Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence E4E, Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence
Now here is some good news for Connecticut teachers… (For those of you who like irony).
A relatively new organization dedicated to giving YOU (teachers) a voice is expanding in Connecticut.
Just take a look.
They call themselves Educators 4 Excellence.
Their statement of purpose is based on their belief that, “For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table: the voice of classroom teachers.”
So a group of dedicated individuals formed a new, “teacher-led” advocacy organization that “elevates the profession by giving teachers a meaningful voice in the policies that shape our careers and classrooms.”
According to their website, “E4E teachers come together to learn about policy-making. We bridge the gap between those who make and implement policy by sharing our ideas with policy makers and influencers. E4E teachers take action in three different ways—we advocate for more teacher leadership and collaboration at our schools, push for district and state policies that include our ideas and get involved within our union and district to ensure that decisions elevate student achievement and the teaching profession.”
And now Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) is dramatically expanding their operation here in Connecticut where they are hiring a Managing Director of Policy, Connecticut, a Managing Director of Outreach, Connecticut and an Outreach Director, Connecticut.
Of course, those who have heard of E4E know they tend to skip over a few details about their history and their relationships.
Formed as a not-for-profit corporation under Delaware law in 2010, the group went from having a revenue stream of $339,000 in their first year to $1.9 million in their second. Their rent went from $5,800 to $56,000, you can now find them just off Times Square in New York City and their use of consults went from 0 to over $200,000.
As explained in a December 2011 Wait, What? blog post, although Educators 4 Excellence is silent on the issue, their primary funding comes from the Gates Foundation and other national education reform groups. E4E was set up by the corporate education reform trifecta of Education Reform Now (ERN), Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Interestingly, those same groups were the primary funders behind the multi-million-dollar, anti-teacher, anti-union television advertising campaign that ran during the Chicago teacher’s strike.
Educators 4 Excellence is also headed by…
Wait for it…Two former Teach for America (TFA) recruits.
As a “teacher-led” advocacy group, their stated goals are to end seniority, institute merit pay and replace tenure with what the group calls “earned tenure,” in which teachers who are able to push up standardized test scores are provided with greater job security and financial bonuses.
In addition to their headquarters in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence has already created chapters in Los Angeles and over the past year have been targeting Minnesota and Connecticut.
In their first year, Educators 4 Excellence primarily focused on supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to destroy tenure in the New York City Schools. They wrote, “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to make tenure decisions more meaningful.” Last year, the group was one of the most vocal supporters of New York’s ill-fated teacher evaluation system.
As noted in last year’s Wait, What? post — and perhaps it is only an uncanny coincidence — but during the major education reform battle in New York, the groups that created Educators 4 Excellence ran television ads that included one parent saying, “Albany’s listening much too much to the teachers union,” while a second parent, looking to the camera, followed up by saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”
The company that produced those anti-teacher, anti-union ads was SKD Knickerbocker.
SKD Knickerbocker is the same company the produced the most offensive, anti-teacher ads that were run in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill and is the same company that was hired to do ads in Bridgeport in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s effort to eliminate a democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by him.
SKD Knickerbocker was also the company created the advertising that used in the two extremely expensive “independent expenditure” campaigns that took place during last year’s Connecticut legislative elections and that sought to elect two candidates that education reform lobbyists thought would be the most supportive of Malloy’s education reform efforts.
Meanwhile, if Connecticut isn’t your state of choice, Educators 4 Excellent are also filling or have recently filled positions for a Founding Executive Director, Minnesota, Outreach Director, Minnesota, Managing Director of Outreach, New York, Outreach Director, New York, Outreach Director, Los Angeles and Managing Director of Policy, Los Angeles.
So, the good news for all you teachers out there that feel our elected officials have turned their backs on the teaching profession, (other than at times of extreme crisis when there are cameras around), don’t worry because E4E will be changing all that.
Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Board of Education, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight Company, State Board of Education, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
While it’s true that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has failed to fill some of the most critically important administrative positions in his agency that actually serve Connecticut’s schools and children, such as a Bureau Chief for the Special Education Division, Pryor’s dedication to retaining corporate education reform consulting companies and corporate education consultants is impressive.
Yesterday Wait, What? explored a $123,930.00 taxpayer-funded payment to Mass Insight Education, an education reform consulting company that has been retained to help develop Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Network.”
