Another Charter School Front Group in Connecticut? Naw…Same people just different name

As Connecticut faces yet another massive state budget crisis, even more Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry money is flowing into Connecticut to help grease the charter school operators’ efforts to grab additional public funds courtesy of charter school aficionado and “education reform” groupie Governor Dannel Malloy.

This time the corporate funded charter school lobbyists are calling themselves “Fight for Fairness CT” and are rallying in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford.

Charter school organizers are using www.fightforfairnessct.org, a website that was created by a New York City advertising company on October 23 2015.

Although they are calling themselves by a different name, the group is actually the same controversial New York based charter school lobby group known as “Families for Excellent Schools” http://www.familiesforexcellentschools.org/ except when they call themselves “Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy.”

While their primary purpose has been to support Eva Moskowitz and the other New York Charter School operators, Families for Excellent Schools arrived in Connecticut from New York last year and registered both Families for Excellent Schools AND Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy as lobbying entities with Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics.

However, Families for Excellent Schools immediately created a new front group called Coalition for Every Child, setting up a website named http://www.foreverychildct.org/

When slapped for failing to register Coalition for Every Child with the Connecticut’s ethics office, the New Yorkers quickly changed their name to Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child.

This year Families for Excellent Schools has spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying in favor of Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform initiatives.

A quick glimpse at the newly formed www.fightforfairnessct.org will reveal the same logo as the old http://www.foreverychildct.org/, although they did change the color from Yellow to Blue to go along with the new t-shirts that Families for Excellent Schools are handing out to charter school parents and students in New York and Connecticut.

If the name changes seem confusing, no worries because even the highly paid consultants who work for the charter school industry appear to be confused.

According to www.fightforfairnessct.org,

“For all Press and Media inquiries, please contact Andrew Doba at [email protected].”

However, the actual press releases themselves go out from Andrew Doba at [email protected]

Doba was also listed as the media contact for Families for Excellent Schools, Coalition for Every Child and Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child.

Just last year, Doba was working as Governor Dannel Malloy’s spokesperson but left that post this past January to join Stu Loeser and Company, a New York City public relations firm owned by the former press secretary of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Stu Loeser and Company are paid to run the Families for Excellent Schools’ public relations campaigns in New York and Connecticut.

Since leaving the state payroll and joining Stu Loeser and Company, Doda has also been serving as the spokesperson for Greenwich native Luke Bronin’s campaign for Mayor of Hartford.

And to bring the whole thing full circle, as previously reported in the Wait, What? article Billionaires for Bronin, one of Luke Bronin’s most noteworthy campaign contributors is Paul Tudor Jones II, the Greenwich Billionaire who is also one of the biggest donors to Families for Excellent Schools and was a charter school owner.

Although Families for Excellent Schools, now known as Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child, was using www.fightforfairnessct.org last year as their online organizing website and have now shifted to http://www.foreverychildct.org/, they charter school advocacy group is sticking with the Twitter handle @FIGHTForFairnessCT.

@FightforFairnessCT got its start last year when Families for Excellent Schools bused in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston to rally at the Connecticut State Capitol in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s ill-conceived proposal to divert scarce public funds away from public schools so that two new companies could open up charter schools in Connecticut.

A cursory review of @FightForFairnessCT will lead the casual observer to ConnCAN, Connecticut’s primary and original charter schools advocacy group which was founded by Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.  Sackler, whose company makes OxyContin, was a pivotal player in the creation of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school chain with schools in New York Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Sackler and his wife are among Luke Bronin’s biggest campaign contributors having donated the maximum allowable amount to the Bronin mayoral campaign not once, but twice, in the last few months.

The Twitter Account @FightForFairnessCT’s first Tweet was actually a Re-Tweet of Jennifer Alexander’s excitement about being at last year’s Families for Excellent School’s Capitol rally.

Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN, although the name of their lobbying and advocacy organization is actually the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc. except when they call themselves the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc.

Two years ago, ConnCAN added yet another front group to the mix forming A Better Connecticut, Inc. but have since dropped that name and the use of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., sticking instead with Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. corporate name.

Over the last three years, ConnCAN and its related entities have spent in excess of $3.5 million lobbying in favor of Malloy’s anti-public school and pro-charter school agenda.

Of course, none of those organizations should be confused with Connecticut’s other Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry lobby groups which include Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) or their new front-group called the Connecticut School Finance Project.  The New England Charter Schools Network (NECSN) is yet another advocacy group, although like ConnCAN, NECSN is closely aligned to Achievement First, Inc.

