Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

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As Robert Cotto Jr. writes about the way in which Connecticut charter school companies are pocketing public funds in his latest CTNewjunkie commentary piece entitled, Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr. let’s not forgot that the problems with charter schools goes far beyond greed, waste and fraud.

The REAL TRUTH about Connecticut Charter schools and racial segregation;

Forget the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ruled that segregation in schools violated the United States Constitution.

Forget the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Sheff v. O’Neill that ruled that segregation in Connecticut schools violated Connecticut’s Constitution.

Forget that as a result of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, Connecticut taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in public schools.

The REAL TRUTH is that more than $100 million a year in scarce Connecticut funds are being handed over to charter school companies and that according to the most recent reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education (2012-2013), every single major charter school in Connecticut is more racially segregated than the school district they are supposed to serve.

The REAL TRUTH is that while Connecticut spends massive amount of money to fulfill its federal and state constitutional mandate of REDUCING segregation, Connecticut charter schools are using public money to actually INCREASE racial segregation in Connecticut!

Just look at the data about the charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Using public funds, Connecticut charter schools are creating greater racial isolation – something that is nothing short of illegal and unconstitutional.

HARTFORD % of public school students who are non-white
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 100%
Achievement First Inc. Hartford Charter School 100%

 

Bridgeport % of public school students who are non-white
Bridgeport School District 91%
Achievement First Inc. Bridgeport Charter School 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 99%
New Beginnings Academy Charter School 99%

 

New Haven % of public school students who are non-white
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Charter School 98%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City Charter School 99%
Highville Charter School 99%

 

 

 

Stamford % of public school students who are non-white
Stamford School District 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trail Blazers Charter School 96%

 

And now Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut’s charter school industry want to divert even more public money away from Connecticut’s public schools so that they can open up two more charter schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford.

A new president for AFT-CT? 

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Connecticut’s two major teacher unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter are meeting tomorrow to elect officers.

Word is spreading that the American Federation of Teachers will finally get a president who is actually an educator and will speak up and fight for the interests of the teachers who are members of the AFT-CT, in addition to the union’s health care affiliated members.

Multiple sources confirm that Jan Hochadel, who presently serves as the President of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, appears poised to become the AFT-CT next president at tomorrow – May 15, 2015 – AFT-CT convention which will be taking place in Southington, Connecticut.

The selection of an educator to lead the AFT-CT would be a major leadership shift for the AFT-CT, a union that has been one of the loudest apologists for Governor Dannel Malloy, despite Malloy’s unprecedented and ongoing assault on teachers, the teaching profession and Connecticut’s public schools.

In particular, the news means former state senator and Malloy ally Melodie Peters would be out of the job.

Jan Hochadel’s career has been dedicated to the Connecticut Technical High School System, its teachers and 11,000 students who annually attend Vo-Tech high schools in the state.  The State Vocation Federation of Teachers is the union that represents teachers as these state run high schools.

The change in leadership would certainly send a strong message to government officials, not only about the importance of teachers and teaching, but the value of Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools which have been reeling as a result of budget cuts and abusive initiatives implemented by recent Republican and Democratic governors.

In his first term, Governor Malloy actually proposed disbanding Connecticut’s historic Vo-Tech system and farming the individuals schools out to local school districts.

In her present capacity as president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, Jan Hochadel is known as a leading advocate for vo-tech education at both the state and federal level.

In addition to fighting for better state funding and support for Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools, she recently served as a featured speaker at a major Washington D.C. Capitol Hill briefing last month about strategies to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the United States.

The change in leadership would come as especially good news to the students at Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools who have been particularly hard hit by the negative aspects of the rapid move to the Common Core and the implementation of the unfair Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Not only have the Vo-Tech schools been required to implement the new Common Core standards without the appropriate resources to make it happen, but the system’s state administrators have been among the worst offenders when it comes to misleading students and parents about the Common Core SBAC testing requirement.

In recent weeks numerous Vo-Tech high school students or their parents have reported that they have been misled, harassed and told that they must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate, a requirement that clearly violates state law.

A new leader for AFT-CT would provide the nationally renowned union with a unique opportunity to return to a leadership position on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

More on this breaking story as it develops.

The CEA convention starts this evening with an election for officers tomorrow.  Challengers Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick are challenging the incumbent slate of Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake for the position of President and Vice President.  Walsh and  Minnick have been especially vocal on behalf of the Common Core SBAC opt-out movement and have been pushing the CEA to join the opt-out effort here in Connecticut.

Lacking evidence, Malloy and CT legislator say Common Core SBAC is good and valid

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Vermont, like Connecticut, is a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

However, while Connecticut officials charge forward with the Common Core SBAC test program; officials in Vermont are applying the brakes having recognized that there is NO evidence that the test scores from the SBAC test will be a statistically valid measure of student performance.