Although the total magnitude of the consulting contract with Mass Insight hasn’t been reported, that initial six figure payment is chump change compared to the amount of taxpayer money that is being spent on the salaries and benefits of the consultants and education reformers who have been hired to surround Pryor at the Department of Education.
Leading the way is Chief Turnaround Officer, Debra Kurshan, who is pulling down $149,000 plus benefits. The former head of School Portfolio Development for Mayor Bloomberg’s school privatization efforts also served as a consultant to the superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, another hire, Talent Officer, Shannon Marimon, is collecting $110,000 plus benefits. She joined Pryor’s operation after working for the TNTP, an education reform group. As the TNTP website explains, the majority of TNTP’s revenue comes from its work with clients on a fee-for-service basis. This approach incentivizes TNTP to meet the needs of its clients while continually assessing the value and cost-effectiveness of its services. The fee-for-service model also encourages TNTP’s clients to be motivated, active collaborators by literally “investing” them in the success of their partnerships with the organization.”
Then there is the growing list of Pryor’s “education staff assistants,” beginning with his chief of staff, Adam Goldfarb who followed him from New Jersey. Hired at $75,000, Goldfarb is now making $106,000 despite the fact that he has no professional education experience other than serving on the Board of a Charter School in Newark.
There is also Mark Day, the Director of Performance Management, who is getting $105,000. He joined the state payroll after working as an employee of McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that advertises that it is “the trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. “
Add to that the two $95,000 education staff assistants who are interns from the Broad Foundation’s Residency Program, Gabrielle Ramos and Katina Grays. The Broad Foundation is one of the three largest pro-education reform foundations in the nation. Their motto is that they are “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”
Despite the fact that the Broad Foundation has assets of $2.1 billion, the state of Connecticut is paying these two so they can work on Pryor’s education reform agenda while they are doing their Broad Foundation Residency.
And then there are the two law school students/TFA graduates, Andrew Ferguson and Collin Moore. One of whom is working as another one of Pryor’s education staff assistants, while the other is working in Pryor’s “Turnaround Office.” Thanks to Commissioner Pryor, both are enjoying $80,000 incomes.
The list goes on and on…
While there are a record number of essential unfilled vacancies and the core work of the State Department of Education isn’t getting done in a timely manner, the sign on the door reads:
Only education consultants and those have taken the corporate education reform pledge need apply.
Budget Cuts, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Budget, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor Commissioner's Network, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight Company, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
Eighteen months ago, on January 5, 2012, Governor Malloy’s sponsored an Education Reform Workshop at Central Connecticut State University. During the first breakout session there was a panel discussion focused on the issue of “Low-Performing Schools and Districts.” The panel was moderated by Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education company.
A few weeks later, Mass Insight Education’s Justin Cohen returned to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill, Senate Bill 24. Cohen wrote, “To dramatically and systemically improve our nation’s failing schools, comprehensive state turnaround initiatives, like the Commissioner’s Network included in Senate Bill 24, must be pursued as part of a spectrum of interventions. As the President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education, I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for its consideration of Senate Bill 24 and strongly support its passage.”
Cohen added, “Senate Bill 24 creates part of the structure and authority necessary for the state to perform this work and hold districts accountable…”
Two trips to Connecticut in a matter of weeks.
Talk about a dedication to Governor Malloy’s education reform proposal!
And now it turns out that just last month, on 4/13/13, the State of Connecticut wrote out a check to Mr. Cohen’s Mass Insight Education company for $123,930.00. It was an initial payment on a much larger contract signed by the Malloy Administration’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. Mass Insight Education was chosen, over a number of entities including Connecticut’s Regional Education Service Centers, to assist with Stefan Pryor’s Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Program. Funny…that was the very thing Cohen came to Connecticut to testify in favor of the year before!
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Rhee’s time there in Washington DC won her fame and fortune, as well as the demand for investigations into allegations about widespread cheating to inflate standardized test scores.
Before he worked as Rhee’s Director of Portfolio Management, Cohen worked as Director of Industry Support and Development for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
And before that, worked for the Edison Schools company. Finally, of course, having won a contract from Stefan Pryor, we shouldn’t be surprised that Cohen also went to Yale University.
