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Is Michelle Rhee Trying To Buy A Seat In The 5th?

by Christine Stuart | Sep 28, 2012 5:22pm
(27) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Election 2012, Town News, Hartford, Windsor

Michael Lee Murphy file photo

Michelle Rhee in Hartford this summer

A school reform group with ties to StudentsFirst, the organization founded by the controversial former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system, is pouring nearly $32,000 into the Oct. 2 Democratic primary for the 5th Assembly District seat.

The group which calls itself the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance notified the state Elections Enforcement Commission that it plans to spend $31,997 on behalf of Brandon McGee.

McGee, 28, is vying for the Democratic nomination against Leo Canty, a Windsor resident and vice president of the second largest teachers union in the state.

The money, according to the group, will be spent making phone calls and knocking on doors for the next four days in an effort to get out the vote in a race which ended in a tie on Aug. 14. After two recounts and a lawsuit, a judge ordered a revote on Oct. 2.

Since the public campaign finance law utilized by both candidates during the primary never anticipated a tied election, there are no additional fundraising opportunities for the candidates from that program. But the law doesn’t prohibit outside groups from making independent expenditures on behalf of a candidate.

Christine Stuart file photo

Brandon McGee and his campaign manager Liam Sweeney

Liam Sweeney, McGee’s campaign manager, said he learned of the expenditure through Twitter, an online social network. He said he had no idea the group would be contributing to his candidate.

“It’s an exorbitant amount of money for a state House race,” Sweeney said.

In fact, it’s more than candidates receive under the campaign finance law for the entire primary.

Sweeney said McGee did fill out an application for support from the organization during the primary, but never anticipated it would result in such a large contribution so late in the process. He suspected the donation may be about trying to “squeeze two candidates into a larger issue,” but a spokeswoman for the organization said that’s not the case.

“The state has made great progress in the past year toward enacting common sense policies that put the needs of kids first. Brandon McGee is the kind of candidate who will continue that work so that all kids can attend great schools staffed by great educators,” Jeri Powell, GNEPSA‘s Connecticut organizer, said.

Christine Stuart file photo

Leo Canty center of photo

Canty, vice president of AFT Connecticut, wasn’t shy about saying he opposes the group and what he believes is their effort “to destroy our public education system, and replace it with a system of privatized charter schools that leave behind our most vulnerable and at-risk kids.”

He emailed supporters to let them know about the donation Thursday night.

“The rich backers of groups like Students First and GNEPSA seek nothing less than the destruction and privatization of public services. They are for profit above everything,” he said in the email.

GNEPSA has been actively making independent expenditures to other state races this year including the Democratic primary between Tom Reynolds of Ledyard and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten. It spent more than $42,000 in that race in order to try to defeat Osten, who is the president of her union in the state Department of Correction. Osten won the primary and now faces Chris Coutu in the Nov. 6 election for Sen. Edith Prague’s seat.

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(27) Comments

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | September 28, 2012  6:44pm

This is an interesting turn of events.

posted by: Tessa Marquis | October 1, 2012  8:32am

Doesn’t pass the smell test: Why would an organization support a candidate running against the VP of a Union?

Has McGee (who I haven’t met) given an indication that he is OK with Union-bashing?

posted by: eastrivertype | October 1, 2012  10:35am

When Leo Canty says that the goal of Students First is to leave behind the most at risk kids, that is typical tired rhetoric.  Under our current system we have the worst achievement gap in the nation.  So his union approach is merely more money at the problem. The kids most at risk include those in his own district.  But that doesn’t seem to matter.
So now his reponse is to bash the “rich” who contribute to an effort to improve education.  Whether you agree with their approach or not the injection of the usual class warfare statement serves no purpose other than to try and get Leo elected.  Is it surprising that getting elected is more important to this old guard union leader than having a meaningful discussion of what is best for kids?  What doesn’t pass the smell test is bashing Students First and anyone that contributes to them.  At least the contribution of Students First will let McGee get his message out over the in kind contributions of the unions that back Canty. 
And regarding the smell test, an organization would support a candidate running against a union dinosaur like Canty perhaps because they have a better idea.

posted by: CT Jim | October 1, 2012  1:08pm

Why don’t people look at who is backing this student first group?? You’ll find wall street billionaires and millionaires looking to suck more money out of the system and into to the pockets of corporate bloodsuckers. They could give a damn about kids or people in general. All they care about is profits and dividends and need another avenue to achieve their goals Rhee is more than happy to be an overpriced coordinator of this effort and hopes to land a real exclusive rich package as a reward. If McGee believes the kids in Hartford and Windsor will be smarter and better students being controlled by corporate america then he should say it. Stop hiding behind ignorance. What’s in it for him??? I’m sure he’s looking at a payback.

posted by: SalRomano | October 1, 2012  1:38pm

An excellent example of union politics in action.

