Wendy Lecker shows in this important article how corporate reformers impose “disruptive innovation” on struggling schools and communities. They close schools, take over schools, and fire staff instead of making needed improvements.

The reformers are following the advice of a writer who argues that disruptive innovation works in the business world. But, she says, it doesn’t work in the business world or in education. The goals of education are not the same as the goals of business.

“Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter school promoters. The result is his embrace of “disruptive innovation” in education.

“Disruption is bad for schools and for children — especially for vulnerable children, who experience daily turbulence in their lives outside school. Teacher and administrator turnover hurts student achievement, as does student mobility. The turnaround strategy has proven unsuccessful.

“Recent shocking developments involving Jumoke/FUSE charter school illustrate the harm caused by Malloy’s “disruptive innovation.”

“Hartford’s Milner elementary school was the first target of charter chain founder and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s commissioner’s network. The commissioner’s network to “turnaround” struggling schools was a key feature of Malloy’s 2012 education reform legislation.

“Milner suffered from a chronic shortage in staff serving its large population of English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Its building required major repairs. The school also already underwent an unsuccessful redesign in 2008. Rather than provide Milner with necessary additional resources, Pryor announced a takeover of the school by Jumoke — a charter school in Hartford with no ELL students and few students with disabilities.

“Only after the takeover did Milner receive additional funding, including an annual $345,000 management fee to Jumoke. Curiously, after the takeover, roughly 20 percent of the students disappeared from the school.

“Michael Sharpe promised that his “Jumoke model” would help Milner. However, after two years under Jumoke management, Milner’s scores have dropped precipitously and are now “rock bottom.” Hartford accuses Jumoke of nepotism, and of hiring an ex-convict. Sharpe admitted that there was no plan for Milner — they were “winging it.”

“As part of the commissioner’s network, Milner/Jumoke was supposed to be subject to heightened accountability by Pryor. Yet, despite this ongoing failure, since 2012, Pryor and the State Board of Education awarded Jumoke another commissioner’s network school, Bridgeport’s Dunbar elementary, and another charter school in New Haven.

“This week, it was revealed that Sharpe falsified his academic credentials. Even worse, he spent several years in federal prison for embezzling public funds and conspiracy to commit fraud, and has two forgery convictions….It is unconscionable that neither Pryor nor Malloy bothered to discover Sharpe’s lies or his felony convictions.

“The damage done to Milner’s children cannot be undone. They have lost years of learning. They are forced to build new relationships with staff that has been replaced twice in six years. Instead of necessary resources, the state has given these families only empty promises.

“Unlike business disruptors, Malloy’s failed education ventures will not disappear. His callous “disruptive” education policies cause lasting damage to Connecticut’s children and their communities.”