CCER and NECSN have spent well in excess of $800,000 promoting Malloy’s charter school and reform agenda.

None of those groups are directly connected to the “other” charter school and Corporate Education Reform Industry groups that have spent money lobbying in Connecticut, including StudentsFirst and Students for Education Reform, which together dropped in over $1 million on behalf of Malloy’s proposals.

Meanwhile, according to ​Andrew Doba’s latest press release from Fight for Fairness CT (but sent out from [email protected]),

“Parents, Teachers and Students Call For Fair Funding of Public Schools Announce “Fight for Fairness” March to Take Place Tuesday, November 10th in Bridgeport.”

Doba’s media statement goes on to explain that “Coalition members supporting” today’s march include ConnCAN, the New England Charter Schools Network (NECSN), Achievement First, and Families for Excellent Schools….

PS:  There will be a standardized test on this material and your teachers will be evaluated on how well you score.

Malloy’s administration to tout Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda at National Conference

While wooing teachers with false promises of a change in policy here at home, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration continue to trumpet their Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda far from the gaze of Connecticut voters.

Next month Connecticut taxpayers will pick up the tab to send the Connecticut delegation to the annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting in Colorado. Of course, ever year, the taxpayers also pick up the tab for Connecticut’s membership in the organization.

The National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE) claims that it “exists to serve and strengthen State Boards of Education in their pursuit of high levels of academic achievement for all students.”

How do they go about doing that? Well just last year the NASBE accepted an $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spend the next two years pushing the Common Core with state boards of education and other “stakeholders” involved with running public education around the country.

So while Malloy will spend his October trying to persuade Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is “softening” his pro-corporate education reform stance, his delegation will be jetting off to Colorado to showcase Malloy’s “record of success” when it comes to dramatically increasing the use of standardized tests, expanding the role of charter schools and undermining the role and rights of parents, teachers and school boards.

One session at the NASBE national conference is entitled “State Policy and Practice for Turnaround Schools.” Lead presenters include Morgan Barth, one of Stefan Pryor’s top appointees at the State Department of Education and State Board of Education member Stephen Wright.

Barth is the former Achievement First Inc. employee who, with no state certification, illegally taught and worked at Achievement First for at least six years before Achievement First’s lobbyists managed to get the law changed to allow charter schools to have up to 30% of their teaching and administrative staff be non-certified.

Although repeatedly warned by the State Department of Education that Barth’s lack of appropriate certification meant he was teaching illegally, Achievement First, Inc. kept him on the payroll and in the classroom the entire time.

When Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Pryor hired Barth to play the key role in the SDE’s “turnaround office” where he has spent his time getting Alliance Districts to turn over their schools to charter companies, most notably, to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain.

Connecticut’s other representative at the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting is Steven Wright, a Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education who served as chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education.

Wright has been one of Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s strongest allies and safest votes on the State Board of Education.  Reporting on another national conference earlier this year, the conference wrote,

“Wright hailed the state’s work to adopt Common Core standards, saying the standards are the best thing for students and teachers…’They are empirically superior and age-appropriate — developed by educators,’”

And in 2012 when the Trumbull Education Association refused to accept an “award” from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, Wright, in his role as Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, attacked the union saying,

“I read with no small measure of disappointment the letter of the Trumbull Teacher’s Association rejecting the prestigious recognition the high school received from ConnCAN… through an obvious display of ignorance of the goals of ConnCAN and an undertone of an elitist attitude, the authors of the letter have managed to alienate trusted allies and provided the missing ingredients that will sway those who were on the fence with the education reform legislation to side with the Governor and give wholesale support to the reforms proposed in Senate Bill #24.”

And if Barth and Wright’s participation wasn’t telling enough, another speaker at the October National Association of State Boards of Education will be a senior corporate officer from Global Strategies Group, the political consulting group that serves as Malloy’s lead campaign consultant while running the public relations program for Connecticut’s corporate education reform groups.

In the past year or so, Global Strategies Group has collected at least $297,000 from the Malloy campaign and his shadow political operation at the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

During the same period, Global Strategies Group has billed ConnCAN and A Better Connecticut, Connecticut’s two leading education reform groups, more than $2.5 million for consulting services and media costs.  Global Strategies produced and broadcast nearly $2 million in television advertisements “thanking Governor Malloy” for his leadership on the education reform effort.

