Vallas’ $10m textbook farce means Bridgeport students don’t have Common Core aligned math textbooks

6 Comments

When the Common Core SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test results come back later this summer, about 7 in 10 public school students will be labeled as failures.

Considering that lower standardized test scores are a result of poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs, the number of children labelled as ‘FAILURES” will be even higher in Bridgeport and Connecticut’s other poorer cities and towns.

And while the Common Core SBAC test requires students to meet the Common Cores standards, it now turns out that the new textbooks students in Bridgeport and other Connecticut communities have been given are not appropriately aligned to those Common Core standards.

In Bridgeport the problem stems from a massive contract that education reformer extraordinaire and faux Bridgeport superintendent of schools Paul Vallas rushed through without proper oversight and signed on June 12, 2012.

Vallas, the darling of both Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, signed a contract with the Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt publishing company that committed Bridgeport to a $10 million deal in which payments were spread out over 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The contract was for 90,000 new textbooks, instructional materials, testing software and training for teachers on how to utilize the various materials.

Although the problems with the “Textbook Deal” were evident from the beginning [See Wait, What? Post], it turns out the situation is much, much worse than initially reported.

Vallas purchased the new textbooks claiming they were needed in order to prepare Bridgeport students to meet the Common Core Standards

However it is now clear the textbooks Vallas ordered fail to meet those standards.

Edreports is a new non-profit organization that is  funded – of course – by the Gates Foundation and other education reform foundations and was created to review whether the textbooks that are being used by the nation’s public school are aligned to the Common Core.

Vallas ordered Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Math in Focus Program, a package that included textbooks, printed and electronic instructional content and training for teachers.  The cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers for the math curriculum products was well in excess of $3 million.

But as reported by Education Week, the Washington Post and other media outlets, Edreports has determined that the Math in Focus series DOES NOT MEET the Common Core standards.

After a complete review of each of the math textbooks that is part of the Math in Focus program, Edreports’ review included the following observations.

The materials are not coherent or consistent with the standards.”

“Correct math vocabulary is not consistently used throughout the text.”

“There is not enough content for one school year.”

“Teachers using the materials would not be giving their students extensive work in grade-level problems.”

“Overall coherence and consistency of the standards is not achieved.”

“The materials do not provide a focus on the major work nor are the materials coherent.”

And the list goes on…

For details go to: http://www.edreports.org/reports/series/math-focus.html and http://www.edreports.org/reports/series/math-focus-a.html

The news is more than a bit disturbing.

While their textbooks are not aligned to the Common Core standards, students in Bridgeport (and across Connecticut) are expected to take and pass the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test, a test that is already designed to fail up to 70 percent of all students…and that assumes that students have actually been taught the materials they are being tested on..

Incredibly, the textbooks that Paul Vallas purchased aren’t the only ones to fail the review, which means public school children across Connecticut and the nation are being taught with textbooks that don’t prepare them for the Common Core testing program.

As Education Week reported in an article entitled, “Most Math Curricula Found to Be Out of Sync With Common Core,”

The first round of a Consumer Reports-style review for instructional materials paints a dismal picture of the textbook-publishing industry’s response to new standards: Seventeen of 20 math series reviewed were judged as failing to live up to claims that they are aligned to the common core.

“In general, the results are pretty bad for all the publishers,” said Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, who studies common-standards alignment but was not involved in the EdReports.org project. “I think people really will pay attention to this, and I think it will affect [curriculum] adoption processes going forward.”

In all, just one curriculum series stood out from the pack. Eureka Math, published by Great Minds, a small Washington-based nonprofit organization, was found to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards at all grade levels reviewed.

With every passing day we continue to learn that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is nothing short of a scam with our state’s children being used as little more than “profit centers” for the corporate education reform industry.

A Parent-Teacher speaks out for our children and against the ongoing Common Core SBAC abuse

5 Comments

With a powerful and passionate voice, a parent, who is also a teacher, explains why school administrators must stop the inappropriate harassment and abuse of children who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

The day began with the news that Juniors at Bridgeport’s Fairchild Wheeler High School [were facing] outrageous abuse for opting out of SBAC.  Rather than treat students and parents with the respect and support the comes with serving as an educator, the magnet school’s principals were engaged an effort to punish students who had been opted out of the SBAC testing.

Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz moved quickly to quell the conflict and made sure school administrators were following proper protocol.  The effort to punish students who had been opted out was rescinded, but the news came too late for some students who were bullied into taking the destructive test.

According to students at the school, instead of allowing opted out students to use their time to do homework and focus on the tests and courses that will actually get them into school, administrators at Fairfield Wheeler High School sought to punish students by assigning an extra academic work that not only would be graded, but that the grade would apply to every course the student was taking this semester.

Following Superintendent Rabinowitz’s intervention, the assignment was called off but students were told to go to the testing rooms despite having been opted out. One student was told they would not be able to graduate unless they took the SBAC test [Which would be illegal], some were told they had to take the test no matter what, while others were told they could refuse to take the test but would need to “sit there and wait while everyone does their testing,” [A violation of the SBAC Testing Protocol.]  Apparently there is even talk that students who have been opted out will now be required to take the “Renaissance” skills test, which is yet another on-line standardized testing program used by some school districts.

As one Bridgeport student wrote this afternoon, “[Students] who attempted to opt out were pressured not to by administrators who said that this test was mandatory and counted towards college. Students were not notified of where they should go if they opted out and some, remained in the classes; sitting and staring. Fairchild Wheeler has handled SBAC Testing in the worst way possible. This demand for reform has never been higher.”

