Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

Mass Insight Contract “magically extended” on its last day.  Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

The cornerstone of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative is the concept of “turnaround schools” and the creation of the “Commissioner’s Network.”  Both strategies are part of Malloy’s broader effort to allow private entities to run public schools.

The task of implementing those outrageous policies rests with Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and two members of his personal staff, Adam Goldfarb (Chief of Staff) and Morgan Barth (Director of the Office of School Turnaround).

Morgan Barth is the former Achievement First employee who illegally taught and worked in Achievement First schools for six years.

Last year, as part of their ongoing effort to undermine local control and privatize public education in Connecticut, Commissioner Pryor let go or re-assigned the extremely experienced team of State Department of Education experts who had been helping towns work through the challenges of educating students in Connecticut’s largest and poorest districts.

Pryor let go the four Leaders in Residence and three superintendents, each of whom had direct experience working with administrators and teachers in urban classrooms and school districts where the majority of students face the challenges of poverty, language barriers or special education needs.

Pryor also re-assigned the State Department of Education’s experts on bullying and improving school climates, multi-cultural education and bilingual and English language learning programs.

Instead of utilizing Connecticut experts, Pryor retained an out-of-state, politically-connected company called Mass Insight for nearly $1 million. 

To service the contract with Pryor, Mass Insight sent in a handful of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants.  In the first four months of the contract, Mass Insight replaced nearly every one of these out-of-state consultants with another inexperienced, out-of-state consultant.  In some cases the consultants lasted no more than a few weeks in the job. 

But as a group, Mass Insight’s consultants, with Morgan Barth at the helm, managed to alienate superintendents, principals and local boards of education in many of Connecticut’s thirty Alliance Districts.

The contract with Mass Insight was scheduled to end on January 31, 2014.

But with no public notice and no public participation, Stefan Pryor and the State Department of Education, along with the help of Malloy’s Budget Director and Attorney General George Jepsen’s Office quietly approved an $800,000 contract extension that is said to have gone into effect on JANUARY 31, 2014.

The last-minute $800,000 contract extension will allow Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth and Mass Insight to continue to wreak havoc on Connecticut’s poorest public schools.

Hidden from public view, Stefan Pryor requested and obtained approval from Malloy’s Budget Chief and the Office of Policy and Management to extend Mass Insight’s contract and pay the out-of-state company the extra $800,000 on January 24, 2014.

According to documents related to the matter, the Mass Insight contract extension was finalized and sent to the company on January 30, 2014.

Under state law, as a check and balance on excessive agency actions, contract extensions of this nature require a sign off from the Office of the Attorney General.   

In this case, the Mass Insight contract was apparently forwarded to the Attorney General’s office on January 31, 2014. 

While it is unclear exactly when the Attorney General’s Office acted, it did approve the contract and Commissioner Pryor and the State Department of Education reported that they planned to have the contract amendment “fully executed by the end of business January 31, 2014.”

While it is beyond insulting to see the Malloy administration dump experienced Connecticut residents so it can out-source jobs to out-of-state consultants, it is even more absurd that Commissioner Pryor would seek to extend this contract and further undermine Connecticut’s poorest school districts. 

A plea to the public for help in tracking down the Malloy Administration’s effort to extend $1 million contract

An out-of-state company of consultants that have already collected $1 million in taxpayer funds wants even more.

Wait, What? needs your help in tracking down this travesty of justice.

The following link is to the $1 million contract between Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Mass Insight, the out-of-state company brought in help Commissioner Pryor with his plans to take over up to 25 public schools in Connecticut.

The link to the contract is:  http://www.biznet.ct.gov/SCP_Documents/Results/12064/12SDE0092AA%20-%20Massinsight%20Contract.pdf

This contract is scheduled to end later this week on January 31, 2014.

However, not only are the high cost, out-of-state consultants not leaving their state offices but they are moving to new offices in the State Department of Education.

