Achievement First Inc. pledged to do better with special education students but didn’t

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Last week, Achievement First Inc. the large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island was hit with a lawsuit about its failure to fulfill its legal obligation to special education students at its Crown Heights, New York Charter School.

It was only two years ago that a Hartford Courant headline read, “Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.” The paper added, “Civil Rights Complaint Said Too Often Students With Disabilities Suspended, Given Demerits.”

The complaint against Achievement First Hartford was filed by Greater Hartford Legal Aid against Achievement First’s Connecticut operation.  The lawsuit alleged;

“Achievement First’s failure to provide accommodations, modifications, and specialized instruction per 504 plans or IEPs, and AF’s pervasive discriminatory discipline practices violated violate federal and state law.”

The specific allegations included Achievement First’s violation of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.

Following a federal investigation, Achievement First, Inc. signed a “Voluntary Resolution Agreement” on May 30, 2013 in which it promised to do a better job providing students with services and improving training for administrators, teachers and staff to ensure with special education requirements were treated appropriately.

Among the long list of action items in the Resolution Agreement was the overhaul of Achievement First Inc.’s “School Culture Manual” so that parents not only understood their fundamental rights but were properly informed on how to access services for their children.

But despite the promises to do better, Achievement First is back in the news with yet another failure to provide legally required special education services.

On November 5, 2015 the New York Times reported, Lawsuit Accuses Brooklyn Charter School of Failing to Provide Special Education Services

As fellow bloggers Diane Ravitch explained in her follow up blog;

A lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, claiming that the charter school did not provide mandated services “and were punished for behavior that arose from their disabilities.”

The lawsuit charged that the students did not get physical therapy and other services for weeks, and that a student with autism “was disciplined for not looking in the direction a teacher instructed or for hiding under his desk.”

Achievement First is a “no-excuses” charter chain with schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Its backers include some of the wealthiest supporters of privatization.

The families are also suing the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department for permitting Achievement First to avoid its legal responsibilities to the children.

Pedido Street School, another leading education blog added,

The suit, filed on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, described a “systemic failure to provide them a free appropriate public education, in violation of their rights.”

The systemic failure to provide services is especially troubling considering the Hartford Courant’s June 2013 story entitled, Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.

The Hartford Courant reported;

A new federal civil rights agreement aims to get better and more appropriate services for children with disabilities who have been continually suspended or excluded from class at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School for disciplinary reasons.

Maria Morelli-Wolfe, a lawyer with Greater Hartford Legal Aid Inc., which last year filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of children with disabilities at the public charter school, said that very often those students spend too many hours out of the classroom — suspended in school or out of school — because of behaviors they weren’t necessarily able to control.

“Many, many days, they couldn’t catch a break, particularly those kids with disabilities that result in behavioral issues,” said Morelli-Wolfe. “They would get caught up in the cycle of the rigid discipline policies of Achievement First and they just couldn’t break free of them, sometimes for very small behaviors, even like tapping pencils. … Some of the cases were just heartbreaking.”


As part of its agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, Achievement First has promised to train staff not only in the federal education requirements for disabled students, but in the characteristics of disabilities such as autism, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, and childhood trauma. It has also agreed to develop a centralized data system to track removal of disabled students from classrooms.


The agreement, which was released Monday, comes less than a week after the release of a report from the state Department of Education that showed that Achievement First charter schools have among the highest rates of suspension or expulsion in the state for all students, not just those with disabilities.

The report said that 49.4 percent of the students at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School had received at least one in-school or out-of-school suspension or expulsion — the highest percentage noted in the state report.

Johanna Rodriguez, whose eighth-grade son was included in the civil rights complaint, said her son was suspended and at home for most of last year, while this year she said he was suspended in school most of the time in a room set aside for students who are removed from class because of a behavior issue.

For lesser offenses, he was given “re-orientation” where he could remain in class, but had to wear a white shirt and other students were not allowed to talk to him.

