Careening down the wrong path as Education Reform Industry spends more money to buy public policy

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Connecticut has become a striking example of what is truly wrong with the way government and public policy functions in the United States today.

Rather than using the state motto, “Qui transtulit sustinet – He who is transplanted still sustains,” the Constitution State could easily shift to, “Step right up and buy your public policy here.”

And presiding over the entire farce is a governor devoted to coddling the rich, while lying to the people.

Victorious thanks to a campaign in which he repeatedly claimed there was no budget deficit, promised that he wouldn’t raise taxes or cut critical state services, Governor Dannel Malloy is now ducking a budget deficit that is skyrocketing.  Malloy’s next step will be to raid the state’s Rainy Day Fund to balance this year’s budget, or worse, he will put the massive deficit on the state’s credit card thereby dumping even more debt on the backs of Connecticut’s overly burdened middle class.

And as for next year, while the state’s fiscal situation deteriorates, Malloy’s proposed state budget includes massive and unacceptable cuts to a wide variety of state services.

Rather than offer up a plan to ensure that services are maintained by requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, Malloy is berating legislators or anyone else who challenges the house of cards he has built.

When it comes to the budget related to public education, Malloy’s proposed budget actually REDUCES spending on public schools by well over $150 million over the next two years, the largest such cut in history.

Yet Malloy has proposed INCREASED spending on charter schools by more than 25 percent.

As if to highlight the modern system of “pay-to-play” policy making, while Malloy turns his back on Connecticut public school students, parents and teachers, the corporate education reform industry is pouring even more money into their unending quests to privatize public education and denigrate teachers.

The corporate funded New York based entity called Families for Excellent Schools has set up yet another “education reform” front group in Connecticut.  This one is called “Coalition for Every Child.”

According to the latest reports filed with the Office of State Ethics, this organization has spent over a quarter of a million dollars lobbying in just the past eight days.  The pro-Common Core, pro-Charter School group has even hired Malloy’s chief adviser, as well as Malloy’s former press secretary, to run their PR campaign in support of Malloy’s plan to divert even more scarce public dollars to charter schools companies.

Three other corporate education reform industry groups, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN), the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), and Achievement First, Inc. (the charter school management company with strong ties to the Malloy administration,) have spent nearly $100,000 more in recent weeks in a lobbying program designed to persuade legislators that it is good idea for them to cut funding for their own public schools, while increasing the taxpayer subsidy for the privately run charter schools.

What are Malloy’s education reform supporters doing and saying with all their money?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform is using its money to tell parents that the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test (SBAC) is a good thing even though it will label the majority of children as failures. (See: No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.)

Meanwhile, ConnCAN and the rest of the charter school industry are using their hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Malloy’s disgraceful budget and lobbying to stop the Connecticut legislature from pausing the development of further charter schools in the state.

Following the charter school industry’s success in preventing a charter school moratorium bill from passing the General Assembly’s Education Committee, the co-CEO and president of Achievement First Inc., the Executive Director of ConnCAN and state director for the Northeast Charter School Association all gleefully issued press releases cheering on the fact that the Malloy administration can continue its efforts to expand the number of publicly funded, but privately owned charter schools in the state.

Dacia Toll, co-CEO and president of Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that collects the lion’s share of the $100 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds spent on charter schools explained that, “The moratorium on public charter schools would have been a huge step backward.”

A huge step backward for the company’s bottom line that is…

While Malloy’s proposed budget actually INCREASES CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING BY $36 million…

Malloy’s proposed budget cuts tens of millions of dollars to public schools including the following programs;

Reduces funding for the CT Pre-Engineering Program

Reduces Youth Service Bureau programs

Reduces funding for the Parent Trust Fund

Reduces funding for Neighborhood Youth Centers

Reduces funding for Science Program for Educational Reform Districts

Reduces funding for Wrap Around Services

Reduces funding for Parent Universities

Reduces funding for the School Health Coordinator Pilot

Reduces funding for Regional-Technical Cooperation

Reduces funding for Alternative High School and Adult Reading

Reduces funding for Youth Service Bureau Enhancement

Reduces funding for Health Foods Initiative

Reduces funding for School to Work Opportunities

Reduces funding for Commissioner’s Network Schools

Reduces the Priority School District funding for Extended School Building Hours and Summer School

Reduces funding regional interdistrict grant to reduce segregation

Reduces funding for the Leadership, Education, Athletic-Partnership (LEAP)

And the list goes on….and on…

And the Corporate Education Reform Industry is silent on these devastating cuts.

