Families for Excellent Schools, Luke Bronin and the expansion of the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry in Hartford Connecticut.


Families for Excellent Schools (FES) is a major New York City based, corporate funded, charter school and education reform advocacy group.

In recent months the group and its allies have played an increasingly powerful role on behalf of Greenwich native and political newcomer Luke Bronin’s campaign for mayor of Hartford.

The work for Bronin is only part of the organization’s effort to expand into Connecticut.

So far this year FES has spent well in excess of a $1.5 million to push Governor Malloy’s successful effort to divert scarce public funds to charter schools rather than adequately funding Connecticut’s public schools.  The net effect of Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher agenda is that charter schools are getting even more public funds while local Connecticut communities are being forced to raise property taxes and cut public school programs just to balance local budgets.

Families for Excellent Schools also have their hand in Luke Bronin’s recent win in the Democratic Primary for Mayor of Hartford and a recent job post announces that the group is also hiring a Hartford, Connecticut organizer “to work with its Connecticut team.”

Andrew Doba, Governor Dannel Malloy’s former mouthpiece, who also served as Hartford mayoral candidate Luke Bronin’s spokesman, is the lead consultant for Families for Excellent Schools in Connecticut.  Doba works for a New York based public relations group that is headed by the former spokesperson for Michael Bloomberg.

Not only has Families for Excellent Schools been paying Malloy/Bronin’s spokesperson but the organization has also handed hundreds of thousands of dollars over to Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s top advisor and the managing director in Connecticut for another New York-based public relations firm called Global Strategies.

Occhiogrosso, who played a key role in Malloy’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns and worked in the Governor’s Office during Malloy’s first term, collected millions from Malloy’s various re-election campaign accounts in 2014. Occhiogrosso and his firm are also one of the highest paid consultants to Luke Bronin during his recent campaign for Mayor.

Formed in 2011, the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy group Families for Excellent School’s fundraising has skyrocketed from $642,042 in 2011 to $1,000,053 in 2012 to $12,264,668 in 2013.  The entity’s IRS 2014 filing is not yet available.

According to a recent article in the Nation magazine entitled, 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York’s Public Schools—Here’s Their Story, both the Chair and Vice Chair of the Families for Excellent Schools Board of Directors are among the super elite that are funding the extraordinary effort to undermine public education in the United States.

Though Families for Excellent Schools presents itself as a grassroots parent education reform organization, four of its five original board members are Wall Street titans like Bryan Lawrence and Paul Appelbaum, who made their millions in the hedge fund and private equity worlds respectively.

Other FES Board members also come to the table having made millions as hedge fund and private equity managers.

Of the $12.3 million that Families for Excellent Schools collected in 2013, $9.1 million was spent on television, radio and direct mail campaigns in support of pro-charter school initiatives like those proposed by Democrat Governors Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy.

Since its inception, Families for Excellent Schools has been involved in some of the most controversial pro-charter lobbying efforts in recent years.

As part of its 2015 effort to support Governor Malloy’s charter school funding initiative, the group bussed in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for a rally on the lawn of the State Capitol in Hartford.  More recently, the group sent out glossy mailings to voters in a number of Connecticut legislative districts “thanking them” for their pro-charter school vote – a vote that will actually end up costing state and local property taxpayers even more money.

Families for Excellent Schools also spent approximately $6 million in 2014 to “prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won passage of a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters “not located on public school grounds.”

Like many of the leading Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups, the organization uses a series of loopholes to keep from having to divulge its list of donors.  In addition, these groups often set up more than one corporate entity to hide donations, reduce the potential to track funds or use the tax code to get around restrictions on lobbying.

In the case of Families for Excellent Schools, they actually have two different entities; Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc.

In Connecticut, both organizations have filed with the Office of State Ethics as lobbying entities, although the two groups are used very differently under the law.

According to research conducted by fellow education blogger and activist Mercedes Schneider, some of the biggest donors to Families for Excellent Schools are:

The Walton Family Foundation, Inc.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

StudentsFirst New York, Inc.

Tapestry Project, Inc.

Moriah Fund, Inc.

Hertog Foundation, Inc.

Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, Inc.

Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

You can find out  more about FES’s fundraising operation via a WNYC story by reporter Robert Lewis – WNYC March 2014 report:

WNYC’s Robert Lewis determined that The Walton Family Foundation provided much of the early start up money for Families for Excellent Schools.

Even Connecticut’s richest billionaire and recipient of well over $50 million from Governor Dannel Malloy’s taxpayer funded corporate welfare program, Ray Dalio, is a donor to Families for Excellent Schools.

While it is difficult to determine where Families for Excellent Schools and other Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry groups get all their funding, some of the major players behind the organization are much easier to identify.

For example, as WNYC reported, the Tapestry Project is one of the organization’s major donors.  As Mercedes Schneider noted in her research, the Tapestry Project’s Executive Director is Eric Grannis who is the husband of the infamous charter school operator, Eva Moskowitz.