And the student is absolutely right – The corporate education reform industry and their Common Core testing scam is destroying public education in the United States.

To fully understand the depth of the problem one need only read the following piece from a parent/teacher who – as the saying goes – lays out the harsh reality of what is happening.

The powerful and passionate voice of a parent/teacher

Practically every day I tell my seventh and eighth grade students the one thing I want them to learn from me as an English teacher: to the extent that they are able to understand and process what they read, and then are able to communicate their own thoughts in writing, they have unlimited power. Perhaps it is a principle too complex for them to grasp fully just yet; and, yes, some of them roll their eyes when I say things like, “Writing and reading can begin the conversation that will change the world.” Some will even challenge (rightfully so) by asking, “What if you write and no one listens? What if you write and still things don’t change?” I tell them what I truly believe: when you write, you bring voice to your beliefs and for that alone you should feel empowered. I may send my words out there to the universe and if I believe in the importance of what I have to say, that is enough. We all have to believe that our words matter; I couldn’t be a teacher if I abandoned the conviction that writing matters.

To my especially introverted students who ask, “What if you’re afraid to say what you believe?” my answer comes from my experience. When you are afraid, I tell them, you quietly wait until what you have to say becomes more important than your fear.

There are times then, when I must test my mettle. I must practice the principles I espouse or lose a little of my self-respect. I find myself in such a situation now, and—not without a little trepidation—I must write.

My daughter is a junior at Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School in Bridgeport. She made the decision to transfer to Fairchild Wheeler when she was entering her sophomore year; before that, she grew up in the Fairfield public school system, a town we chose to settle in precisely because of its excellent reputation in education. But my daughter has always been a risk-taker; she doesn’t do many things without questioning the Why and, as I have been teaching in Bridgeport for almost ten years, we were aware that a new school was opening and she boldly decided to leave behind what was known for what she perceived would be a wonderful adventure.

My daughter blossomed at Fairchild Wheeler from the beginning. Her teachers have not only been bright, enthusiastic, and clearly experts in their fields, they have engaged and captivated my daughter’s imagination and zeal for learning. She has taken two ECE classes (earning college credit from UConn) and has developed as a writer and thinker far beyond her years. She has straight A’s, is a member of the National Honor Society, and is on the student council. She took and passed every section of CAPT last year and has taken both the ACT and the SAT in preparation for college applications. Her teachers tell me that, while she can be vociferous in her opinions, she is respectful to the adults in the building as well as to her peers.

Meanwhile, I have spent the past two or three years trying to educate myself about the Common Core State Standards and the new standardized test which was supposedly designed to align with those standards. SBAC was rolled out as a field test last year and this year marks its first as an official standardized exam given to grades three through eight and grade eleven. There is a tremendous amount of history behind the controversy surrounding the test; many people outside of education are only beginning to hear about it because of the publicity now given to “opt-out” groups who are dominating the New York system and, on a smaller scale, our state of Connecticut.

When I received an email from my daughter’s administrator informing parents that Fairchild Wheeler’s juniors would be participating in the SBAC, I was somewhat surprised: as a science magnet school, I wasn’t really sure how much autonomy they had but I had held on to hope that SBAC would be my ethical dilemma and not my daughter’s. She was aware of my tempestuous relationship with this incredibly problematic exam; I co-direct the Connecticut Writing Project Summer Institute for teachers at Fairfield University each year and I collect articles on pedagogy as well as current educational policy, through which we practice our response to non-fiction (a big component of Common Core). I faithfully read the education blogs written by Jonathan Pelto and Diane Ravitch; I follow the writing of Wendy Lecker, senior attorney at the Education Law Center as I grapple with so much of the misguided education reform which is strangling the efforts and morale of excellent teachers.

That said, my students are taking the SBAC exam. As I write this, we are exactly mid-way through the process and will resume on Monday. In no way have I ever entertained the notion of proselytizing to my students my personal or political beliefs about SBAC nor would I. It’s not my job. Instead, I come armed with Jolly Ranchers and a smile on my face, encouraging words at the ready. To the best of our ability, we practiced for the test; we utilized class time to convey what information we had in order to help our students feel prepared. Still, after the first day of testing, when one of my seventh graders said, “Ms. Roneson, I get that they want us to feel stupid, I just don’t understand why,” I had nothing to say. Sometimes Jolly Ranchers really are the best answer.

My daughter and I discussed the upcoming SBAC and we both agreed that opting out was—for us—the right thing to do. She had too much information not to have an opinion of her own and, of course, I supported her. We tweaked an opt-out template we found online, I signed it, and she delivered it to her principal. His reaction was one of surprise and dismay. According to my daughter, he belittled the decision, even questioning who actually wrote the letter. He told her he would need to “bring this to the board,” and would, of course, email me. Indeed, his email to me acknowledged the letter I signed, but suggested that both my daughter and I were operating under “misconceptions” about SBAC and he asked that we set up a meeting. I emailed back, more specifically detailing my serious reservations regarding the test and further stating my support for my daughter’s decision. I closed my email by telling him that, should he still wish to meet, I would be happy to and provided him with times and days of my availability. There was no response after that.

