Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
“Pryor didn’t seem to care much for Connecticut’s children as education commissioner, so it stands to reason he wouldn’t hesitate to steal our jobs now that he is working in Rhode Island,” – Jonathan Pelto
As Neil Vigdor explains in the CT Post’s Former Malloy cabinet member recruits GE to Rhode Island;
A castoff from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s cabinet is coming back to haunt Connecticut with another reminder — or parting shot — that General Electric is the one that got away.
This time, to Rhode Island, where Malloy’s former education commissioner, Stefan Pryor, has played a key role in the recruitment of a new GE Digital venture to Providence.
Rhode Island leaders announced the deal Thursday, which includes an initial commitment of 100 jobs in return for $5.65 million in economic incentives.
Front and center was Pryor, the state’s commerce secretary.
It comes six months after Connecticut lost GE’s global headquarters to Boston, subjecting Malloy to intense criticism over the state’s business climate and retention efforts by his administration.
“We are excited to welcome this new GE Digital center to the Ocean State,” Pryor said. “GE is one of the world’s most important and innovative companies. This state-of-the-art center will bring high-wage advanced industry jobs to Rhode Island, enhancing the tech industry cluster that will ensure the state’s long-term economic success.”
A spokesman for Malloy declined to comment Thursday.
The vast majority of the 100 jobs will be new positions, according to a GE spokeswoman, who said the company did not put the digital venture out to bid when asked if Connecticut was in the running.
Rhode Island officials say the deal could yield hundreds of additional jobs.
GE still maintains a workforce of 4,000 employees in Connecticut, which Malloy’s defenders say has been overlooked in the relocation of the company’s headquarters.
But Malloy’s critics say that Pryor’s recruitment of GE Digital to Rhode Island, which had been in the running for the headquarters, adds insult to injury.
“It may cause an initial bruising to Governor Malloy as far as his feelings go,” said state Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield. “GE was so put off Governor Malloy’s presentation and dialogue last summer and fall that I sincerely doubt that they had any conversation with Connecticut about this opportunity.”
During his tenure as Connecticut’s education commissioner from 2011 to his 2014 resignation, Pryor had a rocky relationship with teacher unions and some education advocates over standardized testing and charter school expansion.
Some had publicly called for his ouster, including Jonathan Pelto, a former petition candidate for governor.
“Pryor didn’t seem to care much for Connecticut’s children as education commissioner, so it stands to reason he wouldn’t hesitate to steal our jobs now that he is working in Rhode Island,” Pelto said.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Adam Goldfarb, Charter Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Adam Goldfarb, Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, DFER, Malloy, People's Prep, Stefan Pryor
Having become a great weight around Democrat Dannel Malloy’s desire to serve a second term as Connecticut’s governor, in the run-up to Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial election, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, announced that he was leaving his post in search of new opportunities. (See Wait, What? post –Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…)
Pryor quickly announced that he was headed east to become Commerce Secretary for his friend, the newly elected Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo. Pryor, Raimondo and her husband, hedgefund executive Andy Moffit, all attended Yale together. Moffitt was roommates with Cory Booker and Pryor ended up serving as Booker’s economic adviser for five years until joining the Malloy administration as Commissioner of Education in 2011.
While at Yale, Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
As Governor Malloy’s point person on education, Pryor led the effort to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.
It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants, which produced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.
In addition to the millions of dollars that Commissioner Pryor wasted on out-of-state consultants and his successful effort to divert hundreds of millions in scarce taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter school industry, another one of Pryor’s controversial actions was to hire his close personal friend and former Newark aide, Adam Goldfarb, to serve as his chief of staff. (See Wait, What? post –IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education.)
In order to get around the State of Connecticut’s hiring rules, Pryor actually hired Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.
Like Pryor, Goldfarb went to Yale.
Like Pryor, Goldfarb worked on economic development issues in Newark for then mayor Cory Booker.
Like Pryor, Goldfarb had no real public education experience.
And like Pryor, Goldfarb was a big fan of charter schools despite their unwillingness to provide equal educational opportunities to students who require special educational services, those who aren’t proficient in the English Language or those who fail to adhere to the abusive and degrading harsh disciplinary policies that are the staple of charter school operations.
In Goldfarb’s case, he has served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey since the privately owned, but publicly funded charter school opened. (See Wait, What? post – What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?)
While Goldfarb’s boss, Stefan Pryor, has spent the last year hiring even more out-of-state consultants and plunging Rhode Island’s governor into one controversy after another (Check back soon for more about that), Goldfarb has been treading water as a consultant for Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and America Achieves project.
However, although no official announcement has yet been made, it appears that Adam Goldfarb has recently landed the job of Chief Operating Officer for the education reform and charter school advocacy group known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
DFER is the corporate and elite funded pro-education entity that serves as the political wing of Education Reform Now and its sister organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy.
DFER is used as a political action committee and a “dark-money” bundling group that has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns on behalf of candidates who support the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public educations through the massive expansion of charter schools.
A darling of the education reform industry, DFER’s new National President, Shavar Jeffries, joined DFER after a stunning defeat against Newark councilman and community activist, Ras Baraka, for mayor of Newark when Booker became a United States Senator.
Jeffries has now brought in Adam Goldfarb to so serve as DFER’s Chief Operating Officer.
As for DFER, The Center for Media & Democracy’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves, recently published a investigative piece entitled, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money, in which she wrote;
DFER is actually the more well known PAC arm of Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. Their acronym not only sounds like the word “earn,” but also it has the backing of some really huge earners.
DFER co-founder (and founder of the T2 Partners hedge fund) Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”
The Board of Directors for ERN consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital, Cubist Systematic Strategies, and Sanford C. Bernstein.
As the New York Times reported: DFER’s supporters have included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.”
However, ERN and ERNA do not disclose who its major donors are and how much those big donors give to fund its operations and ambitions.