These out-of-state consultants replaced dedicated, experienced, state employees who were let go or transferred to make room for this politically connected company so that it could come do the dirty work for Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth, his director of the School Turnaround Office.

Multiple FOI requests, media requests and nicely worded emails about whether there is a contract extension for Mass Insight have gone answered. 

The question is – if the contract with MassInsight was extended, how and when the extension was processed, considering there is no extension clause in the contract. 

Making the matter even more suspect, there was no information posted on the Department of Administrative Services website about a request to extend, a re-bidding process or the new contact.

Any information from the public about whether the MassInsight contract has been extended would be appreciated.  The questions include if the contract was extended, how was it extended, when was the extension signed and whether a copy of the extended contract can be obtained.

It is incredibly frustrating that the Malloy administration can extend a $1 million dollar contract without providing any transparency what-so-ever.

Wait, What? and the taxpayers of Connecticut thank any member of the public who can come forward and provide information about this latest outrage.

You can read more about MassInsight in these earlier Wait, What? posts;

Mass Insight swaps out more consultants: Further reducing experience for CT Alliance Districts

Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract

Pryor now using out-of-state company to recruit out-of-state school principals

No Joke: Year 2 Alliance District “kickoff” tomorrow despite Pryor’s failure to get money to Alliance Districts

Hello? It’s the 2nd week of August…where is the State’s Alliance District Funding?

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education signs another $1 million contract with out-side consultants

Warning! Warning! Alliance Districts Beware:

Pay More, Get Less: The Malloy/Pryor Approach to Problem Solving:

Are Alliance School Districts implementing their Turnaround Plans with “fidelity”?

The Malloy/Pryor Education Reform Consultant Full Employment Gravy Train

Oh look, there goes more Connecticut taxpayer money to out-of-state “education reform” consultants

Pryor now using out-of-state company to recruit out-of-state school principals

With just over a month left in Mass Insight’s $1 million contract with Stefan Pryor and the Connecticut State Department of Education, the out-of-state company hired to run much of Stefan Pryor’s “turnaround” operation is posting job advertisements to recruit out-of-state school principals to take jobs in Connecticut.

Mass Insight’s move comes despite the fact that Connecticut has hundreds of qualified candidates for school administrator positions, unemployment in the state remains at historic levels and a day doesn’t go by that Governor Malloy isn’t claiming that he is working to create jobs for Connecticut residents.

Even more to the point, the job of hiring a school principal is the exclusive responsibility of the local Board of Education in conjunction with the local school’s parent governance committee.

Neither Mass Insight nor Commissioner Pryor has the authority to hire local school principals.  Bridgeport is the only community where Pryor got special legislation passed that allows him to play a leadership role in picking a local school administrator and that is only for the position of superintendent of schools.

But perhaps the most incredible issue of all is the fact that the contract between Commissioner Pryor and Mass Insight DOESN’T provide Mass Insight with the authority to recruit principals or anyone else for local Connecticut’s local school districts.

But recruiting is exactly what Mass Insight is doing.

According to the on-line recruiting information posted by Mass Insight’s Boston-based human relations director;

“On behalf of the CSDE and Network schools and districts, Mass Insight Education Recruiting is supporting the recruitment of highly skilled and motivated school leaders to be a part of this local and national reform movement.  There are openings in several urban elementary, K-8, middle and high schools identified to begin full implementation as Network schools in Fall 2014. Principal candidates who are available for planning work in Spring 2014 are strongly preferred.”

The announcement adds…

“To apply for this position, please submit your resume and cover letter via the following link:  [email protected]  In your cover letter, please indicate which level of school you feel most qualified to lead (elementary, K-8, middle or high school) and whether you have any geographical limitations or preferences.”

No Joke: Year 2 Alliance District “kickoff” tomorrow despite Pryor’s failure to get money to Alliance Districts

Although Connecticut’s school districts are over 100 days into the fiscal year and more than six weeks into the school year, a number of Connecticut’s Alliance Districts still haven’t heard whether their “grant applications” have been approved by Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his hapless Turnaround Office.

