Archives for category: Connecticut

Sandy Hook parents won a defamation lawsuit against rightwing media figure Alex Jones. Their children were murdered on December 14, 2012, in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A total of 20 children between the ages of six and seven were killed, along with six staff members, including the principal.

For years, Alex Jones has asserted that the massacre was staged and that the film footage showed child actors. His repeated slanders were deeply hurtful to the families who lost children and adult relations.

The parents of two first-graders slain in the Sandy Hook massacre have won a defamation lawsuit in Texas against conspiracy extremist and Infowars host Alex Jones.

Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, and Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Pozner, will have their cases heard by a jury to determine damages…

The parents, who each sued Jones for more than $1 million for claiming, among other things, that the 2012 slaying of 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School was “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax” and “completely fake with actors,” had been battling with Jones in Travis County District Court for pretrial documents he had been ordered to turn over to them.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.

Not many people outside Connecticut are familiar with President-Elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education. He went to public schools. He has worked in public schools his entire career. His children go to public schools in Meriden, where he lives. He is not aligned with DFER or Chiefs for Change or any billionaire-funded “reform” group.

Politico points out two stances that Dr. Cardona has taken that will concern many parents and teachers. In his own state, he has pushed to resume annual testing this spring, despite the pandemic. Also, he has prioritized reopening schools, which will please some but anger others.

For those of us who question the value of annual testing, a policy not found in any high-performing nation, the resumption of high-stakes testing will be a mistake when so many children have had unequal opportunity to learn. DeVos offered blanket waivers in the spring of 2020 but said she would not do it again in 2021. Students and teachers should not be required to take tests that are sure to demonstrate what we already know: Students in affluent districts will get higher test scores than students who are in impoverished districts. The gaps between them will be larger do to unequal access to education during the pandemic. There! I just told you what we will learn if we give tens or hundreds of millions to the testing industry in March.

Decisions about reopening schools should be made by local officials, not the federal Department of Education. Such decisions should take into account the availability of resources and the local conditions. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Conditions vary, and so should responses.

President-Elect Joe Biden selected Dr. Miguel Cardona, Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, to be his administration’s Secretary of Education.

The Washington Post wrote about him:

President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate the commissioner of public schools in Connecticut as his education secretary, settling on a low-profile candidate who has pushed to reopen schools and is not aligned with either side in education policy battles of recent years, two people familiar with the matter said Monday.

Miguel Cardona was named Connecticut’s top schools official last year and if confirmed will have achieved a meteoric rise, moving from an assistant superintendent in Meriden, Conn., a district with 9,000 students, to secretary of education in less than two years.

He was born in Meriden to Puerto Rican parents who lived in public housing. He began his career as a fourth-grade teacher and rocketed up the ranks, becoming the state’s youngest principal at age 28. He was named the state’s principal of the year in 2012...

A finalist for the job was Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the Howard University School of Education and a fierce critic of education policies such as test-based accountability for schools and teachers who have been popular with centrists in both political parties.

Cardona represented a safer selection. He does not appear to have been a combatant in those education wars, though he did challenge teachers unions as he worked to reopen schools this fall.

Democrats who support accountability-type education changes, concerned that Fenwick would get the job, lobbied for Cardona, and although he is not a leader from their faction, his selection marks a win for them. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also endorsed him in recent days.

So this much is clear. Biden rejected the progressive candidate, Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick. However, Dr. Cardona is not a Broadie, not a DFER favorite, not a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change.” All of this is good news. We know that these fake “reformers” lobbied hard for one of their own. They lost. That’s good news too.

Dr. Cardona has not taken a position on the major issues that define the major education policy battles of the past two decades. He has been critical of excessive testing, but does not oppose the use of standardized testing on principle. He has been critical of test-based evaluation of teachers (a major element of Race to the Top), because he knows that it doesn’t work. He is neither for nor against charter schools, even though Connecticut experienced some of the worst charter scandals in the nation (think the Jumoke charter chain), is the home base of the Sackler-funded ConnCAN (which morphed into 50CAN, to spread the privatization movement nationally), and is the home base of Achievement First, one of the premier no-excuses charter chain, known in the past for harsh discipline (three in the AF chain are currently on probation, despite their high test scores). The fact that three of the politically powerful AF no-excuses charters are on probation is a hopeful sign that he intends to hold charters to the same standards as public schools.

Having read his Twitter feed (@teachcardona), I get the impression that he is a very decent and concerned administrator who cheers on students and teachers. He has not weighed in on political issues that roil the education policy world.

I am still hoping for a Secretary who recognizes that the past twenty years have been a nightmare for American public schools, their students, and their teachers. I am still hoping for someone who will publicly admit that federal education policy has been a disaster since No Child Left Behind and its kissing-cousin Race to the Top, modified slightly by the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” Maybe Dr. Cardona will be that person. We will see.