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 1, 2012  1:43pm

The Unions at every opportunity have fought to block parental involvement in schools, IF, the result of that parental involvement is the subrogation of teacher contracts.  The unions have fought very hard against the parent trigger law in California. They actually at one point had a video webcast on how to fight the parent trigger law I believe in CT.  When that video became common knowledge, the video disappeared from the web.

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 1, 2012  2:00pm

@CT Jim, If you changed “Corporate” for “Unions” you will see the problem with your argument. 

The unions have much more to lose with change than any of your perceived beneficiaries.  The unions have more at stake if they lose the Status Quo.  See Wisconsin.

posted by: CT Jim | October 1, 2012  3:49pm

@Re-Windsor, not being totally versed in these so-called parent trigger laws I went and did a little research and the research was more than a little scary: First these laws are promoted by for profit or charter schools which in the end take monies away from students and into rich people pockets. Then studies show that a whopping 83% of charter schools fared WORSE or NO-BETTER that their public school counterparts so why the need to spend more money without results? The laws also include a trigger where 50%plus one can take over a school and or close it down then hand out vouchers where parents can either send their children to private or charter schools. It’s seems only the wealthy can turn that voucher into a private school education while the poorest go to a charter school with no improvement in their education. Why do tax payers need to subsidize private schools for rich kids? Last I went to see what organizations support these laws and at the top of the list is ALEC. ALEC is a right wing (very right) group sponsored by corporations some of which have pulled funding after learning they were working on voter suppression laws as well as social laws as well as a slew of controversial right wing craziness. So why again do we need a parent trigger??? This has less to do with teacher unions and a whole lot to do with corporate Americas incredible appetite for more money

posted by: CT Jim | October 1, 2012  4:07pm

And if you want a parent trigger, why don’t you start by checking your child’s homework,have them put down the video games or texting on their cell phones. instead of taking them to the mall take them to the library. Try putting down your keeping up with Jones handbook and spend more time with them. No you guys want to blame the teachers. What self serving wimps. I have three daughters that have gone thru the public education system with different degrees of success. And in many cases had the same teachers for the same classes. So was I supposed to praise the teacher when one got an A and 2 years ask for their head later the next one gets a C? That sounds more than a little dumb to me. The answer is some of the suggestions I gave above. It’s time parents own up to their own selfish ways and start working with these hardworking public education teachers. Instead you want the taxpayer to pay for Ms. Porters. Sorry pal that’s your problem

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 1, 2012  6:11pm

@CTJim, the talking points you mentioned are a clear union/status quo product.  The math alone will set your mind at ease. 

Most private and/or parochial primary schools have a cost in the $4-$7.5K range for primary and $10-$15K for secondary schools here in CT.  Yes you have Loomis-Chaffee and others of that ilk at a multiple of that $15K price, however the kids looking to go to those schools would not be most likely voucher recipients.  Also many of these private schools are “not for profit” or connected to a religious organization and those usually do not have a profit motive.  So not sure about your profit comment.

The current cost in Windsor is dependent upon how you look at the numbers.  The range is $15,000 to $22,000 per student per year.  If a student received a $5,000 voucher/student/year, that would leave $10,000 to $17,000 in additional funds available to be reallocated to students in need. I will say I’m having a little difficulty in trying to understand how that hurts public education, but I’m sure it can be twisted. 

You see I am a progressive in believing it is best to give PARENTS a CHOICE.  Those that do not want to give people a choice are doing it for what reason?  The fact someone might make money is not a problem in my mind, why would it be in yours, unless you believe making a profit is immoral.  Again vouchers are not a huge amount of money, they usually are 1/3rd to 1/4 the cost of a public school education.

The reason it would hurt is if all parents took all students out of the public schools and then you would not need the entire school systems, just some people to administer the vouchers.  A lot of public education jobs would be lost and a lot of private education jobs would be created and BONUS the tax payers would see a reduction in their taxes of some 50% or more.  So it would be bad for exactly who?  the taxpayers?, the parents?, the students?  No, No, No, then who?  The bureaucrats and the teachers.  You actually said that the quality of the education is no better or inversely no worse than a public school, so that can’t be the issue.

