Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy has been able to count on the consistent and lucrative support of the charter school industry and their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher corporate education reform allies.

In addition to being one of Malloy’s largest sources of campaign cash during his 2014 re-election campaign, the owners and operators of Connecticut’s charter schools, along with the corporate elite who support Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have dumped more than $9 million into the lobbying effort to support Malloy’s agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

This lobbing frenzy makes the corporate education reform effort the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

Funneling money through a variety of different organizations and front groups, the charter school advocates have been able “transform” public education in Connecticut by promoting Malloy’s plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

While Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly are instituting unprecedented cuts to public schools, thanks to the  “reformers” lobbying effort, more than $110 million in public dollars will be handed over to charter schools this year alone.

In addition, these groups have spent their millions pushing the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, a program designed to label a vast number of Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools as failures.

The following chart highlights the Step Right Up, Buy Public Policy organizations that have lobbied on behalf of Malloy’s charter school and anti-public education agenda.

Organization Lobbying Expenses
A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN front group)  $2.3 million
ConnCAN  $1.9 million
Families for Excellent Schools  $1.8 million
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee)  $891,000
CT Council for Education Reform  $349,000
Students for Education Reform  $16,000
Achievement First  $422,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network  $132,000
Bronx Charter School $35,000
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA)  >$1.2 million
TOTAL $9 Million+

This past legislative session, these charter school and education reform entities spent in excess of $500,000 successfully persuading legislators to cut their own district’s public school funding, at the same time they were sending even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that these private institutions have traditionally refused to educate their fair share of students who need special education services, children who require help learning the English Language or those who have behavioral issues.

More taxpayer money for the private sector, less public funds for public schools.

Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly should be sent packing and replaced with people who will put our children ahead of political and private interests.

Malloy – A Governor intent on undermining public education

Public Education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker had yet another “MUST READ” piece in the Stamford Advocate about Governor Dannel Malloy’s un-paralleled attack on public education and his unending commitment to divert scarce public taxpayer dollars to privately owned, but publicly funded charter school operators.  The strategy may result in more campaign donations for Malloy, but it comes at a terrible price for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and the state’s taxpayers.

Wendy Lecker’s original piece can be found at:   Governor intent to undermine public education.

Wendy Lecker writes,

Governors, being politicians, spout a lot of rhetoric. However, during budget time, their true priorities emerge. Looking at three real-life situations from this year’s budget season, try to guess who the Democratic governor of Connecticut is.

One governor announced a 2-billion dollar increase in public K-12 funding, a relatively modest increase because it is spread over the next decade; but he publicly acknowledged the need to fund public schools before reforming them. The second, incensed that the legislature would not increase public school K-12 funding to adequate levels, nor adequately fund pre-K, threatened to hold up the budget. The third slashed funding for social programs, gave no increase for public K-12 education, despite a pending lawsuit alleging that the state owes almost 2 billion dollars to its public schools, and threatened to veto the state budget unless the legislature agreed to fund two charter schools in communities that vehemently opposed them.

The first governor is Republican Doug Ducey of Arizona. The second governor is a Democrat,Mark Dayton of Minnesota. The third? You guessed it — Dan Malloy of Connecticut.

Governor Malloy’s tenure has been characterized by denigrating teachers, vigorously opposing adequate funding of public schools and vastly increasing financial support for privately run charter schools which fail to serve the state’s neediest children, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, have disturbingly harsh disciplinary policies, increase racial isolation, drain public money from needy public schools and have even been implicated in fraud and theft.

Why would Malloy favor these questionable privately run schools over underfunded public schools? One answer lies in an article reported on by the Hartford Courant, piggy-backing off the years of reporting blogger Jonathan Pelto has done on this issue.

The Courant reported that this year, unprecedented amounts of money were spent to push the charter agenda by ConnCAN, the charter lobby; Northeast Charter Network, another charter lobby founded by disgraced Jumoke leader Michael Sharpe and others; and a newer group operating in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts: Families for Excellent Schools (FES).