Rodriguez said she got called “just about every day” and told that her son was being removed from class because he had been fidgeting or not promptly carrying out directions or talking to himself or humming in class.

She said her son has a variety of disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other problem behaviors. She said she warned Achievement First before her son enrolled in the sixth grade. “I told them he’s a handful,” Rodriguez said. She said she asked “Are you sure you can handle him?”

Over the past two years, she said, the academy had promised special accommodations for her son in various ways but didn’t follow through.

According to the complaint filed by the Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Achievement First has a “no excuses” philosophy that says, “We must refuse to make excuses for our students because of their prior education, their family situation, their community, or other potential excuses.”

The complaint said that “based on our experiences with Achievement First, learning, emotional or behavioral disabilities are often viewed as just another ‘potential excuse.'”

Achievement First Inc., like most charter schools, consistently fail to enroll their fair share of students who require special education services.

The following chart using data from 2012-2013 provides just a glimpse of Achievement First’s unwillingness or inability to accept and service special needs students in Connecticut.  In addition, when it comes to the special education students that Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools do accept, they are tend to be special education students who require fewer services.


Hartford Public Schools   14.2%
Achievement First Hartford  7.8%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.7%
Achievement First Bridgeport 8.0%
New Haven Public Schools 11.1%
Achievement First – Elm City 6.5%
Achievement First – Amistad 5.0%

NOTE:  Considering THAT charter schools get reimbursed for any and all special education expenses, in addition to their per pupil grant, there is absolutely no excuse for charter schools to refuse to enroll students with special needs or push out those who require additional services.

The harsh reality is that while Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools like to apply a “no excuses” mantra for students, the record of lawsuits and media reports make it clear that when it comes to their own policies and actions these charter schools like to “talk the talk” but utterly fail to “walk the walk” when it comes to being real public schools.

BEWARE: 9 in 10 Children who utilize special education services will fail the inappropriate Common Core SBAC Test


While the Malloy administration continues its immoral and unethical attempt to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test, a growing number of parents are stepping forward and utilizing their unalienable right to protect their children from a standardized testing program that is designed to ensure that as many in seven in ten public school children are deemed failures following this year’s Common Core SBAC Testing charade.

The failure rate is projected to be significantly higher for children who utilize special education services, children who aren’t fluent in the English Language and children who face economic and social challenges.  The SBAC testing organization’s own report projects that 9 in 10 special education students and English Language Learners will be labeled failures when the tests are completed.

But in what may be the crassest move yet, the Malloy administration sent a “DRAFT LETTER” to local school superintendents today that they are supposed to use to quell the growing movement of parents who are opting their children out of Common Core SBAC Tests.

Among other absurd statements, the “DRAFT LETTER” states;

The Smarter Balanced assessments will be administered on computers and are designed to measure these skills through reading comprehension, writing, and math questions that require students to demonstrate that they truly understand the content. Additional supports are available for some students with special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

But the letter fails to provide parents with the truth about just how harshly the Common Core SBAC Test will judge those students with “special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has provided members states with a study that includes the projected results of this year’s Common Core SBAC Test.

The projected results are based on Pass/Fail “Cut Scores” that the Malloy administration approved, while the officials from Vermont and New Hampshire – the other two New England States using the Common Core SBAC Test – refused to endorse.

To force special educations students to take a test that is designed to fail 9 in 10 of those children is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal!

The projected results of the Common Core SBAC test for children requiring special education services are as follows;

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%


3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

Tracing the Malloy Administration’s deceit on Opting Out of the Common Core SBAC Testing


Late yesterday afternoon, Dianna R. Wentzell, Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education issued a directive to Connecticut school superintendents reiterating the lie the Connecticut parents do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

For information about the letter see Wait, What? Post: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

After months of silence and despite the overwhelming fact that there is no federal or state law that allows the government or school districts to punish children (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core Testing Scam, Malloy’s interim Commissioner of Education incredibly instructed school superintendents to continue their unethical and immoral harassment of parents who are seeking to protect their children by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC Tests – A test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 Connecticut public school students are deemed failures and that more than 90 percent of special education students and English Language Learners have “fail” attached to their academic records.

