CT Dem Governor Malloy says no state budget without new charter schools

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With the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 Legislative Session coming to an end, it was only a matter of time before Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy was forced to show his hand in the debate about the next state budget.

The candidate who falsely claimed that the state budget was balanced and that, if re-elected, he wouldn’t make cuts to social services or raise taxes is now instructing his Democratic colleagues in the State Senate and State House of Representatives that not only must they make historic cuts to vital health and human services, while raising tax on the middle class, but that he will only accept a budget that includes funding for two new charter schools while the new budget cuts funding for the state’s public schools.

In a blockbuster breaking news story written by the CTMirror’s Jacqueline Rabe and Keith Phaneuf, the reporters reveal what has really been going on behind closed doors in the all-night budget negotiations that have been taking place between Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders.

In a news article entitled, Could Malloy’s push to fund charter schools jeopardize budget approval?, the CT Mirror reports,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s insistence on increasing funding for charter schools has more than a dozen Democratic legislators questioning whether they can support the next state budget if it means their neighborhood public schools are flat-funded or cut.

[…]

On Wednesday, a dozen House Democrats met with Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, to share their concerns with the Democratic governor’s determination to spend $4.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year to open a new charter school in Bridgeport and another in Stamford

A group of Democratic senators also met with their leadership this week to share similar concerns.

The CT Mirror goes on to explain,

Malloy met twice with Democratic legislative leaders overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, and sources said the governor indicated he would not accept anything less than the funding level he proposed for charter schools.

The governor has been a major proponent of expanding charter school enrollment. His budget proposes expanding enrollment in existing and new charter schools by 1,446 students next school year, a move that would cost the state $15.9 million. His budget cuts millions in funding the state currently provides the state’s lowest-performing neighborhood schools.

Earlier this month, he rallied with charter school advocates at the Capitol.

“Let me be very clear, we also have to understand that we are going to have charter schools in Connecticut,” Malloy said during the rally.

Democrat Malloy, along with Democrats New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have become the poster boys for the anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school corporate education reform industry and their unprecedented effort to privatize public education in the United States.

In 2012 Malloy rolled out his “education reform” initiative becoming the first Democratic governor in history to call for eliminating teacher tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

Corporate Education Reform Industry advocacy groups have since pumped more than $7.5 million into their record breaking lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s efforts to denigrate teachers, radically reduce local control of education and turn the state’s public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

When presenting his proposed state budget earlier this year, Malloy called for record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while demanding that Connecticut’s legislators divert scarce public funds so that Malloy’s charter school allies could open two more charter schools in the state.

Under Malloy’s plan, Steve Perry, the infamous opponent of teacher unions, is slated to get funding for his privately owned but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

The Governor’s plan also calls for funding a charter school company from the Bronx that says it will save Stamford, Connecticut by opening a sister school there.

In both cases, the local Boards of Education voted against the charter school proposals and testified in opposition to the charter schools before the State Board of Education and the General Assembly’s Education Committee.

The governor and his administration have refused to take the local opposition into consideration.

But in a humorous end note, the CT Mirror story quotes an executive from one of the corporate funded charter advocacy groups who says,

Charter advocates are glad the governor is being so persistent.

“We’re grateful that the majority of legislators are bucking the special interests and listening to the pleas of parents who want a great school for their children,” said Kara Neidhardt, a spokesperson for Families for Excellent Schools, a charter advocacy group.

Families for Excellent Schools not only bused in parents from New York and Boston for the Hartford pro-charter school rally at which Malloy spoke a few weeks ago but the group is running millions of dollars in television ads in New York in support of NY Governor Cuomo’s plan to use more than $150 million in tax credits to subsidize students attending religious schools in New York.

The MUST READ CT Mirror story can be found here:  http://ctmirror.org/2015/05/29/could-malloys-push-to-fund-charter-schools-jeopardize-budget-approval/

You can read a recent Wait, What? blog about Steve Perry’s charter school plans here: Charter School Mogul Steve Perry owns it all – even without legislative approval

And be sure to check back as this breaking story develops.

Charter School Mogul Steve Perry owns it all – even without legislative approval

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True, Connecticut’s Steve Perry has been serving as the principal of Hartford Connecticut’s public charter school named Capital Prep Magnet School but that hasn’t stopped him from opening up a charter school management company using the name of his public school.

For a long period of time, his private company even listed Hartford’s public school address as his private company’s corporate location for its IRS filings.

Now, with only days left to the 2015 Connecticut Legislative Session Perry is counting on Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy to force the Connecticut General Assembly to provide the public funds Perry needs to open his privately owned charter school in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Not one to stand on ceremony, or even legality, Perry’s company website is called “We Are Capital Prep.”

And as a visit there reveals, Perry’s self-described “boutique” charter school chain not only includes the unfunded and unopened Capital Preparatory Harbor [Charter] School in Bridgeport but it also includes the equally non-existent Capital Preparatory Harlem [Charter] School in New York City.

But the piece de résistance is that the man who calls himself the “most trusted educator in America” continues to tell the public that his “Family of Schools” includes Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School… which remains, at least for now, under the care, control and ownership of the Hartford Board of Education and the people of Hartford.

Just check out the site: 

CAPITAL PREPARATORY SCHOOLS

The Capital Preparatory family of Schools includes the Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut; Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Capital Preparatory Harlem School in New York City.

A click of the mouse will even take you to the taxpayer owned website of the taxpayer owned school called Capital Prep Magnet.

But clearly Perry belief is that the motto in today’s corporate education reform industry world is that something as simple as the basic truth shouldn’t stand in the way of good corporate marketing campaign.

Oh and special word to Connecticut’s state legislators;

Remember, if you use Connecticut’s scarce public funds to preserve vital health and human services rather than fund Perry’s private charter school venture…. Well, you are hereby warned;

The last time he didn’t get his way, Perry took to his Twitter account to threaten;

 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.”

Opt-Out movement rolls across CT – with opt out rates in excess of 50% in a number of high schools

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Although most parents of public school students won’t appreciate the disastrous impact of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test until the test results arrive at homes this summer, record numbers of parents have stepped up to opt their children out of the inappropriate SBAC testing scheme.

Firm opt out numbers are trickling in from around the state and the number of parents who have refused to have their children abused by the testing process is significant, especially among high school juniors who are particularly at risk of being negatively impacted by the test that is intentionally designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut students.

Despite a concerted, unethical and immoral effort by Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and some local school superintendents to mislead, harass and punish students in an effort to convince parents not to opt the child or children out of the Common Core SBAC test, thousands of parents and students have refused to be bullied and refused to take the disastrous test.

In towns where school superintendents handled their duties in a professional and appropriate fashion, the number of students opting out has reached massive proportions with some high schools reporting more than 80 percent of their high school juniors did not take the test.  A  number of high schools have seen opt out rates in excess of 50 percent.

Not surprisingly, where superintendents and school principals failed to fulfill their ethical responsibilities, choosing instead to bully and harass students by claiming that they could not graduate if they failed to take the Common Core SBAC test or telling parents that it was illegal to opt out of the SBAC test, the number of students refusing the test was significantly lower.

However, those schools administrators will discover that misleading and even lying to their schools’ parents will lead to major repercussions.

Check back here at Wait, What? and watch for media reports about the actual opt out numbers as school districts finalize and report on their Common Core testing activities

Also feel free to report any information you’ve heard in the comment section or send that information to [email protected]

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.”

 

 

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