Other Alliance Districts have heard funding is coming but still await the actual funds they need to implement programs that were supposed have started weeks ago.

All this and more is a direct result of Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s unending effort to do away with the State Department of Education’s professional staff and replace them high-cost, out-of-state consultants.

As Wait, What? readers are well aware, Commissioner Pryor dumped the State Department’s Leaders in Residence and expert retired superintendents and replaced them with a contract costing taxpayers nearly $1 million.  In place of trained, Connecticut experts, Alliance Districts were given the “help” of a company called MassInsight and their string of young, inexperienced consultants who have been unwilling or unable to get the job done in a timely fashion.

The only light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that the MassInsight contract ends in just over four months, but watch for Pryor to try and sneak through a contract extension despite Malloy’s ongoing promise that he is actually committed to helping Connecticut’s thirty poorest school districts.

The next chance for Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts to watch the parade of consultants will come tomorrow when Commissioner Pryor and his uncertified Division Director for the Turnaround Office, Morgan Barth, “will welcome Alliance Districts to the Year 2 kickoff convening.”

The event is billed as an opportunity for the Connecticut State Department of Education to “provide a vision for the second year of the Alliance District program, including a description of Year 2 priorities and how the CSDE plans to support districts. We will also highlight and celebrate successful strategies and improved outcomes in several districts.”

Scheduled to take place tomorrow at New Britain’s Institute of Technology and Business Development, Alliance District superintendents and district leadership will be regaled by a variety of consultants and corporate education reformers.

Considering the catastrophic failures associated with the Common Core standards, Common Core curriculum and Common Core testing, one of the “not to be missed” sessions will certainly be the one called, “Aligning Curricula to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)” with presenter Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, the State Department of Education’s Chief Academic Officer.

Another session, entitled “Change Management Workshop,” will be run by Morgan Barth himself.  Barth is the former Achievement First teacher and principal who allegedly worked illegally as an uncertified school teacher for six years.

Other consultants participating tomorrow include individuals from the Connecticut Center for School Change, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and Mass Insight – all of whom will explain to Connecticut superintendents, principals, teachers and others how to do their jobs

Meanwhile, word on the street is that Alliance Districts should NOT be expecting to see any checks tomorrow.  Funds that the consultants haven’t taken will be distributed at a later date.

 

Warning! Warning! Alliance Districts Beware:

Tomorrow, Connecticut’s poorest and most challenged school districts must submit their “Year 2 Alliance District Plans” to Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his loyal band of education reformers.

If you are a student, parent, teacher or administrator in one of the following towns…you should be worried….very worried.

The towns include: Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, East Windsor, Hartford, Hamden, Killingly, Manchester, Middletown, Meriden, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Putnam, Stamford, Vernon, Waterbury, West Haven, Windham, Winchester, Windsor and Windsor Locks.

Your legislators will tell you that despite the budget crisis, they were able to increase your level of school funding this year, thereby helping create better schools without dumping the entire burden on local taxpayers.

What they haven’t told you is the money is dependent on the approval of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the long-time charter school advocate.

Once the plans are submitted, Pryor and his team will review the plans and determine whether they meet his “rubric” for “school change.” He and his team will then decide whether your town will get the additional education funding that was recently approved by the Connecticut General Assembly.

If he doesn’t approve the plan, your town doesn’t get the money.  And rumor has it, in at least one case, the town won’t get the money unless they hire Achievement First to train local administrators….Achievement First being the charter school management company that Pryor co-founded.

And as every parent, teacher and administrator knows, if the money doesn’t move, additional program cuts will be forthcoming in those towns.

Worse, Pryor and his entourage have let go the very people within the Department of Education who actually know what these Alliance Districts need help with.

