“Thanksgiving Thanks to Teachers We Remember Who Didn’t Teach Common Core” By Alan Singer

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A re-post of Alan Singer’s latest column

Across the United States there are dozens and dozens of outstanding pro-public education bloggers, commentators and citizen journalists who are working as Drum Majors in the historic battle to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and re-insert the notion of fundamental concept of public back into public education.

One of the best is Alan Singer whose writing can be found in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.

In a commentary piece published today he pays tribute to the “Teachers We Remember,” while successfully obliterating the illogical and counter-productive policies promoted by the President of the United States and the other politicians who have become pawns for the “education reformers.”

Alan Singer’s full piece can be found at: Thanksgiving Thanks to Teachers We Remember Who Didn’t Teach Common Core.

For my part, I dedicate this repost of to Mrs. Stratton, Mr. Coughlin, Mr. Fulton and the other teachers who I remember and cherish and who most certainly did not teach the Common Core.

Alan Singer writes;

President Barack Obama remembers his fifth grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Hefty. In 1971, Barack was a “kid with a funny name in a new school, feeling a little out of place, hoping to fit in like anyone else.” He recalls how “Ms. Hefty taught me that I had something to say — not in spite of my differences, but because of them. She made every single student in that class feel special. And she reinforced that essential value of empathy that my mother and my grandparents had taught me.” Barack remembers how Ms. Hefty made every child feel special. He remembers she encouraged empathy with others. He does not remember teachers who stressed skill acquisition. He does not fondly recall teachers that pushed testing. What had the greatest impact him as a human being, something he claims to carry with him as President, is feeling special and a sense of empathy.

But as President, Barack Obama has pushed a completely different education agenda, certainly not one based on his experiences in Ms. Hefty’s classroom. Obama’s Race to the Top initiative promotes Common Core skills based instruction tied to round after round of high-stakes assessments. No one gets to feel special. No empathy here. Ms. Hefty would be very disappointed in her star pupil.

My memories about teachers are not much different from Barack’s. When I was in middle school I joined the school’s math team, even though I was not particularly interested in math. The reason was my official teacher, Brenda Berkowitz, was coach of the math team. My mother had died and my father would sometimes rush out to work without leaving lunch money. Ms. Berkowitz always checked that I had lunch and when I didn’t she lent me twenty-five cents to buy a salami sandwich at the local deli. I don’t remember one lesson she taught in math, but I do remember the salami sandwiches. Ms. Berkowitz was definitely my best teacher ever.

The National Education Association interviewed celebrities about their most memorable teachers and their responses are remarkable similar to mine and Barack’s. Patti La Belle, from Philadelphia, talked about Ms. Eileen Brown who “was very helpful to my family and me. She and I became close friends and are good friends.” Zoe Saldana remembered Ms. Dilia Mieses Ritmos Espacio de Danza of the Dominican Republic who taught the “importance of perseverance and discipline.” Hilary Swank remembered the elementary school teacher who gave her her first acting role in a school production. Oprah Winfrey most memorable teacher was a fourth grade teacher who “believed in me.” Oprah “learned to love learning because of Mrs. Duncan.” Friendship. Perseverance. Acting. Love of Learning. No Common Core here. No high-stakes testing.

The NEA also interviewed elected officials, some of whom voted for Race to the Top. Former United States Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia thanked “Mrs. W. J. B. Cormany who “taught me to put my best efforts into everything I undertake, a lesson so important that it has remained with me to this day.” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California thanked Ms. Virginia Ryder who “took me under her wing, giving me individual attention, and enabled me to go to a good high school.” Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska thanked Ms. Hattie Buness who “opened the world for me when she taught me to read, to explore, and to question.” Congressman Paul Ryan, now Republican Party Speaker of the House of Representatives, thanked Frank Douglas who “taught me more about the world in six months than I had learned in 18 years.” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah thanked “Ms. Eleanor Smith who “inspired me to go on to college at a time when the most that could be expected of me was to continue to work at the trade that I had learned. She told me that one day I would be a great poet.” A lot about best efforts, but who would have thought Orrin Hatch loved poetry?

And a special thank you to Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester who just pulled the state out of the Common Core PARCC high-stakes assessment consortium. The PARCC test is collapsing, down from 26 states to five plus Washington DC. Smarter Balance, the other national testing group is down to fifteen states after a high of thirty-one. Some states had belonged to both testing groups.

As a result of the Obama Race to the Top and Common Core initiatives, the average student in some United States big-city schools now takes over 100 hundred hours of mandatory standardized tests during their school career. Eighth-grade students are the most tested. They sit through between 20 and 25 hours of standardized tests, which makes up about 2.3% of school time. And this does not include ordinary teacher-made, school-wide, or district tests.

Under Race to the Top and Common Core students, teachers, schools, districts, and states are evaluated based on the high-stakes standardized tests, transforming schools from places where students like Oprah learn to love learning and Senator Murkowski learned to question into test prep academies. There is no more time for acting and poetry.

You have to wonder if Ms. Hefty would have been willing to be a teacher under these circumstances and what would have happened to that little boy with a “funny name” called Barack Obama.

Go and add your thanks for the teachers you remember – You can read and comment on Alan Singer’s article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/thanksgiving-thanks-to-te_b_8645698.html


Public Good or Private Gain – the story behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s Data Mining Effort


[A long but extremely important read]

While most of the attention surrounding the Corporate Education Reform Industry has been on the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme, the inappropriate teacher evaluation systems and the privatization of public education via charter schools, one of the most disturbing elements of the effort to “transform” public education has been an associated program to create a massive database and corresponding data mining activities.

For additional background read the April 2015 Wait, What? Post –  They have your child’s data and they aren’t afraid to use it.  Connecticut parents who want to know more about this issue should follow the FB Page Student Data Privacy: A Voice for the Connecticut Children of P20 WIN 

Called the P20 WIN (Preschool through Twenty and Workforce Information Network) in Connecticut and housed under the Board of Regents, the publicly funded program seems simple enough;

To improve education and employment opportunities for students, Connecticut needs a system that links data between agencies as students progress from early childhood into jobs and careers.

Connecticut’s Preschool through Twenty and Workforce Information Network (P20 WIN) provides a way for agencies to share and match data securely while protecting student, worker and employer privacy. Education and workforce leaders can then have information to make decisions for improving our students and the state.

However, the issues associated with control and use of the data makes the program much more complex.

