Media Coverage from last night’s 2nd Congressional District Debate

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For pictures and a video of the debate go to:

The following is the media coverage from the debate; 

Norwich Bulletin – Congressional candidates do battle on guns, climate change –

WILLIMANTIC – The candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District sounded off on college affordability, defense spending and gun control at their debate Thursday at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Republican Daria Novak and Libertarian Dan Reale joined Green Party candidate Jonathan Pelto and incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, on the stage of the Fine Arts Center at Eastern. The debate was sponsored by The Bulletin and moderated by Bulletin Opinion Page Editor Brendan Cox.

All had differing views on how they’d address hot-button issues such as gun control.

Courtney said he supports “common sense measures that are long overdue,” such as a background check bill that would close loopholes, and the “no fly, no buy” law that would prohibit people on the no-fly watch list from buying a gun.

“Those are common-sense measures with bipartisan support,” he said.

Novak said such measures as “safe zones” and “no fly, no buy” don’t work, and Reale has said it’s an issue best left to the states.

“This no fly, no buy nonsense, come on,” he said, “There’s no due process there. You don’t know if you’re on the list or not.”

Novak said solving “the core reasons of the violence, not taking away guns,” is what’s needed.

While they acknowledged climate change, the candidates had different views on its severity and how Congress should address it.

Pelto more aggressive action is needed on climate change.

“It’s the most significant and long-term threat to our world,” he said. “We need to engage every possible tool to reverse the effects,” including reversing subsidies for oil and natural gas and subsidizing alternatives like wind and solar.

Novak supports development of alternate forms of energy, but within the free enterprise system.

“I don’t think the government should be picking the winners and losers,” she said.

Courtney said increased fuel efficiency standards have worked.

“Automakers have embraced it and it’s been a success,” he said.

With the 2nd District home to submarine manufacturing giant Electric Boat, defense spending was a big issue for all candidates.

Courtney said the country needs to pivot more toward air and naval forces, and said EB has more work now with five submarines under construction than since the mid-1980s. Those contracts equate to about 12,000 jobs in the area, he said.

Pelto lauded that achievement but said defense industry needs to be converted to produce “products that add to our society rather than just weapons.”

Novak said the country needs to increase military spending for a “second Cold War period.”

“Our enemies have grown in strength, their militaries are modernizing,” she said.

Novak also said she wants across-the-board tax cuts “for everybody,” but didn’t fully explain how that would help fund increased defense spending.

“We’ll see a growth in the economy,” with the cuts that will cause people to spend more, she said. “It’s snowball in a positive manner.”

Education topics started off the debate at the college.

ECSU students submitted some of their own questions as part of the debate, including those focusing on college affordability and allowing undocumented immigrants to attend institutions of higher education.

Novak said the taxpayer shouldn’t be “on the hook for these student loans.”

She advocated a competitive, free-enterprise system to drive down costs.

Pelto called student debt one of the biggest barriers to middle-class prosperity.

“We have to do something, and there are a couple of things that can be done,” he said, including re-negotiating the terms of the debt.

“I can refinance my house or car, but I can’t re-finance my daughter’s debt. That’s absurd,” he said.

Courtney bemoaned the failure to update higher education laws.

“My refinancing bill is basically about refinancing debt,” he said. “We’ve got to get to the root of college affordability.”

Reale said “refinancing fraud” was at the root of college affordability issues.

“The first thing we have to do as a Congress is attack fraud,” he said. “Then we can start chipping away at the educational problem.”


Hartford Courant – Courtney Faces Three Challengers In 2nd District Debate –

The mostly cordial first debate in the 2nd Congressional District race got personal when the topic of gun control came up, with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney‘s Republican opponent criticizing him for taking part in a Democratic-led House sit-in to push for votes on two gun control bills.

“I will never sit down on the job,” said Daria Novak. “Gun control doesn’t work. We’ve seen that across the country. … It is our right to bear arms.”

Courtney said the two proposals House Democrats were pushing for — expanding background checks to all gun sales and banning people on terror watch lists — were “perfectly constitutional.”

Two minor party candidates also participated in the debate, Daniel Reale of the Libertarian Party and Jonathan Pelto, the Green Party candidate. Courtney was first elected to the sprawling, 64-town district in Eastern Connecticut in 2006 and is heavily favored in his bid for a sixth term. Novak and Reale have both run unsuccessfully for the seat in the past. Pelto, a longtime Democrat and former state legislator, changed his party affiliation to run on the Green Party ticket.