On March 17, 2015 the Vermont State Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution suspending the use of the SBAC test results.  The resolution explained.

“[U]nless empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (‘college and career-ready’), test results should not be used to make consequential judgments about schools and students.”

-Vermont State Board of Education March 20, 2015

But 199 miles to the south, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the House Chair of the legislature’s Education Committee, Andy Fleischmann, don’t need to hear about studies or facts that would tell them that the test is designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut’s children, they are confident that the test is good, useful and valid.

But the fact is that according to the reports provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), only about 32 percent of Connecticut’s 8th graders will “pass” this year’s SBAC math test.  The projected number of African American children who will receive passing grades on the SBAC math test is only 15 percent, while the number of Latino expected to receive a passing grade is 19%.  Less than 8 percent of students who require special education services are projected to get passing grades and for children who are not proficient in English, only 5 percent are expected to pass the math portion of the 8th grade SBAC test.  The pass/fail rate is similar for students in grades 3-8, as well as for high school juniors who are taking the SBAC test this year.

But despite having clear and stark evidence that proves the SBAC test is unfair and discriminatory, Connecticut’s Democratic governor and one of the leading Democratic state legislators responsible for education policy in Connecticut are actually applauding the value and appropriateness of the SBAC test.

According to a today’s article, here is what the two told the CT Mirror,

“I think the Smarter Balanced test is the right test. A lot of work has gone into developing that and, you know, I think that we are actually seeing success with it being given and making real progress.”

– Governor Dannel Malloy May 13, 2015

“That test does show to be robust and valid.”

– State Representative Andy Fleischmann, Chair CT Education Committee 5/13/2015

Imagine…

State officials saying that a test designed to fail the vast majority of our child and clearly discriminates against children of color and children who require special education services is the “right test” and shows to be “robust and valid.”

The level of ignorance and stupidity would almost be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that these two individuals play such a major role in deciding education policy in Connecticut and therefore, the fate of our children.

Forcing children to take the Common Core SBAC test is nothing short of child abuse.

But none of these “public servants” — or their colleagues and allies —- are willing to step forward to protect Connecticut’s children or even to publicly recognize and support a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test.

Not Malloy, not Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, not Democratic state legislators, not the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut Chapter.

But really – intentionally, inappropriately and repeatedly labeling children as failures when they are not is an insidious and disgusting form of child abuse and yet these officials simply turn their heads away and allow the abuse to go on unchecked.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

For those who want to read more about Vermont’s approach start with fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s recent piece entitled The truth about the SBACs.

Grassroots Lobbying Charter School Style – $14k for sandwiches, $87k for buses

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Calling themselves a “grassroots movement” in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s plan to use taxpayer money to open two new charter schools while making historic cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the New York based charter school industry group known as “Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child” paid at least $87,000 to rent buses to bring in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for the pro-charter school rally that took place at the Connecticut State Capitol last week.

According to the group’s most recent filing with the State Ethics Commission (filed yesterday), the corporate funded education reform advocacy front group also spent $14,000 for subway sandwiches and $6,771 to Staples to pay for the signs demanding that Connecticut legislators hand over nearly $21 million in scarce taxpayer money so that the infamous Steve Perry can open a publicly funded, but privately owned charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx, New York charter school chain can save Stamford by opening up a charter school there.

Although parents who “volunteer” for the rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools Inc. are apparently given “parent stipends” for their efforts, the charter industry advocacy group failed to list any payments for the parents who were bussed in for the Connecticut demonstration.

According to their website, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. “serves more than 50,000 families from over 90 schools in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.”

The website adds, “Founded in 2011 through a partnership between schools and families, Families for Excellent Schools has built power in communities by engaging parents in the transformation of their schools.”

The group, of course, fails to explain that since it was founded, Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has collected an estimated $25 million from wealthy individuals and foundations to pay for its lobbying and advocacy work.

In New York State Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has become the single largest lobbying entity in the State of New York spending nearly $10 million in 2014 alone to support the funding and expansion of charter schools.  [See Pro-charter group sets lobby record.]  However, Families for Excellent Schools has repeatedly refused to release a list of its donors.

What is known is that among the group’s major sponsors is the Walton Family, owners of Walmart.

According to the foundation’s reports, “The Walton Family Foundation supports Families for Excellent Schools in its work to train parents to create and run advocacy efforts to improve school quality and give every student access to an excellent education.”

The use of “parent stipends” to induce charter school families to attend rallies has been one of the more controversial tactics used by Families for Excellent Schools.

