Bridgeport’s Former “Deputy Mayor” Josh Thompson running for Mayor of New York City

3 Comments

Although it is undoubtedly purely coincidental, with fans eagerly awaiting the much anticipated release this Friday of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” along comes the news that Joshua Thompson, former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide, who claimed on his on-line biography that he was actually Bridgeport’s “Deputy Mayor,” is now focusing his attention on defeating New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

No, Josh Thompson isn’t working for one of the potential candidates who are considering challenging de Blasio in the November 2017 election.  Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide is running to BECOME New York’s next mayor.

Josh Thompson’s time as a member of Bill Finch’s Brain Trust highlight the recent challenges that have been dragging down Connecticut’s charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies who continue to undermine public education in Connecticut.

As some readers may remember, in March 2013, Wait, What? reported that Joshua Thompson was garnering media attention when he updated his on-line biography to read:

Joshua Thompson is the Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT. Prior to this position, he was the Program Analyst and Projects Manager for the Deputy Mayor for Education in the Executive Office of the Mayor in Washington, DC.

In this capacity, he served in a direct oversight role in the District’s schools, working in partnership with charter schools, as well as the federal government on policies such as Race to the Top and other major initiatives that impact the District at large.

But, of course, few of the claims made by the 20-something political operative were true.

At the time Josh Thompson was hired in August 2012 to join Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s staff, the Connecticut Post wrote that the newcomer would be working as Finch’s education aide.  The paper explained,

“Joshua Thompson will develop and carry out public education policy and shape new initiatives. He will earn $102,000 as an at-will employee of the mayor. Funds for the salary were approved by the City Council and come from a dedicated line in the budget, said Adam Wood, Finch’s chief of staff.”

However, neither Mayor Finch nor his Chief of Staff, Adam Wood, bothered to explain to the City Council that the “dedicated line” they were referring to was actually the City’s education budget and their tactic meant money intended for educating Bridgeport’s children would, instead, be used to expand Finch’s political operation.

While Thompson’s official position remained that of a deputy chief administrative officer, the Finch Administration started referring to Thompson as the Mayor’s “Director for Education and Youth.”

Initially, Director of Education and Youth is how Thompson referred to himself on his LinkedIn social networking account, although he bulked up his title a bit more on his  twitter account, calling himself, “Director of Education in Bridgeport, CT.”

But Thompson’s amazing, meteoric, self-promotion was most evident when it came to his biography on The Council of Urban Professionals’ website.  The CUP is a New York City based entity that claims to be, “an energetic 21st century leadership development organization that molds diverse business and civic leaders, and empowers them to exert influence, achieve their individual goals and create collective impact through a range of programs and initiative.”

After Thompson was done doctoring his biography on the site it read;

“Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT.”

Of course, the claim was more than a little far-fetched considering Bridgeport City Charter doesn’t even allow the use of the title, Deputy Mayor.  After Thompson’s enhanced biography was published on Wait, What? he modified it to remove his status as the Park City’s self-appointed Deputy Mayor.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, Thompson’s first task was to help pass Mayor Finch’s plan to do away with the city’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.  The Mayor’s charter referendum initiative went down in a stunning defeat.

Undaunted by the will of the people, Finch then had Thompson take on the role of bullying the Bridgeport Board of Education into extending the contract of education reformer extraordinaire, Paul Vallas, who had arrived in Bridgeport after successfully undermining and the public school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Thompson’s role as Finch’s education reform enforcer was covered in a number of Wait, What? blog posts, including, Bridgeport: Finch puts Deputy Mayor Thompson in attack mode to protect Paul Vallas…Mayor Finch and Bridgeport City Council move to cut education funding? And  last but not least, in Finch/Vallas land…

Leading the Custer-like effort to defend Vallas, Thompson issued a threatening statement to the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education that appeared in the Only in Bridgeport” blog.  Thompson opined;

“I want to make something 100-percent clear…I am very concerned that we have elected board members whose values are tied to that of the Working Families Party…. With Superintendent Vallas’ evaluation coming up this Monday, it is clear that anyone who is part of the Working Families Party did not objectively evaluate the Superintendent’s performance…”

Finch also gave Thompson the task of helping make sure that only pro-charter school Finch loyalists were elected to the Bridgeport school board, an effort that also ended in failure.

Failure was also the outcome of Finch’s re-election plans, when the incumbent mayor was defeated in November 2015 by former Bridgeport mayor, Joe Ganim, who had returned to Bridgeport after serving seven years in federal prison for corruption.

But by then, Thompson’s dreams of glory had taken him back down the road to New York City.

As Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll noted (purportedly while on drugs);

alice quote

As for his time in Bridgeport, Thompson explains on his new campaign website;

In 2012, as I was finishing up in DC, I received a call that Bridgeport’s education system was in crisis and drove straight there. When I arrived in Bridgeport, there was a $13 million education budget deficit, a dropout rate of nearly 50%, and textbooks that still said George H. W. Bush was president. During my tenure, we eliminated the deficit without letting go of a single teacher or closing a single school. In fact, we opened 9 schools, some of which are now among the highest performing schools in Connecticut. Instead of outdated textbooks, every high school student in Bridgeport now has a tablet….

As an aside, the tablet statement isn’t true and the $10 million no-bid contract to purchase new textbooks not only ended up with “new” books that are not Common Core complaint but the outrageous and lucrative payment schedule ended up diverting scarce dollars from critically needed instructional costs for years after Vallas and Thompson left town.

But none of the uncomfortable details matter to Connecticut’s charter school industry and those associated with the anti-teacher, anti-public school education reform agenda.

Annoyed with New York Mayor de Blasio, the moneyed interests associated with Connecticut’s charter schools are stepping up to help their guy “challenge” New York’s Mayor..