The Tapestry Project’s Board of Directors also includes Gideon Stein, who is a member of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy board. Stein is also a member of the Moriah Fund Board of Directors, another major contributor to Families for Excellent Schools.

And not only is Students First NY a donor to Families for Excellent Schools but the group shares an office with Families for Excellent Schools and Eva Moskowitz is a member of the Board of Directors for Student’s First NY.

A number of the other Board members of Families for Excellent Schools have equally incestuous relationships with other entities in the charter school industry and the corporate education reform effort.


Look out Hartford, not only is the newly crowned Democratic Mayoral nominee Luke Bronin basking in the sunshine thanks to the money and players behind Families for Excellent Schools, but the charter school lobbying group is now hiring political operatives to “organize” in Hartford.

Connecticut Ed Reform Leader urges business leaders to say something when poor have too many children


“Speak your mind, if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support one through four – right –speak it …”

 – Paul Diego Holzer, Executive Director of Achieve Hartford! Achieve Hartford! is the leading corporate education reform and charter school advocacy group in Connecticut’s capital city.

The well-paid spokespeople for the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry are usually pretty good at staying on “message.”  Surrounded by public relations staff and consultants and aided by “media training” sessions, the proponents of charter schools, the Common Core, the Common Core Testing scam and various anti-teacher initiatives exude the aura of well-prepared snake oil salesman.

But from time to time, they drop their guard and their true opinions, philosophies, arrogance and ignorance come shining through loud and clear.

One of the most recent examples occurred last week, on September 17, 2015, when the Hartford Metro Alliance, which serves as the Hartford region’s major chamber of commerce, held their annual “Hartford Metro Rising Star Education Breakfast.”

The event was moderated by Oz Griebel, a one-time gubernatorial candidate and the President & CEO of the Hartford Metro Alliance.  The event featured a presentation by Hartford Superintendent of Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, followed by a discussion with the superintendent and Paul Diego Holzer, the Executive Director of Achieve Hartford!, the Connecticut‘s Capital City’s leading corporate funded education reform advocacy group.

As Paul Diego Holzer addressed the status of Hartford’s public schools he began by complimenting Superintendent Schiavino-Narvaez, decried and then mislead the audience about value of the recent Common Core SBAC results and then turned his attention to the issue of poverty.  A partial transcript of the comments follows, the full video can been seen via the link below;

On the problem of poverty, Paul Diego Holzer explained;

I think there is a question that comes up often about poverty which is are we really going to fix this if you know the situations at home are what they are and I challenge us to think about our own expectations of families in poverty


If you don’t speak your mind on to this issue of poverty and on families and where responsibility lies –right – you’re not helping.

Speak your mind – right – if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support 1 through four – right –speak it – we have to come together on this issue, but also at the same time think about what we are going to do for that family…

Putting aside the reality that the actual number of poor parents with four or five children in the school system is extremely low, the stunningly ignorant and disturbing approach to “doing something” about the crippling impact of poverty in Hartford is a stark reflection about how out-of-touch many in the Corporate Education Reform Industry actually approach the real issues that are limiting educational achievement in Hartford and other poor communities across Connecticut and the nation.

We know one overriding truth – poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs are what limit educational achievement.

Anyone who would suggest that the problem is that people need to speak up, “if you think that it is not okay for a parent to have a fifth child when they are struggling to support one through four,” should not be part of any discussion about public education, poverty, children and American society.

Additional Background;

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded charter school and Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy group that spends more than $1 million a year lobbying and advocating for more charter schools and the implementation of Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reforms” in Hartford.

Achieve Hartford! even has a Chief Branding Officer.

The organization’s Executive Director Paul Diego Holzer collects upwards towards $150,000 to coordinate the organization’s activities. Holzer and Achieve Hartford! have been among the most vocal proponents of diverting scarce public taxpayer funds to Achievement First, Inc, the large charter school management company, to former charter school operator Dr.” Michael Sharpe and his disgraced FUSE charter school chain and Steve Perry, the controversial anti-teacher former Hartford school administrator and  self-described “most trusted educator in America,” who, thanks to Governor Malloy is opening his own privately owned but publicly funded “boutique” charter school company.

With an MBA in Education Management from Yale, Paul Diego Holzer, served as Achieve Hartford!’s Director of Education Programs where he managed the organization’s research and community engagement programs, before becoming the organization’s Executive Director.  Holzer was a founding board member of the YouthBuild Public Charter School in Washington DC

Achieve Hartford!’s Board of Directors is made up of corporate executives and business leaders heralding from the biggest corporations in the greater Hartford area including Travelers, New York Life Retirement Services, Hartford Healthcare, Prudential, Webster Bank, The Hartford Financial Services Group, MetroHartford Alliance, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As stunningly disgusting and inappropriate as Holzer’s comments were, equally telling is that neither Oz Griebel, the moderator, nor Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez made any attempt to challenge Holzer’s outrageous comment or even sought to set the record straight about the poor families or that telling poor women not to have “too many” children is not a useful, meaningful or appropriate way to go about dealing with Hartford’s extraordinary poverty problem.

