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Achievement First Inc. New Haven charter money grab tabled

by: ctblogger

Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 09:07:50 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Public opposition to another privately run, publicly funded charter school in New Haven has led to the City's pro-charter superintendent of schools withdrawing his plan to turn over even more scarce public funds to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As reported in an article entitled, Charter Deal Tabled, the New Haven Independent writes;

"Elm City Imagine" died Wednesday-at least the version that would have had New Haven's Board of Ed entering into a partnership this year with the Achievement First charter network on a new school.

Superintendent Garth Harries announced, through a memo sent to Board of Education members, that he has tabled the proposal.

Controversy over the plan had drowned out the public schools' other efforts at improving education, Harries said in an interview. He said the proposed deal got swallowed in the broader national debate over the role of charter schools.

"This began to threaten the foundation of school change, which is collaboration on behalf of kids," Harries said.

[...]

Elm City Imagine began as an effort by Achievement First (AF) to design, with the help of the inventor of the computer mouse, an experimental K-8 school of the future. AF, which runs local charter schools such as Amistad Academy, planned to open Imagine in the fall as a K-1 at first, eventually expanding to fourth grade. Saying it couldn't raise enough money privately to launch the school, AF negotiated a "partnership" with Harries under which New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) would provide $700 in cash and in-kind services per student for a school that AF would run and staff (not including the legally required contribution for transportation and special education services).

The proposed deal sparked intense opposition. Teachers began organizing against it. So did school administrators. Opponents lined up for hours at public meetings to blast the deal. They said it shifted needed money and autonomy to well-funded charters. They argued that the deal didn't represent a true partnership-but rather the first step toward a private takeover of public schools.

You can read the full article at:  http://www.newhavenindependent...

You can read the earlier Wait, What? posts about the money grab at:

The "done deal" to divert scarce public funds to another Achievement First Inc. hits a road block

New Haven (& CT) Taxpayers to subsidize Achievement First's corporate development plan?

Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers - Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

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Moales and Charter School Industry go down to crushing defeat in Bridgeport - Again

by: ctblogger

Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 09:44:18 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Despite the support of Governor Malloy's political operatives, including Bridgeport Mayor Finch and the ConnCAN/Achievement First Inc. charter school industry, pro-charter school candidate Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. couldn't even muster enough voters to impact yesterday's Special Election for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate.

The infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. came in a distant 3rd place in yesterday Special Election collecting only 503 votes compared to the winner, Working Party Candidate and former state senator Ed Gomes, who received 1,504.  The Democratic Party endorsed candidate Richard DeJesus, who Finch initially supported before turning to Moales, got 791 voters.

According to the Working Families Party, Ed Gomes becomes the first candidate in the country to win a legislative seat running only on the Working Families Party line.

Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Governor Malloy's Corporate Education Reform Industry initiatives.

Moales was not only a leading champion of education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas but has been a major proponent of Steve Perry's plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. sits on the Board of Directors for Perry's charter school and was a lone voice on the Bridgeport Board of Education when the democratically elected Board asked the Malloy administration NOT TO approve Perry's charter school application.

However, Malloy's Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education overlooked the position taken by the Bridgeport Board of Education and last spring approved Perry's plan to open a privately owned but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Although Governor Malloy's proposed state budget actually cuts funding for public schools in Connecticut, the governor's plan adds funding for four new charter schools in the state, including Steve Perry's charter and one in Bridgeport that will be owned by an out-of-state company.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. previously served as Mayor Bill Finch's campaign treasurer and his loss yesterday marks the fourth time in a row that Bridgeport voters rejected Finch and the charter school industry agenda.

Finch is up for re-election this fall and opposition to granting him another term is gaining steam.

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Municipal Elections Preview: Incumbents Look Strong, Chance for D Pickup in Meriden

by: abg22

Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 16:00:42 PM EST

( - promoted by ctblogger)

The 2013 municipal elections were a mixed bag for Connecticut Democrats. On the one hand, Team Blue lost mayoral seats in the overwhelmingly Democratic cities of Meriden and New Britain; a Democrat-turned-independent almost pulled off a huge upset in New Haven; and Democrats lost ground in the smaller towns. On the other hand, Democrats defeated an incumbent Republican mayor in Norwalk and picked up an open mayor's seat in Stamford.

How will Democrats, progressive and otherwise, fare in this year's mayoral races? The two most interesting races will probably be in Bridgeport and Hartford, where incumbent Democratic mayors are likely to face primary challenges. Intra-party warfare is good bruising fun, so these challenges are likely to get a lot of traction with the press. But not necessarily with voters. Overall, with the exception of Meriden and possibly New London, incumbents look pretty strong across the board.

