Archives for category: Connecticut

Wendy Lecker warns the people of Connecticut that the New Haven public schools have made a deal with the Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which trains robot teachers who value compliance and arrive with scripted lessons. Why contract with Relay, she asks, when there are highly reputable teacher education programs in the neighborhood?

When you consider that Connecticut is one of the highest achieving states in the nation on NAEP, you have to wonder how the charter industry captured the state’s political leadership.

The billionaire boys club has opened a new branch in Connecticut, where they have a charter-loving governor, Dannell Malloy.

Connecticut experienced a gigantic charter scandal involving the governor’s favorite charter chain Jumoke Academy. It turned out that the leader of Jumoke had padded his resume and had hired people with criminal records, and engaged in other improprieties. But the governor learned nothing and continues to press for deregulated, unsupervised charter schools. (See here and here.) Jumoke had collected $53 million in public funds between 1998-2013, with no oversight. There was a glimmer of hope that this scandal would lead to legislative action to prevent future scandals.

The new billionaire-funded group is called “Connecticut Forward,” which should not be confused with the PAC of the same name that supported Malloy’s re-election bid. Among the billionaires contributing to this new organization are Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones, and Ray Dalio. Don’t be surprised to see members of the Sackler family joining the effort to expand charter schools; these are the Connecticut billionaires who love charter schools and made their fortune by selling Oxycontin, the deadly prescription drug that has addicted so many people.

The organization is nonprofit, but it will survey the record of legislators to see which ones support replacing public schools with privately operated charter schools.

Once their survey is complete, pro-charter legislators can expect contributions to come rolling in. The group, please remember, is nonprofit. That means it has an IRS status that does not permit it to engage in political action.

Families for Excellent Schools, which has wrangled Bridgeport administrators over education reform, is behind the election year initiative.

“That struggle has lots of allies and lots of adversaries, and it will continue until every kid in the state has access to the education that they deserve,” said Jeremiah Kittredge, the CEO and co-founder of Families for Excellent Schools. “I actually think the biggest adversary here is the struggle of time.”

Connecticut has 24 charter schools, with five in the state’s largest city, Bridgeport, enrolling 2,350 students. There are three charter schools in Stamford and one in Norwalk.

New York City, on the other hand, added about 180 charter schools during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. Bloomberg’s former press secretary, Stu Loeser, runs the public relations and media consulting firm hired by Families for Excellent Schools.

In Bridgeport, FES successfully fought a proposed moratorium on charter schools in 2015. Some skeptics still view the push for public charter schools as a step toward privatization by wealthy outsiders, however.

Imagine that! Skeptics think that the goal of the charter school movement is “privatization by wealthy outsiders.” Where did they get that idea?

For giants of the hedge fund industry such as Jones and Dalio, both Greenwich residents, charter schools have become a favorite cause. Each has contributed to Families for Excellent Schools, which reported $17.6 million in contributions and grants for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the IRS. Kittredge’s compensation was $222,297 for that time period, more than Connecticut’s state education commissioner and New York City’s schools chancellor.

A spokesman for Jones declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment were also left for Dalio, whose Westport hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the largest in the world. Bloomberg has not contributed directly to FES, but has been strongly linked to the charter school movement.

Investigative journalist David Sirota exposes Connecticut Governor Malloy’s protection of insurance giants. He signed a bill to shield them from Freedom of Information requests.

 

Is it because the giants of the industry are based in his state? Or was it their $360,000 contribution to the Democratic Governors’ Association, which Malloy chairs?

 

Sirota writes:

 

“Amid a burgeoning conflict-of-interest scandal over Connecticut’s national role regulating Cigna and Anthem’s proposed merger, International Business Times has just published a new report on Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy quietly signing insurance-industry-backed legislation exempting insurance industry information from his state’s open records law. Weeks after the Malloy-backed bill was introduced in the legislature, Anthem and Cigna pumped $360,000 into the Malloy-run Democratic Governors Association. The bill was later attached to unrelated legislation, passed in the middle of the night in the waning hours of Connecticut’s legislative session, and then signed by Malloy with no public statement.”

 

 

Tom Scarice is superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, and a well-informed critic of what is deceptively called “education reform” in that state. He also happens to be a member of the honor roll of this blog because of his thoughtful commentaries about what needs to be done to fix education in Connecticut.

In this post, he says that it is time for an education revolution in Connecticut.

He begins his post with a metaphor about music that long ago brought everyone to the dance floor, swinging and swaying, but that is now tired and irrelevant.