On gun control, Reale said he had civil liberties concerns about imposing restrictions on the Second Amendment based on government watch lists.

“This no-fly, no-buy nonsense? Come on. There’s no due process here,” Reale said. “You can’t treat the constitution like a menu.”

Pelto and Reale both called for cuts to military spending, a topic of interest in the 2nd District, home to submarine manufacturer Electric Boat in Groton and Naval Submarine Base New London.

“We need to be talking about how to convert those defense industries to be [making] products that add to our society rather than simply weapons,” said Pelto.

Novak, on the other hand, said military spending had to be increased.

“If we look at the spending levels, we’re still spending as if we’re in a Cold War period,” she said. “I think that’s very dangerous for us.” Novak said that China, Russia, Japan and North Korea are “out not only to destroy this nation, but to destroy Western civilization.”

The debate was held at Eastern Connecticut State University and much of the early discussion focused on college affordability and federal education standards. Courtney was left largely on his own when it came to defending the federal Department of Education and President Barack Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind.

Novak called the Department of Education “a total failure.” Reale said it had “failed miserably.” Pelto, who frequently opines about education reform on his blog, said the federal government had implemented a “test and punish” system. All three called for more local and state control of education policy.

But Courtney said there have to be federal standards.

“To say we’re going to randomly let kids succeed or fail based on where they live is really a prescription for failure,” he said.

The four candidates also offered varying plans to tackle student debt. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, has called for wiping out $1.4 trillion in federal student loan debt by taxing Wall Street and cutting the military budget.

“Eliminating student debt by writing it off in the same way we’re writing off [the] debt of the banks when the banks are too big to fail,” Pelto said.

Reale and Courtney both agreed that student loan debt should be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Novak said federal student loans have become “a cash cow” for universities, which in turn have raised their prices. She called for a closer look at the operating costs of universities, putting a priority on more educators and fewer bureaucrats.

The candidates will debate again Tuesday night at Connecticut College in New London.

Tonight – 7pm Norwich Bulletin’s 2nd Congressional District Debate

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I am proud to be participating in tonight’s Norwich Bulletin Debate with the other candidates running for Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

The debate will begin at 7 p.m. at the Concert Hall in the new Fine Arts Instructional Center on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus.

The Norwich Bulletin will be live streaming the event via Facebook Live

You’ll find my seat stage left – way stage left!

Please stop by if you have time or catch it on Facebook Live or watch for the video becoming available on the Norwich Bulletin website at:

Watch LIVE at 7 p.m.: 2nd Congressional District Debate

The Bulletin will host a political debate 7 p.m. tonight for the candidates running for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District, which covers all of Eastern Connecticut.

The event will be held at the concert hall in Eastern Connecticut State University’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center.

All four candidates — incumbent Democrat Joe Courtney, Republican Daria Novak, Libertarian Dan Reale and Green Party candidate Jonathan Pelto — will participate. Bulletin Opinion Page Editor Brendan Cox will moderate the debate.

The debate will be streamed live on The Bulletin’s Facebook page:

Parking is available in the Shakespeare and Cervantes parking garages: Enter the university via the 400 High Street entrance by the public safety building; go straight through three stop signs; take a left to enter one of the garages at the fourth or fifth stop sign. For those with limited mobility, parking is available at the FAIC lot: enter campus as described above; take a left at the first stop sign; at the next stop sign, take a right then a quick left into the lot.

A request for financial support because “Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy…”   

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In 2004 the playwright and actor Sam Shepard wrote,

“Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy.   As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.”

With less than three weeks until Election Day, we are witnessing the horrifying effects of what happens when our democratic system begins to unravel. The dangerous ravings of a psychotic, narcissist is threatening to undermine the most fundamental elements of what we regard as our democracy.

While all eyes are rightfully focused on the developments that are taking place at the national level there are a myriad of examples were individuals and small groups of citizens are striving to breathe live into the democratic institution that we call voting and our electoral process.

As the Green Party candidate for Congress in eastern Connecticut, I’m proud to report that we are continuing our effort to enhance and upgrade the quality of debate in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District.