In a recent article on the subject, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote;

Parental concerns about student privacy have been rising in recent years amid the growing use by schools, school districts and states use technology to collect mountains of detailed information on students. Last year, a controversial $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates Foundation and operated by a specially created nonprofit organization called inBloom was forced to shut down because of these concerns, an episode that served as a warning to parents about just how much information about their children is being shared without their knowledge.

Valerie Strauss then posted a detailed explanation of the issue written by fellow education blogger Leonie Haimson and Cheri Kiesecker, the co-founder of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

Leonie Haimson and Cheri Kiesecker explain the story behind the story;

Remember that ominous threat from your childhood, This will go down on your permanent record?” Well, your children’s permanent record is a whole lot bigger today and it may be permanent. Information about your children’s behavior and nearly everything else that a school or state agency knows about them is being tracked, profiled and potentially shared.

During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more.

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

Many parents first became aware of how widely their children’s personal data is being shared with third parties of all sorts when the controversy erupted over inBloom in 2012, the $100 million corporation funded by the Gates Foundation. Because of intense parent opposition, inBloom closed its doors in 2014, but in the process, parents discovered that inBloom was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the federal government and the Gates Foundation have been assisting the goal of amassing and disclosing personal student data in many other ways.

Ten organizations joined together, funded by the Gates Foundation, to create the Data Quality Campaign in 2005, with the following objectives:

  • Fully develop high-quality longitudinal data systems in every state by 2009;
  • Increase understanding and promote the valuable uses of longitudinal and financial data to improve student achievement; and
  • Promote, develop, and use common data standards and efficient data transfer and exchange.

Since that time, the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and data from many state agencies such as the criminal justice system, child services, and health departments.

A state’s SLDS, or sometimes called a P20 database (pre-K to 20 years of age), P12, or B-20 (data tracking from birth), have been paid for partly through federal grants awarded in five rounds of funding from 2005-2012. Forty-seven of 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have received at least one SLDS grant.

Although Alabama, Wyoming and New Mexico are not included on the site linked to above, Alabama’s governor recently declared by executive order that “Alabama P-20W Longitudinal Data System is hereby created to match information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.” Wyoming uses a data dictionary, Fusion, that includes information from birth. New Mexico’s technology plan shows that they moved their P-20 SLDS to production status in 2014 and will expand in 2015. This site run by the Data Quality Campaign tracks each state’s SLDS.

Every SLDS has a data dictionary filled with hundreds of common data elements, so that students can be tracked from birth or pre-school through college and beyond, and their data more easily shared with vendors, other governmental agencies, across states, and with organizations or individuals engaged in education-related “research” or evaluation — all without parental knowledge or consent,.

Every SLDS uses the same code to define the data, aligned with the federal CEDS, or Common Education Data Standards, a collaborative effort run by the US Department of Education, “to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.”

Every few months, more data elements are “defined” and added to the CEDS, so that more information about a child’s life can be easily collected, stored, shared across agencies, and disclosed to third parties. You can check out the CEDS database yourself, including data points recently added, or enter the various terms like “disability,” “homeless” or “income” in the search bar.

In relation to discipline, for example, CEDS includes information concerning student detentions, letters of apology, demerits, warnings, counseling, suspension and expulsion records, whether the student was involved in an incident that involved weapons, whether he or she was arrested, whether there was a court hearing and what the judicial outcome and punishment was, including incarceration.

This type of information is obviously very sensitive and prejudicial, and often in juvenile court, records are kept sealed or destroyed after a certain period of time, especially if the child is found innocent or there is no additional offense; yet all this information can now be entered into his or her longitudinal record with no particular restriction on access and no time certain when the data would be destroyed.

Expanding and Linking Data across States

Nearly every state recently applied for a new federal grant to expand its existing student longitudinal data system, including collection, linking and sharing abilities. You can see the federal request for proposals. Pay special attention to Section V, the Data Use section of the grant proposal, requiring states to collect and share early childhood data, match students and teachers for the purpose of teacher evaluation, and promote inter-operability across institutions, agencies, and states.

The 15 states and one territory, American Samoa, that won the grants were announced Sept. 17, 2015, and are posted here. President Obama’s 2016 budget request has a number of additional data­ related provisions, including a near tripling in funding for State Longitudinal Data Systems ($70 million) and Department of Labor Workforce Data Quality Initiative ($37 million) aimed at attaching adult workforce personal data with his or her student records.

Though the federal government is barred by law from creating a national student database, the U.S. Department of Education has evaded this restriction by means of several strategies, including funding multi-state databases, which would have been illegal before FERPA’s regulations and guidance were rewritten by the Department in 2012.

The federal grants encourage participation in these multi-state data exchanges. One existing multi-state database is WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which includes the 15 Western states that recently received an additional $3 million from the federal government. This WICHE document explains that the project was originally funded by the Gates Foundation, and that the foundation’s goal of sharing personal student data across state lines and across state agencies without parental consent was impermissible under FERPA until it was weakened in 2012:

Upon approval of WICHE’s proposal by the Gates Foundation, the pilot MLDE (Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange) project began in earnest in June, 2010, and the initial meeting to begin constructing the MLDE was held in Portland, Oregon, in October, 2010. It is worth placing the launch of the MLDE pilot within an historical timeline of events bearing on the development and use of longitudinal data. As the project got underway, the federal government’s guidance on the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was still fairly restrictive. Indeed, based on a subsequent conversation with a member of the Washington State Attorney General’s office, our plans to actually exchange personally identifiable data among the states would be impermissible under the FERPA guidance in effect at that time. Though we were told we would have been able to assemble and use a de-identified dataset, which would have shown much of the value of combining data across states, not being able to give enhanced data back to participating states would have been a serious setback. Changes in the federal government’s guidance on FERPA that went into effect in January, 2012 resolved this problem.

The new guidance permitted the participating states to designate WICHE as an authorized representative for the purposes of assembling the combined data, while also allowing the disclosure of data across state lines and between state agencies.

Since 2010, the Gates Foundation has funded WICHE with more than $13 million. Just to underscore how powerful this organization has become, Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia just stepped down from his post to head WICHE. Here is a helpful chart showing how student personal data is to be shared, among state agencies and across state lines.

Existing multi-state databases include not just WICHE, but also SEED, formerly Southeastern Education Data Exchange, now called the State Exchange of Education Data, including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

This North Carolina PowerPoint from 2013 describes what detailed information is to be shared among the states participating in SEED: data aligned with CEDS, including demographic information, academic and test score data, and disciplinary records. Here is a Georgia document, explaining how SEED will be “CEDs compliant” and describes in even more detail the sort of information that will be exchanged.

