Archives for category: Connecticut

Jon Pelto is shocked that Democratic legislators in Connecticut are afraid to confront Governor Dannel Malloy. The governor vetoed a bill that would establish qualifications for the State Commissioner of Education.

Despite their overwhelming–almost total–support for the legislation, the legislature refuses to override the Governor’s veto. This leaves the Governor free to hire another inept and politically motivated superintendent who is in the pocket of the super-rich charter industry.

Pelto writes:

“In preparation for the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 constitutionally required veto session, Democratic legislative leaders announced yesterday that no votes would be taken on whether to sustain or override the nine bills vetoed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy during this year’s legislative session.

“The most noteworthy of the bills that the Democrats are unwilling to bring up for a vote is PA 15-176, which was House Bill 6977, AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

“The legislation requires that any person serving as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have an appropriate education degree and teaching experience.

“The legislation arose in response to Governor Malloy’s decision to name Stefan Pryor, a charter school founder and corporate education reform industry advocate, to be his first commissioner of education, despite the fact that Pryor had no educational experience.

“Stefan Pryor’s performance as Malloy’s Education Commissioner led both Democrats and Republicans to call for legislation requiring future leaders of the state department of education to have the requisite education experience.

“The General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill #6977 and went on to pass the legislation by a vote of 32 – 0.

“At no time did Malloy or his administration testify against the bill or publicly announce any opposition to the concept.

“The bill went to pass the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138-5.

“In the end, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill.

“With its passage, HB6977 become Connecticut Public Act 15-176.

“But despite the overwhelming level of support displayed for the bill by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy vetoed the legislation.”

Jonathan Pelto writes that Connecticut has acquired yet another corporate reform group, disguised an nonpartisan and independent.

 

Pelto writes:

 

Like some type of gigantic octopus the pro-charter school, pro-common core, pro-SBAC Testing scheme and anti-teacher corporate education reform industry has set up multiple front groups, while dumping more than $7.9 million dollars into their lobbying effort on behalf of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives.

 

By now you’d think these hedge-fund managers and corporate executives would have created enough different groups in their effort to create the impression that they are more than they seem.

 

But that’s just not the way it works…

 

Connecticut’s education policy arena is being honored with the presence of yet another “reform” front group.

 

And as with their earlier pronouncements, the charter school and education reform industry is claiming that their latest front group is an “independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests.”

 

The newest corporate funded education reform group to invade Connecticut’s education policy debate is called the Connecticut School Finance Project and according to its PR:

 

“Founded in 2015, the nonprofit Connecticut School Finance Project strives to be a trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests.”

 

Independent?

 

Transcends special interests?

 

File under this one under – There is truly no lie that is too big for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform associates.

 

What makes Pelto so sure that this is just another corporate reform front group?

 

Well, it may be because the Chief Operating Officer of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, one of the state’s leading advocates for Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school agenda, is the new Director and Founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project.

 

Don’t be fooled, Pelto warns. The corporate reform industry has a galaxy of organizations with misleading names, but no popular support for their agenda.

Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed legislation requiring the state education commissioner to have educational experience and qualifications.

 

He said it encroached on the governor’s authority to name anyone he wanted, regardless of qualifications.

 

Mayor Bloomberg took that path when he appointed publisher Cathie Black as schools chancellor. She lasted three months.

 

Will Governor Malloy be comfortable if the pilot of his next flight has no experience? Will he go to a hospital where his surgeons are fresh from college with no training or experience?

Jonathan Pelto writes about this curious conundrum: Connecticut’s charter schools want more public money, but they object to public accountability. Their motto seems to be: give us money and get out of our way. In other states, like Néw York, charter operators have gone to court to block public audits of public funds (“trust us”).

In Connecticut, as Sarah Darer Littman wrote in a column Pelto quotes, charters testify before the Legislature that they should be excused from complying with Freedom of Information requests because it is burdensome. And their spokesman testified that they should not have to complete background tests on employees. They are in a hurry and can’t be expected to wait to find out if their new hires have criminal backgrounds.

Charter schools are special. Rules and regulations and state laws are for public schools, not for charter schools.

Didn’t Leona Helmsley, the billionaire queen of mean, sat that taxes are for the “little people?”

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker writes here about the disastrous education policies of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Although he is a Democrat, he gives first allegiance to the charter school industry, whose patrons are the powerful hedge fund managers in the state’s tony suburbs.

 

She writes that Malloy “slashed funding for social programs, gave no increase for public K-12 education, despite a pending lawsuit alleging that the state owes almost 2 billion dollars to its public schools, and threatened to veto the state budget unless the legislature agreed to fund two charter schools in communities that vehemently opposed them….”

 

Governor Malloy’s tenure has been characterized by denigrating teachers, vigorously opposing adequate funding of public schools and vastly increasing financial support for privately run charter schools which fail to serve the state’s neediest children, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, have disturbingly harsh disciplinary policies, increase racial isolation, drain public money from needy public schools and have even been implicated in fraud and theft.

 

Why would Malloy favor these questionable privately run schools over underfunded public schools? One answer lies in an article reported on by the Hartford Courant, piggy-backing off the years of reporting blogger Jonathan Pelto has done on this issue.