It is known, though, that FOX‘s Rupert Murdoch gave at least $1 million to ERN. Murdoch has expressed his desire to get in on education “reforms,” stating “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”
The most recent federal tax filings of ERN/ERNA show that it had more than $12 million available to push education reform ($7.4 million for ERN and $5 million for ERNA) in 2013. Its non-profit filings from the most recent major election year, the 2014 mid-terms, or last year are not available.
What is known from the 2013 is filings is that, in that year, ERNA disclosed that it spent $1.7 million in political expenditures, nearly all of which went to DFER. These funds were used for expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians but that were “independent” and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.
ERN/ERNA’s leader Joe Williams has been paid a for-profit like salary as its executive, with $398,500 in total annual compensation in 2013. He’s also listed as “Executive Director Emeritus” for DFER and on DFER’s board. Williams stepped down from his staff position at DFER in 2015 and also became a director at the Walton Education Coalition that year. That’s Walton as in Walmart’s Walton family.
Because nonprofits like ERN/ERNA do not have to disclose their major donors to the public, even when ERNA is active in supporting electoral activities the public is left in the dark about which hedge funder is actually helping to fund state and local ads and mailers during the election.
Even though privately held corporations and hedge funders do not have to disclose their donations to operations like ERN/ERNA, a CEO’s charitable foundations does have to disclose to whom they give grants.
That’s how it is known that the Walton family, of Walmart fame or infamy, has backed such efforts. In 2011, for example, ERN/ERNA received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The total amount from all such CEO-controlled foundations given to ERN/ERNA to date is not known.
As Matthew Fleischer noted in the Frying Pan News (reprinted by the Huffington Post) that hedge funder Tilson has followed the Waltons’ lead: “in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.'”
It has been investigative journalists who have helped expose the billionaire network behind ERN/ERNA/DFER, despite the opacity on the surface, as noted by George Joseph in the Nation:
“[A]ccording to Steven Brill in his book Class Warfare, around this time [in 2010] the hedge-fund alliance for education reform really began to take off. That April, for instance, Education Reform Now’s Joe Williams and Bradley Tusk schmoozed over drinks with Paul Tudor Jones II and other hedge-fund billionaires at Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone’s Five Avenue apartment, where they planned a successful campaign to secretly spend millions through a 501(c)(4) political action fund and win the charter cap increase [in New York]. As with Families for Excellent Schools’ mostly secret financing today, Brill notes that Education Reform Now’s donations never became public, and that in May a room full of eager billionaires was able to push the legislature to authorize increased charter-school expansion.”
(The Nation‘s exposé on ERN/ERNA/DFER in New York includes emails and a slide deck about the billionaires and foundations behind such efforts that were leaked to the magazine.)
Despite or perhaps because of this reality, the DFER arm in a state where ads are run merely discloses to the state authority that it received contributions from ERNA, not the hedge funders.
So, the ERN/ERNA/DFER operation is like a shell game when it comes to the public being able to pierce through the layers of nonprofits to find the name of a particular billionaire or uber-rich hedge funder whose money is propping up a particular electoral candidate being backed by DFER.
Similarly, DFER in the states has been known to partner with other groups that have similarly murky or occluded funding sources.
Most recently, DFER and its related entities have been particularly involved in campaigns and political activities aimed at supporting politicians committed to privatizing public education and promoting charter schools in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and in other targeted states and cities.
Andrea Comer, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Erik Clemons, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steve Mandel Achievement First Inc., Andrea Comer, Charter Schools, Erik Clemons, Fuse, Jumoke at Milner, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
A News Update from Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker
While Connecticut’s public schools continue to suffer from inadequate state funding and Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration strive to undermine, dismiss and destroy the CCJEF school funding lawsuit that would finally ensure that Connecticut meets its State Constitutional obligation to provide all students with a quality education, Malloy’s corporate education reform initiative has fueled an unprecedented growth of charter schools in Connecticut. The Charter School Industry now collects in excess of $100 million a year from Connecticut taxpayer.
Privately owned and operated, but funded with taxpayer dollars, Connecticut’s Charter Schools have consistently failed to educate their fair share of students that require special education services and English Language Learners who aren’t fluent in the English Language.
Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, earned national notoriety when news broke about the shocking number of kindergarten and first graders suspended at their schools. The charter school company’s failure to provide special education students with appropriate services has generated investigations in both Connecticut and New York.
The truth is that while the Connecticut State Board of Education is legally obligated to regulate charter schools but they have had a very shoddy track record when it comes to fulfilling those duties.
After taking office, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor (a co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.) and the Governor’s political appointees to the State Board handed approximately $50 million to charter school operator Michael Sharpe and his Jumoke/FUSE’s charter school chain without bothering to uncover that fact that “Dr.” Sharpe didn’t actually have the advanced academic degree he claimed or that he had spent time in federal prison for embezzlement of public funds.
The State Board of Education even bestowed upon “Mr.” Sharpe control of Hartford’s Milner school which, under their not-so-watchful eyes, he ran into the ground.
In addition to “overlooking” state requirements that charters serve a requisite number or special education and English Language Learners, and that charters are not supposed to be over-concentrated in a limited number of municipalities, the State Board has rubber-stamped charter renewals, even when they fail to meet the standards set forth in their charter authorization.
The State Board of Education has done such an abysmal job overseeing charters that the legislature was forced to pass a law tightening charter oversight rules last session and added a layer of legislative oversight to the Department of Education’s charter authorization process.
But SURPIRSE – thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent action, Achievement First, Inc. and Connecticut’s Charter School owners, operators and advocates are celebrating the fact that one of their own was quietly been appointed to Connecticut’s State Board of Education, the very state entity that remains responsible for overseeing and regulating charter schools.
Although the potential conflict of interest is obvious, this isn’t the first time Governor Malloy has used his appointing authority to put a charter school person on the State Board of Education.
His last such appointee, the COO of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain, resigned from the State Board of Education and her job as the FBI and state investigators closed in on allegations of wrongdoing by “Jumoke/FUSE’s CEO, “Dr.” Sharpe.
And this time, the appointment of a charter school insider to the State Board of Education occurred when Malloy appointed three new members to Connecticut’s State Board of Education last month.
