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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,

C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,

1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,

BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartford, Steve Perry and his threat make the Washington Post

More crazy sh*t Capital Prep Steve Perry has said

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

Bridgeport public schools losing big money to charters by Maria Pereira

Maria Pereira is a former member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, a leading advocate for Bridgeport Public Schools and served as one of the key plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Governor Malloy’s takeover of the Bridgeport School System was illegal.

A year ago, almost to the day, a group of Bridgeport citizens, including Maria Pereira, attended the State Board of Education meeting to request Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees REJECT applications by two more charter school companies to open privately run, but publicly funded facilities in Bridgeport.  The Bridgeport Board of Education was so opposed to the charter school plans that it voted against the proposals and the Bridgeport Board of Education’s chairwoman was among those speaking against state approve for the charter school companies.  Among the issues discussed was the state law aimed at prohibiting the saturation of charter schools in a particular community.

But in another assault on the role of local control and historic value of local communities running their own school system, Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education approved both applications, including the controversial plan put forward by Steve Perry.

One year later, this commentary piece examines that charter school issues in more detail.  It first appeared in the CT Mirror at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/03/30/bridgeport-public-schools-losing-big-money-to-charters/

Bridgeport public schools losing big money to charters by Maria Pereira

As  a graduate of the Bridgeport Public Schools, a parent of a recent graduate of the school system, a former Bridgeport Board of Education member, and an active unpaid advocate for the public schools in my hometown, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the recent editorial “CEA rhetoric not helping kids, public schools are” by Jeremiah Grace.

He is the Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network which was co-founded by the disgraced Michael Sharpe from the now-defunct Family for Urban Schools of Excellence.

Full disclosure: I have never been a member of any union; and, I have never been compensated for my advocacy work on behalf of true public education.

Mr. Grace’s claim that the CEA’s “rhetoric” is “false, dishonest and insulting to parents” would be funny if it weren’t so incorrect. After all, isn’t it these millionaire-, billionaire-, Wall Street-backed charter school organizations that run ads depicting Connecticut school students as “trapped in failing schools” and advertise that “40,000 children are falling through the cracks?” [One of these ads appears at the bottom of this commentary — Ed.]

I think most of us would not only describe that as “rhetoric,” but also as deliberate “propaganda.”

Mr. Grace tries to discredit a recent CEA statewide poll because 78 percent of the participants were white; therefore, according to him, the poll was “marginalizing” the opinions of minorities.  The latest available U.S. census on Connecticut classifies 81.6 percent of our state population as “white alone.”

I would like Mr. Grace to share with us how many of the millionaires and billionaires that invest and/or founded the 22 Connecticut charter schools are “minorities?” One must ask who is really treating minorities like “puppets,” as Grace characterizes it.

I attended and provided testimony at the March 19 Education Committee hearing in Hartford. At 11:00 p.m., with testimony continuing late into the night, I took a moment to count how many charter school lobbyists, paid staff and charter school-compensated advocates were still in the room. Of the 27 I counted, I noted that just 4, or 15 percent, were minorities. Therefore 85 percent of those present were white.

In his willful distortion of the facts, Mr. Grace states that when a child leaves the public schools to enroll in a charter school, the district gets to keep that child’s state Education Cost Sharing allocation and “distribute most of that surplus among their other schools.”

A close examination of the findings of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Taskforce indicates that the Bridgeport Public Schools is the most underfunded district in Connecticut — to the tune of approximately $43 million each year. Even worse, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has found that the state underfunds the Bridgeport Public Schools by $5,446 per student or approximately $119 million each year.

Meanwhile, each year our state spends $11,000 per charter-school student and $8,600 per Bridgeport Public School student. What “surplus” is Mr. Grace possibly referring to? What credibility does he hope to establish with the people of Bridgeport and of our state? How uneducated does he think we are?

The chief financial officer for the Bridgeport Public Schools, a highly experienced and educated Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Barnard in mathematics and education, conducted an in-depth analysis of how much real money the charter schools in Bridgeport will siphon away from the Bridgeport Public Schools budget. In addition, she provided an in-depth analysis of the loss of federal Title I funding that follows children who enroll in a charter school located in Bridgeport.

In total, the CFO forecast that the charter schools operating in our city, including the sixth charter school planned to open this fall, all told will siphon away over $26 million dollars from our school system over the next five years —already the most underfunded school district in Connecticut.