In addition, the two Common Core testing multi-state consortia funded by the federal government, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are accumulating a huge amount of personal student data across state lines, and potentially sharing that information with other third parties. Under pressure, PARCC released avery porous privacy policy last year; Smarter Balanced has so far refused to provide any privacy policy, even after requests from parents in many of the participating states.

What Parents Can Do

Ask your State Education Department if they applied for this new grant to expand their SLDS, and if so, ask to see the grant proposal. You can also make a Freedom of Information request to the U.S. Department of Education to see the grant application. Ask what methods your state is using to protect the data that the SLDS already holds, and if the data is kept encrypted, at rest and in transit. Ask what categories of children’s data they are collecting, which agencies are contributing to it, and what third parties, including vendors and other states, may have gained access to it. Ask to see any inter-agency agreements or MOUs allowing the sharing education data with other state agencies. Ask if any governance or advisory body made up of citizen stakeholders exists to oversee its policies.

You should also demand to see the specific data the SLDS holds for your own child, and to challenge it if it’s incorrect – and the state cannot legally deny you this right nor charge you for this information under FERPA.

This was conclusively decided when a father named John Eppolito requested that the Nevada Department of Education provide him with a copy of his children’s SLDS records, and the state demanded $10,000 in exchange. He then filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, which responded with a letter on July 28, 2014, stating that the state must provide him with the data it holds for his child, as well as a record of every third party who has received it; and that they cannot charge a fee for this service.

Parents also have the right to correct their child’s data if it is in error. Apparently Mr. Eppolito found many errors in his children’s data. Even if it is accurate, the data that follows your child through life and across states could diminish his or her future prospects. As this Department of Education studypoints out,

“…imagine a student transferring from another district into a middle school that offers three levels of mathematics classes. If school staff associate irrelevant personal features with mathematics difficulties, the representativeness bias could influence the student’s placement… educators have been found to have a tendency to pay more attention to data and evidence that conform to what they expect to find.”

Schools could use this data to reject students, push them out, or relegate them to remedial classes or vocational tracks.

There is also abundant research that shows that a teacher’s expectations play a significant role in how a student performs – especially for marginalized groups. This is called the Pygmalion effect in the case of a teacher’s positive expectations, and the Golem effect in the case of negative expectations. These studies reveal that if teachers are provided with positive or negative information about their students before having a chance to form their own opinions based upon actual experience, this prior information often tends to bias their judgments and perceptions of that student, creating self-fulfilling prophecies.   Parents should be legitimately fearful that positive or negative data may be used to profile their children, and potentially damage their chance of success.

What Else Can You Do?

If you send your children to a public school, under current federal law you have no way of opting out of the P20 profile that has been created by your state and potentially shared with others. You also have no right to refuse to have your child’s data disclosed to testing companies and other corporations in the name of evaluation and research. Researchers have legitimate interests in being able to analyze and evaluate educational programs, but any sensitive personal data should be properly de-identified and there must be strict security provisions to safeguard its access and restrict further disclosures, as well as a time certain when it will be destroyed. You do have the right to see that data, and challenge it if it is inaccurate.

You should also advocate for stronger state and federal laws to protect your child’s data and laws that give parents and students the right of ownership, including the ability to decide with whom it will be shared. You should urge your state Education Department to create advisory or governance boards that include stakeholder members, to provide input on restrictions on access and security requirements.

Any federal and state student privacy legislation should embrace five basic principles of student privacy, transparency and security, developed by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Ask your elected officials to support TRUE data privacy and transparency legislation, to protect children. Parents deserve to know the data collected and shared about their children, and they should be guaranteed that their children’s data is safe from breaches and misuse.

NOTE;  A leader in the battle to ensure appropriate student privacy in Connecticut is Jennifer Jacobsen, a long time educator, mother of three, a founding member of Connecticut Unites for Student Privacy and a member of the Connecticut Parental Rights Coalition.  You can read one of her commentary pieces at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/04/27/connecticut-schools-need-comprehensive-protection-of-student-data-privacy/  

For more check out: http://connecticutunites.weebly.com/references-and-resources.html


New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results


Labeling children on the basis of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized tests is bad public policy.  Evaluating teachers on the scores their students get on those tests is equally wrong, yet that is exactly what the policy is in the State of Connecticut.

Last spring, more than 500,000 students across the country were opted out of the standardized testing craze.

This unprecedented development was the direct result of a growing awareness by parents, students, teachers and public education advocates that the standardized testing scheme isn’t useful and that the Corporate Education Reform Industry is turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

While school superintendents and administrators have been a major part of the anti-standardized testing coalitions in New York, far fewer Connecticut school administrators have been willingly to step forward and speak up on behalf of the students, parents, teachers and public schools they are sworn to serve.

In contrast, in the Constitution State Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has consistently been one of the school leaders who has been willing to provide his students, parents, teachers and community with the appropriate information about the extraordinary problems that come with a public education system that is overly reliant on standardized testing.

(See for example, Superintendent Scarice addresses the powerful and ugly truth about SBAC testing charade and Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again. and Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”)

With parents increasingly recognizing the inherent negative consequences that stems from the Common Core testing program, attention is now turning to the second major problem with the pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing initiatives that have been sponsored by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the other political allies of the “Education Reformers” — and that is  — the inappropriateness of evaluation of teachers, based, at least in part, on their student’s standardized test results.

Late last week, superintendents in Nassau Country, New York sent a powerful letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for an end to the use of standardized test results as part of that state’s teacher evaluation process.

The superintendents wrote;

It is because of our residents’ deep commitment that we feel a responsibility to protect our education system from misguided policy decisions, however well intended they may be. We understand that building an accountability system to ensure highly effective instruction for all students is a natural extension of the effort to raise expectations for all students. However, the exaggerated use of student test data in that system unfortunately undermined the initial goals.


We believe our parents understand the value of assessment but stand firmly against the continued distortion of curriculum driven by this flawed accountability system. The well-thought out decision of a significant percentage of our parents to opt their children out of State testing is a reflection of this concern.

Salvaging higher standards will require the State to accomplish three important objectives:

  • Declare a moratorium on the use of student achievement data for educator evaluations
  • Begin work in earnest toward developing a computer adaptive testing system, which will require far less time devoted to testing, ensure questions more appropriate to academic functioning rather than chronological age, and return actionable data in a timely fashion
  • Complete the review of the standards and make adjustments where appropriate.

Connecticut’s superintendents should follow the lead of their New York colleagues and demand that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly repeal the law they developed mandating that student achievement data from standardized tests be used as part of the educator evaluation process.

Numerous models have been developed to evaluate teachers (and administrators) without relying on flawed standardized test results.