The two major newspapers in the district are holding candidate debates over the next ten days and both have invited the district’s 3rd party congressional candidates to participate.  In addition, a variety of media coverage, along with other candidate forums, are providing a vehicle to raise and discuss a wide array of issues that would not otherwise be discussed during this campaign cycle.

Pelto 2016 campaign mailings and other voter outreach activities are providing yet another opportunity to educate, persuade and mobilize people to step up and speak out on the problems that are challenging our communities, state and nation.

In the face of those who seek to tear down our democracy, we will continue to strive to reinforce the recognition that a working democracy requires serious and substantive discussion and debate, not scare tactics and baseless claims of  a “rigged” election.

With that as the backdrop, I’m writing to ask – yet again – for your financial support for my campaign for Congress.

A group of dedicated donors and supporters have provided the required campaign resources that we’ve needed to date.  Some have even sent in two or three donations, and to them, I am deeply grateful.

Now, with Election Day in sight and important campaign activities yet to take place, I’m asking that you do what you can to support our effort.

Please consider making a donation to Pelto 2016.  It is quick and easy and the funds you provide will have a dramatic impact on our ability to further the debate and discussion during campaign 2016.

You can donate to Pelto 2016 on line by clicking on Pelto for Congress 2016 or

Alternatively, print off and send the following form with your check to Pelto 2016, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Thank you so much,


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Opting out of testing in Connecticut — now a civic duty by Drew Michael McWeeney

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Drew Michael McWeeney is an Early Childhood Education major and teacher candidate at Southern Connecticut State University.  His powerful commentary piece first appeared in the CTMirror.  You can read and comment on it at:

Opting out of testing in Connecticut — now a civic duty

Since implementation of the new teacher evaluation system by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature, I have believed opting out of standardized testing was a student right. I now see it as a civic responsibility.

Under the current system, 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student test scores. According to a 2014 Brookings Institute study, however, teachers can elect not to be evaluated on the scores if a significant number of students do not show up to take their standardized tests. This is because having too few test takers can cause the test data to produce false results, labeling a teachers’ classes either high- or low-performing incorrectly.

What Malloy and the legislature did was a direct attack on public education under the guise of raising standards. Because of this, here is the narrative the system creates: Since students are failing tests, teachers must be poor performers. Therefore since public school teachers are poor performers, let us close down public education and privatize public schools.

Having observed countless Connecticut classrooms, I can tell you that basing almost half of a teacher’s rating on student test scores is too much in the first place. Then, when Gov. Malloy makes it impossible for us teacher candidates and teachers to present other evidence to establish our effectiveness — by eliminating lesson plans from consideration, for example — he compounds the problem.

Finally, researchers at the University of Connecticut’s NEAG School of Education, in a study released last year, reported that only 58 percent of teachers surveyed felt the rating they received from the state’s new evaluation system was accurate. Of the 533 teachers surveyed, more than half found no added value in the time they spent on their evaluations.

With these and other problems, the teacher evaluation system is a catastrophe. Although our state tried addressing many shortcomings through customization, it is the highly-destructive effects of accountability reform that teachers must resist. I insist – must resist.

Yes, teachers need to be evaluated. I would expect nothing less in any job. It is even more critical, especially in fields such as education, when a teacher receives job protection under union contract. It costs school districts hundreds to thousands of dollars to both hire and retain teachers. You want to protect your community investment.

Now, I understand teachers have to follow their district evaluation plan or they could be fired for insubordination. However, what is interesting is that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as No Child Left Behind and now called Every Student Succeeds Act, does not require that teachers be evaluated by student test scores. That was what Race to the Top required in order for states to be eligible to apply for Race to the Top money; so states incorporated student test scores in their teacher evaluation process.

Is it time for the fight to end? No. This is only the beginning. We need to fight this war on common sense. We need to fight the war Connecticut and other states, such as New York, have declared on public education by supporting a better, fairer, evaluation system for teachers. Before we demand better comprehensive education reform, we must shout battle cries of “Opt-Out.”

We need these evaluations to fail if we want public school teachers to succeed.

In illegal move, Malloy administration misleads public (again) on budget deficit


State law requires that on the 20th of every month, the Governor’s administration MUST inform the State Comptroller about any known budget deficit.  The State Comptroller, in turn, uses that information to help guide his mandated monthly report that is issued on the first of each month.