Although Bridgeport is allowed to seek state reimbursement for all transportation costs associated with the charter schools in the city, in all the years it has applied for such, in fact, the Bridgeport Public Schools has never received a single dollar of reimbursement for this. Although $20 million dollars of this money will be counted in the Bridgeport Public School’s state Education Cost Sharing grant, not a dime will go to the academic or socio-emotional needs of a single Bridgeport Public Schools student.

Highly compensated charter school advocates such as Mr. Grace consistently perpetuate the “waiting list” myth. Last year 6,000 children applied to gain entry to our Bridgeport magnet schools. Only 1,200 gained admission through a blind, randomized lottery; 4,800 students were placed on a “waiting list.

In this accounting, each student is counted only once. In contrast, charter school proponents often double or triple count, claiming that there are 3,600 students on waiting lists in Connecticut. If a child applies to three different charter schools, the charter school lobbyists count one student three times for their waiting-list story. That leaves us with an important question for our legislators: If there are 3,600 or perhaps more likely 1,200 students in the entire state waiting to enter a charter school, why should that be more important than the fact that there are truly 4,800 individual students on one waiting list for a magnet school in Bridgeport? Shouldn’t the state focus its limited resources on magnet school options? After all, in Bridgeport, every single magnet school outperforms every charter school.

In closing, Mr. Grace claims that the CEA’s statements were “patently false” and that they were choosing to “ignore the facts.” In fact, as it pertains to Bridgeport and its public schools, the “patently false” statements were made entirely by Mr. Grace, not the CEA.

Hartford and CT Taxpayers still subsidizing Steve Perry’s private Charter School Company

Steve Perry, the man who claims to be America’s Most Trusted Educator, also says he owns a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.

Steve Perry has even created a website to show off his private company:

The website can be found via http://wearecapitalprep.org/

According to the website, Steve Perry’s “family of schools” includes Capital Preparatory Harbor School, Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, and Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

Of course, Capital Preparatory Magnet School is the ONLY one of the three schools that actually exists and it is technically and legally owned by the people of Hartford and not by Steve Perry or Steve Perry’s private company.

Perry’s website goes on to brag about another member of his family of schools – “Capital Prep Harbor School, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, provides grades 6–12 with a year-round, college-preparatory education that encourages students to become scholars and agents of change.”

Although to be honest, Capital Preparatory Harbor School doesn’t actually exist.

True Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved Perry’s application to open a charter school in Bridgeport, but there is presently no funding allocated for the privately owned but publicly funded school and there is certainly no “Capital Prep Harbor School, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut” that is providing children in grades 6–12 with a year-round, college-preparatory education.

It is worth noting though that while Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed cutting state funding for Connecticut’s public schools by more than $70 million, Malloy is has also asked the Connecticut General Assembly to approve a new state budget that would increase the amount of taxpayer funds diverted to charter schools by more than 25 percent over the next two years. Continue reading “Hartford and CT Taxpayers still subsidizing Steve Perry’s private Charter School Company”

Moales and Charter School Industry go down to crushing defeat in Bridgeport – Again

Despite the support of Governor Malloy’s political operatives, including Bridgeport Mayor Finch and the ConnCAN/Achievement First Inc. charter school industry, pro-charter school candidate Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. couldn’t even muster enough voters to impact yesterday’s Special Election for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate.

The infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. came in a distant 3rd place in yesterday’s Special Election collecting only 503 votes compared to the winner, Working Families Party candidate and former state senator Ed Gomes, who received 1,504.  The Democratic Party endorsed candidate Richard DeJesus, who Finch initially supported before turning to Moales, garnered 791 voters.

According to the Working Families Party, Ed Gomes becomes the first candidate in the country to win a legislative seat running only on the Working Families Party line.

Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiatives.

Moales was not only a leading champion of education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas but has been a major proponent of Steve Perry’s plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. sits on the Board of Directors for Perry’s charter school and was a lone voice on the Bridgeport Board of Education when the democratically-elected board asked the Malloy administration NOT TO approve Perry’s charter school application.

However, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education overlooked the position taken by the Bridgeport Board of Education and last spring and approved Perry’s plan to open a privately-owned but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Although Governor Malloy’s proposed state budget actually cuts funding for public schools in Connecticut, the governor’s plan adds funding for four new charter schools in the state, including Steve Perry’s charter and one in Bridgeport that will be owned by an out-of-state company.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. previously served as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer and his loss yesterday marks the fourth time in a row that Bridgeport voters rejected Finch and the charter school industry agenda.

