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Historic Spending To Influence Charter Question–The Fight To Control School Board

October 29th, 2012 · 13 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Education

The Town of Bridgeport was incorporated in 1821. The City of Bridgeport incorporated in 1836. At no time in the history of Connecticut’s most populous city has a local general election, be it candidates for office, or a charter question, or any of the above combined in a single cycle, experienced the money financing the Nov. 6 ballot question that if approved by voters will give Mayor Bill Finch the power to appoint school board members.

Yes, spending on this ballot question is historic.

“Shall the City of Bridgeport approve and adopt the Charter changes as recommended by the Charter Revision Commission and approved by the City Council, including education governance reforms?”

OIB interviews with the various organizations, political action committees, independent expenditure groups associated with spending reveals roughly $750,000 will be spent by the time Nov. 6 hits. As a comparison no mayoral candidate in the history of the city has spent that kind of dough. In fact no two candidates combined for a mayoral general election has come close to the figure.

Voters are hearing from supporters on both sides of the issue through mail, radio, television, phones, news outlets, door knocks and more.

Supporters of a yes vote have at least three separate organizations spending loads of dough in a persuasion campaign with city electors. The primary driving force is a political action committee Residents for a Better Bridgeport www.residentsforabetterbridgeport.com comprised of the traditional organization backing Finch. They include campaign advisers, Democratic Party apparatus and public employees supportive of the mayor’s agenda.

The PAC, according to folks familiar with fundraising, will spend roughly $250,000, financed heavily by corporate checks courtesy of the regional business community.

The money is just warming up. Excel Bridgeport, www.excelbridgeport.com, the education reform group founded more than a year ago financed by Fairfield County business interests, is spending independently of Residents for a Better Bridgeport. That’s not all, folks.

Students First, the organization founded by lightning rod national education advocate Michelle Rhee, has hired an army of workers on the ground in support of a yes vote. Hiring 65 full-time campaign canvassers isn’t cheap.

The opposition, as well, has several organizations lending a hand in an effort to defeat the ballot question, albeit not the financial firepower of the Yes coalition. The opposition has united under the banner www.protectourvotingrights.wordpress.com that includes the teachers union Bridgeport Education Association, the education watchdog Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, the Connecticut Working Families Party that has three of its members on the elected school board and the voting rights Connecticut Citizens Action Group.

The opposition is pushing a no vote in mail pieces, radio, phone calls and field operations.

When you add the spending from all of the above, according to various operatives familiar with their respective financial plans, the tab is roughly $750K.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    It just shows the amount of money that is up for grabs. This spending has nothing to do with the kids or with better education.
    This yes group is looking to control an estimated $300 million budget and the vendor contracts that go with it.
    This group is also looking to form a bunch of charter schools that will bring them a lot of education money. These charter schools will also help the politicians in that when they farm out the lower-performing students to the charter schools their test results will not count towards the BOE and thus better test scores for the remaining kids.
    This is what’s known as a legal robbery by a bunch of greedy bastards, pure and simple.

  • barney

    Andy,
    Well said! You are absolutely right. This has nothing to do with the students in the Bridgeport Public Schools or bettering the education that is delivered to them. This is about a lot of people making money for themselves and their family and friends. $300 million is a lot to play with.

  • Local Eyes

    Well, um, uh, er … It’s about students, not money. It makes sense that the Bridgeport BOE controls the Bridgeport BOE budget. At present, the BOE is a hotbed of gossip that’s produced documented results. Bridgeport teachers already have layers of supervision and oversight. The “no” crowd is content with mediocrity and likes things just the way they are. But Bridgeporters want change that will make their schools better and their Mayor more accountable. A yes vote welcomes the future while a no vote repeats the past. Nov. 6th is when voters make that choice.

