Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

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Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece in the CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry in having in Connecticut and how key players int he Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Jumoke Charter School Company back in the news due to missing computers

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The disgraced charter school company that got tens of millions of taxpayer dollars thanks to no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration is back in the news.

Apparently the constant flow of checks from Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Department of Education wasn’t enough to appease the charter school company and its management.

The Hartford Courant is reporting that Jumoke may have removed more than $40,000 worth of “technology and equipment” before being booted out of Hartford’s Milner School earlier this year.

The Malloy administration gave Jumoke/FUSE charter school company no-bid contracts to run public schools in Hartford and Bridgeport and was granted management of a new charter school in New Haven.  There are also reports of a secret deal that fell through to give the charter school company control of a public school in Waterbury.

After a series of scathing investigative news stories written by the Hartford Courant, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company collapsed, although the Malloy administration has allowed Jumoke to continue to run its original charter school in Hartford.  To date, Jumoke’s Hartford Charter School has cost Connecticut taxpayers over $50 million.

Now, according to a report in the Hartford Courant, when the Hartford Public School System re-took control of the Milner School this past summer, “among the 30 assets that cannot be found at Milner are 19 computers with monitors, including nine Lenovo computers that were acquired by Milner in January 2013 at a price of $900 each.”

The Hartford Courant reports that Hartford School officials wrote to Jumoke saying,

“If the Hartford Public Schools does not receive notice that Jumoke Academy, Inc./FUSE is returning the items or paying for the full replacement value of the identified missing materials, we will have no alternative but to treat the matter as a theft with the appropriate authorities,” wrote Paula Altieri, Hartford schools’ chief financial officer, in a certified letter dated Sept. 9.”

[…]

Hartford school officials said the district conducted a physical inventory of all schools in May 2013, then reviewed Milner’s assets again in late February and noted 54 “unaccounted for” items totaling $70,391.90 in value, including 11 laptops and five electronic SMART Boards.

School officials said they informed Michael M. Sharpe, then the CEO of FUSE, of the results of the second Milner inventory during an early March conference call. Sharpe has disputed the district’s findings.

At some point along the way, the Hartford Courant apparently asked Michael Sharpe, Jumoke/FUSE’s former CEO, about the missing equipment.  According to today’s Courant news story, Sharpe “blamed the Hartford school system for losing the equipment.”

You can read the full Hartford Courant story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81386037/

CEA Education Forum 2014 – September 13, 2014

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The Connecticut Education Association will be holding their forum with the gubernatorial candidates on Saturday, September 13, 2014 with a follow up CEA Political Action Committee meeting scheduled for September 17, 2014.

Having fallen short on the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, I will not be participating, but I do know the CEA endorsement process includes giving candidates a questionnaire and allowing them an opportunity so speak and answer questions, all before the CEA leadership endorses a candidate.  It is certainly an improvement over the AFT-CT’s “candidate endorsement” process.  In their case, they refused to allow candidates to fill out a questionnaire, interview with the PAC committee or even address the executive committee before they endorsed Dannel Malloy, the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the country.  They have since provided him with even more member dues to help pay for his misleading campaign ads.

There are many questions that should be asked of the candidates for governor, but here are a few that will hopefully be asked at Saturday’s forum.

Question #1:  TENURE

Governor Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing public schools. 

To date, Mr. Malloy has not renounced his anti-tenure proposal.

In response to Malloy’s remark that public school teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy recently told the audience at the Norwich Bulletin Candidate Debate, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Apparently as late as this month, Governor Malloy is saying that his anti-teacher statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

Q:  What is your position on teacher tenure?

Question #2:  TEACHER EVALUATION

Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that academic resources show that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation programs around the country that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

Q:  Will you commit to decoupling teacher evaluation programs from standardized test scores and replacing the present plan with one that actually ties teacher evaluation to factors that successfully measure teacher performance?

Question #3:  CCJEF SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT

Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  In fact, Connecticut’s present school funding formula fails to meet the provisions of Connecticut’s Constitution.  The state’s failure to revamp its school funding system has led to the CCJEV v. Rell school finance lawsuit.  As Mayor of Stamford, Governor Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in this critically important case, but as governor, he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

Q:  Will you commit to settling the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system.

Question #4:  EXISTING SCHOOL FUNDING

Over the past four years, state funding for privately-run charter schools has increased by 73.6% [from $53 million to $92 million], while Connecticut’s public school districts were provided with a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 alliance districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

Q:  Since shifting to a new funding system will take time, as governor, how will you handle school funding during in the short term?