The Courant further noted that the same millionaires and billionaires who copiously donated to Malloy’s campaigns are also major donors to charters and charter lobbyists. This list includes Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler, the founder of ConnCAN and original board member of the Achievement First charter chain; Greenwich hedge funder Steve Mandel, who funded the players behind the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education; embattled SAC Capital chief Steven Cohen and his wife; ConnCAN board members Arthur Reimers and Andrew Boas; Andrew Stone, a board member at Success Academy charter chain, a close ally of FES; and ConnCAN donor Marianna McCall. FES even hired two public relations firms that employ Malloy’s recently departed top aides: Roy Occhiogrosso and Andrew Doba.

The web of charter money is so thick it must have blinded Malloy to the needs and wishes of constituents from Stamford and Bridgeport.

The local opposition to these charters, by both local officials and parents, is well-documented. Malloy’s State Board of Education rubber-stamped the charters’ authorization in April 2014, ignoring local opposition and the fact that the legislature had not appropriated the funds for them.

Despite warnings by legislators that these schools might not be funded, the charter operators, Steve Perry for Bridgeport and a Bronx charter operator for Stamford, advertised widely for students in order to pressure the state to fund them.

Stamford and Bridgeport officials and residents opposed any appropriations for these schools they did not want. Bridgeport grassroots activists traveled to Hartford every week to show their opposition. Stamford residents wrote to every legislator imploring each not to fund these schools when public schools were being starved.

On the other side, the Malloy-connected, billionaire-backed charter lobbyists bused in demonstrators from Massachusetts and New York to stage demonstrations in Hartford in support of these two unwanted charters.

Legislators assured Bridgeport and Stamford residents that they were not swayed by the charter lobbying and they would not fund these schools.

But then Malloy threatened to veto the budget unless his pet charters were funded and the legislature caved. They received, as a token consolation prize, an insignificant increase in state school funding.

Connecticut has a governor intent on undermining public education and a spineless legislature that collapses when the governor so much as sneezes. Unless our citizenry elects some leaders with principles, who actually care about our public institutions rather than wealthy donors, things are looking grim for the over 95 percent of Connecticut’s children who attend our public schools.

Malloy – Wyman Team Earn an “F” on Education

Led by Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly have proven, yet again, that they are unwilling to protect and support Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Today the Connecticut General Assembly will rush through a vote on a massive $40 billion spending and tax bill that not only makes record cuts to vital human services and education funding, but provides the “blood money” needed to open two new charter schools in Connecticut…despite the fact that the boards of education in both “host” communities VOTED AGAINST the allowing the proposed charter schools to open.

As Malloy/Wyman demanded, the infamous anti-union charter school advocate, Steve Perry, will get money, diverted from Connecticut’s public schools, to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Perry’s most noteworthy accomplishment in Connecticut is his use of the “Table of Shame” at Capital Prep Magnet School to humiliate students who failed to follow his rules.  On the national level, Perry, who calls himself American’s most trusted educator, is fond of calling teachers’ unions’ cockroaches.

Malloy/Wyman are forcing the second charter school upon Stamford.  Again, even though the local board of education voted against the proposal and testified against the project before the State Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly, less Connecticut taxpayer funds will be going to public schools and instead, a Bronx charter school company will be getting millions so that it can open a charter school in the Governor’s hometown.

As if giving more money to the discriminatory charter schools, while cutting funding for public schools wasn’t enough to earn the Malloy-Wyman Team an F on Education, the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly will end the session by;

  • Failing to decouple the unfair Common Core SBAC test results from the state’s teacher evaluation system.
  • Failing to pass legislation supporting a parents fundamental right to opt their child or children out of the discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core SBAC test.
  • Failing to ensure appropriate protections are put in place to protect the privacy rights of student and parents due to the massive data collection scam that is part of the Common Core SBAC testing scheme.
  • And even failing to make any meaningful changes in the amount of standardized testing that is undermining the ability of Connecticut’s teachers to provide children with the instructional time the need.

From the first day of this year’s legislative session to the last, the Malloy-Wyman Team maintained their never-ending quest to receive a Grade of F on education.  Instead of doing anything to support public education and teachers, Malloy and Wyman maintained their commitment to the following;

  • More money for the charter school industry
  • More support for the corporate education reform agenda
  • Less money for Connecticut’s public schools, meaning higher property taxes
  • An ongoing attempt to denigrate teachers and the teaching profession
  • An unwillingness to treat parents with dignity and respect
  • And a complete failure to support the value of local control.