And what will the Global Strategies Group representative be speaking about?

“What’s in Store on Election Day and What Does It Mean for Education?”

One wonders how many times he’ll mention Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the most pro-education reform, anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation.

But one thing will be certain — While Malloy’s operatives will be singing his praises at the NASBE meeting in Colorado, Malloy himself will be here, at home, telling teachers, parents and public education advocates that he has “seen the light” and will spend his second term supporting teachers and Connecticut’s public education system.

Malloy’s campaign donation haul from corporate education reform industry tops $70k

An updated review of the latest federal and state campaign finance reports reveal that Governor Malloy has collected in excess of $70,000 in campaign contributions from individuals associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Although Malloy has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election next year and he has not filed the necessary paperwork be a candidate, his fundraising operation is in full-swing and the corporate education reform industry has become one of, if not the, largest sources of campaign cash for his political aspirations.

Since Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation, the corporate reform industry has spent more than $6 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s initiatives.  One education reform group, A Better Connecticut, which was formed by the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN spent in excess of $2 million television advertisements “thanking” Malloy for his leadership in promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education.

Malloy has also been going to the corporate education reform industry for campaign contributions.

Last year Malloy, a held a lucrative fundraiser for the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee at the home of Jonathan Sackler, the corporate executive who helped finance Achievement First, Inc., ConnCAN, 50-CAN and other education reform organizations.  The fundraiser netted in excess of $40,000 for the Malloy related PAC.

This year the money from the corporate education reform industry has been funneled through the federal and state accounts of the Democratic State Central Committee.

Malloy’s recent contributions include another $20,000 from Sackler and his wife, at least $15,000 from other members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and at least $11,000 from members of Achievement First’s Board of Directors.  Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and the larger charter school management company has received a major increase in funding since Pryor took over the State Department of Education.

In addition to large contributions from ConnCAN and Achievement First board members, Malloy has collected $10,000 from billionaire Steve Mandel who serves on the TFA Board of Directors and $8,000 from billionaire Eli Broad who is one of the three largest funders of the corporate education reform industry.

According to the various reports it appears that Malloy has collected at least $70,000 for his various campaign related PACs and Committees from the charter school and education reform industry.

Malloy can’t contain himself, uses speech to criticize lobbying effort by teachers and education unions…

As readers are aware, Governor Dannel Malloy traveled to Washington D.C. yesterday to speak to the right-wing, neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.  His speech was entitled, “School reform dos and don’ts: Lessons from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.”

As originally proposed, Malloy’s “education reform” initiative was the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform legislation proposed by any Democratic governor in the nation.  Even after the proposal was modified by the Connecticut General Assembly is still held out as a prime example of the corporate education reform industry’s obsession with more standardized testing and inappropriate teacher evaluation programs that utilize standardized test results.

What as most noteworthy about the Malloy’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute was that while taking full credit for the legislation he tried to re-position himself for the 2014 gubernatorial election by praising teachers rather than playing his traditional role of criticizing and demeaning them.

As the CT Mirror reported yesterday, in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute, “the governor acknowledged that he could have been more delicate when introducing his proposals…’I’ve probably used the wrong language more than once. I know I have,’ he said, routinely pointing out how important teacher buy-in is to the success of the initiative.”

Apparently his remarks were supposed to appease teachers who might still be upset that in Malloy’s major education speech in 2012, he called for doing away with tenure while saying, “In today’s (public education) system, basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

Malloy infamously added, later that year, his observation that he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.”

But despite a carefully written script yesterday, Malloy’s real personality and opinions couldn’t stay hidden for long.

During the question and answer period following Malloy’s talk, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN and co-founder of A Better Connecticut, the corporate education reform lobbying group, tossed Malloy a soft-ball question about the town meetings Malloy held around the state to promote his education reform initiative in 2012.

Readers will recall that A Better Connecticut, ConnCAN and other corporate education industry organizations have spent a record $6 million and counting lobbying in support of Malloy’s education reform initiative to date, including more than $2 million in television advertisements thanking Malloy for his “leadership.”

In response to a question from ConnCAN’s CEO, Malloy talked about how people were mad and how he stood up to the angry teachers and led the way forward for the General Assembly.

Malloy summarized the situation saying he was needed because “folks [were] spending a lot of money to try and defeat an organized effort at school reform….”

It was another great truly another great Dannel Malloy moment.

