May 20, 2011

Well-funded attacks against Albany district fail to defeat budget

Author: Bernie Mulligan
Source: NYSUT Communiations

2011 was a tough year as cuts, layoffs and closings had voters on edge.

In Albany, public school teachers made significant sacrifices when they settled a new five-year contract in early May, preventing layoffs and saving essential programs.

But the stability created by their sacrifice was almost overturned by a massive communications blitz, apparently funded by corporate charter interests.

The Albany Times Union broke the story that three flashy, unsigned "Vote No" postcards, and thousands of negative poll phone calls, were funded by the corporate profiteers tied to the Brighter Choice charter school empire.

Brighter Choice is led by Tom Carroll, who helped write the original state charter school legislation in 1998 as a member of Gov. Pataki's staff. He earned $328,000 in 2009 leading his chain of corporate charters.

Although charter leaders are denying connections to the negative mailings and phone calls, the Times Union uncovered that the customer who paid for the three mailings was "School Performance."  Carroll is a member of the School Performance board. School Performance, an operation associated with the Brighter Choice empire,is listed as being totally publicly funded in 2009, according to the newspaper report. "The organization has also received a number of no-bid contracts for test-grading services with Albany's charter schools," the report continued.

Despite the charter operator's efforts, the Albany budget passed 3,555 to 3,382.

The corporate charter's interference in local politics was troubling enough that the Albany Times Union sternly criticized their misbehavior in an editorial.

The National Education Association, one of NYSUT's national affiliates, has recently reported on phony, corporate charter "parent" groups, actually funded by those corporations, that are used to criticize regular public schools.