So please tell me how it can be bad to give an inner city Mom and/or Dad or guardian a choice?

posted by: jiddum | October 1, 2012  10:36pm

Sure this education reform sounds good. Who could possibly be against better education? Or more “Choice”? Or closing the achievement gap. But if you want to know their real agenda follow the money. Some of the biggest supporters are Michael Bloomberg, the Koch brothers, and other billionaires trying to funnel more and more public dollars into their private corporate coffers, while breaking anything that stands in their way - like the labor movement and financial regulations.

Furthermore the “solutions” Rhee & co propose would ultimately further leave behind students struggling the most with poverty, learning disabilities, and other disadvantages. Education is s fundamental constitutional right. Not a privilege. And when you privatize education you inevitably deny certain students that right. We need to make EVERY school a school that parents would choose to send their kids to.

posted by: Concerned Citizen | October 2, 2012  1:17am

Why is it that when anyone tries to even the playing field in education they are called names, and the unions pull out their most bizarre scare tactics?
  Anything that will give parents an effective say in what happens to their children in public schools is railed against by teachers’ unions and the far right?
CT has some of the best paid teachers in the nation; yet, CT also has the largest education achievement gap in the nation!  Overall, it is not coming from the schools in Madison, Greenwich, Westport, Guilford, Simsbury.  It is coming from Bridgeport, Danbury, New Haven, Waterbury, New London, Hartford, etc.
  While there are truly committed and excellent teachers in many of our schools there are also too many deadbeats and incompetent teachers and they are mostly in the higher-paying inner-city schools.  They are retired on the job and protected by their unions who care mostly 80% about teachers’ rights and privileges and 20% about educating students. Among this bunch it is all about money, security and privilege.
  CT Jim, Geoffrey Canada runs a string of charter schools in Harlem attended mostly by children from poor communities.  They are doing well; the parents are involved and their involvement is required and valued.
  Marva Collins ran a charter school in Chicago for poor children; they excelled.  Reason? They had good caring, teachers and parents whose participation in their education are invited valued by the schools.
  The parent trigger law is a good thing for students; so is the School Parent Compact.  Unions should NOT have the last say about our education system.

In CT the schools that are going down the drain are the ones where we cannot get rid of the lousy teachers because they are protected by unions. Some unions tell teachers not to do anything that is not in their contracts; they prevent them from even helping students who need their help. Selfish and GREEDY!  There are teachers who sit before their classes and read fashion magazines rather than engage students. That is the teachers’ unions. The exception in CT is an enlightened leader like David Cicarella with the NHFT. If more unions followed his example our children would be so much better off.

With the exception of Mr.  Cicarella in NH, the unions in CT have been albatroses in education pulling down our schools. I sincerely hope that Mr. McGee wins the election.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 2, 2012  2:47am

GoatBoyPHD

Parochial Schools on voucher would save thousands. Typical is St Bernard’s in Enfield. K-8. Families with 3 kids pay $7850 a year for all 3 of them!

http://sbsenfield.org/tuition.php

In states like Indiana the voucher savings are plowed back into program expansion—preschools, after school, additional remediation, summer classes and technology purchases.

The teachers union position on vouchers is morally revolting. They aren’t getting the job done and forgot how to budget.

posted by: CT Jim | October 2, 2012  7:34am

@RE-Windsor, classic Michelle Rhee talking point you got there and first off I’m not a teacher so I get my information the way most people do I look it up. So Let me see here Choate is about $40,000 a year. The Gunnery is $49,300 a year and Taft is $48,360 as for your numbers according to people that I know whose kids go there they think you should get them a HUGE rebate because they are saying you aren’t even close with your numbers. Which is classic Michelle Rhee. I’m not against profit if you want to send your kids to private school then right the check and see ya. Don’t expect my tax dollars to subsidize your kid getting a Romney style education while everybody else gets bundled into a classroom of 50. Profits are for wall street education is for teachers and teachers should be judged by their peers not some group bent on vouchers for rich kids and with lining the pockets of wall street. They have enough suckers out there to leach off leave our kids education out of it. If you want to pick cherrys you should move to a farm. I’m really thinking now you are Michelle Rhee or at least a paid surrogate

posted by: CT Jim | October 2, 2012  9:07am

And I’m sure these Private and parochial schools like St Paul, Choate, Taft, Xavier, Miss porters and those elementary private schools in West Hartford and Avon will no longer be able to pick and choose who the feel fits best at those schools. No in fact because it’s tax payer dollars it should go by a lottery system so if a school is closed in Hartford these private schools should be filled with a ratio that looks like the school the parents closed 80% minority and 20% caucasion. Let me know how that’s gonna fly at Avon old Farms???

posted by: Speak up | October 2, 2012  9:57am

Rhee’s fraud of an organization has nothing to do with students, teaching or learning.

