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Pereira Urges Legislators To Reject More Power For Ed Commissioner

March 7th, 2016 · 14 Comments · Education, News and Events

Board of Education member Maria Pereira, whose Democratic Town Committee slate in the 138th District swept all nine seats last week, is urging defeat of state legislation proposing greater authority for the state education commissioner to include lower performing schools in the Commissioner’s Network of Schools designed to increase achievement. In an email to the city’s eight-member legislative delegation Pereira writes “I am urgently writing to you regarding this outrageous and completely undemocratic revision to the Commissioner’s Network of Schools.”

Pereira letter to legislative delegation:

I cannot speak for any other municipality, but as someone born and raised in Bridgeport that received my entire K-12 public education from the Bridgeport Public Schools, a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, the lead plaintiff in the CT Supreme Court decision which ruled the takeover of the BPS in 2011 was illegal, and an absolute defender of democracy and true public education in Bridgeport, I ask every single one of you to oppose this blatant power grab which undoubtedly is backed by our Fairfield County billionaires, millionaires, Wall Street executives, ConnCAN, FES, CERC, Northeast Charter Schools, etc.

The residents of Bridgeport have been absolutely clear on the issue of democracy, an elected school board, and local control. Although FORMER Mayor Finch and his billionaire/millionaire supporters spent close to $600,000 in November 2012 to approve a change to our Charter eliminating an elected BOE and granting the Mayor sole authority to appoint our BOE, the voters soundly rejected this initiative at the polls. The Bridgeport community came together to fund a lawsuit to remove the “Michael Jordan of Education Reform” Paul Vallas as our Superintendent. Bridgeport accomplished what Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia could not. Many of us to this day firmly believe Paul Vallas  was brought to Bridgeport to convert our entire public school system to charter schools.

Should Bill 5551 pass, the Commissioner of Education will have sole authority to choose an UNLIMITED amount of schools in the bottom 5% to enter the Commissioner’s Network for an UNLIMITED period of time without the approval of the elected school board, or the turnaround committee which apparently would now be appointed by the Commissioner of Education. The School Governance Councils are completely eliminated from any involvement in this critical decision.

Do you think it is a coincidence this Bill is being introduced in the first year where the developmentally inappropriate SBAC test scores, which is based on the incredibly flawed Common Core standards, are being used to measure school performance? The SBAC cut scores were specifically chosen to ensure between 60-70% of our students failed which certainly impacts the number of schools that meet the criteria to qualify for the Commissioner’s Network Schools.

The Turnaround Committee serves in an “advisory” capacity only. The agreement between the DOE and the BOE is NOT decided by the local elected board but by the Turnaround Committee. Should the Turnaround Committee vote to reject the plan, the Commissioner of Education will have sole authority to circumvent the Turnaround Committee’s decision. How convenient.

During a potential “planning year” the Commissioner may designate a “receiver” or “ANY other entity to operate the commissioner’s network school.” These “designees” may be granted “the powers of the superintendent and school board” and reports directly to the commissioner. The Commissioner of Ed. has sole authority to identify a ‘receiver,” “school leader” or “operator” to oversee schools in the commissioner’s network.”

The Commissioner of Ed. also has sole authority to withhold funds from a local school district, and the piece de resistance; they have sole authority to CLOSE a school and reassign those students.

BILL 5551 is an absolute insult to DEMOCRACY, ELECTED school boards, and LOCAL control.

The legislature has willingly and knowingly severely underfunded urban school districts like Bridgeport for decades, but now wants to potentially point their finger at those very same cities and claim they are at fault for the performance of their public schools while allowing the proliferation of charter schools,  which this year alone drained $5 million dollars from the BPS.

Those who live the realities of cities like Bridgeport every day, and have dedicated their lives to the well-being of our BPS students know what is best for our children, not those who work in Hartford. As a legislator, do you believe that the legislators of Massachusetts could possibly know what is in the best interest of CT when compared to you? Our urban school districts aren’t struggling because school administrator’s and dedicated staff don’t know what they are doing. They are struggling because of severe and chronic underfunding and because of social issues most suburban districts will never face.