Last year, Alliance District Plans were primarily reviewed and handled by the Department of Education’s technical assistance operation, a group of seven Connecticut-trained Leaders in Residence and former superintendents who have spent the last six or seven years helping districts develop locally appropriate action plans.

But despite their extraordinary experience and dedication, those seven key staff people were let go by Malloy’s Commissioner this month and replaced by out-of-state consulting firm, Mass Insight,  that are charging $965,000…hundreds of thousands more than the seven experts were being paid. 

Gone are the seven experts and their combined 250 years of experience working directly with local superintendents, principals, teachers and other administrators.

Instead the fate of funding for Connecticut’s neediest school districts rests with a group of consultants who have no meaningful experience with Connecticut’s communities.

Even more troubling and incredible, some Alliance School Districts are learning that in addition to the out-of-state consultants, Pryor has assigned some of his interns to review and rate the Alliance plans.

The very fate of our communities are being decided by consultants and interns with little to no Connecticut experience.

This absurd, inappropriate, unfair and dysfunctional operation is being headed by one of Pryor’s new out-of-state managers, Debra Kurshan, who joined the State Department of Education after a working for a charter school management organization, consulting for the New Orleans School Recovery District  and helping to close public schools in New York City.

To make matters even worse, while the consulting contract with Mass Insight is only 90 days old, one of their most senior consultants has already left, only to be replaced with someone with even less experience.

If local taxpayers in the Alliance towns only knew how they were being played, they’d demand that their elected officials head back to Hartford and make major changes to this unjust and irresponsible process.

Instead, the Pryor operation will continue to play games with our students, parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers of Connecticut.

But at least the out-of-state consulting company will walk away with almost a million dollars in taxpayer funds, so someone out there must be pretty happy.

Pay More, Get Less: The Malloy/Pryor Approach to Problem Solving:

The goal is helping Connecticut’s 30 Alliance School Districts.  These are the districts that face the greatest academic challenges because they have higher levels of poverty, a more significant number of students who face language barriers due to their lack of English language skills and districts with the largest number of special educations students.

Helping these districts succeed requires that the state to provide them with state-of-the-art technical assistance so they can better confront their challenges and more financial support so they can provide the necessary services to their children.

The task of providing the technical expertise has been the responsibility of professional staff at the State Department of Education.  The outstanding and well-respected team has been made up of three former Connecticut school superintendents and four administrative Leaders in Residence.  Together these seven experts have been helping Alliance Districts all across the state.

However, despite the fact that Alliance Districts have praised the value of these experts, on behalf of the Malloy Administration, Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education instructed an aide to end the contracts with the seven experts, all of whom are not only Connecticut residents but have devoted their careers to developing effective solutions to the problems that Alliance Districts face.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor decided to spend far more money on a team of out-of-state consultants who have virtually no experience with the very problems these Alliance Districts are facing.

As reported in an earlier Wait, What? post, On March 28, 2013, Malloy’s Department of Education signed a contract with Mass Insight, a Massachusetts company to “develop the state’s turnaround strategy and improve the most struggling schools.”

Instead of spending a few hundred thousand on the existing experts, Commissioner Pryor decided to spend $957,960.00 for a team of five consultants, three of whom have never taught in a public school, one of whom has two years teaching experience and one who apparently has three years of teaching experience.  Taken together, they don’t even have the experience of even one of the existing Connecticut experts.

But at the end of this month, our Connecticut team, and the individuals who have been working so hard to help Connecticut’s communities will be unemployed.  Gone will be the very individuals who have worked on the front lines, developing programs and strategies that have proven to make a difference.

Why spend so much more for so much less?

The story behind the story isn’t clear yet but the CEO of Mass Insight did come down to “facilitate” a panel at an education reform conference Malloy sponsored in 2012 and despite running a company based outside of Connecticut, the same CEO submitted legislative testimony in favor of Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.

