Relay Graduate School of Education – Illegal lobbying marks effort to undermine Connecticut’s teacher certification law

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform business are chortling over the news that the State Board of Education is meeting on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 1D of the Legislative Office Building Room to approve an underhanded effort to allow a major education reform company to end-run Connecticut’s teacher preparation program.

According to the State Board of Education’s agenda, Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees will hold an executive session, on Wednesday, and then immediately re-convene to adopt a motion that would allow the charter school industry’s Relay Graduate School of Education to operate in Connecticut.

Recently rejected in both California and Pennsylvania, the Relay Graduate School of Education corporation has set up shop in New Haven, Connecticut where it offers selected charter school personnel and others with a drive-through Master’s Degree in Education.

As for Relay Graduate School of Education, Seton Hall Professor Daniel Katz wrote a scathing article about the education reform entity reporting;

It is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it. In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First… Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer-delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

Not only is the Malloy administration’s upcoming action bad public policy, it now appears that the Relay Graduate School of Education is violating Connecticut law on two fronts.

Although officials from the highest level of the Relay School of Education have been lobbying top officials of the Malloy administration, the New York based company has failed to register with the State Ethics Office, as required by state law.

Connecticut law clearly requires that any individual or organizations engaged in lobbying MUST register and file monthly reports with the Office of State Ethics. A requirement that Relay has failed to fulfill.  The Ethics agency explains that,

“Administrative Lobbying  is  any lobbying that affects, among other things, the rules or regulations of an executive agency, and the actions of an executive or quasi-public agency regarding a contract, grant, award, purchasing agreement, etc.;”

In addition to illegally seeking to impact Connecticut public policy, Relay is also violating state law by beginning operations in Connecticut prior to being granted the required permission.

Sadly, the effort to undermine Connecticut’s teacher preparation system and the value of teacher certification is nothing new for Malloy and his administration. Malloy has consistently sought to divert scarce public funds to the charter schools, while degrading the value of Connecticut’s teacher preparation programs.  In this case, he achieves both goals.  The Vice Chair of Relay Graduate School’s Board of Directors is none-other-than Dacia Toll, the CEO of Achievement First, Inc., the charter school chain that has pulled in millions of dollars in Connecticut taxpayer funds as a result of Malloy’s policies.

You can read more about the Relay School of Education via Wendy Lecker’s article – Drive up education degree is an insult to every student, parent, teacher and taxpayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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