Pelto to Malloy – Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut

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Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut:

Jonathan Pelto, the Education and Democracy Party’s candidate for governor called on Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to fire Stefan Pryor, his Commissioner of Education and remove his political appointee, Andrea Comer from the State Board of Education.

Pryor, who co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company has masterminded Malloy’s unprecedented effort to expand charter schools in Connecticut, including the schools Pryor helped to create.

Andrea Comer, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company is one of Malloy’s appointees to the State Board of Education.  During her tenure, Jumoke Academy/Fuse has received a series of no-bid contracts to run local elementary schools in Hartford and Bridgeport as well as being selected as the manager of a new charter school in New Haven.

“In recent years, Connecticut taxpayers have paid Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company, and their disgraced CEO Michael Sharpe, in excess of $53 million dollars. Over the past week we’ve learned that not only is Jumoke Academy/FUSE’s CEO a convicted felon, having served about 5 years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, but he also falsified his resume by claiming that he had a doctorate when he didn’t even complete his graduate degree,” Pelto said. “Stefan Pryor’s relationship with charter school companies and State Board of Education member Andrea Comer’s direct financial connection with Jumoke Acadmey/Fuse invalidate their ability to protect the interests of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, school districts and taxpayers.”

“It is bad enough that more than $50 million in scarce public funds have been turned over to Jumoke Academy/Fuse, but unless immediate action is taken to reverse the Malloy administration’s bad policy decisions, the series of no-bid contracts and State Board of Education votes will mean literally hundreds of millions more will be given to this charter school chain,” Pelto concluded.

Pelto has repeatedly raised concerns about Stefan Pryor’s conflict of interest on his blog, Wait, What? as far back as January 11, 2012 and he used his blog to focus on Andrea Comer’s conflict of interest as soon as Malloy had nominated Comer in the winter of 2013.

In February of this year Pelto penned a blog entitled, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor must go.

As evidence as to why Pryor must resign or be removed, Pelto wrote,

Pryor’s management of the Connecticut Department of Education has become the personification of what happens when arrogance, elitism and corporate-driven interests replace a commitment to honesty, transparency and doing what is right for the people public officials have a sworn duty to serve.

From the moment Stefan Pryor arrived in Connecticut, the Malloy administration’s education policy has been consistently designed to destroy local control, belittle and demean teachers, reduce parental involvement, undermine our public schools and divert scarce public resources to out-of-state consultants and carpetbagging staff. Pryor’s tenure has been dedicated to a preoccupation with turning our schools into little more than standardized testing factories.

Pryor began his tenure by using no-bid contacts to pass out millions of dollars in public funds to out-of-state companies for the purpose of developing Malloy’s “education reform” initiative and transforming the State Department of Education into a gravy train for the corporate education reform industry.

Pryor helped Malloy develop and push through the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Malloy and Pryor’s legislation and policies were founded upon the inappropriate use of the Common Core, the mandated introduction of a huge and faulty Common Core standardized testing scheme, an inaccurate and unfair teacher evaluation program and a “Commissioner’s Network” and system of “Turnaround Schools” that are reducing parental involvement, destroying local control and are primarily designed to privatize public schools.

In example, after example, after example, Stefan Pryor and his “team” have consistently put their political agenda ahead of what was best for the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

Pryor has dedicated himself to hiring his personal friends, giving out millions of dollars in contracts to out-of-state, politically-connected companies, putting his “Turnaround Office” in the hands of Morgan Barth, a person who illegally taught and worked for Pryor’s charter school management company (Achievement First, Inc.) for six years and relentlessly and consistently doing the wrong thing for Connecticut’s system of public education.

The quintessential example of Pryor’s dismal and idiotic approach to governing was his decision to let go or transfer ten State Department of Education, Connecticut-based experts on improving schools and replacing them with an unending series of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants who have no meaningful experience or understanding of how to close the achievement gap in our largest and poorest school districts.

[Full February 6 2014 Wait, What? post can be found here: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/02/06/connecticut-commissioner-education-stefan-pryor-must-go/]

According to Pelto, the latest scandal involving Michael Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/Fuse only reinforces the fact that it is well past the time when Governor Malloy should remove Pryor and Comer from their policymaking roles within the Malloy administration.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The downfall of another Charter School Management Company

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Michael Sharpe is the CEO of Jumoke Academy and the FUSE charter school management company.