According to Thompson’s first campaign finance report, Bridgeport’s former “Deputy Mayor” raised a total of about $15,000 during his first reporting period.

Thompson’s largest donor, of course, is none-other-than Jonathan Sackler, the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical executive who was also Governor Dannel Malloy’s largest campaign contributor.

Thompson’s other donors include;

Jennifer Alexander (CEO, ConnCAN)

Andrew Boas (Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors)

Adam Goldfarb (Former Chief of Staff to Former CT Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor)

Jeremiah Grace (Director of the NY based charter school front called Families for Excellent Schools)

Alex Johnson (Former CEO, ConnCAN)

Megan Lowney (Co-founder of the charter school advocacy group Excel Bridgeport)

Adam Wood (Former Chief of Staff to Former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch)

And others who names appear regularly here at Wait, What?

It just goes to show you…. Although what exactly is goes to show is a bit of mystery.

With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform

1 Comment

Today’s CT Mirror includes a deceitful and extraordinarily misleading commentary piece entitled, “This legislative session, let Connecticut children win for a change.”

Shavar Jeffries, the mouthpiece for a corporate funded, New York based, charter school advocacy group that calls itself “Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)” uses the space to urge Connecticut legislators to DEFEAT a bill that, if passed, would require Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration to develop an honest and effective teacher evaluation system rather than continue with Malloy’s present program that is dependent on the results of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Jeffries, who is the founding Board President of Newark’s Team Academy Charter Schools, a board member of the charter school front called Students for Education Reform (SFER) and a Director for Eva Moskowitz’s infamous Success Academy charter school chain, instructs Connecticut’s elected officials to “stay the course” with Dannel Malloy’s failed anti-student, anti-parent, anti-teacher and anti-public school agenda.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that reveals that the SBAC testing scam is not an appropriate measure of student academic achievement or an effective tool for evaluating teachers, the highly paid spokesman for the charter school industry opines,

“Will Connecticut beat back the progress it made in adopting a modern educator evaluation system in 2012? That system recognizes great teachers for a job well done, while providing support to struggling teachers. Or will lawmakers cave to a power structure that wants to keep things the same?”

The charter school fan’s incredible statement speaks volumes. 

The truth is that it is Malloy’s shameful corporate education reform initiative of 2012, and his utter failure to properly fund public education that is taking Connecticut in the wrong direction.

Malloy, who has proposed record-breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while diverting more and more scarce taxpayer funds to privately owned and operated charter schools has become a poster-boy for the insidious and devastating impact that the education reform and privatization effort is having on public education in Connecticut.

The negative consequences of Malloy’s actions are particularly evident when it comes to the absurd teacher evaluation system that he has championed.  To better understand the problems with Malloy’s teacher evaluation program start with the following Wait, What? posts;

Wendy Lecker explains – Again – Why the Malloy-Wyman teacher evaluation system is a terrible farce

Speaking out for decoupling Common Core testing from the teacher evaluation process

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results

However, when it comes to DFER and its allies, the truth has no value.

In fact, it is the truth that serves as the most serious impediment to their goals.

DFER and their plan to “transform” public education by handing it over to Wall Street investors, the elite hedge fund owners, and the private companies that seek to make money off the backs of our children, teachers and public schools require a political and public policy environment in which the truth is not allowed to get in the way.

Speaking of that dystopian approach to governance, George Orwell summed it up sixty-seven years ago writing in his once fiction – now non-fiction – epic titled 1984;

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Of course, when it comes to the real actors behind the effort to undermine public education, Shavar Jeffries is but a two-bit player.  His commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a reminder that he is just someone who will carry the water for those that would prefer to remain hidden in the dark.

It is the dark and it’s associated “dark-money” where DFER flourishes.

Much has been written here at Wait, What? and elsewhere about DFER and those behind the charter industry.

An early description of the group appeared in December 2010, when the UFT’s Michael Hisrch wrote;

Among the group’s eight-person board is hedge-fund manager John Petry of Gotham Capital, who with Eva Moskowitz co-founded the Harlem Success Academy Charter School. The board also includes Tony Davis of Anchorage Capital, the board chair of Brooklyn’s Achievement First East New York school; Charles Ledley of Highfields Capital Management; and Whitney Tilson, chief of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds and vice chairman of New York’s KIPP Academy Charter Schools.

[…]

Of DFER’s seven-person advisory board, five manage hedge funds: David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, LLC; Joel Greenblatt, founder and managing partner of Gotham Capital and past protégé of fallen junk-bond icon Michael Milliken; Vincent Mai, who chairs AEA Investors, LP; Michael Novogratz, president of Fortress Investment Group; and Rafael Mayer, the Khronos LLC managing partner and KIPP AMP charter school director.

Orbiting the group is billionaire “venture philanthropist” and charter school funder Eli Broad, whose foundation gave upwards of $500,000 to plug advocacy related to the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” and another charter-touting film, “The Lottery.” Though not himself a DFER board member, Broad is a major funder of Education Reform Now, DFER’s nonprofit sister organization, also headed by Joe Williams.

Meanwhile, Andrew Rotherman, recently retired DFER director and EduWonk blogger, is co-founder of and a partner in for-profit Bellwether Education, described as “offering specialized professional services and thoughtful leadership to the entrepreneurial education reform field.” Rotherman sits on the Broad Prize Review Board, while DFER board member Sara Mead is a senior associate partner at his Bellwether Education and sits on the Washington, D.C., Public Charter School Board.

