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Charter School’s Secret of “Success”: More Public $, New Rules of Admission

by Jon Pelto from Wait, What

According to the Hartford Courant’s Vanessa De La Torre, Governor Malloy joined former Hartford Mayor Thirman Milner yesterday in the library of Jumoke Academy at Milner to celebrate the success of Malloy’s “education reform” proposals.

Milner explained, “You walk in the school, you can see the difference.”

And Malloy was all too happy to take credit for the changes claiming that it was the privatization effort of his administration that accounted for the changes.

But of course, the truth is far from that.

In fact, neither Malloy nor Milner admitted that the changes aren’t due to the fact that the local elementary school was handed over, last year, to a private charter management organization but is directly attributable to the fact that the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford are finally making a real financial investment to support the school.

Malloy and Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, would have us believe that it is the $345,000 annual contract to hire the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company that is responsible for “turning around” the Milner School…

However, the facts reveal a very different truth;

First, it wasn’t until AFTER the Milner School was added to the “Commissioner’s Network” and turned over to Jumoke that the state added well over $1 million in additional operating funds for the school and the City of Hartford provided more than $2 million in new funds to fix up the school. (Insiders report that while some of the funds have been used for cosmetic changes, the school continues to have a fairly significant rodent issue.)

Second, despite the fact that Malloy’s education reform law required that turnaround schools maintain the same entrance requirements; Jumoke was allowed to introduce a provision that prevents students from transferring into school after October 1st. This change significantly reduces the number of more transient students coming into the school, students who often arrive with a variety of educational and language challenges during the school year.

Third, an audit conducted by the State Department of Education in December revealed that Jumoke at Milner still hadn’t filled a vital bi-lingual position and that teachers were unaware or confused about whether the school’s English language development program was based in “pushing into” the classroom or “pulling” children out of the classroom for the extra help they needed

Fourth, while Jumoke CEO Sharpe told Malloy that student attendance was up and only 15 have left Jumoke at Milner to date, Sharpe failed to admit that while the school is getting significantly more resources, the total population is down significantly since last year.

And finally, as parents at Milner know, there have been significant communication problems at Jumoke Academy at Milner including a disastrous lock-down drill in which students were marched into the gym and cafeteria rather than required to stay in their rooms behind locked doors. As one parent on the scene put it, children were told to sit on the side of the gym, “in front of the inside gym windows, in plain sight.” The drill left parents and children shaken and extremely worried about whether the Jumoke Administrators were capable of handling a real emergency.

So while Malloy and Jumoke congratulate themselves about their education reform achievements, parents in every other Hartford school would do well to remember, smaller class sizes, having a teacher and an instructional assistant in every classroom and providing more support services is not a result of Malloy’s education reform efforts but a result of Malloy, the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford actually stepping forward and providing the resources necessary to make appropriate changes —- changes that should be being made at every Hartford School if only elected officials would address the broader issue inadequate funding for Connecticut’s schools.