Their plan is simple – more money for charter school companies – cuts to public school programs and higher property taxes for the rest of us.

Connecticut has truly become the land where “step right up, buy your public policy” has become the standard.

Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting

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The uncomfortable truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and key members of the Connecticut General Assembly continue to side with the Corporate Education Reform Industry rather than with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

The most recent indicator of the warped approach being taken by Connecticut’s “political leaders” was the outrageously inappropriate and misleading memo that was sent out this week by Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

The Education Commissioner’s directive sought to further harass and scare Connecticut parents into falsely believing that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

See: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

The question that arises over and over again is why Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials are engaged in their ongoing effort to undermine and privatize public education in Connecticut, denigrate teachers and turn our public schools into little more than taxpayer funded testing factories.

The answer, sadly, is rather simple…

The Corporate Education Reform Industry has spent a record-breaking $6,767,957 plus in support of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” agenda – – – An Agenda that includes forcing the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme on Connecticut’s public schools while cutting taxpayer support for public education and increasing public funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.

Since Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” agenda, the charter school industry and the corporate funded “education reform” advocacy groups have hired dozens of lobbyists and spent nearly $7 million, or more, to “persuade” Connecticut officials to adopt policies that are diametrically opposed to what is in the best interests of Connecticut students, parents, teachers and public school system.

Corporate funded and affiliated groups like Achievement First, Inc.; A Better Connecticut; Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy; StudentsFirst/GENEPSA (Michelle Rhee); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.; Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); North East Charter Schools Network ; Bronx Charter School of Excellence; Students for Education Reform; Educators 4 Excellence; Excel Bridgeport, Inc.; Achieve Hartford, Inc. and  their newest front group, the Coalition for Every Child, are pumping more and more money into lobbying and advertising programs.

This year, more than two dozen paid lobbyists are running around the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building working to divert more money to charter schools, while supporting the Common Core SBAC testing scam and other “education reform” agenda items.

According to the latest filings with State Ethics Commission, Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars on lobbying during this legislative session.  These groups are dropping millions more on advertising.

Connecticut’s Parents, teachers, public education supporters and taxpayers deserve better from their elected officials but Governor Malloy has made his position clear.

Malloy has said he is “staying the course” on his “education reform” agenda even if his education policies “aren’t popular.”

But what about state legislators?

Will the members of the State Senate and House of Representatives continue to turn their backs on the people who elected them?

The answer will come in the coming weeks, along with even more spending on lobbying and public relations by the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

The following chart reveals just how much money has been spent to push through Governor Malloy’s anti-public school, anti-teacher and anti-parent agenda.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,731,504
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $1,113,587
   
A Better Connecticut $2,326,391
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $911,950
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $292,684
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $277,987
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,954
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $62,900
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.Note:  Does not count the recent multi-million dollar television advertising campaign that Families for Excellent Schools failed to report, despite state laws requiring full disclosure $35,000
EDUCATION REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES as of 2/1/2015 $6,767,957

Moales and Charter School Industry go down to crushing defeat in Bridgeport – Again

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Despite the support of Governor Malloy’s political operatives, including Bridgeport Mayor Finch and the ConnCAN/Achievement First Inc. charter school industry, pro-charter school candidate Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. couldn’t even muster enough voters to impact yesterday’s Special Election for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate.

The infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. came in a distant 3rd place in yesterday’s Special Election collecting only 503 votes compared to the winner, Working Families Party candidate and former state senator Ed Gomes, who received 1,504.  The Democratic Party endorsed candidate Richard DeJesus, who Finch initially supported before turning to Moales, garnered 791 voters.

According to the Working Families Party, Ed Gomes becomes the first candidate in the country to win a legislative seat running only on the Working Families Party line.

Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiatives.

Moales was not only a leading champion of education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas but has been a major proponent of Steve Perry’s plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. sits on the Board of Directors for Perry’s charter school and was a lone voice on the Bridgeport Board of Education when the democratically-elected board asked the Malloy administration NOT TO approve Perry’s charter school application.

However, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education overlooked the position taken by the Bridgeport Board of Education and last spring and approved Perry’s plan to open a privately-owned but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Although Governor Malloy’s proposed state budget actually cuts funding for public schools in Connecticut, the governor’s plan adds funding for four new charter schools in the state, including Steve Perry’s charter and one in Bridgeport that will be owned by an out-of-state company.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. previously served as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer and his loss yesterday marks the fourth time in a row that Bridgeport voters rejected Finch and the charter school industry agenda.

Finch is up for re-election this fall and opposition to granting him another term is gaining steam.