DFER is actually part of a much larger multi-headed beast that also includes Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy, two tax-exempt entities that allow the billionaires and corporate elite behind the charter school industry to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into political, lobbying and advocacy efforts.  (For an example of their approach see Wait What? post, Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game)

As noted previously, DFER is also a key player behind SFER – Students for Education Reform.  The SFER story explains a lot about just how far the corporate education reformers are willing to go to corrupt the system.

For more on SFER read;

SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group

MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election

Perhaps most telling of all is that when it comes to Malloy’s disastrous SBAC tests and his dangerously warped teacher evaluation program, the only entities supporting it are the groups and individuals funded, directed or at the beckon call of these hedge fund managers and corporate elite.

NOTE:  Who else has taken Walton money?

Governor Dannel Malloy and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

7 Comments

Having become a great weight around Democrat Dannel Malloy’s desire to serve a second term as Connecticut’s governor, in the run-up to Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial election, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, announced that he was leaving his post in search of new opportunities.  (See Wait, What? post –Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…)

Pryor quickly announced that he was headed east to become Commerce Secretary for his friend, the newly elected Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.  Pryor, Raimondo and her husband, hedgefund executive Andy Moffit, all attended Yale together.  Moffitt was roommates with Cory Booker and Pryor ended up serving as Booker’s economic adviser for five years until joining the Malloy administration as Commissioner of Education in 2011.

While at Yale, Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As Governor Malloy’s point person on education, Pryor led the effort to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants, which produced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

In addition to the millions of dollars that Commissioner Pryor wasted on out-of-state consultants and his successful effort to divert hundreds of millions in scarce taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter school industry, another one of Pryor’s controversial actions was to hire his close personal friend and former Newark aide, Adam Goldfarb, to serve as his chief of staff.  (See Wait, What? post –IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education.)

In order to get around the State of Connecticut’s hiring rules, Pryor actually hired Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.

Goldfarb’s credentials?

Like Pryor, Goldfarb went to Yale.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb worked on economic development issues in Newark for then mayor Cory Booker.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb had no real public education experience.

And like Pryor, Goldfarb was a big fan of charter schools despite their unwillingness to provide equal educational opportunities to students who require special educational services, those who aren’t proficient in the English Language or those who fail to adhere to the abusive and degrading harsh disciplinary policies that are the staple of charter school operations.

In Goldfarb’s case, he has served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey since the privately owned, but publicly funded charter school opened. (See Wait, What? post – What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?)

While Goldfarb’s boss, Stefan Pryor, has spent the last year hiring even more out-of-state consultants and plunging Rhode Island’s governor into one controversy after another (Check back soon for more about that), Goldfarb has been treading water as a consultant for Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and America Achieves project.

However, although no official announcement has yet been made, it appears that Adam Goldfarb has recently landed the job of Chief Operating Officer for the education reform and charter school advocacy group known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

DFER is the corporate and elite funded pro-education entity that serves as the political wing of Education Reform Now and its sister organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy.

DFER is used as a political action committee and a “dark-money” bundling group that has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns on behalf of candidates who support the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public educations through the massive expansion of charter schools.

A darling of the education reform industry, DFER’s new National President, Shavar Jeffries, joined DFER after a stunning defeat against Newark councilman and community activist, Ras Baraka, for mayor of Newark when Booker became a United States Senator.

Jeffries has now brought in Adam Goldfarb to so serve as DFER’s Chief Operating Officer.

As for DFER, The Center for Media & Democracy’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves, recently published a investigative piece entitled, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money, in which she wrote;

DFER is actually the more well known PAC arm of Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. Their acronym not only sounds like the word “earn,” but also it has the backing of some really huge earners.

DFER co-founder (and founder of the T2 Partners hedge fund) Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

The Board of Directors for ERN consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital, Cubist Systematic Strategies, and Sanford C. Bernstein.

As the New York Times reported: DFER’s supporters have included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.”

However, ERN and ERNA do not disclose who its major donors are and how much those big donors give to fund its operations and ambitions.

It is known, though, that FOX‘s Rupert Murdoch gave at least $1 million to ERN. Murdoch has expressed his desire to get in on education “reforms,” stating “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

The most recent federal tax filings of ERN/ERNA show that it had more than $12 million available to push education reform ($7.4 million for ERN and $5 million for ERNA) in 2013. Its non-profit filings from the most recent major election year, the 2014 mid-terms, or last year are not available.

What is known from the 2013 is filings is that, in that year, ERNA disclosed that it spent $1.7 million in political expenditures, nearly all of which went to DFER. These funds were used for expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians but that were “independent” and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.

ERN/ERNA’s leader Joe Williams has been paid a for-profit like salary as its executive, with $398,500 in total annual compensation in 2013. He’s also listed as “Executive Director Emeritus” for DFER and on DFER’s board. Williams stepped down from his staff position at DFER in 2015 and also became a director at the Walton Education Coalition that year. That’s Walton as in Walmart’s Walton family.

Because nonprofits like ERN/ERNA do not have to disclose their major donors to the public, even when ERNA is active in supporting electoral activities the public is left in the dark about which hedge funder is actually helping to fund state and local ads and mailers during the election.

Even though privately held corporations and hedge funders do not have to disclose their donations to operations like ERN/ERNA, a CEO’s charitable foundations does have to disclose to whom they give grants.

That’s how it is known that the Walton family, of Walmart fame or infamy, has backed such efforts. In 2011, for example, ERN/ERNA received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The total amount from all such CEO-controlled foundations given to ERN/ERNA to date is not known.

As Matthew Fleischer noted in the Frying Pan News (reprinted by the Huffington Post) that hedge funder Tilson has followed the Waltons’ lead: “in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.'”

