An appreciated editorial from the Hartford Courant

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While it doesn’t remove the sting of failing to get the 7,500 signatures needed to get on the 2014 gubernatorial ballot, the Hartford Courant has written an editorial that is appreciated and helps illuminate some of the challenges petitioning candidates face.

While the bottom line is that a candidate should never try to be their own campaign manager and the failure to collect a sufficient number of names is mine, and mine alone, the Courant successfully highlights why our democracy would be improved by modernizing the petitioning process.

The single most important thing I heard while spending the last few months campaigning is that Connecticut voters want a broader array of candidates to choose from.

In their editorial entitled, “Pelto Falls Short In Clunky Ballot Petition Process,” the courant writes,

Jonathan Pelto was really looking forward to the gubernatorial debates, to his chance to engage Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and GOP challenger Tom Foley on education and other issues. But to paraphrase Adlai Stevenson, a funny thing happened on the way to the Capitol.

Mr. Pelto, a blogger and former state legislator, failed to get the requisite 7,500 verified signatures of registered voters to qualify as a petitioning candidate for the 2014 governor’s race. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill notified Mr. Pelto Friday afternoon that he had submitted only 4,318 qualified signatures, so his proposed nomination was “disapproved.”

Meanwhile, the other petitioning candidate, former West Hartford councilman Joseph Visconti, did get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Mr. Pelto concedes that there is no one to blame but the person he sees in the mirror: “We dropped the ball on good campaign structure.” In retrospect, he said he would have run a more centralized campaign operation with more control over the signature-gathering operation — as Mr. Visconti did — and perhaps have started sooner. He was also critical of the process, at one point calling it rigged against petitioning candidates and also cumbersome and inefficient.

Process Is Hard, But Not Impossible

Mr. Visconti’s success suggests the process is navigable, but it is cumbersome. A petitioning candidate has to have separate petitions for each of Connecticut’s 169 towns, and the petitions must be turned in to each town — or sent to the secretary of the state’s office for forwarding to each town — for counting and confirmation.

Mr. Pelto said some town clerks or registrars improperly rejected signatures because the signers failed to include their dates of birth. Though the petition form has a space for birth dates, signers aren’t required to fill it out. He identified some other situations — people using maiden names, people with mailboxes in one town who vote in another, or town clerks failing to check inactive voter lists — where valid signatures may have been rejected.

Mr. Pelto concedes that if all the errors were corrected, he still would not have had enough signatures to qualify. But he maintains that if the threshold is 7,500 names — a number that is reasonable — then a candidate shouldn’t have to send in an extra thousand or two to be sure of qualifying. (Mr. Visconti reportedly submitted more than 10,000 names.) He wondered why the statewide electronic voter database couldn’t be used for a faster and more accurate process.

[…]

As for Mr. Pelto, though some have called him a spoiler or worse, he had every right to run. Third-party candidates rarely win unless they are statewide political figures on the outs with a major party. But they sometimes raise concerns that influence the campaign. Mr. Pelto may have done that with education, his signature issue…

Like any campaign, we had our ups and downs, but among the high points was the fact that while the incumbency parties and political establishment consistently sought to belittle our 3rd party aspirations, Connecticut’s reporters and media outlets worked to level the playing field and provide the 3rd party candidates with appropriate media coverage.

The Hartford Courant’s editorial is appreciated, not only for the fact that that it respected my right to run for office, but that it correctly highlighted some of the problems that limit our democratic system.  While politicians like to claim that they are pro-democracy, we must do a better job ensuring that we really are the democracy that our citizens need and deserve.

You can read the full Hartford Courant editorial at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-pelto-comes-up-short-20140829,0,7429710.story

 

Pelto Statement on falling short of the 7,500 signatures needed to get on the ballot

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Later today, the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office is expected to officially announce that the Jonathan Pelto/Ebony Murphy ticket did not collect the 7,500 certified signatures needed to qualify for a position on the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.

On behalf of the Pelto/Murphy campaign, Jonathan Pelto has released the following statement;

“We are, of course, deeply disappointed that we were unable to collect a sufficient number of signatures to qualify as 3rd party candidates for governor and lt. governor.  While we failed to achieve that critical goal, we’re hopeful that our effort has and will continue to spur a more serious discussion about the critically important issues facing Connecticut.

