was so sure that he wanted the services of the Public Consulting Group that he sidestepped Bridgeport’s contracting laws by using a “sole-source” procedure to make sure no time was lost to the cumbersome and pesky process of having to solicit bids or compare products. In this case, he went so far as to purchase a new special education software system for the City of Bridgeport without even properly involving special education teachers in that software selection process.
On April 23, 2012, a contract was signed, all with the promise that Bridgeport would have access to the “best product” in the entire country.
Wouldn’t you know it; the software was even called Easy IEP. In honor, one supposes, of how easy it was going to be to use… [Or maybe how easy it was to fleece the unsuspecting taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut who would be paying for the software].
In any case, the software failed to materialize.
Instead, email after email went out informing Bridgeport’s special education teachers that they were to use the old, “outdated” product until the issues with Easy IEP were resolved.
July 2012 came and went.
So did August, September, October, November and December.
Team Vallas explained that various issues had come up, but the special education software would be ready on this date or that date.
January 2013 came, but the New Year didn’t bring the Easy IEP software.
February came and went.
So did March.
But rest assured, all the problems have finally all been resolved and Team Vallas recently wrote to tell Bridgeport’s teachers that EasyIEP would “go-live” today, April 1, 2013…nine months after the software was supposed to come on line and one year after Vallas signed the “no-bid” contract.
And although it is eight months into the school year, Team Vallas is pleased to announce that “in addition to the previous school-based embedded trainings, there will be weekly supplemental trainings. The trainings will occur based on staff request and locations will vary throughout the district…Finally, a number of technical supports are in place to further support the development of a strong foundational knowledge relating to EasyIEP and to assist with any questions you may have” Those trainings include: “ A Webinar will be made available to all staff, which addresses the overall EasyIEP process, A district-wide technical support email where staff can send their questions to have them answered by a team of Bridgeport-trained EasyIEP users – the email address is [email protected] and an EasyIEP Reference Guide.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Education has never been fully informed about the mess nor provided any details about the additional cost, if any, that the City will have to pay for things like the extra training.
Freedom of information requests will now be submitted to see what documents and payments are hidden away.
And this was only one of at least a dozen “no-bid” contracts Vallas signed.
Education Reform, Malloy, School Funding/ECS, Special Education, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker ECS Formula, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Wendy Lecker
It is time for a real, serious and honest look at Connecticut’s school funding crisis, not the cop-out version that has been recently proposed as part of Connecticut’s budget plan.
Fellow pro-public education blogger and commentator, Wendy Lecker, has another “MUST READ” column this week in the Stamford Advocate, CT Post and the other newspapers that are part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.
You can find her full post here; Wendy Lecker: State must take serious look at school funding
As Lecker notes, ”Connecticut is a study in contrasts. We have pockets of incredible wealth, and areas struggling with entrenched poverty. We have school districts with few needy children, and those with high concentrations of children living in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities. There are districts with gleaming labs, large marching bands, theater, and foreign language offered in kindergarten, while in other districts, children sit in overcrowded classrooms with inadequate libraries, no electives, insufficient books and not even enough paper. This resource disparity translates into a disparity of educational opportunity, with some districts sending scores of children to elite colleges while others have alarmingly low graduation rates.
Connecticut has allowed this chasm in educational opportunity to exist for years, in part because we have never taken an honest look at what it costs to educate all children no matter what their need.”
Lecker recognizes that the process must begin with an “educational adequacy cost study.”
As she explains, “In such a study, experts first identify the basic educational resources needed to meet state standards. Then, they “cost out” those resources, taking into account the factors that affect the cost, such as student need, geographic differences, and population density. Different levels of student need, such as poverty, limited English proficiency and disability, affect the cost of resources necessary. Moreover, the severity and/or concentration of poverty and the level of disability can add to educational cost. For over 20 years states and courts have used these studies to devise rational school finance systems with a transparent relationship between state aid, student need and a district’s ability to raise revenue.”
But despite an across the board recognition that a cost study is needed, Governor Malloy failed to propose one as part of his recent changes to the State’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.
