Charter School Industry money persuades legislators to give them your tax dollars

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The Connecticut General Assembly is returning to Hartford for a special session to pass the statutory language needed to implement the state budget that the Democratic controlled legislature passed earlier this month.

While legislators are going into special session, cities and towns across Connecticut are cutting local public school programs as a result of the inadequate education funding that is part of the state budget that was agreed upon in a deal between Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislators earlier this month.

But while the people reel from the impact of the major tax increases and deep spending cuts to vital services that are part of the new budget, there is one group that is overjoyed with the state budget that is receiving so much criticism from across the political spectrum.

Thanks to their record spending on lobbyists and lobbying, Connecticut’s charter school industry is sitting pretty thanks to the decision by Malloy and the Democrats to give the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools record amounts of public funds.

Having created a myriad of front groups with names like Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child; North East Charter School Network; Connecticut Council for Education Reform; Achievement First, Inc., Bronx Charter School of Excellence, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., Educators 4 Excellence and FaithActs for Education, charter school owners and the corporate executives behind the education reform industry have poured another $1 million into their successful campaign to persuade legislators to give private charter school companies even more public funds while leaving their own local schools high and dry and twisting in the wind.

In just the first 150 days of the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the charter schools and their front groups spent more than $1,149,800.70 to “persuade” legislators to fund their corporate entities rather than our public schools.

The Charter School and Corporate Education Reform groups involved in the lobbying include;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $69,894.80
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $4,489.01
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $39,959.00
   
North East Charter School Network $85,608.24
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $938,923.47
   
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $10,936.27
   
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRY

January 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015

$1,149,800.70

 

Since the corporate education reform industry began ramping up their lobbying efforts as part of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative of 2012, the various charter school advocates and education reform groups have spent a record breaking $7.9 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-common core, anti-teacher agenda.

To help grease their success, the various charter school advocacy groups has even spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and his former press secretary.

During the recent legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child ran television ads calling upon Connecticut’s elected officials to divert even more scarce taxpayer funds to charter schools.  The group was also the lead sponsored of a pro-charter school rally in which they bussed in parents and students from charter schools as far away as New York City and Boston.

Among the more curious expenditures listed in the reports filed this month with the State Ethics Commission by Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child was a payment of just over $2,000 to the charter school management company Achievement First, Inc.

However, with Achievement First Inc. and other charter school companies claiming that they don’t have to abide by Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act because they are private entities, there is no way to know what exactly the charter school operator is doing with its public funds or other funds that they are collecting.

A bill expanding the reach of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law to ensure greater transparency when it comes to the charter school companies was water-downed during the last days of the legislative session as a result of intense lobbying by the charter school industry.

Dacia Toll, the Co-CEO of Achievement First Inc. testified that requiring charter school operators to adhere to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act would be a unfair burden.

As education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman explained in a CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, the charter school industry is simply unwilling to open its books for public inspection despite the fact that it receives well over $100 million a year in public funds from Connecticut’s taxpayers.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

For more about the charter school industry’s successful effort to meaningful prevent transparency go to: Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

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Earlier this month, Sarah Darer Littman had a column in CT Newsjunkie reminding readers to be on the lookout for an attempt by the charter school industry and Governor Dannel Malloy to undermine efforts to hold charter school companies accountable for the public funds they get.

In an article entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman warned about the charter school industry’s unwillingness to be transparent.  She wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Grace, the Connecticut Director for Northeast Charter School Networks complained in his testimony that “this bill requires background checks for school staff and boards. Backgrounds are a safety issue that we take extremely seriously. Most of our members have been running them for all staff already, and making sure it’s the law is an important step for our children. It is worth noting that requiring charters to wait for these to be completed before hiring someone subjects charters to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason.”

I’m not sure how Mr. Grace can make the statement that “charters are being subjected to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason” with a straight face. First, we have already seen evidence that the background check issue hasn’t been taken seriously. Second, to say that having to wait for those to be completed before hiring is more stringent than in the public schools is just plain bunkum. Just to teach an after-school creative writing class in a district school, I had to undergo a full background check, including fingerprinting, and I had to ensure the background check was completed before I could commence instruction.

With the General Assembly returning to the Capitol to adopt legislation needed to implement next year’s state budget, it would be nice to believe that Connecticut’s elected officials won’t fold under the pressure to back off the demand for transparency on the part of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools and their holding companies.

But knowing the propensity to do the wrong thing at times like this, Connecticut’s taxpayers should make a special effort to read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece and keep a careful eye on their state legislators in the week ahead.

You can read Littman’s piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/keep_an_eye_out_for_mischief_in_implementer_when_it_comes_to_transparency/

Malloy – A Governor intent on undermining public education

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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.

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

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On December 5, 2000, Carl McCluster was sentenced to five years’ probation for embezzling $114,000 from a program meant to help homeless veterans in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

According to the court order, the defendant was placed on home confinement for the first six months. (The Judge order that, “The defendant shall pay none of the costs associated with monitoring.”) The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to the Veteran’s Affairs, Homeless Providers Grant Per Diem Program.

McCluster was back in federal court five years later to deal with the payment issues and a related garnishment of his wages from his employer, Shiloh Baptist Church.