Finch is up for re-election this fall and opposition to granting him another term is gaining steam.

The Biggest Winner in Malloy’s Budget – Charter Schools

Let’s hear it for turning over our scarce public funds to the Corporate Education Reform Industry!

While Governor Dannel Malloy proposes to cut funding for Connecticut’s public schools, he miraculously finds that extra money needed to open four new privately-owned, but taxpayer-funded, charter schools.

Steve Perry, the out-going principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford has undoubtedly popped the champagne cork and is drooling at the prospect of collecting more than $10 million in “management fees” over the next five years when his private company opens Capital Prep Harbor Charter School in Bridgeport.

And the out-of-state company that plans to replicate its Bronx based charter school in Stamford must be equally as happy.

True the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education had strongly opposed both charter schools and asked the Malloy administration NOT to approve them, but the “local control is crap” governor went ahead and funded the two charter schools anyway.

Malloy is so incredibly committed to the privatization of Connecticut’s public schools that he even added funding for two more charter schools despite the fact that there are no additional, approved charter school proposals even in the pipeline.

In total Malloy is proposing to add nearly 2,000 more seats for the charter school industry in Connecticut….more seats despite the fact that charter schools remain completely unaccountable for the way they use or misuse their public funds.

And as for Malloy’s budget speech covering up the biggest cuts to public education in history, Malloy said,

“We must maintain our commitment to funding public education. While other states may choose to balance their budgets on the backs of public schools, Connecticut will not,” Malloy told legislators during his budget address. “I will not sign a budget that is balanced on the backs of our towns or our public schools.”

George Orwell and Franz Kafka would be proud!

[Of course, since the Common Core frowns on so-called fiction, our children won’t even be learning about how books like 1984 and The Trial foretold the coming of the political environment that is sweeping across our nation.]

In the news again – Steve Perry’s point man in Bridgeport – The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is running for the Connecticut State Senate in a special election to be held on February 24 2015.  Moales is one of three candidates seeking to fill the open seat in Bridgeport.

Not only is Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. the notorious ally of Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, but Moales is the leading member of the “Governing Council” of Steve Perry’s proposed Harbor Prep Capital Charter School, the charter school that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and political appointees on the State Board of Education jammed through despite the fact that there is no funding in the state budget for Perry’s growing aspirations to  open a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.

Kenneth Moales Jr. was also a leading force on the illegal State Oversight Board that was appointed by the Malloy administration when the State of Connecticut illegally took over the Bridgeport School System.

Following the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to restore the rule of law and the notion of democracy by returning Bridgeport’s Schools to an elected Board, Moales got onto the new elected Board of Education thanks to the help of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.  [Moales had served as Finch’s campaign treasurer in his run for mayor].

As a member of the elected Board, including a stint has its chairman; Moales continued to serve as Education Reform Guru Paul Vallas’ biggest cheerleader.

Moales also used his time on the Board to garner a $1 million, no-competitive bid contact, to expand his family’s state-funded daycare centers – daycare centers that rent space from the very church that Moales owns and operates.

The list of three day care centers included one – the largest – that was housed in a building that never had a certificate of occupancy or even met fire code.

The very same church that owns Moales’ house, and at last check, his Cadillac Escalade and a couple of Mercedes Benz sedans…

The very same church that has been facing foreclosure proceedings for over a year…

And now it turns out that Moales hasn’t even being paying his property taxes to the City of Bridgeport going all the way back to 2007.

The latest chapter in this charade comes via a breaking story on the “Only in Bridgeport” Blog entitled, “Moales’ Day Care Facility Owes $10,000 in Back Taxes, Joins DeJesus For Arrearage Battle,”

As the Only in Bridgeport Blog reports,

The campaign of State Senate candidate Ken Moales says they welcome the support of political activists turned off by the $140,000 that Democratic-endorsed Richard DeJesus owes in personal property taxes on businesses, as well as his child support issues. Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare for which Moales serves as chief executive officer owes $10,000 in personal property taxes going back to 2007, according to city tax records.

[…]

Moales, a member of the school board, has been a lightning rod in city politics in recent years, particularly when he served as head of the Board of Education. He served as Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer for Finch’s first two runs for mayor. But then tax and foreclosure issues about Moales surfaced. He no longer serves as Finch’s campaign treasurer as the mayor seeks a third four-year term this year.

