Defending Public Education: “You may know a person by the company they keep.”

9 Comments

“You may know a person by the company they keep.”

The quote’s profoundness is right up there with an Arabian proverb that goes, “Judge a person by the reputation of their enemies.”

In either case, the phrases prove that much can be said with just a few choice words.

This past weekend, I had the honor of providing the “key-note” address at a conference that took place at Central Connecticut State University entitled “Defending Public Education.”

The conference explored the corporate education reform movement.  As readers of Wait, What? know – there was a lot to discuss!

I’ve been meaning to post a blog about the conference, but a reader sent me a review of the conference published on the pro-corporate education reform blog, CTEducation180.

In this case, I think that reposting their assessment probably gives Wait, What? readers a better and more accurate review of the conference than I could ever write;

Following their post, I’ve copied some background about the CTEducation180 blog which appears to be a blog that is used by ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.

Anti-reformer gathering puts Pelto in spotlight

This weekend, a teachers union funded and convened an anti-education reform conference, featuring who else but Jonathan Pelto on the list of speakers.

The event was hosted by the Central Connecticut State University Youth for Socialist Action, which describes itself on its Facebook page as “a group of revolutionary minded students and young workers.”

Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Conference organizers make exactly zero attempts to be evenhanded, academic or honest. The flyer for the event goes off on a paranoia-laced rant about legislators “influenced by the profit motive” and “demonized” public workers.

Who is ponying up the dough for this nonsense? The Hartford Federation of Teachers, among others.

Called “Defending Public Education,” the conference appears to be little more than an anti-education reform rally. It features such panels as “Teachers Are Not the Enemy” and “Organizing Action in Your Community.”

And Jon Pelto headlined.

You might remember Pelto from his continuing series of blog posts attacking the state’s education commissioner, the governor, the schools chiefs from Windham, Hartford and Bridgeport, and many, many other folks who have made improving Connecticut’s schools their life’s work.

It would be nice if people could engage in a real discussion about how to better help Connecticut’s failing schools, and how to better support Connecticut’s students. But with gatherings like these which only engender fear, skew the facts, and prop up hacks like Jon Pelto — funded by our teacher unions — that remains a dream, rather than a reality.

So who is CTEducation180?

CTEducation180 is a blog that was created by public relations consultant Pat Scully, whose own blog is called the “hanging shad.”  It now appears that CTEducation180 has become a communication vehicle for ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy organization created by members of Achievement First, Inc’s Board of Directors.  Achievement First, Inc. being the charter school management company co-founded by Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

The “about” section of the blog reads, “The education reform bill passed last year by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy raises standards for educators, allows immediate action to improve failing schools, increases access to high-quality public school choices, and improves how education dollars are spent.

Unfortunately, bold steps forward on education reform have spawned a vocal chorus of opponents that are willing to say and do anything in order to maintain the status quo and prevent children from attending the high-quality public schools they deserve.”

ConnCAN dropped $35,800 on opinion poll to make Malloy and education reform appear popular

4 Comments

On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly.    On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”

It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.

Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.

The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013.  While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.

Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.

The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.”  The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.

According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget.  Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.

The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.

When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:

“Dear Ben,

I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?

All the best,

Jen”

On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation.  Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”

The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform.  ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”

As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.

A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.

The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive.  ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director?  Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.

Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.

The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.

The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.

And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.

What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?

Update: Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc. fails to amend Ethics Reports

3 Comments

Maybe when you are ConnCAN – The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc. – you don’t need to abide by Connecticut’s ethics laws.

Maybe the law only applies to the little people.

Wait, What? readers know the story of how ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc., paid Global Strategies Group, a political consulting and public strategies company,  tens of thousands of dollars to conduct a public opinion poll last month.  Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso returned to after serving for two years as Malloy’s chief advisor and spokesman.

The poll was designed to persuade legislators, the media and the public that Governor Malloy and Malloy’s education reform proposals were popular.  The effort, part of a broader lobbying strategy, should have been reported by ConnCAN on their January ethics report to the State Office of State Ethics because the expenditure  was in furtherance of lobbying.

However their original report failed to reveal the expenditure.

Once their violation was revealed here at Wait, What?, the assumption was that ConnCAN would amend their report by the end of February to bring their actions into legal compliance.

However, as of close of business today, ConnCAN failed to correct their reports.