But why Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor would lay off expert Connecticut residents to make room for inexperienced out-of-state consultants, at a time when Connecticut’s economy continues to suffer and Connecticut state government is raising taxes just to preserve vital services….

That remains a mystery.

The previous Wait, What? posts on this issue can be found here:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/05/28/news-flash-school-districts-thrown-under-the-bus-as-commissioner-pryor-ends-successful-technical-services-program/ and http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/05/24/layoffs-for-connecticut-residents-retainers-for-out-of-state-consultants-the-malloy-pryor-mass-insight-contract/

Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract

Despite a FOI request to do so, the Connecticut State Department of Education has failed to turn over their contract with Mass Insight, an education reform company that was hired to provide services to Connecticut communities struggling to meet the mandates under Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” law.

While more will be known once the contract is finally released, what is known is that despite the professional talent left in Connecticut’s State Department of Education and the outstanding work that was being done by Connecticut’s Regional Service Centers (RESCs), Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, saw fit to turn his back on Connecticut’s existing expertise and hire an out-of-state “education reform” company to provide consultants to help Connecticut’s poorest towns get access to the funds provided in the new Commissioner’s Network program.

The cost of this arrogant decision is not only the fact that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be flowing out-of-state, but at least two of the Regional Service Centers have already been forced to lay off staff who had been working with these school districts before Commissioner Pryor decided to give the work to Mass Insight.

The other reality is that Alliance Districts, and especially those working with the Commissioner’s Network Program are being forced to work with people who have little to no experience with Connecticut and our schools.  Instead, they are products of a “reform” mindset that fails to take into account the complex challenges that face our poorest communities.

Prior to Pryor’s decision, the State Department of Education and the Regional Service Centers were providing Alliance Districts with technical support staff who had direct experience with these communities they were sent in to help.

Now, however, a band of  “true believers” are being brought in to tell local, democratically-elected officials, local school administrators, teachers and parents what they must do to gain the Commissioner’s approval so their districts can access a paltry sum of additional state taxpayer funds to help balance their local budgets.

Since the State Department of Education hasn’t released the contract, despite their requirement to do just that under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Law, it is hard to determine who exactly Mass Insight has sent to Connecticut to staff this lucrative contract.

As best as we can tell, leading the Mass Insight Team is Senior Program Manager, Ron Sandlin, who recently joined Mass Insight after serving as the School Turnaround Manager at the Indiana Department of Education.  With a BA in Political Science and an MA in Teaching, he apparently only has three years of teaching experience.  Interestingly, Paul Vallas’, The Vallas Group signed a multi-million dollar contract in Indiana last year.

The Mass Insight Program Manager for the new contract appears to be MaryAnn Holland, who “supports district-level fieldwork.”  Before joining Mass Insight, Holland served as College Office Director at Achievement First’s Amistad High School in New Haven; she has a B.A. from Colorado College and will be getting an M.A. this summer in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University.  She did two years of teaching with TFA and one year with Achievement First, Inc.

Michelle Arader is a Project Coordinator with the Mass Insight School Turnaround Group in Connecticut.  She also works with or worked on the contract Mass Insight has with the Providence Public School District.  Before that she worked for Uncommon Schools, a charter school management company that provided “enrichment program and supporting operations” at Brownsville Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, NY.  Arader has a B.A. from Princeton University.  She apparently has  no teaching experience.

Dipa Desai is also a Project Coordinator, having worked with Mass Insight’s Rhode Island operation including a contract the company has in Central Falls.  Prior to joining Mass Insight she served as a Guidance intern at the Classical High School in Providence, RI and a Research Assistant at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Desai recently finished her M.Ed. in School Counseling from Providence College.  She appears to have no teaching experience.

Emily Pallin serves as the Mass Insight Engagement Manager.  She is also being shifted from the Mass Insight contract with the Providence Public School District.   Prior to joining Mass Insight she was a research associate at New Visions for Public Schools, a corporate reform consulting organization that supports turnaround services in New York City. Pallin received a B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and an M.P.A. at NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service. She appears to have no teaching experience.