On the Friday before testing was to begin on Monday, during Eve’s first period, another school principal entered the classroom with an announcement. Those students opting out of the SBAC exam, he told them, would be working on a lengthy writing assignment during the time other students are taking the exam. Not only will this assignment count as a significant grade, it will be incorporated into their semester grades for every single class they are taking. In addition, a portion of the writing piece will need to be completed in whatever world language the student is currently taking.

My understanding of what occurred—and here again, I must rely on my own process of research and reading over the past couple of years—was not only unethical, but amounts to coercion, harassment, and bullying of the most blatant form. My recourse needs next to come in the form of further correspondence, where I state sources which assure me that “there will be no negative or punitive consequences for [my] child whatsoever as a result of [my] exercising [my] parental right to refuse testing on [her] behalf (i.e. negative or punitive consequences on [my] child’s workload, grades, grade placement or promotion, class placement, ability to graduate, etc.)” (www.saynotocommoncore.net).

I will send that email because I know that I have to; if what I tell my students is true—that the most powerful tool I have is my written word—I have to send that email. And I will save it and print a copy for my files because it is the safe thing to do. I will walk into the school that I love on Monday knowing that some people in the district will hold disdain for what I have done; I may, as some of my colleagues have warned, feel “suspected” and labeled insubordinate for giving voice to my understanding. But there are students at Fairchild Wheeler who, like my daughter, opted out of SBAC with the support of their parents. After the announcement of the consequence for doing so, many of them made their way to their respective administrators to tell them they had “changed their minds.” They would take the test. After all, there isn’t a lot of processing time: the testing begins on Monday.

Julie Roneson

Shelton, CT

STOP THE PRESSES – Juniors at Bridgeport’s Fairchild Wheeler High School face outrageous abuse for opting out of SBAC.

7 Comments

Breaking news out of Bridgeport is that Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz has intervened and juniors at Bridgeport’ts Fairchild Wheeler High School WILL NOT BE PUNISHED FOR OPTING OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TEST.

Bridgeport’s Fairchild Wheeler High School is a made up of a series of interdistrict science magnet schools including the Information Technology and Software Engineering High School, the Zoological Science, Research and Biotechnology High School and the Physical Sciences, Engineering and Aerospace/Hydrospace Science High School.   Led by principals Victor Black, Michael Watson and Jay Lipp, the school’s website notes that, “This hi-tech school, which in itself will be a teaching and learning tool for students and staff, will offer a 21st century STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project-based curriculum.” 

However, the website fails to mention that school administrators are engaging in what may very well be the most inappropriate, egregious and abusive tactic that any public school is using against students who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing program.

For months, some school administrators, as directed by Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education, have been misleading and lying to parents about their right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and harassing students and parents who have decided to protect their children from these destructive tests.

As reported here at Wait, What? some school districts have lied to parents by claiming that it is “illegal” for students to opt out of the Common Core SBAC Testing.  Other school districts have falsely informed high school juniors that they would not be able to graduate if they failed to take or were opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.  And some school administrators have even sought to punish and bully students (and parents) by requiring students who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test to remain in the testing rooms despite the fact that the “sit and stay” punishment tactic violates the written protocol of the SBAC Testing Manual.

But, according to multiple sources, the school administrators at the magnet schools located at Bridgeport’s Fairchild Wheeler High School campus are engaging in a truly extraordinary and abusive tactic in an effort to punish high school juniors attending that magnet school.

Late last week, with the SBAC today – Monday, May, 4, 2105 – the school principals started informing high school juniors that any student who opted out of the Common Core SBAC test could not use that time to do their regular school work or prepare for the remaining tests that would actually get them into the college of their choice, but that opted out students would be assigned a major writing assignment, that the assignment would serve as a significant grade for this semester, that the grade they received would be applied to EVERY class they are taking this term and that part of the writing assignment will have to be completed in the foreign language that the student is taking this year.

The notion of punishing children who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test violates the most basic responsibilities of a school administrator.

Implementing a punishment specifically designed to jeopardize a high school junior’s ability to successfully get into college is immoral, unethical and reprehensible.

The Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools and Bridgeport Board of Education must take immediately steps to prevent school administrators at the Fairchild Wheeler High School campus from punishing these high school juniors and investigate whether administrative action should be taken against the administrators or, at the very least, whether they need some significant professional development assistance.

Both Bridgeport’s superintendent and Board of Education, along with superintendents and boards of education across the state know the facts; 

FACT:  Despite the claims being made by Governor Malloy’s administration, parents have a fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

FACT:  There is not federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) that opts their child out of the Common Core SBAC testing.

FACT:  The code of professional responsibility for school administrators is a legal document, part of the regulations administrators must meet and adhere to in order to get and retain their administrative certification.  That code includes the requirement that: 

RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STUDENTS;

(1) Make the well-being of students the fundamental value in all decision making and actions; (2) Recognize, respect and uphold the dignity and worth of students as individuals… 

RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STUDENT’S FAMILY;

(1) Respect the dignity of each family, its culture, customs and beliefs; (2) Promote and maintain appropriate, ongoing and timely written and oral communications with the family; (3) Respond in a timely fashion to families’ concerns; (4) Consider the family’s perspective on issues involving its children; (5) Encourage participation of the family in the educational process…

School administrators have absolutely no right or authority to punish students who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.  By engaging in this bullying and abuse, the administrators from the Bridgeport School System are not only acting inappropriately but are violating their code of professional responsibility.

If there are parents or students out there who know more about this breaking story – please add your comments to this blog post or send them in to [email protected].