Over the past twenty months, thanks to Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees to the State Board of Education, Sharpe and his charter management company have gone from having one small charter school in Hartford – that failed to take a single bilingual student in six years and has consistently failed to take its fair share of special educations students – to one of the fastest growing charter school companies in the greater New York region.

Over the course of a year, Jumoke/FUSE received two no-bid contracts via the State Department of Education to run public elementary schools in Connecticut (one in Hartford and one in Bridgeport) and Malloy’s State Board of Education recently received approval to open a new charter school in New Haven, Connecticut despite the fact that Connecticut’s magnet schools are unfunded by nearly $50 million.   Just this week the Hartford Board of Education moved to sever its relationship with Jumoke/FUSE and the charter school management company’s control of the Milner elementary school.

In addition, FUSE recently got a lucrative contract from the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD), the organization that Paul Vallas used to destroy the New Orleans public school system before turning his attention on Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The RSD has apparently given Michael Sharpe and his charter school management company control of up to four schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In the midst of this miraculous growth spurt, Governor Malloy appointed Jumoke/FUSE’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Comer, to the Connecticut State Board of Education.  The State Board of Education being the entity responsible for approving charter schools and the “turnaround” plans that handed Jumoke/FUSE control of the two public schools.

But the truth is finally coming out about Michael Sharpe and his charter school management company.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting in a breaking news story,

“In a New Year’s message last December, the CEO of the Jumoke Academy charter school shared his enthusiastic vision for 2014, signing the letter, “Yours Truly, Dr. Michael Sharpe.

[…]

But on Friday, after the Courant questioned his academic background, Sharpe acknowledged that he never earned a doctoral degree and for years has erroneously been described as a “doctor.”

But Sharpe has now admitted that his resume is “doctored” and that, in fact, he doesn’t have a doctorate.  Sharpe told the Hartford Courant, “I did not complete the work. People started calling me doctor while I was in school, and I have always told people, ‘Don’t do it,’ but it catches on and people just keep doing it.”

However, as the Hartford Courant noted, the Jumoke/FUSE website continues to say that, “Dr. Michael Sharpe” was a graduate of NYU (which is a lie).

This is the second major revelation about the charter school operator this week.

As the Courant goes on to explain in today’s story,

“Sharpe’s admission of the false credential comes days after state and city school officials said they were surprised to learn that Sharpe — whose charter group is heavily financed with state money — had a criminal history and was imprisoned decades ago in connection with a federal corruption case.

Sharpe, a Hartford native, had been living in Oakland, Calif., when he pleaded guilty in 1989 to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 and conspiring to defraud the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, or BART, where he had been the agency’s real estate manager. He served 2 1/2 years of a five-year sentence, and later returned to prison in the early 1990s for a probation violation.

A few years before that case, Sharpe pleaded guilty in 1985 to two counts of third-degree forgery. Sharpe was accused of falsifying documents used to get a $415,000 city of Hartford rehabilitation loan to redevelop an apartment building.”

Although Sharpe told the Hartford Courant that his criminal record “was the worst-kept secret in America,” spokespeople for Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education claimed that they did not know about the charter school operator’s criminal past.

Following this latest news about Sharpe’s fake academic credentials, the Malloy administration released a statement saying,

“There remain multiple questions that require responses and explanations from Michael Sharpe and the Jumoke Organization.  We expect to receive such explanations and will consider them in determining any appropriate next steps.”

Classic spin from the Malloy administration.  Having handed millions of dollars in public funds to someone who has a criminal record and falsified their resume, Malloy’s spin operation now says, “…We expect to receive such explanations and will consider them in determining any appropriate next steps.”

You can find the latest Hartford Courant story at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-michael-sharpe-degree-0621-20140620,0,5954399.story.

The earlier Courant story on Jumoke/FUSE’s Michael Sharpe is at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-michael-sharpe-20140618,0,4674982.story

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The Power of Truth (from a Concerned Parent in Windham)

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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell 1984

This blog, like others that have been sent in from parents, shines the light of truth on the corporate education reform industry.

Read it and know that the time has come to either fight back or give up.  Silence is not an option.