It will be interesting to see if the Ethics Commission takes action to fine ConnCAN for their violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The Parasites known as Charter Schools

21 Comments

Bruce Baker is a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.  He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on school financing.  He has written extensively on the subject, including serving as a lead author of the definitive graduate text book called Financing Education Systems.  He is also the author of a blog called School Finance 101.

A couple of days ago Baker posted a “MUST READ” article on his blog that drives home one of the most important points Wait, What? readers have been learning about over the past year.

Charter schools cream off the students.  They cream off students because they are trying to get the “right students” so that can “produce higher standardized test scores” so they can continue to mislead government, foundations and wealthy donors to give them money.

Then, when their test scores come out, they completely fail to explain that those scores are not a product of the quality of the education these schools provide, but are a direct result of selective, discriminatory enrollment policies they have and their increasingly well-known system of forcing out (often called migrating out) those students that won’t produce the results they want.

While Baker’s latest blog looks at charter schools in multiple states, the Connecticut data he presents makes the strongest case yet for the intentional fraud being perpetrated on Connecticut’s public schools, our students, teachers, state government and taxpayers.

You can read Backer’s full article here (see link), but the key Connecticut findings are as follows;

Using data from the State Department of Education and the NCES Common Core, Baker summed the “total number of public & charter school enrolled children by City (school location in CCD) and the total numbers of free lunch, ELL and special education enrolled children.”

Here is a chart highlighting the data – and once again – the data makes the situation absolutely clear.

We know the greatest predictors of standardized test score performance are poverty, language barriers and special education needs.  We also know that in case after case after case after case, Connecticut’s charter school educate children that are less poor, have far less language barriers and need fewer special education services.

CLICK ON THE CHART TO OPEN IN NEW WINDOW SO YOU CAN GO BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN TEXT AND CHART:

Student Demographics  Charter Schools Vs. The City those schools are in

In fact, Connecticut’s charter schools are particularly brutal on locking out students who are not fluent in English – which are usually the children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.

If Charter schools educate children who are less poor, have fewer language barriers and few special education needs, they will, by default, end up with high standardized test scores.

So what has Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor, the Connecticut Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly done?

They have given more funds to those that are discriminating while making things worse for the schools that are actually trying to what every child deserves under the Connecticut Constitution – a few, high quality, public education.

As Dr. Bruce Baker puts it, “In a heterogeneous urban schooling environment, the more individual schools or groups of schools engage in behavior that cream skims off children who are less poor, less fewer language barriers, far less likely to have a disability to begin with, and unlikely at all to have a severe disability, the higher the concentration of these children left behind in district schools.(see for example:http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/effects-of-charter-enrollment-on-newark-district-enrollment/).

Baker goes on to speak the absolute truth when he said, “…with independent charter expansion, districts lose the ability to even try to manage the balance. Sadly, what may initially have been conceived of as a symbiotic relationship between charter and district schools is increasingly becoming parasitic!

In a “competitive marketplace” of schooling within a geographic space, under this incentive structure, the goal is to be that school which most effectively cream skims – without regard for who you are leaving behind for district schools or other charters to serve – while best concealing the cream-skimming – and while ensuring lack of financial transparency for making legitimate resource comparisons.”

Baker calls the impact the “Collateral Damage of the Parasitic Chartering Model” and writes, “In previous posts I showed how the population cream-skimming effect necessarily leads to an increasingly disadvantaged student population left behind in district schools. High need, urban districts that are hosts to increasing shares of cream-skimming charters become increasingly disadvantaged over time in terms of the students they must serve.”

Baker’s post goes into far greater detail.

He uses the data to explain and highlight the problem.

It is an issue Wait, What? readers know well.

And if the policies are left unchanged, it will be the legacy that haunts Governor Malloy and those who support the discriminatory policies that are undermining our schools and destroying our public education system.

Read the full post here:  http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/from-portfolios-to-parasites-the-unfortunate-path-of-u-s-charter-school-policy/

ConnCAN signs $200,000 contract with major Connecticut lobby firm

6 Comments

The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN), the charter school advocacy group that was created by the founders of Achievement First, the state’s largest charter school management company, has signed a two-year, $200,000 lobbying contract with Connecticut government relations firm, Gaffney, Bennett and Associates.

In addition, ConnCAN staff will continue to lobby on behalf of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives.