It has been investigative journalists who have helped expose the billionaire network behind ERN/ERNA/DFER, despite the opacity on the surface, as noted by George Joseph in the Nation:

“[A]ccording to Steven Brill in his book Class Warfare, around this time [in 2010] the hedge-fund alliance for education reform really began to take off. That April, for instance, Education Reform Now’s Joe Williams and Bradley Tusk schmoozed over drinks with Paul Tudor Jones II and other hedge-fund billionaires at Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone’s Five Avenue apartment, where they planned a successful campaign to secretly spend millions through a 501(c)(4) political action fund and win the charter cap increase [in New York]. As with Families for Excellent Schools’ mostly secret financing today, Brill notes that Education Reform Now’s donations never became public, and that in May a room full of eager billionaires was able to push the legislature to authorize increased charter-school expansion.”

(The Nation‘s exposé on ERN/ERNA/DFER in New York includes emails and a slide deck about the billionaires and foundations behind such efforts that were leaked to the magazine.)

Despite or perhaps because of this reality, the DFER arm in a state where ads are run merely discloses to the state authority that it received contributions from ERNA, not the hedge funders.

So, the ERN/ERNA/DFER operation is like a shell game when it comes to the public being able to pierce through the layers of nonprofits to find the name of a particular billionaire or uber-rich hedge funder whose money is propping up a particular electoral candidate being backed by DFER.

Similarly, DFER in the states has been known to partner with other groups that have similarly murky or occluded funding sources.

Most recently, DFER and its related entities have been particularly involved in campaigns and political activities aimed at supporting politicians committed to privatizing public education and promoting charter schools in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and in other targeted states and cities.

Charter School Industry Gravy Train Picks Up P. Diddy via Steve “Strap Up” Perry

6 Comments

Quick News Brief – More to Come on this breaking story! 

With billions of dollars in taxpayer funds being diverted from public schools to privately owned and operated charter schools, a motley collection of the nation’s super-wealthy, including sports and music stars, are looking to cash in on the existing bi-partisan political support for the privatization of public education in the United States.

According to recent published reports, the latest to climb on the Charter School Industry Gravy train is rap star, actor, record producer, clothing designer and successful entrepreneur Sean Combs, who has previously gone by the name of P. Diddy, Diddy and Puff Daddy.

In an article entitled, Capital Prep Founder To Oversee Sean “Diddy” Combs’ New Harlem School, the Hartford Courant reports;

“Combs announced Monday that the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School will open in the fall. The school will be overseen by Capital Prep leader Steve Perry, who founded Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford in 2005.

By “partnering” with Steve Perry, who refers to himself as the “Most Trusted Educator in America,” Combs is tying his charter school ownership aspirations to the controversial, anti-union, anti-teacher, media personality who “made” his reputation as a principal of a Hartford magnet school that was and continues to be part of the Hartford Public School System.

Perry gained national notoriety for his school’s harsh disciplinary policies that included the use of the “Table of Shame” to punish children who received demerits and for his ugly public comments about unions, teachers and anyone who opposed his empire building efforts.

As a 2013 Wait, What? post entitled, Hey Steve Perry – Tell us about Capital Prep’s “Table of Shame,” explained;

Located in the cafeteria of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School at 1304 Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut is the “Table of Shame.”

At part of Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry’s “zero-tolerance” policies even the slightest “violations,” such as wearing the wrong colored belt, will result in punishments designed to humiliate and demean students.

For example, it is not uncommon for Capital Prep students to be forced to stand in the cafeteria to eat as punishment for violating the school uniform policy or some equally unimportant “violation.”

And now, more than a half a dozen former and present parents, students and teachers report that Perry and his fellow Capital Prep administrators regularly require children, even the youngest students in the building, to sit at the cafeteria’s “Table of Shame.”

And yes… it is actually referred to as the “Table of Shame.”

Along with the charges of abusive disciplinary practices and questionable financial activities – According to federal and state documents, Steve Perry registered his private charter school management company at the address of the Hartford public school at which he worked – Perry’s unwillingness to provide federally required educational services to children with special needs led to a sweeping investigation and follow-up action.

As a Hartford school administrator, Perry was also unwilling or unable to recruit and retain students who where English Language Learners despite more than 50 percent of Hartford’s students being Latino.

Perry is also fond of attacking unions and teachers, famously calling teacher unions roaches and belittling classroom teachers and the teaching profession.

Of course, as for his anger management problems, when the Hartford Board of Education rejected his proposal to give his private company ownership and control of two Hartford public schools, Perry infamously Tweeted;

Dr. [email protected]

“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.”

For more on that piece see Update: “Strap up [my gun], there will be head injuries” (Steve Perry 11/20/13) and the Washington Post’s coverage, Angry principal tweets: ‘Strap up, there will be head injuries’

With this latest public relations claim that this new charter school in Harlem is P. Diddy’s invention, Perry is proving, yet again, that the he and the truth don’t often go hand in hand.

The latest Hartford Courant story adds;

“I want to make getting an A cool,” Perry said Combs told him. To support the effort, Combs initially provided staff and office space. He also helped identify people and institutions to build support for the school.

And he’s played a role as the school has been developed. He conducted the final interview with Jones and has gotten involved in issues as minute as cleaning restrooms.

The school will open in the fall with 80 sixth graders and 80 seventh graders.

Perry said he asked Combs whether he wanted the school named after him. The answer was no. “Call it Capital Prep,” Combs told him, Perry said.

Wait, What? 

Steve Perry is claiming that he asked Diddy whether he wanted his name attached to the new charter school but the rap icon said that he wanted to use the name of Perry’s school instead?

In classic Perry fashion, the nation’s “most trusted educator” is hoping that no one actually checks the record.

As the record proves, it was Perry and his company who submitted the proposal to open a charter school in Harlem and the application was approved, despite a long list of questionable statements that were contained in Perry’s application.