When teachers, parents and public school advocates came out to public meetings to speak out on behalf of public education, Malloy says that they were part of a group of “folks” who were “spending a lot of money to try and defeat” education reform.

But there he was – speaking at the ultra-right wing American Enterprise Institute and happily taking a question from the paid lobbyist whose organization has led the most expensive lobbying campaign in state history.

Tucked into the safety of a right-wing “think tank,” the Malloy we have come to know couldn’t resist the opportunity to attack teachers and their unions while accepting the accolades of the corporate education reform industry.

That said, not everyone who watched Malloy’s performance came away with the same reaction.

While you can read my take on the Malloy speech by reading the Wait, What? post entitled “Malloy tells right-wing American Enterprise Institute he is the “education governor”, you may also want to read what the Connecticut Education Association posted to their blog yesterday.

While both blogs report on Malloy’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute, the different interpretations of same event is rather extraordinary.

From the 12/2/2013 CEA Blog: Malloy on Teachers & School Reform

Governor Dannel P. Malloy told a national audience today that teacher concerns about the rapid pace of change in Connecticut public education are real, adding that “we’re going to get through it.”

The governor called teachers “good, hard-working people.” Malloy said, “I probably used the wrong language more than once. I know I have. It’s not because I don’t appreciate what teachers do.”

Malloy’s comments came in an interview this afternoon at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Malloy talked about the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are being implemented and new CCSS tests—so-called Smarter Balanced Assessments that could be linked to teacher evaluations down the road. According to Malloy, teachers are ready, but that doesn’t mean they are not scared. “Far better a carrot than a stick,” he said.

Apparently referring to Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation system, Malloy said “the vast majority of Connecticut teachers are doing a great job,” and they will be recognized for this. Malloy said he’s taken steps to make the magnitude of education reform easier on public schools. Connecticut school districts have flexibility on two fronts: administering just one test to students during this school year—the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments or the CMT and CAPT—and giving local school districts the power to decide whether or not to include that test data in teachers’ evaluations.

Malloy took questions from an AEI audience, including one about the legislative battle over Connecticut school reform. Referring to his role, he made a number of comments, including that somebody had to be the leader, somebody had to bring the discussion to communities, and that somebody had to emphasize we needed to change direction in public education.

Malloy said “I had to fly in the face of traditional Democratic constituencies.” He added that reform cannot be accomplished top down. He called it a combination of leadership, getting buy-in, and staying at it year after year.

You can see Malloy’s performance at the American Enterprise Institute here:  http://www.aei.org/events/2013/12/02/school-reform-dos-and-donts-lessons-from-connecticut-governor-dannel-malloy/

Malloy continues to cash in on Education Reform initiative

Earlier this week, CT Newsjunkie and other media outlets reported on the fact that the Connecticut Election Enforcement Commissioner had authorized an investigation into Governor Malloy’s potentially illegal campaign activities.

As Hugh McQuaid of CT Newsjunkie reported, “Election enforcement officials agreed Wednesday to investigate a complaint…claiming Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been running for re-election all year through “de facto campaign operation.”

Malloy has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election next year and has not filed the necessary paperwork with the state to be a candidate.

The allegation is that although Malloy has yet to announce his re-election bid, Malloy and his primary former adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, have been coordinating expenditures aimed at re-electing him in next year’s election.

As Wait, What? readers may recall, the issue was initially raised here at Wait What? last spring when the education reform industry lobby group, A Better Connecticut, spent money on a poll to test various messages to promote Malloy and then over $2 million on campaign advertisements “thanking” Malloy for his leadership in promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education.

In a laughable PR maneuver, Andrew Doba, Governor Malloy’s spokesman was quoted as saying that Malloy did not “feel compelled to give a substantive response to a baseless complaint.”

According to the CT Newsjunkie article, “The complaint points to a poll conducted in January by Global Strategies Group, a public affairs firm where Occhiogrosso has served as managing director since he left the administration in December.”

A former Republican candidates for State Representative brought the complaint and said that the “poll was designed to weigh public opinion of Malloy and his policies, in particular his education reform efforts. The poll was paid for by Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.”

While the State Elections Enforcement Commission complaint has merit, the real issue is not the $30,000 plus spent on the public opinion poll but the $2 million spent on television advertisements to promote Malloy.