I want to especially thank Ebony Murphy for agreeing to serve as my running-mate, the hundreds of people who helped collect signatures and the thousands of people who signed our petition.  We are also especially grateful to those who provided the campaign with their financial support.

I apologize to all of our supporters for our inability to get onto the ballot, but want to assure them and the citizens of Connecticut that we will continue to stand up and speak out about the problems facing our state and our society and the solutions that will be necessary to ensure a better future of all of our state’s residents.

The petitioning process was an eye opening one.  While requiring candidates to collect 7,500 signatures to qualify for a position on the gubernatorial ballot continues to seem like a reasonable number, the primitive and burdensome laws and archaic system clearly serve as an unfair barrier to those who believe our democratic system would be better served if voters had more choices when they go to vote.

In the coming months we’ll seek to partner with other 3rd parties, their supporters and those who believe in a more open and democratic process so that we can develop and advocate for a legislative package that will reduce the unfair aspects of the petitioning process and create a more open, democratic system of campaigns and elections.

I also want to offer a special thank you to Connecticut’s reporters and media for providing us with fair and extensive coverage of our campaign.

Finally, a special word of congratulations goes out to Joe Visconti, the other 3rd party candidate, who, along with his team of supporters, did a remarkable job collecting the signatures necessary to get on the ballot.  Joe has shown that the People can challenge the incumbency parties and, shake up the establishment.  I wish him continued success as he speaks out on the issues he is so passionate about.”

###

 

 

What the ______?  Debate reveals Malloy’s position on teacher tenure is even worse….

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UPDATED WITH ADDENDUM

The question for Governor Malloy should have been a simple one;

Mr. Malloy, you are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so called turnaround schools), will you this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Sadly (but not surprisingly), the moderator of tonight’s debate, the Norwich Bulletin’s Ray Hackett, DID NOT ask Malloy the pivotal question.

Instead he returned to Malloy’s absurd, insulting and idiotic statement that teachers need only show up for school for four years and they’ll get tenure.

And how did Malloy respond to the question?

The Hartford Courant explains;

“Regarding Malloy’s high-profile remark on teacher tenure in an address in the historic Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Malloy said, ‘I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What?

Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is now saying his statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

As if that is a better position?

Malloy’s explanation, two and a half years later is that “It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure…”

The corporate education reform industry, riding high off a successful anti-teacher tenure lawsuit in California, is targeting the single most important element of academic freedom and working conditions for public school teachers and now the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure is saying that his abusive language about teachers “Wasn’t about them.  It was about tenure…”

Is there any Democratic leader in Connecticut or anyone in the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers or the Connecticut Education Association or any other union that will stand up and condemn Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s continuing attack on teacher tenure and public school teachers?

ADDENDUM:

Almost as interesting as Malloy’s decision to reiterate his anti-teacher tenure position is the way in which the media decided to cover Malloy’s quote.  Take a “close reading” of the way the media decided to highlight Malloy’s continued verbal assault on teacher tenure.

Hartford Courant:

On Wednesday, Malloy expressed regret at his choice of words, calling it “bad language.”

“It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure,” Malloy said. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://www.courant.com/community/norwich/hc-ct-governors-race-debate-foley-malloy-0828-20140827,0,7507329.story

CT Newsjunkie:

Hackett also gave Malloy an opportunity to comment on a statement he made in 2012 that infuriated teachers and caused them to rally against his proposal on the steps of the state Capitol.

“I should admit that that was bad language,” Malloy said regarding his remarks. “It wasn’t actually about them, it was about tenure . . . I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying that.”

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_turns_focus_to_foleys_business_record_during_first_debate/

CT Mirror

“I should admit that was bad language,” said Malloy, who was greeted before the debate by rallying unions members, including the president of AFT-Connecticut. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://ctmirror.org/in-first-debate-malloy-apologizes-to-teachers-needles-foley/

Pelto requests that teacher tenure and collective bargaining question be asked at gubernatorial debate

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The Norwich Bulletin newspaper is hosting the first gubernatorial debate tonight between Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Tom Foley.

On behalf of the more than 100,000 active and retired teachers, their families and public education advocates, I am publicly requesting that the following question be asked;

Governor Malloy:  You are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so-called turnaround schools), will you use this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Mr. Foley:  Governor Malloy earned the wrath of teachers and public school advocates when he proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.  Can you tell us whether you would have supported or opposed Governor Malloy’s proposal and what you would do on these two issues if you are elected governor?