This truth is that this isn’t P. Diddy’s charter school, it is Steve Perry’s charter school that he is now connecting to P. Diddy’s star power.

The application to open the school never mentioned Diddy in any way whatsoever.

As reported back in 2014 by Wait, What? in articles entitled, Self-proclaimed as “America’s Most Trusted Educator,” Steve Perry says he is opening a charter school in NYC? And Perry’s New York City charter school application generates requests for investigations, the truth was clear.

“Earlier this month [November 2014], the New York Board of Regents moved to approve a charter school application from Steve Perry, a principal of a public school in Connecticut who has formed a charter school management company in the hopes of opening up charter schools in the greater New York City region.

Although the Board of Regents’ Education Committee approved the charter school application submitted by Mr. Perry, he does not own the concepts, materials and intellectual property contained in that application.  Instead they belong to the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education.

At their November meeting, the P-12 Education Committee of the New York Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of Commissioner John B. King, Jr and the staff of the New York State Department of Education, voted to approve the application for the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School.

In the memo to the P-12 Committee, Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. wrote, “The Commissioner and Department staff recommend that the Board of Regents consider, approve and issue initial charters and provisional charters for the following four new charter schools.”  The list included Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School.

As the application read,

CPS is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools. It is our hope that we will manage two schools in Harlem. The first is to be Capital Prep Harlem, 6-12. The second would be a kindergarten to 5th grade school in or near the first in CSD 5

From all the available evidence, it appears that the school P. Diddy is opening this fall is actually the school that the New York Board of Regents approved for Perry but not for Diddy.

Perry is now relying on Sean Combs to fill the seats in the charter school that the New York Board of Regents approved for Perry.

Note that in the application to the New York Board of Regents, Perry also stated that his company owned a school in Hartford, Connecticut but that is an absolute and total lie.  The school in question is not owned by Steve Perry’s charter school management organization but is owned by the residents of Hartford and operated by the Hartford Public Schools System.

As the story continues to develop, it is also worth remembering that while Steve Perry brags about the “famous” people associated with Charter School Board of Directors, those familiar with Perry and his proclivities will remember the issue about Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut – in which Wait, What? wrote:

A Convicted Felon on Steve Perry’s Charter School Governing Council – There should be a law!

When Eva Moskowitz speaks, only the elite are privileged enough to listen…

1 Comment

As part of her new public relations campaign, Eva Moskowitz, the infamous and controversial CEO of the Success Academy Charter School Company, will be addressing a group of the super-elite at New York City’s Harvard Club tomorrow – March 29, 2016.

Moskowitz has turned her charter school chain into a taxpayer-funded, multi-million dollar business.  A business in which she collects a significantly larger salary to run a “school system” that manages 11,000 hand-selected students than the amount that is paid to the Chancellor of New York City’s Public Schools.

However, Moskowitz’s abusive “zero-tolerance” discipline policies and her total unwillingness to provide educational services to her fair share of students that require special education services or need additional help with the English Language has generated a significant amount of negative news stories and calls for independent investigations.

In a recent blog post entitled, Eva’s Offensive, nationally respected journalist John Merrow wrote;

After many months of intense scrutiny and criticism, Dr. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academies Charter School Network, has gone on the offensive.

[…]

The recent criticism began last October, when the PBS NewsHour exposed her practice of multiple out of school suspensions of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds. (My last piece for the NewsHour before I retired.)  Later in October Kate Taylor of the New York Times revealed that one of her schools had a ‘got to go’ list of students to be dropped. Moskowitz did not fire the principal.   In an electrifying report in February, Taylor wrote about a video of a Success Academy teacher humiliating a child. After many months of intense scrutiny and criticism, Dr. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academies Charter School Network, has gone on the offensive.

With her overwhelming political arrogance and deep financial pockets in full display, Moskowitz hired Mercury LLC, the same public relations company that is trying to help Michigan Governor Rick Snyder lie and spin his way out of responsibility for poisoning the children of Flint, Michigan.

As Merrow explains:

[Moskowitz] mailed her staff accusing the New York Times of a ‘vendetta’ against her. On Monday, March 14, the Wall Street Journal published her op-ed, “Orderliness in School: What a Concept”. “Over the past year the Times’s principal education reporter has devoted 34% of the total word count for her education stories, including four of her seven longest articles, to unrelentingly negative coverage of Success,” Moskowitz wrote.

What Wait?

Wow, so Moskowitz is the victim?

One thing is absolutely sure and that is there is no doubt that the fancy PR strategy to “re-make” Moskowitz’s image and that of her charter school chain will be in full swing tomorrow night when she addresses a closed door meeting of the New York City Harvard Club, a private club whose website explains;

“Appropriate dress is required throughout the Club for Members. Members are responsible for ensuring that their guests are aware of, and comply with, the dress code.”

And just to make sure her effort to revise history and bury the truth goes over successfully, the woman whose company relies on public funds to pay her excessive salary is making sure that there is no opportunity for those impacted by her policies to be able to raise questions at the event.

Late last week, Fatima Geidi, a former Success Academy Parent and one of the most outspoken critics of Moskowitz’s abusive approach to education asked the Harvard Club to allow her to attend the meeting and counter any misinformation that Harvard Club members may hear from the Success Academy’s CEO.

The response from the Harvard Club was classic.

They wrote;

“The lecture tomorrow by Eva Moskowitz is only open to Harvard Club members.  The event is also currently sold out.”

In other words, as far as New York City’s exclusive Harvard Club is concerned, when it comes to important issues of public policy and the apparent widespread abuse of children who attend Success Charter Schools, ensuring that the truth is told is of little to no concern.