It is critically important that Bridgeport’s superintendent and the City’s Board of Education understand what is transpiring at one of their high schools and take immediate steps to put an end to this incredible abuse and harassment.

Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group

23 Comments

Some teachers and public school advocates have heard about Educators 4 Excellence, aka E4E.  For those that haven’t, you probably will as the organization continues to expand across the country.

Calling themselves Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), they claim to speak for teachers – although most E4E organizers don’t have more than a year or so of teaching experience – and what little actual teaching experience they have is usually the result of a short stint with Teach for America.

But the New York-based Educators 4 Excellence, originally created in 2010 using funds from the Gates Foundation, managed to pull in over $7.4 million from the corporate education reform industry in their first two years of operation.

Among the “teacher advocacy group’s” major funders is Education Reform Now, another corporate funded advocacy group that spends its money promoting charter schools and an end to tenure and “seniority-based layoff.”

In 2010 Education Reform Now ran a rather infamous television commercial in New York State that included a “parent” saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”

E4E’s fundraising has reportedly skyrocketed since 2012 allowing them to expand, including into Connecticut.

The Gates Foundation alone dropped another $3,000,695 into E4E’s coffers in July 2013.

Here in Connecticut…

When Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to the microphone on April 17, 2015 to announce that he was dropping the word “interim” from Dianna Wentzell’s title as “interim” Commissioner of Education, Educators 4 Excellence was quick to announce their support for the Common Core and Common Core testing aficionado writing,

“Dr. Roberge-Wentzell…was a critical member of [former Education] Commissioner Pryor’s team, which worked to secure funding for struggling schools where resources are needed most….We look forward to working with her in the years ahead…”

The reference that Wentzell deserved to be appointed Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education because she was a “critical member of Commissioner Pryor’s team,” the co-founder of the Achievement First, Inc. Charter School Management Company, reveals a lot about Educators 4 Excellence’s mission and purpose.  Public funding for charter schools skyrocketed as a result of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s policies over the last three years, with Pryor’s charter school management company receiving the lions’ share of the money.

With co-CEOs each enjoying compensation packages in excess of $150,000, Educators 4 Excellence explains their reason for existence by saying,

“For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape our classrooms and careers.”

Educators for Excellence now has chapters in Connecticut, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota and the have pledged to expand even further.

According to their “official” version of events, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) began,

“As a group of New York teachers who wanted to change the top-down approach to policy-making, which largely alienated teachers like us from crucial decisions that shaped our classrooms and careers.”

Their propaganda fails to explain that their initial funding came in November 2010 when the Gates Foundation funneled $160,000 through Stand for Children, a multi-million dollar corporate education front group to set up “Educators 4 Excellence.”

According to the grant announcement, the Gates Foundation explained that the group was being funded to, “build an authentic, alternate teacher voice.”

Stand for Children is a leading player in the “education reform” movement, with a special focus on moving corporate funds into political campaigns in order to reward candidates who support their cause and punish those who aren’t on the school privatization  bandwagon.

Jonah Edelman, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children, says the organization now has eleven state affiliates (AZ, CO, IL, IN, LA, MA, OK, OR, TN, TX, and WA).

According to Edelman’s biography,

“Jonah’s personal stand for children began during college, when he taught a six year-old bilingual child to read.”

Like a number of his fellow corporate education reform industry elite, Edelman graduated from Yale University (Class of ‘92) and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship.

If that wasn’t enough for the financiers of the education reform frenzy, the Chairperson of Stand for Children’s Board of Directors is Emma Bloomberg, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s daughter.

When Bridgeport Connecticut Mayor Bill Finch engaged in his failed attempt to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, a coalition of corporate education reform groups and corporate elite, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, dropped in enough campaign donations to make it the most expensive charter revision campaign in Connecticut history.

In Connecticut, Educators 4 Excellence use a New York public relations firm, the same PR firm that collected much of the money in the failed Bridgeport campaign and has been used by a number of other education reform groups in Connecticut to engage in advertising in favor of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

A Connecticut E4E press release out last summer by the New York firm opened with, “Teachers, Joined by Bridgeport Superintendent Rabinowitz, Call for Needed, Pro-Student Improvements in Professional Development at E4E Roll-out Event.”

The press release went on to read,

June 11, 2014 (Bridgeport, CT) — Educators 4 Excellence, a national teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy discussions, formally launched its new chapter in Connecticut Wednesday with a kick-off event in Bridgeport and a call for sweeping changes to existing professional development. This major policy proposal, written by a team of working Bridgeport public school classroom teachers, proposes a number of changes to this pressing issue. These include increasing the opportunities for teachers to weigh in on and even lead professional development topics and personalizing the experience so that trainings better meet the needs of schools and individuals. The full proposal can be seen HERE.”

The press release adds,

“Over the past several months, a team of nine E4E-CT Bridgeport members has been developing recommendations to improve the quality of their professional development. The recommendations, which they released Wednesday, seek to inject the ideas of actual classroom teachers into the policy changes the Superintendent is currently considering.”

The release conveniently made no mention of E4E’s funders or whether any of the advocacy group’s money was spent developing or lobbying for their “teacher led changes.”

This year Educators 4 Excellence is ramping up their Connecticut presence.

The corporate education reform industry group recently advertised for a Vice President of Regional Operations, which the posting explained may be housed in Connecticut.

