Archives for category: Connecticut

The richest woman in Connecticut no longer gives to charter schools and Teach for America. Barbara Dalio has shifted her giving to public schools.

She fell in love with public education.

She fell in love with the schools that take everyone, even the least of them, the children that the charters reject.

She got woke.

In the past three years alone, the foundation, which Barbara co-founded with her husband, has donated $50 million to public education programs in Connecticut.

“I never thought I would get into education because it’s not my background, so I am learning as I go along,” she said. “I love it. I don’t play golf or tennis. This is my passion.”

Connecticut Adds Two More Billionaires To The Forbes 400 List. Here’s A Look At All Nine Members.
Dalio, 70, who is universally described as humble and hands-on, said in an interview last week that her shift toward traditional public school districts came about as she learned more about education and became concerned about the achievement gap and students who are disengaged from school.

Dalio said she observed that the kids who go to public charter schools have parents who are often more involved and have the initiative to seek out an alternative for their child.

But many parents, she said, don’t have the time to do that.

“It’s not that they don’t care about the kids,” Dalio said of those parents. “It’s that they are burdened in many instances with just one parent having two or three jobs. That really struck me.”

It’s a shift that some of the wealthy donors that have focused on charters and other reform efforts are also making in recent years, some experts say.

A few years ago, there was a feeling among some wealthy donors that giving to local neighborhood schools might be a waste of money, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies with the American Enterprise Institute.

“Now the zeitgeist has changed,” said Hess. “TFA [Teach for America] and charter schooling are more controversial than they were eight or 10 years ago for various reasons and after the teacher strikes, teachers are more sympathetic. There’s a sense that if you’re a wealthy person and you’re trying to give away dollars in a way that you feel good about, you might make different choices in 2018 than you did in 2008.”

When Dalio arrived as an immigrant from Spain in her 20s, she knew very little about the American educational system except that she saw it is as inspiring.

“One of the things that struck me was all the people that succeeded or were able to have a very good education just through the public schools,” Dalio said. “I just admire that democratic side that the United States has. I don’t know if it still has it but I thought it was so amazing that anyone of any social class can just go to a public school and get a great education.”

Dalio, who lives in Greenwich, learned more about the public schools as she raised her four sons who attended both public and private schools and had very different needs and learning styles.

“I didn’t have a formula that would work for all of them, so I had to be very nimble and had to rely on teachers to help me help them,” Dalio said. “So that’s how my love for teachers started because they were always really there for me and for them. They were very caring.”

As the family’s foundation was expanding, Dalio said, “I really felt for the public schools and I really wanted to be helpful.”

But she realized she needed to be educated. So she began volunteering at an alternative high school in Norwalk where she started coming in once every two weeks and soon was up to two or three times a week.

“I learned really how many needs the kids have because they had kids with learning differences, kids that have had trauma in their lives, kids with emotional needs,” Dalio said, as well as kids who are hungry. “So it really is challenging for the school, the teachers to address all of those needs, especially with [budget] cuts” that eliminate social workers or mental health programs, she said.

Dalio said she learned through the alternative school and also with her own children, one of whom has bipolar disorder, that all children can succeed if given the right the services and help.

Her own son is in very good shape now, she said, “but it took a lot of resources and patience and time and you know if we didn’t succeed, he could have been just one of those kids.”

“So I always feel a bit for the underdog … or the kids that don’t have opportunities and I see that if you give them what they need, which is sometimes not that much, [with] just a little attention and love, you can really turn them around…”

David Callahan, editor of Inside Philanthropy, said he hopes “other philanthropists will pay attention to what (Dalio is) doing and the hands-on immersive approach she’s taken, which is how philanthropy should operate if it doesn’t want to alienate the people it needs to engage to succeed.”

“If Barbara ever gets focused on the national level,” Callahan said, “I think that could be a big deal, given her mindset and the sensibility she brings to this space.”

Public education should not have to depend on the goodwill of philanthropists. It is a civic duty to educate all children through taxation.

But billionaires have banded together to destroy education and to promote choice instead of raising taxes.

Thank you, Ms. Dalio, for putting your money where it does the most good for the most children.

This is an amazing story of a town in Connecticut where parents looked at Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas about how to educate their children and said “Hell, no.”

We live in a strange era where a handful of billionaires have taken it upon themselves to transform education. Think Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. They decided, not based on their own experience but based on their inflated egos, that they alone know how to re-engineer the nation’s schools, the schools that enroll 50 million children.