Every parent, teacher and taxpayer take heed;

Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and the Democrats have proven, beyond any doubt, that they are unwilling to do what is right for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and schools.

When teachers lose their jobs

When school programs are cut

When local property taxes go up

When students and parents are harassed and abused about the Common Core SBAC testing

When private data on students and parents is shared with private companies

When teachers are unfairly punished by the teacher evaluation debacle

We will know and remember who turned their back when we needed them most

You can read more about the latest education disaster via the following links:

Malloy Flexes Muscle For Charter Schools (CT Newsjunkie)

And from Wait, What?

Hartford Courant reports Malloy got his way with demand for public money for new charter schools

What is the story about Governor Dannel Malloy’s little Bronx Charter School for Excellence

Charter School Mogul Steve Perry owns it all – even without legislative approval

CT Dem Governor Malloy says no state budget without new charter schools

Hartford Courant reports Malloy got his way with demand for public money for new charter schools

While making record cuts to public schools and human services the Hartford Courant is reporting that Connecticut’s Democratic legislative leaders have caved in to Governor Malloy and agreed to force their follow Democrats in the legislature to vote in favor of giving two more charter school companies the money they want to open schools in Bridgeport and Stamford.

In a news the Hartford Courant reports Negotiators Reach Tentative State Budget Deal Sunday Morning.

The Courant explains;

“After all-day talks at the state Capitol, legislators reached a tentative deal with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on a two-year, $40 billion budget early Sunday morning that hikes corporate taxes, raises the personal income tax on the wealthy and legalizes keno gambling.

[…]

House Democrats briefly discussed the details on Sunday after adjourning their session. A vote on the fiscal package by the House and Senate is expected Monday after the tax-writing finance committee meets to adopt the revenue estimates from multiple tax increases.

[…]

While the negotiators crafted the package behind closed doors, increased funding for charter schools emerged Saturday as one of the sticking points. House Democrats discussed the issue in a closed-door caucus with opponents saying the state needs to spend more money on traditional public schools and not $21.6 million for charter school expansion, including new schools in Bridgeport and Stamford that Malloy wants.

While some Democrats are pushing for the additional charter school money to be reduced or eliminated, some said the issue alone would not cause them to vote against the entire budget that funds scores of agencies, nonprofit organizations, and departments that operate everything from state prisons to the attorney general’s office. Yet others said the charter school funding was among the multiple issues that would make them consider opposing the two-year budget in a vote on Monday.”

You can read the full story at: http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-state-budget-charter-schools-0531-20150530-story.html#page=1

For additional background on Malloy’s demand that the new charter schools be funded or else… See the following Wait, What? posts.

What is the story about Governor Dannel Malloy’s little Bronx Charter School for Excellence

Charter School Mogul Steve Perry owns it all – even without legislative approval

CT Dem Governor Malloy says no state budget without new charter schools

 

What is the story about Governor Dannel Malloy’s little Bronx Charter School for Excellence

Faced with a mountain a state debt, insufficient revenues to maintain vital services and his unwillingness to require the rich to pay their fair share in taxes, why would Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy be saying that he will not sign any new state budget that doesn’t include the taxpayer funds that Steve Perry wants in order to open his privately owned, but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport and the money a small charter school in the Bronx is demanding so that they can save Stamford, Connecticut by opening up a charter school in his home city.

Perhaps even more incredibly, Malloy is demanding that the Democrats in the Connecticut Legislature put the extra charter school money into the budget at the same time that he wants them to adopt a budget that makes record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, including schools in the legislators’ own districts.

It is a question that every public schools student, parent, teacher and taxpayer should be asking.

To some degree the answer appears to be that given the choice, Malloy will always go for the campaign donations rather than the needs of Connecticut’s public schools, teachers and students.