Or as George Orwell observed,

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

The issue is a simple one.  The very last thing that Eva Moskowitz and those who support the charter schools and education reform industry want is The People having access to the truth.

For more read,

Peter Greene: The Secret Memo That Success Academy Does Not Want You to See

Parents Call on Governor Cuomo to Increase Oversight of Success Academy Charters

John Merrow: Eva Goes on the Offense

 

NYC based Charter School Lobby attacks CT State Senator Len Fasano for his support of public education

Comments Off on NYC based Charter School Lobby attacks CT State Senator Len Fasano for his support of public education

Families for Excellent Schools is the corporate funded, New York based, charter school industry lobbying group that bused in students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston, last year, to attend a rally in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s effort to divert even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Over the past year and a half, Families for Excellent Schools  – using a variety of aliases – has spent nearly $1.5 million in a record-breaking effort to lobby and persuade Connecticut legislators to support Governor Dannel Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “education reform” initiatives.

Now, in a dirty and underhanded maneuver, the outside lobby group is targeting Republican State Senator Len Fasano.  His crime?  Unlike Malloy, Fasano actually supports Connecticut’s real public schools and Connecticut’s public school teachers.

The truth is that Governor Malloy’s 2016 budget proposal includes plans to cut Connecticut’s public schools by approximately $58 million while increasing state aid to his pet-project, the privately owned and operated charter schools.

Thanks to Malloy’s education reform effort, Connecticut taxpayers already subsidize charter school companies to the tune of more than $100 million a year and while Malloy laments the state budget deficit, his budget plan is to actually give charter school even more taxpayer funds even though these companies refuse to educate their fair share of students who need special education services or those who require extra help when it comes to learning the English Language.

State Senator Len Fasano has been calling Malloy out on his irresponsible budget plan.

Fasano has made it clear that public schools should be treated more fairly and that charter schools should not be exempt from the efforts to balance the budget.

Fasano has also been one of the most outspoken leaders in opposition to the Common Core SBAC testing frenzy and is a leading co-sponsor of the legislation prohibiting Common Core SBAC test results from being used as part of Malloy’s ill-conceived and unfair teacher evaluation program.

Paid to promote the Common Core, the Common Core testing and more state aid for charter schools, Fasano’s pro-public education stance is just too much for these charter lobbyists to handle and so they are targeting him.

Of course, beyond the immediate attack on State Senator Fasano is the question of who is really behind these tactics?

According to the official reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, New York’s Families for Excellent Schools has become a major source of income for Malloy’s “former” top aides.

Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Malloy’s Press Secretary before leaving the state payroll to take a PR position with a New York company, has already collected $78,000 from this charter school lobbying front and it appears that he is now collecting $8,500 a month to support Malloy’s education reform proposals and attack Malloy’s opponents.

In addition, since setting up shop in Connecticut, Families for Excellent Schools has handed Roy Occhiogrosso’s company at least $232,350.  Occhiogrosso is Malloy’s alter-ego and worked as the governor’s chief adviser during Malloy’s first term in office.  The political operative is widely credited with writing Malloy’s 2012 anti-teacher speeches in which Malloy proposed doing away with teacher tenure and observed that he didn’t mind having teachers teach to the test as long as test scores went up.

More money for charter schools…

More money for Malloy’s closest advisers….

Next time you see the Families for Excellent Schools ad attacking Len Fasano… 

You’ll know who is behind the effort.

FASANO ATTACK

Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids (By Wendy Lecker)

2 Comments

Background:  Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country, as measured by per capita income.  If it was its own country, it would be one of the ten wealthiest countries in the world.

Connecticut’s most important natural resource is its people and their educational attainment.  According to US Census data, Connecticut is ranked 4th in the percentage of college graduates, 3rd in the percentage of citizens with advanced degrees and nearly 9 in 10 have a high school education, although faced with the impact of growing poverty, the number of high school graduates is dropping and without adequate funding for public schools and a well educated population, Connecticut’s economic future will be grim.

Meanwhile, as a result of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s irresponsible fiscal policies, Connecticut State Government has been plunged into fiscal chaos.  Today, Connecticut’s wealthiest pay about 5 percent of their income in state and local taxes, middle class and working families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the poor pay about 12 percent.

Based on fiscal and education policies that coddle the rich while diverting more than $100 million a year to privately owned and operated charter schools, Malloy and Wyman have now proposed the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Extraordinary budget deficits already exist in Hartford, Bridgeport and other communities.

Thanks to Malloy, Wyman and the General Assembly, most school districts will now be forced to raise local taxes and make deep cuts to existing education programs in local public schools.

As the state’s leading politicians attempt to hide the truth, public education advocate and fellow columnist Wendy Lecker has written another “MUST READ” column.

Her commentary piece, entitled, Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids first appeared in the Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media papers this past weekend

Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids (By Wendy Lecker)

Hartford parents, teachers and students came out in full force to last week’s Board of Education meeting to protest devastating school cuts. Owing to budget shortfalls, the district is cutting guidance counselors, intervention specialists, and other critical staff, art, sports, enrichment, SAT prep, textbooks, summer school, tutors and more. Many of Hartford high schools will be left with one counselor for 350-400 students. As one parent said, they are cutting the support Hartford students need; and the subjects that motivate them to come to school.

Hartford schools already suffer severe resource deficiencies. One high school has no library or computer lab. Another has no copier in the library, and no curricular material for certain classes. The culinary academy has no money to buy food for cooking class. The nursing academy cannot offer physics, though physics is a prerequisite for any nursing school. One high school is so overrun with rodents a teacher came in one morning to find five mice in traps she laid the night before. Teachers are forced to find vendors themselves and fill out orders in vain attempts to obtain supplies that never arrive. So they buy them out of their own pockets.