Question #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme has become particularly controversial.  The state, local school districts, teachers, students and parents are being faced with rapidly adopting an extremely expensive, educationally questionable system.

Q:  Can you outline your opinion on the Common Core and Standardized Testing?      

Question #6:  COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

Commissioner Stefan Pryor has announced that he will be leaving his position at the end of 2014.  Mr. Pryor’s tenure has been steeped in controversy, due in part to his commitment to the corporate education reform agenda, his leadership style and his relationship with charter schools, most directly with Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that has been the largest single financial beneficiary of state funds to charter schools over the past four years.

Q:  As Governor, what type of person would you appoint as Commissioner of Education and can you give us some names of people you think would be worthy of your consideration?

Question #7:  MANAGING THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Over the past four years, the Department of Education has been restructured.  Commissioner Pryor upended the Department’s “turnaround office” by eliminating the Leaders in Residence Program, removing three experienced former  Connecticut superintendents and four other expert administrators, as well as transfer out a number of nationally-recognized experts including one in English as a Second Language, one in Multi-cultural Education and one in School Climate and Bullying.  In their place, these tasks were outsourced to an inexperienced, out-of-state company for nearly $2 million dollars.  In addition, a series of other no-bid contracts were given to other out-of-state companies to perform tasks in which Connecticut expertise was available.

Q:  As Governor, what would be your vision for the State Department of Education and what is would be your approach to outside contracting?

There are many more questions that should be asked as well, please feel free to add them to the list:

Malloy allocates $500k to figure out how to reduce standardized testing…

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After wasting tens of millions of taxpayer funds instituting his massive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC) tests, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has now said that he wants  “to reduce the time Connecticut students spend taking standardized tests” and has even come up with $500,000 in grants to hand out to schools to help them figure out how to undo the very plan he pushed through.

You gotta love election years!

In 2012, Malloy’s education reform industry initiative mandated a huge expansion in standardized testing for public school students, including a new test for high school juniors – this despite the fact that these 11th graders were already taking a number of standardized tests as part  of the college application process.

Now, two years later – and six weeks before Election Day – Malloy has had an epiphany and put out a press release saying, “I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most over-tested: our eleventh-graders.”

In a grandiose attempt to prove his commitment to reducing standardized testing, the Hartford Courant reported,

“Malloy and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor also announced Friday that school districts can start applying next month for grants to reduce the amount of time students spend taking tests at all grade levels spend taking tests. The total of up to $500,000 in grants will “support local efforts to eliminate tests that are outdated and do not contribute to student learning — thereby increasing classroom time for teaching — and to improve the quality of student assessments already in use, including the tailoring and personalization of assessments to student needs.”

Although the champion of more testing is now saying he wants to “explore” reducing the number of tests for high school juniors, his strong support for the Common Core and Common Core testing charade remains intact.

In addition, although Malloy is apparently trying to throw a bone to students, parents and teachers, he continues to duck the challenge to clarify his position on teacher tenure.

See:  Governor Malloy: Tell the truth about your position on teacher tenure

Governor Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing public schools.

To date, Mr. Malloy has not renounced his anti-tenure proposal.

In response to Malloy’s remark that public school teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy recently told the audience at the Norwich Bulletin Candidate Debate, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Is Governor Dan Malloy now saying that his anti-teacher statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

It is time for Malloy to come clean and tell the truth about his position on tenure.

Add your name to demand that Dannel Malloy either confirm or renounce his 2012 proposal to end tenure for public school teachers and repeal collective bargaining for teachers in selected public schools.

************************************************************************

To sign the petition go to:

https://www.change.org/p/governor-dannel-malloy-governor-malloy-tell-the-truth-about-your-position-on-teacher-tenure#

 

You can read earlier Wait, What? posts about Malloy’s 11th grade testing disaster by clicking on any of the following links:

Who on earth would require HS juniors to take the Common Core Field Test in the spring?

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

Bribing the guinea pigs (aka our students)

Take it from parents; teenagers are people, not data points

 

Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t

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The Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, “effectively” finishes up his sure to be award winning series on U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “hand-picked” education reform disciple, Terrence Carter, with a breaking news story entitled,  Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t.

Lender, who led the Courant’s investigation of “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the disgraced former head of the Jumoke/ FUSE charter school chain, turned his attention to the highly touted education reform export who the Malloy administration was bringing in to join Special Master Steven Adamowski to “turnaround” New London public schools.