In an amazing piece of investigative journalism, the Hartford Courant’s Jenny Wilson lays bare Malloy’s relationship with some of his campaign donors who are part of the charter school elite.  See Hedge Fund Managers Back Charter Schools, Democrats’ Campaigns

While Malloy’s true motivations behind holding up a $40 billion, two-year state budget, in order to funnel about $15 million a year to two new charter schools remains a mystery, the connection between the charter school industry and politicians is not.

From sea to shining sea, the corporate executives who support charter schools are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaign and with Malloy becoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association next year, those potential donors become extremely valuable.

But is funneling money to the people who run the small Bronx Charter School of Excellence worth the effort?

After all, the Bronx Charter School for Excellence appears to be a two-bit player in the charter school industry agenda.

The Bronx charter school’s Head of School, Charlene Reid, who has been urging Connecticut’s government officials to hand over the money so that she can open a charter school in the Stamford, has been being pulling down in excess of $200,000 a year since 2010.

Over the same period, although the school has had only about 300 students, until a recent expansion, the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has collected approximately $50 million in public funds.

In addition, the school has a related “non-profit” which goes by the name of “Friends of the Bronx Charter School for Excellence.”  The companion company has collected another million or so in order to augment the schools budget over the past few years.

Head of Schools Charlene Reid is one of two school administrator that collects a salary from both the Bronx Charter School for Excellence and the Friends of the Bronx Charter School for Excellence.

For the most recent year in which records have been submitted, calendar year 2012, Reid received over $200,000 from the Bronx Charter School of Excellence, $20,000 from the Friends of the Bronx School of Excellence and was handed another $60,000 in a bonus from the school’s Board of Directors.  The Board had previously given Reid and annual bonus of $25,000 in 2011 and $20,000 in 2010.

The “non-profit” has yet to provide its IRS form 990 for the calendar years 2013 or 2014, so the school’s present financial picture is not particularly clear.

But there is certainly something more going on than meets the eye.

To begin to see the situation more clearly, one need only read a 2013 report on charter school financing in New York.

Recall that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only among the richest Americans but he is also one of the major players funding the charter school industry and the entire corporate education reform movement.

Bloomberg’s long-time chief adviser is now in charge of political strategy for the charter advocacy group called Families for Excellent Schools, the entity that is paying for the pro-charter school television ads that have been running in Connecticut and the group that organized the recent pro-charter school rally at the State Capital in Hartford…the one in which charter schools students and parents were bused in from as far away as New York and Boston.

As an aside, when Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch was engaged in his failed attempt to do away with a democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by him, one of the out-of-state contributions to what became the most expensive charter revision campaign in history was Bloomberg.  (The largest individual contribution to Finch’s effort came from Jonathan Sackler who the Hartford Courant article noted today is also Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributor.)

But back in 2013, when Bloomberg was still Mayor of New York City, the New York City Economic Development Corporation financed $23.3 million in tax exempt bonds for the Bronx Charter School for Excellence.

But how did the tiny 300 student Bronx Charter School for Excellence claim that they had the ability to pay off the bonds?

Well, it turns out that the school was only one of the signers to the bond agreement.

The two other players in the bond deal were the Education Reform giant – The Walton Foundation (Which belongs to the family that owns Wal-Mart) and a relatively new entity called the Charter School Financing Partnership.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation had never been in the business of issuing tax exempt bonds for charter schools, but starting with the Bronx Charter School for Excellence and another school that was seeking funding at the same time, the public economic development entity became a major charter school funder in New York.

According to a report at the time,

“The Charter School Financing Partnership is a key player for using small amounts of private money (i.e. The Walton money) to get leveraged funds (i.e. debt through tax exempt bonds…)”

[…]

Five community capital organizations have formed the Charter School Financing Partnership to increase capital access for high-performing, emerging charter schools. With credit enhancement from the US Department of Education and the Walton Family Foundation, CSFP offers innovative, flexible-financing solutions for schools. Through CSFP, schools can buy down the effective rate on tax-exempt bond executions and enhance New Market Tax Credit transactions as well as other conventional financing products.”

And why would the Bronx Charter School for Excellence need such “enhancements.”