I believe that the federal government has exceeded its competence for twenty years and has dramatically overreached by trying to tell schools how to reform themselves when there is hardly a soul in Washington, D.C., who knows how to reform schools. Our nearly 100,000 public schools are still choking on the toxic fumes of No Child Left Behind, a law that was built on the hoax of the Texas “miracle.” We now know that there was no Texas miracle, but federal and state policymakers still proceed mindlessly on the same simple-minded track that was set into law in 2001.

Perhaps Dr. Cardona will introduce a note of humility into federal policy. If so, he will have to push hard to lift the heavy hand of the federal government. Twenty years of Bush-Obama-Trump policies have squeezed the joy out of education. Many schools have concentrated on testing and test-prepping while eliminating recess and extinguishing the arts. As an experienced educator, Dr. Cardona knows this. He will be in a position to set a new course.

If he does, he will push back against the mandated annual testing regime that is not known in any nation with high-performing schools.

If he intends to set a new course, he will grant waivers to every state to suspend the federal tests in 2021.

If he intends to set a new course, he will ask Congress to defund the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program, which is not needed and has proved effective only in spreading corporate charter chains where they are not wanted. Two NPE studies (here and here), based on federal data, showed that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the federal CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. More than $1 billion in federal funds was wasted on failed charters. Let the billionaires pay for them, not taxpayers, whose first obligation is to provide adequate funding for public schools.

Further, if he wants genuine reform, he will begin the process of writing a new federal law to replace the Every Student Succeeds Act and dramatically reduce the burdens imposed by clueless politicians on our nation’s schools.

Dr. Cardona is known for his efforts to reopen the schools during the pandemic. He knows that this can’t happen without the resources to reopen safely. The pandemic is surging again. It is not over. He knows this, and he will have to move with caution not to put the lives of staff or students at risk.

I will not judge him until I see how he handles not only the present dire moment, but the legacy of twenty years of failed federal policy. I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Hope springs eternal. We can’t live without it.

This story in the Middletown (Connecticut) Press shows that charters in the state debated whether it was ethical to take federal money intended to help small businesses and nonprofits that might go bankrupt. Some took the money, others decided against it. The Connecticut Charter Schools Association encouraged the state’s charter schools to go for the money. Among those that did were members of large charter chains supported by billionaires.

Note the comments of Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Education Committee (and a DFER favorite), who sees no dilemma, and of Connecticut’s Rep. Jahana Hayes, who acknowledges the ethical problem.

Journalist Emilie Munson writes:

As the coronavirus reshapes education, over half of Connecticut’s 22 charter schools received Paycheck Protection Program loans this spring and summer, collecting a total of at least $12.5 million to $16.5 million in federal support unavailable to traditional public schools, a review of Small Business Administration data and school board minutes shows.

The popular forgivable loans proved a source of division among charter school administrators, some of whom thought it was improper for the schools to apply for the money, while others said it was irresponsible not to….

Bruce Ravage, founder and executive director of Park City Prep in Bridgeport, applied for a PPP loan in July, after learning more about the program and realizing he would be “crazy” not to, he said. The school recently was approved for a loan of $441,000, he said.

“We’re a business that serves a very, very needy population of students and I want to be sure that I have the resources available to provide whatever it is going to take,” Ravage said. “There are corporations that have a lot more money than us that applied for this.”

Tim Dutton, director of Operations at the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, said his school chose not to apply for a loan because it did not lose revenue or lay off employees during the pandemic, and they knew they would receive federal emergency funding.

“The decision on the Paycheck Protection Program was really just the ethical one. I didn’t think it was about bailing out schools,” Dutton said. “PPP would not be appropriate as it would look like ‘double dipping.’”

On May 13, the school board of Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport voted against applying for a PPP loan, believing the school was likely ineligible because it was still receiving a steady stream of state and federal funding, school board minutes show. Just over a month later, the school was approved for a PPP loan of $350,000 to $1 million, SBA data shows…

When asked about PPP loans for charter schools, House Education and Labor chairman Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said his priority is simply securing funding for public schools, adding he does not want to “draw red lines all over the place.”
A member of the committee and former 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5, said however she wants to “push for effective guardrails that prevent charter school waste, fraud and mismanagement.”
“Far too often, malicious actors in the charter school industry siphon much needed funds away from public education and from students in need,” Hayes said in a statement. “Public charter schools accessing both pots of relief funds amounts to double dipping and feeds into the skepticism and criticism that so many have surrounding charter schools. Applying for funds both as a school and a nonprofit drains resources from the public schools and communities that need it most, undermines student’s ability to learn, and threatens the very promise of equal education.”

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes often for the Stamford (Ct.) Advicate. she writes here about the disgraceful double dipping of charter schools in Connecticut, taking funds designated for public schools, then seeking and getting federal funds intended for small businesses.