The organization’s 2011 federal tax form stated that they spent $98,795 on “parent stipends.” Subsequent reports buried that spending item in other expenses but a 2012 American Enterprise Institute publication verified the groups use of parent stipends noting,

“other groups, such as Families for Excellent Schools, use side payments—financial stipends of $250–$1,000 per year—to give parents an incentive to participate in mobilization and advocacy efforts.”

Another way the charter school industry has successfully “persuaded” parents to attend their rallies is to actually close down their charter schools on the day of the rally.  The Nation magazine recently reported on New York rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools noting,

“The protests have benefitted from the controversial decision of charter operators like Success Academy to shut down their schools, bus thousands of students to protests and notify parents that they “must” come and protest. “It was cut and dry, they tell us if we can’t go to the rally, our kids won’t have anywhere to go,” said one Success Academy parent, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, “So you have to find childcare for them or take off work for their charter school propaganda.”

Although Families for Excellent Schools is new to Connecticut, it is closely associated with Connecticut’s original charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN.

In addition, Families for Excellent Schools receives funding from Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s initial Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Achievement First Inc. is based in New Haven with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  As a result of Malloy’s pro-charter school agenda, Achievement First, Inc. benefited more than any other charter school company in Connecticut over the past four years.

And when it comes to lobbying and advocating for charter schools — The sky is the limit.

Since Malloy introduced his corporate education reform initiative in 2012, charter school and education reform organizations have spent well over $7 million on lobbying and advertising – a record-breaking amount for Connecticut.

In just the first four months of the 2015 legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools has spent over $668,000 on its lobbying and advertising in support of Malloy’s plan to add two more charter schools in Connecticut. More than half a dozen other charter school groups have also spent funds to support Malloy’s plan.

To ensure the desired level of access to Connecticut’s elected officials; Families for Excellent Schools retained the services of both Governor Malloy’s chief adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, and Malloy’s former spokesman, Andrew Doba.

Of the money spent this year, more than $75,000 was paid to Occhiogrosso’s firm and another $133,000 to the New York public relations company that hired Malloy’s spokesman (Doba) when he left Malloy’s office four months ago.

For more coverage about the charter school industry rally check out – Charter Students Rally Lawmakers To Restore Funding (Newsjunkie), Charter School Lobbying: Where Is Money Coming From? (Hartford Courant), Hundreds Rally At Capitol For Expanding Charter Schools (Hartford Courant) and Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol (CT Mirror)

Another Charter School Front Group – More apparent ethics law violations (Re-post)

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Here we go again… Yet another faux education advocacy group appears unwilling or unable to follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The number of corporate funded education reform and charter school front groups in Connecticut is popping up faster than the buds appear during a warm spring week and these groups seem virtually incapable of adhering to Connecticut’s ethics and lobbying laws.

You may need to read this post a few times to follow the bouncing ball…

It was just a few weeks ago that CT News Junkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman wrote a scathing column on the ethics problems associated with the New York based corporate education reform industry group called Families for Excellent Schools and its subsidiary, and entity called the Coalition for Every Child.

In the piece entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Darer Littman laid out the facts surrounding the Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child controversy.

The well-financed charter school advocacy group is the organization that is paying for the television ads promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget that makes historic cuts to public education while dramatically increasing funding for charter schools.

The group was also one of the sponsors of this week’s pro-charter school rally at the State Capitol that featured Malloy.

As the Hartford Courant reported, charter school students and parents were bused in to Hartford from as far away as Boston and New York City in an attempt to persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more money so that Steve Perry could open a charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx charter school chain could open up a charter school in Stamford.

As Sarah Darer Littman explained, not only had Families for Excellent Schools run into ethics issues in New York, but they were failing to report activities and expenditures here in Connecticut.

Now it looks like another new charter school advocacy group called “FaithActs for Education” is failing to report its lobbying related activities as required under state law – violations that should be met with thousands of dollars in fines.

Although FaithActs for Education was rolled out on February 15, 2015 in a well-scripted press conference featuring Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a number of Bridgeport ministers, the corporation called FaithActs for Education was actually formed in October 2014.

As the Connecticut Post reported in February, “With the public backing of Mayor Bill Finch, a faith-based education advocacy group, FaithActs for Education, conducted its first meeting on Monday declaring a dedication ‘to improving education for all children in Bridgeport, no matter what type of school they attend.’”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who participated in the event said,

“We know where we are and where we need to go. FaithActs for Education will help us to become even more of a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to supporting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Bill Finch, as he faces a difficult re-election campaign, FaithActs for Education’s immediate work has been to support Steve Perry’s plan to open a publicly funded, but privately owned and operated charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a press release issued by FaithActs for Education, the entity is led by,

  • Reverend William McCullough, Pastor, Russell Temple CME Church
  • Bishop John P. Diamond, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Faith,
  • Reverend Janene Hawkins, Pastor, Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church,
  • Reverend Carl McCluster, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church,
  • Reverend Cass Shaw, President & CEO, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport,
  • Reverend Jeremy L. Williams, Pastor, West End Tabernacle CME Church.
  • In addition, the infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales, Pastor, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is also playing a role with the group.