“Because even the New York Charter School Institute recent financial evaluations “dash board” release on April 30 put forward a less-than-secure assessment for Bronx Charter School for Excellence for the 2011-12 year.  The key metrics from the NYCSI were: “fiscally needs monitoring”, “working capital risk: high”, “acid test ratio: high”, “debt to asset ratio risk: medium”, “months of cash risk: high.”

And as the report goes on to explain

“The school is purchasing its present facility for $7.455 million and acquiring/constructing a building attached to it for $16.773 million.  In comparison the school paid $1.05 mm in “land/rent/lease” payments in 2011-12 according to CSI financial dash board, the school will pay $1.151 mm in debt payments in 2014 and $1.67 mm in 2018 to pay bondholders.  In essence that is $500,000 more per year (until 2043) at a school already recognized as needing monitoring by its authorizer SUNY CSI.”

The only catch is that the Bronx Charter School for Excellence now needs to come up with at least $500,000 in revenue every year starting in 2018.

Connecticut citizens may debate why Governor Malloy is demanding that Connecticut taxpayers start handing over millions of dollars a year to a charter school company from the Bronx, but one thing is certain…

The Bronx Charter School for Excellence needs to come up with an extra $500,000 a year to pay off its bond holders in New York and since charter school management companies can skim off 10% of a Connecticut charter school’s revenue by way of a “management fee,” the Connecticut taxpayer money Malloy wants to hand over will certainly come in handy.

CT Dem Governor Malloy says no state budget without new charter schools

With the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 Legislative Session coming to an end, it was only a matter of time before Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy was forced to show his hand in the debate about the next state budget.

The candidate who falsely claimed that the state budget was balanced and that, if re-elected, he wouldn’t make cuts to social services or raise taxes is now instructing his Democratic colleagues in the State Senate and State House of Representatives that not only must they make historic cuts to vital health and human services, while raising tax on the middle class, but that he will only accept a budget that includes funding for two new charter schools while the new budget cuts funding for the state’s public schools.

In a blockbuster breaking news story written by the CTMirror’s Jacqueline Rabe and Keith Phaneuf, the reporters reveal what has really been going on behind closed doors in the all-night budget negotiations that have been taking place between Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders.

In a news article entitled, Could Malloy’s push to fund charter schools jeopardize budget approval?, the CT Mirror reports,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s insistence on increasing funding for charter schools has more than a dozen Democratic legislators questioning whether they can support the next state budget if it means their neighborhood public schools are flat-funded or cut.

[…]

On Wednesday, a dozen House Democrats met with Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, to share their concerns with the Democratic governor’s determination to spend $4.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year to open a new charter school in Bridgeport and another in Stamford

A group of Democratic senators also met with their leadership this week to share similar concerns.

The CT Mirror goes on to explain,

Malloy met twice with Democratic legislative leaders overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, and sources said the governor indicated he would not accept anything less than the funding level he proposed for charter schools.

The governor has been a major proponent of expanding charter school enrollment. His budget proposes expanding enrollment in existing and new charter schools by 1,446 students next school year, a move that would cost the state $15.9 million. His budget cuts millions in funding the state currently provides the state’s lowest-performing neighborhood schools.

Earlier this month, he rallied with charter school advocates at the Capitol.

“Let me be very clear, we also have to understand that we are going to have charter schools in Connecticut,” Malloy said during the rally.

Democrat Malloy, along with Democrats New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have become the poster boys for the anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school corporate education reform industry and their unprecedented effort to privatize public education in the United States.

In 2012 Malloy rolled out his “education reform” initiative becoming the first Democratic governor in history to call for eliminating teacher tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy groups have since pumped more than $7.5 million into their record breaking lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s efforts to denigrate teachers, radically reduce local control of education and turn the state’s public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

When presenting his proposed state budget earlier this year, Malloy called for record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while demanding that Connecticut’s legislators divert scarce public funds so that Malloy’s charter school allies could open two more charter schools in the state.

Under Malloy’s plan, Steve Perry, the infamous opponent of teacher unions, is slated to get funding for his privately owned but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

The Governor’s plan also calls for funding a charter school company from the Bronx that says it will save Stamford, Connecticut by opening a sister school there.