In October, Malloy’s budget division told State Comptroller Kevin Lembo that the budget was in balance, but as it turns out, that was a lie.

As Keith Phaneuf at the CT Mirror is reporting today;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration last month warned dozens of state agency heads of a significant shortfall in the current budget — but continues to officially report that finances remain in balance.

The $133 million revenue shortfall disclosed to agency heads on Sept. 6 was excluded 14 days later from the last official monthly budget forecast submitted to Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo.

Malloy’s top budget chief told Malloy’s commissioners that there was a deficit, yet day later, sought to mislead Lembo about the problem.  Lembo, in turn, provided the public with a report that wasn’t accurate.

Early last summer Governor Malloy and the Democratic members of the Connecticut General Assembly adopted an austerity budget that cut vital services.  Governor Malloy swore the budget was balanced when he signed it.  Months later, when they knew there was a budget deficit appearing, they decided to overlook that fact when issuing their required financial report.

Six weeks before this critical election, Team Malloy choose to mislead the public.

As the CT Mirror explains;

Shortly after the budget was approved, analysts noted that summer income, sales and corporation tax receipts were weaker than anticipated. Since then, administration plans to save money from layoffs have progressed much more slowly than anticipated, further raising concerns about whether the new budget was balanced.

Still, the administration has reported no problems with the budget since the fiscal year began on July 1. It’s last monthly budget projection, filed Sept. 20 with Lembo’s office, held that finances were in balance and that revenues for the General Fund — which covers most operating costs in the budget — were coming in as anticipated.

Yet two weeks earlier, in a Sept. 6 memo imploring all agency heads to keep their spending requests lean in the next budget, Barnes estimated that General Fund revenues in the current budget would total $17.75 billion — $133 million less than the amount needed to balance the current budget.

What is the public to think when the governor of the state of Connecticut lies to the public about the size of the budget deficit?

Of course, the sad reality is that this isn’t the first time Malloy and his team have mislead voters about the budget in order to hide the truth for political purposes.

Remember, this is the governor who refused to admit there even was a deficit in 2014 until 10 days after he was re-elected to a second term in office. It was only then that the public was told about the growing fiscal crisis that lead to this year’s disastrous budget deal.


Judge botched rulings on education policy by Wendy Lecker

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Education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker returns to the recent CCJEF v. Rell legal decision in her weekend piece in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on her piece at:

Judge botched rulings on education policy by Wendy Lecker

In issuing his decision in the CCJEF school-funding case last month, Judge Thomas Moukawsher claimed he was faithfully following the dictates of the Connecticut Supreme Court. However, it is clear that the judge ignored a major warning by our highest court: that the judiciary is “ill-equipped” to deal with educational policy matters. Nowhere is this disregard of the court’s warning more evident than in Moukawsher’s rulings on high school and teacher evaluation. In these rulings, the judge contravened the mountain of academic and experiential evidence showing that what he proposes is dead wrong.

First, the judge declared that Connecticut should institute standardized high school exit exams. The judge decided that because Connecticut does not have “rational” and “verifiable” high school standards, meaning standards measured by a high school exit exam, Connecticut diplomas for students in poor districts are “patronizing and illusory.” He concluded that the cure for this problem is standardized, “objective” exams that students must pass to graduate.

In pushing this proposal, the judge relied heavily on one defense witness, Dr. Eric Hanushek, a witness whose testimony has been flatly rejected in school funding cases across the country. Hanushek claimed that Massachusetts’ status as the “education leader” in the country was a result of instituting an exit exam.

Had the judge examined the evidence, however, he would have discovered that Massachusetts’ high school exit exam has increased dropout rates for the state’s most vulnerable students. In fact, as the New America Foundation reported, decades of research on exit exams nationwide show two things: students are not any better off with exit exams, and exit exams have a disproportionately negative impact on the graduation rates of poor students and students of color. That is why the trend among states is to drop exit exams. Exit exams would widen the graduation gap in Connecticut.

Again, had the judge examined the evidence, he would have also learned that the actual major factor in Massachusetts’ improvement was the very measure he refused to order Connecticut to implement: school finance reform that dramatically increased the amount of school funding statewide. No fewer than three studies have shown that increasing school funding significantly improved student achievement in Massachusetts. Recent major studies confirmed those findings nationwide, demonstrating that school finance reform has the most profound positive impact among poor students.