The conditions in which these students have to learn, and these teachers have to teach, is shameful — especially in Connecticut, a state consistently in the top five on the list of wealthiest states in America.

Hartford is not the only Connecticut school district suffering. According to a supplement to this year’s “Is School Funding Fair: A National Report Card,” issued by the Education Law Center (my employer) and Rutgers, Connecticut is the only state consistently among the five wealthiest states to have districts on the list of America’s “most financially disadvantaged school districts.” This year, two districts are featured on this list: Bridgeport and Danbury.

Since this list has been compiled, starting in 2012, Connecticut districts have been featured every year. Connecticut also has the dishonorable distinction of being the only wealthy state featured on the list of states whose funding system disadvantages the highest share of low income students; as measured by the percent of statewide enrollment concentrated in those most disadvantaged districts.

The National Report Card revealed some other disturbing facts about Connecticut’s lack of commitment to its public schools, especially those serving our neediest children.

As one of the wealthiest states, Connecticut does a poor job of maintaining competitive wages for teachers — a key ingredient to recruiting and retaining a strong teaching force. Connecticut teachers starting out earn 79 percent of the average salary of similar non-teaching professions. The report compares teachers with other professionals in the same labor market of similar age, degree level and hours worked. At age 45, that average drops to 73 percent of similar non-teaching professions.

An important measure of school funding fairness is the student-teacher ratio. High-poverty schools require more staff to address the challenges faced by their students. Small classes, reading and math specialists and support services are particularly necessary, for example. However, Connecticut is one of the few states with higher student-teacher ratios in poorer districts as compared to their wealthy districts. In fact, Connecticut is 46th out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., in student-teacher ratio fairness.

High-quality pre-K is a vital component of education; reducing placement in special education and improving academic and life outcomes. Sixty-two percent of Connecticut’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K, but only 48 percent of Connecticut’s poor children are. That disparity lands Connecticut in 45th place out of 51.

The deprivation of essential resources in Connecticut’s poorest districts is the crux of the CCJEF case, now on trial in Hartford. The plaintiffs seek adequate funding for basic educational necessities.

They are on solid ground. A new longitudinal study out of Berkeley demonstrates that school finance reform makes a real difference for students. The study, based on nationwide data, found that school finance reforms lead to substantial increases in revenues in low-income school districts, and to increases in student achievement. This study confirms a 2014 national study from Northwestern showing improvement in achievement, especially for poor students, when school funding increases. Earlier state-specific studies found similar results.

The evidence is clear. Connecticut schools need more resources, and school finance reform is the answer.

However, this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the deepest cuts to education in Connecticut history, while diverting more than $100 million dollars to privately run charter schools.

It is time for our elected officials in this, one of America’s wealthiest states, to start doing right by our poorest children.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Wealthy-state-failing-poorest-our-6924830.php

How will CT legislators vote on Malloy’s ethically challenged State Board of Education appointee?

2 Comments

The Connecticut House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow – Wednesday, March 16, 2016.  On their agenda is a vote to confirm Erik Clemons, Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent nominee for a position on the State Board of Education.

When Governor Malloy appointed Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education he failed to reveal that Clemons was a founding member of a new charter school in New Haven or that he served, up until recently, on the Board of another New Haven charter school, this one owned by Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain that operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  When Clemons left the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors he was replaced by an aide that works for Clemons’ company.

In addition, Malloy appears to have intentionally kept secret the fact that Erik Clemons’ company received a lucrative, no-bid contract that is funded by the State Department of Education, the very board that Malloy has appointed him to serve on. The State Board of Education is required to monitor this contract and could continue to fund it in the years ahead.

As reported in previous Wait, What? articles, this incredible story dates back to May 7, 2014 when Governor Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to adopt a “Turnaround Plan for the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.

The plan REQUIRED that the New Haven School System contract with Erik Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).  Erik Clemmons is the founding executive of ConnCAT and his compensation package is well in excess of $100,000 a year.

The Turnaround Plan read;

“While Boost! Will continue to deliver community resources to students at Lincoln-Bassestt, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) shall serve as the schools’s anchor partner for afterschool programing.”

The Turnaround Plan required that the New Haven Public Schools “initiate a performance-based contract with ConnCAT by May 27, 2014.”

As a result of the State Board of Education’s action, the New Haven Board of Education approved Agreement 649-14 with Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) to “provide after-school programming, family and community engagement programs and school environment transformation at Lincoln-Bassett School from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.  The funds to pay for the $302,197.50 contract came from the State Department of Education’s “School Turnaround Program.”

A second contract (Agreement 478-13) between the New Haven Board of Education and ConnCAT, again using State Turnaround Program funds, authorized an additional $214,930.50 to pay for ConnCAT activities form July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

This annual contract is expected to be extended, yet again, in the summer of 2016.

However the ethical issues challenging Erik Clemons ability to serve on the State Board of Education go well beyond the no-bid contract that remains under the purview of the State Board.

Considering Clemons’ close relationship with the charter school industry, he shouldn’t be voting on any issue related to the oversight and funding of charter schools in Connecticut.

Furthermore, since the “Turnaround School” process was manipulated to grant Clemons a no-bid contract, he certainly shouldn’t be voting on any turnaround plans for any schools in New Haven or any other city.

Considering his company’s contract with the New Haven Public Schools will depend on adequate funding from the State of Connecticut, Clemons shouldn’t be voting on any issue that will provide New Haven schools with funding.

In Malloy’ world of “power politics,” it may be understandable that he wants to reward the charter school industry and its lobbying front group, ConnCAN, but the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Connecticut deserve better.

With the Connecticut General Assembly voting on Mr. Clemons’ appointment as early as tomorrow, the question is whether state legislators will stand with their constituents by supporting proper ethical standards for elected or appointed officials or will they throw ethics aside and vote in favor of Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education?