In both cases, the local Boards of Education voted against the charter school proposals and testified in opposition to the charter schools before the State Board of Education and the General Assembly’s Education Committee.

The governor and his administration have refused to take the local opposition into consideration.

But in a humorous end note, the CT Mirror story quotes an executive from one of the corporate funded charter advocacy groups who says,

Charter advocates are glad the governor is being so persistent.

“We’re grateful that the majority of legislators are bucking the special interests and listening to the pleas of parents who want a great school for their children,” said Kara Neidhardt, a spokesperson for Families for Excellent Schools, a charter advocacy group.

Families for Excellent Schools not only bused in parents from New York and Boston for the Hartford pro-charter school rally at which Malloy spoke a few weeks ago but the group is running millions of dollars in television ads in New York in support of NY Governor Cuomo’s plan to use more than $150 million in tax credits to subsidize students attending religious schools in New York.

The MUST READ CT Mirror story can be found here:  http://ctmirror.org/2015/05/29/could-malloys-push-to-fund-charter-schools-jeopardize-budget-approval/

You can read a recent Wait, What? blog about Steve Perry’s charter school plans here: Charter School Mogul Steve Perry owns it all – even without legislative approval

And be sure to check back as this breaking story develops.

Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

As Robert Cotto Jr. writes about the way in which Connecticut charter school companies are pocketing public funds in his latest CTNewjunkie commentary piece entitled, Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr. let’s not forgot that the problems with charter schools goes far beyond greed, waste and fraud.

The REAL TRUTH about Connecticut Charter schools and racial segregation;

Forget the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ruled that segregation in schools violated the United States Constitution.

Forget the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Sheff v. O’Neill that ruled that segregation in Connecticut schools violated Connecticut’s Constitution.

Forget that as a result of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, Connecticut taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in public schools.

The REAL TRUTH is that more than $100 million a year in scarce Connecticut funds are being handed over to charter school companies and that according to the most recent reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education (2012-2013), every single major charter school in Connecticut is more racially segregated than the school district they are supposed to serve.

The REAL TRUTH is that while Connecticut spends massive amount of money to fulfill its federal and state constitutional mandate of REDUCING segregation, Connecticut charter schools are using public money to actually INCREASE racial segregation in Connecticut!

Just look at the data about the charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Using public funds, Connecticut charter schools are creating greater racial isolation – something that is nothing short of illegal and unconstitutional.

HARTFORD % of public school students who are non-white
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 100%
Achievement First Inc. Hartford Charter School 100%

 

Bridgeport % of public school students who are non-white
Bridgeport School District 91%
Achievement First Inc. Bridgeport Charter School 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 99%
New Beginnings Academy Charter School 99%

 

New Haven % of public school students who are non-white
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Charter School 98%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City Charter School 99%
Highville Charter School 99%

 

 

 

Stamford % of public school students who are non-white
Stamford School District 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trail Blazers Charter School 96%

 

And now Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut’s charter school industry want to divert even more public money away from Connecticut’s public schools so that they can open up two more charter schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford.

Grassroots Lobbying Charter School Style – $14k for sandwiches, $87k for buses

Calling themselves a “grassroots movement” in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s plan to use taxpayer money to open two new charter schools while making historic cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the New York based charter school industry group known as “Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child” paid at least $87,000 to rent buses to bring in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for the pro-charter school rally that took place at the Connecticut State Capitol last week.

According to the group’s most recent filing with the State Ethics Commission (filed yesterday), the corporate funded education reform advocacy front group also spent $14,000 for subway sandwiches and $6,771 to Staples to pay for the signs demanding that Connecticut legislators hand over nearly $21 million in scarce taxpayer money so that the infamous Steve Perry can open a publicly funded, but privately owned charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx, New York charter school chain can save Stamford by opening up a charter school there.

Although parents who “volunteer” for the rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools Inc. are apparently given “parent stipends” for their efforts, the charter industry advocacy group failed to list any payments for the parents who were bussed in for the Connecticut demonstration.

According to their website, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. “serves more than 50,000 families from over 90 schools in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.”

The website adds, “Founded in 2011 through a partnership between schools and families, Families for Excellent Schools has built power in communities by engaging parents in the transformation of their schools.”