In fact, Superintendent Scarice and the Madison Board of Education have adopted exactly such a model.

Sign of the Times; Reader hopes for my death following posts on Courtney, Himes and anti-Syrian Immigrant vote


Certainly it must have been written in jest….

Maybe it was not meant so much as a threat, but simply a reminder that the tenor of public discourse continues to spiral downward as our society, increasingly torn and tattered by the political and economic environment, unraveling around us.

Following the United States House of Representatives’ passage of legislation designed to delay and derail the ability of Syrian immigrants to come to the United States, I posted two commentary pieces at Wait, What?.

The first took Connecticut Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney and Jim Himes to task for being among the 47 Democrats to join the House Republicans voting in favor of the bill, Congressman Courtney and Himes – You have brought shame on our nation and our state, I can no longer support you (Wait, What? Friday, 11/20/15), while the second sought to provide readers with the facts about how the U.S. refugee system really works PLEASE take a moment to review the facts about the U.S. Syrian refugee issue (Wait, What? Saturday, 11/21/15).

CT Newsjunkie, a website dedicated to providing people with Connecticut news and a wide range of commentary was kind enough to include a link to the first blog in their “Friday Night Fix!” email highlighting the week’s news and providing suggested reading material for the weekend.

For their part, the Hartford Courant’s CapitolWatch Tweeted a link to the blog with,

“You have brought shame on our nation:”@jonathanpelto disappointed in Rep. Courtney’s vote on Syrian refugee bill.”

A Hartford Courant editor turned to his own Twitter Account to add,

“Trouble on the fringe: @jonathanpelto throws @RepJoeCourtney under the bus.”

A significant number of readers responded to the two Wait, What? Blog posts, some added their opinions by commenting on the What, What? Blog while others communicated by email.

The range of opinions was extensive.  People have strong feelings about issues like immigration.  This blog has thoughtful readers across the political spectrum and while some of the comments and emails were harsh, none could  be defined as abusive or threatening.

And then Sunday night came a comment from a reader who apparently resides in Fairfield County and wrote, among other things;

I have actively campaigned against Jim Himes, and I have proudly voted against him in the last two elections. I now congratulate Jim Himes for his sensible vote, and I gladly invite all you stupid libtards to consume my feces.


Hey Jon, I’m talking to you — polish my nutsack. Hope you meet the same fate as Chris Stevens!

The reference to the “same fate as Chris Stevens!” appears to be to the killing of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was murdered, along with others, in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2012 at the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham has claimed that the body of Ambassador Stevens was “dragged through the street,” while other conservative commentators have said he was also sexually assaulted, before being murdered.  Both claims were determined to be untrue by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, an Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack, and by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Of course, let’s face it, there is no doubt that a blog comment like that is meant as a joke, perhaps nothing more than a very colorful way to articulate opposition to my commentary pieces.

Besides, this is the United States of America where the Freedom of Speech is the cornerstone of our form of government, which, in turn, is the greatest experiment in an open, egalitarian, large-scale democracy in human history.

In the United States, we don’t kill people because of what they say or write.

Well there was Alan Berg, the Denver talk show host who was gunned down in his driveway, but that was thirty-one years ago and besides that was different, he was assassinated by a White, neo-Nazi, right-wing extremist group because he was liberal, Jewish and known for his outspoken and acerbic commentary.  (Ah… Well… Let’s just say it was a long time ago and leave it at that.)

As noted, people just don’t kill bloggers and commentators because they don’t like what they say and write.

True, four bloggers and a publisher have been killed in Bangladesh this year, but that’s different.

Bangladeshi-born US writer Avijit Roy, founder of secular Bangla blog site Muktomona, was hacked to death on February 26, 2015 as he was leaving a university book fair.

Oyeshekur Rahman Babu, a writer and blogger, was chopped to death in central Dhaka on March 30, 2015.

Science writer and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in a similar attack in north-eastern city of Sylhet on May 12, 2015

On August 7, 2015 attackers entered the apartment of blogger Niladri Chattapadhay and chopped him to death.

And Faysal Arfin Deepon, whose company had published Avijit Roy’s work was stabbed him to death in his office on October 31, 2015

But those killings didn’t occur in the United States, all four were murdered in Bangladesh by Islamist militants with links to al-Qaeda.

And while there have been similar attacks in other parts of the world, they all took place somewhere “over there.”

According to Reporters without Boarders, not counting the hundreds of journalists who have been killed as a result of their reporting over the past couple of years, at least 215 bloggers have been murdered and more than 250 more have been imprisoned for the their crime of commenting on the news and the world around them.

Syria, whose refugees have become the focal point of the anti-immigrant rhetoric has seen the largest number of bloggers murdered over the past two years, a total of at least 72 individuals.

However, assassinations of bloggers have also occurred in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Mexican activist and video blogger José Luis Rodríguez Muñiz  posted a commentary critical of his the region’s Governor, Mayor and politicians calling them “bola de ratas” (or “Ball Rats” in English.) Hours later he was shot to death by unidentified gunmen.

But this is the United States,

We’re different…  In our country, people are allowed to speak their minds.

I mean, I’m sure the comment posted to Wait, What? was meant as a joke and how dangerous can a joke be?

Heck, even Donald Trump was probably joking when suggesting My Fans Were Right To Beat Up Black Protester

After his supporters beat up a Black Lives Matter protester on video, Donald Trump suggested that they may have done the right thing.

The protester, a black man, reportedly started chanting Black Lives Matter at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday. In a video captured by CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond, rally attendees swarm around the man, kicking and punching him as he curls up on the ground.

Trump was asked to weigh in on his supporters’ actions on Fox & Friends Sunday morning. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he said. “It was disgusting what he was doing.”

Yeah, it’s probably all a big joke.

Education Reformers and their obsession with Standardized Testing – Even the NY Times can’t get the story right!

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Fellow education blogger Diane Ravitch, the nation’s premier public education advocate, opened the New York Times this morning and noted that even the New York Times has been “snowed” by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their false narrative that the solution to the challenges facing public education in the United States is to have more standardized testing.

Diane Ravitch writes;

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

It is more than an embarrassment that the “mass media” takes corporate education reform industry propaganda for truth.  In fact, it is a dangerous confirmation that without the truth citizens cannot keep their government and leaders in check.

Of course, here in Connecticut we have a governor who not only dramatically increased the amount of standardized testing, claiming it was necessary in order to determine whether schools are making children “college and career ready” but explained,

“I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores” – Governor Dannel Malloy

[See Wait, What? Post, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test, if it means raising scores” Dan Malloy 4/9/12.]

