Saturday, August 4, 2018

CT: Steve Perry Fizzles

Once upon a time, Dr. Steve Perry was an education reform rock star. In 2005, he launched and led Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a Hartford charter school that was a prototype of sorts for many charters that would follow. No excuses, strict dress code, and a mission to elevate black students in Connecticut, the school embodied every controversy we've come to associate with modern charters. The claim of 100% college attendance, without any figures about how many students gad been shed since 9th grade to get there. The excessive control of students. The financial support from friendly billionaires (including the Koch Brothers). The careful curating of a student body selected to make the school look good. The bashing of the teachers union and the high staff turnover.

This guy
But beyond all that, there is Perry himself. Perry has worked hard to market himself as "America's most talked-about educator" and there was a time when you couldn't turn on the tv without seeing him-- so often, in fact, that many questioned just how much time he spent in the building where he was supposed to be principal. He was a reform spokesperson out there with She Who Will Not Be Named (former DC school chief). Meanwhile, he set up a private company to handle charter school management (a classic profiting from your no-profit charter school). Perry has been a commentator on CNN, MSNBC and Essence, plus Fox, and he is not shy about promoting himself as a major voice in education. AEI lists him in their speakers bureau. Perhaps you caught him this summer on his World Wide Education Truth Tour. And his bio captures as well as anything his skill at self-promotion:

Dr. Steve Perry is one of most educators in America. Widely respected by grassroots community members and internationally renowned leaders, his charismatic and compelling voice is an inspiration

He is the educator Oprah Winfrey, Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, Bishop TD Jakes and Steve Harvey call on to offer insight to parents and children. A diverse array of politicians and groups, from the Urban League to ALEC, even President Donald Trump, have reached out to Dr. Perry to better understand what matters to parents.

Not that everybody loves him. A one-star review at Yelp from 2013 says:

Don't send your kids here. You will regret it and it's not worth the trauma to your kids. We need to stop allowing these fame-seeking, fake reformers to ruin our kids and schools! This principal is worse than the teachers and unions he complains about!

Yes, he's the guy who helped P-Diddy get into the charter school racket. He's also the guy who caused a kerfluffle by taking rejection of one of his ideas poorly, tweeting "All this did is piss me off. It's so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries."

So given his prolific and lucrative career, it's a little surprising to find him attached to a misfire of a reform idea. H/t to some Connecticut peeps for spotting "My Child My Choice." Perry is the lead name of six board members for this group who are "united in the belief that the education crisis facing children of color is a tragedy that demands a crisis response from our elected leaders." The other board member include Dr. Charlene Reid (CEO of a charter management organization), Pastor William McCullough (Faith ACTS for Education), State Senator Douglas McCrory, George Parker (StudentsFirst, education consultant, and the DC teacher union president who worked with She Who Will Not Be Named to set up their disastrous accountability system, professional school choice expert witness), Ruben Felipe (campaign consultant).

Those are the players. It looks like a mighty reform group.

Now, somebody forgot the first rule of naming a new enterprise, because a quick google would have told them that "My Child My Choice" is a favorite slogan of the anti-vaccination movement. It takes a little extra effort to find this new reform group on line because Anti-Vaxxers have already snapped up a lot of the related real estate.

That may not matter because My Child My Choice has been mighty quiet. On the website on their blog are two posts, both from May 25, 2018.

The video plugs the slogan "It's only right that the money should follow the child" and pushes for more funding for charter schools.

“What Do You See” is dedicated to all the moms who fight this battle every day. Some of us have been lucky – we’ve found great public charter schools for our kids, schools that we CHOSE. But these schools aren’t available to everybody, and charter schools are still deeply underfunded.

If we parents going to get a world where our children are funded equally – no matter what public school they attend – then we need to get active.

As we see in many regions these days, charters have shifted their pitch from "Throwing more money at public schools won't help. We can do more with less." to "Please throw more money at us." Other standard hits include "charter schools are public schools," and the video also throws in "zip code."

The other post announces the launch of the campaign and encourages people to sign up for the mailing list and contribute money. You can also like their Facebook page which is filed under MChildMChoice because My Child My Choice is already occupied by the anti-vaxxers. Perry's group has 162 likes. The Facebok page does have some maintenance going on, with posts as recent as this morning (they are particularly fond of posting pieces from Education Post and The 74-- so, the usual corporate reform sources). The web page, despite promising "in the coming weeks and months, we'll share more ways you can help," hasn't put up anything new since those posts in May.

Hey. Not every reformster-sponsored initiative can get traction, and perhaps this one is more visible on the ground in Connecticut. Maybe they should have done their branding research more carefully (because being confused with a bunch of science-deniers is probably not helpful). But from out here in the cheap seats it looks as if Dr. Perry has fizzled this time.


  1. Don't forget to include the time Perry spoke in Minnesota and called the unionized teachers and union leaders "roaches," and blamed those "roaches" for the "literal" ... not the metaphorical, or educational ... No, those "roaches" are responsible for the "the literal death of children."

    I first heard about Perry and the "roaches" and "literal death of childern" comments from Jennifer Berkshire on her blog (formerly "Edushyster"):

    Since the Minneapolis Schools Superintendent invited and was ultimately responsible for Perry's appearance, the local teachers union leader wrote an open letter to the Supe saying the following:

    "“Dr. Steve Perry, a magnet school principal from Connecticut, and noted anti-union activist, spent the evening abrasively trashing teachers and our unions. He went as far as to say 'we need to call out the roaches' when referring to teachers unions. Dr. Perry went on to blame teachers for the literal death of children. It was truly beyond the bounds of acceptable dialogue.

    "We are not 'roaches' who are responsible for the 'death of children.' Instead, we are professionals that have great ideas and knowledge on how to ensure all students are successful in school and in life. When educators speak up to say that students do not have beds to sleep in, food in their homes, lack the medicine they need, mental health support, employment for their families, sustainable housing or even something as simple as a pair of glasses, we are not making excuses or saying we cannot teach--we are standing up to advocate for our students."

    In response, the Supe refused to acknowledge or admit responsibility, or apologize for this debacle, but instead urged Minnesotans not to dismiss Dr. Perry’s “overall message of acting urgently to save a generation of young people because of the sharp rhetoric he used during his speech and the subsequent panel discussion.”

    "sharp rhetoric?" A bit of an understatement, doncha think?

    Here's that full exchange:

  2. Dr Perry is the's all about him he said heads are gonna roll..