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Pereira Recalls State Takeover Of Schools Overturned By Supreme Court

July 4th, 2015 · 9 Comments · City Politics, Education

Maria Pereira was an elected member of the Board of Education four years ago when a majority of the body voted to throw in the towel and ask the state of Connecticut to run city schools. Pereira, once again seeking a seat on the school board, shares her thoughts on the four-year anniversary.

As Bridgeport families celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let us not forget this weekend also marks the four-year anniversary in which Mayor Finch, Governor Malloy, and a Greenwich billionaire set in motion their plan to wrestle away both local control of our elected school board and the governance of our Bridgeport public schools and its 21,000 students.

On Friday, July 1, 2011, a notice of a Special Meeting was published in which the nine-member elected school board would vote to relinquish control of our local schools to the state Board of Education on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. While Bridgeport voters and residents were celebrating the anniversary of our declaration of democracy and the rejection of tyranny, our highest levels of local and state government had orchestrated a coup for over six months in order to deny Bridgeport residents their democratic right to elect their school board.

The plan was so well orchestrated that coincidentally the SBOE had a regular scheduled meeting the very next morning, and although no discussion of consideration of the state takeover had been noticed, the SBOE added a discussion and vote of a resolution to take over the BBOE with little discussion. As I sat in the audience, I heard with my own ears when Mayor Finch testified he didn’t “mind” if Bridgeport voters would not be able to elect their school board members for a ‘few’ years. He went onto say “democracy doesn’t always work.” I remember thinking I was sure Hitler and Mussolini would have agreed with him. I guess Mayor Finch felt voters were smart enough to elect our president, U.S. senator, U.S. congressmen, state senators, state representatives, town clerk, city clerk, etc., but we were just too dumb to elect our nine-member school board. Needless to say, the SBOE went on to vote 5 to 4 in favor of the state takeover.

With retired Judge Lopez leading the effort in challenging the takeover, the CT Supreme Court battle ultimately resulted in a 6 to 1 decision in which the coup was ruled illegal and the ousted elected board was reinstated. In fact, had it not been for her efforts, we would not have an elected school board today.

The day after the CT Supreme Court ruled the takeover was illegal, Mayor Finch personally traveled to Hartford to lobby Malloy and legislators to pass a retroactive law that would have made the illegal takeover legal. Ultimately, that effort failed.
The Charter Commission had already been established prior to the CT Supreme Court ruling because Mayor Finch had already been informed it was likely our challenge would be successful, therefore his handpicked commission appointees had already been given their marching orders to change our City Charter to make our elected school board into a board appointed by the Mayor. Over 70 changes were created at record speed so that the Charter Referendum would be placed on the November 2012 ballot. The pro-charter school millionaires, billionaires, Wall Street executives, and local hospitals and companies donated generously to Mayor Finch’s effort to take Bridgeport residents’ right to vote away. Over $500,000 was amassed due to generous donations from those who did not reside in Bridgeport and/or CT. Those opposed to relinquishing our right to vote defeated Mayor Finch’s referendum with approximately $100,000.

And, to further show the complete lack of respect Mayor Finch has for his constituents, just this week, the very same Greenwich millionaires and billionaires involved in the illegal takeover and the charter referendum hosted a fundraiser for Mayor Finch’s re-election campaign. On June 30, 2015, Jonathon Sackler, the founder of Achievement First Charter School and ConnCAN, who also donated $50,000 to Mayor Finch’s effort to take our right to vote away, held a fundraiser at his Greenwich home. It was co-hosted by five additional wealthy down-county residents who are affiliated with ConnCAN and/or Achievement First Charter School. What is clear to me is Mayor Finch has placed a “For Sale” sign on our 22,000 BPS students and the Bridgeport Public Schools. However, only pro-charter school Greenwich millionaires, billionaires, and Wall Street executives are allowed to bid.

As we all enjoy our Fourth of July weekend in honor of democracy and the rejection of a tyrannical form of government, let us all remember Mayor Finch represents everything this great country stands against. We don’t believe in dictatorships, tyranny or denying citizens their right to vote, especially in a city where 78% of our residents are minority. In fact, we have always stood for the complete opposite.

Therefore, I am asking every Bridgeport Democrat to cast their vote in the Democratic Primary on Wednesday, September 16th so we may collectively show Mayor Finch Democracy ABSOLUTELY does work.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Maria,
    It is good to remember history, fully and accurately, especially on a holiday weekend where we have some time to consider and reflect.
    How many registered Democrats are there in the City? When have they seen this number of serious candidates for high municipal office? Will they come out for this historic primary or will they sit home and be frustrated, uninformed, uninvolved, etc.? What more can you ask for of an election opportunity? Let’s see how many serious City questions get asked and answered in the next ten weeks. Time will tell.

  • Maria Pereira

    I know I am doing everything in my power to energize voters in Thomas Hooker. My goal is to significantly increase voter turnout at my polling location. That means having honest conversation about the state of Bridgeport, which includes taxes, education, crime, etc.

  • Ron Mackey

    As America families celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let us not forget this weekend also marks the 163rd anniversary in which Frederick Douglass wrote about “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”

    On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

    What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy–a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

    James Earl Jones
    m.youtube.com/watch?v=8tTkHJWxfP0

  • Pete Spain

    Why don’t the ultra-wealthy open private schools and leave the taxpayer out of it?

    Probably because the federal tax code would not be as generous to them for taking this old-fashioned approach.

    jonathanturley.org/2013/03/16/charter-schools-and-the-profit-motive/

    Secondly, because relative to the long-term costs of building, maintaining and managing a private school, the political contributions they make are a high-return investment.

    The real long-term dollars for charters will be granted from the public coffers, thanks to the Dan Malloys and Bill Finches bought and paid for by the pro-charter lobbying dollars:

    jonathanpelto.com/2015/06/28/charter-school-industry-money-persuades-legislators-to-give-them-your-tax-dollars/

  • gailj2

    Right on, Maria! Paul and I had not moved to Bridgeport. But I had begun to read CT Post and could not believe what was being reported. No other school district in CT would have stood for what was pulled on BPT voters. Thank goodness for the Court and for the defeat of the Charter coup effort.

    • BOE SPY

      Many school districts in CT have partially or completely appointed BOE’s already. All those school districts are rated as better than Bridgeport’s schools. To be fair, all the other schools districts are better than Bridgeport’s schools since Bridgeport is in last place.

      • Maria Pereira

        BOE SPY, there is not a single BOE 100% appointed. New Haven just altered their City Charter to add two elected members this fall. Hartford has both elected and appointed members. There is not one other BOE that is not 100% elected in CT.

        Bridgeport is not rated last. Both New Britain and Windham are ranked lower than Bridgeport. They are also severely underfunded school districts.

        You continue to be a poor “spy.”

        • BOE SPY

          The state BOE is appointed by the Governor. But you are correct. BPT is #170 of 172. Congratulation. Note all the school boards with appointed members are still better than BPT’s.

  • Maria Pereira

    BOE SPY, your post stated “many school districts in CT have partially or completed appointed BOE’s already.” The CT SBOE is not a “school district.”

    Well, our goal is to improve the BBOE by ensuring Moales, Kelleher, Illingworth and Coates are not re-elected, or whomever the Finch Follies will be. Personally, I was hoping all of them would run again. They have a record to run against which isn’t very flattering. Moales would be a huge weight around Finch’s neck.

    Then on to 2017 when Baker and Hennessey are up for re-election. I am looking so forward to that election.

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