More about this issue can be found in the following articles, a number of them written or co-written with fellow education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker.

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 3-5-16)

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-18-16)

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education (Wait, What? 2-17-16)

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-16-16)

New State Board of Education member collects multi-million dollar contract via State Board of Education (Wait, What? 1-5-16)

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 12-23-15)

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Comments Off on Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education

1 Comment

The Controversy goes well beyond the legal and ethical issues with Malloy’s recent nominee to the State Board of Education.

This week the Connecticut General Assembly is expected to vote on Governor Dannel Malloy’s appointment of Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education, despite what appears to be a major conflict of interest that should be keeping Mr. Clemons off the board that sets policy for Connecticut public schools and is responsible for the oversight of the companies that own and operate Connecticut’s charter schools at a cost of over $100 million a year to Connecticut taxpayers.

Clemons is not only a founding Board Member of the recently opened New Haven Montessori Charter School and served, up until last year, as a Board Member of one of the Achievement First, Inc. charter schools in New Haven, Clemons’s company was given a no-bid contract that was approved and funded by the Connecticut Board of Education, a contract that has already netted Clemons’ company more than $500,000 with a lot more public funds to come.

As a member of the Connecticut Board of Education Erik Clemons will be in a position to financially reward himself, the charter schools he is or has been associated with and his friends and colleagues in the charter school industry.

For Background See:

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education 

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education.

However, the most serious problem with Malloy’s appointment of Clemons goes well beyond the nominee and reaches right into the Governor’s Office.

In a breaking investigative story, fellow education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker lays out the troubling details about the “special relationship” between Malloy and those that own, operate and lobby for charter schools in the state.

In here weekend piece in the Stamford Advocate, Wendy Lecker writes;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2016-17 education budget bears a striking resemblance to New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s: cutting public education funding while increasing funding to privately run charter schools. This budget proposal not only harms children, by cutting vital programs such as special education services, reading tutors and after-school programs, but, as legislators point out, it hurts local taxpayers since municipalities will be forced to fill in the gaps.

Connecticut charters have a questionable track record. They have been cited for abusive discipline practices, such as suspending 5-year-olds and violating the civil rights of students with disabilities, failing to serve needy populations, such as English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and even financial fraud, mismanagement and self-dealing scandals.

Like Malloy, his State Board of Education (SBE) routinely turns a blind eye to charter misdeeds, authorizing charters without proper investigation, reauthorizing charters when they fail to meet requirements in the law and their charter agreements- even allowing the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain to run a Commissioner’s Network school into the ground under the Board’s “supervision.”

In 2013, Malloy appointed Andrea Comer to the SBE, prompting conflict of interest criticism. Comer was the chief operating officer of the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain which, like all charters, must come before the board for authorization, oversight and funding. In the wake of the Jumoke/FUSE scandal, Comer was forced to resign.

Recent charter school scandals forced Connecticut legislators institute some anemic controls over the state board last year.

One might wonder why Malloy favors charters to the detriment of public schools. As blogger-former legislator Jonathan Pelto has uncovered, Malloy’s biggest contributors are charter founders and supporters.

Recent emails reveal the depth to which Malloy is beholden to the charter industry. In November, Malloy appointed three new members to the SBE. One, Erik Clemons, raised concerns for Pelto, as Clemons is a charter founder and board member, and a vendor with the State Department of Education. His company has received hundreds of thousands of dollars through a no-bid contract as part of the State Department of Education’s Turnaround Plan for New Haven’s Lincoln-Bassett elementary school- a plan that SBE approved and the Department funded. Once again, Malloy nominated someone to the State Board who has clear conflicts of interest.

Contrast this with Nevada, where the vice president of the State Board of Education just resigned to avoid a conflict of interest because she intends to work with a charter organization that might contract with the state.

Pelto submitted a freedom of information request to the governor’s office related to the nomination of Mr. Clemons. The emails he received revealed a shocking fact: Malloy relied on the charter lobby, ConnCAN, to find him appointees to Connecticut’s State Board of Education.

An email from Meg Green, of the governor’s office, to Liam Sweeney, ConnCAN’s head of lobbying, reads:

“Hey Liam, I’m doing outreach to some of the folks you recommended for appointments. Do you have good phone numbers for any of these people?”

The state then redacted the email to only show Clemons’ name. Other emails between ConnCAN and the governor’s office were similarly redacted. Thus, we do not know what else was communicated.

We do know several disturbing facts. Despite the fiasco that was Andrea Comer’s appointment, the governor not only appointed another charter operative to the State Board of Education, but actually let the charter lobby assume a governmental function by naming appointees to the board.

The emails also reveal that the governor knew Clemons’ status as a vendor of the State Department of Education posed a potential conflict of interest problem. In one email, Elizabeth Donohue, Malloy’s Director of Government Affairs, writes Meg Green, regarding Erik Clemons, “if he is vendor of the state that is less good.” Yet Malloy appointed Erik Clemons anyway.

Without any mention that Clemons was handpicked by the charter industry, Malloy presented Clemons to the Legislature, where a confirmation vote will occur within weeks.

Gov. Malloy has consistently refused to adequately fund public schools; a stance he now must defend in the landmark school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, on trial currently in Hartford. At the same time, he has dramatically increased public funding for privately owned charter schools, which only serve 1 percent of Connecticut students, without imposing any accountability. But now, Malloy has gone too far in ceding to the charter lobby the responsibility to appoint members to the state board responsible for regulating the charter schools themselves. This corruption, at the expense of taxpayers and our children, must end.

 

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s article at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Malloy-Christie-on-similar-6870576.php

Older Entries