From a Concerned Parent in Windham, Connecticut:

 “When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.” Humpty Dumpty must have been the Senior Marketing Consultant to those who are tasked with selling corporate education reform to the American public. Their taskmasters are undemocratic plutocrats like Bill gates and Eli Broad. The plutocrats are using their vast wealth to transform the public school system in accordance with their own political values and ideological vision. Marketing and public relations are so often about deliberate deception; and the marketing of “education reform” is no exception to this general rule. As used by the corporate propagandists, words like “reform,” “education,” and “opportunity” have taken on new, sinister meanings. “Reform” was once a concept that meant to amend, to change to better from worse–it was typically associated with progressive or liberal politics. The two great educational reforms of American history were the establishment of common schooling and the efforts to undo racial segregation of schoolchildren. Today, reform in education is almost exclusively a matter of privatizing schools and educational services. The root meaning of the word “education” is to lead out potential, to nurture native abilities. This once meant a focus on “child-based” pedagogy. Today, education means standardized testing, drilling and data collection and analysis. These are managerial, rather than student, concerns. “Opportunity” was once about social justice and racial equality; today it means “individual choice” in an “educational marketplace” based squarely in competition. When Humpty Dumpty, and his cohort in educational reform, get to redefine the meaning of words this is no simple linguistic matter; controlling words is an exercise in power, and when the powerful control the meanings, they tend to get control of other areas of social life–such as political power and economic resources.

When Alice goes down the rabbit hole with no inkling of “how in the world she was to get out again,” we are made to understand that she has entered a realm where the normal rules of language, reason and meaning no longer apply. As Alice says to herself: “what nonsense I am talking.” Nonsense–the absurd, the ludicrous, and the ridiculous–is the native language of Wonderland, and Alice gets caught up in it, despite her efforts to hold onto common sense. In the current universe of corporate education reform, where absurdity is passed off as a sound logic, many teachers, students and parents must feel like Alice: they see that nonsense has become normative, and that in order to get around in the new educational system, you have to speak a jargon devoid of rational meaning. In the Wonderland of privatized schools and data driven educational assessments, up is down and black is white.

Consider the Path Academy, a so-called “recuperative high school” that is due to open in Windham in August 2014. Path Academy is a charter school managed by Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), a youth development agency, “with the mission of helping urban youth become economically independent adults.” Path will primarily serve over-age, under-credited students. The curriculum at Path is designed to foster in students “the critical skills necessary for success in college, career, and community.” I am quoting from a promotional brochure for the Academy. The brochure says that many students “become disengaged [from high school] due to lack of understanding.” Path Academy promises to “re-engage” students through understanding, care and “active learning.”

Path Academy will provide “postsecondary preparation” and “workforce readiness.” It all sounds so great: a school with a focus on the socially disadvantaged; a school with an exciting curriculum and with caring knowledgeable staff. But the devil is in the details. When you take a close look Path’s pedagogical model that’s when you realize that you are being sold a bridge in Brooklyn, and that much in the promotional brochure is really nonsense.

Path will offer the “innovative education strategy” of “blended learning.” Whenever you hear the word “innovative” in corporate education reform be on your guard. In this instance, innovative pedagogy means “computer-based & teacher-led instructions” at “personal computer stations.” Translation: students will mostly be “taught” by electronic educational products; and students will complete their learning at private carrels, in virtual isolation from each other. The traditional classroom at Path will be a rarity. That is to say, a teacher in front of a group will probably be the exception rather than the rule. But education at Path is not really education in the sense most of us are familiar with. This is made explicit in a Norwich Bulletin article on the new school. The article quotes Path Principal Brooke Lafreniere on the hidden significance of the individual carrel: the carrel is not about a monastic space where the student can concentrate on reading Shakespeare; instead it will help prepare students for the office world, where employees are often placed in cubicles. Students will eat at their carrels, because, as Lafreniere notes, “when you have a job, there are days when you have to eat at your desk.” The use of space to drive home life lessons is also evident in the design of the classrooms. We are told that lower level classrooms will have small windows and low ceilings, whereas higher level classrooms will have larger windows, and higher ceilings. The point of the distinction is to force home the point that “hard work pays off.” I take it this means that students in lower level classrooms will find it so unpleasant there, that they will work their butts off in order to get into a better “learning environment.”  As LaFreniere says, “everybody wants to work toward the corner office.”

