Tom Foley’s bizarre move on Education Policy and its potential impact on the CEA endorsement

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In what appears to be an ongoing effort to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, has proposed an education policy that looks eerily similar to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.

Over the past four years Governor Malloy has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation and remains the only Democratic governor to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

However, instead of providing Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates with appropriate policies that would support and strengthen public education, Tom Foley has proposed an education plan that appears to be designed by the very same corporate education reform industry groupies that are behind Malloy’s ill-conceived education initiatives.

In fact, elements of Foley’s plan appear to be a virtual copy of the proposals being pushed by Steven Adamowski, one of Malloy’s top advisors who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and formerly worked in the same capacity in Windham.

While Foley’s plan is vague and lacks details, the foundation of his education agenda, according to media coverage, would “mandate that parents in struggling schools be allowed to move their students anywhere within their local school systems, with money following the child.”

It is a system that has been tried and failed repeatedly around the country and is a particular favorite of Steven Adamowski, who previously served as superintendent of schools in Hartford before taking that same inappropriate approach with him to New London and Windham.

Tom Foley is quoted as saying,

“What I’m hoping is that when you have in-district public school choice and money follows the child that the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better…So, right away, that schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to try to make sure this gets passed and implemented, so if they should start trying to be better schools right away, to the extent they can.”

The Foley plan would be a disaster for Connecticut, but in what may be one of the biggest ironies of the entire 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy and his legislative supporters have blasted Foley for announcing his plan…despite the fact that Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly have supported very similar policies.

In a story entitled, Malloy sees, seizes opportunity in Foley’s school plan, the CT Mirror reported,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved quickly Thursday to exploit what Democrats say is an ill-considered and impractical proposal by Republican Tom Foley to allow urban parents to pick the local public school of their choice and strip money from failing schools as their children go elsewhere.

Malloy said the education proposals Foley made Wednesday as part of a larger urban agenda show that the Greenwich businessman has no grasp of current education policies and resources, nor does he appreciate how devastating it would be to urban school systems to begin denying funds to schools that need more resources.

“You can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work,” Malloy said.”

This from the Democratic governor whose “Commissioner’s Network” program has undermined local control, handed public schools over to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain in Hartford and Bridgeport and devastated a number of urban schools by implementing a “money follows the child” system that has left troubled schools without the resources they need to even serve the students that have remained in those schools.

According to the news article, Malloy went on to blast Foley saying,

“It’s a bunch of mush. It’s a mouthful of mush is what it is, except it’s dangerous,” Malloy said of what he called an ill-defined plan. “It’s defeating. It underlies an absolute lack of understanding of how education works in Connecticut. He gets an F for homework. He gets an F for plagiarism. And he gets an F for new ideas.”

Malloy’s quote is truly incredible considering the ideas that Foley is “stealing” come from Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and the gaggle of education reform industry supporters that surround Malloy.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and his campaign operatives are hoping that they can use Foley’s blunder on education to persuade the Connecticut Education Association to endorse Malloy tonight when they meet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for governor or make no endorsement in this year’s election.

The fundamental problem with Malloy’s latest strategy is that it would require the CEA leadership to overlook Malloy’s record of failure and destruction when it comes to his own policies on public education.

To endorse Malloy, the CEA would be throwing their members “under the bus” since Malloy’s record includes the following:

  • Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.
    • To date, Malloy has never publically renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.
  • Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.
    • To date, Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.
  • When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate (even unconstitutional).  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.
    • To date, Malloy has not promised to settle the CCJEF lawsuit and develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.
  • As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Connecticut has learned from the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School debacle that charter schools are not held accountable and it took a raid by the FBI to ensure that charter schools are held responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
    • To date, Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen.
  • And while tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive Common Core Standardized Testing Program, Malloy and his administration have repeatedly lied and misled parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.
    • To date, Malloy and his administration have FAILED to tell parents that they do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing scheme.

Despite Tom Foley’s decision to join Malloy in backing the corporate education reform industry’s agenda, any endorsement of Malloy – prior to him publicly reversing course on the issues listed above – would be an insult to every Connecticut teacher and the tens of thousands of parents and public school advocates who are counting on the Connecticut Education Association to stand up for public education in Connecticut.

