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Malloy Defends Pryor, Calls Conflict of Interest Accusations ‘Ridiculous’

by | Jan 10, 2012 3:29pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called allegations that his Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor has a conflict of interest heading the state Education Department because he previously worked for a charter school organization, “utterly and fantastically ridiculous.”

What people, who have been writing about this, have to understand is that Connecticut only has public charter schools, Malloy said after a meeting at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday.

“They are public schools. So in essence what you’re saying is because someone’s involved in public schools, they shouldn’t be allowed to be involved in public schools. It’s utterly and fantastically ridiculous,” the governor said.

In an interview with WNPR Tuesday morning Pryor said he was the first one to ask the Office of State Ethics staff for an opinion about his past position as founder of the Amistad Academy in New Haven and his volunteer position on the board of Achievement First, the management company which runs charter schools in Connecticut and New York. He said he was told very “rapidly no and definitively no.”

“The first person to raise this issue was me,” Pryor told WNPR‘s John Dankosky. “We’re talking about public schools here. Just like a superintendent of schools or a school board chair who becomes a commissioner no one would claim that there’s a conflict of interest with the schools in that jurisdiction.”

But he said he’s very “sensitive to perceptions of conflicts,” so on Dec. 5 he sent a letter   the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board. The board is expected to review the draft opinion at its Jan. 26 meeting. 

Meanwhile, Pryor’s previous work for on behalf of Achievement First, has been debated online on blogs and amongst his critics who have called on him to recuse himself on matters involving Achievement First.

“As an Achievement First Board member, Stefan Pryor helped create and adopt that strategic plan, a plan that when fully implemented would increase Achievement First’s revenue from $4 million a year in ‘management fees’ to upwards of $10 million a year,” Jonathan Pelto, a former lawmaker and Democratic operative, wrote on his blog.

“To achieve its goal, it will be critical for Achievement First to expand in Connecticut,” Pelto wrote. “Now Pryor, a founder and long time member of Achievement First’s Board of Trustees finds himself in the unique position of being able to determine whether that aggressive growth plan will succeed or fail.”

However, Pryor said as commissioner he’s not ultimately in charge of deciding whether a charter school is renewed, expanded, or approved. He said that’s up to the State Board of Education.

Pryor said he doesn’t want to preempt any decision by Office of State Ethics, but he will take that decision and work with his colleagues at the Education Department to come up with procedures to create an “open, fair, and clear process.”

Only two new charter schools have opened in the state over the past six years and the state didn’t accept applications at all in 2006 and 2009, even though 20 applications were submitted.

Charter school advocates were hopeful when Pryor was named Education Commissioner because they saw it as their best opportunity to get more charter school seats. But Pryor has repeatedly said he supports all high achieving schools.

“There are a number of schools that are exemplary” across the state, that are “achieving at a level that would not be expected,” Pryor said in November at an event at the Amistad Academy. That includes not just charters, but other successful public schools as well.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 10, 2012  4:40pm

They are public schools. So in essence what you’re saying is because someone’s involved in public schools, they shouldn’t be allowed to be involved in public schools. It’s utterly and fantastically ridiculous,” the governor said.

Read this It speaks the truth.

Are Charter School Public Schools? I’m Afraid Not.
by Alexander Hoffman.

First, let’s acknowledge what charter schools are. They are publicly financed schools that are run by private – usually nonprofit – organizations. Sometimes they are independent, and sometimes they are part of larger charter school organizations or chains.

http://gothamschools.org/2010/03/26/are-charter-school-public-schools-i’m-afraid-not/

posted by: Noteworthy | January 10, 2012  6:03pm

First, charter schools are nearly never public schools. Malloy should get his facts straight. They simply get some of their money from the public. Second, Pryor has a conflict particularly when it comes to Achievement First, who has a stated goal of milking their schools for millions in management fees. That they are a non-profit is of little comfort to me since the threshold to be a non-profit is so low.

Third, AF is one part of a multi-headed organization that includes ConnCan. They all enjoy non-profit status, are controlled by the same group of people and are inter-related but with a single mission. Get more money from the state and institute their version of reform which includes AF taking over more public schools.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 10, 2012  6:24pm

They are public schools. So in essence what you’re saying is because someone’s involved in public schools, they shouldn’t be allowed to be involved in public schools. It’s utterly and fantastically ridiculous,” the governor said.

Read this It speaks the truth.

Are Charter School Public Schools? I’m Afraid Not.
by Alexander Hoffman.

First, let’s acknowledge what charter schools are. They are publicly financed schools that are run by private – usually nonprofit – organizations. Sometimes they are independent, and sometimes they are part of larger charter school organizations or chains.