So when you strip away the rhetoric and confront reality, this is what Path Academy is offering:  online learning in controlled, off-putting settings. The real education at Path is not in academic matters, but in the social and cultural values that make one a “good employee.” John Dewey famously distinguished between a pedagogy that focused on “disciplinary training” and a pedagogy that nurtured “personal development.” Dewey thought that “disciplinary training” was not really education as its true purpose was social control. He argued that “personal development” was always something more than job training. And that it was the goal of personal development that made education properly humanistic. The language of Path Academy is a species of nonsense because it pretends that a corporate managerial model of the school as a learning factory can bring to fruition the ideals of humanistic education. Indeed, the very word “academy,” as used by the reformers, has almost no real meaning.

Path Academy is a privately managed charter school, but it would never survive without public funding. Like so much of corporate education reform, its real purpose is not to help the needy, but to steer the educational debate in the preferred direction of more privatization of public schools. The school described in the OPP promotional brochure is a veritable wonderland. It is wise to be skeptical of people who claim too much, and who are ready to sing their own praises. For the sake of the students who enroll there, I hope Path Academy turns out to be a success. But given the sorry and duplicitous “performances” of so many charter schools, I am definitely not counting on Path’s success.

 

“I don’t need to respond to what Jonathan says,” Malloy told reporters.

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is absolutely correct.  He doesn’t need to respond to what I say.

In fact, as is his style, Malloy doesn’t need to respond to what anyone says…at least not until the voters have had their say in November.

But that said, when it comes Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-corporate education reform industry record, the issues that we are raising are legitimate and the need for policy change is clear.

These education issues include;

  1. Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his cadre of anti-teacher, pro-privatization staff and consultants must go.  Instead of out-of-state “reformers,” the management and staff of the Connecticut State Department of Education should be made up of professionals who have teaching and public education experience, understand the diversity that is Connecticut, respect local control and are committed to working on the real problems and challenges that limit academic achievement in our state.
  1. Quite simply, the Common Core is bad public policy.  The State of Connecticut must suspend and repeal its participation in the Common Core and Common Core testing fiasco.  While educational standards are an important part of a successful public education system and should be consistently reviewed and upgraded, the Common Core standards and testing scheme is a massive waste of scarce public resources and are turning our public schools into little more than testing factories.  More testing and less learning IS NOT the pathway to providing our children with the knowledge and skills they need to lead more fulfilling lives.
  1. Developing a fair and Constitutional state education funding formula must be of the highest priority.  Designing and implementing a state funding formula requires that Connecticut’s governor and General Assembly settle rather than try to dismiss the critically important CCEJF v. Rell school funding lawsuit.  By working together and settling the CCEJF case we can develop a long-term solution that reduces the pressure on local property taxes while providing communities with the resources they need to adequately fund their public schools.
  1. A strong teacher evaluation program is a vital part of strengthening the quality of our public education system, but tying teacher evaluations to unfair and inappropriate standardized test scores destroys the effectiveness and credibility of a proper teacher evaluation program.  Malloy’s absurd teacher evaluation system must be repealed and replaced with one of the many teacher evaluation models that do not rely on standardized tests scores and truly evaluate and improve teacher skills and performance.
  1. One of the most important elements of Malloy’s education reform agenda has been to expand the number and size of privately owned and operated charter schools. This major increase in funding for charters comes at the same time the state is failing to provide the funds necessary to maintain and expand Connecticut’s vibrant magnet school system.  Despite the dramatic increase in public funding, the corporate charter schools have systematically failed to fulfill their responsibilities and stated goals.  Rather than serve as laboratories for developing effective programs and providing parents with choices, Connecticut’s charter schools have consistently discriminated against students who need special education services and students who need extra help with the English language and come from households where English is not the primary spoken language.  Connecticut must implement a moratorium on any additional charter schools until the state properly funds its magnet schools.  At the same time, charter schools must be held accountable for their actions and unless they provide educational opportunities to the full array of students who reside in their communities they should be prohibited from receiving additional public funds.

If the corporate executives and hedge fund managers who support charter schools really want to create alternatives to the public schools system, then they should use their wealth to set up private schools and stop diverting taxpayer funds to schools that do not adhere to the standards and principles of our public schools.