Last year, ConnCAN and its sister organization, the Connecticut Coalition for Advocacy Now, Inc. (ConnAD) spent more than $693,000 lobbying for Malloy’s education bill.  Along with Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other corporate funded education reform groups, ConnCAN’s lobby levels broke all previous records for legislative lobbying.

In the month of January alone, ConnCAN spent more than $15,000 on its government relations activities.

However, interestingly, the January Client Lobbyist Financial Report that ConnCAN filed with the Office of State Ethics, as required by Chapter 10, Part II of the Connecticut General Statutes, makes absolutely no mention of the public opinion poll that ConnCAN conducted in January and released earlier this week.

The report, which covers the period from January 1 to January 31st, 2013 was filed with the Office of State Ethics on February 11th.

Failure to disclose expenditures for lobbying and expenditures for activities in furtherance of lobbying is a major violation of Connecticut law.

If the poll was shared with legislators or used as part of any communication seeking to persuade others to communicate with legislators then ConnCAN is required to include those expenses on its ethics report.

However, ConnCAN’s January Form ETH-2D failed to provide any information about the recent poll they conducted.

Meanwhile, the lobby firm of Gaffney, Bennett and Associates has been working for ConnCAN or ConnAD since the two organizations were formed about six years ago.

In addition to ConnCAN, Gaffney, Bennett’s clients include, AT&T Wireless, the City of Stamford,  Exxon/Mobil, GE, Hartford Healthcare Corporation, NBC, Pitney Bowes Corp., Procter & Gamble and Quinnipiac University to name a few.

When you want the right answer, ask the right question… Take the Survey

9 Comments

Yesterday, ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group released the results of a “public opinion survey” that determined that Connecticut voters overwhelming support Governor Malloy’s “education reform” proposals.

The poll was done by Global Strategies Group, the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, the Governor’s former chief advisor returned to last month. According to a memo released by the Global Strategies Group, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year (73% support). Support for reform crosses party lines (79% Democrat/64% Republican) and demographic groups. Men and women (69% men/77% women), parents and non-parents (73% parents/74% non-parents), younger and older voters (75% under 55/71% 55+), and white and non-white voters (72% white/84% non-white) all support continuing reforms.”

Christine Stuart, of the CTNewsjunkie, was finally able to get a hold of the actual question Global Strategies used in the ConnCAN survey.  You can read the story here:  Advocates Say Survey Shows Support For Education Reforms

It turns out that the ConnCAN/Global Strategies question read:

“The education reform bill passed last year by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor takes essential steps to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap, raise standards for educators, allows immediate action to improve failing schools, increases access to high-quality public school choices, and improves how education dollars are spent. Having heard this information, do you support or oppose continuing these reforms?”

After reading the question, one wonders about the fact that only 73% of the Connecticut voters polled said they support the legislation.

Imagine, the question informs voters that the Governor’s legislation “takes essential steps to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap, raise standards for educators, allows immediate action to improve failing schools, increases access to high-quality public school choices, and improves how education dollars are spent.”

Are you telling me almost 1 in 3 voters said they support the worst-in-the-nation achievement gap, that they want to lower standards for educators, that they refuse to support actions to improve failing schools and they want to reduce access to high-quality public school choices…not to mention that they oppose improving how education dollars are spent?

Having spent a year fighting the destructive, discriminatory, corporate education reform proposals that Malloy has been pushing, I’d even be hesitant to say I “oppose” the wonderful things that this question tells us that Malloy’s bill purportedly does.

True the bill did none of the things stated, but damn they sound good!

In the end, it is a great lesson on how pollsters can use the wording of questions to “push” a particular response.  Here let’s practice by coming up with another example.

Question on the 2014 gubernatorial election;

Dan Malloy ran for Governor on a platform of transparency and honesty.  He said he’d only support balanced budgets, put an end to the state’s wasteful and economically destructive use of borrowing, move the state to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and that while he opposed increasing taxes, if taxes were needed, he’d ensure that everyone paid their fair share.