The group, of course, fails to explain that since it was founded, Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has collected an estimated $25 million from wealthy individuals and foundations to pay for its lobbying and advocacy work.

In New York State Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has become the single largest lobbying entity in the State of New York spending nearly $10 million in 2014 alone to support the funding and expansion of charter schools.  [See Pro-charter group sets lobby record.]  However, Families for Excellent Schools has repeatedly refused to release a list of its donors.

What is known is that among the group’s major sponsors is the Walton Family, owners of Walmart.

According to the foundation’s reports, “The Walton Family Foundation supports Families for Excellent Schools in its work to train parents to create and run advocacy efforts to improve school quality and give every student access to an excellent education.”

The use of “parent stipends” to induce charter school families to attend rallies has been one of the more controversial tactics used by Families for Excellent Schools.

The organization’s 2011 federal tax form stated that they spent $98,795 on “parent stipends.” Subsequent reports buried that spending item in other expenses but a 2012 American Enterprise Institute publication verified the groups use of parent stipends noting,

“other groups, such as Families for Excellent Schools, use side payments—financial stipends of $250–$1,000 per year—to give parents an incentive to participate in mobilization and advocacy efforts.”

Another way the charter school industry has successfully “persuaded” parents to attend their rallies is to actually close down their charter schools on the day of the rally.  The Nation magazine recently reported on New York rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools noting,

“The protests have benefitted from the controversial decision of charter operators like Success Academy to shut down their schools, bus thousands of students to protests and notify parents that they “must” come and protest. “It was cut and dry, they tell us if we can’t go to the rally, our kids won’t have anywhere to go,” said one Success Academy parent, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, “So you have to find childcare for them or take off work for their charter school propaganda.”

Although Families for Excellent Schools is new to Connecticut, it is closely associated with Connecticut’s original charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN.

In addition, Families for Excellent Schools receives funding from Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s initial Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Achievement First Inc. is based in New Haven with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  As a result of Malloy’s pro-charter school agenda, Achievement First, Inc. benefited more than any other charter school company in Connecticut over the past four years.

And when it comes to lobbying and advocating for charter schools — The sky is the limit.

Since Malloy introduced his corporate education reform initiative in 2012, charter school and education reform organizations have spent well over $7 million on lobbying and advertising – a record-breaking amount for Connecticut.

In just the first four months of the 2015 legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools has spent over $668,000 on its lobbying and advertising in support of Malloy’s plan to add two more charter schools in Connecticut. More than half a dozen other charter school groups have also spent funds to support Malloy’s plan.

To ensure the desired level of access to Connecticut’s elected officials; Families for Excellent Schools retained the services of both Governor Malloy’s chief adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, and Malloy’s former spokesman, Andrew Doba.

Of the money spent this year, more than $75,000 was paid to Occhiogrosso’s firm and another $133,000 to the New York public relations company that hired Malloy’s spokesman (Doba) when he left Malloy’s office four months ago.

For more coverage about the charter school industry rally check out – Charter Students Rally Lawmakers To Restore Funding (Newsjunkie), Charter School Lobbying: Where Is Money Coming From? (Hartford Courant), Hundreds Rally At Capitol For Expanding Charter Schools (Hartford Courant) and Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol (CT Mirror)

Malloy’s public school privatization effort hits Stamford

Malloy administration gives Bronx charter school chain a green-light to “save” Stamford.

The Malloy administration’s extraordinary efforts to increase the number of charter schools and privatize even more of the state’s public education system took a giant leap forward at the last State Board of Education meeting.

In a farce that included Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just happening to have a written resolution approving four new charters rather than the promised two, the corporate education reform industry drive to undermine Connecticut’s public schools surged forward.

Malloy’s “hometown” of Stamford was one of the latest victims in the inappropriate and under-handed strategy that has been displayed by Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education.

When it comes to “education reform” the Malloy administration’s watchwords seems to be, “grab the candy before you are thrown out of the shop.”

The following piece was written by Stamford Board of Education members Jackie Heftman and Polly Rauh.  It was first published in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate.