But as Malloy told reporters yesterday, “I don’t need to respond to what Jonathan says.”

And that is exactly one of the reasons I’m taking my message directly to the voters of Connecticut.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

We know what limits educational achievement, Steve Perry doesn’t

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Poverty, language barriers and failure to provide sufficient special education services are the primary factors the led to the educational achievement gap in this country.

In any place, including Connecticut, inadequate state funding for public schools makes it virtually impossible to adequately respond to the growing challenges associated with the factors the led to this lack of educational achievement.

The vital CCEJF v. Rell Connecticut school funding lawsuit is the mechanism state officials could be using to increase state support for our public schools and thereby shift some more of the burden off local property taxpayers.

A fair (and Constitutional) school funding system would be good for our schools, students, parents and teachers, as well as, fairer for our taxpayers.

But instead of working to resolve the CCEJF V. Rell lawsuit, Governor Dannel Malloy has been trying to get the case dismissed so he can sweep the problem under the rug.

And what do Malloy’s allies say?

Just look at one of the latest Tweets from Steve Perry, who, thanks to the Malloy administration, is giving up his role as principal of Capital Prep Magnet School to become a charter school operator.

Dr. Steve Perry @DrStevePerry

Watch this: Unions blame poverty of kids & the wealth of 1%ers for the failures of the schools they’re responsible for running. Bwaaahaaa!!

This comes from an “education reform” champion who has been running a public school in Hartford that refuses to take its fair share of special education, Latino and non-English speaking children. The man very same man who claims to be “The Most Trusted Educator in America” is also working diligently to become a member of the 1% by regularly leaving his job as a school principal to go on lucrative public speaking engagements throughout the country and creating a new charter school franchise.

But rather than holding Perry accountable for his failings, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has supported his taxpayer-supported entrepreneurial efforts by pushing through approval of a plan that would allow Perry to use his private company to a charter school in New Haven.

This year, Malloy’s budget underfunds Connecticut’s public magnet schools by $50 million dollars and yet provides more than enough money for Connecticut’s charter schools.

And next year, despite a $1.3 billion projected state deficit, Commissioner Pryor has promised Steve Perry new money to open a new school while Connecticut’s public schools go without the funds they need.

And what does Perry do?

He reverts into one of his Twitter tirades attacking teachers, unions and the notion that poverty is a factor in limiting academic achievement in Connecticut.

It would be a joke except thanks to Malloy and Pryor we taxpayers will be giving this guy $15 million dollars over the next five years unless we elected a new governor in November.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy and Legislature turn their back on Public Magnet School students and their parents

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration managed to deliver another “kick to the head” to Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers as the 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly came to an end at midnight last night.

While Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools left the legislative session with a higher reimbursement rate for each student, more money for school equipment, and funds to expand the number of charter schools, Governor Malloy and the legislature failed to come up with the money need to maintain existing services at Connecticut’s public magnet schools, let alone fill the extra magnet school classrooms that have been built and are ready to be used this coming September.

As the CT Mirror is reporting this morning, the bill to implement Malloy’s next state budget authorized “The Department of Education to limit enrollment in magnet schools across Connecticut.” The CT Mirror adds,

The budget actually allows Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor to “prioritize” which schools can increase enrollment, and limit state expenditures on magnet schools next academic year. Legislators largely ignored an estimated $50 million the nonpartisan analysts say is needed to maintain current services at magnet schools and the education commissioner say is needed to support previously scheduled enrollment increases.

Connecticut’s public school parents and their children will be shocked to find out that hundreds of students will be turned away at the doors of Connecticut public magnet schools despite the fact that classrooms are available and ready to go.

This latest action by the Malloy administration also explains why parents and students in the greater Hartford area are still waiting for the annual Regional School Choice Lottery to take place.  These parents followed the rules; they got their applications in on time, and yet have heard nothing about whether their children will be able to attend a magnet school in September.

Many of those children, along with others from around Connecticut, will soon learn the awful truth that the failure to adequately fund Connecticut’s magnet schools means they won’t be attending a magnet school in September.

It was only a few months ago (January 2014), that Malloy traveled to East Hartford to cut the ribbon for the state’s newest magnet school, the $57 million Connecticut River Academy that was scheduled to open this September.