According to the advertisement for the job, the Vice President of Regional Operations responsibilities will include, “Designing and leading high level issue based advocacy campaigns.”

To ensure a proper understanding of life as a classroom teacher, the organization lists the preferred qualifications to be a,

“Bachelor’s degree and at least one year of professional experience as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher preferred; some form of teaching, school-based professional experience, student-based professional experience or previous work with educational non-profits.”

The required skills include, “Political savvy and keen interest in/understanding of education policy, the education reform movement broadly, and the power and politics of the education landscape both locally and nationally.

E4E explains the right candidate must also have “Tenacity” and “grit.”

In Connecticut, the organization is also looking for a new Executive Director for Connecticut,  whose job will be to oversee Connecticut’s E4E operation.

According to the job post, lobbying legislators will be one of the Executive Director’s responsibilities, along with working to, “Establish E4E-CT as a go to source for the opinions and perspectives of progressive educators on issues that impact Connecticut’s classrooms.”

Again the entity says that, “At least one year of experience serving as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher” is preferred,” as well as the requirement for “Tenacity” and “grit.”

Apparently E4E is also looking for a Managing Director of Outreach in Connecticut.

The job postings don’t explain where the present Executive Director Ranjana Reddy is heading, although after a sting with TFA she headed to Newark, New Jersey to help create Rise Academy charter school, a position she left to attend Yale Law School.

At Yale she proudly reports that she worked for John White, who took over from Paul Vallas in New Orleans and Commissioner Stephen Pryor in Connecticut.  Her biography explains that when working for Pryor she, “spearheaded the writing of Connecticut’s No Child Left Behind waiver.”

From charter school founder, to Yale, to writing Connecticut’s NCLB waiver… What a testament to the corporate education reform.

And as the saying goes, all this is just the tip of the iceberg –

Just wait till you hear what else E4E is up to in Connecticut.

You can read more about E4E in Connecticut via the following Wait, What? posts Another faux pro-public education group targets Connecticut (12/18/12) and  Teacher-led organization that gives teachers a meaningful voice in policy is expanding in CT! (5/23/13)

Bridgeport public schools losing big money to charters by Maria Pereira

1 Comment

Maria Pereira is a former member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, a leading advocate for Bridgeport Public Schools and served as one of the key plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Governor Malloy’s takeover of the Bridgeport School System was illegal.

A year ago, almost to the day, a group of Bridgeport citizens, including Maria Pereira, attended the State Board of Education meeting to request Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees REJECT applications by two more charter school companies to open privately run, but publicly funded facilities in Bridgeport.  The Bridgeport Board of Education was so opposed to the charter school plans that it voted against the proposals and the Bridgeport Board of Education’s chairwoman was among those speaking against state approve for the charter school companies.  Among the issues discussed was the state law aimed at prohibiting the saturation of charter schools in a particular community.

But in another assault on the role of local control and historic value of local communities running their own school system, Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education approved both applications, including the controversial plan put forward by Steve Perry.

One year later, this commentary piece examines that charter school issues in more detail.  It first appeared in the CT Mirror at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/03/30/bridgeport-public-schools-losing-big-money-to-charters/

Bridgeport public schools losing big money to charters by Maria Pereira

As  a graduate of the Bridgeport Public Schools, a parent of a recent graduate of the school system, a former Bridgeport Board of Education member, and an active unpaid advocate for the public schools in my hometown, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the recent editorial “CEA rhetoric not helping kids, public schools are” by Jeremiah Grace.

He is the Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network which was co-founded by the disgraced Michael Sharpe from the now-defunct Family for Urban Schools of Excellence.

Full disclosure: I have never been a member of any union; and, I have never been compensated for my advocacy work on behalf of true public education.

Mr. Grace’s claim that the CEA’s “rhetoric” is “false, dishonest and insulting to parents” would be funny if it weren’t so incorrect. After all, isn’t it these millionaire-, billionaire-, Wall Street-backed charter school organizations that run ads depicting Connecticut school students as “trapped in failing schools” and advertise that “40,000 children are falling through the cracks?” [One of these ads appears at the bottom of this commentary — Ed.]

I think most of us would not only describe that as “rhetoric,” but also as deliberate “propaganda.”

Mr. Grace tries to discredit a recent CEA statewide poll because 78 percent of the participants were white; therefore, according to him, the poll was “marginalizing” the opinions of minorities.  The latest available U.S. census on Connecticut classifies 81.6 percent of our state population as “white alone.”

I would like Mr. Grace to share with us how many of the millionaires and billionaires that invest and/or founded the 22 Connecticut charter schools are “minorities?” One must ask who is really treating minorities like “puppets,” as Grace characterizes it.

I attended and provided testimony at the March 19 Education Committee hearing in Hartford. At 11:00 p.m., with testimony continuing late into the night, I took a moment to count how many charter school lobbyists, paid staff and charter school-compensated advocates were still in the room. Of the 27 I counted, I noted that just 4, or 15 percent, were minorities. Therefore 85 percent of those present were white.

In his willful distortion of the facts, Mr. Grace states that when a child leaves the public schools to enroll in a charter school, the district gets to keep that child’s state Education Cost Sharing allocation and “distribute most of that surplus among their other schools.”

A close examination of the findings of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Taskforce indicates that the Bridgeport Public Schools is the most underfunded district in Connecticut — to the tune of approximately $43 million each year. Even worse, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has found that the state underfunds the Bridgeport Public Schools by $5,446 per student or approximately $119 million each year.