Faced with the task of helping to develop real and lasting solutions for Connecticut’s schools, rather than use Connecticut’s home-grown talent and expertise, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education turned to a corporate entity that is based outside of Connecticut.  With our districts being asked to rely on people with little to no teaching or real school administrative experience, Connecticut residents who do have that expertise are losing their jobs and joining the unemployment line.

Despite all this, the response from Malloy and the General Assembly’s Education Committee is nothing but silence.

The Malloy/Pryor Education Reform Consultant Full Employment Gravy Train

While it’s true that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has failed to fill some of the most critically important administrative positions in his agency that actually serve Connecticut’s schools and children, such as a Bureau Chief for the Special Education Division, Pryor’s dedication to retaining corporate education reform consulting companies and corporate education consultants is impressive.

Yesterday Wait, What? explored a $123,930.00 taxpayer-funded payment to Mass Insight Education, an education reform consulting company that has been retained to help develop Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Network.”

Although the total magnitude of the consulting contract with Mass Insight hasn’t been reported, that initial six figure payment is chump change compared to the amount of taxpayer money that is being spent on the salaries and benefits of the consultants and education reformers who have been hired to surround Pryor at the Department of Education.

Leading the way is Chief Turnaround Officer, Debra Kurshan, who is pulling down $149,000 plus benefits.   The former head of School Portfolio Development for Mayor Bloomberg’s school privatization efforts also served as a consultant to the superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, another hire, Talent Officer, Shannon Marimon, is collecting $110,000 plus benefits.  She joined Pryor’s operation after working for the TNTP, an education reform group.  As the TNTP website explains, the majority of TNTP’s revenue comes from its work with clients on a fee-for-service basis. This approach incentivizes TNTP to meet the needs of its clients while continually assessing the value and cost-effectiveness of its services. The fee-for-service model also encourages TNTP’s clients to be motivated, active collaborators by literally “investing” them in the success of their partnerships with the organization.”

Then there is the growing list of Pryor’s “education staff assistants,” beginning with his chief of staff, Adam Goldfarb who followed him from New Jersey.  Hired at $75,000, Goldfarb is now making $106,000 despite the fact that he has no professional education experience other than serving on the Board of a Charter School in Newark.

There is also Mark Day, the Director of Performance Management, who is getting $105,000.  He joined the state payroll after working as an employee of McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that advertises that it is “the trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. “

Add to that the two $95,000 education staff assistants who are interns from the Broad Foundation’s Residency Program, Gabrielle Ramos and Katina Grays.  The Broad Foundation is one of the three largest pro-education reform foundations in the nation. Their motto is that they are “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”

Despite the fact that the Broad Foundation has assets of $2.1 billion, the state of Connecticut is paying these two so they can work on Pryor’s education reform agenda while they are doing their Broad Foundation Residency.

And then there are the two law school students/TFA graduates, Andrew Ferguson and Collin Moore.  One of whom is working as another one of Pryor’s education staff assistants, while the other is working in Pryor’s “Turnaround Office.”  Thanks to Commissioner Pryor, both are enjoying $80,000 incomes.

The list goes on and on…

While there are a record number of essential unfilled vacancies and the core work of the State Department of Education isn’t getting done in a timely manner, the sign on the door reads:

Only education consultants and those have taken the corporate education reform pledge need apply.

Oh look, there goes more Connecticut taxpayer money to out-of-state “education reform” consultants

Eighteen months ago, on January 5, 2012, Governor Malloy’s sponsored an Education Reform Workshop at Central Connecticut State University.  During the first breakout session there was a panel discussion focused on the issue of “Low-Performing Schools and Districts.”  The panel was moderated by Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education company.