Some things to watch for: Will there be a unified opposition to Bill Finch and Pedro Segarra, or will fragmented opposition help re-elect these two Democratic incumbents? Will Dan Malloy get away with not endorsing Segarra, because the governor's brilliant young protege happens to be one of Segarra's challengers? Will anyone dare to run against Toni Harp? Will Democrats be able to win back the mayor's seat in Meriden that they lost in 2013? Will Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary be indicted (hey, it's Waterbury), get appointed to a job in the Malloy administration, run for re-election, or some combination thereof?

Here is a run-down of what's happening in big-city mayoral contests:

Hartford: Incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra, who took office when former Mayor Eddie Perez resigned in disgrace to face trial for corruption, is confronting potential primary challenges from all over the political map, including attorney John Gale, Probate Judge John Killian Jr., and city councilman Joel Cruz (who represents Working Families Party on the council but might switch to Democrat to challenge Segarra in the September primary). A wild card is Luke Bronin, the governor's former legal counsel, who has the connections to be a prodigious fundraiser but will face accusations of being a carpetbagger and Malloy stooge. Hard to predict what will happen here: Segarra is not a particularly strong candidate but the divided opposition may have trouble unseating him.

Bridgeport: There has been a lot of talk of former mayors/convicts Joe Ganim and John Fabrizi challenging two-term Mayor Bill Finch, but none of that appears to be going anywhere. There's also been amusing but baseless speculation about former US Comptroller General and failed lieutenant governor candidate David Walker getting in the race. The Working Families Party has made inroads against the Finch machine in some legislative and Board of Ed races, but citywide the opposition looks fragmented, without a strong candidate, and unlikely to seriously challenge Finch as he seeks a third term. Finch has already amassed an impressive $300,000 in his campaign war-chest.

New Haven:  Mayor Toni Harp came into office in 2014 after twenty years of John DeStefano, the longest serving mayor in New Haven history. She hasn't made any major errors and is expected to turn in an election-year budget that keeps the mill rate flat. With six months left to go before the September primary, nobody has even expressed interest in challenging her presumed bid for re-election -- "presumed" because she has not even bothered to announce that she is seeking a second term since it seems like such an inevitability.

New London: Amidst severe budget problems that almost led to a state takeover, first-term Mayor Darryl Finizio announced in April 2014 that he would not run for re-election, something that no intelligent politician should ever do in the middle of his or her term. Then in November he suddenly announced that he had changed his mind and would seek a second term. Going back on his word may be Finizio's biggest liability as a candidate, along with lingering budget problems and antagonism from public safety unions. He is facing a strong primary challenge from Democratic City Councillor Michael Passero. Passero is less progressive than Finizio, but whatever the primary result the seat will remain in Democratic hands.

Waterbury: Until recently many thought Democratic Mayor Neil O'Leary would leave office for an appointment -- head of the Department of Public Safety, perhaps -- in the Malloy administration. Last fall the Waterbury Observer noted: "The whispers started before Election Day. If Governor Dan Malloy won re-election Neil O'Leary was going to step down as mayor... and join the Malloy administration."  But now it seems that still-swirling allegations about campaign misconduct (the FBI has been investigating possible improprieties having to do with on-the-clock police officers doing work for O'Leary's 2011 campaign) have put the possibility of a state cabinet-level appointment for O'Leary on hold. O'Leary says he will decide sometime "in the spring" whether to run for re-election. After a historic charter revision last year, the mayor's term is now four years instead of two. If O'Leary's legal problems escalate, there is an outside chance of a Republican pick-up.

Danbury: Popular, twitter-loving Republican Mayor Mark "Big Poppa" Boughton appears to be coasting to re-election for an eighth term. Republican hold.

Norwalk: Mayor Harry Rilling announced his bid for a second term earlier this month. No Republican challenger has yet emerged. Rilling has overcome, and in some ways united, a dysfunctional Democratic party in Norwalk and appears to be in a strong position for re-election. Democrat hold.

Middletown: Two-term Mayor Dan Drew won't face a primary opponent in his bid for a third term, and might not face any Republican opposition either. (He had no Republican opponent in 2013, just a third-party challenger.) Drew is widely thought to be looking at a gubernatorial bid in 2018, should Malloy not seek a third term.  Democrat hold.

New Britain: GOP Mayor Erin Stewart is vulnerable, having lost the popular local baseball team to Hartford and caused commotion with her "unprofessional" behavior on social media, but she is not up for re-election until 2017.

Stamford: First-term Mayor David Martin is not up for re-election until 2017.

Meriden: Republican Mayor Manuel Santos, who won office in 2013 in a major upset, is facing a difficult re-election fight. The politically inexperienced Santos has struggled to find common ground with the City Council and hasn't been able to enact much of his agenda. His first term has been largely pre-occupied with a battle with the council over whether he could legally dismiss the corporation counsel. Santos won that battle but his political capital is severely diminished. Meriden is a strongly Democratic city where Santos would face stiff headwinds even without his record of mis-steps and lack of accomplishment. He may not even seek re-election. Likely pick-up for Ds.