While the legislators will eventually have an opportunity to vote on the nominations, as interim appointees, the individuals have already taken their seats on the Board and will serve until confirmed or rejected by the General Assembly.
Media coverage of the appointments was minimal and limited to what was contained in the press release that was issued by Malloy’s Office in November. Gov. Malloy Appoints Three to Serve on the State Board of Education began,
Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that he is appointing Erik Clemons of New Haven, William Davenport of Litchfield, and Malia Sieve of Norwich to serve as members on the Connecticut State Board of Education.
“We are making significant progress as we raise the bar like never before. Connecticut’s State Board of Education plays a critical role in ensuring that our students receive a world class education that prepares them for careers in the 21st century,” Governor Malloy said. “Erik, Bill, and Malia are the right candidates for these roles, and I look forward to having them contribute their experiences and expertise as members of the board. We are going to continue moving our schools forward.”
The Press Release added;
Clemons is the founding CEO and President of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, Inc. (ConnCAT), a nonprofit career training institution that aims to prepare youth and adults for educational and career advancement through after-school arts and job training programming.
But there is much more to the story;
Knowing that Malloy and his administration have the propensity to duck the truth, it will not be surprising to many people that Malloy failed to inform the media, the public or the legislature that the State Board of Education’s newest member, Erik Clemons, has an extensive and long-standing relationship with the charter school industry and is the President and CEO of a company that directly benefits from a large state contract that is funded through the State Department of Education.
- Erik Clemons served as member of Achievement First Inc.’s Elm City Charter School Board of Directors from 2013-2015.
- Erik Clemons is also a founding member of the Elm City Montessori Charter School, a charter school that opened earlier this fall after receiving approval from the State Board of Education this fall.
- Erik Clemons is the President of a non-profit corporation that received a lucrative contract, last year, a contract that is paid with taxpayer funds through the State Department of Education.
Malloy’s new appointees to the State Board of Education replace out-going members who resigned or didn’t seek re-appointment, including former State Board of Education member Andrea Comer.
As noted, Comer served as Chief Operating Officer of the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain but quit both her job and her position on the State Board of Education when the charter school company became the target of the investigation into financial wrongdoing.
When Malloy appointed Comer, Wendy Lecker and I raised alarms about the potential conflict of interest that comes with having a charter school executive on the state committee that regulates that charter school industry. (See Pelto and Lecker’s March 15, 2013 commentary piece, Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education.)
At the time, both the Hartford Courant and Stamford Advocate followed up with editorials. In an editorial entitled, Conflict on state school board, the Stamford Advocate wrote;
Andrea Comer is a successful executive in the state charter school business. She has worked for the charter management company Achievement First, and in October was appointed chief operating officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, a management/expansion company created by Hartford’s Jumoke Academy charter school.
And she is poised to add another title to her substantial resume: member of the state Board of Education.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed Comer to the board — raising eyebrows and questions about a conflict of interest. The board has direct oversight of the charter school industry, decides whether to reauthorize charters and votes on funding and the creation of new charter schools.
As former state legislator Jonathan Pelto and Hearst Connecticut Newspapers columnist Wendy Lecker wrote in a blog post regarding Comer’s appointment: “The conflict is obvious!”
Yet the state Ethics Commission somehow sees it another way. It ruled that Comer’s professional position would not pose a conflict on the state school board. Apparently, the position of COO does not rank high enough for a conflict to exist.
Comer as recently as last month lobbied the General Assembly for greater charter school funding. To put her on a body that helps determine that funding, well, as Pelto and Lecker said:
Now it is up to the members of the Connecticut General Assembly to stand up and be counted on this vital issue. As a corporate officer in a charter school company, Comer has a significant and clear conflict of interest. Legislature has a duty to reject her appointment to the State Board of Education.
Although one would have hoped that Governor Malloy had learned his lesson about keeping the charter school industry off the board that regulates them, Malloy failed to heed those warnings.
The Facts speak for themselves;
Malloy failed to reveal Erik Clemons connection with Achievement First, Inc.
As the minutes of the November 25, 2013 meeting of the Achievement First, Elm City College Preparatory Charter School Board of Directors note;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Board of Elm City College Preparatory elects Mr. Erik Clemons to an initial term as a Class II Director expiring on 6/30/2014, eligible for reelection for a subsequent 3-year term.
Carolyn Greenspan moved to elect Erik Clemons to the Board, and Laura Saverin seconded. The Board voted unanimously to approve Erik Clemons as a Director.
According to Achievement First records, it appears Erik Clemons remained on the Achievement First Elm City Directors until the charter school’s meeting on 1/21/15 meeting.
Malloy failed to reveal Erik Clemons is a founding board member of the Elm City Montessori Charter School.
From the New Haven Independent, State OKs “Pioneering” Local Charter
The approval came Monday at a meeting of the state Board of Education in the Legislative Office Building. The board unanimously approved a proposal to create a new pre-K to 8 charter school called the Elm City Montessori School, starting with 51 New Haven kids ages 3 to 5 in the fall of 2014 (Later changed to fall 2015).
The state will kick in an extra $3,000 per pupil, as well as an undetermined amount of start-up money, in return for extra scrutiny: The school’s existence will depend on the state renewing its charter every five years.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who sits on the state school board, said state law has allowed for “local charters” in prior years, but no proposals ever got off the ground. The state’s education reform law of 2012 revised the “local charter” distinction to require staffing flexibility and to add the $3,000-per-pupil incentive, he said. Pryor commended the New Haven group for an “outstanding application.”
“We are very pleased to see the pioneering effort that you have organized taking shape,” said Pryor, a former New Haven alderman and founding member of New Haven’s Amistad Academy charter school.
The new investment in charters comes under a new education commissioner, Pryor, with a record of charter support: In 1999 he helped found Amistad Academy, which later grew into the state’s largest charter network…
And while Malloy noted that Erik Clemons is founding CEO and President of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, Inc. (ConnCAT), the Governor failed to explain that the company has a major contract funded through the Department of Education.