It is a political lobbyist group that secretly slithers around the nation passing our billionaire donated cash to influence and bribe politicians. Her dirty donations push the privatization, anti-union, anti-public school, collective bargaining busting, teacher trashing dogma down their throats.

Here she is a pariah and getting her money is the kiss of death here in CT. Didn’t Tom Reynolds lose after the GNEPSA “help”?

The Rheeject should stay away from CT.

posted by: redlady | October 2, 2012  10:46am

You would need to rent and watch “Waiting for Superman” for a quick rundown on her philosophies.  Rhee’s intentions are to save the nation’s schools from government incompetency and union greed.  The education system should be returned to the local community for oversight and pride in accomplishment. It will take a few years and some very hard work, but in the end we will be rewarded with a future generation that knows how to succeed.

posted by: Angus | October 2, 2012  11:53am

To Christine Stuart who calls herself a reporter: you write that this group “calls itself” (by its own name?) Is there another name for the group? Do you know of names that others call the group? Or is that your underhanded attempt to throw the group’s legitimacy into question? Inquiring minds want to know.

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  12:16pm

@jiddum, let us follow the money.  The union hierarchy are paid 100’s of thousands of dollars in compensation, none of that educates kids.  Is it possible in your mind that maybe that is some of the money to follow?  Maybe not because you believe they have a “common good”?  You inject irrelevant issues into a discussion on education.  What the union is horribly afraid of and will do its best to block is the loss of rank and file employees because with fewer employees they have fewer dollars to pay their salaries and more importantly to support Democratic candidates that support them.  The union has a singular purpose; to protect the jobs and salaries and benefits of the teachers.  That is it!  Educating a child is not the unions job.  The teachers educate the kids and they are members of the union, however they may not agree with the union or its approach, and in CT have NO CHOICE.

So yes follow the money right to the unions that will do anything and tell you anything to protect the cash cow called public education.

I placed a formidable argument for Parental Choice

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  12:17pm

@Concerned: You are almost 100% correct.  Unions are not interested in educating children.  It is the jobs and the money they care about.  If they cared about the kids they would help weed out the deadbeats, but they protect them, over the kids because that is their JOB!

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  12:25pm

@redlady:  Well said.

@CT Jim: I can speak of Windsor whose School and Town budgets I am very familiar with.  My math is valid, however, you can look up three locals schools below and you will find ~$5K is the tuition number, and some have a tuition limit for larger families.  You can look up the Windsor BoE Budget and Windsor Town Budget and do your own math.  The “BoE cost” is ~$15K/student/year, and the gross budget including all education related expenses brings us >$21K/student/year.  The fact is giving a $5K voucher would mean MORE money available for services to the remaining students.  That is good for the students that need the help.  Who loses, not sure, maybe a few teachers.

So to make sure we understand it for all the readers.  You do not care what it costs to educate kids regardless of the quality of the education any price is good as long as no one can profit from it.  Wow!  So as long as they tow your line, failure is acceptable because it is better than a child getting a GREAT education.

Education has been an interest of mine.  I have my own thoughts, and I have direct experience with the questionable professionalism of the current educations environment.

posted by: Christine Stuart | October 2, 2012  12:40pm

Christine Stuart

Dear Angus,
I am not trying to undermine the legitimacy of the group which is affiliated with StudentsFirst. When I spoke with the StudentsFirst spokeswoman in Washington she had a difficult time coming up with a description of GNEPSA. It’s a long name and a difficult acronym. I wasn’t trying to be flip I was just trying to be succinct. Hope that helps.
Christine

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  12:52pm

@redlady:  Well said.

@CT Jim: I can speak of Windsor whose School and Town budgets I am very familiar with.  My math is valid, however, you can look up three locals schools below and you will find ~$5K is the tuition number, and some have a tuition limit for larger families.  You can look up the Windsor BoE Budget and Windsor Town Budget and do your own math.  The “BoE cost” is ~$15K/student/year, and the gross budget including all education related expenses brings us >$21K/student/year.  The fact is giving a $5K voucher would mean MORE money available for services to the remaining students.  That is good for the students that need the help.  Who loses, not sure, maybe a few teachers.

So to make sure we understand it for all the readers.  You do not care what it costs to educate kids regardless of the quality of the education any price is good as long as no one can profit from it.  Wow!  So as long as they tow your line, failure is acceptable because it is better than a child getting a GREAT education.