Democracy loses in charter school fight

On April 2, we went to a show trial in Hartford. Actually it was a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sitting in the audience and later watching it on CT-N, we were reminded of the trials held in places with authoritarian dictatorships, where the outcome is decided long before the meeting begins.

The resolution that the SBOE was considering was for one more state charter school in New Haven and Bridgeport. The public agenda listed a discussion item of an additional charter school in Stamford and one more for Bridgeport. We were there to speak in opposition to another state charter school in Stamford. The Stamford Board of Education had passed a resolution at its March meeting not supporting the charter school application.

The SBOE approved the two charters in New Haven and Bridgeport, and then Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor magically produced a resolution for approval of another charter school in Bridgeport and Stamford. Both were unanimously approved. Indeed a sad day for democracy in Connecticut.

Some of the things that were put on the record were simply wrong and some were outright lies, and they should not go undisputed. If Stamford is going to be dragged into a fight over a charter school, we should begin with an understanding of the facts.

Pryor was adamant that the funding for charter schools is a separate stream of money and does not take funding away from the traditional public schools. In fact he proudly asserted that more money has been allocated to the Alliance Districts. Alliance Districts are the 30 lowest performing districts in the state. Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport are Alliance Districts. For Stamford the allocated amount is less than $3 million dollars which is less than 1 percent of our budget. Is he kidding? What is there to be proud of? That money will get eaten up in additional transportation and special education costs for the new charter school.

The money that comes to cities and towns to help fund public schools is based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which is grossly underfunded to the tune of almost $700 million dollars this year.

[A Wait, What? note to readers:  According to the CCEJF school funding lawsuit and other experts, Connecticut’s school funding formula is actually $1.5 to $2 billion underfunded leaving an unfair and disproportionate burden on local property tax payers and severely limiting resource in many Connecticut school districts].

But there seems to be money to fund state charter schools. Between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2015, $233 million has been set aside to fund state charter schools. That money could have been added to the ECS stream bringing it closer to what the formula requires.

The second sad occurrence that afternoon was when Charlene Reid, head of the state charter school that wants to open here, told the SBOE that in her meetings with Stamford BOE members over the past couple of months it was suggested that because she was black she was incapable of writing the application. She also said she was accused of being a racist because she wants to open a segregated school and had experienced “micro aggression” during her time in Stamford.

We have neither met Ms. Reid nor been asked to attend a meeting with her and could find only one board member who did meet with her. No one who spoke at the public hearing in Stamford maligned Ms. Reid. Our opposition to the charter school has never been personal. She also said parents were “petrified” to publicly state their support, but when parents had the opportunity to speak at the SBOE meeting, where there is obvious support for charter schools, no one spoke. No one from Stamford said they wanted this option for their children. In fact Stamford Parent Teacher Council members came to the SBOE meeting with more than 700 petition signatures in opposition to the charter school.

Ms. Reid accused unnamed Stamford officials of having no plan to address inequities and only wanting to ignore the problem. That flies in the face of our Alliance District Improvement Plan, approved by the SBOE, which directly addresses the closing of the achievement gap. In fact in the past six years the achievement gap in the Stamford Public Schools has been reduced by 13.5 percent. Ms. Reid says the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has closed the achievement gap for all subgroups. The achievement gap is the difference between the standardized test scores for White students vs. Black and Hispanic students.

Her claim that the gap has been closed at her school is meaningless when there are no white students attending. She can claim that she has boosted the achievement of her students, but she can’t claim she has closed the achievement gap. She also belittled Stamford Superintendent Winifred Hamilton’s commitment to diversity in spite of the fact that our schools are balanced to within 10 percent of the district average, 31 percent of our administrators are minorities and we are constantly working to increase our minority teaching staff. It is obvious that she hasn’t visited any of our schools. Ms. Reid told the SBOE that she is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with SPS and our superintendent! Really?

Ms. Reid acknowledged that her school in the Bronx is 100 percent minority and 85 percent economically disadvantaged and this is the model she would bring to Stamford. If for no other reasons, we oppose this charter school coming to Stamford.

We care about all public school students receiving a high quality education in a diverse setting of students of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. All Stamford students deserve no less.