The schools of Cheshire, Connecticut, are fine schools. The parents are happy with their public schools. But the schools’ administration decided to adopt the Summit Learning Program, putting students on Chromebooks for their lessons. Things went south, and eventually parents rebelled. At some point, they realized that “personalized learning” is actually “depersonalized learning.” Worse, they learned that their children’s personal data would no longer be private, and that the learning program was data mining their children.

And Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Learning Program was kicked out of the schools of Cheshire, Connecticut.

Read the article to learn how it happened.

Last year, several classes in Cheshire, Connecticut’s elementary and middle schools switched to a new classroom model, where lessons were supposed to be tailored to every student. The kids and their parents were caught off-guard that first week of school. “We walked into math class,” recalled Lauren Peronace, now an eighth-grader, “and my math teacher said, ‘Everyone open up your Chromebooks. We’re going to go on a website — Summit.’”

Reactions were mixed. Most everyone in Cheshire, which is between New Haven and Hartford, is there for the public schools, which are among the area’s best. Some parents were skittish about the creep of more technology into the classroom, especially when they found out Facebook engineers had helped build the software and Mark Zuckerberg was spending millions promoting it. Others were at least cautiously optimistic. “My son initially thought it sounded cool,” said one parent, Theresa, who asked to have her last name withheld because of all the drama that followed. “The teachers told him, ‘You’re going to be on your own; you’ll be independent; you’re going to move at your own pace.”

The program had come with money for 130 Chromebooks, so every student could have one — courtesy of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Zuckerberg’s philanthropic LLC, and Summit’s other wealthy backers. But to hear the administrators explain it, the technology would be only one piece. The Summit Learning Program, which originated at a series of West Coast charter schools between 2012 and 2013, is conceived as a comprehensive program of “personalized learning” that promises to put students in charge of their own education. It’s now being used in some 380 districts and charter schools nationwide. Rather than having a teacher stand at the front of the room and talk, it emphasizes group projects, dialogue between students, and one-on-one time with teachers, guaranteeing at least a ten-minute “mentoring” session for each student every week. It also makes use of specialized software for regular lessons and assessments. Cheshire’s teachers had gone to training that summer in Providence, Rhode Island, at an event also funded by Summit.

But the implementation over the next few months collapsed into a suburban disaster, playing out in school-board meetings and, of course, on Facebook. The kids who hated the new program hated it, to the point of having breakdowns, while their parents became convinced Silicon Valley was trying to take over their classrooms. They worried Summit was sharing their kids’ data (it is, with 19 companies at present, including Amazon and Microsoft, according to its website), or, worse, selling it. It isn’t, but given that the guy who’d helped buy them all laptops had created a $500 billion company out of vacuuming up data and creating economic value from it, it seemed reasonable to have suspicions that the learning platform backed by CZI might also be data-hungry. Concern turned into exasperation when bizarre and sometimes inappropriate images appeared on their kids’ screens on third-party websites used as reading assignments: a pot plant, a lubricant ad, and then the coup de grâce, an ancient Roman statue of a man having sex with a goose.

Ultimately the superintendent halted the program, making Cheshire the only one out of hundreds to do so. To the program’s supporters, this makes it a fluke, the only one that never got past the learning curve. To detractors, the Cheshire parents are among the most articulate voices on Summit’s perils, the model of successful resistance.

Wendy Lecker, a civil rights attorney with the Education Law Center, writes about a major legal defeat for the charter industry in Connecticut, where they sought a “constitutional right” for students to attend a privately managed charter school. Charter lobbyists tried the same maneuver in Massachusetts and were rebuffed by state courts.

CHARTER BACKERS LOSE IN CONNECTICUT FEDERAL COURT

By Wendy Lecker

A pro-charter group has lost its Connecticut lawsuit seeking a federal constitutional right to attend a charter school. California-based Students Matter filed the case, Martinez v. Malloy, in 2016. The case was dismissed on September 28 by Judge Alvin W. Thompson of the United States District Court in Hartford.

Students Matter, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, is a major proponent of charter school expansion. The organization initiated, and lost, the Vergara case in California, which unsuccessfully challenged that state’s laws governing teacher tenure.

In Martinez, Students Matter challenged in federal court Connecticut laws governing public school “choice” programs, specifically charter and magnet schools. Those laws determine funding levels and set limits on the expansion of charters and magnets. The Martinez complaint asserted that these laws violate the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution.