    • barney

      Local Eyes,
      How can you say it is about the children? The appointed board did nothing for the children. They claim a balanced budget. Well anyone can balance a fiscal budget when you defer payments. That is really not a balanced budget. The appointed board purchased three new programs. One for reading, one for math and one for science. Ask any educator or any other district. That is unheard of. You cannot district-wide implement three new programs in one year. Additionally, very little training has been supplied. The appointed board has taken away printers and xerox machines, they have rationed our paper supply. They have essentially tied our hands when trying to implement the new programs. How do I know? I teach in Bridgeport!
      Under the appointed board, positions are still vacant. My school does not have a guidance counselor. Nice service we are providing to our 8th graders who may want to apply to other high schools. Not one high school has come in to my school and talked to our eighth graders.
      What makes you think a new appointed board will do any better than the last? Why is Ms. Rhee waltzing into town and fighting so hard on behalf of Finch? Could it be she stands to profit when the new appointed board hands over some of the schools to her to make them into charters? Her questionable husband was here as well. He still has an elected BOE. Just Finch trying to add star power.
      If Bridgeport voters say yes and it passes, they will get what they deserve. Outsiders will win big time by getting various contracts awarded to them and being able to put family and friends into BOE positions. And the students of Bridgeport will be the biggest losers. They will continue to purchase items illegally, ration our supplies, defer payments to claim balanced budgets and let critical positions remain unfilled.

  • Pat Fardy

    RIGHT ON, BARNEY. We need a change, not the same so-so appointed persons who do what Finch wants, not what the Students or teachers need!!!
    VOTE NO … VOTE NO …
    Change is needed …
    Vote NO …

  • Local Eyes

    Charter Revision only becomes an issue when things need to be fixed. The BOE needs to be fixed. Nov. 6th is when reality collides with voter sentiment.

  • Mojo

    *** Should an appointed BOE happen, would the Finch admin. have to either find jobs for the appointed 9 or their relatives and friends? ***

  • Grin Reaper

    Local Eyes needs to be fixed. Send him to the vet. Let’s make sure there are no offspring of this gene pool.

  • BridgeportBooster

    You people are clueless about what kind of “reform” is possible in Connecticut. The Connecticut Mirror or Hartford Courant (don’t remember) did a great comparison of Connecticut and other states during the education bill fight last spring. Connecticut is pretty tame in terms of what other states allow. Especially as it relates to charter schools.

    barney, you’re a Bridgeport teacher and you should be better informed. Have you read the summary of SB24 that OLR produced? There is a cap for charter schools in Connecticut. Finch/appointed BOE couldn’t get more charter schools in Bridgeport even if they wanted to. State law won’t allow it! Get the facts, man!

    And if you’re a teacher you should be kissing the feet of the appointed BOE. They saved your job and your colleagues’ jobs last year. Funny how fast people forget all the cuts Ramos was proposing before the state takeover. Bridgeport schools came back from the brink and no one wants to give the appointed BOE credit for it. Get real, people!!!

    • barney

      Booster,
      Get your facts straight. I have been employed by the BOE for close to 29 years. The appointed board did contribute to the elimination of my job! For close to 15 years I worked out of the admin building in technology. Yet my position was eliminated and I was sent back to the classroom. We are in the 21st century and they don’t value technology. State testing takes place using computers, yet no Ed tech department. Vallas wants to increase Smartboards by 600. No Ed tech to do training. Vallas wants to buy laptops for every high school student, but no Ed tech department. The district wants to move forward without including tech training. It is almost the end of the first quarter and new teachers still don’t know how to log into computers, access their email or use the district-supported software. Way to go appointed board!
      Also there is a cap on charter schools that will be increasing by 25 percent. You don’t think Bridgeport will be part of that? Think again.

  • Grin Reaper

    BridgeportBooster and Localized are confused. They think the charter question everyone is blogging about is “should there be more charter schools?” That is why they are voting YES!!! Unfortunately when they go to vote they will not be able to find the question on the ballot since they don’t live in Bridgeport.

  • BlackRockGuy

    All the appointed Board did on their own was funnel money to well-connected people. Board Member Moales who should have recused himself had $3 Million allocated to a church-operated school run by family members (also violation of separation of church and state) not to mention the fact his wife is employed by the Board of Ed. An appointed Board is nothing but a graft magnet.

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