Pelto renews challenge to Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to Debate

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A week ago I issued a request to the paid spokespeople of the Corporate Education Reform Industry in Connnecticut to set up a debate to discuss the educational issues facing Connecticut.  Their response has been silence.

Therefore, I am renewing my request and sent the following email to Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN and Jeffrey A. Villar, Executive Director, Connecticut Council for Education Reform

Ms. Alexander, Mr. Villar;

Considering neither of you list your email address on the ConnCAN or CCER websites, I assuming that you may not have received my February 17, 2015 email challenging you to meet and discuss the educational issues that are confronting Connecticut.

As paid representatives of the Corporate Education Reform Industry you have been making a variety of statements to Connecticut  media outlets that I consider to be extremely misleading.  In many cases, those statements have gone unchallenged because there is no readily available mechanism to refute your unsubstantiated claims.

The people of Connecticut deserve an open discussion about these important issues and so I am renewing my request that you agree to a public debate about these issues.

I am hopeful that one or more of Connecticut’s media outlets would be willing to provide a venue for this important discussion.

The clock is ticking on this year’s legislative session so please get back to me so that we can work through any logistics or issues that need to be addressed prior to such a debate.

Jonathan Pelto

Education Advocate

Education Blogger

February 17, 2015:  Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

After spending record amounts of money lobbying for Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Initiatives, Connecticut’s corporate funded education reform advocacy groups continue to spend millions of dollars misleading parents and policy makers, denigrating teachers and the teaching profession and promoting the discriminatory, inappropriate and unfair Common Core and Common Core Testing Scheme.

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER) are two of the leading entities behind the wholesale assault on public education in Connecticut.

As the paid ambassadors for those seeking to profit off of our children and our public schools, these so-called “education reformers” have constantly and consistently resorted to misleading statements and outright lies to back up their anti-public education agenda and rhetoric.

Unfortunately for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers, these apologists for Governor Malloy and his corporate education reform agenda have gone unchallenged.

That situation has got to stop.

Today I am asking WNPR’s Where We Live, WFSB’s Face the State, FOXCT’s The Real Story, CT Report with Steve Kotchko and other appropriate news forums to host a debate between myself and any one of the leaders of these corporate advocacy fronts such as Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Jennifer Alexander, the Chief Executive Officer of ConnCAN.

The people of Connecticut deserves the truth and a discussion on television or radio about the truth behind the corporate education reform industry’s efforts will provide Connecticut’s citizens with the information they need to tell fact from fiction.

 

 

Another effort to stamp out democracy in Bridgeport – What is it with Mayor Finch and the Charter School Industry?

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What is it with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Connecticut’s Charter School Industry?

We already know these people have a problem with democracy, but here we go again!

First Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his Corporate Education Reform Industry allies persuaded Governor Malloy’s administration to illegally take over the Bridgeport School System.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ended up intervening and forcing the state of Connecticut to hand Bridgeport’s Schools back to the voters of Bridgeport.

As a result of Malloy’s illegal action, the Supreme Court even had to order a new election to fill the seats on Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education.

But not to let a little thing like the law stand in the way, Bridgeport Mayor Finch and his supporters then tried to jam through a change in Bridgeport’s City Charter that would have completely eliminated a democratically elected Board of Education.

Mayor Finch’s solution was to replace democracy with a board of education appointed by him.

The Charter Revision campaign failed, but not before Finch and his Charter School buddies spent a record breaking amount of money.

Political Action Committees affiliated with the Corporate Education Reform Industry spent over $560,000 trying to convince Bridgeport voters to give up their democratic rights.

Major contributors to the anti-democracy campaign included the Charter School front group Excel Bridgeport ($101,803); Michele Rhee and the charter school advocacy group StudentsFirst ($185,480); Achievement First Bridgeport Chairman Andy Boas’ personal foundation ($14,000); ConnCAN ($14,000); Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment ($14,442); Pullman & Comely law firm ($7,000); Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($25,000); Achievement First and ConnCAN founder Jonathan Sackler ($50,000); and a who’s who of the Bridgeport’s business community.

After failing to persuade Bridgeport voters to hand their schools over to a non-elected Board of Education, Charter School Team Finch went on to lose both a Democratic Primary and the General Election for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

But apparently Finch and the Charter School elite that have been targeting Bridgeport over the past few years just won’t rest until they actually destroy democracy in Bridgeport

Their next target appears to be Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council, an organization that has been around for 45 years and has become a strong and effective voice for Bridgeport’s parents and students.

And an effective voice for parents is apparently just too much democracy and power for the Finch loyalists who are now engaged in an undemocratic strategy to derail this important vehicle for parent involvement in Bridgeport’s schools.