Last year, attorney Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, made it extremely clear in his testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly that these was no mechanism to punish students (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

With that background, the Interim Commissioner’s action is not only highly inappropriate but suspect.

What is going on behind the scenes that would lead Malloy’s Commissioner to issue a threatening letter that seeks to limit parental rights?

As John F. Kennedy said,

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

Considering the decisions are being made by public employees, who are paid with taxpayer funds, Connecticut parents have a right to know who and why their government is seeking to limit their rights.

To that end and pursuant to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, the Interim Commissioner of Education (and her staff) is being asked to turn over all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015.

Parallel requests are being submitted to a select group of school superintendents who have maintained that parents do not have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.  This list includes the school superintendents of Westport, Fairfield and Ridgefield Connecticut, as well as others.

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws require that the receipt of these requests be acknowledged within twenty-four hours and that the materials requested by provided in a rapid and appropriate time frame.

Furthermore, since the requests are for electronic copies of all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015, these public officials are required to provide the information free of charge.

As the information is provided, it will be posted here so that Wait, What? readers and the public can learn the truth about why government officials are engaged in an ongoing effort to prevent parents from utilizing their constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children from the damage that will be caused by the Common Core SBAC testing.

At the State Department of Education, the Freedom of Information request will be directed to Interim Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell, her Executive Assistant and Kelly Donnelly the State Department of Education’s Director of Communications and Community Partnerships.

Superintendents receiving the Freedom of Information Act requests include;

Westport Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon

Fairfield Superintendent of Schools David Title

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Deborah Low

To illustrate the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the Common Core SBAC test, a parent need only look at the projected “Failure Rate” for students with disabilities that require special education services.

These pass/fail “cut scores” were adopted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in November 2014 with Governor Malloy’s administration voting in favor of the “cut scores,” while the representatives of the governors’ of Vermont and New Hampshire (the other two SBAC states in New England) abstained in the vote, refusing to support the discriminatory pass/fail “cut scores.”)

As readers can see, the projected “Failure” rate for special education students on the Common Core SBAC Test [A rate that mirrors that of other demographic sub-categories of students] is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal.

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

The Paul Vallas Legacy: “Bridgeport systematically violated special education laws”


Paul Vallas hasn’t even left Bridgeport…In fact; the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport are picking up his salary and benefits for another month… But his legacy is already becoming clear.

Late last week, the Connecticut State Department of Education released a report blasting the Paul Vallas’ leadership and the Bridgeport School System because, among other violations, it “systematically failed to identify a number of students determined to be eligible for special education…”

The damage done to significant number of Bridgeport’s special education students and the violation of federal and state laws that are in place to ensure special education students get the services they need and deserve, is a direct result of Paul Vallas’ policy of arrogance and deceit.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember a series of blog posts about the outrageous and inappropriate changes that Paul Vallas, in the name of cutting costs, was making to Bridgeport’s special education program.

The posts specifically highlighted items that the State Department of Education has now deemed illegal and inappropriate.

For background read;

UPDATE: Bridgeport’s Assault on Special Education: Time for Commissioner Pryor to intervene… (August 28, 2012)

News Flash: Team Vallas Addresses Special Education Funding Issue (sort of) (August 23, 2012)

What is Paul Vallas doing to Bridgeport’s Special Education Students? (August 21, 2012)

As the Connecticut Post reported this week:

“In response to an October 2013 complaint filed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy against the district, the state conducted an investigation and determined that the district violated its obligations to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Most of the examples cited in the complaint were from the 2012-13 school year, when under outgoing Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas there was a concerted effort to bring down special education costs.”

The report is a chilling reminder of what happens to individual students when administrators are allowed to disregard their legal and moral duties to children.

The Connecticut Post highlighted a few examples including;

One of the students cited in the complaint had struggled academically since first grade, failed and repeated sixth grade. Because of his age was advanced to high school last year, where he failed every subject. Even so, the district never held a meeting to discuss the student’s suspected educational or emotional disabilities or potential support services that might help him academically.