As reported last Spring in Wait What?, Governor Malloy has used a huge loop-hole in Connecticut campaign finance law to benefit from record-breaking spending by the corporate education reform industry group called A Better Connecticut.

The organization formed by Jennifer Alexander and Alex Johnston, the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN, A Better Connecticut has spent $2 million on television advertising and other paid public relations to support Malloy and his Education Reform Initiatives.

According to reports filed with the Office of State Ethics, A Better Connecticut has now spent over $2.2 million on the production and broadcasting of television ads and other forms of paid advertising since it was formed in March of this year.

All of the money has flowed through the political consulting company Global Strategies, the entity Malloy’s top advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, returned to after working in Malloy’s office for two years.

As a result of a loophole built into Connecticut lobbying disclosure laws, A Better Connecticut does not have to reveal from where it raised its millions.

What is clear is that the massive advertising campaign was designed to reward Governor Malloy and pressure legislators to support Malloy’s efforts to expand charter schools and undermine the local control of education.

As a result of the campaign finance complaint, the State Elections Enforcement Campaign will be looking at the public opinion poll used to design the campaign ads.  Hopefully the State Elections Enforcement will be expanded to examine the A Better Connecticut’s entire spending strategy.

Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education legislative initiative of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Now Malloy is cashing in on that initiative by receiving millions in support from the corporate education reform industry.

Connecticut Charter School Front Drops $50,000 into Bridgeport Democratic Primary

A case study on how the Corporate Education Reform Industry is trying to buy up American Democracy

A Better Connecticut, the charter school advocacy group formed by the present and previous CEOs of ConnCAN, the charter school lobby group, has spent $50,708 so far in support of the endorsed slate of candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

The endorsed slate is the group loyal to Mayor Bill Finch, Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.

A Better Connecticut’s “independent” expenditure is part of a broader $2 million plus public relations campaign designed to support Governor Malloy and his education reforms.  Earlier this year, A Better Connecticut and ConnCAN hired Malloy’s chief advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso and his campaign consulting firm, Global Strategy Group, to poll Connecticut voters about education reform issues and then conduct a multi-million dollar television advertising campaign to “thank” Governor Malloy for his education reforms.

With seven days to go in the Bridgeport Board of Education Democratic Primary, a portion of the $50,000 in expenditures that have been made by A Better Connecticut went to Occhiogrosso and Malloy’s campaign consulting company for what was euphemistically called an “Education Policy Survey.”

A recent public opinion poll conducted in Bridgeport included questions about Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, members of the Working Family Party who serve as the outspoken minority on the Bridgeport Board of Education and Carmen Lopez, the former Connecticut superior court judge who brought the lawsuit that determined that Paul Vallas lacked the credentials necessary to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut.  That suit is presently before the Supreme Court for review.

The campaign finance report submitted by A Better Connecticut only reports an expenditure of $2,280 for the poll, but polls of this nature traditional cost in excess of $25,000 leaving one to question who may have actually paid for the poll and why it isn’t reported as an official expenditure in this report.

It appears that in addition to paying Global Strategy Group, A Better Connecticut’s money was used for mailings and voter contact efforts in support of the three endorsed Democratic candidates in the September 10th Democratic Primary; Simon Castillo, Brandon Clark and Kathryn Roach Bukorsky .

Although state laws shields organizations like A Better Connecticut from having to reveal the amount of money they have raised from individual donors, they are required to identify their top five funders.

In this case, A Better Connecticut is claiming that their five largest funders were Education Reform Now Advocacy of New York City, 50CAN Action Fund, Inc. of New York City, Real Reform Now Network, Inc. of Loudonville, New York, Families for Excellent Schools – Advocacy Inc. of New York City and Students for Education Reform (SFER- Action Network Inc.) of New York City.

A Better Connecticut was created at the beginning of this year by ConnCAN, which was created by the original funders behind Achievement First, Inc.

As readers know, Achievement First, Inc. is the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor who served on Achievement First’s Board of Directors until he resigned to become Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

Education Reform Now – Advocacy is the lobbying and political action arm of Education Reform Now.  Education Reform Now claims credit for New Jersey’s draconian anti-teacher tenure law that was designed to undermine the rights of teachers and the teaching profession.

Education Reform Now’s Board of Directors is made up of hedge fund managers Charles Ledley (Highfields Capital Management), John Petry (Sessa Capital), Sidney Hawkins Gargiulo (Covey Capital), Brian Zied (Charter Bridge Capital), John Sabat (SAC Capital).  John Petry is not only the former Chairman of Education Reform Now, but was co-founder of the right- wing Democrats for Education Reform and currently serves as a co-chair at the Success Academies network of charter schools.