From the New Haven Register;
Lincoln-Bassett was added this year to the state Commissioner’s Network for underperforming schools, joining the city’s High School in the Community and Wilbur Cross High School. The network seeks to significantly improve struggling schools through collaboration between local stakeholders and the state Department of Education.
The school received $1.4 million in operating and capital improvement grants and secured partnership with ConnCAT to facilitate the before- and after-school programs.
“It was really important that Mayor Toni Harp, and Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries were aligned on this idea that families and children can rise through the advent of provided services,” said ConnCAT CEO Erik Clemons.
Finally, Malloy fails to mention that Erik Clemons is affiliated with Billionaire Steven Mandell’s Zoom Foundation, the organization that played a key, behind-the-scenes role in persuading the Malloy administration to illegally take over the Bridgeport Public School System.
Mandell is not only a major Malloy campaign donor, but is a leading financial funder of the charter school industry. Mandell’s pro-“education reform” activities including paying for an education “policy staff” person housed in Malloy’s Hartford Office and another one who was stationed in former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport Office. (See Wait, What? NEWS FLASH: Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office 2/3/14)
In Erik Clemons case we learn from the Zoom Foundation – The ZOOM Foundation’s new Prize for Parent Organizing supports nonprofit organizations inspired by the potential of parent power to contribute to the achievement of educational equity in Connecticut. The Program Selection Committee for The ZOOM Foundation’s Prize for Parent Organizing includes:
Erik Clemons: Erik is CEO and President of ConnCAT, an organization he established in New Haven in 2011. The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, ConnCAT, is a post-secondary career training hub committed to connecting a world-class facility and resources to local need. Currently ConnCAT provides market-relevant job training and placement services to under and unemployed adults and multimedia arts education to 6 under-achieving youth from low-income families…
Also on the Zoom Foundation’s Program Selection Committee…
None other than Andrea Comer; Andrea Comer is Executive Director of The Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s Education Foundation. In this role, Andrea stewards the efforts of CBIA’s nonprofit affiliate, which is responsible for promoting the development of Connecticut’s workforce through education and training, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing and energy sectors.
A former member of the Hartford and State Boards of Education, Andrea has spent the past two decades working to improve the lives of children and strengthen communities. Prior to joining CBIA, Andrea served as Chief Development Officer for an education management organization, where she oversaw communications, strategic planning and development. (Apparently the Zoom Foundation couldn’t even bring themselves to reveal that the “education management organization” they highlight is the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE organization.
The bottom line is that when Dannel Malloy had the opportunity to set a proper course for the State Board of Education, one in which conflicts of interest were not allowed, he instead chose Erik Clemmons.
And so as Paul Harvey was fond of saying, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Alliance Districts, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Mass Insight company, School Funding/ECS, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, school funding, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
Here we go again…
Rather than properly fund Connecticut’s public schools, Governor Malloy has turned his back on the majority of Connecticut’s public schools and local property taxpayers by shifting almost all new state education funding to Connecticut’s so-called Alliance Districts.
Making matters far worse, rather than using the State Department of Education’s expert team of superintendents, principals and policy experts who had been working with Connecticut’s Priority Schools, Malloy’s first Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, laid off and reassigned these experienced Connecticut educators and handed their work over to Mass Insight, Inc., a politically-connected, out-of-state Corporate Education Reform consulting company. Mass Insight then sent in a team of consultants, with little to no education experience, to manage the day to day work associated with the Alliance District and Turnaround Program.
And heading up the overall operation, which has spent more than $300 million in public funds, Commissioner Stefan Pryor recruited a school principal from Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company that Pryor co-founded.
Lacking the certification necessary to teach or work in a Connecticut school, Morgan Barth had already spent eight years illegally teaching and working at Achievement First, Inc. However, Barth’s claim to fame was that he was a close relative of Richard Barth, the CEO of the massive KIPP Charter School chain who, in turn, is married to Wendy Koop, the founder of Teach for America.
When it comes to actually overseeing Malloy’s Alliance District program, Barth and Mass Insight’s track record has been abysmal, but that didn’t stop Mass Insight from collecting at least $1,957,960 in consulting fees and Barth finding the time to head out to Storrs to get his superintendent’s certification via one of the short-cut training programs at UConn’s NEAG School of Education.
Of course, not surprisingly, when Stefan Pryor bailed to take a job in Rhode Island, Malloy’s new Commissioner of Education, Dianna Wentzell, continued to use Mass Insight to run the Alliance District Program.
But despite the State Department of Education’s record of failure, or perhaps because of their record of mismanagement, Commissioner Wentzell is now blaming the Alliance Districts themselves for problems that have developed with the program, rather than the inexperienced, but highly paid consultants that she and her predecessor hired and coddled.
The Hartford Courant covers the new development in an article entitled, Some Struggling Districts Using State Grant For Unintended Purposes while the CT Mirror’s story is entitled, Schools redirecting money intended for reforms, officials say.
As the Courant reports,
“The board is aware of a couple of examples that have been brought to our attention of extreme misuse as a result of carryover,” Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said. “This allows us to keep the Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District plan.”
Keep Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District Plan?
Considering the way in which the out-of-state consultants coordinated the program, attacking the Alliance Districts is particularly revolting.
And let’s be clear, it’s not like Wentzell and her management team weren’t well aware of the problems associated with the way the Alliance District Program was being run because, as has been clear from the state, those problems started at the top and were a direct result of the policy decisions Pryor and Wentzell made.
The following 17 Wait, What. Blog posts are just a fraction of the reports about the way in which Mass Insight Inc. and the State Department of Education were managing the Alliance District program.
Connecticut legislators take note, before Malloy’s State Department of Education and State Board of Education start attacking Connecticut’s most challenged school districts, they should be required to come clean about myriad of problems that were caused by the way they “managed” the program.
The following are Wait, What? Posts on Connecticut’s Alliance District Program and the way in which Malloy’s own commissioners and consultants mismanaged and undermined the program.
Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000 (2/3/14)
A plea to the public for help in tracking down the Malloy Administration’s effort to extend $1 million contract (1/28/14)
Pryor now using out-of-state company to recruit out-of-state school principals (12/23/13)
Are Alliance School Districts implementing their Turnaround Plans with “fidelity”? (12/4/13)
No Joke: Year 2 Alliance District “kickoff” tomorrow despite Pryor’s failure to get money to Alliance Districts (10/16/13)
Did Connecticut’s Director for School Turnaround illegally teach in the State of Connecticut? (10/8/13)
Malloy’s Education Commissioner prepares 2014 legislative agenda that increases his power and promotes charters (9/17/13)
Mass Insight swaps out more consultants: Further reducing experience for CT Alliance Districts (8/26/13)
Malloy/Pryor’s new “Turnaround Director” violated Connecticut law by failing to get proper teacher certification (8/20/13)
Just when Connecticut’s “Alliance” Districts thought it couldn’t get worse… (8/19/13)
Hello? It’s the 2nd week of August…where is the State’s Alliance District Funding? (8/8/13)
Malloy’s Commissioner of Education signs another $1 million contract with out-side consultants (7/20/13)
Warning! Warning! Alliance Districts Beware: (6/27/13)
Pay More, Get Less: The Malloy/Pryor Approach to Problem Solving: (6/5/13)
Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract (5/24/13)
The Malloy/Pryor Education Reform Consultant Full Employment Gravy Train (5/17/13)
Oh look, there goes more Connecticut taxpayer money to out-of-state “education reform” consultants (5/16/13)
AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Connecticut Education Assocation, Malloy, Stefan Pryor AFL-CIO, AFT-CT, CEA, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Dannel shows his true stripes yet again…
The CT Newsjunkie headline reads- Union Leader ‘Stunned’ By Malloy Veto of Standards For Education Commish while the CT Mirror exclaims Malloy vetoes qualifications for education commissioner
The leader of Connecticut’s teacher unions are stunned because the Right Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy decided to veto legislation that would have required that the state education commissioners have “a strong classroom background, something his first education commissioner lacked.”
The legislation passed the Education Committee 32 to 0
It passed the State Senate 36 – 0
And it passed the Connecticut House of Representatives 138-5
Only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill in the House.
But Dannel Malloy vetoed it anyway.
Harken back just over one year ago, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s was holding its political endorsing convention.
As a candidate attempting to petition on to the ballot, the union refused to allow me to address the delegates.
Instead, as the CT Mirror called it, the convention was “a two-day infomercial promoting the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, with one carefully choreographed note of discord: A rebuke to the Democratic governor’s choice of Stefan Pryor as commissioner of education.”
Before formally endorsing Malloy, the statewide labor federation adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a requirement that an education commissioner hold the same credential as a school superintendent, a standard that Pryor does not meet.
“We’re hoping the governor’s listening,” said Melodie Peters, the president of AFT-Connecticut, one of the state’s two major teachers’ unions.
The resolution drawn up by the AFT, which separately endorsed Malloy ahead of the AFL-CIO convention, was a message to a Democratic governor and to labor’s rank-and-file. It was meant as a gentle rebuke to Malloy, not a rejection; a way to soothe educators, not provoke them.
Pryor never was mentioned by name, but he has become a pressure-relief valve for labor, which acknowledges a need to draw anger away from the governor. Peters agreed when asked if the resolution was a second-term message to Malloy about a need for a new commissioner.
Now, a year later, having failed to testify against the union’s proposed bill or even voice any opposition what-so-ever, Malloy vetoed the very concept was submitted as a result of that AFL-CIO resolution.
As the CT Mirror explained last year,
Teacher unrest has given Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic state legislator, an opening to try to organize a third-party run for governor.
Malloy told the delegates Monday in a well-received speech that he’s made mistakes, but he stopped far short of apologizing for what teachers still say was a gratuitous and deliberate insult.
The task for union leaders has been to manage the anger of the rank-and-file, sharply contrasting the overall labor record of Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in a generation with the hostility to labor and collective bargaining by GOP governors in once-union friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
A procession of delegates stepped up to microphones Tuesday to speak in favor the resolution.
“Education is a profession, not a hobby,” said Edward Leavy of AFT Local 4200 A.
The delegates cheered.
Anna Montalvo, the president of AFSCME Local 1522, which represents paraprofessionals in Bridgeport, said a superintendent and education commissioner should meet standards, as do her members.
The delegates cheered again.
But the message of the convention eventually circled back to a simple equation: What would be best for labor, the re-election of a Democratic governor or a Republican?
Sharon Palmer, a former AFT-Connecticut president who is Malloy’s labor commissioner, vouched for the governor’s commitment to labor.
“Let me say from up close and personal, he is a good boss,” Palmer said. “Sometimes he has a sharp tongue, but more often than not he uses that sharp tongue to fight off those who would diminish us.”
Palmer, Peters and Randi Weingarten, the national AFT president who was the second-day keynote speaker, all reminded the members of Malloy’s support for a broad labor agenda and his defense of locked out health workers represented by AFT at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.
Weingarten ended the convention with a loud, passionate pitch for Malloy. She acknowledged rough spots in AFT’s relationship with Malloy over tenure.
“Yeah, I don’t like some of the things he’s said, either,” Weingarten said. “But what he’s done, he’s increased funding for K-12, increased funding by seven percent for K-12, making Connecticut the second-highest education spender in the country since the recession.”
She called Pelto a friend who has some important things to say, but his candidacy is a distraction and a danger that can only draw votes away from Malloy.
She told reporters after the convention that she spoke by telephone the previous day with Pelto, who had complained he wasn’t invited to speak. Only the major-party endorsed candidates addressed the convention.
Weingarten said third-party candidates can play an important role, and she has supported some in the past.
She said the stakes in Connecticut are too high: “The stakes here are whether you’re going to have a Dan Malloy or a Tom Foley as governor, whether you are going to have a Connecticut that acts as Connecticut or that emulates Wisconsin.”
As to why Dannel Malloy would veto the bill out of the blue?
According to the CT Newsjunkie,
In his veto message, Malloy said the legislation “encroaches on the purview” of the chief executive and would prevent them from picking “the best candidate to lead the department.”
Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he was “stunned” by the veto. He said it’s good public policy that doesn’t take away any of the governor’s authority to choose a qualified individual for the job.
Just like teachers have to be certified, the state’s Education Commissioner should have minimum qualifications, Waxenberg said.
He said his members will be angry about this veto and will speak with legislative leaders to “seriously consider an override session.”
AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said she’s “disappointed” in the veto, but to Malloy’s credit he heard their voices and “chose a new commissioner with extensive background in the classroom.”
Hochadel added: “We expect that he and future governors would follow this example in recommending leadership for the state’s education agency. Our state’s students and their parents deserve nothing less.”
But Malloy made it clear in his veto message that he should have the ability to hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of their background.
“Open-mindedness and flexibility are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the educational challenges that face our state,” Malloy said in his veto message. “The establishment of qualification for the Commissioner of Education in statute closes the door on a broad pool of talented and diverse leaders who would otherwise be eligible and could foster greatness in our schools.”
Malloy said he’s concerned it would unintentionally reduce the diversity of future commissioner applicant polls, since representation of African American and Hispanic teachers and administrators remains disproportionately low.
As the legislative report (JR report) explains, when the Education Committee held its public hearing, the testimony was almost unanimous in favor of the bill.
Melodie Peters, President, AFT Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke;
“Ms. Peters and AFT Connecticut support the proposed bill citing the role of the Commissioner in providing, “direction and guidance to districts, schools and educators.” AFT believes the credibility of the Commissioner of Education depends, in part, on the shared experience of the Commissioner with teachers, administrators, and superintendents.”
Dr. Anne Jellison, Chair, Connecticut Association of School Administrators spoke:
“Dr. Jellison testified in favor noting that it is critical for the Commissioner of Education to have credibility and expertise among all stakeholders in Connecticut’s education system. She included that an effective, credible Commissioner needs “first-hand knowledge” of Connecticut schools and understands the impact of not only day-to-day situations but how policies impact the school environment.”
Jeff Leake, Vice President, Connecticut Education Association spoke:
“Mr. Leake testified in support of the bill, commenting that many of the members of the CEA are also in favor of a person with a background in the education field serving as Commissioner. The CEA feels the bill may be too basic in the required qualifications but stressed to the committee that their organization is looking for a commissioner who understands the qualities necessary to be a true educator.”
Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke:
“Ms. Pelletier testified in support of the bill. The position of the AFL-CIO is that high standards that have been set for teachers, administrators, and superintendents should also be a standard for the Commissioner of Education.”
But there was one person who rose to oppose the requirement that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have substantive educational experience…
Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN:
“ConnCAN opposes the proposed bill because they believe the requirements laid out in the bill for the Commissioner of Education would severely limit Connecticut’s ability to recruit talent and would, “unnecessarily exclude qualified and experienced candidates from being considered for appointment as Education Commissioner.”
So there you go…
Adam Goldfarb, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Kelly Donnelly, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Adam Gold, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Kelly Donnelly, Malloy, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
The key role of Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education will go to Kelly Donnelly who was brought in from New Jersey in December 2012 to serves as former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s PR person.
Although Donnelly has no work experience in public education and her only education policy experience is as the agency’s communications person, multiple sources confirm that Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel will by-pass numerous qualified professional staff to hand the Chief of Staff duties to Donnelly.
Donnelly will be replacing Adam Goldfarb, who resigned earlier this year soon after Stefan Pryor left Connecticut to become Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commissioner.
Goldfarb, a Yale Law School graduate, came with Pryor from New Jersey. Goldfarb served as one of Pryor’s policy advisors in Newark, New Jersey and spent time as Pryor’s intern when Pryor worked for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Goldfarb was initially brought in under the title of Executive Assistant, but then immediately was made Chief of Staff with a starting salary of $99,000, up 33 percent from what he was making as Pryor’s assistant in New Jersey. Goldfarb finished up his duty as a Connecticut public servant earlier this year with a salary of $116,000
You can read more about Pryor and Goldfarb at Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education and What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?
Donnelly was hired as Pryor’s Communication Director with a starting salary of $82,000. It is unclear what her salary will be as the State Department of Education’s Chief of Staff.
Prior to coming to Connecticut, most of Donnelly’s experience was with political campaigns in New Jersey and Long Island although she did spend nearly two years in 2010-2011 with 1st Light Energy Inc, where she, “Oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations for the entire scope of the project.”
Donnelly, who is from Edison, New Jersey graduated from Notre Dame in 2002 with a BA in Liberal Studies.
One of Donnelly’s most recent responsibilities was serving as the agency’s spokesperson during the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to mislead, harass and bully parents who were trying to opt their children out of the unfair and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests. Her quotes can be found via any search about Connecticut’s SBAC testing scheme.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Coalition for Every Child, Families for Excellent Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Achievement First Inc., Bronx Charter School for Excellence, Capital Prep Charter School, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Families for Excellent Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry
Calling themselves a “grassroots movement” in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s plan to use taxpayer money to open two new charter schools while making historic cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the New York based charter school industry group known as “Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child” paid at least $87,000 to rent buses to bring in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for the pro-charter school rally that took place at the Connecticut State Capitol last week.
According to the group’s most recent filing with the State Ethics Commission (filed yesterday), the corporate funded education reform advocacy front group also spent $14,000 for subway sandwiches and $6,771 to Staples to pay for the signs demanding that Connecticut legislators hand over nearly $21 million in scarce taxpayer money so that the infamous Steve Perry can open a publicly funded, but privately owned charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx, New York charter school chain can save Stamford by opening up a charter school there.
Although parents who “volunteer” for the rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools Inc. are apparently given “parent stipends” for their efforts, the charter industry advocacy group failed to list any payments for the parents who were bussed in for the Connecticut demonstration.
According to their website, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. “serves more than 50,000 families from over 90 schools in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.”
The website adds, “Founded in 2011 through a partnership between schools and families, Families for Excellent Schools has built power in communities by engaging parents in the transformation of their schools.”