Instead, as Lecker points out, Malloy “ proposed inappropriate changes to our school finance system that will render even more children invisible in the eyes of the ECS formula.”
Furthermore, she writes, “The governor’s plan to completely remove English Language Learners from ECS is a step in exactly the wrong direction. Such a move would have devastating effect on many municipalities. In a state with a growing Latino population, and others from non-English-speaking homes, this proposal is ludicrous. Moreover, Malloy’s proposal reduces the weight for poverty, providing fewer funds to educate poor children. To make matters worse, the proposal once again fails to include a weight for special education.”
Although Governor Malloy has failed to take the necessary steps towards fiscal transparency and adequacy, Connecticut’s legislators can correct that mistake.
You can find Lecker’s full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-State-must-take-serious-look-at-4301439.php#ixzz2LjtWjttN
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Poverty, Special Education, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Bruce Baker is a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education at Rutgers. He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on school financing. He has written extensively on the subject, including serving as a lead author of the definitive graduate text book called Financing Education Systems. He is also the author of a blog called School Finance 101.
A couple of days ago Baker posted a “MUST READ” article on his blog that drives home one of the most important points Wait, What? readers have been learning about over the past year.
Charter schools cream off the students. They cream off students because they are trying to get the “right students” so that can “produce higher standardized test scores” so they can continue to mislead government, foundations and wealthy donors to give them money.
Then, when their test scores come out, they completely fail to explain that those scores are not a product of the quality of the education these schools provide, but are a direct result of selective, discriminatory enrollment policies they have and their increasingly well-known system of forcing out (often called migrating out) those students that won’t produce the results they want.
While Baker’s latest blog looks at charter schools in multiple states, the Connecticut data he presents makes the strongest case yet for the intentional fraud being perpetrated on Connecticut’s public schools, our students, teachers, state government and taxpayers.
You can read Backer’s full article here (see link), but the key Connecticut findings are as follows;
Using data from the State Department of Education and the NCES Common Core, Baker summed the “total number of public & charter school enrolled children by City (school location in CCD) and the total numbers of free lunch, ELL and special education enrolled children.”
Here is a chart highlighting the data – and once again – the data makes the situation absolutely clear.
We know the greatest predictors of standardized test score performance are poverty, language barriers and special education needs. We also know that in case after case after case after case, Connecticut’s charter school educate children that are less poor, have far less language barriers and need fewer special education services.
CLICK ON THE CHART TO OPEN IN NEW WINDOW SO YOU CAN GO BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN TEXT AND CHART:
In fact, Connecticut’s charter schools are particularly brutal on locking out students who are not fluent in English – which are usually the children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.
If Charter schools educate children who are less poor, have fewer language barriers and few special education needs, they will, by default, end up with high standardized test scores.
So what has Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor, the Connecticut Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly done?
They have given more funds to those that are discriminating while making things worse for the schools that are actually trying to what every child deserves under the Connecticut Constitution – a few, high quality, public education.
As Dr. Bruce Baker puts it, “In a heterogeneous urban schooling environment, the more individual schools or groups of schools engage in behavior that cream skims off children who are less poor, less fewer language barriers, far less likely to have a disability to begin with, and unlikely at all to have a severe disability, the higher the concentration of these children left behind in district schools.(see for example:http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/effects-of-charter-enrollment-on-newark-district-enrollment/).
Baker goes on to speak the absolute truth when he said, “…with independent charter expansion, districts lose the ability to even try to manage the balance. Sadly, what may initially have been conceived of as a symbiotic relationship between charter and district schools is increasingly becoming parasitic!
In a “competitive marketplace” of schooling within a geographic space, under this incentive structure, the goal is to be that school which most effectively cream skims – without regard for who you are leaving behind for district schools or other charters to serve – while best concealing the cream-skimming – and while ensuring lack of financial transparency for making legitimate resource comparisons.”
Baker calls the impact the “Collateral Damage of the Parasitic Chartering Model” and writes, “In previous posts I showed how the population cream-skimming effect necessarily leads to an increasingly disadvantaged student population left behind in district schools. High need, urban districts that are hosts to increasing shares of cream-skimming charters become increasingly disadvantaged over time in terms of the students they must serve.”