So to the New York Times and all the other media entities that have become puppets for the “Education Reformers” remember this…

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right. . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, and indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams (1735–1826)

PLEASE take a moment to review the facts about the U.S. Syrian refugee issue


A Personal note: 

I appreciate that readers can hold very different opinions and I strive to respect the views of all my readers, including those who strongly disagree with me, even when they are delivered via a harsh email.

That said, I also believe in former New York United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that, “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

With that in mind, I am asking my readers, on all sides of the refugees issue to become aware of the facts concerning President Obama’s declaration that the United States should accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the coming year.

On Thursday, the Republican members of the United States House of Representatives, along with 47 Democrats including Joe Courtney (D-CT 2nd) and Jim Himes (D-CT4th), voted to stop that initiative. In response to that vote I posted Congressman Courtney and Himes – You have brought shame on our nation and our state, I can no longer support you

This is not a debate about whether we should and must do everything possible to stop terrorists who illegally enter our country or use fake passport or violate the provisions of the nation’s various visa programs to get into the United States.

This is specifically and ONLY a debate about whether the United States should treat Syrian refugees differently than it treats other refugees from around the world.

Please take the time to read the following;

Three days ago, the conservative/libertarian CATO Institute, founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers., posted a blog entitled, Syrian Refugees Don’t Pose a Serious Security ThreatThe article reads as follows;

In the United States, a refugee is somebody who is identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a refugee camp.  UNHCR does the first round of security checks on the refugee according to international treaties to which the United States is a party and refers some of those who pass the initial checks to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

The referrals are then interviewed by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer abroad.  The refugee must be outside the United States, be of special humanitarian concern to the government, demonstrate persecution or fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, and must not be firmly resettled in another country.

Because the refugee is abroad while the U.S. government checks their background, potential terrorist links, and their claims to refugee status, the vetting is a lot more thorough and can take up to two years for non-Syrians.  For Syrians, the vetting can take about three years because of the heightened concerns over security.

For independent background, the following information comes from reports published by the nonpartisan, non-aligned Migration Policy Institute which is funded by a wide range of foundations and organizations that span the political spectrum.  The Chairman of the Board of the Migration Policy Institute is The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, New York.

In 2015, 69,933 individuals arrived in the United States as refugees.

This number is well below the number allowed in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the United States allowed closer to 150,000 refugees into the country each year.

The number in 2015 is about the same as in 2014 (69,926) and 2013 (69,926).

In 2015, the top three countries where refugees came from were Burma (also known as Myanmar), Iraq, and Somalia.  These three nations account for 57 percent (39,920 individuals) of legal refugees.

The rest of the top ten include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bhutan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, and Cuba.

Iraq was the top refugee origin country in 2013 and 2014, accounting for 28 percent of refugees, the share of dropped to 18 percent in 2015.

This year, the refugee program is scheduled to 1,682 Syrians, which would account for about 2% of the total refugees allowed into the country.

As reported by the United Nations and confirmed by various independent agencies,

As of mid-2015, UNHCR had referred more than 15,000 Syrian refugees to the United States for resettlement, who are being screened to determine their eligibility.

The CATO Institute further explained in their article;

The first step for a refugee is to arrive and register in a UNHCR refugee camp outside of Syria. The UNHCR then refers those who pass the first stage of vetting to the U.S. government refugee process.

The National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department use biometrics and biographical information gleaned through several interviews of the refugee and third-party persons who know him or could know him to make sure applicants really are who they claim to be, to evaluate their security risk, and to investigate whether they are suspected of criminal activity or terrorism.  Numerous medical checks are also performed.  During this entire screening process, which takes about three years for Syrians, the refugee has to wait in the camp. If there is any evidence that the refugee is a security threat, he or she is not allowed to come to the United States.


The UNHCR annually refers less than one percent of all refugees for resettlement. In 2014, they referred a mere 103,890 to all resettlement nations. That year, the United States accepted 69,933 refugees, or about 0.5 percent of the total number of all refugees in the world.

In 2015, the United States has accepted only 1,682 Syrian refugees, or 0.042 percent of the 4,045,650 registered Syrian refugees.  Only one out of every 2,405 Syrian refugees in a camp was resettled in the United States in 2015.


If the United States still takes in 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, and the number of refugees rises to 4.5 million, a mere 0.22 percent of them–one out of every 450–will be resettled in the United States.  That number is still so small and the process so well monitored that potential terrorists are unlikely to see the refugee system as a viable way to enter the United States.

Foreign-born terrorists tend to enter on student visas, tourist visas, business visas, or have asylum applications pending, or are lawful permanent residents. All non-immigrant or immigrant categories face fewer security and background screenings than refugees do.

Of the 859,629 refugees who have entered the United States since 2001, three have been convicted for planning a terrorist attack abroad and exactly zero have perpetrated domestic attacks – that’s one conviction for every 286,543 refugees admitted.


In 2015, 53 percent of the Syrians admitted were men, while only 41.5 percent of those men were between the ages of 14 and 40.  Of all the Syrian refugees in that year, only 22.3 percent of them were men between the ages of 14 and 40.  Terrorism-related convictions are almost always of men, so any risk-assessment should note the small number of men in the applicable age ranges.


This situation may be different in Europe, where 681,713 Syrian asylum seekers have sought refuge since the beginning of their civil war in 2011.


The current refugee vetting system is multilayered, dynamic, and extremely effective. ISIS fighters or terrorists who are intent on attacking U.S. soil have myriad other options for doing so that are all cheaper, easier, and more likely to succeed than sneaking in through the heavily guarded refugee gate. The low level of current risk does not justify the government slamming that gate shut.

Our nation deserves leaders who will rise to the occasion, especially in times of anxiety, tension and strife.  The Republicans in Congress were wrong to pass legislation treating Syrian refugees differently that others and, in my mind, Congressman Courtney and Congressman Himes violated their public trust by joining the fear-mongers.

As I wrote in my piece, I can only speak for myself but I will not cast my vote for someone who replaces the truth with political pandering.


Congressman Courtney and Himes – You have brought shame on our nation and our state, I can no longer support you


I have but one vote.

When I had the economic resources and time, I tried to donate what I could to the candidates that I supported and believed in.

As a member of the Connecticut House of Representative, I actually had the opportunity to vote on policy issues, weighing the concerns of my constituents along with my own feelings, philosophy and understanding.

Now I use my blog to try and influence public discourse and impact public policy, keeping much of my focus on issues related to promoting public education.