The group, of course, fails to explain that since it was founded, Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has collected an estimated $25 million from wealthy individuals and foundations to pay for its lobbying and advocacy work.
In New York State Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has become the single largest lobbying entity in the State of New York spending nearly $10 million in 2014 alone to support the funding and expansion of charter schools. [See Pro-charter group sets lobby record.] However, Families for Excellent Schools has repeatedly refused to release a list of its donors.
What is known is that among the group’s major sponsors is the Walton Family, owners of Walmart.
According to the foundation’s reports, “The Walton Family Foundation supports Families for Excellent Schools in its work to train parents to create and run advocacy efforts to improve school quality and give every student access to an excellent education.”
The use of “parent stipends” to induce charter school families to attend rallies has been one of the more controversial tactics used by Families for Excellent Schools.
The organization’s 2011 federal tax form stated that they spent $98,795 on “parent stipends.” Subsequent reports buried that spending item in other expenses but a 2012 American Enterprise Institute publication verified the groups use of parent stipends noting,
“other groups, such as Families for Excellent Schools, use side payments—financial stipends of $250–$1,000 per year—to give parents an incentive to participate in mobilization and advocacy efforts.”
Another way the charter school industry has successfully “persuaded” parents to attend their rallies is to actually close down their charter schools on the day of the rally. The Nation magazine recently reported on New York rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools noting,
“The protests have benefitted from the controversial decision of charter operators like Success Academy to shut down their schools, bus thousands of students to protests and notify parents that they “must” come and protest. “It was cut and dry, they tell us if we can’t go to the rally, our kids won’t have anywhere to go,” said one Success Academy parent, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, “So you have to find childcare for them or take off work for their charter school propaganda.”
Although Families for Excellent Schools is new to Connecticut, it is closely associated with Connecticut’s original charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN.
In addition, Families for Excellent Schools receives funding from Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s initial Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. Achievement First Inc. is based in New Haven with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. As a result of Malloy’s pro-charter school agenda, Achievement First, Inc. benefited more than any other charter school company in Connecticut over the past four years.
And when it comes to lobbying and advocating for charter schools — The sky is the limit.
Since Malloy introduced his corporate education reform initiative in 2012, charter school and education reform organizations have spent well over $7 million on lobbying and advertising – a record-breaking amount for Connecticut.
In just the first four months of the 2015 legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools has spent over $668,000 on its lobbying and advertising in support of Malloy’s plan to add two more charter schools in Connecticut. More than half a dozen other charter school groups have also spent funds to support Malloy’s plan.
To ensure the desired level of access to Connecticut’s elected officials; Families for Excellent Schools retained the services of both Governor Malloy’s chief adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, and Malloy’s former spokesman, Andrew Doba.
Of the money spent this year, more than $75,000 was paid to Occhiogrosso’s firm and another $133,000 to the New York public relations company that hired Malloy’s spokesman (Doba) when he left Malloy’s office four months ago.
For more coverage about the charter school industry rally check out – Charter Students Rally Lawmakers To Restore Funding (Newsjunkie), Charter School Lobbying: Where Is Money Coming From? (Hartford Courant), Hundreds Rally At Capitol For Expanding Charter Schools (Hartford Courant) and Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol (CT Mirror)
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Education Reform, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Corporate Education Reform Industry, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education. The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.
Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.
Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”
Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…
Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.
The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.
However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.
Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.
But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.
Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text. Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.
Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.
Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.
And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.
Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.
TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078
AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today
afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.
I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our
schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.
I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.
With this being said, I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that we have made in Connecticut and in particularly, in East Hartford Public Schools , specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment , and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children, and making sure that we are “doing right” by Connecticut’s future.
Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010. Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.” The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens. As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.
Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.
Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of our children, I ask you to think of the second grader who will only have second grade one time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.
When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better. While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact. When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.
Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.
Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy,
in the past to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.
I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Jonathan Sackler, Malloy, Mayor Toni Harp, New Haven, New Haven Independent, State Budget, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Jonathan Sackler, Malloy, Mayor Toni Harp, New Haven, State Budget, State Deficit
[This is the first in a series of articles about Achievement First Inc.’s proposed New Haven Elm City Imagine School]
Aka – The Charter School Industry’s step by step dismantling of public education in Connecticut.
This Wednesday, February 18, 2015, Governor Malloy will play his hand as to whether he will insert taxpayer funds into next year’s state budget in order to fund Steve Perry’s dream of opening a privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport. An out-of-state company is also counting on Malloy to come through with the cash needed to expand their charter school chain into Stamford, Connecticut.
Both charter school applications were vehemently opposed by the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education.
However, despite that opposition from the local officials responsible for education policy and despite the fact that Connecticut doesn’t even fund its existing public schools adequately and the fact that the State of Connecticut is facing a massive $1.4 billion projected budget deficit next year, Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved four new charter school proposals last spring.
Initial funding for two of the four applications was included in this year’s state budget, New Haven’s Booker T. Washington charter school and yet another charter school for Bridgeport.
Now the charter school industry is counting on Malloy to divert even more scarce public funds away from the state’s public schools so that Steve Perry can start pulling in a $2.5 million management fee from a charter school in Bridgeport and the out-of-state company can open up a revenue stream from a new charter school in Stamford.
While most public education advocates are focused on the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to privatize public education via policies at the state level, the politically connected Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain is using a completely different approach as it seeks to pull off a deal in New Haven that would shift existing funds away from New Haven’s public schools and into the coffers of the Achievement First operation.
Of course, Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s former commissioner of education.
Achievement First Inc. is also the charter school chain that gets the lion’s share of the $100 million in public funds that are already diverted to charter schools in Connecticut.
Achievement First’s latest gambit is called the Elm City Imagine School. Achievement First already owns and operates the following taxpayer-funded New Haven Charter Schools;
Amistad Academy Elementary School
Amistad Academy Middle School
Amistad Academy High School
Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School
Elm City College Preparatory Middle School
Achievement First Inc. also owns charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, New York City and Rhode Island.