You can read more about Foley and Malloy’s antics in the following articles:

CT Mirror:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-sees-seizes-opportunity-in-foleys-school-plan/ and http://ctmirror.org/foleys-urban-agenda-something-borrowed-something-new/

CT NewsJunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_stands_his_ground_on_education_policy/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democratic_lawmakers_criticize_foleys_education_policies/

Courant: Malloy, Unions Criticize Foley’s Education Plan

 

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Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

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Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on  CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Jumoke Charter School Company back in the news due to missing computers

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The disgraced charter school company that got tens of millions of taxpayer dollars thanks to no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration is back in the news.

Apparently the constant flow of checks from Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Department of Education wasn’t enough to appease the charter school company and its management.

The Hartford Courant is reporting that Jumoke may have removed more than $40,000 worth of “technology and equipment” before being booted out of Hartford’s Milner School earlier this year.

The Malloy administration gave Jumoke/FUSE charter school company no-bid contracts to run public schools in Hartford and Bridgeport and was granted management of a new charter school in New Haven.  There are also reports of a secret deal that fell through to give the charter school company control of a public school in Waterbury.

After a series of scathing investigative news stories written by the Hartford Courant, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company collapsed, although the Malloy administration has allowed Jumoke to continue to run its original charter school in Hartford.  To date, Jumoke’s Hartford Charter School has cost Connecticut taxpayers over $50 million.

Now, according to a report in the Hartford Courant, when the Hartford Public School System re-took control of the Milner School this past summer, “among the 30 assets that cannot be found at Milner are 19 computers with monitors, including nine Lenovo computers that were acquired by Milner in January 2013 at a price of $900 each.”

The Hartford Courant reports that Hartford School officials wrote to Jumoke saying,

“If the Hartford Public Schools does not receive notice that Jumoke Academy, Inc./FUSE is returning the items or paying for the full replacement value of the identified missing materials, we will have no alternative but to treat the matter as a theft with the appropriate authorities,” wrote Paula Altieri, Hartford schools’ chief financial officer, in a certified letter dated Sept. 9.”

[…]

Hartford school officials said the district conducted a physical inventory of all schools in May 2013, then reviewed Milner’s assets again in late February and noted 54 “unaccounted for” items totaling $70,391.90 in value, including 11 laptops and five electronic SMART Boards.

School officials said they informed Michael M. Sharpe, then the CEO of FUSE, of the results of the second Milner inventory during an early March conference call. Sharpe has disputed the district’s findings.

At some point along the way, the Hartford Courant apparently asked Michael Sharpe, Jumoke/FUSE’s former CEO, about the missing equipment.  According to today’s Courant news story, Sharpe “blamed the Hartford school system for losing the equipment.”

You can read the full Hartford Courant story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81386037/

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (by Sarah Darer Littman)

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Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (CT Newsjunkie)

Sarah Darer Littman, pro-public school advocate, award winning columnist and parent has written one of the most powerful commentary pieces about the state of the state when it comes to the Charter School Industry and how the Malloy administration has allowed tens of millions in taxpayer funds to be diverted to people and companies that are literally felons, liars and cheats.

If there is one article to read about Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the rise of the corporate education reform movement in Connecticut, this is the one.

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The traditional definition of chutzpah  is someone who kills his mother and father and then claims being an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.

I’ve been reminded of this word constantly as the FUSE/Jumoke charter scandal unfolded over the last two weeks.

L’Affaire Sharpe has been quite astonishing, because as a mere mortal, not a Crony of Dan Malloy or part of the Charter Chicanery Circus, I underwent more due diligence than Sharpe to become a creative writing instructor for an after-school program at one of the local elementary schools for the non-hefty fee of a few hundred bucks.

To teach this Afters program, run by the Cos Cob Elementary School PTA, I had to undergo a criminal background check.

Last year, when I was hired as an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and we know how well adjuncts are paid), before my appointment was confirmed I underwent another criminal background check, and also had to have my transcript sent from the institution where I’d received my Masters Degree. Funnily enough, it was New York University, the educational establishment where Michael Sharpe received his fictional doctorate.