Late last Friday a “special notice” was sent out announcing that the Bridgeport Board of Education would be holding a “Special Meeting” to deal with the Bridgeport Parent Advisory Council tomorrow – Monday, February 23, 2015.

The notice for a special meeting comes despite the fact that the Bridgeport Board of Education already has a regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 P.M.

Issuing an updated agenda would have been easy enough, but the pro-charter school, anti-democracy crowd went with the “Special Meeting” tactic.

Why would they want a “Special Meeting” instead of taking up whatever clandestine effort they are going to attempt at the Bridgeport Board of Education’s regular Monday Meeting an hour and a half later?

Because under their rules, the public is not allowed an opportunity to speak to the Board of Education at Special Meetings, whereas at regular meetings public input is allowed.

No really…

While it appears true that we are called the United States of America where the notion of freedom and democracy is supposed to be among our most cherished fundamental and inalienable rights, but when it comes to the Charter School Industry’s agenda and tactics, nothing is sacred.

Apparently “simply” undermining democracy isn’t enough for the charter school advocates.

They are not only engaged in a strategy to undermine Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council, but they want to do it in a way that completely and utterly destroys the notion that Bridgeport’s parents even have Freedom of Speech or the right to be heard before their government takes action against them.

Adding further insult to the already absurd farce is that the “Special meeting” is scheduled for 5:00 PM, a time many parents and community members are still working or are busy fulfilling child raising duties and unable to make it to a hastily scheduled Board of Education Meeting.

The agenda for the “Special Meeting” is ominously entitled, “Discussion and Possible Action on District PAC Leadership.”

The agenda item being a not so hidden reference that the Board of Education may take “action” against Bridgeport’s Parent Advisory Council.

The entire development is just one more disgusting reminder that while we claim to be fighting the enemies of freedom abroad, some of the most serious threats to our American principles can be found right here at home.

If you happen to know Mayor Finch or his Charter School Allies…

Oh, never mind, it is no use talking to them, they simply don’t care about notions like democracy and Freedom of Speech.

And tomorrow they will try to prove that point yet again.

To them, the end always justifies the means and the Corporate Education Reform Industry won’t stop until they truly destroy public education in our country.

Here is to the hope that our fellow citizens in Bridgeport can fight back against the anti-democracy movement that is out to get them.

New Haven (& CT) Taxpayers to subsidize Achievement First’s corporate development plan?

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Second in a series on the attempt by Achievement First Inc. to collect even more money from Connecticut’s taxpayers.  Part 1 can be found here: Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

As the New Haven Board of Education considers approving the deal to hand over money to help fund Achievement First Inc.’s new Elm City Imagine school, a question that arises is who exactly is behind the proposal to divert scarce taxpayer funds from New Haven and Connecticut residents to subsidize Achievement First Inc.’s effort to create the Elm City Imagine School in New Haven?

If you ask the corporate education reform industry executives who are pressuring the New Haven Board of Education to vote yes they will tell undoubtedly tell you that they are doing it – “For the Children!”

But when you begin to pull back the curtain, you’ll find a very different story.

Here is just part of the reality facing the people of New Haven;

The Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors is chaired by William Berkley, the Chairman and CEO of W.R. Berkley Corporation of Greenwich, Connecticut and Doug Borchard, the Chief Operating Officer of New Profit, Inc., a financial investment company that “invests” in companies and entities associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Pulling in over $219 million in salary and compensation over the past five years from his insurance company, the Chairman of Achievement First Inc. ranks #29 on Forbes’ highest paid CEO list and Berkley is the #1 highest paid CEO in the insurance industry.  Berkley was recently appointed to head New York University’s Board of Trustees, where the tuition and fees are now in excess of $75,000 a year.

One of William Berkley’s claims to fame in Connecticut is the controversy surrounding Berkley’s role in giving free plane trips to disgraced Governor John Rowland and the curious appearance fees his company gave to Rowland’s wife while Berkley’s company had state contracts with the Rowland administration.   Bloomberg.com puts Berkley among America’s billionaires club.

Achievement First’s Vice Chair may not be in the same financial league yet, but he is a well-recognized force in the corporate education reform industry thanks, in part, to his leadership role at New Profit, Inc.

It turns out that Achievement First, Inc. is a particular darling of the New Profit Corporation.

In their most recent annual report, New Profit Inc. brags that Achievement First Inc. is a key investment for New Profit Inc, telling investors that its relationship with Achievement First Inc. goes back a number of years and noting that Achievement First Inc. already collects in excess of $130 million a year in revenue from its charter school operations.