A few weeks later, Mass Insight Education’s Justin Cohen returned to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill, Senate Bill 24.  Cohen wrote,   “To dramatically and systemically improve our nation’s failing schools, comprehensive state turnaround initiatives, like the Commissioner’s Network included in Senate Bill 24, must be pursued as part of a spectrum of interventions. As the President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education, I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for its consideration of Senate Bill 24 and strongly support its passage.”

Cohen added, “Senate Bill 24 creates part of the structure and authority necessary for the state to perform this work and hold districts accountable…”

Two trips to Connecticut in a matter of weeks.

Talk about a dedication to Governor Malloy’s education reform proposal!

And now it turns out that just last month, on 4/13/13, the State of Connecticut wrote out a check to Mr. Cohen’s Mass Insight Education company for $123,930.00.  It was an initial payment on a much larger contract signed by the Malloy Administration’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Mass Insight Education was chosen, over a number of entities including Connecticut’s Regional Education Service Centers, to assist with Stefan Pryor’s Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Program.  Funny…that was the very thing Cohen came to Connecticut to testify in favor of the year before!

Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).

Rhee’s time there in Washington DC won her fame and fortune, as well as the demand for investigations into allegations about widespread cheating to inflate standardized test scores.

Before he worked as Rhee’s Director of Portfolio Management, Cohen worked as Director of Industry Support and Development for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

And before that, worked for the Edison Schools company.  Finally, of course, having won a contract from Stefan Pryor, we shouldn’t be surprised that Cohen also went to Yale University.

Fellow education blogger Gary Rubinstein investigated and wrote about Mass Insight Education.  Rubinstein observed that while Mass Insight claims to lead turnaround projects around the country, their track record is  murky, at best.  Rubinstein wrote, “On their School Turnaround Group [website] they list eight successful ‘turnarounds’ from around the country. Ironically, these eight ‘turnarounds’ were led by companies other than Mass Insight, but as Mass Insight doesn’t seem to want to put its own record up to scrutiny, they use these case studies to show the sorts of strategies that Mass Insight employs in its own turnarounds.”

Not surprising, Rubinstein discovered that the examples that Mass Insight Education relied upon are similar to what charter school companies here in Connecticut have been doing.  The “improved test results” that they education reforms tout are simply the result of policy changes that allowed these schools to skim off students that are less poor, have fewer language barriers, need fewer special education services or display fewer behavioral problems.  As usual, the “miracle turnaround” was a product of comparing apples to oranges, not comparing real “turnaround” in the existing population of students.

Meanwhile, Mass Insight Education has been raking in the money. According to research conducted by EduShyster, a public education blogger with extensive experience in Massachusetts, “In 2009, [Mass Insight] CEO William Guenther reported earning a cool $370,000–for 30 hours per week work. That works out to roughly $237 per hour.”

By 2011, Guenther, the Mass Insight CEO, was making $450,000.

Among its purported services, EduShyster discovered that “Mass Insight has moved into the highly lucrative consulting world, offering helpful tips to public districts and state officials around the country about how to “modify collective bargaining agreements .”

It figures that senior officials in the Malloy administration would hire a pro-charter, anti-union consulting company to advise his administration on how to undermine collective bargaining agreements.

And to further their standing, according to their IRS 990 filings, Mass Insight even engages in lobbying, although their most recent report fails to identify whether their 2012 efforts to support Governor Malloy’s education reform bill counted as lobbying.

But like all good lobbying, it would appear that their government relations expenditures can really pay off.

For example, last month’s check for $123,930.00 could have been spent here in Connecticut, supporting a Connecticut school or it could have retained the services of Connecticut residents, but instead it joined the millions of dollars flowing that are flowing to the corporate education reform industry outside of our state.

In this case, Malloy’s Department of Education is using Connecticut taxpayer funds to pay corporate consultants from Massachusetts, while Connecticut towns are left laying off teachers and reducing vital services.

Let’s hear it for the success of the corporate education-industrial reform movement!