Yet the members of the state Board of Education, all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, required no such due diligence before forking over $53 million of our taxpayer dollars to “Doctor” Sharpe’s organization. Just to make things even cozier, Gov. Malloy appointed FUSE’s chief operating officer, Andrea Comer, to the state Board of Education. Comer resigned earlier this week, in order to avoid being a “distraction.” I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

Every word of Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsjunkie commentary piece paints the ugly story surrounding Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Pryor’s hand-picked employees and high-paid consultants and the State Board of Education.

In addition, Littman traces the relationship to no-nothing policy makers who have allowed scarce public resources to be squandered on the make-a-fast-buck industry that has been the foundation of Malloy’s education reform effort.

As you read Littman’s piece, remember that these are the same people who have forced the Common Core on our children, promoted the absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme and the equally absurd, unfair and wasteful new teacher evaluation program.

No amount of political spin coming from Malloy or his education reform industry allies will disguise the fact that by introducing a bill to do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining rights for teachers in “turnaround schools,” Malloy became the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation.

As Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

“I guess no one in Hartford was watching the cookie jar — too much cronyism and not enough good government.”

You can find this MUST READ piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_charter_advocates_give_new_meaning_to_chutzpah/

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Charter School company collapse continues

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Andrea Comer, the former COO of Jumoke/FUSE charter school company has resigned her position on the State Board of Education, while the Bridgeport Board of Education prepares to end ties with Jumoke/FUSE, the charter school company that was given a lucrative no-bid contract to run Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas, the ousted former head of Bridgeport’s Schools.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Malloy appointed Comer to the State Board of Education in the spring of 2013.  Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about Comer, Malloy and his inappropriate decision to put the charter school executive on the State Board of Education.

News of Comer’s resignation came late today following today’s State Board of Education meeting.

The following statement was released by the Pelto/Murphy 2014 campaign following the announcement:

Statement of Jonathan Pelto, Candidate for Governor, Education and Democracy Party, On the resignation of Andrea Comer from the Connecticut State Board of Education

“The fact is that Governor Dannel ‘Dan’ Malloy should never have put Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, on the State Board of Education in the first place.  In April 2013, I wrote that the decision to nominate and confirm a high-ranking charter school executive to Connecticut’s education policy board was yet another attack on Connecticut’s school teachers, the teacher unions, and the 99% of students who attend public district schools.

As recently as three weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled, ‘Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut.’  Comer’s departure is an important step, but Connecticut’s public schools students, parents, teachers and citizens will not have the Department of Education they deserve until Malloy, Pryor and the remaining members of the State Board of Education are gone, as well.”

###

Meanwhile, as the Hartford Courant is reporting;

In another blow to a Hartford charter school group, Bridgeport Interim Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz said Wednesday she intends to end the district’s partnership with FUSE.

Rabinowitz will present the plan to the Bridgeport board of education on Thursday evening. State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, who was a supporter of FUSE until recently, said he agreed with the action.

FUSE had a state-funded role managing Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

The announcement comes a week after published reports that FUSE, which also manages the heavily state-financed Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford, had employed a registered sex offender at Dunbar despite a management agreement stating that “no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

“Recent revelations regarding FUSE have given rise to significant concerns regarding the organization’s ability to continue working with Dunbar,” Pryor and Rabinowitz said in a joint statement. “Teachers, students and parents have demonstrated commendable resolve to turn around Dunbar. They deserve a partner who will be able to provide the attention and support necessary for the work that lies ahead.”

Rabinowitz had told The Courant that FUSE failed to inform her of the employee’s criminal record, which included drug convictions, until last week and that she was “incredibly concerned.”

Rabinowitz questioned whether the embattled charter organization, also known as Family Urban Schools of Excellence, should continue running Dunbar School under a year-old arrangement through the state Commissioner’s Network, a reform initiative that gives millions in extra funding to struggling schools that implement a three- to 5-year “turnaround” plan.

You can read more about this breaking story at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-bridgeport-school-0710-20140709,0,2832863.story

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

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Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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The Connecticut Post has published a powerful editorial about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school debacle and the Malloy Administration’s failure to properly oversee the growing charter school industry in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s minions of charter school allies are diverting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that have been allowed to open up charter schools or have been given no-bid contracts to run local public schools in Connecticut’s poorest communities.

The editorial lays out the stark facts about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and its contract to run the Bridgeport neighborhood school known as Dunbar.