The judge also missed the mark by a wide margin in his ruling on teacher evaluations; which again he insisted be “rational and “verifiable” from his unstudied perspective. Anyone who has been paying attention to education matters the past few years has surely noticed the understandable uproar over the attempt to rate teachers based on student standardized test score “growth.”

Experts across the country confirm, as the American Statistical Association pointed out, that a teacher has a tiny effect on the variance in student test scores: from 1 percent to 14 percent. Thus, it is now widely understood that any system that attempts to rate teachers on student test scores, or the “growth” in student test scores, is about as “rational” and “verifiable” as a coin toss.

Courts that have actually examined the evidence on systems that rate teachers on student test scores have rejected these systems. Last year, a court in New Mexico issued a temporary injunction barring the use of test scores in that state’s teacher evaluation system. And in April, a court in New York ruled that a teacher’s rating based on her students’ “growth” scores — the foundation of New York’s teacher evaluation system — was “arbitrary and capricious;” the opposite of “rational” and “verifiable.”

Yet despite the reams of evidence debunking the use of student growth scores in evaluating teachers, and despite these two court rulings, Judge Moukawsher insisted that rating teachers on student “growth” scores would satisfy his demand that Connecticut’s system for hiring, firing, evaluating and compensating teachers be “rational” and “verifiable.” His ruling defies the evidence and logic.

These and all of the judge’s other rulings are now being appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court by both sides: the state and the CCJEF plaintiffs. One can only hope that that our highest court will steer this case back on course, away from these ill-advised educational policy rulings and toward a proper finding that the state is failing to provide our poorest schools with adequate funding and is consequently failing to safeguard the educational rights of our most vulnerable children.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.  Her column  can be found at:

Malloy Administration considering 64.5% tuition increase for 17,000 Community College students

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Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrat controlled General Assembly have already made record cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, cuts that have resulted in massive tuition increases and reduced services, but as the CT Mirror is reporting, Governor Malloy’s austerity budget strategies may now lead to a 64.5 percent increase in tuition and fees for more than 17,000 of Connecticut’s college students.

While Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other national Democratic leaders propose to make a community college education free in the United States, the Malloy administration is floating a proposal that would lead to a massive spike in cost for those attempting to get a college degree at one of Connecticut’s community colleges.

In, Steep tuition hike pitched for many community college students, the CT Mirror reports

Currently, students who pay full-time tuition can take up to 18 credit hours. A proposal that the Board of Regents’ finance panel will consider next Thursday would charge students $150 in tuition and $74 in mandatory fees for each credit they take over 12. A student who took 18 credit hours would be charged an extra $1,344 over the current cost of $2,084 a semester, a 64.5 percent increase.


There were 17,073 community college students who took more than 12 credits a semester last year, about one of every six community college students. If the colleges had charged for credit hours in excess of 12, the proposal estimates, the colleges would have collected $8.7 million in tuition revenue.

The Malloy administration’s strategy is likely a bait and switch effort to make an otherwise outrageous tuition increase look “reasonable.”

Considering the state of the economy and the socio-economic status of the students attending Connecticut’s community colleges, any major increase in tuition will mean fewer students getting the college education they need to live more fulfilling and productive lives.

Pelto campaign mailing ready to go – but additional funds needed for postage

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Less than five weeks to go until Election Day and the campaign is engaged in a series of voter outreach efforts, but quite frankly we need more financial support to adequately fund the voter contact program.

At this very moment there is a voter card that has been printed and is ready to be sent, but we need your donation to make that happen.

Please consider making a campaign contribution today to Pelto 2016.

You can donate to Pelto 2016 on line by clicking on Pelto for Congress 2016 or

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Your help have a critical impact.

Please give what you can.

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Why is Governor Dannel Malloy on a mission to destroy Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical High Schools

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Yesterday’s news headlines read:

State education board eyes closing 2 vo-tech schools, other cuts  (CT Mirror 10/5/16)


More Layoffs, Vo-Tech School Closures Possible As Malloy’s Budget Office Seeks Spending Cuts (Courant 10/5/16)

The message to Connecticut’s young people was clear and concise.  Think twice before planning to go to one of Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical High Schools.

It was déjà vu all over again!