The organization’s chairman, Reverend McCullough, along with Reverend Moales and Reverend McCluster are all listed as original members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport and all have been engaged in lobbying the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on Perry’s behalf.

Although we’re led to believe that FaithActs for Education is a homegrown group of religious leaders working to promote educational opportunities for all of Bridgeport’s children, the real story is very different.

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State, FaithActs for Education Inc. was created by Jamilah Prince-Stewart, who now serves as the entity’s Executive Director.

At the time of incorporation she served as the Director of Community Engagement for ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school lobby group.  In addition, FaithActs’ Director of Operations and Programs left her position as Special Projects Manager at ConnCAN to join the new advocacy group.

At the February 2015 press conference to roll out FaithActs for Education, both ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and former ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnson were in attendance.

In addition to their lobbying work with ConnCAN, Alexander and Johnson were the individuals who formed A Better Connecticut, Inc. yet another education reform industry front group that spent more than $2 million on television ads during the year before the last gubernatorial election to “thank” Governor Malloy for his “leadership” on behalf of the corporate education reform agenda.

FaithActs’ initial press conference was orchestrated by the new group’s spokesman, Bob Bellafiore.

As public education advocate Maria Pereira noted at the time, Bellafiore is the founder of Stanhope Partners, an Albany PR firm that works for the charter school industry.

Before setting up his own company, he served as a Vice President of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter chain that owns and operates 75 charter schools in nine states, making it the third largest for-profit charter school company in the United States.

Just last year, National Heritage Academies made national news when it was discovered that it was charging one of its’ Brooklyn charter schools $2.3 million in rent per year even though it was leasing the property for much less.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, FaithActs for Education purports to be a, “grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We exist to help faith leaders and their congregations step outside their place of worship to advocate for improved educational opportunities for their own children and the children of Bridgeport.”

The organization’s rhetoric goes on to say that, “created as a 501(c)3 Foundation,” FaithActs receives funding from various foundations and individuals, although, to date, it has failed to reveal which foundations or individuals are underwriting the organization’s lobbying and advocacy activities.

FaithActs for Education also shares an address with Educators 4 Excellence, another corporate funded advocacy group that claims to speak for teachers who are opposed to tenure and other collective bargaining rights.  (See Wait, What? Post Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group)

But even if all of that wasn’t indicative enough of the power and inter-relationship of the corporate education reform industry, there is more….

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office, FaithActs for Education’s agent of service is its Executive Director, Jamilah Prince-Stewart.

However, rather than recording the organization’s actual physical office in Bridgeport for corporate related service issues, the official corporate filing lists the following;

FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,

C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,

1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,

BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605

Public Square Partnerships is a relatively new company whose agent of service is none-other-than Nate Snow, the Director of Teach for America’s Connecticut Chapter.  Snow also serves as President of Excel Bridgeport Inc., another Bridgeport based charter school advocacy group that had its own run-in with the Connecticut Ethics Commission when it failed to register with the Office of State Ethics despite the fact that it was lobbying state government in favor of Governor Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Excel Bridgeport, Inc., along with Steve Perry supporter, Reverend Kenneth Moales, were the biggest supporters of education reform guru Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s inappropriately certified superintendent who was forced to leave after two years.  Vallas being best known for “charterizing” the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans schools system before being recruited by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to “save” Bridgeport.

Although based in Bridgeport, Public Square Partnership not only lists TFA Director Nate Snow as its agent, but they use Teach for America’s New Haven office address as their official agent of service.

According to their website, Public Square Partnerships “focuses its investments on innovative change efforts that have attained tangible results for children attending schools in high-need communities or that have the potential to do so for sustainable and scalable impact.”

The company adds, “We partner with education organizations that develop educators, schools, and engage parents and community members in creating high-quality schools.”

Public Square Partnerships further reports that in its first year of operation, the company had contracts to help five schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, three of which were public schools and two were charter schools.

Among its clients, we are told, are the new Booker T. Washington Charter School Academy in New Haven and the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport.

While Nate Snow serves as the Agent of Service for Public Square Partnerships, the President and CEO of the company is Diane Robinson who has spent the last twenty years working for the massive KIPP Charter School chain and Teacher for America.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer most recently worked as a Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer with the New York City Department of Education and before that was with the Washington DC Public Schools system.

The company’s third employee comes to Connecticut via the large education reform industry consulting firm called Schoolworks.

While more and more of the pieces of the puzzle come into view, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there are a whole lot of organizations, spending a whole lot of money to further Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school and anti-teacher education reform agenda.