City tax records show past-due personal property taxes for Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare going back to 2007 and rising.

For more go to: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/moales-day-care-facility-owes-10000-in-back-taxes-joins-dejesus-for-arrearage-battle/#more-68595

For lots, lots more on Moales and his inappropriate, often illegal antics, just search his name here on the Wait, What? Blog.

New State Reading Test for Teachers vs. Steve Perry and the Testourkids.com Reading Centers

According to the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the way to improve educational outcomes in the United States is to dramatically increase the amount of testing for students and teachers.

As proof, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform legislation of 2012, Connecticut teacher in Grades K, 1, 2, and 3 will be required to take the Foundations of Reading Test this year and biennially going forward.  The new test is produced by the standardized testing conglomerate Pearson Education Incorporated.

Teachers who have already passed the Foundations of Reading test for certification eligibility are only exempt from completing the “survey” on reading instruction this year.  They will be required to take it next time.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, “The results of the survey shall identify strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction based on the reading objectives surveyed, and will provide disaggregate and aggregate data at the individual educator, school and district level. The results shall be used to develop student learning objectives (SLOs) and teacher practice goals and will inform professional learning…”

And Connecticut teachers – you need to note – that despite what teachers were told by their union, the Foundation of Reading Tests results WILL NOT BE confidential although they are exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

By comparison, one need only go to Steve Perry’s corporate website to see how the corporate education reformers deal with pesky things like determining the “strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction.”

Steve Perry, who now calls himself, “one of the greatest influential figures in education today,” is very busy these days.

Not only is Perry a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education where he holds the position of principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, but he is preparing to open two new charter schools (Bridgeport and Harlem) and is crisscrossing the nation on the “Steve Perry Education Truth Tour.”   Apparently Perry’s mantra on his Education Truth Tour is that, “Teaching is the Greatest Act of Defiance.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to http://www.drsteveperry.org/ you’ll discover an announcement that you have the opportunity to open up your own “Reading Center” via www.testourkids.com.  The announcement even states, “We Finance All Individuals & Organizations.”

And better yet, by heading over to www.TestOurKids.com will reveal the news that you don’t even need to be a teacher to own your own reading center.

Filled with pictures and videos of Steve Perry, the TestOurKids.com website, which is registered to Perry’s publicist, proclaims that the business is dedicated to opening reading centers across the nation!

In fact, for only $25 per month per child and a one-time startup fee of $99.99 you can open up a reading center and you don’t even need to be a teacher!

Not only does TestOurKids.com provide ONLINE READING LESSONS, but ”Hundreds Of Fun – interactive animated leveled books,” a “Diagnostic Online Reading – Assessment,” PLUS, “A Proven Content – a safe environment of your home or office, For Each Student – Comprehensive, supplemental reading instruction, Fun Digital Learning Environment – makes connections possible.”

You can even – Schedule An Online Assessment

If the incredible opportunity via their website isn’t enough to persuade you, check out their Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/TestOurKids1

Scroll down for posts like;

  • Let’s call our public schools what they really are – ‘government’ schools’ 
  • Who’s side are the teacher’s union on, anyway? 
  • Where is the outrage for our children? Black children are being robbed @TestOurKids wants to help; Open Your Own Reading Center —> 
  • Invite Dr. Steve Perry to your area CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Steve Perry can come to your location/church or school CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Enough is Enough; Teach Our Black Children how to Read! Visit testourkids.com 
  • Steve Perry in Buffalo NY talking about education reform for our children! 
  • And a special post at the same time, attacking Buffalo teachers, and observing, “Do people deserve a raise when they’re not doing the job right? Buffalo Kids reading proficiency only 13%… When will it be about the Kids First!” 
  • Education is a BIG WORD…Let’s start FIRST by teaching our kids how to read, getting their education will follow! @TestOurKidscom can help with this first step! 
  • When you have a system that doesn’t focus on learning how to read at an early age then our children will never get a full education! @TestOurKidscom reading centers can help

And while Steve Perry’s face is plastered across all the marketing materials, Perry’s publicist explains that he is actually the leading force behind the effort.