Barriers for 3rd party challengers are widespread – Here is a new disturbing case in Massachusetts

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Proving that the notion that supporting the Constitution and “Protecting Freedom and Democracy” is a relative term for some people.

Secretary Galvin [Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts] Sued over Rejection of Voter Signatures.  Rejection of Ballot Petitions Clears Way for Democratic Incumbent to Run Unopposed

State election officials have rejected all 3000 voter signatures collected by Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jason Lowenthal who is running for Congress against Democratic incumbent Michael Capuano in the 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts. This clears the way for Capuano to run unopposed for a seventh term.

Lowenthal had assumed that the 3000 voter signatures he had collected would be more than enough to put his name on the November ballot since only 2000 certified signatures were required. But when he tried to turn in his signatures, town clerks, after consultation with state officials, told him that the signatures were invalid since they were on white forms intended for use by the two recognized major parties – Democrats and Republicans. If he had only used the tan forms intended for use by smaller parties, they said, all the signatures would have been acceptable.

Lowenthal has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin seeking an order to place his name on the ballot. In the brief to Suffolk Superior Court, Lowenthal claims that election officials misled him regarding the forms to be used, and that rejection of the signatures constitutes a violation of the intent of state election law.

According to Lowenthal’s lawsuit, the white signature collection forms were given to him by state officials who said they were the proper ones for him to use. When he pointed out that the forms had fine print that mentioned deadlines for Democratic and Republican primaries, election officials replied that the white forms were required for federal races. In actuality, there are separate tan-colored signature forms are intended for both federal and state level races when the candidate is not a member of the two state-recognized political parties.

http://www.gp.org/newsroom/press-releases/details/4/731

 

Illinois School Bans Discussions of Michael Brown’s Death (by Paul Thomas)

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This article was written by fellow pro-public education blogger Paul Thomas for Alternet.  Paul Thomas is a an associate professor of education at Furman University and a powerful voice on behalf of public education .  His blog can be found at: http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Illinois School Bans Discussions of Michael Brown’s Death (By Paul Thomas)

When faced with tragedies like the shooting of Michael Brown and the community unrest that followed, there are many hard questions to be asked. Why did this happen again? Who should be held accountable? How do we prevent such injustices?

But among the hard questions, few are so pressing, or essential, as this: What do we tell the children?

For educators, that question weighs heavily, and in the Brown case all the more so because Brown’s death occurred just as the new academic year begins.But in Edwardsville, Illinois, the answer is chilling: What do we tell the children? We tell them nothing.

From the local CBS affiliate in St. Louis:

A new directive has been issued in Edwardsville schools: Don’t talk about Ferguson or Michael Brown in class.

Superintendent Ed Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.

“However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown,” he says.

He says teachers have been told not to discuss it and if students bring it up, they should change the subject.

This is inexcusable for many reasons. The shooting is grounded in racial issues we already refuse to discuss in the U.S., despite the fact that they impact all of our lives, students’ included. Failure to confront a topic certainly won’t make it go away, and how students feel about the world impacts how they learn about the world.

But we also cannot ignore that this banning of a difficult topic is related to both the traditional view that education should be “objective” (i.e., absent emotion and opinion), and the current high-stakes environment plaguing our schools. Schools have long been driven by a workplace model honoring “time on task” over relevance to students’ lives, but the current “accountability” era has rendered schools places where nothing is relevant unless it is tested—including tragedies.

Whatever the policy changes driving such a shift, schools and teachers must hold themselves to a higher standard. They must allow, and even embrace, discussions of Brown’s shooting, among other tragedies, because formal school settings and the support educators can provide often represent the best possible avenues through which children can confront complex issues like these.

Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., concurs that banning the topic of Ferguson in schools is exactly the wrong approach. Instead he argues that precisely what is needed is a focus on bringing the real world into the classroom:

Beginning as early as the latter elementary years, schools should offer — no, require — age-appropriate cross-cultural studies that would, in effect, introduce us to us. Meaning not some airy fairy curriculum of achievements and accomplishments designed to impart some vague intra-cultural pride, but a hard-headed, warts and all American history designed to impart understanding of who we are, where we’re from and the forces that have made us — inner-city black, Appalachian white, barrio Mexican, whatever.