Will anything convince Connecticut’s teacher unions to join the Common Core Opt-Out Movement?

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All across the nation, teacher unions at the state and local level are joining parents, students and teachers in an unprecedented uprising against the massive unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.

Here in Connecticut, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing craze began on March 27, 2015.

Yet six weeks have gone by and there is still no public sign of support for the opt out movement from Connecticut’s two teacher unions – the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter (AFT-Connecticut).

At this point, Connecticut’s teacher unions have forever lost the opportunity to help lead the charge.  But even running to jump on the opt-out train would be an important and appreciated gesture of support for Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers.

What is so incredibly strange, even bizarre, about the utter lack of action by Connecticut’s teacher unions is that it is in such stark contrast to what other teacher unions are doing around the country.

In New Jersey, the headline on the New Jersey Education Association website demands that Republican Governor Chris Christie and his administration, “Stop attacking parents…” for opting out of the Common Core Tests. 

And the pushback against New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is just as strong, as  NYSUT, the union that represents more than 600,000 New York State teachers, school-related professionals and academic and professional faculty in higher education continues its full-fledged campaign to help educate and support parents who are opting out of that state’s Common Core Testing.

In New York, the union’s well-funded program has provided needed support for parents and students, which, in turn, has helped to boost the number of students opting out from around  40,000 last year to as many as a quarter of a million this year.

Numerous public high schools in New York State are reporting more than 50 percent of high school juniors have been opted out of the destructive Common Core test and many high schools are seeing opt-out rates exceeding 80 percent.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy’s administration’s goes unchecked as it continues to lie and mislead parents about their right to opt their children out of the testing scam and some local school superintendents go unchallenged as they inappropriately tell highs school juniors that they cannot graduate unless they take the SBAC test – a policy that would be illegal if true.

In state after state, teacher unions have stepped up to leverage their political power and visibility on behalf of the opt-out effort.

This weekend, the Massachusetts Teachers Association joined the effort endorsing the fundamental right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core testing.

The MTA’s resolution states;

That parents in Massachusetts deserve the choice to opt their public school students out of high-stakes standardized assessments.

That districts should be required to provide all parents with yearly written information explaining their right to opt students out of assessments.

That students who opt out should not be included in data used by state or federal entities in “grading” schools.

That no parent or student should be penalized because of a parental decision to opt out.

That no educator should be disciplined for discussing with students, parents or community members the options for opting students out of high-stakes tests.

Barbara Madeloni, who as a challenger became president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association last year wrote,

 “Supporting the right to opt out is one of the strongest statements we can make as educators against standardized testing.”

Madeloni added,

“The MTA will vigorously defend any educator who is disciplined for supporting the right of parents and students to opt out. The more people step up and speak out, the clearer will be the message to our legislators that the people of Massachusetts want to put a stop to the madness of standardized testing.

Standardized testing is distorting the goals of public education and choking the creativity and joy that should be at the center of teaching and learning.”

Even now at this late date Connecticut’s teacher unions can and should step up and join the opt-out battle.

Just as Connecticut’s public school teachers need and deserve the support of the state’s students and parents…

Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers need and deserve the help and support of Connecticut’s teacher unions in this historic battle against the corporate education reform and testing industry and those like Governor Dannel Malloy who continue their anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-parent, anti-public education initiatives.

Petulant Democratic Governor Malloy demands more money for charters school chains

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When Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy addressed a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly ninety days ago to present his proposed state budget, he called for record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while demanding the legislature increase funding for charter schools by more than 25 percent.

While he proposed cutting money for public schools and shifting even more of the costs of public education onto the backs of middle income property taxpayers, Malloy wanted the legislature to give him even more money so that his corporate education reform industry associates could open up two more charter schools in Connecticut.

The Democrats on the Appropriations Committee rejected Malloy’s plan.

Although they did increase funding for charters, they shifted most of the money over to help fill some of the cuts the Governor had made to Connecticut’s public schools.

But in typical fashion, the thin-skinned governor condemned the Democrats and today joined the corporate funded charter school advocates in blasting the legislators who had the courage to try and reduce the magnitude of Malloy’s cuts to Connecticut’s public schools.

Rather than recognizing the effort that members of his own party took to help their districts and Connecticut’s public school students, Malloy went after them saying, “Let me be very clear, we also have to understand that we are going to have charter schools in Connecticut.”

Typical … In Malloy’s world – it is Dannel’s way or no way…

Even if it means hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post wrote about today’s charter school industry rally noting, “Malloy stars in charter schools rally at Capitol.”

