As Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and his agency must adhere to the Connecticut ethics laws that apply to public officials and public agencies.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that is working to support Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives. As a lobbying group, CCER must adhere to the ethics laws that apply to lobbying organizations.
But when it comes to the relationship between the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Pryor’s state agency, something is significantly amiss.
CCER was part of the $6 million record-breaking lobbying effort that led to the passage of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative in 2012.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Board of Directors includes the retired Chairman and CEO of The Hartford Insurance Company, the President and COO of the Travelers Companies, the President and CEO of Yale New Haven Hospital, a Managing Director at First Niagara Bank, the Lead Director at Webster Bank, the Chair of Nestle Waters North America, former gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont and others.
The Executive Director of CCER is a registered lobbyist and the organization retains one of the state’s better known lobbying companies.
When it comes to their rhetoric and propaganda, CCER stays true to the corporate education reform industry’s agenda. Recently CCER put out a press release stating,
“We will oppose any delay in implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”
But as reported earlier this year on Wait, What? this education reform lobbying group has been playing an increasingly significant role in the internal functioning of the State Department of Education.
At last month’s State Department of Education’s quarterly Alliance District Convening meeting, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Jeffrey Villar, was a lead presenter at a session entitled, “District Strategic Planning.”
The meeting agenda read:
“CCER will share best practices and tools for district-wide, long-term strategic planning. This will include strategies to establish Board of Education goals, develop district indicators of success, and design a process to monitor implementation. Districts will also learn about how the CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”
Katie Roy, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Chief Operating Officer also presented to the group of local school administrators, teachers and parents.
This means that at an official meeting between the State Department of Education and officials from Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, participants were told that the lobbying group known as CCER “can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”
A lobbying organization can “help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications”?
That is more than a bit odd…
First off, CCER is a corporate funded lobbying group and has no expertise with Alliance Districts, the State Department of Education or the Alliance District and Priority District funding grants. Their expertise is trying to persuade legislators to support Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts.
Second, what makes the whole situation even stranger is that as a result of a series of Freedom of Information requests filed with the appropriate state agencies, it turns out that there is NO CONTRACT between the State Department of Education and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).
So how did CCER get the job of “helping” Alliance Districts and who is picking up the tab for these “services.”
The State of Connecticut isn’t paying CCER, but if the lobbying group is “donating” the services to school districts then that raises a slew of ethics and legal issues.
And to make matters even more suspicious, the lobbying reports that the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has submitted to the Office of State Ethics doesn’t come close to showing the time and costs CCER has already devoted to the task of “helping” Alliance Districts.
Stefan Pryor’s State Department of Education has instructed Alliance Districts that a lobbying group with no expertise is available to help them prepare grant applications that will then be approved or rejected by Pryor and the State Department of Education.
In the real world we call that a conflict of interest.
It is time for the Malloy administration and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to come clean on exactly what role CCER is playing at the State Department of Education and whether Commissioner Pryor or CCER are violating any Connecticut laws in the process.