At the announcement, Malloy bragged about fighting hard to open more magnet seats.

What he failed to explain at that big press conference was that while taxpayer are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in new borrowing to pay for the construction of new magnet schools, Malloy failed to provide the funding needed to actually open the school and fill the classrooms.

The failure to properly fund Connecticut’s public magnet schools is not only a travesty for the students who were looking forward to attending these schools, but it is nothing short of a disaster for Connecticut’s public education system.

Connecticut “schools of choice” are a vehicle for discrimination

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Fellow commentator and public school Advocate Wendy Lecker’s latest column in the Stamford Advocate examines CT Voices for Children’s new research report which is entitled, ”Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs.”  The study found that charter schools and other “choice schools” systematically prevent equal access to some of the state’s neediest students.

As Wendy Lecker reports,

Of special concern, the report found that Connecticut charter schools are “hypersegregated” — at least 90 percent minority. Furthermore, the authors revealed that charters grossly underserve English Language Learners (`ELL”) and students with disabilities.

Connecticut Voices noted that charters have a financial incentive to exclude ELL students. Unlike the cost of special education services, which is borne by the district where a charter school student lives, charter schools must pay for ELL programs and services. If, however, a charter has fewer than 20 ELL students, it is not required to provide an ELL program.

Connecticut’s rating system, which judges and sanctions schools based on standardized tests scores, provides more reasons to exclude. ELL students and students with disabilities tend to score lower on standardized tests, therefore charter schools look higher performing when they do not have either subgroup.

A traditional public school would never be able to get away with excluding any child in their district. Such a move would be illegal. However, the state enables the charter schools’ exclusionary behavior. Charters are not required to have specific diversity targets in enrollment. Moreover, while in theory a charter can be revoked if a charter school does not serve enough ELL or students with disabilities, no charter school has ever suffered that fate. With an Education Commissioner who is a founder of one of the worst offending charter chains, charters are safe to continue their exclusionary practices.

The fact that these publically funded “choice schools” have become a vehicle to further segregate our society undermines the very essence of our public education system.

As Wendy Lecker explains,

The idea of equity for all was the driving force behind the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “I am never what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.

“Lyndon Johnson’s motto was “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”

The principles of communal good underpinned Connecticut’s commitment to school integration. Connecticut’s Supreme Court deemed that having children of different backgrounds learn together is vital “to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall maintained: “Unless our children learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.”

Armed with the evidence provided by the new CT Voices for Children Report, Wendy Lecker concludes,

As voters, we have a choice. We can recommit ourselves to school integration, realizing that instilling in our children a sense of community is the key to our cohesion as a democratic state. Or, we can allow politicians to school our children in avoidance, and risk becoming like the fractious and unstable nations we see in the world around us.

Be sure to read Wendy Lecker entire column which can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Some-needy-students-frozen-out-of-5413855.php

You can read and download the CT Voices for Children report at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/choice-watch-diversity-and-access-connecticuts-school-choice-programs.

Corporate Education Reform Industry group starts radio campaign in support of new charter schools

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Surprise, surprise… An out-of-State charter school advocacy group has started an advertising campaign to support the Malloy administration’s decision to give Steve Perry his own privately run, but taxpayer funded, charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a reports from the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., a charter school advocacy group based in New York, has begun a Connecticut radio advertising campaign in support of the Malloy administration’s decision to approve two new charter schools in Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is running the radio spots to defend Commissioner Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education’s underhanded effort to approve the proposed charter schools.  One of the charter schools will be run by the out-of-state Great Oaks charter school chain while the other is Steve Perry’s Capitol Preparatory Harbor school.

The advocacy and lobbying group is also behind the multi-million dollar advertising campaign to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to make New York City’s public schools a high priority compared to the Bloomberg administration’s approach that diverted tens of millions in public resources away from the public schools and to the city’s privately run charter schools. In New York, the Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. campaign pushed to allow privately run charter schools virtually unlimited and free access to public school space.    

The group’s New York advertising campaign is designed to help New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like Malloy, Cuomo has received more than $100,000 in campaign donations from charter-school supporters in recent months.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. was formed by corporate education reform industry allies in 2011 and has recently expanded into Connecticut. Four of the organization’s five founding board members are Wall Street hedge fund executives.  The group also shares space in New York City with the New York chapter of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Inc.