Meanwhile, each year our state spends $11,000 per charter-school student and $8,600 per Bridgeport Public School student. What “surplus” is Mr. Grace possibly referring to? What credibility does he hope to establish with the people of Bridgeport and of our state? How uneducated does he think we are?

The chief financial officer for the Bridgeport Public Schools, a highly experienced and educated Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Barnard in mathematics and education, conducted an in-depth analysis of how much real money the charter schools in Bridgeport will siphon away from the Bridgeport Public Schools budget. In addition, she provided an in-depth analysis of the loss of federal Title I funding that follows children who enroll in a charter school located in Bridgeport.

In total, the CFO forecast that the charter schools operating in our city, including the sixth charter school planned to open this fall, all told will siphon away over $26 million dollars from our school system over the next five years —already the most underfunded school district in Connecticut.

Although Bridgeport is allowed to seek state reimbursement for all transportation costs associated with the charter schools in the city, in all the years it has applied for such, in fact, the Bridgeport Public Schools has never received a single dollar of reimbursement for this. Although $20 million dollars of this money will be counted in the Bridgeport Public School’s state Education Cost Sharing grant, not a dime will go to the academic or socio-emotional needs of a single Bridgeport Public Schools student.

Highly compensated charter school advocates such as Mr. Grace consistently perpetuate the “waiting list” myth. Last year 6,000 children applied to gain entry to our Bridgeport magnet schools. Only 1,200 gained admission through a blind, randomized lottery; 4,800 students were placed on a “waiting list.

In this accounting, each student is counted only once. In contrast, charter school proponents often double or triple count, claiming that there are 3,600 students on waiting lists in Connecticut. If a child applies to three different charter schools, the charter school lobbyists count one student three times for their waiting-list story. That leaves us with an important question for our legislators: If there are 3,600 or perhaps more likely 1,200 students in the entire state waiting to enter a charter school, why should that be more important than the fact that there are truly 4,800 individual students on one waiting list for a magnet school in Bridgeport? Shouldn’t the state focus its limited resources on magnet school options? After all, in Bridgeport, every single magnet school outperforms every charter school.

In closing, Mr. Grace claims that the CEA’s statements were “patently false” and that they were choosing to “ignore the facts.” In fact, as it pertains to Bridgeport and its public schools, the “patently false” statements were made entirely by Mr. Grace, not the CEA.

Moales and Charter School Industry go down to crushing defeat in Bridgeport – Again

9 Comments

Despite the support of Governor Malloy’s political operatives, including Bridgeport Mayor Finch and the ConnCAN/Achievement First Inc. charter school industry, pro-charter school candidate Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. couldn’t even muster enough voters to impact yesterday’s Special Election for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate.

The infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. came in a distant 3rd place in yesterday’s Special Election collecting only 503 votes compared to the winner, Working Families Party candidate and former state senator Ed Gomes, who received 1,504.  The Democratic Party endorsed candidate Richard DeJesus, who Finch initially supported before turning to Moales, garnered 791 voters.

According to the Working Families Party, Ed Gomes becomes the first candidate in the country to win a legislative seat running only on the Working Families Party line.

Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiatives.

Moales was not only a leading champion of education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas but has been a major proponent of Steve Perry’s plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. sits on the Board of Directors for Perry’s charter school and was a lone voice on the Bridgeport Board of Education when the democratically-elected board asked the Malloy administration NOT TO approve Perry’s charter school application.

However, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education overlooked the position taken by the Bridgeport Board of Education and last spring and approved Perry’s plan to open a privately-owned but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Although Governor Malloy’s proposed state budget actually cuts funding for public schools in Connecticut, the governor’s plan adds funding for four new charter schools in the state, including Steve Perry’s charter and one in Bridgeport that will be owned by an out-of-state company.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. previously served as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer and his loss yesterday marks the fourth time in a row that Bridgeport voters rejected Finch and the charter school industry agenda.

Finch is up for re-election this fall and opposition to granting him another term is gaining steam.

Another effort to stamp out democracy in Bridgeport – What is it with Mayor Finch and the Charter School Industry?

4 Comments

What is it with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Connecticut’s Charter School Industry?

We already know these people have a problem with democracy, but here we go again!

First Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his Corporate Education Reform Industry allies persuaded Governor Malloy’s administration to illegally take over the Bridgeport School System.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ended up intervening and forcing the state of Connecticut to hand Bridgeport’s Schools back to the voters of Bridgeport.

As a result of Malloy’s illegal action, the Supreme Court even had to order a new election to fill the seats on Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education.

But not to let a little thing like the law stand in the way, Bridgeport Mayor Finch and his supporters then tried to jam through a change in Bridgeport’s City Charter that would have completely eliminated a democratically elected Board of Education.

Mayor Finch’s solution was to replace democracy with a board of education appointed by him.

The Charter Revision campaign failed, but not before Finch and his Charter School buddies spent a record breaking amount of money.

Political Action Committees affiliated with the Corporate Education Reform Industry spent over $560,000 trying to convince Bridgeport voters to give up their democratic rights.

Major contributors to the anti-democracy campaign included the Charter School front group Excel Bridgeport ($101,803); Michele Rhee and the charter school advocacy group StudentsFirst ($185,480); Achievement First Bridgeport Chairman Andy Boas’ personal foundation ($14,000); ConnCAN ($14,000); Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment ($14,442); Pullman & Comely law firm ($7,000); Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($25,000); Achievement First and ConnCAN founder Jonathan Sackler ($50,000); and a who’s who of the Bridgeport’s business community.