You can see Achieve Hartford!’s Executive Director Paul Diego Holzer’s comments via the following YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV4siK2XNtI  The Achieve Hartford! portion begins about 47 minutes into the video.

The Problem:  Some believe what isn’t true and others refuse to believe what is…


And then there are those people who do both.

As we contemplate how it is possible that elected officials like Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy remain steadfastly committed to his anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core testing and pro-charter school corporate education reform initiatives we might do well to remember the words of the great Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, who observed that fools are those who “believe what isn’t true [and/or] refuse to believe what is true.”

The damage that Malloy and his cadre of “reformers” have done to public education in Connecticut, and continue to do, has been significantly exacerbated by the utter failure of the Democrat controlled Connecticut General Assembly to stand up to Malloy’s bullying.

Incredibly, the majority of State Senators and State Representatives have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to promoting public education.

Rather that step forward and fulfill their constitutional and moral duty as participants in our representative democracy, they have relegated themselves, doing little more than rubber stamping the very policies that are hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers of their districts.

With little to no support from the Legislative Branch of Government, the role of the Judicial Branch becomes all the more important.

Public education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker had another MUST READ column in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

In her column, Wendy Lecker alerts us to the fact that we’ve apparently and unfortunately reached the point where the courts must step in and guide our elected officials toward policies that help, not hurt, public education in Connecticut.

Wendy Lecker’s piece, entitled, “Do courts need to guide Malloy about education?” was first published in the Stamford Advocate and can be found at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Do-courts-need-to-guide-Malloy-6514492.php

Wendy Lecker Writes;

Charter schools want it both ways. To get taxpayer dollars, they want to call themselves public schools. However, they do not want to educate the same children as public schools, or be subject to the same rules. Courts are beginning to challenge this duplicity. In Texas and Arizona, courts have ruled that charters are not entitled to the same funding as public schools. Now, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools not public schools at all and it is unconstitutional to divert any money intended for public schools to them.

Central to the Washington court’s decision was the connection between public schools and local democracy. The court noted that local control is the “most important feature” of a public school because it vests in local voters the power, through their elected agents, to run the schools that educate their children.

Charters in Washington are authorized by state agencies and governed by unelected boards. The court concluded that charter schools are not true public schools because they are “devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation.”

This ruling follows another major decision by Washington’s Supreme Court, holding the legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund its public schools, and fining it $100,000 a day.

The refusal to fund public schools and simultaneous willingness to divert money to privately run charter schools has parallels to Connecticut.

In January, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will have to defend the state’s failure to fund our public schools as the CCJEF school funding trial he has failed to thwart finally begins.

While spending millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prevent children in underfunded school districts from having their day in court, the Malloy administration has aggressively expanded privately run charter schools and funded them at levels higher than schools in our poorest districts receive. Charter schools receive $11,000 per pupil annually from the state, while children in Bridgeport public schools, for example, receive less than $9,000 per pupil annually in ECS funding. New Britain Schools receive less than $8,000 per pupil. Connecticut charter schools also tend to serve less needy, therefore less expensive-to-educate, students than their district counterparts.

Moreover, the state, in violation of its own laws, concentrates charters in a few districts, forcing those financially strapped districts to pay additional millions to the charter schools for special education and transportation.

The Malloy administration applies a double standard to charters on one hand and underfunded public schools on the other. As I have documented, the State Board of Education routinely reauthorizes charter schools despite their failures, while poor districts are subject to state takeover despite the state acknowledging that the districts’ troubles are financial . The SBE even blindly handed over tens of millions of dollars to a convicted embezzler/charter operator, Michael Sharpe.

Furthermore, despite strong Connecticut legal precedent barring school segregation, the state does nothing to stop rampant charter segregation. Ironically, the state recently claimed stellar progress on desegregation and asked to be released from court oversight in the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation case.

Like Washington, Connecticut has a long tradition of local control over its public schools. In 2012, our Supreme Court voided the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport board of education. The decision highlighted the importance of local control over education. The court stressed that Connecticut law has long recognized need to protect the democratic will of the people who elect their local boards of education. The court noted that local boards are most responsive to the needs of the local district and the will of the local population. The court further emphasized that local control “fosters a beneficial and symbiotic relationship between the parents, students and local school administrators, a relationship that should not be lightly disregarded.”

Yet in its zeal to expand and dole out taxpayer dollars to privately-run charters, the state has run roughshod over local control. Connecticut’s State Board of Education authorizes charter schools, which often appoint outsiders to their unelected boards. SBE steamrolls the will of the people. Last year, the SBE authorized new charter schools in Bridgeport and Stamford, disregarding the vociferous opposition of the elected school board in each city.

While the Malloy administration fights fair funding and desegregation of public schools, it has nearly doubled financial support for privately run, segregated charters.