Education as a Right Under the U.S. Constitution

In bringing this case, the Martinez plaintiffs faced two hurdles: establishing education as a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, and then securing a court ruling that public school “choice” is an element of the federal right.

The State moved to dismiss the case, contending that while there is a right to education under Connecticut’s constitution, there is no federal constitutional right to education based on the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in San Antonio v. Rodriguez. Further, the State contended that it is rational for Connecticut to decide to fulfill its obligations under the state constitution’s education guarantee by funding a system of public schools governed by local school districts. Any alternatively-governed schools, such as charter schools, are not constitutionally required, but rather are a policy choice left to the State, and which the State can discontinue or restrict at any time.

The District Court concluded that there is no federal constitutional right to education. The Court further agreed with the State that Connecticut’s policy toward providing school governance options is rational. As the Court correctly noted, “the legislature could rationally believe that the best and most effective way to address [any shortcomings in some district public schools] is to take steps to improve the education opportunities provided in those schools, as opposed to creating and funding an entirely new and more expensive system of charter and magnet schools.” [Emphasis added.]

Charters as a Constitutional Right?

In other states, charter advocates have unsuccessfully attempted to incorporate charter schools as an element of the right to public education guaranteed by state constitutions. In Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, and New Jersey, courts have consistently ruled that while states are obligated to provide an adequate education, “this obligation does not mean that Plaintiffs have the constitutional right to choose a particular flavor of education,” as a Massachusetts court held. In fact, a New York appellate court opined that choice may undermine that state’s right to education and that diverting “public education funds away from the traditional public schools and towards charter schools would benefit a select few at the expense of the ‘common schools, wherein all the children of this State may be educated.’”

Charters in Connecticut

The Connecticut charter school program has been cited for undermining education equity for all public school children. A 2014 Connecticut Voices for Children report found that these schools underserve English Language Learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. The report further found that the majority of Connecticut charter schools are hyper-segregated. In Hartford, segregation in charter schools has hampered achieving integration targets established by the settlement in the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case. Connecticut charter schools have also been cited for civil rights violations against students with disabilities, and for suspending children as young as five years old at alarming rates.

As in other states, Connecticut concentrates charter schools in the state’s highest poverty districts, posing a fiscal threat to district school systems. Credit agencies have determined that charter expansion lowers district bond ratings. Staunch opposition by Bridgeport district officials to charter expansion has been repeatedly ignored by the State education agency. State-approved charter expansion has resulted in an increasing diversion of Bridgeport funding to charters, leaving the district unable to provide essential educational resources, such as guidance counselors, bilingual education, and interventions for the district’s high need student population.

As in other states, Connecticut concentrates charter schools in the state’s highest poverty districts, posing a fiscal threat to district school systems. Credit agencies have determined that charter expansion lowers district bond ratings. Staunch opposition by Bridgeport district officials to charter expansion has been repeatedly ignored by the State education agency. State-approved charter expansion has resulted in an increasing diversion of Bridgeport funding to charters, leaving the district unable to provide essential educational resources, such as guidance counselors, bilingual education, and interventions for the district’s high need student population.

The Real Fight for Educational Justice in Connecticut

Advocates for education equity in Connecticut waged a decade-long legal fight to increase funding and resources in high poverty districts in the CCJEF v. Rell litigation. Unfortunately, in a January 2018 ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected the CCJEF claim for adequate school funding.

In ruling against the CCJEF plaintiffs, the Court acknowledged that Connecticut’s poorest districts suffered severe deprivations in educational resources, especially resources to help at-risk students. The Court also acknowledged that “the lack of such support services makes it extremely difficult for many students in the state’s neediest school districts to take advantage of the state’s educational offerings.”

Yet Connecticut’s high court ruled that these proven deprivations do not amount to a constitutional violation. Instead, the Court held that the State is only obligated to provide the “bare minimum” of teachers, facilities, curricula and instrumentalities of learning, such as books, computers and desks.

In his dissent, Justice Palmer articulated the central principle that must drive the fight for educational justice in Connecticut. He declared that “[i]t is not enough to seek success in some places, for some children.” Justice Palmer lays bare the stark difference between the strategies in the Martinez and CCJEF cases. Expanding a parallel, selective system of charter schools is a piecemeal approach that results in the exclusion of at-risk students, leaving district school systems with fewer resources to meet their needs. As Justice Palmer made clear, “the educational system must be reasonably designed to achieve results in every district and neighborhood. Our state constitution simply will not allow us to leave our neediest children behind.”