The Courant’s investigative operation quickly determined the truth about “Dr.” Terrence Carter including the fact that despite what Carter claimed, he did not have a Ph.D from Stanford University or Stanford and Oxford Universities or even from Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Among one of “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s many explanations was the observation that while he hadn’t actually received a Ph.D from Lesley in the past, he was going to be given one this month.  He even bragged that when he defended his thesis, the committee informed him that he could now call himself “Dr.”

Well, the good “doctor’s” version of reality appears to be a bit different from the reality that the rest of us live in.

In this afternoon’s Courant article, Lender writes;

Embattled New London school superintendent candidate Terrence P. Carter had been scheduled to receive his Ph.D. in Education Monday from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. — but that didn’t happen.

“I can confirm that Terrence Carter does not have a degree from Lesley University,” Director of Communications John Sullivan said in an email.

He was then whether other candidates received their degrees on Monday’s long-scheduled “conferral date” of Aug. 25, and whether it’s still possible that Carter would receive his doctorate.

“Degrees have already been conferred today. He does not have a degree from Lesley,” Sullivan said in a subsequent email. “Beyond that, I have no further comment on his or any other student’s academic information.”

Carter did not respond to Courant messages seeking comment Monday.

Carter was selected by New London’s school board in June to be its next superintendent of schools, but the Board postponed a vote on awarding him an employment contract in late July.

The postponement came in the wake of newspaper revelations that Carter had used Ph.D. and Dr. with his name for at least five years without having a doctorate from an accredited college, and that large portions of his New London job application essay were identical to language in articles published on the Internet.

Lesley University would not discuss the reasons why Carter’s doctorate was not awarded.

Questions about Carter deepened when a national research organization provided The Courant with a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 including the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which he does not;. Also, The Courant reported that Carter got a Ph.D. in 1996 from “Lexington University” — which doesn’t have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto “Order Now, Graduate Today!”

The school board commissioned an investigation into Carter’s background after the newspaper disclosures in July,. The report on that probe by the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, the board’s legal counsel, is due to be presented at a meeting Thursday night. It’s unclear whether the board will go through that night with its previously scheduled vote on whether to enter an employment contract with Carter.

Carter had told New London officials during the application process that he was due to receive a Ph.D. in education from Lesley this summer — and, in a letter dated June 10, Carter’s senior adviser at Lesley verified that he had “successfully defended his dissertation” on May 28, and would officially be awarded his Ph.D. on the “next degree conferral date, August 25, 2014 — which was Monday.

But that situation has changed, according to Sullivan’s email.

[...]

The Ph.D. that Carter had been scheduled to receive was for a dissertation entitled “Driving Value within a Changing Network of Schools through Learning and Development: The Use of a 360° Feedback Tool To Drive Change and Bring Value in Public Education.”

Carter told the Courant in July he would be willing to send a copy of the dissertation, but he has not done so. Lesley has declined to release a copy.

Carter and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week on Simmons’ letter and other questions concerning the New London situation.

The New London board’s June choice of Carter was watched more closely than most local hirings of school administrators, partly because the state Department of Education has played a strong role in addressing the local system’s record of low performance. The board’s June announcement that it had selected Carter was endorsed publicly by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

You can read Jon Lender’s full story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2225/article/p2p-81175756/

You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest ---- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

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Pelto Media Statement in Response to Governor Malloy’s Press Release:  GOV. MALLOY: MILLIONS IN ADDITIONAL FUNDING WILL ASSIST STRUGGLING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just issued a press release that began with the following:

HARTFORD, CT) — Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, today hat Alliance Districts are set to receive a total of $132,901,813 in additional funding for the 2014-15 academic year to help implement academic improvement plans.  To date, 28 of 30 Alliance District Year Three plan amendments have been approved, with the final approvals expected in the coming weeks.

In typical fashion, the Governor and Commissioner of Education have used their announcement as a way to further mislead Connecticut’s teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers.

Malloy claims that his “initiative” is providing Connecticut’s 30 most struggling school districts with another $132 million in state aid, but the truth is that this year’s increase is only about $45 million and that in order to get those funds, school districts were required to accept a series of new mandates and programs aimed at further implementing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda and diverting scarce public dollars to private companies.

For example, some of the new money is being used to pay for pet projects such as Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.”

As Connecticut has come to know, Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, Achievement First, Inc. has received more new funding than any other charter school operator in Connecticut.