Yusuf Salaam explains that he is,

“Currently a successful and highly sought after publicist representing 5 of the top Educators in the country, I recently closed negotiation deals with my client Dr. Steve Perry and Bishop TD Jakes to promote furthering education in our minority areas. Have coordinated visits to the White House personally from First Lady Michelle Obama to have my client Dr. Marco Clark come celebrate his educational success and student achievement.”

Salaam adds that he,

“[M]anages brand awareness and promotion for an innovative online company TestOurKids.com, which operates as an online reading assessment software and reading lessons for children K-12th grade and assists organizations plus schools open and operate their own reading learning centers all over the US. After reaching a monumentally 300,000 evaluations reading assessments, we expanded our ambitions further and started assisting individuals also build their dreams in helping children in their communities. My management teams has opened facilities in 8 major cities and in conjunction with professionals has begun the process of teaching our children how to READ! “

And to fully appreciate the level of success these private reading centers are having, one need only look as far as Middletown Connecticut where both the Middletown Press and the Middletown Patch reported on testourkids.com early last summer.

For example, in an article entitled, Helping Middletown’s Littlest Readers Achieve, the Middletown Patch reported that, “The students’ reading scores have improved dramatically after participating in the six-month program.”

According to the Patch,

Last year, the Middlesex County Branch of the NAACP and the President Rosa Browne identified an epidemic within the town’s public school literacy scores.

More than half of the Hispanic and African American fourth-graders were reading below the goal level, and the scores only worsened as children got older. With cooperation from Superintendent Dr. Patricia Charles, a group of low performing children in grades Kindergarten through third were taken from MacDonough and Bielefield Middletown Public Schools and were provided an effective pilot program to help eradicate this problem.

[…]

Children were bused to Brain Wiz Reading Center, operated by Yusuf Salaam, a nationally recognized publicist to some of the top educators in the country, in order to increase their reading abilities at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The program is powered by TestOurKids.com, a computerized system that evaluates children’s reading skills, and it is utilized throughout the country, primarily for reading centers and schools that require the extra help

The children 5- to 8-years-old were tested prior to the start of the program and then retested on their last day and the results were overwhelming. All children who completed the course improved sufficiently, and some scored 2 to 3 grade levels higher in their overall reading. These gains were achieved in spite of extreme winter conditions and multiple holiday vacations from December to May. The program ran for an hour-and-a-half each day, Tuesday through Thursday.

 So teachers of Connecticut…

Rather than waste your time taking the Pearson Foundation of Learning Test this year, just follow Steve Perry’s website to the opportunity of opening your own reading center…. no certification or testing needed and apparently some local school districts will even bus their little ones to your location every day….

CT Teachers Union against charter schools, except when the vote counts

Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the stage to declare victory on Election Night 2014, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education met to unanimously endorse a proposal to open eight new charter schools in Connecticut.

A CT Mirror article at the time entitled “State education board wants to open eight new charter schools” reported that while the State of Connecticut faces a $1.4 billion projected budget deficit for next year, “The State Board of Education is asking the state for $11 million to fund eight new charter schools to open over the next two school years…The request, put forward by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and approved unanimously by the state board…”

The CT Mirror added that, “Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the 13-member state panel, said expanding school choice for students makes sense.”

The Hartford Courant covered the story as well noting;

Of the eight new charters proposed to open over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, two proposals were approved by the board at a lengthy meeting in April amid much testimony for and against new charter schools.

The charters already approved to open in 2015-16 include Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport. Those proposals, however, are contingent on the availability of funding.

After funding for Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school, along with money for seven others charter schools, won the full support of the State Board of Education, Melodie Peters, the President of the Connecticut Federation of Teachers, submitted a hard-hitting commentary piece to the CT Mirror entitled, “Plan for more charter schools flawed in many ways.”

Peters, one of Malloy’s biggest supporters began her article by saying, “The state education department commissioner’s proposal last week to hand over more public education resources to privately managed charter schools deserves an ‘F’ as both ‘incomplete’ and tone deaf.”

Peters added,

“Now is not the time to ask taxpayers for another $21 million on an experiment whose record of ensuring a quality education for all has yet to be demonstrated.

It has been just six months since the scandal involving the charter management outfit Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and the schools it operated in Hartford and Bridgeport made headlines. Recall that the extent of the alleged corruption and nepotism quickly led to a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of FUSE and its affiliated Jumoke schools that today is still ongoing.”