The CT Post doesn’t even get to the fact that Commissioner Pryor, Pryor’s Division Director in charge of turnaround schools, and their new Bureau Chief in the turnaround schools division all worked for Achievement First, Inc., Connecticut’s largest charter school management company, before getting their state jobs.

Together, Pryor and his two top charter school lieutenants are earning about $500,000 in salary and benefits, courtesy of Connecticut’s taxpayers.  And while we pay, they are spending their time undermining Connecticut’s public school system.

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

It is almost beyond belief that the state Department of Education, its hand finally forced, is just now ordering all charter schools and charter school management firms in Connecticut to conduct background checks on the people being entrusted with the care of children.

The department acted only after Michael P. Sharpe, director of a company the state picked to turn around Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, was discovered to have convictions for forgery and embezzlement, and no doctoral degree, as claimed.

So, in this case at least, with the horse long out of the barn, the department announced with a flourish that it will sic a special investigator on FUSE — Family Urban — and Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school that FUSE also runs.

The state department also said it will make charter schools and their management companies to adhere to anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies established for public school districts.

Well, how about that?

“Today’s actions may not be the limit of what we undertake,” intoned Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

What’s next? Triple secret double-dog probation?

[…]

FUSE, for one thing, received $435,000 from the state in so-called Commissioner’s Network money, money designed to help turn around particularly low-functioning schools in the state.

You can read the complete editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-long-overdue-step-on-charters-5593806.php

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The battle against the corporate education reform industry takes center stage

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Charter School Scandal Continues to Rock Malloy Administration…

However, rather than conduct a truly independent investigation into the fall of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education decided to hire a lawyer to conduct an “investigation.”

Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner added that his agency’s lawyers would be “extremely involved” in the investigation… this despite the fact that Pryor and his leadership team should be among those being investigated.

While the State Board of Education put FUSE, the parent company of Jumoke Academy on “probation,” they spent much of the meeting lavishing praise on Jumoke Academy.

But the two entities are so intertwined that the State Board of Education’s action deserves nothing but ridicule.

The fact is that the deal to hand Hartford’s Milner Elementary School over to Jumoke was made in March 2012.  The State Board of Education voted to give Milner to Jumoke at their meeting in August 2012, but FUSE, the parent company that signed the contract to run Milner, wasn’t even formed until October 2012 —– more than six months AFTER Pryor and his team had decided to hand over millions of state taxpayer dollars to run Milner.

To investigate FUSE and not Jumoke Academy  is nothing more than a blatant effort to sweep the problem under the rug.

But regardless of the State Board of Education’s action, the battle against charter schools and the corporate education reform industry is finally being brought to light.

As the CT Mirror explains in their leading news story this morning,

The inquiry comes as charter schools, once celebrated as laboratories of urban educational achievement and innovation, increasingly face a backlash from teachers’ unions and political figures ranging from the mayor of New York City to a third-party candidate for governor of Connecticut.

See CT Mirror: Scandal called ‘important moment’ in charter movement

The CT Mirror adds,

Anger over charter schools and the private non-profit companies that run them is helping fuel the third-party gubernatorial campaign of Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic legislator.”

To Pelto, the exposure of Sharpe’s record by The Hartford Courant is evidence of the shortcomings of a state education bureaucracy overly sympathetic of charter schools.

“I think it’s evidence there is no oversight, no meaningful oversight,” Pelto said.

On the same issue, CT Newsjunkie, has an article entitled, State Board of Education Launches Investigation, Requires Background Checks for Charters.  CT Newwjunkie reports,

Critics of charter schools who attended Monday’s meeting, including gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, say this is just proof that the charter model doesn’t work.

Pelto said these issues need to be investigated by an outside investigator because the allegations of inappropriate activities go all the way up into the commissioner’s office.

He said the board should have put the charter management group and its flagship charter school, Jumoke Academy, on probation.

And the Hartford Courant, the newspaper that produced the investigative news stories that brought down the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain has a story entitled, State Board Approves Probe Of Charter School CompanyThe Courant’s story includes my assessment of the State Department of Education’s action, in which I say,

It’s not just the fox dialing 911 when the chickens have disappeared – it’s the fox with the chicken feathers hanging out of their mouth dialing 911,” said Pelto, who suggested the state auditors should conduct the probe.

You can read much more about the is developing story by clicking on the titles of each of the articles

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

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