Baker’s post goes into far greater detail.
He uses the data to explain and highlight the problem.
It is an issue Wait, What? readers know well.
And if the policies are left unchanged, it will be the legacy that haunts Governor Malloy and those who support the discriminatory policies that are undermining our schools and destroying our public education system.
Read the full post here: http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/from-portfolios-to-parasites-the-unfortunate-path-of-u-s-charter-school-policy/
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Special Education, Taxes Mayor Bill Finch, No-Bid Contracts, Paul Vallas, Special Education
Will anyone stand up for taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport?
Now that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education has been removed and a democratically elected board has taken its place, perhaps someone – anyone – will begin to ask the important questions that need to be asked.
At the very top of the list is the growing controversy surrounding Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas’, decision to use a “no-bid” contract to buy new special education software from a company that he has done business with in the past.
Easy IEP was purchased as part of a larger contract after Team Vallas doctored a document seeking to bypass the laws and regulations governing Bridgeport’s required bidding process.
However, despite the fact that Vallas signed the contract on April 23, 2012, the promised conversion has yet to take place, and Bridgeport’s School System continues to utilize the earlier company’s software, at an undisclosed price.
The Easy IEP contract was signed, taxpayer funds were committed, and, as the contract makes clear in its Exhibit C1, the new system was supposed to be in place for the 2012-2013 school year. In fact, the contract requires that the “School System agrees to implement FES Services beginning April 2012,” and that the “School System agrees to implement the Cost Reporting Services in July 2012.”
No public agency would ever be allowed to get away with these types of violations.
Wait, What? readers will recall this situation. It was and continues to be a disturbing reminder of what happens when public officials inappropriately enter into no-bid contracts with companies that they are associated with.
When Vallas arrived in Bridgeport, he hired the Public Consulting Group (PCG), a company that has received millions of dollars in previous contracts thanks to Vallas.
Vallas explained in one of his early PowerPoint Presentations that, “PCG Group is auditing the district’s Medicaid reimbursement process. PCG has an outstanding reputation for assessing and improving the process in order to obtain optimal reimbursement for eligible students. Any additional revenue obtained by the district will be applied to offset the cost of out- of-district tuition for special education students.”
Weeks later, the PCG Group provided Vallas with their “audit,” and lo and behold, just as they had done in Philadelphia, the consulting company recommended that Bridgeport HIRE THEM to implement a Medicaid reimbursement project. And to sweeten the deal, PCG said they would provide Bridgeport with a special deal on their special education software, a program called Easy IEP.
The only issue was that Bridgeport already had a special education software package, called “Clarity,” to track and coordinate Bridgeport’s special education program. But that fact didn’t stop Vallas, who quickly dropped Clarity and signed a contract for Easy IEP.
Although Connecticut and Bridgeport laws and regulations require contracts over $7,500 to be put out to bid, Vallas simply by-passed those requirements.
In order to defend their action, Team Vallas submitted a “Justification for Sole Source Acquisition.” Their claim was that PCG’s product was so special and so unique that it wasn’t even worth soliciting bids from other companies.
However, it turns out that almost every point that Paul Vallas and his team used to rationalize skipping a competitive bidding process was false.
Vallas’ inappropriate use of a “no bid,” sole-source contract to purchase the Easy IEP software is now having a real and negative impact on taxpayers in Connecticut and Bridgeport. However, neither the Bridgeport Board of Education nor the media have investigated this contract or the other “no-bid” contracts that will cost Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers more than $13 million dollars.
Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch claims that he, rather than the voters, should be allowed to choose the members of the Board of Education. If he were truly concerned about the waste of scarce resource,s he would be demanding an investigation of why his administration approved a no-bid contract signed by his hand-picked superintendent of schools, a contract that is now wasting precious Bridgeport and state tax dollars.
Mr. Mayor, it’s not to late.
Charter Schools, Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, Special Education, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teach for America, Teacher Tenure Education Re
Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram newspaper leads with the headline, “Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine.” The reporting is a stunning tribute to what reporters can do when they look past the spin and the fancy press releases and really start digging.