Perhaps it is time for our courts to step in, like they did in Washington, and remind the governor of the true nature of public schools: Schools that serve every child and are accountable to the voters in every district.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ PIECE – Connecticut Legislators Take Note, West Coast Rulings Are Going Against Charter Schools

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Fellow education advocate and CT Newsjunkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman has written another Must Read article about charter schools and Corporate Education Reform Industry’s unrelenting assault on public education.

In her latest piece, Littman challenges Connecticut legislators to pay “close attention to several interesting legal developments on the West Coast, which could have significant implications here in the Nutmeg State.”

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The first came Sept. 5, when the state Supreme Court in Washington ruled 6-3 that charter schools don’t qualify as “common” schools under the state’s constitution, and therefore can’t receive public funding intended for traditional public schools.

“Our inquiry is not concerned with the merits or demerits of charter schools,” Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the majority opinion. “Whether charter schools would enhance our state’s public school system or appropriately address perceived shortcomings of that system are issues for the legislature and the voters. The issue for this court is what are the requirements of the constitution.”

Charter schools have always tried to play the public/private issue both ways. The acts of calling themselves “public” when it comes to claiming funds from the public purse, yet immediately claiming to be private entities the minute accountability and FOIA matters are raised, have created several interesting conundrums, as we have observed right here in our own backyard. (See FUSE, ConnCAN)

In the Washington State case this play it both ways strategy finally went pear-shaped:

“The words ‘common school’ must measure up to every requirement of the constitution . . . and whenever by any subterfuge it is sought to qualify or enlarge their meaning beyond the intent and spirit of the constitution, the attempt must fail . . . Bryan established the rule that a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.”

The court listed all the ways charters fail to meet these qualifications. Namely, they are:

1) “governed by a charter school board,” which is “appointed or selected . . . to manage and operate the charter school.”

2) The charter school board has the power to hire and discharge charter school employees and may contract with nonprofit organizations to manage the charter school.

3) They are “free from many regulations” that govern other schools.

4) Charter schools are “exempt from all school district policies,” as well as “all . . . state statutes and rules applicable to school districts” except those listed in I-1240 section 204(2) and those made applicable in the school’s charter contract.

In other words the Washington state court finally issued a ruling confirming what many of us here in Connecticut have been saying for years: charters are siphoning off taxpayer money from the public school system without sufficient (if any) accountability. Calling them “public schools” is merely convenient political fiction.

Sarah Darer Littman goes on to raise attention on the appeal of Vergara v. State of California and the education reformers attempt to force school districts to use test scores to evaluate teachers in yet another lawsuit.

Anyone concerned about threat to public education posed by the corporate education reformers and its allies like Governor Dannel Malloy should read Littman’s latest piece which can be found in its entirety at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_ct_legislators_should_take_note_of_west_coast_rulings_on_charters/

Adequate resources, not more testing, is the way to improve public schools

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The challenges associated with poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs are the factors leading to the educational achievement gap between the haves and have nots.  The Corporate Education Reform Industry, with the help of elected officials likes of Dannel Malloy, Andrew Cuomo, Jeb Bush and others, have used the problems facing public schools in poorer communities to institute an agenda of more standardized testing, inappropriate teacher evaluation programs and the privatization of public education through the creation of privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

In yet another powerful commentary piece, Wendy Lecker goes to the root of the problem with the Common Core SBAC testing scheme and strategies being foisted on public school children, parents and teachers.

Wendy Lecker writes;

The SBAC results are out. With them will come recriminations about how our students, teachers and public schools are failing. Those who make these accusations hope the public has a short memory. They do not want us to remember that the SBAC has not been externally validated and therefore, according to the Vermont State Board of Education, does “not support valid and reliable inferences about student performance.” They hope we forget that the arbitrary SBAC proficiency levels set in Washington, D.C., guaranteed ahead of time that the majority of Connecticut students would fail.

Standardized tests are universally recognized to be unreliable and unhelpful in determining how well students learn. Experts routinely caution to therefore never use test results for any consequential decisions about schools, teachers or students.

Decades of testing evidence show that the only stable correlation that exists, whether it is the CMTs or the SATs and likely the SBACs, is between test scores and wealth. Researchers such as Sean Reardon at Stanford note that wealthy parents not only can provide basic stability, nutrition and health care for their children, but also tutoring and enrichment that gives affluent children an edge over poorer children.

The wealth advantage extends beyond test scores. Two studies, by St. Louis Federal Reserve and by the Boston Federal Reserve, demonstrate that family wealth is a determining factor in life success. The St. Louis report, published in August, revealed a racial wealth gap among college graduates. A college degree does not protect African-Americans and Latinos from economic crises as it does for whites and Asians. Employment discrimination figures into the disparity, but a major role is played by family wealth. Without a safety net of family assets, graduates of color must make more risky loan and other financial decisions. Last year’s Boston Fed study noted that wealthy high school drop-outs stay in the top economic rung as often as poor college graduates remain in the bottom economic rung. As a Washington Post article put it, rich kids who do everything wrong are better off than poor kids who do everything right. These reports, coupled with the fact that most job openings in the United States are for low-skilled workers, expose the uncomfortable truth that education is not the great equalizer.

