When it comes to the corporate education reform industry’s strategies and tactics, Bridgeport has become one of their “ground zero” targets.
Thanks to Governor Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas, the Democratic establishment has presided over an ongoing effort to destroy Bridgeport’s public education system.
Their “accomplishments” have been to divert scarce resources to charter schools that refuse to take their fair share of Latinos, English Language Learners and students who require special education.
They have sought to consistently and fully implement Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair Common Core, Common Core Testing and teacher evaluation education reforms.
And they’ve refused, even to the extent of breaking the law, to provide Bridgeport’s schools with adequate resources.
For example, when Bridgeport’s school budget was $3.5 million underfunded, Governor Malloy provided Mayor Bill Finch with a forgivable loan in exchange for allowing Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to choose Bridgeport’s superintendent.
This year, when Finch refused to meet his legal obligation and provide an additional $3.2 million to meet their minimum budget obligation, Malloy committed to letting Finch off the hook.
The follow commentary piece by Bridgeport Board of Education member Howard Gardner lays out the ugly story of how Mayor Finch (and Governor Malloy) are failing the children, parents, teachers and citizens of Bridgeport.
The piece is entitled, “Where is the “Education Mayor?” and was first published in the Connecticut Post.
The Bridgeport Board of Education is burdened with a teaching/learning infrastructure that has been purposely and systematically neglected. The current level of financial support and lack of resources within this education system is tantamount to being on life support. By the state of Connecticut Department of Education’s own admission, the Bridgeport school system is under budgeted by some $45 million. At the same time the BBOE finds itself in mortal combat with a city that consistently underfunds education.
Every city and town is obliged to bear its share of the cost of educating the children in its jurisdiction, most of the cost being borne by the state based on the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. This is law as delineated by the state’s general statues. There is a built-in growth percentage that is added to the overall education budget each year. This is the time of year in which cities and towns across the state determine and allocate their incremental funds toward the Minimum Budget Requirement — total education cost. With the looming deadline for the finalization of next year budgets for municipalities and education boards across the state, all cities and towns have agreed to meet their MBR as determined by the State Board of Education. That is, all cities and towns with one notable exception…yes, you guessed correctly – Bridgeport.
For the past three years Mayor Finch’s administration has done everything in its power to circumnavigate the stipulated MBR. Their maneuvering has ranged from substituting in kind services in lieu of cash contribution, crying broke to the state and just flat out refusing to make payments as in the 2013-2014 school year.
We are amazed at this reticence from a mayor who once referred to himself as the “Education Mayor.” I guess “Education” in this case doesn’t mean the traditional public school system, because it is bleatingly obvious that the Mayor has little or no commitment to this institution. This is not a gratuitous comment on the part of the writer of this op-ed. I have some history with the Mayor with regard to education reform.
Five years ago I was invited to join a newly formed education reform initiative comprised of Mayor Finch, then Superintendent John Ramos, then Board of Ed chair Barbara Bellinger, other community leaders, heads of local social service organizations, and business leaders. This organization was founded on the pretext of bolstering the performance of Bridgeport public schools, but operated under a hidden agenda shared only by a clandestine subgroup comprised of Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Robert Francis, and blessed by the Mayor. Suspecting that the purported agenda was not genuine, I resigned from Bridgeport Partner for Student Success, a.k.a., Excel Bridgeport.
I walked away from BPSS over four years ago not having a complete grasp of the hidden agenda. However, subsequent chain of events have made its goals crystal clear — allow the Bridgeport Public School to be decimated, undermined; and then, point to the failure of the traditional public school system in Bridgeport. On that premise, they would build a case for alternative solutions — charter schools and corporation-based educational models. In hind sight one can deduce the various attempts to carry out this diabolical plot: the illegal takeover of an elected BBOE, the failed attempt at a charter change referendum and the hiring of Paul Vallas, public school destroyer extraordinaire.
For his efforts in balancing the BBOE’s budget, Mr. Vallas might have left here as a hero to some; however, his results came with heavy damage to the district’s teaching/learning resources.
This is the stark reality of Mr. Vallas’ legacy — the district has 72 less certified staff, including 27 in special education, than we had four years ago. Music, arts and other electives are non-existing at our high schools.
You can read Howard Gardner’s piece on the CT Post website at:http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Gardner-Where-is-the-Education-Mayor-5457666.php