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Tuesday roundup

by: ctblogger

Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 09:24:37 AM EST

Headlines...
  • War of words between Gov. Malloy's office and State Treasurer Denise Nappier heats up.
    Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes told state Treasurer Denise Nappier Monday that the administration isn't backing off its position that debt service will be $325 million lower than her estimate.

    "We can not afford to over-budget your debt service account in order to simply make the year easier for your office," Barnes wrote Nappier. "In the event that market conditions change, lowering the demand for higher coupons in new issues during the coming year,or in the event that you are otherwise unable to prudently manage the bond program within the budgeted funds, we will work with you to identify funding to support a deficiency appropriations in the debt service account."

    Like Nappier, Barnes released his letter to the media.

    Nappier told Barnes in a letter Friday that the debt service figures included in the budget were "too aggressive" and could harm Connecticut's reputation with investors.


  • CT NEWS JUNKIE: "Teachers Union Wants To Get Rid of High-Stakes Tests"
    The state's largest teachers union asked lawmakers Monday to reduce "high-stakes" standardized tests, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC test, and replace it with "progress tests."

    "A child is more than a test score," Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen said, "and the time is now for the General Assembly to act by phasing out SBAC and turning to a progress test already in use in Connecticut classrooms."

    SBAC is one of two multi-state consortia developing assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, which were developed under the leadership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. This is the first year the SBAC test would be administered by Connecticut school districts.

    "The test is time consuming and has not been verified," CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, said Monday.


  • CT MIRROR: "Providers, advocates call Malloy Medicaid cuts short-sighted"
    Medicaid is one of the state's largest expenses, and a big target for savings in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed two-year budget. But health care providers and social service advocates say the way Malloy would cut Medicaid is financially short-sighted and threatens to undermine recent progress in a program that has added thousands of new members as part of the federal health law, expanded the network of providers willing to treat them, and reduced its per-client costs.

    One head-scratcher, critics say, is Malloy's proposal to ax a pilot program to coordinate care for some of the highest-cost Medicaid clients, an initiative that even the administration's budget documents say could generate long-term savings.

    "That one makes no sense," said Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.

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Another effort to stamp out democracy in Bridgeport...

by: ctblogger

Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 09:25:21 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

What is it with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Connecticut's Charter School Industry?

We already know these people have a problem with democracy, but here we go again!

First Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his Corporate Education Reform Industry allies persuaded Governor Malloy's administration to illegally take over the Bridgeport School System.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ended up intervening and forcing the state of Connecticut to hand Bridgeport's Schools back to the voters of Bridgeport.

As a result of Malloy's illegal action, the Supreme Court even had to order a new election to fill the seats on Bridgeport's democratically elected Board of Education.

But not to let a little thing like the law stand in the way, Bridgeport Mayor Finch and his supporters then tried to jam through a change in Bridgeport's City Charter that would have completely eliminated a democratically elected Board of Education.

Mayor Finch's solution was to replace democracy with a board of education appointed by him.

The Charter Revision campaign failed, but not before Finch and his Charter School buddies spent a record breaking amount of money.

Political Action Committees affiliated with the Corporate Education Reform Industry spent over $560,000 trying to convince Bridgeport voters to give up their democratic rights.

Major contributors to the anti-democracy campaign included the Charter School front group Excel Bridgeport ($101,803); Michele Rhee and the charter school advocacy group StudentsFirst ($185,480); Achievement First Bridgeport Chairman Andy Boas' personal foundation ($14,000); ConnCAN ($14,000); Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment ($14,442); Pullman & Comely law firm ($7,000); Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($25,000); Achievement First and ConnCAN founder Jonathan Sackler ($50,000); and a who's who of the Bridgeport's business community.

After failing to persuade Bridgeport voters to hand their schools over to a non-elected Board of Education, Charter School Team Finch went on to lose both a Democratic Primary and the General Election for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

But apparently Finch and the Charter School elite that have been targeting Bridgeport over the past few years just won't rest until they actually destroy democracy in Bridgeport

Their next target appears to be Bridgeport's Parent Advisory Council, an organization that has been around for 45 years and has become a strong and effective voice for Bridgeport's parents and students.

And an effective voice for parents is apparently just too much democracy and power for the Finch loyalists who are now engaged in an undemocratic strategy to derail this important vehicle for parent involvement in Bridgeport's schools.

Late last Friday a "special notice" was sent out announcing that the Bridgeport Board of Education would be holding a "Special Meeting" to deal with the Bridgeport Parent Advisory Council tomorrow - Monday, February 23, 2015.