The CCJEF ruling is a major blow to efforts to improve outcomes and opportunities for Connecticut’s most vulnerable school children. With the Connecticut courts now on the sidelines, advancing education equity for all – and not a few – public school children now requires a concerted and sustained effort to hold the Legislature and Governor accountable to provide vulnerable students with more than the “bare minimum.”

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center.

Ann Cronin, a retired educator in Connecticut, is outraged that Governor Dannell Malloy, who pretends to be a Democrat and was even chair of the Democratic Governors Association, has presented a tax plan to benefit his rich campaign contributors. He is a big charter supporter, because his supporters–like opiod king Jonathan Sackler–love charters. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the Sackler family were held personally responsible for the thousands of deaths caused by their deadly but profitable opioids?)

Malloy’s tax plan sounds surprisingly like Donald Trump’s. Maybe he would consider changing parties?

Cronin writes:

 

SAYING NO TO A TAX BREAK FOR THE RICH IN CONNECTICUT

Governor Malloy’s proposed budget gives a tax break to the rich.

Here’s what it is:

He advocates extending the 529 college savings plans, called CHET (Connecticut Higher Education Trust), to savings plans that can be used for K-12 education as well as college. As reported in the well-researched and comprehensive article in The CT Mirror by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas on January 16, 2018, the state currently allows parents to avoid paying state income taxes each year on up to $10,000 that they put into a college savings account. In addition, they don’t have to pay taxes on the earned income when the money is withdrawn to pay for college

 

Using 529 accounts to fund K-12 education in addition to college is part of the new Republican/Trump tax plan. States can go along with that tax plan or become decoupled from it. Governor Malloy has chosen to keep the state and federal tax plans coupled and go along with Donald Trump. The Connecticut General assembly will decide whether or not to go along with Dan Malloy.

Here’s how it will work:

According to figures compiled for The CT Mirror by the financial services company Vanguard, this is the picture for Connecticut families:

 

  1. Family A has a baby and, as soon as the baby is born, puts $200,000 into a 529 savings account for the future education of that baby. The family then withdraws $10,000 a year to pay for the child’s K-12 private school education. The family avoids paying $49,800 in federal taxes over the 13 years. At the end of the high school years, the family will have $382,000 in the account to pay for the child’s college education.

 

  1. Family B has a baby and, as soon as the baby is born, puts $66,000 into a 529 savings account for the future education of the baby. The family withdraws $10,000 a year to pay for the child’s private school K-12 education. The family avoids paying $18,200 in federal taxes over the 13 years. But the family will have no money left in the account to pay for college.

 

  1. Family C has a baby and does not have any money to deposit in a chunk to a 529 savings account at the baby’s birth but saves what it can over the following 18 years for college expenses. All savings are needed for college; there is no money available for private K-12 education. There, probably, is not enough to fully fund college education.

 

  1. Family D has a baby and has no ability to save in any way for college.

 

 

So the only people who will profit from the plan that Governor Malloy is proposing are the very wealthy, only those who qualify as Family A. Donald Trump’s tax plan and Dan Malloy’s budget proposal have no benefit for Family B, Family C, and Family D.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots widens. The rich get richer and the poor stay poor – and the middle class struggles.

And here’s the real kicker: The rest of us will pay for that tax break for the rich. The Governor’s Office of Policy and Management estimates that 529 plans for K-12 education will cost the state $39 million per year.

Here’s why the Governor’s proposal is wrong:

  1. We barely have enough money to keep the lights on in the state, yet the Governor is asking all of the citizens in Connecticut to fund this substantial tax break for its wealthiest citizens.

 

  1. There will be less money available to fund public schools, especially those in high poverty areas that depend on state funding because of the added strain on the state budget caused by the state supporting the extension of the 529 savings plans for K-12 education.

 

  1. The access to private school will not be extended to middle income families. In Connecticut, private high schools cost day students between $43,600 and $48,080 for tuition alone. Catholic high school tuition is between $14,300 and $19,800 per year. Private elementary schools cost over $40,000 per year, and Catholic elementary schools charge about $8,000 for tuition.    