Education has been an interest of mine.  I have my own thoughts, and I have direct experience with the questionable professionalism of the current educations environment.

Also vouchers should go to home or alternatively schooled students.  What is fair is fair.

posted by: CT Jim | October 2, 2012  1:01pm

@ RE Windsor,
There is ZERO public clamoring to give $5,000 so a rich kid can go to private school NONE. Your never going to get that ever. So i had questions surrounding Private and Parochial schools. Who buses the kids to these schools and what is the cost to the tax payer for that??? That should be billed to the private and parochial school and be PART of tuition. Second private and parochial schools do not require certification, part of the reason is to keep compensation down but in order to get tax payer dollars they will need to adhere to state policy which means more than half their teachers will be immediately terminated. Their replacements will be displaced teachers from public school who will immediately organize and demand more pay better bennies and pension thus sending the tuition skyward. They also will be able to strike seeing that only public education teachers have binding arbitration causing most of these schools to go bankrupt some with a history of 100 plus years gone gone gone all because you wanted a voucher. Lastly the vouchers should be based on income so the poor and minorities will be able to go to Avon Old Farms, Taft and Cheshire academy as well as having the enrollment based on a lottery and not who you know. So that way there your kid may end up at saint pauls while a minority child from a poor family can get the same opportunity to go to Avon Old Farms. Otherwise non of this works. And after the schools are pushed to capacity who repairs the buildings? Better not be the tax payer that should fall on the schools and be part of tuition as it would be in a public setting. Also the parochial schools will now have to teach evolution which i’m sure is going to go over well. Now how much cheaper is this gonna be????

posted by: anniemil | October 2, 2012  2:58pm

Michelle Rhee’s motivation can be expressed in one sentence: she wants to privatize PUBLIC education. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are about teachers, unions,politicians, parents, students, etc. We, the public, would no longer have a say in the education of our nation’s children, including those in the 5th Assembly District. It’s a great avenue to resegregate our schools, but this time probably more by class rather than race.

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  6:56pm

@anniemil: 
1.) Do you really have a say in the education of your children today?  You can get the Washington person that says what needs to be done, or the State person that says how Johnny should be taught, or the Superintendent to discuss what the problem is?  You are afraid of choice?  Why?

2.) As long as the education is “public” it is acceptable to you to provide a bad education?  How is that working for minority kids?

3.) Your fears are unfounded.  Prove me wrong. 

The only thing we know is that parents are happier when given a choice!

Read this about a country that changed its education attitude: http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=2004&month=04

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 2, 2012  10:46pm

@CTJim: LOL There is public discussion, but the unions put the scare tactics out there, and some parents feel threatened.  Also you should consider having a conversation with a poor kid, since you are hung up on wealthy elitists who do not need the $.  Why not talk to a poor Mother who is looking for an opportunity to provide their POOR child an opportunity.  Have you ever talked to a frustrated mother in the ghetto?  I have.

The State mandates the transportation to private schools WITHIN a town’s borders.  If parents got a voucher there could be a discussion on this issue.  The cost of transportation in Windsor is ~$3.3MM the amount for non-public school transportation is less than 10% ($257K) and I believe the State reimburses the town for most of the cost. 

Private schools have certifications, and the pupils at several Windsor Schools perform above grade level in most academic areas.  So the proof is in the pudding.  If the kids are doing well, then what is the reason for certification?
 
Compensation is the markets job, and many teachers choose the more open and affirming atmosphere of a private school, but as they say misery loves company, so you want everyone miserable.  No teacher has to work at a private school and without tenure bad teachers are removed.  Again I am not sure where the problem.  However since the public schools have done so poorly why do you feel that recreating a failed system to your liking will work?  It sounds more like you want to keep black kids disadvantaged, but that is an elitist idea.  I do not.

So explain how a flat $ amount is unfair.  The parents can get an education wherever they can get that education. If the parents or guardians want to go to an elite school they get the same $5K, if they go to a parochial school that costs $4,5K the school get $4,5K.  A voucher is not cash to the parent.  Your idea of paying the cost of whatever school sis willing to accept this child is not even close to what I am proposing.  Your proposal would gut public education, but that is what you want to try to prove. 

The operation of these schools is the business of these schools, and none of your concern.  Your argument is a paper argument. 

Private schools need to teach a base curriculum in any manner they wish.  The separation of church and state says the state will not advocate a religion.  It does not say that a person can’t make their own free choices.  Then again you would be opposed to that so that the failed status quo is maintained and we have another generation of poor people under-educated so that a special class of people (teachers) are protected.  Do you not see the failings of your logic.