These truths should inform education policy. To attempt to level the playing field, we should at least be equipping schools to provide supports to needy children that affluent parents provide their children.

Instead we spend billions on testing that tells us what we already know — rich kids are better off than poor kids; without addressing that inequality. Education reformers deflect attention from the supports poor kids need and tell us that all kids have to do is develop some “grit” to succeed. In his best-selling book, “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough claims there is “no antipoverty tool we can provide for disadvantaged young people that will be more valuable than the character strengths” like grit. Connecticut policy makers are trying to develop tests to measure the degree of “grit” our kids have. We are even told that if students have enough “grit” to get high test scores, our economy will be more competitive.

This is American individualism taken to its absurd extreme. Not only are children supposed to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, they have to bootstrap the entire national economy. The Fed studies show us that grit does not determine success in today’s highly stratified society — privilege does. And our nation’s economic health — surprise! — does not depend on test scores. The United States has remained competitive while our international tests scores have always been middling. Moreover, former U.S. Department of Education analyst Keith Baker compared 40 years’ worth of nations’ per capita gross domestic product and international test scores and found that test scores actually dropped as the rate of economic growth improved.

Those who push this false narrative of individualism also fight efforts to fund schools in order to give poor kids the support they need. Last month, the Washington Supreme Court held the state’s legislature in contempt, fining it $100,000 a day, for failing to adequately fund the state’s schools. Interestingly Microsoft, whose chief Bill Gates is a major player in test-based education reform, lobbied heavily against state taxes that would have helped finance the public schools.

Robber-baron education reformers such as Gates fight to protect their wealth to pass on their success to their children. For other people’s children their message is clear, as teacher/blogger Joe Bower remarked: “Let ’em eat grit.”

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.  Her complete commentary piece can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Education-is-not-the-great-6487019.php

Bronin spokesperson behind Charter School Mailing thanking legislators for Education funding sent to Bridgeport and Stamford!


While some Hartford voters turn their attention to tonight’s Achieve Hartford! “education” debate between Mayor Pedro Segarra and Luke Bronin, the truth is finally coming out about Bronin and his ties to the charter school industry and their pro-Common Core testing, pro-charter school, anti- teacher and anti-public school agenda.

As anyone who has been watching the mayoral campaign in Hartford knows, Luke Bronin has been attacking Mayor Pedro Segarra for not getting more education funding from Governor Malloy for Hartford’s public schools.

However, what has remained relatively secret is that Bronin’s PR person is a well-paid adviser for Families for Excellent Schools, the New York based charter school industry group that spent more than $1 million lobbying Connecticut legislators on behalf of Governor Malloy’s proposal to divert millions of dollars in scarce state funds so that Bridgeport and Stamford could get new, privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools —- one of which will make former Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry very rich.

Now, with days to go until Hartford’s Democratic Primary, the truth is finally coming out.

Bronin’s Communications Director, Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Dannel Malloy’s mouthpiece  until this past January, is behind an expensive, glossy mass mailing that is being sent to voters across Connecticut to “thank” Connecticut legislators for successfully funding the new charter schools while utterly failing to adequately fund Connecticut public schools, including those in Hartford.

Doba, who is both Bronin’s PR person and the hired gun for the charter school industry has been on Twitter regularly attacking Segarra on Bronin’s behalf.

In one Tweet, Andrew Doba ‏@AndrewDoba  wrote;

Will the layoffs of teachers and other staff that’s going to happen because of your budget help Hartford Public Schools? #AskSegarra

In another, Doba, who works for a New York based public relations company said;

With strong push from @GovMalloyOffice, Leg. made the right call in meeting its financial commitment to charter schools

And Doba also retweeted his client’s tweet which cheered;

Thank you to our state leaders who showed a strong commitment to ensuring access to great school #ForEveryChild.

Now, in a mailing that looks surprisingly similar to the glossy campaign pieces Luke Bronin has been sending out to Hartford voters comes a expensive lobbyist-funded brochure telling state legislators that they did a great job when they decided to fund privately owned charter schools… rather than doing what they should have done and provided Hartford and Connecticut’s other cities and towns with the money needed to adequately fund local schools.

The Charter School Industry mailing is going to voters all over Connecticut, including voters in Hartford.

As CT Newsjunkie explains in today’s article entitled, Special Interest Group Sends Mailing To Thank Lawmaker For Charter Funding

State Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, is being thanked with a glossy mailer from a special interest group that has spent more than $1.1 million this year lobbying lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to make sure two new charter schools were included in the state budget.

The mailer was sent to constituents in McGee’s district, which includes the northend of Hartford and parts of Windsor, by Families for Excellent Schools.