But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wisely explained,

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Thus while I appreciate that reasonable people can disagree on important issues, I feel compelled to speak up;

Last night, Connecticut Congressmen Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Jim Himes (D-CT) joined with the right-wing, hysterical, fear-mongering members of the United States House of Representatives to pass a bill designed to ostracize and persecute refugees fleeing from Syria and Iraq because they are coming from a land that also contains terrorists.

Despite the fact that every country is home to dangerous people and we Americans are born to recognize that discrimination on the basis of national origin is abhorrent, two of Connecticut’s congressman joined the lynch mob that is being driven by nothing short of fear, ignorance and stupidity.

The legislation that passed the House of Representatives was not about how best to work within a society and system of government that is based on the belief that all People are created equal, but it was an effort to pander to those who would have us run away from our fundamental American ideal that – above all else – there must be equal treatment under the law.

After the vote, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) took to Fox television to proclaim that the legislation would halt the processing of Syrian and Iraqi refugees for as much six months, despite the reality that the United States already has a thorough refugee process that takes 1 1/2 to 2 years to complete.

Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes rationalized his vote by claiming that he was committed to “’protecting innocents from violence and persecution in their home countries’ but also wanted to make the United States safe.”

As if those who voted against the legislation were not equally committed to the safety and security of the United States and its citizens.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, while admitting that the present refugee screening process “is already extensive,” said he voted for the bill because, “Americans want to know — and deserve to know — that their government is rigorously and thoroughly reviewing all refugee candidates to ensure no one is taking advantage of our nation’s generosity to commit violence here.”

But of course, refugees and asylum seekers are being rigorously and thoroughly reviewed.

Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro was absolutely correct to call the “American SAFE Act” nothing but a “political ploy” designed to further divide and polarize our nation.

The bill was not about making the nation safer but about trying to scare American citizens into voting for the fear mongers who wish to hold onto their offices and their generous salaries and benefits  in a time of economic and social distress.

Senator Chris Murphy explained that, “Instead of focusing on the 2,000 highly vetted (Syrian refugees,) we should be focusing on the lightly vetted (visa-waiver visitors).”

As multiple published reports explain, the alternative and substantive legislation that would actually deal with the threat we face is the proposal to, “limit the visa waiver program that allows citizens of nearly 40 countries to enter the United States for as long as 90 days without obtaining a visa. The list includes most European countries, along with Australia, Chile, Japan and South Korea.”

But the vote in Congress last night wasn’t about limiting the visa waiver program, it was about whether the United States of America should use its legal system to discriminate against a group of people based on their national origin.

Congressman Courtney told Connecticut’s WNPR radio, “Public confidence right now, given the events of Paris, and what’s going on, I actually think is a big deal.”

Courtney is correct – the issues of terrorism, national security and immigration are “a big deal.”

That is why we need thoughtful and courageous leaders who will honestly put world events into perspective and institute policies that address problems while, at the same time, preserve the fundamental ideals that we hold sacred.

Yesterday, prior to the Congressional vote on the anti-immigrant bill, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued the following statement.

WASHINGTON, DC—Acutely aware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.

The Museum calls on public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today’s refugees as a group. It is important to remember that many are fleeing because they have been targeted by the Assad regime and ISIS for persecution and in some cases elimination on the basis of their identity.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.

As measured by history, the outrageous and inappropriate vote of the United States House of Representatives brings shame on the United States Congress, the Nation and the individuals who voted yes.

Yesterday’s vote was a moment for elected officials to lead the nation forward, not legitimize the paranoia, fear and meanness that is enveloping the public discourse and will derail, destroy and drown the very ideals that we hold self-evident.

There is simply no excuse for having voted for the legislation.

I have known and worked with, for and alongside Joe Courtney for nearly forty years.

I have always considered him a good and honorable person.

True, this is but one issue, but there are issues that rise above others and truly “matter.”

Dr. King’s instructions were as simple as they were profound, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter.”

In this case, silence is not an option.

Congressman Courtney, I withdraw my support.  You will get no more votes from me.

Connecticut Public Financing Program “Safe”, For Now … But…


As CT Newsjunkie reported late yesterday,

“By the end of the day Thursday, both House and Senate Democrats who proposed suspending Connecticut’s landmark public financing system in 2016, had withdrawn their proposals.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, made the announcement early Thursday afternoon and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz agreed to find the money elsewhere later Thursday afternoon. The news of the reversal came part way through a press conference held by ConnPIRG, Common Cause, lawmakers and other defenders of the clean election system.”

As reported in yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled, Connecticut’s Democratic Legislative Leaders call for suspending elections to save money…,

The Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly proposed suspending Connecticut’s public financing system, thereby allowing legislators to transfer about $11 million toward the $254 million budget deficit in this year’s state budget.

Their plan would roll back the campaign finance system that Connecticut adopted after former Governor John Rowland resigned in disgrace and was sent to prison.

Instead of keeping Connecticut’s Clean Election Program in place, Democratic leaders would return the state to the “Wild West” campaign fundraising system that favored incumbents and ensured that campaigns for the legislature were primarily financed by political action committees, lobbyists and those who benefit financially from state contracts.”

Former Governor Jodi Rell joined in condemning the Democratic leader’s move to end the Clean Elections Program but correctly noted that Governor Malloy and the General Assembly had already undermined some of the most important aspects of the historic effort to keep dirty money out of Connecticut politics.

In a statement Rell observed,

“The Democrats have effectively eviscerated the spirit of the law since 2011 and now they are looking to overturn the actual letter of the law altogether.”

Meanwhile, faced with a state budget deficit in excess of $254 million, the Senate Democrats issued their own proposal yesterday. (See CT Newsjunkie’s The Democratic Divide and CT Mirror’s Senate Dems break with House, go own way on deficit.)

As the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains,

Senate Democrats issued their own deficit-mitigation plan Thursday, pressing for a retirement incentive plan opposed by House Democrats and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as damaging to the state’s overburdened pension system.

The retirement incentives were offered in place of suspending the state’s public financing of campaigns, a measure included in a list of spending cuts they jointly proposed Monday with House Democrats.


An estimated $163 million would be saved over this fiscal year and next, Senate Democrats say, by paying incentives to encourage senior state employees to retire.

Of course Connecticut has learned the hard way that while retirement incentives “reduce” the state payroll by persuading state employees to retire early, it does that by moving employees from the state payroll over to the pension fund, which is already extraordinarily underfunded.

In addition, since some state employee positions must be refilled in order to maintain some of the most critical state services, early retirement programs never save as much money as initially proposed.

For Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, early retirement incentive programs disrupt the level and quality of vital services they receive.

In addition, while the budget cutting plans issued by Governor Malloy, the House Democrats, the Senate Democrats and legislative Republicans differ in various ways, all target the University of Connecticut, Connecticut’s State Universities and the state’s Community Colleges for even more devastating cuts ranging in size from a low of $12 million to Governor Malloy’s high of $28 million.

Malloy has already dealt Connecticut’s public colleges and universities with the biggest budget cuts in Connecticut history, which in turn have led to massive tuition increases and reduced educational opportunities and programs.

Connecticut’s Democratic Legislative Leaders call for suspending elections to save money…

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Well, their proposal is pretty damn close to that…

Earlier this week, the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly proposed suspending Connecticut’s public financing system, thereby allowing legislators to transfer about $11 million toward the $254 million budget deficit in this year’s state budget.

Their plan would roll back the campaign finance system that Connecticut adopted after former Governor John Rowland resigned in disgrace and was sent to prison.

Instead of keeping Connecticut’s Clean Election Program in place, Democratic leaders would return the state to the “Wild West” campaign fundraising system that favored incumbents and ensured that campaigns for the legislature were primarily financed by political action committees, lobbyists and those who benefit financially from state contracts.

Without consulting the members of the Senate or House Democratic Caucuses, the plan to suspend Connecticut’s campaign finance system was announced by Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and Democratic House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz.

The 2006 campaign cycle was the last time Connecticut incumbents enjoyed the full pay-to-play campaign finance game that ensured that most campaign donations went to incumbents and that those funds came from state contractors, lobbyists and political action committees.

In fact, the old “incumbent protection” system was working so well that neither Senator Martin Looney nor Representative Brendan Sharkey even had opponents, while Senator Bob Duff and Representative Joe Aresimowicz were able to easily raise far more campaign money than their challengers.

Although Senator Looney didn’t even have an opponent that year, he raised more than $43,000 for his campaign, nearly 60 percent coming from PACs and a large percentage of his individual contributions from lobbyists and state contractors.

Senator Duff raised over $100,000 in 2006, with well over 60 percent coming from PACS, Lobbyists and state contractors, while Representative Aresimowicz collected over $40,000 with more than 70 percent coming from PACS, lobbyists and state contractors.

The leadership proposal designed to return Connecticut campaign finance system and elections to the dark ages drew immediate condemnation from organizations dedicated to more open and transparent elections and government including,the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG), Common Cause and the national democracy advocacy group, DEMOS.

As the CT Mirror reported,

Tom Swan, executive director of CCAG, said it was especially galling to see Democratic leaders willing to end a program that has provided political newcomers a level playing field for raising money, while they also are proposing cutting business taxes.

“For them to try to stack the deck by eliminating clean elections to fund corporate loopholes is one of the worst public policy proposals from a political perspective I can think of,” said Swan

Common Cause added,

After years of Connecticut being a beacon for the nation for open, transparent elections where money is identified and visible, our successful public financing program for state elections is under attack from Democratic leadership in the Connecticut General Assembly. They are poised to cut $11.7 million from the Citizens’ Election Fund, which will essentially end public financing in Connecticut.

State budget shortfall is a serious issue.  However, the answer is not to cut a program which successfully removed the moniker “Corrupticut” from our state – a program overwhelmingly supported by the public that allows people to run who are not wealthy or connected to power and has been used by over 74% of candidates running for state office.

And Demos, a national advocate for Clean Elections stated;

While Seattle and Maine make progress in getting big money out of elections, Connecticut is poised to undo a signature accomplishment—the Citizens Election Program. Facing budget cuts, some legislators in Connecticut have proposed allowing wealthy donors to, once again, dominate the state’s elections.

Connecticut has had state-wide public financing since 2008. Through financing from the Citizens’ Election Fund, candidates who obtain the required number of small donations can receive a lump sum to fund their campaign.

The program has increased participation, diversified the donor pool, helped more candidates of color run for office, and led to policy outcomes more responsive to the needs of the general public rather than the elite donor class.

While the negative response from advocacy groups and newer legislators sends a powerful signal that allowing PACS, lobbyists and state contractors to control Connecticut politics will not be tolerated, this latest Democratic leadership proposal is actually a continuation of the strategy Governor Malloy and the Democrats and the Connecticut General Assembly have used to significantly undermine Connecticut’s once prominent Clean Elections Program.

In recent years, Malloy and Democrats have adopted a series of loopholes in the campaign finance reform law that resulted in Malloy taking $6.5 million in public funds to pay for his 2014 gubernatorial campaign and then collecting millions of dollars for his campaign activities from political action committees and state contractors, funding entities whose donations are supposed to be completely banned under Connecticut’s Public Financing System.

You can read more about the Democratic proposal to drop the “Clean Elections” program at CT Newsjunkie: Dems Would Scrap Clean Election Program To Balance Budget

You can read more on how the existing program has been undermined via the following Wait, What? posts or by going to Wait, What? and searching under “Campaign Finance”.

Malloy, legislature continue to water-down Connecticut’s “landmark” campaign finance laws;

Malloy’s “Final Destruction” of Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Reform Law;

Malloy/Democrats make mockery of Connecticut’s once prominent role in campaign finance reform

CT Leaders propose cutting funding for public schools while protecting charter school increases


In the face of yet another budget deficit, Governor Dannel Malloy and leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly have been laying out competing plans to cut the state budget.  All plans include cuts in state aid for public schools while protecting Malloy’s initiative to expand funding for charter schools in Connecticut.  Some of the proposed cuts to public education would simply shift the burden onto local property taxpayers, while others would reduce the level of services some public school students receive.

In this guest post, public school advocate and retired Connecticut educator explores the reasons why Governor Malloy and legislators are cutting funding for Connecticut’s public school children while still increasing support for charter schools.

BEYOND OUTRAGE!!!  By John Bestor

Wondering why charter school allocations have remained sacrosanct despite the serious budget issues facing our legislators and the citizens of our State?

In addition to the lucrative New Market Tax Credit that is available to investors who – in their philanthropic largess – receive “tax credits” that will enable them to double their philanthropic investment in seven years, there are other reasons why monies for charter school expansion remain an untouchable budget item.


In 2010, Steve Adamowski, then the Superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools and ever-since Governor Malloy’s “go-to” education disruptor, signed an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “to expand access to a high quality education to advance college readiness” with the “goal to support communities in significantly boosting the number of students enrolled in high performing schools”.  The grant terms called for

  • Joint professional development for teachers in charter and district schools
  • Implementing CCSS with aligned instructional tools and supports for teachers
  • Creating personalized learning experiences for students
  • Universal enrollment system for all public schools, and
  • Common metrics to help families evaluate all schools on consistent criteria.