Are charter schools to be defined as public schools or private businesses? When it’s time to get public money, they insist they are public schools, even though they are controlled by private boards. But when the money is for private businesses only, they line up to get the money. They are shape-shifters.

Lecker writes that the charters got their share of money intended for public schools:

With the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Congress provided federal aid to public schools, and specifically directed that charter schools receive aid as public schools. Connecticut public school districts and charter schools are receive comparable aid under the CARES Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (“ESSERF”). For example, New Haven will receive about $8 million, so a little more than $400 per student, and Amistad and Elm City charters, part of the Achievement First chain, will get similar per-pupil amounts. Bridgeport will receive about $9 million, or about $450 per student and Achievement First Bridgeport will be allocated a similar per-pupil amount. Hartford will get a little more than $10 million, or about $547 per student, and Achievement First Hartford will receive about the same per pupil. The per pupil amounts in Stamford’s public schools and charter school are similar as well. Stamford will receive $2.74 million for its approximately 16,600 students and Stamford Charter School for Excellence will receive a little more than $100 per pupil for its approximately 395 students — about the same as Stamford’s per-pupil allocation.

But that was not enough for the charters. They went for the federal Paycheck Protection Program to claim more money.

Lecker writes:

These charter schools, however, decided that when it comes to going after more federal dollars, it pays to be private entities as well. So each of these charters applied for and received significant forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans offered to small businesses in dire need as a result of the crisis.

Amistad Academy was approved for a loan of $2.7 million. So Amistad, a charter with a little more than 1,000 students, will receive a forgivable loan for more than the entire ESSERF allocation for Stamford Public Schools’ more than 16,000 students. Elm City’s loan is for $1.24 million; Achievement First Bridgeport’s loan totals $1.4 million, Achievement First Hartford’s loan is for $2.36 million and Stamford Charter School for Excellence’s loan is for $520,648. All these loans are forgivable, thus unlikely to be repaid.

In total, these loans total more than $8.2 million, covering 4,544 students. To compare, New Haven’s $8.5 million in ESSERF aid has to spread over 20,6675 students.

Public schools are in dire financial straits. Charters are not.

Lecker writes:

Are these charter schools really private small businesses in dire need? Last year, claiming charter schools were public schools, Dacia Toll, CEO of the Achievement First charter chain, complained that her schools were “starving” without more state funding. Looking at the most recent publicly available federal tax documents, Amistad has more than $30 million in net assets and reserves. Elm City, another Achievement First school, has more than $34 million in net assets and reserves, Achievement First Bridgeport has more than $6 million and Achievement First Hartford has almost $2 million. Stamford Charter School for Excellence has more than $2 million in net assets and reserves.

Meanwhile, public school districts across the state are facing massive funding cuts — some predicting cuts as high as 30 percent of their budgets. They also face steep increases in costs associated with reopening — from ensuring a clean and safe environment, to addressing the increased academic, social and health needs of their students. And now, with Gov. Ned. Lamont’s order that public schools reopen fully, in person, in the fall — without any promises to increase state aid — public school districts are in an even more precarious financial position. Public school districts are funded by local, state and, to a small extent, federal dollars. They have no options to tap into money intended for private businesses. Because public schools are public.

When charter schools are allowed to act as both private businesses and public schools, taxpayers end up paying twice. In these dire financial times, there are surely better uses for public funds than to double pay to pad the reserve funds of well-resourced charter schools.

The greed of the charter industry is shameful.

The New York Times reports that the Sackler family, one of the nation’s wealthiest families, busily transferred assets to themselves as the opioid crisis worsened

The Sacklers derived most of their billions from Purdue Pharma, prominent manufacturer and marketer of Oxycontin.

Jonathan Sackler is a major supporter of charter schools. He underwrote charter schools in Connecticut, created ConnCAN, then 50CAN, and the many state affiliates of that group. At this very moment, GeorgiaCAN is pushing charters on the receptive Atlanta school board (whose president is ex-TFA).

The Times reports:

As scrutiny of Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years, its owners, members of the Sackler family, withdrew more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue.

The amount is more than eight times what the family took out of the company in the 13 years after OxyContin, its signature product, was approved in 1995. The audit is likely to renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.

The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion in cash as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by Massachusetts and New York, have refused to sign onto the agreement, arguing that the Sacklers should pay more.

The new report, a 350-page forensic accounting prepared by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that Purdue has hired to help guide the company through Chapter 11 restructuring, was filed in bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., Monday evening.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote about Jonathan Sackler’s long involvement in the charter school movement.

She says he brought his knowledge of marketing opioids to the charter school industry.