This Bill is an insult to every resident, taxpayer, parent, grandparent, and educator that lives and breathes Bridgeport every day. Therefore I urge all of you to vehemently reject its passing.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Phil Smith

    Given the state’s constitutional responsibility for education and the amount of money it spends on it every year and the abysmal performance of schools in Bridgeport and other urban areas, the Commissioner should probably have more, not less, authority.

  • DWOrr

    Pereira is correct when she states CT’s urban districts “… are struggling because of severe and chronic underfunding and because of social issues most suburban districts will never face.” Unfortunately, she’s dead wrong on almost every other point she tries to make. The Bridgeport BOE is the primary problem! They consistently place partisan issues above the interests of children, they squabble instead of cooperate for better education for students, they take care of their supporters instead of teachers and students, and they never stick with anything longer than one election cycle. I love democracy as much as Pereira, but I love the kids I’ve worked with even more. Anything that reforms (and constrains) the Bridgeport BOE and takes the education of our children away from these petty politicians is a step in the right direction.

  • Lifelong Bpt

    DWOrr–absolutely correct. The BOE is a real issue. Meetings too long and arguing over mundane items (the agenda, etc).

    I wonder, if they vote the other way, will she give them the finger? Sorry,I had to do it. LOL.

  • Brick

    As someone with no kids, my question is, how does it benefit me to support a board that is constantly infighting and often times seems to have personal agendas?

    I would prefer oversight and control to stay in Bridgeport and not supplanted by Hartford bureaucrats, but I can’t express happiness over how the Bridgeport BoE has handled policy implementation over the past few years.

  • Jeff Kohut

    The BOE needs to do its own detailed, school-by-school analysis of the Bridgeport school system and then create a turnaround plan for each school, including costs and funding sources. They could probably accomplish this with the help of the CEA and a carefully selected university education department, both of which could help secure appropriate funding and expertise for the study, as well as implementation of the plan. The Board should also recruit an appropriate, demographically cross-sectional committee of Bridgeport residents to assist in lobbying and oversight of this process.

    The BOE would have to become a cooperative, focused, dedicated body to accomplish this. This will require cool-headed, even-handed, forward-thinking leadership from within the board and the City.

    After the Malloy-Finch 2011 coup and 2012 election-ballot issue (to deprive Bridgeporters of essential democratic control of their school system/school board) of the BOE, the state must play only a $upportive role in this process.

  • Phil Smith

    Of course that isn’t going to happen as long as some BOE members insist on obstructing any action they or their supporters disagree with.

  • Mojo

    *** More politics at the BOE meetings means more arguing about issues that really can’t help the school children. Just waste more time and get nothing of value done. Time to go back to a State-controlled BOE with independent State funding separate from the city’s budget. All the Education info. and BOE budget money going in and coming out would be audited by the State, not the city. Time and time again it has been proven the usual Bpt BOE political members have failed the school system, the school children and the taxpayers for decades! Time for a complete change for the long term, no? ***

  • Eric Alicea

    The crux of the issue with Bill 5551 is the fact the SDE commissioner could arbitrarily close a school due to failing test scores. Scores based on the SBAC that is designed to fail 70% of the test takers. This bill is a backdoor way to privatize public schools, of course primarily in urban districts.

    This is Malloy’s attempt to pay back his “education” backers in the charter school industry.

    Yes, the board needs to get its house in order. What did you guys expect with a novice chairman?

    • Lifelong Bpt

      Eric–really? The novice chairman has been around for about three months, pretty sure this s#-t show was in effect well before he got there. He is just part of it now, and some on the board look like they are going to give him a hard time just because that is what they do.

    • Andrew C Fardy

      It’s not the novice chairman who is at fault. It’s basically Pereira and Baraka who cause much of the problems coming from this useless board. The rest of the board is useless. As far as I am concerned this board has done more to hurt the kids than help them. Is that because most of the kids are minorities and the board members don’t care about them?

  • Phil Smith

    The problems predate this chairman and are primarily caused by other board members.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Isn’t it wonderful Maria P is think of running for state office? One source states she is running for Stallworth’s seat, another says she is running for Baker’s seat and a third says she is running for Ed Gomes’ senate seat.

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