      

Middle-income families cannot fund a private K-12 education; it is clearly an option for only the wealthy. The total cost of a private K-12 education in Connecticut is between $260,000 and $570.000. Even an education at a local K-8 parochial school and a regional Catholic high school costs between $130,000 and $150,000. Paying for any of these schools is out of reach for middle-income families who are saving for college. So those who claims that Donald Trump’s tax plan and Governor Malloy’s proposal is extending school choice to anyone other than the incredibly affluent are not realistic. In fact, they are wrong.

 

  1. Lastly, there are questions about exclusion of students based on sexual orientation and learning disabilities in non-public schools. Some religious schools have been found to be discriminatory concerning the sexual orientation and life style of their employees.  A case about that kind of discrimination in a Connecticut school is currently in the courts. State funds should not support schools that do not meet state standards for anti-discrimination.

  

  1. Connecticut has excellent public schools. Connecticut also has a problem with poverty. State funds are best directed to address the underlying causes of poverty which inhibit the learning potential of children mired in poverty.

 

Here’s what you can do:

Call or email your state legislator (https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp) and tell him or her to reject the Trump and Malloy proposal. Tell your state legislator to reject the extension of the 529 college savings accounts to 529 savings accounts for K-12 education. Tell your legislator that having 529 savings accounts for K-12 education is unfair, undemocratic, and fiscally irresponsible. Resist!

 

Parents in Cheshire, Connecticut, took the lead in ousting the Summit Online Learning Platform developed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of CZI’s plan to remake American education.

The Summit Program was developed by Summit “Public Schools,” which in fact is a privately managed charter chain that pretends to be public. It describes its approach as “personalized learning,” which is a euphemism for machine learning that moves at a different pace for each student, depending on algorithms. The parents preferred human teachers to machines.

“The fast-growing online platform was built with help from Facebook engineers and designed to help students learn at their own speed. But it’s been dropped because parents in this Connecticut suburb revolted, saying there was no need to change what’s worked in a town with a prized reputation for good schools.

“The Summit Learning program, developed by a California charter school network, has signed up over 300 schools to use its blend of technology with go-at-your-own-pace personalized learning.

“Cheshire school administrators and some parents praised the program, but it faced criticism from others who said their children were spending too much time online, some content was inappropriate, and students were not getting enough direct guidance….”

“The reversal was vindication for parents who started a petition drive against the program and blasted it at public meetings.

“What was broken in the Cheshire school system, a highly successful system, that they needed to experiment with our children?” parent Heidi Wildstein said in an interview.”

The superintendent believes that the parent Revolt was caused by misinformation circulated on social media.

For many years, Karin Klein wrote editorials about education for the Los Angeles Times. She took a buyout and now writes freelance on education and other topics. With occasional diversions, the L.A. Times faithfully followed Eli Broad’s lead on education. The billionaire is living proof that being very rich qualifies you as an expert on most everything. He spends lavishly on art and medical research and has anointed himself an education expert. His foundation gives the L.A. Times $800,000 for its education coverage, which may be his way of guaranteeing he will never be exposed as a know-nothing in his hometown paper.

Now that Klein is free, she writes that miracle schools are mirages. Her case in point: Ballou High School in D.C., which claimed that all its graduates were accepted into colleges.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone to read about another supposedly phenomenal school accomplishment that ended up being more mirage than miracle.

“The latest example comes from Washington, D.C., where in June, it was widely reported that Ballou High School, where few students tested as proficient in math or English, had nonetheless, incredibly sent all its seniors to college.

“Incredible, indeed. When NPR and the local public radio station WAMU joined forces to re-examine the Ballou miracle, they found that half of the graduates had missed at least three months of classes in a single school year. A fifth of them had been absent for more than half the school year. Teachers complained that they had been instructed to give students a grade of 50 percent on assignments they hadn’t even handed in, and that they were pressured to pass students whose work didn’t remotely merit it.

“Students complained that they were utterly unprepared for the colleges that everyone had been so proud of them for entering. And credit recovery courses – which have been criticized as too easy – played a big role in their graduations. The NCAA rejects most of these courses for college athletes; why shouldn’t colleges have the same requirements for other students?

“More than anything else, though, the Ballou High case teaches us once again that when we place intense pressure on schools to meet certain numbers, they’ll find a way to do it – one that might not involve providing a superior education. Carrots and sticks alone don’t improve schools, certainly not in the absence of funding to reduce class sizes (and teacher workloads), or to help low-income students overcome obstacles.”

Will the L.A. Times editorial board acknowledge that intense pressure to raise test scores and graduation rates corrupts not only the measure but the process being measured?