Another student was placed on homebound instruction for most of the 2012-13 school year due to mental health issues, but a placement meeting was not convened until July 2013.

Students at Harding, Bassick, Marin [schools] went without receiving a Planning and Placement Team assessment as is required under a federal Child Find mandate.

Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Schools literally put some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable students at risk… all so that he, along with the former Board of Education, Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor could crow about Vallas’ miraculous ability to balance he school budget.

A copy of the State Department of Education’s finding can be read here:

You can read the Connecticut Post story here:

Take the time to skim the actual State Department of Education report.

The sad truth is that as terrible as these stories are, if the State Department of Education does its job and investigates Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School, the results will be disturbingly similar….if not worse.

Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students


Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here:

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

Vallas “no bid” special education software deal in Bridgeport continues to be a disaster


It was one of the first non-bid contracts that Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas pushed through.  Using a half-baked “sole-source” rationale, Vallas hired a company that he had worked with in Chicago and Philadelphia without using any bidding process.

The contract promised Bridgeport a state-of-the-art special education software program “for free,” as long as the Public Consulting Group was given a lucrative Medicaid reimbursement contract.

The new software was scheduled to come on-line July 1, 2012.

Soon, free became $100,000 plus with more “option costs” to come.

July 1, 2012 came and went…with no Easy IEP software

Then August, September, October, November, December 2012 and still no software.

January, February and March 2013 came and went without a working version of the Easy IEP special education software.

Finally, Easy IEP was scheduled to go live on April 1, 2013 with a complete shift by the end of April.

Here we are in May 2013 and multiple Bridgeport teachers and professional staff have reported that the “state-of-the-art” software is such a mess that special education teachers are relegated to hand-writing their IEPs and producing reports in the same way they were doing it 40 years ago.

This is the most important part of the year for updating IEPs and meeting state and federal mandates for special education reporting.

Instead of the promised comprehensive system, teachers and staff are reporting chaos.

Not only are students in need of special education services being short-changed but the cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers could be astronomical.

Just take a look at the news out of New York City when the software system implemented by the Bloomberg Administration fell apart;

NEWS: Overtime bill for staff using special ed system totals $38.5M


The city doled out $38.5 million in back pay to schools staff who were wrongly required to work overtime on a buggy special education data system, according to payment details released today by the education department.

Nearly 30,000 therapists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists received the overtime payments this month after an independent arbitrator ruled in January that the Department of Education violated the United Federation of Teachers’ contract. The first round of payments, on April 12, totaled $2.6 million for 1,700 occupational and physical therapists and the second and final payment — $35.9 million — went out to the rest of employees today.

The total number of educators who qualified for overtime far exceeded UFT’s estimates, which hovered at around 10,000. The UFT filed the labor complaint in mid-2011, charging that staff should not have been required to work outside of their contractual school day.

The unintentional overtime centered on time that educators spent plugging data into the Special Education Student Information System. According to teachers and union staff, the program does not have basic functions that are routinely found in other computer programs, such as an ‘auto save’ feature.

In a statement today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that SESIS continues to be unnecessarily time-consuming for teachers and a wasteful example of the city’s pricey technology contracts.

“Thousands of hours that teachers could have spent helping kids were wasted trying to get this boondoggle of a computer system to work,” Mulgrew said. “But just as CityTime cost the city millions of dollars year after year, until SESIS is fixed or scrapped it will continue to be a money pit.”

Department of Education officials defended SESIS, which tracks student attendance and keeps a record of services that special education students receive.

“Keeping accurate and complete records on services provided to special needs students is necessary to ensure that we are providing quality services, and we are working to ensure that all staff are properly compensated in accordance with the arbitration award,” Connie Pankratz said.”

Meanwhile in Connecticut, neither Mr. Vallas nor the Bridgeport Board of Education has explained what is actually happening with Vallas’ “no-bid” special education software system in Bridgeport.