“More kids now have access to a quality education, which means more opportunity and a brighter future,” the mailer reads.

It asks constituents to call McGee and thank him for his commitment to Connecticut kids.

It’s unclear still how much money was spent on the mailers because the filings are not due to the Office of State Ethics until the next quarter. It’s also unclear exactly how many other lawmakers may have benefited from the mailers by the pro-charter school group.

“The mailer thanked a number of legislators for their support for great schools for every child,” Kara Neidhardt, a spokeswoman for Families for Excellent Schools, said in an email. “The cost of the entire campaign will be disclosed in the next filing.”

McGee, who works in the Capitol Region Education Council’s school choice office, said Wednesday that he’s not offended by the mailing. He said he supports choice programs and participated in the school choice program when he was a child.


This isn’t the first time a pro-charter school group has expended funds on McGee’s behalf. In 2012, when he first ran for his seat, a school reform group with ties to StudentsFirst, the organization founded by the controversial former chancellor of the Washington school system, poured nearly $32,000 into his race.

The budget approved by the legislature in June included $4.6 million to open two new charter schools in Stamford and Bridgeport. Malloy insisted the two schools remain in the budget despite complaints from some of McGee’s colleagues in Hartford and Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools has lobbied hard this year for increased funding for charter schools. The group spent $1.1 million between January through June. It also hired public relations and political strategy firms that employ former Malloy staffers Andrew Doba and Roy Occhiogrosso.

Families for Excellent Schools held a rally on the New Haven green in December last year and one in May outside the state Capitol in Hartford. At the rally in Hartford, they spent $87,700 on transportation and $14,000 on food for the students and parents who attended.

You can see the complete MUST READ CT Newsjunkie article at:  Special Interest Group Sends Mailing To Thank Lawmaker For Charter Funding

And meanwhile, let’s get things straight when it comes to Luke Bronin and his campaign for mayor of Hartford;

Democrat Luke Bronin says it is Democrat Mayor Pedro Segarra’s fault that Democrat Dannel Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly didn’t give Hartford more education funding.  Bronin even blames Segarra for any tax increases that were necessary as a result of the state’s failure to give Hartford the funding it needed. Bronin says he will cut taxes and provide more money for education…

At the same time Luke Bronin says that HE deserves a good chunk of the credit for Malloy’s 2nd chance initiative because has Malloy’s lawyer he was involved in the policy process in the Governor’s Office, but none of the blame for Malloy’s failure to properly fund public schools.

Meanwhile, Luke Bronin’s spokesperson’s New York based company received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the charter school industry for coordinating the lobbying campaign on behalf of the charter schools, a proposal that diverted Connecticut taxpayer money that should have been spent on public schools.

And behind all that is the reality that a number of the key players behind charter schools are among Bronin’s biggest campaign donors… money that is so important to Bronin that he refused to give back those funds and thus lost the endorsement of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

Yup, Luke Bronin has arrived from Greenwich and is ready to save Hartford….

Did the Achievement First Charter School Chain Cheat on the Connecticut SBAC tests?


The case has been repeatedly made that that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory.  Designed to fail students, many of the questions on the SBAC test covered material that students had not even been taught.

However, from day one, the charter school industry has been among the SBAC testing program’s greatest champions.  The Achievement First Charter School Chain, along with Connecticut’s two major charter school advocacy groups, ConnCAN and CCER, have spent millions of dollars lobbying in favor of the Common Core SBAC testing system and Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” agenda.

In recent days, both charter school lobbying groups have written commentary pieces lauding the SBAC testing scam.

See:  For the sake of Connecticut’s children, embrace the SBAC data (By ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander) and Connecticut’s students must be challenged in school (By CCER’s Jeffrey Villar)

Now that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has finally released the results of the 2015 SBAC testing, parents, students and teachers and taxpayers can see just how unfair and discriminatory the massive and expensive SBAC testing program is.

But beyond the major underlying problems with the SBAC tests, an incredible issue immediately stands out when reviewing the SBAC test results.

The results “achieved” by the Achievement First charter schools chain of charter schools are extraordinarily different than the results from other schools across Connecticut.

Take a look the data…

Statewide, the number of students that met or exceeded the pre-determined “Achievement Level” in MATH ranged from 30.6% for 11th graders up 48% for 3rd graders.  This means that there was a total variation in the percent of students reaching the “Achievement Level”  of 17.4% across grade levels.

Total Variation:  48% – 30.6% = 17.4%

Grade Percent at Level 3 & 4:
Meets or Exceeds the Achievement Level
3 48.0%
4 44.2%
5 36.9%
6 37.3%
7 38.8%
8 36.8%
11 30.6%


The variation in the percent of students reaching “goal” across grade levels was even less in Connecticut’s major cities;

The MATH achievement by grade in the Hartford public school ranged by 6.7%

The MATH achievement by grade in New Haven public school ranged by 5.6%

The MATH achievement by grade in New Haven public schools ranged by 10%

But unlike Connecticut’s statewide data and the results from other urban school distrticts, the SBAC achievement results at Achievement First charter schools had incredible fluctuations between grade levels – differences that suggest that students in some grades may of had some “assistance” filling in the answers.