According to New Profit, Inc.

“Achievement  First has grown into a network of 22 public charter schools in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, CT, and Brooklyn, NY, serving 7,000 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Over the next five years, Achievement First plans to grow to a network of 38 schools serving more than 12,000 students.”

And who exactly is New Profit Inc?

The Chairman of the New Profit Inc. Board of Directors is Josh Bekenstein, a managing director of famous, or infamous, Bain Capital.  The Board includes two other senior corporate officers of Bain Capital, the Global CEO of Deloitte Touche, the President of Carlin Ventures Inc., the Chairman and Managing Director of Raptor Capital Management and a variety of other corporate elite.

New Profit, Inc. also “invests” in a variety of other corporate education reform industry companies and front groups including Educators 4 Excellence, a New York based anti-union advocacy group that recently opened offices in Connecticut; the Kipp Charter School Chain, a company that runs well over 100 charter schools around the nation; the “Achievement Network” and “Turnaround for Children,” two other corporate education reform organizations.

New Profit also “invests in “New Leaders,” the education reform entity that was formerly known as “New Leaders for New Schools,” which claims that since 2001, it has “trained more than 800 principals and vice principals who now serve more than 250,000 students…Principals trained by New Leaders fundamentally improve school and student achievement through innovative and results-based leadership.”

One of New Profit’s most recent “investments” is in “New Classrooms Innovation Partners,” a company that bills itself as an on-line, personalized learning technology company that will serve as an “innovative partner for learning.”

New Classrooms Inc. is led by Joel Rose, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.  Rose previously worked as the Chief Executive Officer of School of One, “an initiative within the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) that uses a mix of live, collaborative, and online instruction in order to provide students with instruction customized to their unique academic needs and learning styles.”  Rose also worked as senior executive at the massive public education privatization company known as Edison Schools where he served as the company‘s Associate General Counsel, Chief of Staff, General Manager, and Vice President for School Operations

The Board of Directors for this company not only includes corporate education reform industry champion Mike Bezos of Amazon, but none-other-than Doug Borchard, the executive at New Profit Inc. and Vice Chair of Achievement First Inc.

Meanwhile, as Achievement First, Inc. continues to claim that they need the scarce funds from New Haven in order to help the City, the company stays mum on its multiple relationships with the billions of dollars associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Achievement First Inc.’s Board of Directors also includes James Peyser, a senior official at the NewSchools Venture Fund; Jonathan Sackler whose family owns PurduePharma (the maker of Oxycontin); Elisa Villanueva Co-CEO for Teach For America; and Ariela Rozman the CEO of TNTP ( The New Teacher Project.)

Sackler, who financed the creation of Achievement First, Inc. ConnCAN and 50CAN coincidently also serves on the Board of Directors of the NewSchools Venture Fund, while the TFA Board includes such notables as one of Connecticut’s other billionaires, Stephen Mandel, who not only donated more than $50 million to Teach for America and serves as the Treasurer of the TFA Board but is also a major donor to Achievement First Inc., ConnCAN and Excel Bridgeport, the pro-charter lobby group that has been working with Mayor Bill Finch to divert Bridgeport’s public funds to Achievement First, Inc. – Bridgeport and other charter schools in that city.

And the inter-relationships go on and on.

Yet with all of these billionaires and multi-millionaires and investment companies and corporate elite, Achievement First, Inc. is claiming, with a straight face, that it can only help reduce class sizes in New Haven’s Public Schools if the public school system hands over more money to fund the company’s expansion plans.

Now just who is zooming who in this charade?

Check back tomorrow for more on Achievement First’s money grab.

Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

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Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

After spending record amounts of money lobbying for Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Initiatives, Connecticut’s corporate funded education reform advocacy groups continue to spend millions of dollars misleading parents and policy makers, denigrating teachers and the teaching profession and promoting the discriminatory, inappropriate and unfair Common Core and Common Core testing scheme.

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER) are two of the leading entities behind the wholesale assault on public education in Connecticut.

As the paid ambassadors for those seeking to profit off of our children and our public schools, these so-called “education reformers” have constantly and consistently resorted to misleading statements and outright lies to back up their anti-public education agenda and rhetoric.

Unfortunately for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers, these apologists for Governor Malloy and his corporate education reform agenda have gone unchallenged.

That situation has got to stop.

Today I am asking WNPR’s Where We Live, WFSB’s Face the State, FOXCT’s The Real Story, CT Report with Steve Kotchko and other appropriate news forums to host a debate between myself and any one of the leaders of these corporate advocacy fronts such as Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Jennifer Alexander, the Chief Executive Officer of ConnCAN.