Following up on the articles posted here at Wait, What? both the Hartford Courant and the CT Mirror took note of the massive amount of corporate funds that are pouring into the charter school lobbying effort.  The Hartford Courant’s story is entitled Unprecedented Charter School Lobbying Effort Prompts Some To Ask: Where Is The Money Coming From?, while the CT Mirror’s story is titled, “Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol.”

 

 

The Time Has Come For the CEA to Formally Announce It’s Support For the Opt-Out Movement

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Regular Wait, What? contributor and Connecticut educator James Trifone provides a clarion call for action by the Connecticut Education Association…

The Time Has Come For the CEA to Formally Announce It’s Support For the Opt-Out Movement (By Jim Trifone)

Recently, I emailed Jeff Leake, Vice President for the Connecticut Education Association, requesting that the CEA follow the Education Associations of our neighboring states, as well as Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, in supporting the Opt-Out Movement.

He promptly responded that;

“We [CEA] have always supported a parent’s option to opt their child out of the crazy testing regime, and many of our teachers have indicated that they are doing just that”.  He also went on to state “All of us here in Hartford are fully supportive of this sometimes difficult parental decision, a decision I advocated for just yesterday at the CT Coalition for Public Education meeting.  In addition, I hope you are aware of our testing legislative proposal, which would do away with SBAC completely”.

This week in a blog entitled, The Opt Out End Game, the President of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, joined AFT President Randi Weingarten, in her support for the legal right of a parent to opt their child out of the Common Core assessment.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia writes: 

“Parents should have the right to know for what purpose a test is designed and whether it’s valid and reliable for that purpose; how the results of that test will be used; whether or not testing companies will have access to private student information and for what reason those companies need that information.

They should have a right to demand that any testing companies hired by the district sign the Student Privacy Principles developed and endorsed by major student advocates from the PTA to the NEA to the School Boards Association to the American Library Association and the Thomas Fordham Institute.

And they should have the right, if they are not satisfied with the answers to their questions, to opt their children out of any mandated standardized testing that they believe is inappropriate or harmful to their child. NEA fully supports parents and supports our affiliates who take a stand against tests that serve no educational purpose.

 Her blog post can be found at: http://lilysblackboard.org/2015/04/the-opt-out-end-game/

As a 40-year veteran high school educator and member of the CEA I want to applaud the CEA’s efforts in proposing to eliminate the SBAC completely.

Unlike the CAPT, which IS an educationally sound, time-tested and valid Mastery test, the SBAC is NOT.  Moreover, the SBAC is based on the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards, which were NEITHER created NOR approved by educational curriculum experts. Therefore, I think the time has come for the largest teacher union in CT-CEA- to join both National teacher unions in their support for the Opt –Out movement, as well as in reducing standardized testing in general.

Formally announcing their support for the Opt-Out Movement would, in no uncertain terms, make it clear to the remaining recalcitrant Superintendents, as well as the newly appointed Commissioner of Education, Diana Wentzell, that they need to cease and desist with their claim that parents CANNOT opt-out their children from the unfair and discriminatory SBAC test.

Below is my response to Vice-President Leake.

Dear Vice-President Leake:

Thank you for your prompt reply to my email. I applaud your efforts to provide the legislature with a solid argument to eliminate the SBAC in the near future. I hope you are also willing to make it clear to the legislature that the current administration is being misguided in their attempt to increase funding for the privatization of schools at the expense of adequately funding public education. The entire corporate education movement is based on the false assumption that our schools are failing because of ill-prepared educators. This is especially the case in urban districts. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Over the years in my capacity as The Graduate Institute’s Academic Director for the Master of Arts in Learning and Thinking degree program, I have had the fortunate experience of working with hundreds of Connecticut educators from around the state, many of whom are from urban districts. Contrary to what the corporate reformers want the public to believe, the educators I have worked with have been hard-working, dedicated professionals committed to educating the youth of today and preparing them to be “college and career” ready. However, as you are fully aware, the major issue underlying the disparity of performance of students between urban and suburban districts is POVERTY rather than the lack of competence, dedication or qualification of teachers. Until this issue is more fully addressed there will continue to be a disparity in academic performance and graduation rates between impoverished and affluent districts.

The unfair, developmentally inappropriate and educationally unsound SBAC test was never created to enhance public education. Rather it was designed by non-educators (those educators who did review it refused to approve its use) and arbitrarily decided by the Malloy administration to FAIL upwards of 70% of Connecticut’s students in order to argue the need to replace “failing” public schools with inadequately regulated charter schools.

I hope you will keep up the effort to help our governor, SDE and legislators see the errors in their thinking and assumptions. Moreover, it is my hope that you can convince them to do what they can to bolster financial support for public education and stop this insidious and ineffective approach to corporatizing education and treating it as a new marketplace for entrepreneurs. Children are more than test scores and teachers are more than test administrators. I thank you in advance for taking the bold and courageous path to EDUCATING those elected to serve Connecticut.