Children’s lives, including their schooling, have never been absent the weight of social tragedy. While we shouldn’t be nostalgic about a golden time when schools attended to each student’s every need, we must consider how the high-stakes environments of education have created almost no option for addressing the real world, which students cannot avoid, and must navigate first, in order to be successful students. Formal K-12 schooling must equip our youth for more than work and college; it must prepare them for living lives that can create a better world.

Reclaiming Civic Duties of Schools

During my 18 years teaching public high school English, tragedy interrupted our sacred commitment to “time on task” often enough—notably on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and on Sept. 11, 2001. Since these tragedies consumed media coverage, most teachers throughout my school turned on our classroom TVs and watched dark moments of history unfold before us with our students. I taught throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when accountability based on standards and high-stakes tests was in its evolving years, but even then, teachers were directed and monitored for keeping students on task, teaching standards and preparing students for the tests.

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, schools have increasingly become places where focus never strays too far from standards or tests, leaving little or no room for the reality of daily existence, even when that reality imposes tragedies onto teachers’ and students’ lives. This approach has also had the effect of shifting public education away from its foundational civic and democratic purposes and toward narrow functions such as college and career readiness.

Allowing and encouraging students to engage with the real world must be central to that lost purpose of schooling. As John Dewey asserted as far back as 1897:

I believe that this educational process has two sides—one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following.… I believe that knowledge of social conditions, of the present state of civilization, is necessary in order properly to interpret the child’s powers.

How children and young people feel impacts directly how they think. Despite our best efforts to keep children and teens focused purely on intellectual pursuits, their emotional responses to everything in their world drive not only their ability to think, but also what they think.

#FergusonSyllabus: Learning to Address Our Inadequate World

Teachers must find a way to offer students a reasonable amount of time to reflect and then express how they feel about the complicated issues surrounding what happened in Ferguson: the death of a young person, issues of racism, conflicting messages about authority figures and law enforcement, and safety.

Classrooms that seek to be intellectually engaging must be emotionally and physically safe; the shooting of Brown has fueled fear in young people that cannot be addressed by banning conversations and topics. Instead, teachers should manage safe discussions that begin with emotions and then move toward multiple opportunities for students to explore how becoming better informed helps them address their feelings, as well as come to terms with how they view the hard issues of racism, police use of force and civil unrest.

The shootings of young, unarmed African American males in the U.S. are fraught with many complex questions that require careful consideration and solid facts. One of the most important aspects of formal education is introducing children to the wide range of disciplinary ways of coming to understand our often inadequate world.

All disciplines can find ways to help students address real-world tragedies through academic practices that serve them against their current fear and confusion. School should be a safe harbor against the often misleading media world. Once tragedies are granted the space and time needed for our hearts to begin to heal, they offer powerful opportunities to teach that cannot be anticipated by standards or tested—ones that require careful study, credible evidence, and complex considerations of difficult ethical questions. One of the best places for students to confront the topic of Ferguson is in their classrooms with their teachers. Understanding this, some educators have already begun to develop curriculum and lesson plans to address the tragedy.

#FergusonSyllabus has emerged on Twitter, begun by Marcia Chatelain, a history professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Chatelain spurred an ongoing series of Tweets inviting teachers to consider not only how to address Brown’s death with students, but also why they should.

James Netters of Memphis Theological Seminary has blogged about integrating the Brown tragedy into course work, compiling a reader. Netters continues to write about the importance of teaching about Ferguson:

Today, as the events of Ferguson unfold, we need less Niebuhr and more Baldwin. We need fewer sighs and more plans; we need less complacency of an immoral world and more actions of moral women and men. If we don’t, then we won’t have “the fire next time.” We’ll have the fire right now.

Chatelain and Netters highlight the importance of bringing racial consciousness into the classroom during times of tragedy as a way to heal student fears and as a path to address social unrest and prevent further tragedies. These efforts are essential because the tragedy of Brown’s shooting has roots in exactly the sort of refusal to address hard topics that the Edwardsville schools are now mandating.

But the path to a real education lies to the contrary: students must learn to ask hard questions in order to change the world, and school is the place to learn those lessons.

Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t

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The Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, “effectively” finishes up his sure to be award winning series on U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “hand-picked” education reform disciple, Terrence Carter, with a breaking news story entitled,  Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t.