Achievement First Hartford Academy reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 48.2%

Achievement First Amistad reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 40.9%

Achievement First Elm City Prep reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 53.8%

Achievement First Bridgeport reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 35.3%

According to the data released by the Connecticut Department of Education on Friday, the variation between grades at Achievement First charter schools was massive, unusual and extremely suspect.

In fact, the Achievement First charter school results are so suspect that the State of Connecticut should take immediate steps to conduct an investigation into whether the large charter school chain instituted some mechanism or system to inflate test results in some grades.

The following is the data released by the Connecticut Department of Education.

Hartford School District 03 18.6%
Hartford School District 04 13.7%
Hartford School District 05 13.3%
Hartford School District 06 12.3%
Hartford School District 07 16.3%
Hartford School District 08 11.9%
Hartford School District 11 12.6%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 03 55.1%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 04 46.3%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 05 10.3%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 06 13.9%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 07 23.0%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 08 6.9%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 11 45.2%
New Haven School District 03 16.9%
New Haven School District 04 11.3%
New Haven School District 05 12.3%
New Haven School District 06 13.7%
New Haven School District 07 12.5%
New Haven School District 08 15.0%
New Haven School District 11 11.5%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 03 51.1%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 04 46.1%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 05 10.2%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 06 36.4%  
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 07 25.6%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 08 41.8%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 11 25.0%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 03 70.7%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 04 52.6%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 05 26.3%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 06 16.9%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 07 46.6%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 08 44.9%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 11 *
Bridgeport School District 03 15.0%
Bridgeport School District 04 7.2%
Bridgeport School District 05 <5%
Bridgeport School District 06 8.5%
Bridgeport School District 07 11.6%
Bridgeport School District 08 8.3%
Bridgeport School District 11 6.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 03 42.7%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 04 36.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 05 7.4%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 06 14.6%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 07 29.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 08 39.7%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 11 22.2%


Luke Bronin’s failure to stand with Hartford’s teachers, students and parents cost him key HFT union endorsement


The fundamental lack of principle, vision and courage has become a sad and disturbing hallmark of American politics.

However, in a powerful move to stand up on behalf of Hartford, Connecticut’s public school teachers, students, parents and schools, the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) has withdrawn its endorsement of Luke Bronin, the Greenwich native who is now campaigning to become Hartford’s next mayor.

Following an emergency meeting of the Hartford Federation of Teacher’s Executive Committee on Monday, a meeting that candidate Luke Bronin attended but where he failed to appropriately address his relationship with the charter school industry, the HFT voted unanimously to withdraw their endorsement of Bronin and his campaign for mayor.

Hartford Federation of Teachers President Andrea Johnson has been one of the state’s most outspoken advocates on behalf of public school students, parents and teachers.

Johnson and her union leadership have consistently pushed for adequate funding for Hartford’s public schools and against the immoral and unethical effort to divert scarce public funds to privately-owned charter schools, schools that, in Hartford, discriminate against Latino students, students who need help with the English language and students who require special education services.

In June, after interviewing all of the mayoral candidates, the HFT endorsed Luke Bronin.

But when it came to light that Luke Bronin was collecting campaign contributions from the charter school industry, Johnson and the HFT leadership sat down with him a second time to discuss his relationship and connection with charter school proponents.

The charter school operators and supporters who gave money to Bronin’s campaign are also associated with the corporate-funded lobbying in support of the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and the inappropriate effort to evaluate teachers on the basis of the Common Core test results.

According to Bronin’s campaign finance reports, charter school proponents, including those associated with the disgraced FUSE/Jumoke Charter School charter chain and others who are connected with the New York-based charter school advocacy front group called Families for Excellent Schools have provided Bronin with campaign contributions.  Families for Excellent Schools is the entity that bused charter school parents and students to Hartford from as far away as New York and Boston to rally in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s effort to divert even more public funds to charter schools.  The group was also instrumental in supporting Steve Perry’s effort to collect tens of millions of dollars in public funds so that he could open his own, privately operated, but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

In recent months Luke Bronin has been saying that, if elected, he would be a strong supporter of Hartford’s neighborhood public schools but when the HFT asked Bronin to return the tainted money that he had raised from the charter school industry, he refused, despite the fact that he had over $500,000 on hand as of the last campaign finance report (a 5-1 advantage over Mayor Pedro Segarra) and that the Bronin for Mayor campaign has reportedly raised hundreds of thousands more since July 1, 2015.

The fact that Luke Bronin was unwilling to return the money that he had collected from the charter school industry speaks volumes about his unwillingness to stand with Hartford’s public school teachers, students and parents.