Warm Regards,

Jim

Footnote from Jonathan Pelto

As a Connecticut educator and public education advocate, Jim Trifone truly understands the impact the corporate education reform industry is having on Connecticut’s children, teachers and public schools.   He speaks for many with his powerful call to action to the Connecticut Education Association.

The CEA’s efforts to push legislation to phase out the Common Core SBAC testing system is important and appreciated but Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers also need the state’s largest union to take a public and unequivocal position in support of parents and their fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core testing scam.

The teacher unions in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and numerous other states have already stepped up to announce their support for the opt-out movement.

While it is true that Governor Dannel Malloy’s backing of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC standardized testing program is unwavering, and anyone who disagrees with  him become a target, Connecticut’s parents, students and teachers need and deserve the public support of the CEA leadership.

The Time Has Come For the CEA to Formally Announce It’s Support For the Opt-Out Movement

Common Core test Opt-Out movement steamrolls across the nation

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While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Department of Education and a group of Connecticut superintendents continue to lie and mislead parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme, parents in Connecticut and across the country are stepping up to protect their children from the corporate education reform industry’s Common Core testing scam.

The Common Core SBAC test is designed to ensure a significant majority of students will be labeled as failures and parents are saying they won’t allow their children to be abused and bullied by the Common Core testing machine.

In Seattle, 95% of students at Garfield High School student opted out of the SBAC test – a test designed to label up to 70 percent of high school juniors as failures at the very time those kids are working hard to improve their chances of going to college.

At nearby Nathan Hale High School not a single high school junior took the destructive SBAC test and at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School and Ingraham High Schools, 80 percent or more of high school juniors opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

As local media reported,

“Many parents and teachers believe the state-required Smarter Balanced test is unfair, that it sets up the majority of the students to fail, and that it’s a high stakes test that could penalize the teacher or the school.”

In South Eugene Oregon, more than a quarter of high school juniors have opted out and the overall opt out rate for that region’s high schools is at least 20 percent.

16 year-old Emmalyn Lindsey told her local paper that she was preparing for, “six upcoming tests — two for her Advanced Placement classes, two for the International Baccalaureate program, and the ACT and SAT college admission exams.”  Rather than take the Common Core SBAC test Lindsey said,

“We’re losing upward of 10 hours of class time, and that’s just ridiculous…Standardized testing has gotten to the point where it’s out of control and taking up so much of our time and resources.”

In the Madison School District in Idaho, 40 percent of the school system’s children opted out of the SBAC testing.

Madison, Idaho, like Madison, Connecticut has a superintendent that respects the right of parents and although Idaho’s state officials, like Malloy’s representatives in the Connecticut Department of Education, claim that there is no provision for opting out of that state’s Common Core SBAC testing, Madison, Idaho Superintendent Geoff Thomas explained, “…if a parent says I don’t want my child to take this test we’ll find an alternative educational opportunity for them.”

Imagine, school leaders who stand up for their students, parents and teachers!

Meanwhile, 40 percent of the high school juniors at Stanford, Maine’s high school opted out of their Common Core testing program, and more than half the 8th graders at a middle school in Ann Arbor, Michigan were opted out.

And in Colorado, parents are taking the initiative and pushing back against the absurd level of Common Core standardized testing that are turning public schools into little more than testing factories. A parent in Denver spoke the truth writing in the Denver Post,

My son’s school does not have enough computers for all the students to take the [Common Core] test simultaneously. As a result, the school was on reduced schedule for three weeks, meaning he did not have regular classes and he and his fellow high schoolers were home every afternoon. Following those three weeks of testing, they were then off on spring break.

A month off from regular classroom instruction is too much to sacrifice in the name of measuring our competitiveness. In addition, the tests require students to show their math work on the computer. How many of us would know where to find the symbol for the quadratic equation on a standard computer keyboard?

Let’s face it — these tests are designed to help the politicians in Washington and Denver justify their constant meddling in the school system. They do nothing to help our children learn.

Sadly, Connecticut’s legislators continue to sit on the sidelines, along with the Connecticut Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter, the Working Families Party and other progressive organizations…But even without their help, Connecticut parents are learning the facts and demanding that they and their children be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

There is still time to opt out children out of the Connecticut’s Common Core SBAC tests.

Just inform your local principal that your child or children will not be taking the Common Core SBAC test this year.

Tell them the assault on our children must stop.

CT Appropriations Committee says NO to Steve Perry’s charter school

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While Connecticut’s state budget approval process is far from over, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee has made some significant changes to Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget including deleting some of Malloy’s $80 million in cuts to public schools and reducing Malloy’s plan to INCREASE charter school funding by more than 25 percent.