Fellow education blogger Gary Rubinstein investigated and wrote about Mass Insight Education. Rubinstein observed that while Mass Insight claims to lead turnaround projects around the country, their track record is murky, at best. Rubinstein wrote, “On their School Turnaround Group [website] they list eight successful ‘turnarounds’ from around the country. Ironically, these eight ‘turnarounds’ were led by companies other than Mass Insight, but as Mass Insight doesn’t seem to want to put its own record up to scrutiny, they use these case studies to show the sorts of strategies that Mass Insight employs in its own turnarounds.”
Not surprising, Rubinstein discovered that the examples that Mass Insight Education relied upon are similar to what charter school companies here in Connecticut have been doing. The “improved test results” that they education reforms tout are simply the result of policy changes that allowed these schools to skim off students that are less poor, have fewer language barriers, need fewer special education services or display fewer behavioral problems. As usual, the “miracle turnaround” was a product of comparing apples to oranges, not comparing real “turnaround” in the existing population of students.
Meanwhile, Mass Insight Education has been raking in the money. According to research conducted by EduShyster, a public education blogger with extensive experience in Massachusetts, “In 2009, [Mass Insight] CEO William Guenther reported earning a cool $370,000–for 30 hours per week work. That works out to roughly $237 per hour.”
By 2011, Guenther, the Mass Insight CEO, was making $450,000.
Among its purported services, EduShyster discovered that “Mass Insight has moved into the highly lucrative consulting world, offering helpful tips to public districts and state officials around the country about how to “modify collective bargaining agreements .”
It figures that senior officials in the Malloy administration would hire a pro-charter, anti-union consulting company to advise his administration on how to undermine collective bargaining agreements.
And to further their standing, according to their IRS 990 filings, Mass Insight even engages in lobbying, although their most recent report fails to identify whether their 2012 efforts to support Governor Malloy’s education reform bill counted as lobbying.
But like all good lobbying, it would appear that their government relations expenditures can really pay off.
For example, last month’s check for $123,930.00 could have been spent here in Connecticut, supporting a Connecticut school or it could have retained the services of Connecticut residents, but instead it joined the millions of dollars flowing that are flowing to the corporate education reform industry outside of our state.
In this case, Malloy’s Department of Education is using Connecticut taxpayer funds to pay corporate consultants from Massachusetts, while Connecticut towns are left laying off teachers and reducing vital services.
Let’s hear it for the success of the corporate education-industrial reform movement!
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Wait What? ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Wait What?
“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.”
Bridgeport, Education Reform, New London, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker, Windham Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker
Fellow pro-public education advocate and columnist hits the mark, yet again, with her column in this past weekend’s CT Post, Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media Group outlets. Her piece is entitled, No need to break the law — just have it changed for you.
In the piece, Wendy writes, “The education “reform” movement has been rocked recently by revelations that its biggest stars are more concerned with the appearance of success than whether children actually learn.”
With that she outlines the two major scandals involving cheating on standardized tests that have been in the news.
But the core of her column is about the approach the corporate education reformers are taking here in Connecticut.
“Not to be outdone, we Nutmeggers have employed our Yankee ingenuity to game the system, as well. While superintendent of Hartford, Steven Adamowski boasted major increases in test scores — a result, he claimed, of his reform methods, including school closures, school choice and merit pay. However, as revealed by Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto, the gains in test scores in Hartford during that period can largely be explained by the district’s exclusion of a significant percentage of students with disabilities from the regular test and having them take a modified assessment that did not count in Hartford’s test scores. As Cotto described, it Hartford engaged in “addition by subtraction.” Neat!
Connecticut’s Legislature and state Board of Education can be crafty, too, and it’s all legal. Connecticut law provides that school administrators be certified, to ensure that our schools and school districts are led by individuals with the knowledge and experience to properly oversee the education of our children. All of Connecticut’s permanent superintendents are certified to be superintendents — except one: Paul Vallas, superintendent of Bridgeport schools, serving approximately 20,000 students. To remedy this problem, Governor Malloy wrote a law enabling Vallas to be certified if he completed an educational leadership course approved by the state board of education. But then, another problem arose: the state Board of Education did not approve any course and Bridgeport already hired Vallas permanently.
Not to worry! UConn quickly devised a course it claimed was just like what all other superintendents must pass. As Jonathan Pelto has pointed out, though, a regular superintendent candidate must have 15 credits beyond a master’s degree; go through a rigorous application process that requires a full faculty review of one’s application; complete an additional 15 credits of course work in the program; and pay approximately $30,000 in tuition and fees. UConn’s program, hastily approved by the state Board of Education, only requires Vallas to enroll in a three-credit, one semester independent study course at a cost of about $4,000. More legal cheating!”