Will someone tell Eli Broad or has he surrounded himself by yes-persons?

This is Campbell’s Law, which is inexorable.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article190028449.html#storylink=cpy

If you read the previous post, you know that the Sackler family became fabulously wealthy by developing, manufacturing, and marketing a painkiller called OxyContin, an opioid. You also know that there is an opioid crisis in the nation that kills 50,000 people a year.

Sarah Darer Littman here explains how Jonathan Sackler has used his wealth to destroy and privatize public schools, replacing them with privately managed charter schools.

Littman, a journalist in Connecticut, write that Sackler:

“founded the charter school advocacy group ConnCan, progenitor of the nationwide group 50CAN, of which he is a director. 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 2015 according 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.”

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of OxyContin, was masterful at marketing OxyContin. According to a critical GAO REPORT, IT handed out “lavish swag” for health care professionals.

The charter movement has adopted some of the same techniques.

“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.”

Why does Jonathan Sackler hate public schools?

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer who specializes in education and writes frequent newspaper columns.

In this article, she shows how some districts and states are strengthening the profession while others–notably Connecticut– are contributing to a teacher shortage.

She writes:

“A serious teacher shortage is plaguing school districts across the country. The Learning Policy Institute (“LPI”) recently found that in addition to teachers leaving the profession, enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped 35 percent.

“It is no wonder. Over the past decade, teachers have been subjected to a barrage of unproven mandates “that hamper learning. They are judged by evaluation systems, based on student test scores, that experts and courts across this country have rejected as arbitrary and invalid. And, as one former teacher and current Colorado state senator remarked, “Teachers are constantly being bashed … It’s not the same job it used to be.”

“Connecticut is no exception to the teacher shortage, nor to its causes. Teachers have undergone a revolving door of evidence-free mandates, invalid evaluations and vilification from our governor who infamously declared that all teachers have to do for four years is “show up” to get tenure. Every year, hundreds of positions go unfilled in Connecticut classrooms.

“LPI issued a report in 2016 on the causes of the teacher shortage, based on a review of an extensive body of research. Of particular note for Connecticut is the finding that inadequate preparation is a major factor in teacher attrition.

“Alternatively certified teachers have markedly higher turnover rates than traditionally certified teachers, with the largest disparities in high-minority schools. Teachers with comprehensive preparation were 21/2 times less likely to leave than those with weak preparation. Accordingly, LPI recommends providing scholarships and loan forgiveness for strong teacher preparation programs, and robust induction programs.

“Some districts are making strides in identifying and addressing the root causes of teacher shortages.

“In Niagara Falls, New York, for example, the district embarked on a multipronged effort to cultivate teachers, particularly teachers of color. The district provides a scholarship for a graduate of its high school entering the teaching program at Niagara University. It also received an endowment at Niagara University for paraprofessionals who want to be trained as teachers; and provides financial assistance, reduced workloads and other supports to ensure success.

“Niagara Falls public schools provide high school seniors with the opportunity to shadow teachers as an internship. Twelfth-grade teachers partner with Niagara University to ensure that students will not incur the expense of remedial education once they matriculate. They have also partnered with the local community college to establish academies such as the physical education academy. The superintendent reaches out to local African-American churches to request contact with graduates who have left the area in order to entice them to return. However, the superintendent does not favor lowering certification standards or weakening preparation. Those avenues would not only devalue the profession but also would harm the needy children in his district.

“As featured in my previous column, Long Beach, California, also partners with its local university to train teachers, who student teach in the district’s schools. The high-poverty district has a 92-percent retention rate and credits its partnership with the university for protecting it against teacher shortages.

“Connecticut had promising programs for growing teachers. Last year, Bridgeport initiated a comprehensive minority recruitment program for paraprofessionals to become teachers. Hartford, Waterbury and CREC had similar programs. Just as this program was to expand, the state pulled the funding. The State Department of Education (“SDE”) had a successful program, Teaching Opportunities for Paraprofessionals, however its funding was eliminated in 2002.

“Connecticut also has high quality, university-based teacher preparation programs, which have made efforts to identify and address specific shortage areas and minority recruitment.

“Rather than build on these successful efforts, SDE and the State Board of Education seek to weaken teaching. Last year, they approved an unproven fly-by-night outfit called Relay to provide alternative certification.”

“Now, they intend to lower teacher certification requirements. One idea they are considering is abandoning the requirement that bilingual teachers have content certification, as if English Language Learners do not deserve a teacher who knows the subject she teaches.”