It is also another shocking example about how public education is falling to the education reform industry.
Change the location from Maine to Connecticut and the term “virtual schools” to “education reform” and readers will recognize the patterns.
They are just as prevalent here in Connecticut.
In Maine it is being perpetrated by a tea-bag governor and his ultra-right hacks, and the lack of finesse and sophistication shows. Here, in Connecticut, it is being designed and implemented by Democrats, so it appears more sophisticated and legitimate. However, many of the goals and outcomes are exactly the same.
Read the article from the Maine Sunday Telegram. Book mark it. Hold on to it. We’ve seen some of it already here in Connecticut; we’ll see more of it, if Connecticut legislators don’t stand up and put a stop to it.
The Maine Sunday Telegram’s core findings are eerily familiar.
Education Reform: Guided by people and organizations, many of whom stand to profit from the changes.
Out of State Connections: Individuals within government, our schools and education reform groups that are part of a broader coalition of people seeking to undermine public education.
Follow the Money: The flow of lobbying dollars from out of state, leading to the flow of taxpayer funds from Connecticut and our schools districts to education companies…and then back to some of the very people who are making the decisions to privatize our education system.
Behind the Scene Deals: Every Freedom of Information request, here in Connecticut, like those in Maine, reveal more and more behind the scene meetings and efforts to push education reform forward with as little public input as possible.
And to top it all off, all the money going toward systems that fail: The Education Reform advocates claim success after success, but the most basic research reveals that their claims are nothing more than lies.
Charter schools who cream off the best students, refusing to take their share of the poor, those with language barriers or students who need special education services. Or bait and switch techniques, such as those used in Hartford, to make it appear test scores and graduation rates were up.
Feeding on the fears and desires of parents and communities to improve their education system, many of these “education reformers” are little more than white-collar crooks, stealing and wasting scarce public resources.
For the Maine Sunday Telegram Story See: http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html. More here: http://media.kjonline.com/images/virtualschoolsfull.jpg
Bridgeport, Budget Cuts, Paul Vallas, Special Education Bridgeport, Paul Vallas, Special Education
Mayor Bill Finch, the Bridgeport City Council and Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education all voted for the education budget developed by Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s interim superintendent of schools.
As previously noted here at Wait, What?, the biggest cut in the entire Bridgeport school budget was for the funds needed to support Bridgeport students who require special education services.
After the issue was raised and school administrators faced growing concerns about these significant budget cuts, Team Vallas issued a memo explaining that they had everything under control.
In the August 22 memo, Team Vallas explained;
- There was a $1 million dollar budget cut that came from eliminating 14 special education teachers who were no longer needed. By way of an explanation, they memo explained that Vallas had developed an “updated formula for allocation of special education teachers and paraprofessionals that is consistent with IEP mandates and takes into consideration student needs. The formula revision is built on a focused realignment of resources, designed to fiscally support the proper staffing levels to meet the individualized instructional needs of our students.”
In English this means that each remaining special education teacher would have more students and more students with special education needs would be placed into regular classes.
- Second, there was a $2.6 million dollar cut by taking some of the most high-need students out of their existing placements and returning them into the Bridgeport school system. The Vallas memo said that, “the district has established new, specialized programs in various schools to accommodate the return of special education students from out of district settings, with parental consent and full compliance with all mandated special education procedures.”
So, according to Vallas, as a result of the new, specialized programs that have been created, about one or every five students placed in special, out of district programs, would now be returned to Bridgeport schools.
But today, on the first day of school, we learn that the Bridgeport School System has suddenly started advertising for a number of special education assistants and therapeutic support facilitators.
They STARTED advertising for the positions now?
But Vallas and his staff said that everything was already in place!
Let’s face it.
If Team Vallas had been telling the truth about where things stood, these positions would have been filed long ago, the new employees would have already been trained and they would now be working to assist students will disabilities.
The children who need special education services and their parents deserve better.
In fact, all the parents and children of Bridgeport deserve better.
For one thing, they deserve to be told the truth.
But the question is; will Bridgeport’s officials step forward and ensure that their citizens start getting the truth or will they continue to allow the lies and double-speak to continue?