Governor Dannel Malloy talks a good game about making Connecticut’s children “college and career” ready, but his actions and his budget plans speak louder than words.  In fact, they tell a very different story about his commitment to children and Connecticut’s economy.

In 2011, at the beginning of his first term as governor, Dannel Malloy actually proposed to disband Connecticut’s successful Vo-Tech high school system altogether, this despite the fact that theses schools have provided tens of thousands of Connecticut citizens with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and the workforce.

When students, parents, teachers, the business community and legislators fought back, Malloy eventually retreated and allowed the 18 schools and their nearly 11,000 students to exist.

However, from that day on, a short-sighted and mean-spirited Malloy administration has consistently used the state budget to squeeze the life out of these important and valuable schools, all while the governor claimed he was making education a priority.

A Wait,What? headline from this past May told the story.  Entitled, Malloy and Legislative Democrats target Regional Vo-Tech high schools for devastating cuts, the article reported that the so called “compromise” budget agreement between Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders cut the Vo-Tech High School budget by $7.8 million, dropping the state’s investment in vocational and technical education from $171 million a year to $163 million.  The new budget also empowered Malloy to cut the Vo-Tech high schools even more via layoffs and budget rescissions.

Some Democrats cried big alligator tears about the irresponsible budget but most, nevertheless, voted in favor of the despicable reductions that have already reduced programs and limited opportunities at the Vo-Tech schools.

And now, the Malloy administration is preparing to do even more harm to Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools.

In what should be an unbelievable move, Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education have voted to eliminate two Vo-Tech High Schools as part of their budget cutting plan.

The CT Mirror explains;

The State Board of Education Wednesday endorsed a proposal to close two of the state’s vocational technical high schools and end all athletic programs at the remaining ones if the department’s budget is cut by 10 percent in the next fiscal year – an amount the governor’s budget chief has told agencies is likely.

These state-run schools enroll 11,000 students and have steadily been cut over the last several years as state legislators worked to close budget deficits.

Budget proposals serve as a blueprint, effectively highlighting a governor’s priorities and goals.

Let there be no mistake…

Malloy’s unending efforts to destroy Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical system speak volumes.

Students, parents, teachers and taxpayers are on notice, yet again, that Connecticut has a governor who utterly fails to understand or appreciate Connecticut public schools or what is best for Connecticut’s economy and its citizens.

“Harbormasters” – A new corporate education reform industry term for unelected entities seeking to privatize our public schools.


“Harbormasters have a mission to buoy the number of high-quality seats in their cities.” – Bellwether Education Partners on behalf of Education Cities


  • “Harbormasters” are unelected entities that seek to put themselves in control of managing public education in a particular community, and (b) “High-Quality Seats” is a euphemism for more charter schools.

So translated into English, the phrase “Harbormasters have a mission to buoy the number of high-quality seats in their cities” actually means,

If we are to succeed in our goal of opening more charter schools and continuing the efforts to privatize public education we will need more un-elected entities willing to step in and usurp the democratic process that presently stands in our way.”

When one follows this path of edu-jargon they will quickly come across groups like Bellwether Education Partners, Education Cities and similar corporate-funded organizations that are working to remove the term public from public education.

Take for example, Education Cities, a relatively new entity in the privatization game.

Education Cities’ primary mission is to develop and expand the notion of “harbormasters” as part of its ongoing strategy to expand the number of charter schools in targeted cities.

Education Cities claims it is a “nonprofit network” of 32 city-based organizations in 25 cities.  As the evidence makes clear, it is really just another charter school front group funded by the same cabal of big education reform foundations.

The organization traces its roots back to 2012, when the an Indianapolis, Indiana “educational venture capital fund” called The Mind Trust spun off a related entity it called CEE-Trust or Cities for Education Entrepreneurship.

The organization’s stated goal was to bring Indianapolis-like corporate education reforms to other cities around the country.

Changing its name to Education Cities in 2014, the entity collected more than $5.5 million during its first two years as a 501(c) (3).  Not surprisingly, major contributions came from The Broad Foundation; the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; The Walton Family Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, all leaders in the effort to privatize public schools in the United States.

Always keen on coining a phrase, the public relations mavens at The Mind Trust and Education Cities announced that their primary strategy was to install “harbormasters” as vehicles to promote and implement their privatization agenda.

And what, pray-tell are harbormasters and what role do they have when it comes to implementing the corporate education reform agenda?