Wendy ends with a reminder to our children writing, “So, kids, if you want to grow up to change the world like these star reformers, you don’t need to learn anything of substance (don’t worry, with standardized tests in every grade and subject, soon you won’t be learning anything of substance, anyway). But don’t break the law! Simply ally yourselves with those who make the laws and they will bend and twist them to make your dreams of greatness come true!”
The column is well worth the read and you can find the complete column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-No-need-to-break-the-law-just-4448335.php#ixzz2RCIUZ79S
Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Standardized Tests, Stefan Pryor
Contributing a Great Quote is a step toward immortality…here is a leading contender for the list of Great Education Quotes from Connecticut’s own Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
“…after-school programming needs to play a significant role in raising Connecticut Mastery Test scores in Windham.” – Stefan Pryor, Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Norwich Bulletin 4/4/13
Add that one to other Great Education Quotes like;
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
“Life doesn’t come with four choices.” — Linda Darling-Hammond
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle
“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.” – Maya Angelou
“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” – Plato
“Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” - W. B. Yeats
Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.
“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.
As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.
School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law
Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;
“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”
As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.
Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.
Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm
“Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”
Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;
“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.
First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?
That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time. ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’
Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.
In the report, the auditors state:
‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’
On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:
‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’
It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
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:
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,
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?
Education Reform, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, No-Bid Contracts, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Otherwise known as, “What do you mean we can’t get paid for work provided after our contract end date has occurred, but you promised!”
Today’s “MUST READ” news article comes via CTNewsjunkie and is entitled “Lawsuit: State Still Owes About $235,000 to Education Reform Consultants”
As Christine Stuart explains;
“Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.
Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.”
Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about how Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, brought in Leeds Global Partners and the other corporate education reform consultants though no-bid contracts to help him write and push through Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.
Rather than have to deal with the state’s pesky competitive bidding, Pryor and his team simply told the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Pryor’s hand-picked consultants sans any process whatsoever.
The Connecticut Department of Education then transferred money to SERC to pay for the outside consultants plus an extra percentage for SERC to keep for themselves for overhead and coordination.
The group of companies in question had either done work with Pryor when he was working for Newark Mayor Cory Booker or were other education reform associates who had done work in New Jersey. More
Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Malloy, Race to the Top, Sarah Darer Littman, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Evaluations Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Evaluation
The sentence comes from columnist and fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman latest commentary piece in this weekend’s CTNewsjunkie.
The topic: Education Reform in Connecticut
Compared to what is actually taking place in Hartford and state capitols around the country, she might have begun her piece with the term, “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over” or any number of other adynata. [Turns out the phrase is called an Adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole that is taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility].
Sarah Darer Littman’s piece stands as a beacon of truth compared to the drivel Rae Ann Knopf, the executive director of the corporate driven, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, had published on CTNewsjunkie earlier in the week. The two pieces should be read in tandem to get the full effect. Read Knopf’s corporate education reform argument and then Sarah Darer Littman’s piece entitled Legislate Based On Research, Not Hyperbole.
The corporate education reform advocates falsely claim that not only will Malloy’s education reform legislation be good for children and our schools, but the cost of these unfunded mandates will be negligible, when such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
As Darer Littman writes,
“One hopes our legislators have been paying attention to the experience of our neighbors in New York as they listen to advocates from the Big Six (ConnCan, CCER, CBIA, CAPSS, CAS, and CABE). According to March report by the New York State School Boards Association and based on an analysis of data from 80 school districts, the districts outside the state’s five largest cities expect to spend an average of $155,355 on the state’s new evaluation system this year.
That’s $54,685 more than the average federal Reach To the Top grant awarded to districts to implement the program.
“Our analysis . . . shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” says Executive Director Timothy Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”
At a time when Connecticut’s towns and cities already face the potential for significant state aid reductions based on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget, is it any wonder that the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities testified in favor of delaying a system that is proving costly and problematic elsewhere?”
Darer Littman then turns her attention to the even more important point that Malloy’s entire teacher evaluation system is a farce and insult to the notion of creating better schools and ensuring that our state’s children are provided with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.
Calling Darer Littman’s piece a “must read” piece is a truly an understatement.
You can find it here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_legislate_based_on_research_not_hyperbole/