As one would expect, the corporate education reform industry has been dumping millions of dollars into Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.

Among its biggest donors is the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Family’s Foundation) which has given the charter school group more than $700,000 in start-up funds.  The organization has also received at least $200,000 from the Eli Broad Foundation during that same period.

Here in Connecticut, the Wal-Mart Political Action Committee gave Governor Malloy’s political operation a check for $5,000 and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad chipped in another $8,000 for Malloy.  

One of the other foundations that have given Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is none other than the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.

As Forbes Magazine explains, Ray Dalio is the “king of the rich hedge fund industry.”  Forbes adds that Dalio, “lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $150 billion in assets.”

Ray Dalio is the individual who was paid $2.3 billion last year.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is the company that Governor Dan Malloy rewarded with more than $120 million in Connecticut taxpayer funded tax breaks in return for moving Bridgewater’s “world headquarters” from Westport to Stamford.

In addition to giving money to the charter school advocacy group now running advertisements in Connecticut, Dalio’s foundation is also a major donor to Teach for America.

For public school teachers, parents and advocates it is becoming even clear is that with the 2014 gubernatorial election less than seven months away, Dannel “Dan” Malloy is using every opportunity to show his unending support for expanding charter schools at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.

You can also read more about this story at CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/up-next-charter-group-that-battled-nyc-mayor-comes-to-ct/

Malloy’s public school privatization effort hits Stamford

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy loses in charter school fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major new study finds Connecticut Charter Schools discriminate

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Connecticut Voices for Children, the New-Haven based, nationally recognized policy research organization has issued a major new report entitled, “Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs.”

The CT Voices report is the most extensive, independent study that has been conducted about the performance of charter schools, magnet schools and other school choices options in Connecticut.

While the entire report is a “MUST READ” for those following the “school choice” debate, it is an especially important addition to the debate for those concerned about the Malloy administration’s commitment to expanding the number of charter schools in Connecticut and their on-going privatization efforts to turn public schools over to private charter school operators.

Among the key findings from the CT Voices study is that Connecticut’s Charter Schools are more segregated, systematically discriminate against Latinos and English Language Learners and fail to recruit, retain and serve their fair share of students who require special education services.

As the CT Voices study concludes,

Charter schools are typically hypersegregated by race/ethnicity and, in Connecticut’s four largest cities, actually offer students, on average, a learning environment that is more or equally segregated by race and ethnicity than local public schools.

Although Charter Schools serve just over 1% of the public school students in Connecticut, these privately run, publically funded schools have been receiving additional funds at a far greater rate than traditional public schools.

Governor Malloy and his administration are engaged in an unprecedented effort to increase the number of charter schools operating in the state.

However, the new CT Voices report re-confirms that when it comes to equity and fairness, the rush to divert public resources away from public schools and to charter schools is taking Connecticut in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to reducing racial isolation and providing quality services to students with special needs and those who require additional English language programs.

For example, according to the new report,

In 2011-12, a majority of magnet schools and technical schools were “integrated,” as measured by the standard set forth in the 2008 settlement agreement of the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case: a school with a student body composed of between 25% and 75% minority students…In contrast, only 18% of charter schools met the Sheff standard. The majority of charter schools were instead “hypersegregated,” with a student body composed of more than 90% minority students…”

The failure of charter schools to provide equal opportunity to students is even starker when it comes to their unwillingness to serve bi-lingual students, students who need additional English language services or students with special education needs.

When it comes to educating English Language Learners, the new study finds that 76% of all charter schools have substantially lower enrollment of ELL students then the community they are supposed to be serving.

The failure of charter schools to serve students with special education needs is equally troubling.  Although state law requires that Charter Schools “attract, enroll, and retain” children with disabilities, the report found that many charter schools are simply failing to fulfill this legal requirement.

The new report from Connecticut Voices for Children also sheds a powerful light on Connecticut’s magnet schools and the state’s technical high school system.

You can find the full CT Voices report here: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/edu14choicewatchfull.pdf

You can also find a New Haven Independent news article about the report here: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/ct_voices_for_children_report/

And a CT News Junkie report about the report here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/report_claims_choice_schools_are_hyper-segregated/

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