After failing to persuade Bridgeport voters to hand their schools over to a non-elected Board of Education, Charter School Team Finch went on to lose both a Democratic Primary and the General Election for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

But apparently Finch and the Charter School elite that have been targeting Bridgeport over the past few years just won’t rest until they actually destroy democracy in Bridgeport

Their next target appears to be Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council, an organization that has been around for 45 years and has become a strong and effective voice for Bridgeport’s parents and students.

And an effective voice for parents is apparently just too much democracy and power for the Finch loyalists who are now engaged in an undemocratic strategy to derail this important vehicle for parent involvement in Bridgeport’s schools.

Late last Friday a “special notice” was sent out announcing that the Bridgeport Board of Education would be holding a “Special Meeting” to deal with the Bridgeport Parent Advisory Council tomorrow – Monday, February 23, 2015.

The notice for a special meeting comes despite the fact that the Bridgeport Board of Education already has a regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 P.M.

Issuing an updated agenda would have been easy enough, but the pro-charter school, anti-democracy crowd went with the “Special Meeting” tactic.

Why would they want a “Special Meeting” instead of taking up whatever clandestine effort they are going to attempt at the Bridgeport Board of Education’s regular Monday Meeting an hour and a half later?

Because under their rules, the public is not allowed an opportunity to speak to the Board of Education at Special Meetings, whereas at regular meetings public input is allowed.

No really…

While it appears true that we are called the United States of America where the notion of freedom and democracy is supposed to be among our most cherished fundamental and inalienable rights, but when it comes to the Charter School Industry’s agenda and tactics, nothing is sacred.

Apparently “simply” undermining democracy isn’t enough for the charter school advocates.

They are not only engaged in a strategy to undermine Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council, but they want to do it in a way that completely and utterly destroys the notion that Bridgeport’s parents even have Freedom of Speech or the right to be heard before their government takes action against them.

Adding further insult to the already absurd farce is that the “Special meeting” is scheduled for 5:00 PM, a time many parents and community members are still working or are busy fulfilling child raising duties and unable to make it to a hastily scheduled Board of Education Meeting.

The agenda for the “Special Meeting” is ominously entitled, “Discussion and Possible Action on District PAC Leadership.”

The agenda item being a not so hidden reference that the Board of Education may take “action” against Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council.

The entire development is just one more disgusting reminder that while we claim to be fighting the enemies of freedom abroad, some of the most serious threats to our American principles can be found right here at home.

If you happen to know Mayor Finch or his Charter School Allies…

Oh, never mind, it is no use talking to them, they simply don’t care about notions like democracy and Freedom of Speech.

And tomorrow they will try to prove that point yet again.

To them, the end always justifies the means and the Corporate Education Reform Industry won’t stop until they truly destroy public education in our country.

Here is to the hope that our fellow citizens in Bridgeport can fight back against the anti-democracy movement that is out to get them.

Hey Reverend Moales – Where is the missing money?

2 Comments

This coming Tuesday, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is hoping that the voters of the 23rd State Senate District will come out and make  him Connecticut’s newest State Senator in the Special Election.

However among the various clouds that hang over his head is the unanswered question of what happened to all the missing money.

Reverend Moales brags that he is a millionaire.

And maybe he is.

The member (and former chairman) of the Bridgeport Board of Education sends his children to some of the most elite and expensive private schools in Connecticut; Fairfield College Preparatory School, Fairfield Country Day School and Ridgefield Academy.

Together, the tuition for those three schools exceeds $90,000 a year.

At that rate, putting three, let alone four, kids through private school until college would cost in excess of $3.2 million.

But at the same time Moales hasn’t been paying his bills.

For example, he hasn’t been paying Foundation Capital Resources, the mortgage company that provided him with more than $7.3 million to build his Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

Moales owes another $225,000 to Bridgeport’s now defunct The Community Bank and as much as $500,000 or more to a variety of vendors, as well as, to the City of Bridgeport and the State of Connecticut for back taxes.

Moales’ other troubles include being caught twice in the last few years driving two different unregistered automobiles that are “owned” by his Church, a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes Benz.

According to court records, Kenneth Moales borrowed more than $7 million from Foundation Capital Resources promising in return to build a multifaceted Cathedral and community center.

However what is sitting at 689 Union Avenue and called the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is but a portion of what he promised to build according to the original mortgage documents and the present building has never been valued at more than $4.8 million.  It is presently assessed at only $3.4 million.

Moales once told the Connecticut Post that he was a pastor and a businessman, with degrees in both accounting and religion.  He said he also runs a financial consulting business.

Moales added, “Our church is very strong financially, we have seen an increase in our membership and a 40 percent increase in our revenue.”

A millionaire, who is head of a financially strong church that has enjoyed a 40 percent increase in revenue, wants voters to support him in Tuesday’s Special State Senate Election.

There is still time for the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. to step forward and explain what happened to all the missing money and why he thinks it is appropriate to brag about his millions while he fails to pay his bills or follow the laws that apply to everyone else in our state.

Perhaps one of the local media outlets in Bridgeport would provide Mr. Moales with an opportunity to tell the truth about his financial affairs before Election Day.

The Biggest Winner in Malloy’s Budget – Charter Schools

8 Comments

Let’s hear it for turning over our scarce public funds to the Corporate Education Reform Industry!