Lender, who led the Courant’s investigation of “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the disgraced former head of the Jumoke/ FUSE charter school chain, turned his attention to the highly touted education reform export who the Malloy administration was bringing in to join Special Master Steven Adamowski to “turnaround” New London public schools.

The Courant’s investigative operation quickly determined the truth about “Dr.” Terrence Carter including the fact that despite what Carter claimed, he did not have a Ph.D from Stanford University or Stanford and Oxford Universities or even from Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Among one of “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s many explanations was the observation that while he hadn’t actually received a Ph.D from Lesley in the past, he was going to be given one this month.  He even bragged that when he defended his thesis, the committee informed him that he could now call himself “Dr.”

Well, the good “doctor’s” version of reality appears to be a bit different from the reality that the rest of us live in.

In this afternoon’s Courant article, Lender writes;

Embattled New London school superintendent candidate Terrence P. Carter had been scheduled to receive his Ph.D. in Education Monday from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. — but that didn’t happen.

“I can confirm that Terrence Carter does not have a degree from Lesley University,” Director of Communications John Sullivan said in an email.

He was then whether other candidates received their degrees on Monday’s long-scheduled “conferral date” of Aug. 25, and whether it’s still possible that Carter would receive his doctorate.

“Degrees have already been conferred today. He does not have a degree from Lesley,” Sullivan said in a subsequent email. “Beyond that, I have no further comment on his or any other student’s academic information.”

Carter did not respond to Courant messages seeking comment Monday.

Carter was selected by New London’s school board in June to be its next superintendent of schools, but the Board postponed a vote on awarding him an employment contract in late July.

The postponement came in the wake of newspaper revelations that Carter had used Ph.D. and Dr. with his name for at least five years without having a doctorate from an accredited college, and that large portions of his New London job application essay were identical to language in articles published on the Internet.

Lesley University would not discuss the reasons why Carter’s doctorate was not awarded.

Questions about Carter deepened when a national research organization provided The Courant with a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 including the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which he does not;. Also, The Courant reported that Carter got a Ph.D. in 1996 from “Lexington University” — which doesn’t have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto “Order Now, Graduate Today!”

The school board commissioned an investigation into Carter’s background after the newspaper disclosures in July,. The report on that probe by the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, the board’s legal counsel, is due to be presented at a meeting Thursday night. It’s unclear whether the board will go through that night with its previously scheduled vote on whether to enter an employment contract with Carter.

Carter had told New London officials during the application process that he was due to receive a Ph.D. in education from Lesley this summer — and, in a letter dated June 10, Carter’s senior adviser at Lesley verified that he had “successfully defended his dissertation” on May 28, and would officially be awarded his Ph.D. on the “next degree conferral date, August 25, 2014 — which was Monday.

But that situation has changed, according to Sullivan’s email.

[...]

The Ph.D. that Carter had been scheduled to receive was for a dissertation entitled “Driving Value within a Changing Network of Schools through Learning and Development: The Use of a 360° Feedback Tool To Drive Change and Bring Value in Public Education.”

Carter told the Courant in July he would be willing to send a copy of the dissertation, but he has not done so. Lesley has declined to release a copy.

Carter and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week on Simmons’ letter and other questions concerning the New London situation.

The New London board’s June choice of Carter was watched more closely than most local hirings of school administrators, partly because the state Department of Education has played a strong role in addressing the local system’s record of low performance. The board’s June announcement that it had selected Carter was endorsed publicly by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

You can read Jon Lender’s full story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2225/article/p2p-81175756/

Gubernatorial Debates:  Ask questions that matter.

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On Wednesday, August, 27th, 2014, the Norwich Bulletin newspaper will host the first of the 2014 gubernatorial debates.  Ray Hackett, the Bulletin’s editorial page editor will moderate the debate.

For reasons that I can’t seem to wrap my head around, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and Republican challenger Tom Foley are the only gubernatorial candidates that have been invited to participate in this 2014 debate, which will take place at the Slater Museum auditorium on the campus of Norwich Free Academy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Joe Visconti, who has successfully petitioned onto the November ballot, will be prohibited from participating.

In addition, it appears that the only way to attend the debate is to get one of two hundred tickets, half of which have been provided to the Malloy campaign and the half to the Foley campaign.