The issue of convicted felons being associated with Charter Schools is unfortunately not new to Connecticut.

Just last year Connecticut witnessed the collapse of the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school chain as a result of revelations that the company’s CEO “Dr.” Michael Sharpe didn’t actually have the academic credentials he claimed and, to boot, had been convicted of embezzling public funds when he was working in California.

The State Department of Education claimed they had no knowledge that the CEO of Fuse/Jumoke Charter School company wasn’t exactly who he claimed to be.

So action was needed and with the Jumoke debacle fresh in their minds, the leadership of Connecticut’s Education Committee introduced Senate Bill 1096 – AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

The legislation has passed the Connecticut State Senate and it presently sits on the House calendar waiting for its potential passage prior to legislature’s midnight deadline tomorrow, Wednesday, June 2, 2015.

The bill requires greater transparency for Connecticut’s charter schools, something that Dacia Toll, the CEO of Achievement First, Inc., a large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island opposed, having told the Education Committee that it would be a “burden” for charter schools to have to be more transparent.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain co-founded by Malloy’s first term commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor.

While much of the charter school accountability bill is waiting for action by the House deals with fiscal transparency, there is also a critically important section on criminal background checks.

As the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research explains in the bill summary,

“Beginning July 1, 2015, the bill requires various individuals who manage and work in charter schools to submit to several types of background checks. Specifically, SBE must require governing council and CMO members to submit to Department of Children and Families child abuse and neglect registry checks and state and national criminal history records checks (1) prior to SBE granting an initial certificate to the charter school or (2) before the governing council or CMO may hire new members.”

Wait? What?

Submit background checks before a charter school can be granted approval to open?

But what about schools that already have the approval of the Connecticut State Department of Education to open, but haven’t actually received the funding they would need to start operating?

The bill’s language is clear – Beginning July 1, 2015 – Charter school applicants must do complete background checks and provide that information to the State Board of Education in their application material.

The two charter schools that Governor Dannel Malloy is demanding funding for were already approved in 2014, they have an approved application in place….just not funding (yet.)

So if you were listening closely, that sound you just heard was probably the wannabee charter school chain operator Steve Perry dancing a jig based on the fact that he won’t have to go through the trouble and burden of providing the state with information about the criminal backgrounds of members of his charter school’s governing council.

Because if he did, that would be a problem!

A big problem…

The charter school application submitted by Steve Perry and approved by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education included the names of the members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school…

And leading the list of governing board members is Carl McCluster, who also happens to be one of Perry’s biggest cheerleaders in Bridgeport.

Having testified for Steve Perry’s charter school and spoken at rally’s in support of Perry’s plan,  Carl McCluster and Steve Perry certainly don’t want to face what would be an awkward situation if Perry was required to reveal whether any of his governing board members are convicted felons.

The charter school industry is certainly hoping, and undoubtedly working, to make sure that Senate Bill 1096 is not taken up in the House of Representatives today or tomorrow.  Failure to pass the bill in the next 30 hours will kill the legislation.

However, even if the bill passes and is signed into by Governor Malloy, McCluster and Perry can rest easy because as it is presently written the law only applies to charter school applications that are submitted on or after July 1, 2015.

Phew, that is good to know

Malloy – Wyman Team Earn an “F” on Education

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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True, Connecticut’s Steve Perry has been serving as the principal of Hartford Connecticut’s public charter school named Capital Prep Magnet School but that hasn’t stopped him from opening up a charter school management company using the name of his public school.

For a long period of time, his private company even listed Hartford’s public school address as his private company’s corporate location for its IRS filings.

Now, with only days left to the 2015 Connecticut Legislative Session Perry is counting on Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy to force the Connecticut General Assembly to provide the public funds Perry needs to open his privately owned charter school in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Not one to stand on ceremony, or even legality, Perry’s company website is called “We Are Capital Prep.”

And as a visit there reveals, Perry’s self-described “boutique” charter school chain not only includes the unfunded and unopened Capital Preparatory Harbor [Charter] School in Bridgeport but it also includes the equally non-existent Capital Preparatory Harlem [Charter] School in New York City.

But the piece de résistance is that the man who calls himself the “most trusted educator in America” continues to tell the public that his “Family of Schools” includes Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School… which remains, at least for now, under the care, control and ownership of the Hartford Board of Education and the people of Hartford.

Just check out the site: 

CAPITAL PREPARATORY SCHOOLS

The Capital Preparatory family of Schools includes the Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut; Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Capital Preparatory Harlem School in New York City.

A click of the mouse will even take you to the taxpayer owned website of the taxpayer owned school called Capital Prep Magnet.

But clearly Perry belief is that the motto in today’s corporate education reform industry world is that something as simple as the basic truth shouldn’t stand in the way of good corporate marketing campaign.

Oh and special word to Connecticut’s state legislators;

Remember, if you use Connecticut’s scarce public funds to preserve vital health and human services rather than fund Perry’s private charter school venture…. Well, you are hereby warned;

The last time he didn’t get his way, Perry took to his Twitter account to threaten;

 Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry

“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.”

Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

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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.

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