By the way, the North Carolina legislature killed the funding for its highly successful Teaching Fellows Program–which produced career teachers– and transferred the funding to Teach for America, which hires itinerant teachers from out of state.

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer who writes frequently about education issues.

In this article, published in the Stamford (Ct.) Advocate, Lecker describes the imposed reforms that breed resentment and failure, not better education.

Corporate reform has been a disaster. Its day of reckoning cannot be indefinitely postponed. The corporate reformers fail and fail and fail, and continue to push their failed ideas.

Connecticut is a state that experienced major corruption in the charter industry. It is also a state with excellent public schools. Why not use the depth of knowledge and experience to help the neediest districts instead of parceling students out to private management?

Lecker writes:

The State Board of Education’s recent rubber-stamping of Capital Prep Harbor charter school’s expansion in Bridgeport is yet another example of a common theme in education reform: trampling community will. Capital Prep, which opened in 2015 over the objection the Bridgeport’s Board of education and community members, does not reflect the community. The school serves no English Language Learners, though 15 percent of Bridgeport’s students are ELL. The school has a 37 percent out-of-school suspension rate, over twice the rate in Bridgeport’s public schools.

Bridgeport’s Board of Education unanimously opposed the school’s expansion. Bridgeport already must pay several million dollars annually to charters. As the superintendent testified, the expansion will drain an additional $200,000 from Bridgeport’s budget; money it cannot afford. Last year, owing to decreased state funding, Bridgeport had to fill a $16 million budget gap. The state board ignored Bridgeport’s needs.

As recent education reform failures demonstrate, robbing local districts of decision-making power over education policies is a recipe for disaster. By contrast, reforms that emanate from the school districts themselves have shown success.

The ultimate in top-down reform for struggling districts is state takeover. Two much-hyped state takeovers occurred in Tennessee — the Achievement School District (“ASD”), and Detroit — the Educational Achievement Authority (“EAA”). After years of consistent failure, both recently closed, returning control of schools to the districts.

ASD and EAA employed reform’s “greatest hits.” Outside managers were hired to run the districts. Charter schools proliferated. They used ill-trained Teach for America recruits.

EAA also employed “student-centered” “personalized” computer-based learning, which caused 10,000 struggling students to fall further behind academically.

Both “reform districts” were plagued with high teacher turnover, a major factor in their failures, and rampant financial mismanagement.

State takeover made things worse for students in the ASD and EAA. In 2015, only one fourth-grader in Detroit’s EAA passed the state math test. After years of EAA control, only three of the 15 EAA schools moved off the list of the lowest 5 percent in the state. In Tennessee, the results were similar, with the ASD’s charter schools performing the worst.

She continues:

At the same time, officials ignore the slow and steady progress made by districts that engage in home-grown educational improvement. Long Beach, California, and Union City, New Jersey, are good examples. Both districts are diverse and majority economically disadvantaged. Yet both have been able to sustain improvement by focusing on the unique needs and strengths of their communities…

In contrast to failed state takeovers, that leave children and communities behind in their wake, district-led improvement methods have staying power precisely because they use the needs of their children and communities as their starting point. It is a shame that Connecticut officials ignore our own local, well-informed voices.

Ann Cronin, a retired teacher of English in Connecticut, writes about what charters were supposed to be and how they have failed to fulfill their original promise. Nowhere have they been more disappointing than in Connecticut, where the harsh “no excuses” model prevails. The charters in the Nutmeg State have won generous state funding, thanks to the campaign contributions to Democratic Governor Malloy by hedge fund managers and the OxyContin billionaire Sackler Family.

Cronin thanks the NAACP for speaking truth to power.

She writes:

“An English teacher friend of mine was a finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year in the mid 90’s. As one of the culminating steps in the selection process, the four finalists were assigned a topic little was known about at the time. They were instructed to research it and present their findings to an audience.

“The topic was charter schools.There were no charter schools in Connecticut at the time. My friend concluded that the worth of charter schools would depend on the answers to two questions:

“1) Will the innovations created at charter schools inform and improve the public schools that the vast majority of children and adolescents in the U.S. attend?

“2) Will charter schools be held accountable to address student needs as traditional public schools are required to do?

“Fast forward to 2017: We now have had charter schools in Connecticut for 21 years. The answers to my friend’s two questions came from the NAACP.”

The answer to number 1: NO.

The answer to number 2: Not yet.