The Truth about ConnCAN

Who is ConnCAN?
  • The facts are this: Stefan Pryor, the current commissioner of the SDE, helped to create the Amistad Academy with Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s President and CEO. Today, Achievement First run 20 schools in CT and NY and plan to expand to 35 in the next few years. This bill will make that easier for them to expand, as will current legislation in NY.
  • Jonathan Sackler and Alex Troy, two of the founding members of Achievement First’s Board of Directors, form ConnCAN. 
    • Three months later Sackler and Troy formed the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, and begin a lobbying campaign to push for legislation which makes it easier for charters such as Achievement First to take over public schools and divert public funds from public schools into private enterprises. 
    • Since it’s inception in 2004, ConnCAN has been branching out to create 50CAN and RI-­‐CAN among other affiliates—RI-­‐CAN made headlines in 2010 by pushing for and attaining the dismissal of all teachers in the Central Falls community in Rhode Island and paved the way for Achievement First to open charter schools in RI.
  • The businesspeople associated with Achievement First and ConnCAN have donated at least $689,000 to promote their agenda.
  • In a February 2012 ConnCANN press release titled “Analysis of Governor Malloy’s Education Bill S.B. 24 An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness, ConnCANN makes the following statements (excerpted, all emphasis ours):
    • These proposed reforms convey Governor Malloy’s position that all public school students should have access to excellent educational options. Requiring that municipalities begin to contribute to their students’ education at schools of choice, including public charter schools, is an important first step in the right direction...
    • ConnCAN is encouraged by the inclusion of the following components:
      • Increases funding for public schools of choice, including charter schools, bringing their funding closer to the per-­‐pupil funding level of students in their home district
      • Requires that towns begin to contribute to the education of public charter students ...
    • The bill could be strengthened by:
      •  Ensuring that local charter schools have sufficient flexibility and autonomy from local collective bargaining agreements to meet the needs of students

  • Achievement First stands to gain tremendously from this bill—a $2,600 per student increase. 
    • At the same time, communities who most need increase in funding: Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, etc would all see increases of less than $200 per student. 
    • Increasing funding to public schools is the only way to eliminate gaps in learning due to poverty. This bill does not do that and nor does ConnCAN support that. In fact, this new bill will divert funds from local districts and funnel it to the private, for-­‐profit charters—school districts will have to pay $1000 per student attending a charter school. 
    • The CT Post reports that for districts like Bridgeport, the cost would be $1.4 million annually. Achievement First would benefit and public schools (and the students left in them) would suffer.
  • While ConnCAN consistently says that this funding should go only to “providers with proven school designs and track records,” the facts show that charter schools are less effective unless they are free from the realities of public schools. 
    • A 2009 Stanford study of charter schools found that for each charter school which outperforms a comparable traditional public school, two underperform and the students would have been better off in a traditional public school. 
    • The other, roughly half, of charter schools show no benefit over comparable traditional public schools. 
  • It is important to know that although law states that charter schools must accept all learners as do traditional public schools, what actually happens is that the student population in charter schools do not resemble the broader community. On the whole, Achievement First schools population is less likely to qualify for free or reduced lunch and is significantly less likely to come from a home where English is not the primary language.
  • On the other hand, study after study shows that states with strong collective bargaining units and high union membership correlate to states with the highest academic achievement. The states that have outlawed collective bargaining are consistently at the bottom of academic rankings. The last 50 years of good faith collective bargaining have produced contracts which provide a competitive salary to attract prospective teachers, provides for career and classroom stability, and produces highly qualified teachers. 

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