While most school districts in Connecticut have effectively been flat funded, Achievement First, Inc. has benefited from a massive increase in per pupil funding, more charter school seats, and additional resources from various grants that were once reserved for Connecticut’s real public schools.

And if that windfall wasn’t enough, hidden inside this so-called “new” money for Connecticut’s poorer school districts is yet another special deal for Achievement First, Inc.

Note that in today’s press release, Malloy and Stefan Pryor brag about how 28 or the 30 “Alliance District Year Three Plans” have been approved.

What Malloy and Pryor don’t explain is that in order to get approved, towns were required to include certain education reform initiatives, including forcing Connecticut’s largest school districts to participate in Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.

As part of the program, Connecticut taxpayers will not only pay Achievement First, Inc., for their “services,” but Connecticut school teachers, paid for by Connecticut taxpayer funds, will be sent to teach in Achievement First schools.  This means that in addition to paying the charter school chain $11,500 per student, paying for all of their transportation costs and all of their special education costs, Achievement First, Inc. will be will be further subsidized thanks to having taxpayer-funded public school teachers working in their privately-run charter schools.

Achievement First, Inc. calls their “Residency Program” a “unique opportunity.”

There is no doubt about that, it is a unique opportunity for Achievement First to get more of our public funds.

When more and more questions are being raised about the lack of oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are diverting record amounts of public money to charter schools.

While Malloy claims he is investing another $132 million into Connecticut’s poorest schools, the truth is that Connecticut taxpayers are being forced to waste even more money on Malloy’s failed education reform policies.

All this while our public school students continue to be left without the support they need and deserve.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy promises to “stay the course” on education reform!

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It turns out that it took less than 24 hours for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to make it clear that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s departure IS NOT a sign that Connecticut’s anti-teacher, pro-corporate education reform Democratic governor is going to use a second term to do a better job representing the concerns of teachers, students, parents and public school advocates in Connecticut.

Although Malloy is the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in “turnaround” schools, the announcement that Stefan Pryor will be leaving his position at the end of this year was seen by some as a signal that Malloy was going to shift away from his corporate education reform industry and privatization policies and would use a second term to provide more support for Connecticut’s real public education system.

But at a stop yesterday at the Day newspaper of New London, Malloy made his real intentions clear,

“During a brief, surprise visit to The Day on Monday, part of a campaign push through the area, the governor assured us he will stay the course on education reform if re-elected.”

As proponents of public education know, significant changes are needed to close the achievement gap between students who live in rich and poor communities, but “staying the course” with the corporate education reform industry’s agenda is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

It would seem that when it comes to Malloy’s campaign for re-election, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

You can read the Day editorial at: http://www.theday.com/article/20140820/OP01/308209937

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Stefan Pryor Not Serving a 2nd Term as State Ed Chief

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From the Hartford Courant;

Stefan Pryor, the controversial state education commissioner, will leave his post and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities,” according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office.

Pryor informed the governor Monday that he will not serve a second term. “Having served for nearly three fulfilling years as commissioner, I have decided to conclude my tenure by the end of this administration’s current term and to pursue new professional opportunities,” Pryor said. “Because I believe it’s important to communicate my decision proactively to the governor and the public, I am doing so now.”

The following is a media statement released by Jonathan Pelto, Candidate for Governor, Education and Democracy Party.

Pryor’s departure is great news for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and taxpayers

”Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s decision to send Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor packing is long overdue, but it is still great news for Connecticut’s  public school students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

As a leading proponent of the corporate education reform industry, Stefan Pryor and his team of anti-teacher, pro-standardized testing, privatization zealots have done immeasurable harm to Connecticut’s public education system.

While Governor Malloy remains the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so called ‘turnaround schools,” one would hope that he is finally recognizing that his anti-teacher, pro-charter school, pro-Common Core agenda is bad news for Connecticut public schools or, at the very least, a political disaster for him has he aspires to a second term in office.

When it comes to actually supporting Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy’s true intentions remain unknown, but Pryor’s departure is a small step in the right direction.”

 

You can read more about this breaking story at:

http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/stefan-pryor-not-serving-a-2nd-term-as-state-ed-chief/

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/pryor_wont_stay_for_second_term/

http://ctmirror.org/stefan-pryor-to-leave-education-post-after-one-term/

http://blog.ctnews.com/dixon/2014/08/18/controversial-education-commissioner-stefan-pryor-is-on-the-way-out/

 

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

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