Considering Bronin never attended public schools, opting instead for some of the most prestigious private schools in the nation, the aspiring candidate for mayor had a perfect opportunity to make it clear that he was ready, willing and able to be there for Hartford’s 20,000 public school students and to stand in solidarity with Hartford’s 2,200 teachers and education professionals.

But instead, the lure of campaign funds and whatever commitments he has made to the charter school industry kept him from doing the right thing.

In response, Andrea Johnson and the Hartford Federation of teachers did exactly the right thing by revoking their endorsement of Bronin’s campaign and making it clear that as long as he is unwilling to commit to making Hartford’s public school students, parents, teachers and schools a true priority, he is simply not ready for the critically important job of serving as Hartford’s mayor.

The Hartford Courant has also covered this developing story.  Their article entitled “Hartford Teachers Union Rescinds Bronin Endorsement” reads,

The Hartford Federation of Teachers has rescinded its endorsement of mayoral challenger Luke Bronin after he refused to return campaign donations from charter school advocates, the union said Wednesday.

The complete Hartford Courant article can be found at: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-teachers-union-endorsement-0827-20150826-story.html

Better school libraries, not more Common Core testing, is a real Civil Rights issue


The Corporate Education Reform Industry and its allies have been spending a lot of energy claiming that requiring more Common Core standardized testing is a “Civil Rights” issue because it serves as the mechanism to determine which public schools are failing.  How else, they assert, will we ever be able to determine where to invest public dollars in order to provide children of color with the support they need and deserve to become college and career ready?

Of course, the entire claim is nothing but a scam considering the fact that standardized test scores are driven by poverty, English language barriers and unmet special education needs, all of which are  factors that can be identified without turning classrooms into little more than standardized testing factories.

But truth has never been a concern to those who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting the notion that privatization, charter schools, the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme are the solutions to reducing the nation’s achievement gap.

Calling for more testing, rather than recognizing the fundamental challenges associated with poverty and language barriers, has become the overarching strategy of the education reformers.

Their education philosophy is driven by the notion that when it comes to ensuring academic achievement, test prep and a curriculum focused on math and English language arts trumps a comprehensive school experience in which children are given the full range of courses, programs and services they need in order to learn and prosper.

In this era of scarce resources, the fact that more money is being spent on more testing, while important educational assets like school libraries are allowed to disintegrate, is a quintessential example of the stupidity surrounding the education reform agenda and a reflection of the real Civil Rights issues that are facing poorer school districts.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his General Assembly recently adopted a budget that devotes more than $50 million over the next two years for the SBAC Common Core testing program, while doing nothing to address the very real Civil Rights violations associated with the fact that that tens of thousands of black and brown public school children don’t even have access to a quality school library.

Walk into any one of Farmington Connecticut’s elementary schools and you’ll find a vibrant school library with an average of 60 books per child and trained library professionals to help students learn how to fully utilize libraries and the portal to information and knowledge that library’s provide.

A visit to a Fairfield elementary school will reveal a center of learning with at least 50 library books per child and Greenwich is not far behind with 45 books per child.

By comparison, there are 17 elementary schools in Bridgeport with so-called “School libraries” that have less than 15 books per child, and a growing number of schools that have no school library at all. Library professionals are just as scarce.

And not surprisingly, considering the State of Connecticut’s historic underfunding of its public schools, Bridgeport is not alone.

While the State of Connecticut and its school districts can find the money for the technology required to institute the Common Core testing program, some can’t or refuse to come up with the funds necessary to provide students with a quality school library.

The following chart reveals just the tip of the iceberg;

School Districts with libraries that have less than 15 books per child # of Elementary Schools
Bridgeport 17
Hartford 9
New Haven 3
Meriden 3
West Haven 3


Other towns with elementary schools that have libraries with less than 15 books per child include Ansonia, East Hartford, Griswold, Naugatuck, New Britain, Rocky Hill and Shelton.

And although it is the 21st Century and Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the nation, there are elementary schools in Connecticut that don’t have any school libraries at all.  That list includes schools in East Hartford, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and elsewhere.

Oh, and what about those magical “charter schools” that the education reformers claim will “save” the poor and minority children?

According to the official school profile reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education, Achievement First Bridgeport Charter School, Achievement First Hartford Charter School, Achievement First Elm City Charter School and Side by Side Charter School in Norwalk have no school library at all.

Meanwhile, Highville Charter School (Hamden) has a library with only 12 books per child and the infamous Capital Prep (Hartford) has a library with 13 books per child, but as reported previously, students aren’t allowed to take books out of that library.

The charter school and corporate education reform industry lobby groups have spent nearly $1.4 million so far this year promoting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda.

Just imagine what they could be doing with those funds if they were actually serious about helping poor children succeed in school.

Fellow Education advocate and columnist Sarah Darer Littman has written extensively about the school library issue in Connecticut.  Start by reading her piece in CTNewsjunkie entitled, College, Career and Democracy ready? Not without a trained librarian

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


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

January 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015



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.

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