The people of Connecticut deserve the truth and a discussion on television or radio about the truth behind the corporate education reform industry’s efforts will provide Connecticut’s citizens with the information they need to tell fact from fiction.

Jonathan Pelto

Education Advocate

Education Blogger

Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

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[This is the first in a series of articles about Achievement First Inc.’s proposed New Haven Elm City Imagine School]

Aka – The Charter School Industry’s step by step dismantling of public education in Connecticut.

This Wednesday, February 18, 2015, Governor Malloy will play his hand as to whether he will insert taxpayer funds into next year’s state budget in order to fund Steve Perry’s dream of opening a privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport.  An out-of-state company is also counting on Malloy to come through with the cash needed to expand their charter school chain into Stamford, Connecticut.

Both charter school applications were vehemently opposed by the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education.

However, despite that opposition from the local officials responsible for education policy and despite the fact that Connecticut doesn’t even fund its existing public schools adequately and the fact that the State of Connecticut is facing a massive $1.4 billion projected budget deficit next year, Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved four new charter school proposals last spring.

Initial funding for two of the four applications was included in this year’s state budget, New Haven’s Booker T. Washington charter school and yet another charter school for Bridgeport.

Now the charter school industry is counting on Malloy to divert even more scarce public funds away from the state’s public schools so that Steve Perry can start pulling in a $2.5 million management fee from a charter school in Bridgeport and the out-of-state company can open up a revenue stream from a new charter school in Stamford.

While most public education advocates are focused on the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to privatize public education via policies at the state level, the politically connected Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain is using a completely different approach as it seeks to pull off a deal in New Haven that would shift existing funds away from New Haven’s public schools and into the coffers of the Achievement First operation.

Of course, Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s former commissioner of education.

Achievement First Inc. is also the charter school chain that gets the lion’s share of the $100 million in public funds that are already diverted to charter schools in Connecticut.

Achievement First’s latest gambit is called the Elm City Imagine School.  Achievement First already owns and operates the following taxpayer-funded New Haven Charter Schools;

Amistad Academy Elementary School

Amistad Academy Middle School

Amistad Academy High School

Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School

Elm City College Preparatory Middle School

Achievement First Inc. also owns charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, New York City and Rhode Island.

With the New Haven proposal, Achievement First, Inc. is attempting to side-step the entire state charter school authorization process.  They are trying to use a mechanism whereby state and local taxpayer funds would be allocated by the New Haven Board of Education directly to Achievement First’s new “experimental school.”

The only hurdle that Achievement First Inc. needs to overcome is getting the approval of the New Haven Board of Education…and it appears that they are well on the way to do just that as early as their February 23, 2015 meeting.

The New Haven Board has scheduled a second and final public hearing on the proposal tomorrow, Tuesday 2/17 at 5:30, nicely timed to take place during school vacation.

The New Haven Board of Education is not democratically elected by the citizens of New Haven.  It is one of the only boards of education in Connecticut to be appointed by the mayor of the community.

In this case, the New Haven Board of Education is appointed by Mayor Toni Harp – who, thanks to an earlier sweetheart deal – happens to sit on the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors for the Amistad Academy schools.

Another member of the New Haven Board of Education is Alex Johnston who is the former CEO of ConnCAN.  Johnston now, “develops and implements strategies for philanthropists on education reform advocacy and political initiatives.”

ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that is not only associated with Achievement First Inc. but it is the entity that led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s 2012 Corporate Education Reform Initiative.

ConnCAN is also the charter school advocacy group that recently held a rally on the New Haven Green to “save kids trapped in local failing public schools.

And ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that was created by Jonathan Sackler, who is the multi-millionaire who played such a pivotal role in helping Stefan Pryor with the creation of Achievement First Inc.

Sackler now serves on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Inc.  and the Board of Directors for ConnCAN

Most recently, Sackler and his family were the largest contributors to Malloy’s re-election effort, pumping well over $100,000 into the various committees that paid for the Governor’s campaign activities.

Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine

Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine (designed to become a K-4 school) will be Achievement First Inc.’s initial foray into the “Greenfield” model. The model designed with the help of the inventor of the computer mouse.”

Achievement First Inc. is also using public funds to insert the “Greenfield Model” into its Elm City College Prep Middle School.

Among the many controversies associated with this new proposal is that Achievement First Inc. has successfully prevented the unionization of its schools and is now looking to use even more public funds to hire employees who would have no collective bargaining rights.