Having told members that Lt., Governor Nancy Wyman would be Malloy’s point person on education in Malloy’s second term, Peters added,

“In August, the Malloy-Wyman Administration rightly responded to the crisis by ordering a thorough review of the department of education’s policies governing charter management companies. The department quickly agreed to changes that echo what parents, educators, and advocates have been urging for years: charters should be held accountable to the same standard as traditional public schools.”

The AFT -CT President went on to blast Pryor’s decision to seek funding for eight more charter school saying, “The state should not green-light more charters or expand their reach without first verifying that education department oversight of charters has actually improved.

Of the various issues associated with President Peters’ “blistering attack” on the decision to approve Pryor’s proposal for eight more charter schools, perhaps the most interesting is that Peters completely and utterly failed to mention that the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden Federation of Teachers President Erin Benham, voted IN FAVOR of the resolution to fund eight new charter schools.

In a political move to reward the AFT-CT for ramming through an endorsement of Dan Malloy, without even granting the other candidates [like myself] the opportunity to fill out a candidate questionnaire, meet with the AFT-CT PAC or address the AFT-CT Board of Directors, Malloy announced on August 21, 2014 that he was taking the unprecedented step of appointing Meriden AFT President Erin Benham to a four year position on the State Board of Education.

As the time, Peters wrote,

“We applaud the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman for selecting Erin Benham to serve on the State Board of Education. They have appointed a committed classroom educator and trusted labor leader with a long, successful record of direct engagement in grassroots efforts to improve schools in Meriden and across Connecticut.

“The SBOE, as well as the state’s education department, will greatly benefit from Erin’s experience in Meriden Public Schools. There, she and her fellow educators have proven that collaboration — not confrontation — is the way to form a productive working partnership with their district’s administration.

“Erin will bring tremendous value to the board with real-world teacher-student, educator-parent and labor-management experience. I have seen firsthand Erin’s passion for her vocation, and I have no doubt she will make a significant contribution to the board’s mission.

“We expect Erin to ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and to play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools.

“We congratulate Erin on her appointment and look forward to her service on the SBOE throughout her four-year term.”

Two weeks later, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to Connecticut to endorse Governor Dannel Malloy for re-election, despite the fact that Malloy was, and is, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts in Connecticut, including some of the teachers who worked in Meriden.

And to drive home the special relationship between the AFT and Malloy – and Malloy and the AFT – AFT President Weingarten, AFT-CT President Peters and Malloy started their day with a tour and press conference at a Meriden public school, with none-other-than the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden AFT President Erin Benham.

Yet exactly sixty-one days later, Erin Benham, the teacher who Peters promised would, “ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and [who would] play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools,” joined Malloy’s other political appointees on the day after the election to vote in favor of diverting millions of dollars to even more privately run, publicly funded charter schools.

In her commentary piece a week after the vote, AFT-CT Peters wrote,

Another unanswered question is why we aren’t investing education resources in community schools that will educate all children, instead of cherry-picking students to boost standardized test scores. An investigation by Reuters in 2013 found charters across the country imposing “significant barriers” that result in “skimming the most motivated, disciplined students and leaving the hardest-to-reach behind….Wouldn’t we all be better served investing our tax dollars in traditional neighborhood schools that do not exclude our special education, ELLs, and children with behavioral disorders?”

And AFT President Peters concluded her commentary piece with the observation, “And until the department can demonstrate that it can, the State Board of Education should deny the outgoing commissioner’s request.”

Over the course of Malloy’s 2014 campaign for re-election, the American Federation for Teachers Federal Political Action Committee donated $10,000 to the Committee Democratic State Central Committee “Federal Account,” the fund that the Malloy campaign used to launder lobbyist, state contractor and political action committee funds into a program to assist the Malloy campaign.

In addition, the American Federation of Teachers Federal Political Action Committee threw in $600,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association’s $5.7 million Independent Expenditure campaign to support Malloy’s re-election.

But putting aside, for the moment, AFT President Melodie Peters’s anti-charter school editorial of November 17, 2014, when the real vote on the motion to adopt the Malloy administration’s proposal to fund eight more charter schools was taken, it passed the State Board of Education unanimously….with the support of AFT’s representative along with Chairman Allan Taylor, Vice Chair Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Charles Jaskiewicz, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, Maria Mojica and Joseph Vrabely.

That is a lot of teacher’s money for an investment that appears to be ending in disaster.

Some would even call the whole thing yet another Wait, What? moment.