A signing bonus of $100,000 was paid to the signatory enabling Hartford to join 12 other cities in seeking further competitive grants under a District-Charter Collaboration Compact.

The Compact, as it is commonly referred to, has provided nearly $5 million for the express purpose of encouraging and creating more charter schools in our State.

According to a 2013 Interim Report published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a monitoring arm of the Gates Foundation (www.crpe.org), the Hartford Public Schools have received the largest allocation of grant dollars of any of the other competing urban districts.

Quoting directly from their 47-page report (with Appendix VII specifically detailing the Hartford P.S. Involvement), the authors of the 2013 CRPE Interim Report found that:

“Mayoral control of a school board appears to have made the signing of a Compact more likely.” (p.6)

“The Gates Foundation required that Compacts be signed by key district and charter leaders and include agreements about specific collaborations.”  (p.7)

“Leaders in every Compact city were motivated to improve access to and the quality of special education services in schools.” (p.8)

“In places with a history of some portfolio management and collaboration, like Hartford and Denver, there was plenty of support for signing the Compact.” (p.9)

“Interviews with education leaders in Compact cities revealed that changing the tone of the conversation between school districts and charter schools and tackling a few mutually beneficial projects has been extremely important, especially in cities starting from scratch.” (p.10)

“A dedicated “Compact manager” oversees the committee [steering committees and subcommittees] and helps push the Compact agreements forward.”  (p.10)

“In Hartford, the Achievement First charter management organization trains residents for district school leadership positions through residencies in charter schools and district partner schools, intense individual coaching from the program director, and weekly professional development seminars.”  (p.13)

“In Hartford, new superintendent Christina Kishimoto has the same strong commitment to the Compact that her predecessor, Steven Adamowski, had when he signed, and the city has made progress in several areas since the transition.”  (p.14)

“Finally, in four cities – Denver, Hartford, New Orleans, and New York – both district and charter leaders came to the table with a deep understanding of what could be gained from collaboration and saw a long-term commitment pay off.  These ‘mature collaborations’, as we call them, signed Compacts in environments where districts had supported charter schools for many years and believed that the district’s job is not to run all schools directly but to instead manage a portfolio of public schools for the city’s students. For example, Denver Public Schools has been aggressively recruiting new charter schools for five years, and the Hartford Public Schools had been voluntarily sharing revenue with charter schools for six years.”  (p.18)

“As Compacts were signed across the country, there was generous media coverage and excitement.” (p.19)  [The Press Release by the Hartford Public Schools on 12.5.12 is available online and identifies Noah Wepman as Gates Foundation’s Portfolio Manager for College Ready Programs, Gov. Dannel Malloy, the disgraced Dr. Michael Sharpe, the ever-present Dacia Toll from Achievement First, and Matthew Poland, chairman of Hartford BOE, as present for this release.]

“CRPE will continue to monitor and help support the next phase of Compact Implementation.  As described above, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has recently provided a significant infusion of financial as well as programmatic support to seven Compact cities – Boston, Denver, Hartford, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and Spring Branch – to expand and deepen their collaborative efforts.” (p. 21)

Your guess is as good as mine as to who reported out to these report writers on the progress that the Hartford Public Schools had made prior to release of the Interim Report.


It seems quite obvious that to renege on charter school expansion plans would be contrary to the terms of the Compact and would undoubtedly put in jeopardy any unspent or future dollars under this philanthropic entity.

It leads one to wonder how the signing bonus was disbursed.  Where the grant monies reside? In what account and maintained to who?  With regulatory irregularities associated with charter school oversight well known, just how have these grant monies been spent?  On what and to what purpose?  Who benefits and who profits?  Are Senator Sharkey and Representative Looney aware of this commitment during their “inside” budget negotiation sessions with the Governor’s men?  Are rank-and-file democratic legislators also aware that charter cuts must be left off the table?  Maybe someone should ask them and force them to go on the record before they continue cutting essential services to vulnerable citizens.  Does it extend to minority legislators as well?  Promises made, promises kept, governing corrupt, citizens kept “in the dark”.

Further investigation into the CT charter school scandal was quietly released in 1/2015 (conveniently the day after New Year’s) as Attorney Frederick Dorsey revealed fiscal mismanagement without oversight, nepotism, and questionable real estate shenanigans in his scathing report that had been called for by former Education Commissioner Pryor at the height of the scandal.  Dorsey’s investigation was requested just before a more extensive FBI investigation took over; though the FBI investigation is probably far from finished, a progress report in the The Progressive (8/2015) pointed out that charter school finances nationwide were ripe for graft and corruption.  As reported: “The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group’s operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI’s visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder. The Hartford Courant, 7.18.14.”

Diane Ravitch called it an “Outrage!” in her recent blog (11.09.15) on the prospective Boston school closings, but it is truly BEYOND OUTRAGE!!! and impacts under-resourced urban school systems across this country: a veritable “Who’s Who?” of struggling school communities which have either lost local control of its school board or are at risk of losing local control.  At the same time, local school boards are simply unwilling to exert their authority and ask the important questions while complying with directives of the State Department of Education while CABE, CAPSS, CAS, CBIA, CCER, and ConnCAN – working in collusion as Big Six Partners follow a roadmap designed by The Common Core Funder’s Working Group in the Fall 2012 – continue to work behind scenes and in the media to lobby for “corporate education reform” with its top-down imposed Common Core State Standards and their unproven destructive test protocols.


Press Release: Gates Foundation Invests Nearly $25 Million in Seven Cities Dedicated to Bold Collaboration Between Public Charter and Traditional Schools  www.gatesfoundation.org

2013 CPRE Interim Report by Sarah Yatsko, Elizabeth Cooley Nelson, & Robin Lake www.cpre.org

Press Release: Hartford Public Schools to Expand Partnerships with Charter Schools www.hartfordschools.org

CT Post article (1.02.15): “State report details problems with FUSE management” by Linda Conner Lambeck. www.ctpost.com

Diane Ravitch – “Connecticut: state investigation finds rampant nepotism and lack of oversight at charter chain.”  www.dianeravitch.net

The Hartford Courant (1.02.14) “Probe of Charter School Group Blasts ‘Suspect’ Conduct, ‘Rampant Nepotism’.” by Matthew Kauffman, Vanessa de la Torre, & Jon Lender.

The Progressive (8/20/14). “FBI Tracks Charter Groups.”

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