 

The Courant reported that this year, unprecedented amounts of money were spent to push the charter agenda by ConnCAN, the charter lobby; Northeast Charter Network, another charter lobby founded by disgraced Jumoke leader Michael Sharpe and others; and a newer group operating in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts: Families for Excellent Schools (FES).

 

The Courant further noted that the same millionaires and billionaires who copiously donated to Malloy’s campaigns are also major donors to charters and charter lobbyists. This list includes Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler, the founder of ConnCAN and original board member of the Achievement First charter chain; Greenwich hedge funder Steve Mandel, who funded the players behind the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education; embattled SAC Capital chief Steven Cohen and his wife; ConnCAN board members Arthur Reimers and Andrew Boas; Andrew Stone, a board member at Success Academy charter chain, a close ally of FES; and ConnCAN donor Marianna McCall. FES even hired two public relations firms that employ Malloy’s recently departed top aides: Roy Occhiogrosso and Andrew Doba.

 

The web of charter money is so thick it must have blinded Malloy to the needs and wishes of constituents from Stamford and Bridgeport.

 

There is much more. Read the full article to view the copious links. And to think that Malloy was supported by the state’s teachers when he ran for re-election!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Cotto, Jr., is an elected member of the Hartford, Connecticut, Board of Education. In this article, he describes the outlandish fees paid to charter management organizations.

“Roughly 10 percent of a charter school’s budget can go toward management fees. For example, the New Haven-based CMO called Achievement First charged Achievement First-Hartford Charter School a $1.14 million management fee in 2013-14. The state provided Achievement First-Hartford charter schools more than $11 million to operate. So about 10 percent of that state funding went to Achievement First the CMO, not the charter school in Hartford, which ended the year with a surplus…..

Multiply this fee by the four Achievement First charter schools in Connecticut, and Achievement First Inc., the CMO, walks away with about $4.45 million in fees.

Not all charter schools are managed by CMOs or pay these management fees. In 2012-13, most charter schools in Connecticut did not pay a “charter management fee.”

If CMOs won’t show us the money, then maybe we don’t need CMOs or their fees. Charter schools can manage without them.

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannel Malloy has let the legislature know that he will not accept a new state budget unless it includes money for two new charter schools. At the same time, many public schools will be flat funded or see budget cuts. According to a story in the Connecticut Mirror, Democratic legislators are balking at the governor’s plan to cut millions from some of the state’s neediest districts while setting aside $15.9 million to expand charter school enrollment by fewer than 1,500 students.

Pelto writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor Malloy has quickly forgotten or put behind him the scandals surrounding Jumoke Academy, once his favorite charter chain in the state. His ties to the hedge fund managers of Greenwich, New Canaan, and Darien outweigh the facts on the ground.

Jon Pelto reports that the Connecticut Education Association voted to endorse parents’ right to opt out of state testing.

Pelto writes:

“As reported by the CEA Blog,

“Teacher leaders from across the state took decisive action today to strengthen the organization’s position on the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests and re-elect CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake overwhelmingly.

The motion on opting out was unanimously adopted by teachers who were delegates to the CEA Representative Assembly (CEA RA), the highest policymaking body of the Association.

[…]

CEA has long supported the right of parents to make critical decisions about their children’s education. Today’s vote goes a step further by putting the full weight the CEA RA behind that position and providing great detail about teachers’ objectives in ensuring less testing and more learning in Connecticut public schools.

[…]

“Essential components of the motion include:

“Call on state policymakers and local school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to discuss standardized tests with parents and inform them of their ability to exclude children from state and/or district standardized tests.

“Call on state lawmakers and school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to provide parents with their opinions on whether students would benefit from exclusion from a state/and or district standardized test and that no adverse action or discipline would be taken against employees who engage in such discussion.

“Provide that a school and its employees would not be negatively impacted due to a student not taking a state and/or district-level standardized test, such as by ensuring that students who are opted out of standardized tests by a parent or guardian are excluded from performance calculations for state and local accountability measures and from employee evaluations.

“Reexamine public school accountability systems throughout the state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment that do not require extensive standardized testing, that more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.”

Jonathan Pelto reacts with dismay to the new state superintendent in Connecticut. Diana R. Wentzell has been interim commissioner since Stefan Pryor departed after a series of charter school scandals.

Wentzell has been a major booster of Common Core and the SBAC tests. If Connecticut follows the pattern of other states, parents will be shocked when they learn their child has failed the test. Connecticut regularly scores second or third in the nation on NAEP.

You may recall a post about a disillusioned reformer, Jorge Cabrera, in Bridgeport, Connecticut,who quit “the movement.”

EduShyster located him and interviewed him about his life in the movement and his reasons for leaving.

Here is her last question and his answer:

“EduShyster: Last question. Do you think it may be necessary to burn the education reform movement in order to save it?

“Cabrera: At this point I would say yes. It makes me a little sad to say that because I definitely know people in the movement who have good motives. I think the education reform movement needs to be challenged, first of all, about the definition of reform. Right now all it seems to mean is charter schools. And that’s not the solution.”

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