Here is the link.


http://gothamschools.org/2010/03/26/are-charter-school-public-schools-i’m-afraid-not/

posted by: brutus2011 | January 10, 2012  7:01pm

brutus2011

US public school districts spend over 600 billion per year. (source: Nat. Ctr. Ed. Statistics)

Examining the historical data one must conclude that the more we spend the less we receive in student achievement.

Teacher salaries have risen by less than 1% and the traditional teacher (female) pool has shrunk as society has progressed to offer qualified women higher salaries in different sectors and industries.

There is a HUGE incentive for privateers to want in on this kind of public spending.

Charter schools are NOT public schools.

They are privately run but publicly funded.

Pay attention, people!

posted by: ... | January 10, 2012  10:33pm

...

Its a good link THREEFIFTHS about general charter school policy in the eyes of the federal government, but it fails to address the issue at hand, whether or not there is a conflict of interest. It also comes from a blog that is specifically discussing New York City schools, though it is possible this Op-Ed may be engaged in a broader discussion. Either way, it doesn’t discuss the specifics of CT regulations/policies regarding our charter schools.

posted by: Tom Burns | January 11, 2012  12:26am

I’ll give Pryor the benefit of the doubt for now——but clearly charters aren’t public or they would accept transfers throughout the year—(making them more like real public schools that must do this)until charters accept students throughout the year and cant counsel students out of their school and back into REAL public schools then they should get NO government funding and of course no more expansion—Apples and Oranges—yet they want all the goodies w/o the issues—sounds like the Wall St bankers to me—-lets play the game on a level field and I will put my money on REAL educators and systems vs. the phonies—Tom

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 11, 2012  10:23am

@jonessAC1.Mr.Pryor comes from New York,Just as Garth Harries.So they bring the same system from New York city.As far as specifics of CT regulations policies regarding charter schools here in Ct.The plan is the same across this country when it comes to Charter School.In fact it starts with Obama.

Obama and the Charter School Sugar Daddies
Wed, 06/02/2010 Glen Ford


http://blackagendareport.com/content/obama-and-charter-school-sugar-daddies

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 11, 2012  10:27am

@jonessAC12 As far as conflict of interest,If you got a speeding ticket from a cop and you go to court and the cop that wrote you the ticket is the hearing judge.Would you call that a conflict of interest.

posted by: jonpelto | January 11, 2012  10:25pm

Some would say that since Connecticut’s new Commissioner of Education is such a strong supporter of charter schools, any decision he makes about the expansion of charter schools would be tainted by the appearance that he has of a conflict of interest. 

However, the more immediate accusation, the one that Malloy called “utterly and fantastically ridiculous” relates to whether his relationship with Achievement First, the charter school management company, is such that he should recuse or abstain from deciding matters directly related to Achievement First’s application to build more charter schools in Connecticut.

I’ve posted a response on my blog Wait, What?, but the fundamental issues it that Commissioner Pryor along with his colleague Dacia Toll, led the effort to build the Amistad Academy.  Pryor, Toll and others created Achievement First so they would have a vehicle for creating more charter schools.  Pryor joined the Board of Directors of this new company and Toll rose to the position of President and CEO of Achievement First.

As one of Achievement First’s Directors, Stefan Pryor has been a vital part of the organization’s unprecedented growth. 

Starting with the Amistad Academy, Achievement First now has 20 schools in Connecticut and New York serving almost 5,400 students.

In 2010, Achievement First’s Board of Directors adopted an aggressive strategic plan.  Their plan is to go from the existing 20 schools to 35 schools over the next few years and from serving about 5,400 students to over 12,000 students.

Achievement First claims that when their strategic plan is implemented, it “will serve more students than 95 percent of school districts in the United States”.

As Commissioner, Pryor now finds himself in the unique position of being able to determine whether Achievement First’s aggressive growth plan will succeed or fail.

It is that direct and personal relationship that he has with Achievement First that I believe creates the serious appearance of a conflict of interest…and it is that accusation that the Governor has deemed ridiculous. 

I would submit it is far from ridiculous and any reasonable person would be extremely suspicious of any decisions the Commissioner makes when it comes to helping the very organization that he help create and expand.

My latest blog can be found here: http://jonpelto.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/lets-return-to-the-real-issue-transparency-and-conflicts-of-interest/

posted by: ... | January 12, 2012  9:45am

...

Its too bad THREEFIFTHS we’re not talking about cops and judges. We’re talking about education (so that is a very poor comparison, and a partisan one at that). It would be nice though to see someone provide a previous CT education commissioner taking the same action many bloggers and posters are arguing for.

Even if Pryor may be from NY (for only 3 years mind you), but his main school is in CT. And actually, he’s been in New Jersey for the past few years. Nice try though. A life lived has more experience than 3 years in New York City.

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