With the New Haven proposal, Achievement First, Inc. is attempting to side-step the entire state charter school authorization process. They are trying to use a mechanism whereby state and local taxpayer funds would be allocated by the New Haven Board of Education directly to Achievement First’s new “experimental school.”
The only hurdle that Achievement First Inc. needs to overcome is getting the approval of the New Haven Board of Education…and it appears that they are well on the way to do just that as early as their February 23, 2015 meeting.
The New Haven Board has scheduled a second and final public hearing on the proposal tomorrow, Tuesday 2/17 at 5:30, nicely timed to take place during school vacation.
The New Haven Board of Education is not democratically elected by the citizens of New Haven. It is one of the only boards of education in Connecticut to be appointed by the mayor of the community.
In this case, the New Haven Board of Education is appointed by Mayor Toni Harp – who, thanks to an earlier sweetheart deal – happens to sit on the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors for the Amistad Academy schools.
Another member of the New Haven Board of Education is Alex Johnston who is the former CEO of ConnCAN. Johnston now, “develops and implements strategies for philanthropists on education reform advocacy and political initiatives.”
ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that is not only associated with Achievement First Inc. but it is the entity that led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s 2012 Corporate Education Reform Initiative.
ConnCAN is also the charter school advocacy group that recently held a rally on the New Haven Green to “save kids trapped in local failing public schools.”
And ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that was created by Jonathan Sackler, who is the multi-millionaire who played such a pivotal role in helping Stefan Pryor with the creation of Achievement First Inc.
Sackler now serves on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Inc. and the Board of Directors for ConnCAN
Most recently, Sackler and his family were the largest contributors to Malloy’s re-election effort, pumping well over $100,000 into the various committees that paid for the Governor’s campaign activities.
Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine
Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine (designed to become a K-4 school) will be Achievement First Inc.’s initial foray into the “Greenfield” model. The model designed with the help of the inventor of the computer mouse.”
Achievement First Inc. is also using public funds to insert the “Greenfield Model” into its Elm City College Prep Middle School.
Among the many controversies associated with this new proposal is that Achievement First Inc. has successfully prevented the unionization of its schools and is now looking to use even more public funds to hire employees who would have no collective bargaining rights.
Achievement First Inc. is also notorious for relying on Teach For America recruits in an effort to promote the churning of staff to keep expenses down and limit the likelihood of unionization.
Alex Johnston, the former ConnCAN CEO who and member of the New Haven Board of Education is quoted as saying
“We need statewide policies that allow educational innovations like Teach for America or Dacia’s schools [The Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain] to spread far and wide.”
[Article Update at 3pm 2/16/15 – Johnston has announced the due to the conflict of interest he will not be voting on application, although it doesn’t change much considering the political dynamics surrounding the project.]
Of course, Achievement First Inc. also made national news when it was reported that their “zero-tolerance” discipline policies led to an extraordinary number of kindergartners being suspended.
Check back for the next installment of this series.
You can also read more about the Achievement First Inc. plan via the following New Haven Independent articles;
Teachers, Parents Organize Against Charter Deal
The School Of The Future Gets A Dry Run
Teachers Union Prez Pens “Imagine” Critique
Charter Plans Detailed; Parents Weigh In
Elm City Imagine Sparks Debate
NHPS, AF Team Up On Experimental School
Elm City Charter Eyed For Futuristic “Conversion”
City’s Charter Network Hires San Francisco Firm To Design The K-8 Public School Of The Future
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Alan Taylor, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, State Board of Education, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
Governor Malloy and his administration are continuing to tell Connecticut parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test that begins next month.
Even worse, local school districts are using that false information to intimidate Connecticut parents.
Parents — do not let them fool you – you can and should opt your children out of these destructive tests, a set of Common Core standardized exams that are rigged to ensure that up to 7 in 10 children fail.
When Christine Murphy, a resident of Bristol, Connecticut, informed her son’s school that he would not be taking the Common Core SBAC Tests, the assistant principal, on behalf of the superintendent, informed her that she did not have the right to opt her child out of the test.
[School Superintendents! Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test]
Christine, recognizing that this is still America, reached out to the NBC Trouble Shooters who did a news segment about her attempt to utilize her fundamental right to determine what is best for her child.
Interestingly rather than telling NBC news the truth, the whole truth and nothing be the truth, the spokesperson for Governor Malloy’s Department of Education and the paid lobbyist for one of Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry groups decided that they would intentionally mislead the mother, NBC news and the people of Connecticut into thinking the mom did not have the right to opt her child out of the Common Core SBAC Test.
Sadly, NBC news fell for the trick and failed to report the truth.
Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education issued a statement which read;
“These laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests. These mandates have been in effect for many years and the State Department of Education, as well as all public schools, must comply.”
– Kelly Donnelly, Connecticut Department of Education
The Malloy administration’s response is at best disingenuous and should more appropriately be called blatantly deceitful considering the reality about parental rights in Connecticut when it comes to the Common Core SBAC Test.
The FACT is there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school district to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.
Yes it is true that Governor Malloy and his administration have been telling parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out. But those statements are false.
When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, was finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 2014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,
“On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”
At the same public hearing, Allan B. Taylor, the Chairperson of the Connecticut State Board of Education stated,
“There is no law that says they can’t. Certainly no state law that says they can’t. Therefore, residually, presumably they have that right … but that is the parent’s choice, the local district’s choice. The State Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”
The state and local districts will not be punishing parents and their children because they have no legal right to take any action against parents for removing their children from the Common Core SBAC tests.
What the Connecticut General Statute §10-14n(e) does say is that,
“No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.”
This means that towns cannot promote or graduate a student on the basis of their Common Core SBAC Test score and they certainly cannot hold back a student or refuse to allow them to graduate based on their Common Core SBAC Test score.
Unfortunately, NBC news failed to do its job.
Rather than push past the political spin coming from the Malloy administration, the reporter simply accepted the misleading statement issued by the Connecticut State Department of Education.
Connecticut citizens deserve better from their government and the media.
You can see the NBC segment by going to http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/troubleshooters/State-Prohibits-Parents-From-Opting-Kids-Out-of-Testing-291119901.html