50CAN Action Fund, Inc. is the lobbying and political action arm of 50CAN.  50CAN was created by Jonathan Sackler who not only founded ConnCAN but has been a leading member of Achievement First, Inc. since Pryor and Dacia Toll founded the company.  Sackler chairs the 50CAN Board.  Other Board members include Dacia Toll (Co-CEO & President, Achievement First), Marc Porter Magee (former COO of ConnCAN), Rebeca Nieves Huffman (State Director, Democrats for Education Reform Illinois), and Richard Barth (CEO & President, KIPP Foundation).   Until recently Matthew Kramer, the President of Teach for America served as 50CAN’s Board Chair.

Students for Education Reform Action Network Inc. is the lobbying and political action arm of Students for Education Reform.  SFER was created by 50CAN and its Board of Trustees includes April Chou (Chief Growth Officer, KIPP Bay Area Schools), Christy Chin, (Portfolio Director, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation), Adam Cioth (Rolling Hills Capital, Justin Cohen, (President, Mass Insight Education School Turnaround Group), Shavar Jeffries, (Newark Public Schools Advisory Board) and Jonathan Sackler (ConnCAN, 50CAN, Achievement First).

Readers will also note that the Board includes Mass Insight, the out-of-state consulting company that Stefan Pryor hired to run Connecticut’s Alliance District and Commissioner’s Network programs at the same time he let go the seven experienced State Department of Education experts including Connecticut four leaders in residence and three retired superintendents.

The other two primary funders of the A Better Connecticut’s Bridgeport campaign are Families for Excellent Schools – Advocacy Inc., the lobbying and political arm of Families for Excellent Schools.  Families for Excellent Schools is a charter school-funded organizing group that reports to have an organizer in Connecticut although they don’t appear to be registered.  Last but not least is a group called Real Reform Now Network, Inc. of New York which doesn’t appear to be registered anywhere but may be Real Reform Now Corporation which was a New York entity that lost its tax exempt status after failing to file the proper reports with the IRS for 3 consecutive years.

Oh, and lest readers forget.  Prosperity for Connecticut, a political action committee associated with Governor Malloy has held fifteen fundraisers in Connecticut, New York and Washington D.C.  since Malloy took office.  Malloy has attended all or nearly all of these events.  The most successful was held at the home of Jonathan Sackler who founded or helped create Achievement First, ConnCAN, 50CAN, and Students for Education Reform.  Sackler’s successful fundraiser featured contributions from John Petry and his wife (Education Reform Now, DFER, Success Academy Schools) as well as numerous other corporate education reform industry players.

In addition, in the closing days of Finch’s failed charter revision campaign, Sackler provided the charter revision campaign with a check for $50,000.

As we’ll see in the coming days, A Better Connecticut is NOT THE ONLY vehicle Sackler and his friends are using to try and influence the Bridgeport Democratic Primary.

But don’t worry, as the corporate education reform industry likes to explain…”It’s All About The Children.”

Education reform industry becomes cash cow for former Malloy aide

When Roy Occhiogrosso left his job as Governor Malloy’s $160,000 a- year-advisor and mouth-piece late last year, he re-joined Global Strategy Group, a political consulting firm that had worked on Malloy’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

And with that move, the education reform industry’s cash started pouring into Occhiogrosso’s company.

In just the last few months, Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies Group have signed contracts with Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) and A Better Connecticut, the new education reform front group that was co-founded this year by ConnCAN’s CEO.

ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy lobby group that was created by the same donors who helped Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor; develop Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that now runs schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.

Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies were first hired by ConnCAN for $35,800 to develop a survey that would show widespread support for education reforms and Malloy.  The profit for a survey like the one completed is in the range of $25,000 or more.

Then, with the survey in hand, A Better Connecticut provided Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies with a $200,000 contract to coordinate a PR campaign which spent $2,138,700 in April and May.

The official reports filed by A Better Connecticut with the Office of State Ethics fail to disclose whether Occhiogrosso and company are also collecting the traditional “buyers fee” for placing the advertising.  Usually advertising companies collect a 15% fee when placing television and other advertising.  Whether that $300,000 fee is on top of or part of the $200,000 contract isn’t clear.