The notice for a special meeting comes despite the fact that the Bridgeport Board of Education already has a regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 P.M.

Issuing an updated agenda would have been easy enough, but the pro-charter school, anti-democracy crowd went with the "Special Meeting" tactic.

Why would they want a "Special Meeting" instead of taking up whatever clandestine effort they are going to attempt at the Bridgeport Board of Education's regular Monday Meeting an hour and a half later?

Because under their rules, the public is not allowed an opportunity to speak to the Board of Education at Special Meetings, whereas at regular meetings public input is allowed.

No really...

While it appears true that we are called the United States of America where the notion of freedom and democracy is supposed to be among our most cherished fundamental and inalienable rights, but when it comes to the Charter School Industry's agenda and tactics, nothing is sacred.

Apparently "simply" undermining democracy isn't enough for the charter school advocates.

They are not only engaged in a strategy to undermine Bridgeport's Parent Advisory Council, but they want to do it in a way that completely and utterly destroys the notion that Bridgeport's parents even have Freedom of Speech or the right to be heard before their government takes action against them.

Adding further insult to the already absurd farce is that the "Special meeting" is scheduled for 5:00 PM, a time many parents and community members are still working or are busy fulfilling child raising duties and unable to make it to a hastily scheduled Board of Education Meeting.

The agenda for the "Special Meeting" is ominously entitled, "Discussion and Possible Action on District PAC Leadership."

The agenda item being a not so hidden reference that the Board of Education may take "action" against Bridgeport's Parent Advisory Council.

The entire development is just one more disgusting reminder that while we claim to be fighting the enemies of freedom abroad, some of the most serious threats to our American principles can be found right here at home.

If you happen to know Mayor Finch or his Charter School Allies...

Oh, never mind, it is no use talking to them, they simply don't care about notions like democracy and Freedom of Speech.

And tomorrow they will try to prove that point yet again.

To them, the end always justifies the means and the Corporate Education Reform Industry won't stop until they truly destroy public education in our country.

Here is to the hope that our fellow citizens in Bridgeport can fight back against the anti-democracy movement that is out to get them.

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Friday roundup

by: ctblogger

Fri Feb 20, 2015 at 09:56:10 AM EST

The latest...
  • LITTMAN: "Governor's Budget Ignores Evidence, Hits Vulnerable"
    Last week, after two years of hearing testimony, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission issued its draft report.

    One hundred and thirty pages of the 198-page report relate to mental health issues, and the importance of building "systems of care that actively foster healthy individuals, families and communities," particularly in light of research showing that "approximately half of young people qualify for some behavioral health diagnosis by the time they reach 18."

    Yet less than a week later, when Gov. Malloy revealed his biennial budget for 2016-2017, it was as if the Commission had produced an expensive paperweight, for all the attention it received from the administration.

    According to an analysis by CT Voices for Children,  the "Children's Budget" - state government spending that directly benefits young people - makes up only a third of the overall state budget, yet over half (54 percent) of the governor's proposed cuts come from programs affecting children and families.

    That's before we even get to health care and education.


  • BIGELOW: "Malloy Transportation Plan Necessary, Not Revolutionary"
    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy unveiled his transportation plan Wednesday in his annual budget address. The plan's notable for a two big things - first, for the worrisome lack of information on how we're going to pay for all of this, and second, for just how little it'll really change transportation in Connecticut.

    For all the talk about vision and designing the transportation system of the future, the plans Gov. Malloy outlined in his speech and in the accompanying plan are really more of the same than anything else.


  • NEWSTIMES: "State budget proposal adds money for charter schools, cuts higher ed funds"
    The governor wants to hold the line on the state's funding of public education, a move that comes as a relief to some districts and may spell disaster for others.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget for the next two years would add no new money for the state's $2 billion Education Cost Sharing Grant, but it would reduce special funding for some struggling urban districts and cut $8.4 million from higher education.


  • CT MIRROR: "CT colleges: Proposed cuts would probably reduce staff and raise tuition"
    Potentially facing painful cuts in funding from the state, college leaders on Thursday projected what it would take to close their deficits purely with tuition hikes or staff reductions.

    To meet the demands of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's newly proposed budget, community colleges would have to raise tuition by as much as 16 percent, a $619 increase for full-time students from Connecticut, officials said. The four regional Connecticut State Universities would have to raise tuition by as much as 8 percent, a $733 increase annually for students.

    If only staff reductions were used to reduce costs, the system would have to shrink its workforce by about 360 people, a 6 percent loss of full-time staff. Officials said they would not turn entirely to staff reductions to close a deficit, nor would they look only to tuition.

    "It's probably going to be a combination of all of these," said Richard Balducci, a member of the Board of Regents, during a budget meeting with college leaders.

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