The price of Paul Vallas’ no-bid contracts continues to grow…


Will anyone stand up for taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport?

Now that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education has been removed and a democratically elected board has taken its place, perhaps someone – anyone – will begin to ask the important questions that need to be asked.

At the very top of the list is the growing controversy surrounding Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas’, decision to use a “no-bid” contract to buy new special education software from a company that he has done business with in the past.

Easy IEP was purchased as part of a larger contract after Team Vallas doctored a document seeking to bypass the laws and regulations governing Bridgeport’s required bidding process.

However, despite the fact that Vallas signed the contract on April 23, 2012, the promised conversion has yet to take place, and Bridgeport’s School System continues to utilize the earlier company’s software, at an undisclosed price.

The Easy IEP contract was signed, taxpayer funds were committed, and, as the contract makes clear in its Exhibit C1, the new system was supposed to be in place for the 2012-2013 school year.  In fact, the contract requires that the “School System agrees to implement FES Services beginning April 2012,” and that the “School System agrees to implement the Cost Reporting Services in July 2012.”

No public agency would ever be allowed to get away with these types of violations.

Wait, What? readers will recall this situation.  It was and continues to be a disturbing reminder of what happens when public officials inappropriately enter into no-bid contracts with companies that they are associated with.

When Vallas arrived in Bridgeport, he hired the Public Consulting Group (PCG), a company that has received millions of dollars in previous contracts thanks to Vallas.

Vallas explained in one of his early PowerPoint Presentations that, “PCG Group is auditing the district’s Medicaid reimbursement process. PCG has an outstanding reputation for assessing and improving the process in order to obtain optimal reimbursement for eligible students.  Any additional revenue obtained by the district will be applied to offset the cost of out- of-district tuition for special education students.”

Weeks later, the PCG Group provided Vallas with their “audit,” and lo and behold, just as they had done in Philadelphia, the consulting company recommended that Bridgeport HIRE THEM to implement a Medicaid reimbursement project.  And to sweeten the deal, PCG said they would provide Bridgeport with a special deal on their special education software, a program called Easy IEP.

The only issue was that Bridgeport already had a special education software package, called “Clarity,” to track and coordinate Bridgeport’s special education program.  But that fact didn’t stop Vallas, who quickly dropped Clarity and signed a contract for Easy IEP.

Although Connecticut and Bridgeport laws and regulations require contracts over $7,500 to be put out to bid, Vallas simply by-passed those requirements.

In order to defend their action, Team Vallas submitted a “Justification for Sole Source Acquisition.”  Their claim was that PCG’s product was so special and so unique that it wasn’t even worth soliciting bids from other companies.

However, it turns out that almost every point that Paul Vallas and his team used to rationalize skipping a competitive bidding process was false.

Vallas’ inappropriate use of a “no bid,” sole-source contract to purchase the Easy IEP software is now having a real and negative impact on taxpayers in Connecticut and Bridgeport.  However, neither the Bridgeport Board of Education nor the media have investigated this contract or the other “no-bid” contracts that will cost Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers more than $13 million dollars.

Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch claims that he, rather than the voters, should be allowed to choose the members of the Board of Education.  If he were truly concerned about the waste of scarce resource,s he would be demanding an investigation of why his administration approved a no-bid contract signed by his hand-picked superintendent of schools, a contract that is now wasting precious Bridgeport and state tax dollars.

Mr. Mayor, it’s not to late.



Anyone? Will any Bridgeport official stand up for the children with special needs in your city?


Mayor Bill Finch, the Bridgeport City Council and Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education all voted for the education budget developed by Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s interim superintendent of schools.

As previously noted here at Wait, What?, the biggest cut in the entire Bridgeport school budget was for the funds needed to support Bridgeport students who require special education services.

After the issue was raised and school administrators faced growing concerns about these significant budget cuts, Team Vallas issued a memo explaining that they had everything under control.

