“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” + “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”

Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.

School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.

As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.

School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law

Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;

“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”

As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.

Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.

Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”

You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm


Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”

Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;

“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.

First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?

That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time.  ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’

Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.

In the report, the auditors state:

‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’

On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:

‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’

It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”

You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/

OMG! Good thing our Education Commissioner is a lawyer and not an educator…

Otherwise known as, “What do you mean we can’t get paid for work provided after our contract end date has occurred, but you promised!”

Today’s “MUST READ” news article comes via CTNewsjunkie and is entitled “Lawsuit: State Still Owes About $235,000 to Education Reform Consultants

As Christine Stuart explains;

“Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.

Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.”

Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about how Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, brought in Leeds Global Partners and the other corporate education reform consultants though no-bid contracts to help him write and push through  Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.

Rather than have to deal with the state’s pesky competitive bidding, Pryor and his team simply told the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Pryor’s hand-picked consultants sans any process whatsoever.

The Connecticut Department of Education then transferred money to SERC to pay for the outside consultants plus an extra percentage for SERC to keep for themselves for overhead and coordination.

The group of companies in question had either done work with Pryor when he was working for Newark Mayor Cory Booker or were other education reform associates who had done work in New Jersey. Continue reading “OMG! Good thing our Education Commissioner is a lawyer and not an educator…”

The complex issue of stealing public education…Just ask Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education

A woman is accused of stealing the cost of her child’s public education.

No, it’s not the story of Tonya McDowell, the Bridgeport woman who was arrested and pled guilty to first-degree larceny in 2011 for stealing $15,686 (the cost of her son’s education) from the Norwalk School District.

In that case, McDowell’s son was kicked out of Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School in December 2010, when the City of Norwalk realized that McDowell didn’t live in Norwalk.  McDowell, who was homeless at the time, was using her babysitter’s Norwalk address to enroll her son in the local Norwalk school.  In addition to being arrested and convicted of a crime, McDowell’s babysitter was evicted from her public housing for being an accomplice to a crime.

No, this is a different case.

One that relates much more directly to education policy in Connecticut, because the person is waiting for the Connecticut House of Representatives to vote on her nomination to the Connecticut State Board of Education..

In this alleged case of stealing public education, the year was 2002, and the woman had moved from Windsor to Hartford to take a job with Mayor Eddie Perez.

The woman, Andrea Comer, is Governor Malloy’s most recent nominee for the State Board of Education.  Comer presently works as the Chief Operations Officer for FUSE/Jumoke, the charter school management company that operates Jumoke Academy, Jumoke Academy at Milner and is seeking permission to expand its operations into other Hartford schools.

In Comer’s case, despite moving to Hartford, Comer kept her daughter in Windsor’s Sage Park Middle School.  She explained that she didn’t want to disrupt her child’s education.

Comer appealed to the Windsor Board of Education for a waiver from the residency requirement, but they denied her request.  According to a December 2002 Hartford Courant article, Windsor officials told her that “said she could stay in the school system if Comer paid tuition.”

She appealed to the hearing division of the state department of education, but was denied there as well.

She certainly knew the residency rules, but failed to enroll her daughter in a Hartford School despite the fact that she lived in Hartford,

The Windsor Board of Education had enough and sent her a bill for $5,120, the value of the education Windsor taxpayers were paying for someone who wasn’t even a resident.

At the time, Comer told the Courant that she didn’t intend to pay the tuition bill.

The president of the Windsor Board of Education defended their approach saying that residency rules are clear-cut, adding, `it’s not that we don’t feel for the families, but we have to follow the policy.’

There appear to be no media reports about how the issue was finally resolved, but it is interesting that the issue was never raised during Comer’s recent hearing before the General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee.

The Norwalk case produced hundreds of stories around the nation and led to major rallies and calls for action both for and against those who would steal public education.

Comer’s case produced one story and little to no follow-up.

Of course, in Comer’s case she was an up and coming player in the Hartford political scene.

And just five years earlier, Comer had been a Hartford Courant reporter… Covering, at least in part, the Windsor Schools.