He is on the Board of Directors of the Achievement First charter school network. Until recently, Sackler served on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and advocates for their expansion. He was also on the board of the pro-charter advocacy group Students for Education Reform.

Through his personal charity, the Bouncer Foundation, Sackler donates to the abovementioned organizations, and an ecosystem of other charter school promoting entities, such as Families for Excellent Schools ($1,083,333 in 2014, $300,000 in 2015according to the Foundation’s Form 990s) Northeast Charter School Network ($150,000 per year in 2013, 2014 and 2015) and $275,000 to Education Reform Now (2015) and $200,000 (2015) to the Partnership for Educational Justice, the group founded by Campbell Brown which uses “impact litigation” to go after teacher tenure laws. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Educational Justice joined 50CAN, which Sackler also funds ($300,000 in 2014 and 2015), giving him a leadership role in the controversial—and so far failing cause—of weakening worker protections for teachers via the courts.

Just as Arthur Sackler founded the weekly Medical Tribune, to promote Purdue products to the medical professional who would prescribe them, Jon Sackler helps to fund the74million.org, the “nonpartisan” education news website founded by Campbell Brown. The site, which received startup funding from Betsy DeVos, decries the fact that “the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin,” yet is uniformly upbeat about charter schools while remarkably devoid of anything positive to say about district schools or teachers unions.

Charter chains are known for their lavish rallies, paid organizers, and “swag.”

These are techniques learned from the Sacklers and Purdue, writes Littman.

The description of “lavish swag” will sound familiar to anyone who has witnessed one of the no-expenses-spared charter school rallies that are a specialty of Sackler-funded organizations like Families for Excellent schools. Then there is the dizzying array of astroturf front groups all created for the purpose of demanding more charter schools. Just in Connecticut, we’ve had the Coalition for Every Child, A Better Connecticut, Fight for Fairness CT, Excel Bridgeport, and the Real Reform Now Network. All of these groups ostensibly claim to be fighting for better public schools for all children. In reality, they have been lobbying to promote charter schools, often running afoul of ethics laws in the process.

Take Families for Excellent Schools, a “grassroots” group that claims to be about parent engagement, yet was founded by major Wall Street players. In Connecticut, the group failed to register its Coalition for Every Child as a lobbying entity and report a multimillion-dollar ad buy expenditure and the costs of a rally in New Haven. 

In Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy (FESA) recently had to cough up more than $425,000 to the Massachusetts general fund as part of a legal settlement with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the largest civil forfeiture in the agency’s 44-year history. Massachusetts officials concluded that FESA violated the campaign finance law by receiving contributions from individuals and then contributing those funds to the Great Schools Massachusetts Ballot Question Committee, which sought to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the money. As part of the settlement, the group was ordered to reveal the names of its secret donors. Jonathan Sackler was one of them.

In addition, Purdue heiress Madeleine Sackler directed the pro-charter film “The Lottery” about Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy charter chain.

The Sacklers have used their vast wealth, derived from the opioid crisis, to burnish their family reputation and to destroy public schools.

As the Times reports, they are doing their best to get their money out of the company before it is bankrupted by lawsuits.

 

 

 

In the era of Bush-Obama education policy, it became conventional wisdom to blame schools for the effects of poverty. Civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker explains that the test-and-punish regime continues by blaming schools and punishing them for chronic absenteeism. 

She writes:

NCLB measured school quality based on standardized test scores and relied on sanctions such as school turnaround, takeover and privatization. After almost two decades under NCLB, and the acknowledgment that the metric was inaccurate and the prescriptions were ineffective, the federal government decided to try a tweaked version of its failed test-and-punish regime.

The ESSA system employs multiple “indicators” of school quality. Each indicator provides schools and districts with points that together dictate what types of sanctions are imposed. The dashboard showing the schools’ and districts’ points for each indicator are also published online.

Nowhere on this dashboard is the state graded for whether or not it adequately funds Connecticut public schools, even though nationwide evidence proves a causal connection between school spending and student achievement.

One indicator under Connecticut’s ESSA plan is chronic absenteeism. The rationale Connecticut provides for including this indicator is the research and data demonstrating an association of chronic absenteeism to student academic achievement and high school graduation. What the ESSA plan does not detail are the causes of absenteeism.

A new study from Wayne State University tracks the incidence of chronic absenteeism across U.S. cities. The researchers found that nationwide, certain factors are significantly correlated with chronic absenteeism, namely: long-term population change, asthma rates, poverty and unemployment rates, residential vacancy rates, violent crime rates, average monthly temperature, and racial segregation.

Thus, although under Connecticut’s accountability system, chronic absenteeism is an indicator of school quality, and can contribute to a school or school district being subjected to increasingly draconian sanctions, none of the factors listed above that are significantly correlated with chronic absenteeism has anything to do with school.

Common sense in federal education policy would be nice for a change.