We are the state left on the dance floor with tired policies, while other states are running away. We are overdue for a bold statewide vision that matches the uncertain and ever-changing world our students will enter when they graduate. But who will lead?

Codified by state law, and enforced by a bureaucracy utterly consumed by compliance, tens of thousands of educators across the state are suffocating, desperate to be exhumed. Consequently, this suffocation is stifling the young, inquisitive minds of children from all backgrounds and colors.

Have we seen the types of educational changes we want for our kids in the past 10-15 years, particularly as the world endures revolutionary changes? If not, why continue the same ineffectual practices? Can Connecticut jump to the forefront and lead in innovation, or do we stand on the dance floor with the two embarrassing guys clapping and swaying?

As we careen through rapid global changes that have profound implications for the worlds of work, citizenship, and lifelong learning, it is safe to assume that the traditional promise of “go to school, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job” no longer applies. If you are clinging to that promise, you are probably still searching for your music at Tower Records.

The world continues to decentralize its economy, and the flow of information, at an unprecedented rate. The “sharing economy” rewards innovators and diversity of thought. Yet, Connecticut clings to a command-and-control educational approach destined to homogenize children.

Either directly through prescriptive laws, such as ones that mandate precisely how local boards of education must evaluate their employees, or indirectly through schemes and mechanisms that place high stakes on invalid and unreliable tests such as the SBAC, we rank and sort kids, schools, and teachers based on test scores. Our 8-year-old students take more state tests than what is required to pass the bar exam to become a lawyer. All the while we are missing the point.

We are educating our children for the wrong era.

What changes are needed?

Read on. Tom explains.

Students at the Amistad High School, the crown jewel of the no-excuses Achievement First charter chain, walked out to protest the lack of diversity among the school’s teachers and the arbitrary discipline.

“Administrators overseeing the Achievement First Amistad charter high school promised to “do better” Tuesday after hundreds of black and Latino students walked out in protest to air longstanding complaints about racial insensitivity.

“The students massed on the football field of the Dixwell Avenue charter school after arriving on buses, then marched on the street chanting “What do we want? Diversity! When do we want it? Now! Now!”

“Some 98 percent of the school’s 498 students are black or Latino, according to its website. Most of the teachers are white.

“The school emphasizes that it grooms students to be leaders — and the students took them up on that mission at Tuesday’s orderly protest.

“They charged that a racially insensitive climate had led most of the black teachers to leave and to indiscriminate discipline.

“The protests brought into the open complaints students and parents have had about the racial climate in the school.

“The school has young teachers that can’t handle the classroom,” said Kordell Green, one of the organizers.”

Jonathan Pelto writes about Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy’s promise to prevents “Wisconsin Moment” in his state. Since his election and re-election, Pelto says, Malloy has inflicted a “Wisconsin era” on Connecticut.

 

 

Pelto writes:

 

“Malloy is saying that the only budget that will get his signature is a full-fledged austerity budget; a spending plan that destroys vital state services and lays-off public employees while coddling the rich and shifting even more of Connecticut’s already unfair and inequitable tax burden onto the back of Connecticut’s Middle Class.

 

“In his latest diatribe, the ever smug, sanctimonious and thin-skinned bully of a governor has announced that he will veto any spending plan put forward by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority that reverses Malloy’s record-breaking, mean-spirited and draconian cuts to the critically important services that Connecticut residents need and deserve.

 

“Pontificating that Democratic lawmakers won’t consider “enough spending cuts,” Malloy has – yet again telegraphed that when it comes to the state’s revenue and expenditure plan it is his way or no way. It is a strategy that will require unprecedented state employee layoffs, will reduce the availability of critically important services for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, will mean less funding for Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, and will lead to higher local property taxes for Connecticut’s middle income families.”

 

 

 

Governor Dannel Malloy has grown a big budget deficit and has decided that schools should help to reduce the deficit. He has proposed to cut school funding across the state, except for the 30 poorest districts and to eliminate state aid entirely in 28 affluent districts.

 

His proposal has set off a firestorm of opposition.

 

“To take a district like mine … and completely eliminate the funding is entirely irresponsible,” Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice said. The district stands to lose $1.57 million.

 

Taken together with the state’s “countless unfunded mandates” for districts, Scarice said, Malloy’s proposal is “nothing less than unspeakable.”

 

The slashing of education funding was part of a revised budget proposal from Malloy in an effort to close a $922 million deficit projected for the next fiscal year.

 

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, said Malloy’s plan for education funding is “not bold or smart” and is a proposal “that no one would ever vote for….”