Once elected, Governor Malloy proposed a $1.5 billion tax increase that placed the heaviest burden on middle-income families and completely protected those making more than a million dollars a year from having to face any increase in their income tax rate.  Even with this record-breaking tax increase, Governor Malloy ran major deficits in his first two years and left the state facing a $1.2 billion projected budget deficit in his third year in office.  Meanwhile, instead of moving the state to GAAP accounting, Malloy proposed a 12 year phase in of GAAP and then skipped the payments that he had promised to make for the first two years of that program.  Finally, Malloy proposed borrowing over $2 billion in the last two years and this year he actually proposed postponing paying off some of the state’s debts to make next year’s budget appear balanced.

Knowing these facts, do you think the state should re-elect the governor next year or is it time for someone new to lead that state?

Survey answers choices:

  • Re-elect the Governor
  • Time for someone new to run the state
  • Don’t know/Undecided

Now would you like to take this survey – if so, then click here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DGQRW7L

 

 

Incredible stupidity, stunning arrogance or both…

14 Comments

Earlier today, the Global Strategy Group, a political consulting and public relations company released a memo about a public opinion survey that it had conducted for the “education reform” advocacy group, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.

According to a Global Strategy Group memo, the poll found that, “Voters see the Governor [Malloy] as a strong advocate for education reform.  Voters give the Governor favorable ratings (54% favorable/36% unfavorable) and believe he is doing a good job when it comes to education.  A majority of voters (54%) approve of the job he is doing when it comes to Connecticut’s public schools.  Parents are especially supportive of the Governor’s efforts and rate his performance on schools favorably by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 (60% approve/31% disapprove).

The Global Strategy Group is where Roy Occhiogrosso landed after leaving the Governor’s Office six weeks ago.  After serving for two years as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and spokesman, Roy Occhiogrosso recently returned to Global Strategies Group to serve as its Managing Director. 

Occhiogrosso had previously served as a partner at Global Strategies from 2003 to 2010.  During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Dan Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign, much of it funded through the State’s publicly funded campaign finance system, paid Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies a total of $669,105.87.

According to the memo, the ConnCAN opinion survey was conducted between January 23 and January 27, 2013, just a couple of weeks after Occhiogrosso rejoined Global Strategies. 

Although neither ConnCAN nor Global Strategies released the questionnaire that served as the survey instrument, it is clear from today’s memo that the poll was designed to collect valuable political information, as well as perspectives on policy issues.

When an organization conducts a survey with a larger sample size, only interviews voters and includes questions to determine the respondents’ party affiliation, their goal is generally to collect information about how key political sub-constituencies respond to potential voting issues.

It is particularly suspicious that ConnCAN and Global Strategies decided to conduct the survey at the end of January, prior to the Governor’s Budget speech, but held the results until after the speech was completed. A poll of this nature would be of tremendous political value to the Malloy Administration if they had access to the data prior to putting together his budget speech.

ConnCAN’s political support for Governor Malloy is well known.  Last Spring, within 24 hours of Malloy’s “education reform” bill becoming a Public Act, one of ConnCAN’s founders held an extremely lucrative fundraiser for a political action committee called Prosperity for Connecticut.  The PAC appears to be affiliated with Governor Malloy and the Governor has attended all, or most, of the PAC’s fundraising events, including a series of fundraising parties in Washington D.C. and New York City. 

Jonathan Sackler, who hosted the event for education reform supporters, is not only one of the original founders of ConnCAN, but he also formed ConnAD, the organization that spent record amounts lobbying for Malloy’s “education reform bill.  Furthermore, he is also the founder of 50-CAN, a national education reform advocacy group.  National officials from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Teach for America and other national education reform groups donated to the Sackler fundraiser.

The May 30, 2012 fundraiser at Sackler’s $8.5 million home raised over $41,000 for the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, making it the most successful of the 15 fundraisers the PAC has had since being formed two years ago. 

At the Sackler event, significantly more than half of the money raised came directly from members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, ConnCAN’s Advisory Board or family members of the individuals who serve on the two boards.

The decision to conduct this poll raises numerous serious issues. 

Did Occhiogrosso know about the poll before he left state service and did he spend any state time or resources communicating with ConnCAN or Global Strategies about the poll? 

Were any other members of Malloy’s Administration, such as OPM Secretary Barnes, Education Commissioner Pryor or Chief of Staff Ojakian aware of the poll?  Did any of these public officials offer information that impacted the questions being asked?

Equally important is whether the Malloy Administration received any information about the survey’s finding prior to the poll’s public release and most importantly, prior to the Governor’s budget speech.