Achievement First Inc. is also notorious for relying on Teach For America recruits in an effort to promote the churning of staff to keep expenses down and limit the likelihood of unionization.

Alex Johnston, the former ConnCAN CEO who and member of the New Haven Board of Education is quoted as saying

“We need statewide policies that allow educational innovations like Teach for America or Dacia’s schools [The Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain] to spread far and wide.”

[Article Update at 3pm 2/16/15 – Johnston has announced the due to the conflict of interest he will not be voting on application, although it doesn’t change much considering the political dynamics surrounding the project.]

Of course, Achievement First Inc. also made national news when it was reported that their “zero-tolerance” discipline policies led to an extraordinary number of kindergartners being suspended.

Check back for the next installment of this series.

You can also read more about the Achievement First Inc. plan via the following New Haven Independent articles;

Teachers, Parents Organize Against Charter Deal

The School Of The Future Gets A Dry Run
Teachers Union Prez Pens “Imagine” Critique
Charter Plans Detailed; Parents Weigh In
Elm City Imagine Sparks Debate
NHPS, AF Team Up On Experimental School
Elm City Charter Eyed For Futuristic “Conversion”
City’s Charter Network Hires San Francisco Firm To Design The K-8 Public School Of The Future

 

Forces behind effort to eliminate democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education donate to Kenneth Moales Jr.

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Let’s hear it for less democracy!

Just days before the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s bizarre 2012 proposal to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor, millionaire charter school champion Jonathan Sackler quietly wrote a personal check for $50,000 to help pay for the final set of mailings and advertisements designed to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to vote for those who oversee their City’s public schools.

Now Jonathan Sackler and many of the same pro-charter, anti-public education, pro-corporate elite are pumping money into Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.’s campaign for State Senate with the goal of helping Moales qualify for a taxpayer-funded state campaign grant that he would use to pay for his campaign in the February 24th 2015 state senate special election.

It won’t come as any surprise to those who have watched the ongoing effort to undermine and denigrate the people of Bridgeport that the very same individuals and groups that worked so hard to take away democracy in Bridgeport and keep Paul Vallas in charge of Bridgeport’s schools are now working overtime to put Moales – a Malloy/Finch ally and disgraced former chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education – into the Connecticut State Senate.

The corporate elite, education reform industry and charter school advocates know that Kenneth Moales Jr. will be a safe vote for their anti-public education agenda, even if it means hurting the people of Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler, whose pharmaceutical company makes OxyContin, is a founding member of Achievement First, Inc., the large Charter School Management Company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Sacker is also the corporate education reform industry advocate who formed ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.  Sackler was one of the largest donors to Finch’s anti-democracy effort and now he tops the list for Moales as well.

Another key player for Moales is Andy Boas, the Chairman of the Board for Achievement First – Bridgeport, a member of the ConnCAN Board of Directors and the founder of The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.  In 2012 Boa was also one of the largest contributors to Finch’s campaign to do away with an elected school board in Bridgeport.

And now Boas and his wife, like Sacker and his wife, have both donated the maximum amount to Moales’ campaign.

In total, more than half a dozen of Moales’ largest campaign contributions have come from members of the Achievement First, Inc. or ConnCAN Boards of Directors.

Yet another major player in Finch’s failed charter revision effort was Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform group that lobbied for the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools and then dumped more than $101,000 to support of Finch’s charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education.  Excel Bridgeport’s founder, Megan Lowney, who is also one of Malloy’s political appointees, recently gave Moales the maximum donation allowed under law.

Others who helped pay for Finch’s failed anti-democracy campaign and are now stepping up with donations for Moales’ campaign include;

Paul Vallas and his wife (now re-located back to Illinois)

Robert Trefrey

Trefrey is the former President/CEO of Bridgeport Hospital.  Trefrey chaired the illegal board that was handed control of Bridgeport’s schools by Governor Malloy’s administration.  When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Malloy’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools was illegal, Malloy appointed Trefrey to the State Board of Education’s Committee that oversees the state’s technical high schools.  Bridgeport Hospital gave Finch’s charter revision campaign the maximum allowable donation, even at a time it was laying off staff.  Trefrey has not given Moales the maximum allowable contribution.

Jeremiah Grace

Grace is the Connecticut State Director of the Northeast Charter School Network.  The organization not only lobbies for more charter schools but helps private charter school management companies develop applications to get public funds.

Lee Bollert

Bollert was an education advisor to Mayor Bill Finch and helped create Excel Bridgeport, Inc.

William McCullough

McCullough serves with Moales on the Board of Directors of Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school.