Bellwether Education Partners, a leading corporate education reform consulting company, proudly explains the Harbormaster concept as follows;

If you DON’T work in education, a harbormaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbor or port, in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbor and the correct operation of the port facilities. It’s the nautical version of an air traffic controller. I assume they look like this:

If you DO work in education, the term is a metaphor for a city-based nonprofit that plays a central role in funding and coordinating high-impact education initiatives.

The term was popularized by Ethan Gray, a Mind Trust team member who incubated and then launched Education Cities (formerly CEE-Trust — pronounced SEA-Trust), a member organization that convenes and supports harbormasters across the country. Education Cities is a current partner and former client.

Over on the Education Cities’ website, one learns that when you “partner” with Education Cities you get the opportunity to hire, pay or work with a slew of top education reform industry consultants including, none-other-than, Bellwether Education Partners

Other companies and organizations in on the slick deal include the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, Public Impact, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to name a few.

Expounding upon the benefits of harbormasters, Bellwether Education Partners adds;

By aligning vision, resources, talent and political will, these organizations become the strategic leaders of their community’s efforts to create more great schools. They can also be the recipients of heated opposition from those who seek to preserve the status quo. Both are valuable roles.

We believe that there are four main elements to the harbormaster strategy: supporting quality schools, strengthening effective educator pipelines, advocating for pro-student pro-teacher policy changes, and

In concert, these four strategies create the conditions for high-quality public schools to launch, grow and persist. Harbormasters often lead in one or more of those areas and work in close collaboration with other local stakeholders on the other efforts to accelerate the pace and sustainability of school improvement.

Here’s a list of the Education Cities member organizations. Bellwether has extensive experience working with harbormasters including New Schools for New OrleansThe Mind Trust in Indianapolis, Choose to Succeed in San Antonio, Accelerate Great Schools in Cincinnati, and The Boston Schools Fund.

It will come as no surprise to readers that Bellwether’s client list is not dissimilar to the list of organizations that make up Education Cities, a list that includes the following communities;

Baton Rouge, LA

Boston, MA

Chicago, IL

Cincinnati, OH

Denver, CO

Detroit, MI

Indianapolis, IN

Kansas City, MO

Las Vegas, NV

Los Angeles, CA

Memphis, TN

Milwaukee, WI

Minneapolis, MN

Nashville, TN

New Orleans, LA

Oakland, CA

Philadelphia, PA

Phoenix, AZ

Providence, RI

Richmond, CA

Rochester, NY

San Antonio, TX

San Jose, CA

Washington, DC

Wilmington, DE

Rather than work through democratically elected boards of education, where public policy belongs, harbormasters are designed to do an end run around the American political system and install pro-privatization gurus and consultants to take over and run privatization efforts.

And to date, their record speaks for itself.

In an article entitled, Why Harbormasters Are Critical to a City’s Ecosystem, the Senior Vice President of Growth, Development & Policy at Rocketship Education crowed,

…the idea of the harbormaster has taken shape in a variety of forms, in a few pockets of our country. In some places, harbormasters were borne of natural disaster, as with New Schools for New Orleans; elsewhere, it was a response to a generation of declining results, as with Schools That Can Milwaukee; or sheer volition, as with San Antonio’s Choose to Succeed; or the sound execution of a strategy, as with the DC Fund of NewSchools in collaboration with the CityBridge Foundation.

All four schools systems are widely recognized as examples where corporate education reform and privatization have or are failing the vast majority of students.

As if Rocketship’s references to New Orleans, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Washington DC were not unsettling enough, EdSurge, a corporation that helps schools “find, select and use the right technology to support all learners,” doubles-down on the need to replicate New Orleans’ failures with a piece titled, How the ‘Harbormaster Network’ Plans to Spread Nationwide Personalized Learning

For those who may be confused about the meaning of the education reform phrase “personalized learning,” you might start by reading the Wait, What? post, When THEY say “personalized learning” is, it is time to be afraid, very afraid.

In conclusion, while it is true that the corporate education reform “movement” is weighed down with a long list of failed policies, you have to give them credit for their prowess when it comes to developing marketing terms that seek to mislead their target audiences.

For example, next time you hear the term harbormaster in an education policy setting, you’ll know exactly what is being said (or not said) as the case may be.

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