Depending on what information was provided and who did the communicating, there are potential violations of Connecticut’s ethics laws, let alone the possibility that public employees used state resources to further their political agenda.

The issue is particularly relevant because leading up to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, I filed a complaint against Governor Rell, her chief of staff and key members of her administration for using state resources to support public opinion polling that was designed to have political benefits for Rell.  The complaint eventually led to major fines for some of the individuals involved in the effort.

While in this case the poll was conducted by a private entity, was not done at state expense and Malloy has yet to form a campaign committee, ConnCAN is a registered lobbyist and that brings a whole series of ethics issues into play.  In addition, it is conceivable that if state employees were involved in the development of the survey, other laws may have been violated.

Anyone aware of Connecticut’s ethics laws and the laws prohibiting the use of state resources for political purposes would instantly recognize that a poll of this nature, especially conducted at this time, would raise a wide variety of questions.

It is for that reason that this post is entitled, “Incredible stupidity, stunning arrogance or both…”

Rest assured that this is not the last time we will hear about this incredible and stunningly stupid move by ConnCAN and Global Strategies.

News coverage of this event has been extremely limited to date.  Here is the first article on the poll.  Advocates Say Survey Shows Support For Education Reforms.

Coincidentally – here is a Wait, What? post from earlier today entitled; Malloy says: I know, let’s finish off the effectiveness of the government watchdog agencies…

Yet another charter school lobby group comes to Connecticut

3 Comments

Lured by Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts and the prospect of easier access to taxpayer funds, the NEW YORK CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION is expanding into Connecticut.

According to a press release issued in Albany, New York, “The New York State Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) today announced that it is growing into a regional organization with the new inclusion of charter schools in Connecticut.”

The release stated that with the “agreement and support of the Connecticut Charter Schools Network (CCSN),” the new expanded association will represent the owners of over 200 charter schools in the two states.

Considering Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company with twenty schools in  New York and Connecticut, it was probably only a matter of time before the charter school industry engaged in a more regional approach to push their charter school agenda and to push for more charter school funding.

Since Pryor took over as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Achievement First, Inc., has expanded their programs in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

While state funding for local public schools in Connecticut has remained relatively constant since 2008, funding for charter schools has been one of the fastest growing areas of the entire state budget.

In fact, despite the colossal budget deficit, Pryor and the State Board of Education recently announced a new initiative to add four more charter schools in Hartford and rumors abound that charter school advocates are trying to get additional state funding for charter schools in Bridgeport, Windham and elsewhere.

Michael Sharpe, who works as the Chief Executive Officer of the Jumoke Academy Charter School in Hartford and the President of Connecticut’s Charter School Network, will now be joining the board of directors of New York’s expanded charter school association.

Although Sharpe’s Jumoke Academy has never served bi-lingual students and only takes a small percentage of special educations students compared to the number served in Hartford’s public schools, Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and the City of Hartford’s Board of Education recently transferred Hartford’s Milner elementary school, with all of its students and taxpayer funds, to Jumoke.

Now the Jumoke Academy at Milner, a school in which almost 50 percent of the students go home to households who speak a language other than English is being run by a company that has never had a Spanish-speaking student.

Meanwhile, the press release quoted the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), which was founded by Achievement First’s Jonathan Sackler [the same Jonathan Sackler who held a $40,000 fundraiser last May for the political action committee affiliated with Governor Malloy] as saying,  “We welcome [the New York charter school association] and look forward to working with the Network to further ensure that the voices of communities, families and students who demand more quality public school choices are heard loud and clear in Connecticut.”

As if to reiterate the close relationship between Governor Malloy and the charter school industry, the press release concluded with the statement that, “the new organization was also a response to the education reform initiatives pushed last winter and spring by CT Gov. Daniel P. Malloy.”

Connecticut’s leading education reform PR flack (spokesman) heads for the border…

8 Comments

First came Achievement First, the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

The people who were the financial backers of Achievement First then created ConnCAN and ConnAD, the two lobbying and advocacy groups designed to support the effort to shift more state funds to Achievement First and Connecticut’s other charter schools.

Last year, ConnCAN and ConnAD were the primary cheerleaders for Governor Malloy’s education reform bill.  Along with Michelle Rhee and her national “education reform” group, StudentsFirst, these corporate education reformers broke all Connecticut spending records in their effort to pass Malloy’s legislation.