While Governor Dannel Malloy proposes to cut funding for Connecticut’s public schools, he miraculously finds that extra money needed to open four new privately-owned, but taxpayer-funded, charter schools.

Steve Perry, the out-going principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford has undoubtedly popped the champagne cork and is drooling at the prospect of collecting more than $10 million in “management fees” over the next five years when his private company opens Capital Prep Harbor Charter School in Bridgeport.

And the out-of-state company that plans to replicate its Bronx based charter school in Stamford must be equally as happy.

True the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education had strongly opposed both charter schools and asked the Malloy administration NOT to approve them, but the “local control is crap” governor went ahead and funded the two charter schools anyway.

Malloy is so incredibly committed to the privatization of Connecticut’s public schools that he even added funding for two more charter schools despite the fact that there are no additional, approved charter school proposals even in the pipeline.

In total Malloy is proposing to add nearly 2,000 more seats for the charter school industry in Connecticut….more seats despite the fact that charter schools remain completely unaccountable for the way they use or misuse their public funds.

And as for Malloy’s budget speech covering up the biggest cuts to public education in history, Malloy said,

“We must maintain our commitment to funding public education. While other states may choose to balance their budgets on the backs of public schools, Connecticut will not,” Malloy told legislators during his budget address. “I will not sign a budget that is balanced on the backs of our towns or our public schools.”

George Orwell and Franz Kafka would be proud!

[Of course, since the Common Core frowns on so-called fiction, our children won’t even be learning about how books like 1984 and The Trial foretold the coming of the political environment that is sweeping across our nation.]

Mayor Finch shifts to Reverend Moales in Bridgeport Special State Senate Election

4 Comments

Although the Bridgeport political operation connected with Governor Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch orchestrated the nomination of State Representative Richard DeJesus to run in the February 24th Special Election for the vacant State Senate seat in Bridgeport, the Mayor and his team are in the process of shifting sides and will now be focusing their collective efforts to elect the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. to the Connecticut State Senate.

On Friday Mayor Bill Finch urged the nominee, Richard DeJesus, to drop out of the state Senate race.

In addition to DeJesus, who is the Democratic nominee in the race, the other major contenders are former State Senator Edwin Gomes, who is the Working Families Party candidate and former Board of Education Chairman Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. who is Finch’s former campaign treasurer.

Apparently Finch’s most recent political maneuver is due to the establishment’s growing concern that DeJesus has been damaged by the news that he owes at least $139,433 in personal property taxes and at least $35,700 in back child support.

But the Malloy/Finch operation was already covering their bets over the last few weeks, with Finch’s chief of staff and other key Finch allies providing donations to Moales so that he could qualify for a taxpayer funded campaign finance grant.

A review of Moales campaign finance report reveals that he has the full support of Connecticut’s Charter School Industry and many of the individuals and organizations that paid for the record-breaking lobbying campaign behind Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Finch’s failed charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

Over the past three years, Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Malloy’s corporate educate reform efforts.  Moales was also the head cheerleader for Paul Vallas and Moales serves on the Board of Directors for Steve Perry’s proposed charter school in Bridgeport.

In fact, while the Bridgeport Board of Education was taking the unprecedented step of asking Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to reject Steve Perry’s application to open a charter school in Bridgeport, saying it was contrary to educational goals of the City of Bridgeport, Moales was busy supporting the application, all while serving on Perry’s charter school board.

The notion that it is DeJesus’ financial troubles that has scared off Finch and company is rather absurd considering the far more serious financial, legal and ethical problems surrounding Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

Although Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. claims to be a millionaire, he has been fighting off a series of lawsuits since 2011 for defaulting on about $8 million in loans that he took out to build his Bridgeport Church and renovate a home owned by his mother.

In September 2012, Reverend Moales caused a car accident in New Haven that injured the driver of the other car.  At the time of the accident Moales with driving an unregistered Mercedes Benz owned by his church.

A year later, in September 2013, an arrest warrant was issued for Reverend Moales for failure to appear for a ticket he had received for speeding and driving another unregistered vehicle, this time a Cadillac Escalade which was also owned by his church.

In response to a CT Post article about the arrest, Moales took to Twitter proclaiming,

“CT POST NEEDS readers! I must stay focused, Ignore the Critics & Solve The Real Problems! We are doing a good work & WE WILL NOT COME DOWN!!!”

Moales also owes more than $10,000 in local property taxes and allegedly owes back payroll taxes to the State of Connecticut as well.

Three daycare centers owned by the Moales family and that rent space from Moales’ church was caught double-billing for state funded daycare slots last year and forced to pay back approximately $70,000 in ill-gotten gains

The Moales family daycare centers also put dozens of children in rooms that didn’t meet fire code and didn’t have the required permits including a certificate of occupancy for the building itself.

And the list goes on…

And on…

But as incredible as it seems, Kenneth Moales Jr’s pattern of financial, legal and ethical neglect haven’t stopped Connecticut’s charter school industry from funding his campaign…A campaign that apparently now has the support of Mayor Bill Finch and the forces loyal to Governor Malloy.

You can find out more about this developing story at the Only in Bridgeport Blog – http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/icky-for-ricky-dejesus-says-hell-resign-city-council-seat-finch-tells-him-to-drop-state-senate-bid/ and the CT Post at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/DeJesus-has-campaign-cash-but-also-troubles-6080248.php

Older Entries