 

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said Malloy’s proposal has been met with “complete outrage and disbelief” from the towns she represents in Fairfield County. Malloy is proposing elimination of funding for many of the towns in Fairfield and Litchfield counties, as well as in several districts along the eastern shoreline.

 

“This is really a slap in the face of our communities,” Boucher said. “They are penalizing towns that have worked hard to be fiscally responsible, while the state continues to be fiscally irresponsible.”

 

She said she’s hearing an outcry for the elimination of unfunded mandates if the education funding is pulled.

 

Many school leaders say that Malloy has not only upended their budgets, but has left their planning for next year in disarray since they don’t know how much their budgets will be cut or whether Malloy’s proposal will be rejected.

 

 


This is really annoying. I stayed up late last night to write this post. And it disappeared!

 

Jonathan Pelto reported that Adam Goldfarb, former chief of staff to Connecticut’s commissioner of education Stefan Pryor, is going to work for Democrats for Education Reform, the hedge fund managers group that promotes charters.

 

Pryor now works in Rhode Island doing economic development for Governor  Gina Raimondo. Her husband roomed with Cory Booker.

 

What is the link that connects Pryor, Goldfarb, Raimondo, Booker? YALE.

 

Not any experience teaching. YALE.

 

Politico reports today that most teachers of the year agree test-based evaluations are the most demoralizing federal policy for teachers. Yet ConnCAN, the corporate reform group, is urging Connecticut legislators to stick with this failed program.

Shame on ConnCAN! Count on them to advocate for policies opposed by teachers and parents. Whom do they represent? Their biggest funder is the Sackler family, which became billionaires selling the highly addictive OxyContin.

And by the way, now that 50CAN has merged with StudentsFirst, it is time to recall that in the psychiatric literature, CAN refers to “child abuse and neglect.”

Politico writes:

“- Speaking of tests, 69 percent of State Teachers of the Year and finalists for State Teacher of the Year say that federal policy that has most damaged the professionalization of the teaching profession has required the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. That’s according to new survey results released by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year: http://bit.ly/1UUGT8s.

“- In Connecticut, the state board will decide whether to adopt a state panel’s recommendation to delay linking student growth to teacher evaluations for the upcoming 2016-17 school year. Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the advocacy group ConnCAN, will testify in opposition to the measure, calling it “folding to political pressure and maintaining the status quo.” Meanwhile, the Connecticut General Assembly’s education committee has approved a bill that would ban the use of student growth in teacher evaluations.”

This should be an April Fools’ Day joke, but it is not.

 

Rapper Sean (Puff Daddy) Combs is sponsoring a charter school in Harlem that will be run by the notorious Dr. Steve Perry of Hartford, Connecticut.

 

Perry bills himself as “America’s Most Trusted Educator.” His magnet school in Hartford was known for its harsh discipline. Perry became known for his contempt for teachers and unions. He once publicly referred to union teachers as “roaches.”

 

Perry has an intense lecturing schedule, including a few dates next fall after his charter school opens.

 

As Jonathan Pelto writes, Perry had quite a reputation in Hartford and beyond:

 

“Perry gained national notoriety for his school’s harsh disciplinary policies that included the use of the “Table of Shame” to punish children who received demerits and for his ugly public comments about unions, teachers and anyone who opposed his empire building efforts.

 

 

“As a 2013 Wait, What? post entitled, Hey Steve Perry – Tell us about Capital Prep’s “Table of Shame,” explained:

 

“Located in the cafeteria of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School at 1304 Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut is the “Table of Shame.”

 

“As part of Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry’s “zero-tolerance” policies even the slightest “violations,” such as wearing the wrong colored belt, will result in punishments designed to humiliate and demean students.

 

“For example, it is not uncommon for Capital Prep students to be forced to stand in the cafeteria to eat as punishment for violating the school uniform policy or some equally unimportant “violation.”

 

“And now, more than a half a dozen former and present parents, students and teachers report that Perry and his fellow Capital Prep administrators regularly require children, even the youngest students in the building, to sit at the cafeteria’s “Table of Shame.”

 

And yes… it is actually referred to as the “Table of Shame.”

 

Along with the charges of abusive disciplinary practices and questionable financial activities – According to federal and state documents, Steve Perry registered his private charter school management company at the address of the Hartford public school at which he worked – Perry’s unwillingness to provide federally required educational services to children with special needs led to a sweeping investigation and follow-up action.

 

As a Hartford school administrator, Perry was also unwilling or unable to recruit and retain students who were English Language Learners despite more than 50 percent of Hartford’s students being Latino.

 

Where Perry goes, controversy follows.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 175,391 other followers