Kadisha Coates 

Coates is a charter school advocate, member of Families for Excellent Schools and is the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education. Coates and her husband are both donors to Moales.

Liz Torres

Torres is a member of the Great Oaks Charter School Board of Directors.

Joshua Thompson

Thompson is the former Finch aide and Vallas assistant who posted on his on-line resume that he was the Deputy Mayor for Education in Bridgeport, even though he was no such thing. Thomson is now an executive New Leaders Fund, a corporate education reform advocacy group in New York City.  Brandon Clark, who ran on the Finch slate for Board of Education with Moales in 2013 but lost, also works with the New Leaders Fund with Thompson and also recently donated to Moales’ campaign.

Other Moales donors include a number of employees, lobbyists and consultants associated with ConnCAN, Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools organizations in Hartford, New Haven and out-of state.

In order to get the full taxpayer funded grant of Moales has filed the paperwork to get a state taxpayer funded grant.  In order to get the money he must raise a total of $11,250, of which 225 must come from people living in Bridgeport or Stratford.  Depending on the number of signatures collected, Moales could receive a public grant of up to $71,000

Although Moales submitted the paperwork to get a grant last Friday, a review of his public financing report reveals a variety of problems and suspicious donations that could prevent him from qualifying for the public funding.

Note:  A special thanks to Maria Pereira who also researched Moales’ recent campaign finance report and provided her findings to the “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

When the Corporate Education Reform Industry tramples the 1st Amendment

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Fellow Education Blogger and Public Education advocate Marie Corfield (From New Jersey) has a blog today that will concern everyone in the battle to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Marie is a mother, artist, teacher, education activist, former NJ State Legislature candidate and is “that” teacher in the infamous Chris Christie You-Tube video of the thug bashing teachers.

Her blog is about the incredible maneuver being taken by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and it highlights the despicable and UnAmerican actions being taken by the charter school industry and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Here in Connecticut there are a number of charter school front groups including ConnCAN, Northeast Charter Schools Network, Families for Excellent Schools, the Coalition for Every Child, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Excel Bridgeport, Achieve Hartford and others.

Marie Corfield writes;

When the facts aren’t on your side…

When you’re up against the wall…

When you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar…

You take the cheap shot.

That’s what the New Jersey Charter Schools Association did last week when they filed ethics charges against Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin who, along with doctoral student Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman) published this study on the segregationist practices of the state’s charter schools which concludes what we already knew (from JJ’s post):

New Jersey’s charter schools do not serve nearly as many children in economic disadvantage, who have special education needs, or who are English language learners as their host districts’ schools. 

Here’s the crux of the NJCSA’s complaint:

As an association of educators [more on this below], the NJCSA embraces the right of all educators to speak on matters of public debate. But the NJCSA and its members will not stand by as Dr. Sass Rubin devalues the reputation of our State University, a reputation that has been earned over years of excellence in research and academic achievement, to endorse her personal opinions and advance her personal advocacy interests. Because Dr. Sass Rubin has promised two further ‘studies,’ the NJCSA has filed this complaint today to ensure appropriate corrective action is taken before Dr. Sass Rubin releases her personal views as Rutgers research and creates further embarrassment for Rutgers University. (emphasis mine)

Does anyone besides me find it interesting that this press release is not on the NJCSA’s website? I mean c’mon, this is big ‘reformy’ news! Sadly, I found it on the uber-‘reformy’ and always entertaining (for its sheer lack of veracity) NJ Left Behind blog.

Why? Maybe because the NJCSA knows it got caught red handed. Maybe because they know these are not Julia and JJ’s personal opinions. The data they presented is right out there for the whole world to see on the NJ DOE website—data that the charter schools themselves reported. There was nothing to OPRA. Any 5th grader who knows how to do a simple web search can easily find it.

Ooops.

They’re backed into a corner and have nothing left to do but pull a trick out of the bag of their biggest cheerleader: Gov Christie. They launched a personal attack. They skirted the real issues and went for the low-blow. Educator/blogger Peter Greene reports

The NJCSA is behaving like a punk, and like a weak punk at that who lacks the tools or the skills to come at Rubin and Weber directly. And they have more work to do, because as Weber points out on his own blog, the conclusions have already been acknowledged as the truth by [‘reformy’ Newark Superintendent] Cami Anderson and [‘reformy’ Camden Superintendent] Paymon Rouhanifard, so NJCSA better start ginning up a full scale job-threatening division for the entire state.

You should read Marie’s full post.  It can be found at: http://mcorfield.blogspot.com/2015/01/njcsa-attacks-1st-amendment-rights.html

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