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.