Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst rally to support Steve Perry; Board fails to take up Perry’s threatening tweet

At last night’s Hartford Board of Education meeting Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Hartford Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland failed to address the status of the promised investigation into Capital Prep Steve Perry’s threatening email rant or the growing controversy surrounding the Capital Prep Scholarship Fund.

Instead the meeting was dominated by a lobbying effort pushed by Michelle Rhee’s national corporate education reform group, StudentsFirst.  The goal of the effort appears to be to resurrect Steve Perry’s attempt to take over two Hartford Schools and transfer them to a private company that he owns.

The involvement of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst is an impressive indication of the corporate education reform industry’s commitment to Perry and his tactics.

Michelle Rhee is infamous for pouring tens of millions of dollars money into the local political process to try and force local officials to shift scarce public funds from their public schools to the  privatized corporate education reform model.

In Connecticut, Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst have set up a front group called GNEPSA (The Greater New England Public School Alliance).

Although it claims to be the New England Public School Alliance, the direct connection with StudentsFirst becomes obvious when looking at the organization’s Connecticut Ethics Reports, Connecticut Campaign Finance Reports and even their website – http://www.gnepsa.org/state/connecticut .

For example, Jeri Powell, who submits her testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly and authors commentary pieces by listing her title as GNEPSA’s Connecticut state director, has an official bio that reads:

“Jeri Powell has worked as a State Director for StudentsFirst since March 2011 and was the founding State Director for Florida, Georgia and Minnesota, guiding StudentsFirst’s policy efforts in those states over two legislative sessions… She currently sits on the Board of Democracy Prep Public Schools, a network of high performing charter schools based in Harlem, NY.”

Since Governor Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union “education reform” legislation of any Democratic governor in the nation in 2012, Michelle Rhee and StudentFirst (AKA GNEPSA) has become a leading sources of money in the effort to lobby and support Malloy and his education policies.

In less than two years, GNEPSA has spent over $889,604 lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s legislation, another $150,554 in “independent” expenditures to try and influence two legislative races and hundreds of thousands in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed exclusively by the mayor.

Now Rhee’s organization has apparently dived into the controversy surrounding Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School by joining organizations like Achieve Hartford, Inc. and HART to try and force the Hartford Board of Education to reverse its previous action and give Perry and his private company control of Capital Prep Magnet School and at least one other Hartford elementary school.

In their propaganda and rhetoric to date, neither StudentsFirst nor their allies have explained to Hartford or Connecticut taxpayers that Perry’s plan would shift approximately $15 million a year in public funds to Perry’s company.

With no public hearing and no competitive bidding process, StudentsFirst wants the Hartford Board of Education to simply transfer the schools and the related funding to Perry with some type of “MOU” to be worked out later to determine the level of public oversight over those funds.

Despite all the controversy surrounding Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry, perhaps the single greatest indicator of what Perry is really trying to pull off can be seen by the arrival and involvement of Michelle Perry and StudentsFirst —- the leading purveyors of the modern corporate education reform industry.

Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers need to keep a special grip on their wallets if Michelle Rhee and her ilk are coming to the aid of Capital Prep’s Steve Perry.