While public schools would still face record breaking budget cuts and Connecticut’s privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools would be getting more funding, the legislature’s Appropriations Committee plan actually removes the funding Steve Perry would need to open his proposed Capital Harbor Prep Charter School in Bridgeport.  The Committee’s proposal also removed funding for another new charter school that is trying to open in Stamford.

As the Connecticut Post reported earlier today in an article entitled, New budget plan leaves new Bridgeport, Stamford charter schools unfunded,

“The appropriations committee would leave enough in the budget to allow existing charter schools to expand as planned and fill empty seats. But it cuts $7.7 million needed to open [two new charter schools.]”

The final state budget for the next fiscal year won‘t be adopted by the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives until late May or early June, but the Appropriations Committee appears to be taking a strong position that with massive budget cuts education and human services cuts still in place, additional public funds should not be diverted to opening new charter schools in Connecticut at this time.

Of course, Steve Perry’s nasty and threatening reputation precedes him and if his earlier behavior is any indication of what is to come, legislators will undoubtedly be targeted by Perry and his allies.

Back in November 2013, when the Hartford Board of Education balked at handing over two Hartford Public Schools to Perry’s private company to own and operate, Perry famously took to Twitter saying:

Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry

“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.”

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Strap up” is slang for putting on a concealed pistol and “there will be head injuries” doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.

If a public school student posted that threat, they’d be arrested, suspended and probably prohibited from ever returning to public school.

If a public teacher said that, they be fired and their certification would be revoked by the State Board of Education.

But Steve Perry, who calls himself “America’s Most Trusted Educator”, refused to apologize or even take responsibility for his threats.

In today’s Connecticut Post story about the Appropriations Committee plan to remove the funding for the new charter schools, the CEO of the Charter School advocacy group ConnCAN had already issued a statement attacking the legislature saying,

“…the budget falls short of the bold investments necessary to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed in the classroom…the Committee’s decision to cut funding proposed by the Governor for two charter schools that have already been approved means that hundreds of children who were promised an opportunity to attend a school of their family’s choice will now be left behind.”

By this afternoon, the state’s newest charter school front group, a group based in New York City and named “Families for Excellent Schools” was also out with a statement supporting Perry’s new school saying,

“They say a budget is a statement of your priorities…We know where the Governor stands – he included funding for both the new schools and seat growth.  It’s time for legislators to show that educating our children is a priority by standing up and demanding a great education for every child.”

And half an hour later, Jeremiah Grace, state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network added:

 “The cuts in this budget proposal would directly hurt the thousands of children and families waiting for access to a great charter school. Without funding, those children will continue to languish on waiting lists….When the state reneges on commitments to public charter schools, children are the ones left behind. This budget ignores hundreds of parents in Bridgeport and Stamford who are expecting approved schools to open in the fall.”

Considering that Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved the two new charter schools last summer knowing there was no money in the budget to fund the schools and that the State of Connecticut would be facing a $1.6 billion deficit in the next fiscal year, it is unclear what Mr. Grace means when he says that that the state is reneging on its commitment to charter schools.

Even with the Appropriation’s Committee changes, Connecticut’s public schools will get less money with Connecticut’s charter schools getting more even though they educate a minuscule percent of Connecticut’s students.

However, working in Perry’s favor, in addition to the possible benefits from threatening legislators, is the fact that Governor Dannel Malloy’s biggest campaign contributor in last year’s gubernatorial election was a leading charter school advocate named Jonathan Sackler and his family.

Sackler and his family not only funneled well over $100,000 into the slush fund that the Malloy operation set up to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance system, but Sackler co-founded ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group and serves as the Board of Directors of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, the group that is falsely claiming that Connecticut was reneging on its commitment to charter schools.  Sackler also founded the national charter school advocacy group 50-CAN and sits on a number of other pro-charter school groups, as well as being a founding member of Achievement First, Inc.’s Board of Directors.

As for Families for Excellent Schools, they make it particularly difficult to identify who their funders are or even who serves on their Board of Directors, but as fellow education blogger Mercedes Schneider discovered, the group is a favorite of the Walton Foundation which is the family foundation of the anti-public education owners of the Wal-Mart Corporation.  You can read more about Families for Excellent Schools at:  An Investigation Into NY’s “Families for Excellent Schools

You can also read more about Steve Perry and his behavior, tactics and priorities via the following Wait, What? posts or simply search for Steve Perry on Wait, What?

Capital Prep’s Steve Perry responds to defeat tweeting – “there will be head injuries”

Update: “Strap up [my gun], there will be head injuries” (Steve Perry 11/20/13)

Hartford, Steve Perry and his threat make the Washington Post

More crazy sh*t Capital Prep Steve Perry has said

Capital Prep’s Steve Perry to headline Koch Brothers’ event

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