What is clear is that education reform organizations are spending record amounts to thank Governor Malloy and lobby for his education reform initiatives and as a result of those efforts no one is benefiting more financially than Malloy’s former chief advisor and his company.

A Better Connecticut spends another $697,500 on ads to “Thank Governor Malloy.”

Forget campaign finance reform.  Governor Malloy continues to benefit from record-breaking spending by the Education Reform front called A Better Connecticut.

Formed by Jennifer Alexander and Alex Johnston, the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN, A Better Connecticut spent an additional $700,000 on television and other advertising in support of Governor Malloy’s Education Reform Initiatives.

A Better Connecticut is the latest charter school advocacy group to develop out of ConnCAN, the group that was created by Jonathan Sackler and the other deep financial pockets that funded the creation of Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

According to reports filed with the Office of State Ethics, A Better Connecticut has now spent over $2.2 million on the production and broadcasting of television ads and other forms of paid advertising since it was formed in March of this year.

All of the money has flowed through the political consulting company, Global Strategies, the entity Malloy’s top advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, returned to after working in Malloy’s office for two years.

As a result of a loophole built into Connecticut lobbying disclosure laws, A Better Connecticut does not have to reveal where it raised its millions from.

What is clear is that the massive advertising campaign was designed to reward Governor Malloy and pressure legislators to support Malloy’s efforts to expand charter schools and undermine the local control of education.

Corporate Education Reform Industry spends nearly $4.7 million on Connecticut lobbying, little of it telling the truth.

Pro-public education commentator Wendy Lecker has written another “must read” piece, this time pointing out the fact that corporate education reformers are either unwilling or unable to tell the truth as the spin their political stories to try and convince elected officials and the public to support their “education reform” agenda.

Lecker, like many of us, has heard the latest round of ads that side-step the truth in a politically self-righteous attempt to convince us that we can improve out public education system by handing it over to private corporations and charter schools.

This new $1.5 million advertising campaign by a front organization called, ironically enough, A Better Connecticut, is just one more step in the most expensive lobbying effort in Connecticut history.

Here are the latest numbers;

To date, since Governor Malloy took office, the corporate education reform industry has spent at least $4,650,721.54 on lobbying, breaking all Connecticut records for the most expensive effort in history to buy up Connecticut Public Policy.

The following chart reveals the players in this scheme.

Following the chart is a link to Wendy Lecker’s latest piece in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst media outlets.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,121,672.17
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $758,969.00
   
A Better Connecticut $1,490,000.00
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $876,602.08
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $237,504.22
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $126,559.85
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,714.22
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $22,000.00
   
Excel Bridgeport $515.00
   
Teach For America $1,185.00
   
EDUCATON REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES $4,650,721.54

 

Wendy Lecker: Imagining where all that money could have gone

“Proponents of corporate-driven education reforms seem to believe that the notion of telling the truth is a low priority. Take for example the false claims being made by charter school advocates about the size of waiting lists for charter schools.

In as diverse locations as Massachusetts and Chicago, charter lobbyists having been pushing charter school expansion by claiming lengthy waiting lists. In both locations, investigations by journalists at the Boston Globe and WBEZ revealed that the waiting list numbers were grossly exaggerated, often counting the same students multiple times. As a Massachusetts legislator noted, raising the charter cap based on artificial numbers “doesn’t make sense.” Unless, of course, your main goal is charter expansion rather than sound educational policy

Another common theme promoted by charter schools is the questionable claim of amazing success. Recently, Geoffrey Canada of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone gave an online seminar in which he boasted a 100 percent graduation rate at his schools. However, if one looks at HCZ’s attrition rate, the true graduation rate is 64 percent. Many have also noted that Canada kicked out two entire grades of children because of sub-par test scores.

Here in Connecticut, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby, is the prominent peddler of shaky claims and half-truths about charter schools.

Recently, in an effort to promote the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Inc. declared that nearly 80 percent of charters outperform their host districts. However, data from the State Department of Education reveals that about 90 percent of Connecticut’s charters serve a less needy population than their host districts: fewer poor children, fewer English Language Learners or fewer students with disabilities, with most having a combination of two or three of these categories.

Considering poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the prominent factors influencing standardized test scores, it is not much a feat to have higher test scores with a less challenging population. ConnCAN’s claim is hardly an indication of success or innovation.”

Read the rest of Lecker’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Imagining-where-all-that-money-4526450.php#ixzz2TlStOU64