Although I may not be on the list, hopefully the future gubernatorial debates will include all of the candidates who have qualified to be on the November ballot.

The debates provide a unique opportunity to ask the candidates the difficult questions that voters deserve to have answered.

If I was a participant in the debates, one of the questions that I would have asked the other candidates is the following:

Governor Malloy:  You are the only Democratic Governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround schools.  While public school advocates and teachers have criticized you for saying a teacher need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, but that is a minor complaint compared to your proposal to actually do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining for a subset of public school teachers.

Mr. Malloy, will you use this moment to renounce your 2012 proposal and can you tell us exactly what is your position on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

 

Mr. Foley/Mr. Visconti:  Governor Malloy earned the wrath of teachers and public school advocates when he proposed, in 2012, to do away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.  Can you tell us whether you would have supported or opposed Governor Malloy’s proposal to end teacher tenure and limit collective bargaining and what you would do on these two issues if you are elected governor.

If it turns out that I am not on the ballot this year, and therefore cannot participate in the debates, I hope the moderators will ask the candidates these and other important questions.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Highlights and Lowlights of the Pelto/Murphy 2014 campaign continue to grow

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Kicked off by yesterday’s Wait, Wait? Blog post, the Hartford Courant’s Chris Keating wrote a news update entitled, “Breaking: Pelto Fears He Will Not Reach 7,500 Signatures To Get On Ballot.”

Keating began his article with the following,

In a potential political boost for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, liberal Democrat Jonathan Pelto told The Hartford Courant on Saturday that he fears he will not reach the necessary threshold to qualify for the gubernatorial ballot in November.

Pelto has threatened to go to court to gain a place on the gubernatorial ballot against Malloy, Republican Tom Foley, and petitioning candidate Joseph Visconti, but Pelto said in an interview that a potential court fight on disputed signatures might be fruitless if he is not close enough to the threshold.

“It’s not looking good,” Pelto said Saturday. “I am increasingly concerned the situation is starting to look grim. It is clear that we submitted far fewer petitions than I had expected. … I may be wrong. But for the first time, I think we may fall short.”

The news article goes on to explore the issues and challenges surrounding what may be our failed effort to qualify for a position on the November gubernatorial ballot.

You can read the original Wait, What? blog here: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/08/23/youre-rightyou-just-can-make-sht/

And the Hartford Courant story here:  http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/breaking-pelto-fears-he-will-not-reach-7500-signatures/

As a candidate for governor over the past few months, I’ve been honored and humbled to hear some amazing complements, along with some pretty harsh insults.

I have to say, after striving to serve as an outspoken supporter of Connecticut public school teachers and state employees over the last four years, in addition my pro-collective bargaining, pro-labor, pro-state employee, pro-teacher voting record when I served as a state legislator more than two decades ago; I was deeply offended when the AFL-CIO refused to allow me to address the delegates at their summer endorsing convention and when the President of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, to have an interview with their political action committee or even address their executive committee before they endorsed Governor Malloy.

I was equally stunned, although more hurt than anything else, when the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association prohibited me from collecting signatures outside of their Summer Leadership Conference earlier this month.  Their claim was that allowing me to collect signatures from CEA members would be perceived as an unfair advantage.

Ironically, during the entire campaign, the CEA was the only public or private organization that prohibited me from collecting signatures at an event.

Although all of these situations were real “eye-openers,” they are “water of the dam” and there is no use “crying over spilt milk.”

Besides, to be honest, they have been replaced by two more remarkable reader comments that appear at the end of the aforementioned Hartford Courant article.

While some of the reader comments add perspective to the story, there is Dan who writes, “Did Malloy and/ or his Demon Cronies Pay him off ???”

Followed by Charles who ponders the hundreds of rejected petition signatures asking, “How many wee undocumented immirants?”

I have to say, regardless of whether we do or do not qualify for a position on the ballot, those two comments, along with many of these other experiences. will make the whole episode truly unforgettable.

Oh and just in case there is any doubt – Ah, Dan, the answer is no.

And Charles, if you can describe to me what an “undocumented immigrant” looks like, I’ll try to remember if we saw 900 of them lining up to illegally sign our petitions.

And to Dan and Charles, I urge you to look up the quote that Pogo provided us many years ago.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest ---- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

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