In the August 22 memo, Team Vallas explained;

  • There was a $1 million dollar budget cut that came from eliminating 14 special education teachers who were no longer needed.  By way of an explanation, they memo explained that Vallas had developed an “updated formula for allocation of special education teachers and paraprofessionals that is consistent with IEP mandates and takes into consideration student needs. The formula revision is built on a focused realignment of resources, designed to fiscally support the proper staffing levels to meet the individualized instructional needs of our students.”

In English this means that each remaining special education teacher would have more students and more students with special education needs would be placed into regular classes.

  • Second, there was a $2.6 million dollar cut by taking some of the most high-need students out of their existing placements and returning them into the Bridgeport school system.  The Vallas memo said that, “the district has established new, specialized programs in various schools to accommodate the return of special education students from out of district settings, with parental consent and full compliance with all mandated special education procedures.”

So, according to Vallas, as a result of the new, specialized programs that have been created, about one or every five students placed in special, out of district programs, would now be returned to Bridgeport schools.

But today, on the first day of school, we learn that the Bridgeport School System has suddenly started advertising for a number of special education assistants and therapeutic support facilitators.

They STARTED advertising for the positions now?

But Vallas and his staff said that everything was already in place!

Let’s face it.

If Team Vallas had been telling the truth about where things stood, these positions would have been filed long ago, the new employees would have already been trained and they would now be working to assist students will disabilities.

The children who need special education services and their parents deserve better.

In fact, all the parents and children of Bridgeport deserve better.

For one thing, they deserve to be told the truth.

But the question is; will Bridgeport’s officials step forward and ensure that their citizens start getting the truth or will they continue to allow the lies and double-speak to continue?

What a Shock! It is the Biggest Cut to Bridgeport’s School Budget and no official asks a question!


Last night, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education met for the last time.  News coverage of the event can be found in the Connecticut Post (link here).

Although Board of Education members were given an update on the school’s system’s $225.2 million operating budget, there was no discussion about the single biggest cut in the school budget – that being services for students who need special education services.

As  noted earlier here at Wait, What?,  Bridgeport’s “official” education budget cut $1 million and 14 special education teachers from the school-based special education programs and cut more than $2.6 million dollars of the funds that are used to place those students with the greatest needs in the most appropriate settings, outside of the district.  This is a 20 percent cut to outplacement program.

The magnitude of this cut for placing students in alternative educational settings means that Paul Vallas is assuming that approximately 20%, or one out of every five students, who have been placed in a specialized setting, will be moved back into Bridgeport school system.

Such a change would require that Bridgeport revise each student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program), a process that is both complex, lengthy and requires full participation by all of the individuals and entities that are responsible for determining each child’s educational and social needs.

There is absolutely no indication that Team Vallas as begun such a massive rewrite of student’s IEPs or even that such a charade could be pulled off, since federal and state laws about special education services specifically require students to be placed in the most appropriate settings.

Additional proof that this budget move is nothing more than a gimmick, is the fact that the new budget makes no attempt to provide the additional resources that would be needed to care for those children, if they were actually moved back into the Bridgeport schools.

Finally, the 20% reduction in spending for out of school placements completely overlooks the fact that many placements are controlled not by the City of Bridgeport, but by the state Department of Children and Families.  These placements are often associated with foster care or other state related programs and few, if any, of these placements can be impacted by Bridgeport’s school administrators.

The truth is that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education voted for this budget.

And yesterday, the members of the illegal Board of Education wouldn’t even demand that Vallas explain the cuts, even though these cuts would have a devastating impact on some of our state’s most vulnerable children.

Since the members of the illegal Board of Education refused to do their jobs, Bridgeport residents should step in and demand that Vallas explain the following:  (1) What factors did he use to decide that the cut in out of district placements should be 20%, (2) how many Bridgeport students will be impacted by this cut, (3) how many IEPs have been changed to remove the out-of-district placements that had previously been ordered,  and (4) how many children have been moved back into the school system to date.

The parents and children who utilize special education services deserve better.

If someone can get Team Vallas to come clean on this outrageous cut, please post his answer here.