Now, late today, ConnCAN sent out an email announcing that ConnCAN CEO, Patrick Riccards, and the ConnCAN Board of Directors had suddenly parted ways and that Riccards would be returning to his life as the owner of a public relations company.  (It was only a year ago that Riccards resigned his seat on a board of education in northern Virginia and left his company to come to Connecticut).

As chief apologist for Governor Malloy and Malloy’s education reform proposal, Riccard’s job was apparently to insult Connecticut’s teachers, the teacher unions and any Democratic legislator who dared to support public education.

At one point, when the Democrats on the General Assembly’s education committee removed some of the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education provisions in Malloy’s bill, Riccards wrote a commentary piece for the New York Post that was entitled, “Killing hope in Connecticut.”

Day after day and week after week, Riccards and the other corporate reformers returned to their constant refrain that anyone who raised questions or concerns about Malloy’s ill-conceived education reforms was not only a supporter of the status quo but a supporter of failure and an enemy of our children.

Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth.

In any case, for reasons that have yet to become clear, some type of falling out occurred between the ConnCAN Board and their CEO.

Riccards is out and Jennifer Alexander who has been named Acting CEO.  In an email today, ConnCAN reports that, “Jen joined ConnCAN as a consultant in early 2010 and joined the staff shortly thereafter. She quickly rose to serve as Vice President for Research and Partnerships. In that role, she has managed ConnCAN’s nationally recognized work in education research and policy development, as well as strategic partnership and coalition building.”

ConnCAN, StudentsFirst and Corporate Education Reformers roll out new Connecticut “pro-reform” blog?

17 Comments

http://cteducation180.com/

A new Connecticut-oriented pro-corporate education reform blog has appeared.

The stated reason?

“Unfortunately, the naysayers and protectors of the status quo seem to be the only ones being heard. There needs to be an informational voice to even the playing field, to hold the obstructionists accountable and most of all, put the kids first!”

This rationale comes from the blog’s owner, Pat Scully, a political operative, apologist for Governor Dan Malloy and former press aide to the Connecticut Senate Democrats.  Scully also worked for a brief period of time for Sullivan & LeShane, a Republican serving lobby company.   In addition, Scully served as the campaign manager for former gubernatorial candidate Jim Amann.

Scully’s press release claims that his blog, “is intended to be a balancing and informational source for readers to get objective information about education reform in the state.”

Scully’s press release implies that the new blog is not affiliated, in any way, with ConnCAN, 50CAN, StudentsFirst, Achievement First, Council for Education Reform or any of the other corporate education reform groups.

However, in a rather funny side note,  the graphic of the graduation cap on his blog is virtually identical to the one used on the ConnCAN, 50CAN, RI-CAN, MINNCAN, PENNCAN, NYCAN and MarylandCAN blog sites. [Interestingly, Scully’s new website also shares the same internet server as 50CAN, MINNCAN, MarylandCAN AND GNEPSA.ORG (the front group for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization).

Scully has devoted his first post to the task of rebuilding Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s image, by revising the facts associated with Finch’s failed attempt to do away with a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

According to Scully, Finch is saying that his effort to prevent Bridgeport voters from choosing their own board of education was completely misunderstood.  Finch explains, “I’m a father first and a mayor second…The coalition that supported the change was made up of more than 14,000 parents, some of whom I see when I put my kids on the bus.”

According to Scully, the problems were all associated with the elected board of education.  He writes, “It was an elected school board that threw up its hands in July of 2011 and asked for a state takeover. Fast forward past a lawsuit and a special election, the city has new board.  However, with the required minority representation, there is no evidence the board will be able to do what it’s supposed to do, particularly pass a budget. Again, no consideration of what’s best for the kids.”

I guess Scully missed about 99% of the facts surrounding the events leading up to the Malloy Administration’s illegal attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools, nor has he actually been to a board meeting or he’d realize that his comments about a “failing” board are completely untrue.

Scully, like the rest of the Finch operatives, never manages to explain why he thinks minority representation is destroying Bridgeport when it works perfectly fine in more than 150 of Connecticut’s elected school boards.

Apparently winning controversial votes by a margin of 6-3 rather than 9-0 is just not sufficient for politicians who want to make sure there are no questions or opposition to their proposals.

Older Entries Newer Entries