Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again.

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When they were running for re-election, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were all smiles as they accepted the political endorsements from Connecticut’s state employee unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

When Malloy and Wyman wanted the unions to fork over money to help pay for their re-election campaign, union leaders stepped up big time.

Using hard-earned money collected from their members, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was set up to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

In addition, when Malloy and Wyman wanted campaign donations funneled into a special account run by the Democratic State Central Committee, the various unions came up with over $160,000.

And not a complaint was heard when unions’ political operation kicked into high gear, providing the votes that Malloy and Wyman needed to get the second term in office that they so desperately wanted.

Even after the 2014 election, Team Malloy/Wyman kept their proverbial hand out, looking to the unions to cough up even more of their members’ money.  According to the latest campaign finance reports, the state employee unions have donated in excess of $42,000 to the Malloy/Wyman political operation in 2015.

However, as Connecticut’s public employees are learning, yet again, the Malloy administration is fond of turning on state employees with a vengeance.

While refusing to demand that Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share, Dannel Malloy’s new state budget plan cuts vital programs, lays off state employees and seeks to privatize public government functions.  The budget proposal is more in line with something that would be coming from the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Scott Walker.  (See also – Malloy Administration ushering in a “Wisconsin Moment” at UConn and CSU Wait, What? 11/6/2015)

In addition to proposing a state budget balanced through state employee layoffs, concessions and major budget cuts, each news cycle reveals additional attacks by the Malloy administration on state employees and the services they provide.

As CT Newsjunkie is reporting in an article entitled, Malloy Proposes Bill To Outsource Some DMV Services, in an incredible and deceitful move, Malloy is expanding his effort to shift the blame for the massive problems associated with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ recent computer upgrade onto the backs of the state employees who work at DMV.

Although it was the Malloy administration that contracted with the out-of-sate, for-profit company to revamp DMV’s computers, a move that has led to longer wait times and a variety of problems, Malloy is now proposing to privatize even more of the DMV’s activities.

As CT Newsjunkie reports;

AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar said the outsourcing of the information technology was just the most recent in a “long line of outsourcing failures that could and should have been avoided.”

However, “the administration appears ready to double-down on another risky contracting scheme. If it fails — like so many previous privatization bungles — state residents will be left with the tab and suffering from degraded services,” Morningstar said.

Morningstar serves on the State Contracting Standards Board, which has been unable to meet to go over contracts because the governor has yet to fill the vacancies on the board and it doesn’t have a quorum.

This week Malloy and Wyman will begin a new round of their – my way or no way — budget tours, and while the spin will be coming fast and furious, their fundamental approach to the Connecticut state budget will be clear for all to see.  Target the most vulnerable for budget cuts, expand funding for charter schools, shift costs to local property taxpayers, college students and others … and most importantly … blame state employees.

Malloy’s approach has certainly changed considerably since he took the stage  at the AFL-CIO convention in June 2014 where he proclaimed;

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens,” Malloy told about 450 union leaders and supporters gathered in the unionized Omni Hotel. “When you understand that they too have rights; that we can move forward together, and in fact when we don’t move forward together, we move backward.”

If this all sounds a bit familiar… 

 Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’ (AFSCME + AFT IN CT Newsjunkie)

No Wisconsin Moment in CT (AFSCME)

Conn. Members Say No to a ‘Wisconsin Moment (IBEW)

Wyman: We’re All In This Together, Offers To Buy Foley A Ticket To Wisconsin Moment (OIB Blog)

NOTE: For those who want to be lectured to, the Malloy/Wyman style of leadership will be on full display at their first Town Hall Budget Forum February 11, 2016.

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman today announced that they will hold a town hall forum in Stamford on the evening of Thursday, February 11, 2016, to discuss his budget principles, his proposals for adapting state government to a changing economy, and other issues concerning the future of the state.

The forum will be held from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the UConn Stamford Campus in the Gen Re Auditorium (1 University Place, Stamford).  Residents who would like an opportunity to ask the Governor a question should arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event to submit their name on a sign-up sheet.  The forum is open to the public.

The Stamford event will be the first stop in a series of town hall forums that the Governor and Lt. Governor will be holding throughout the 2016 legislative session.  The event will be similar to those they have held in previous years, where they answered hundreds of questions on a range of state issues at numerous forums.

Dates and locations for additional town hall forums in the series will be announced during the coming weeks.

Cha-Ching! Wealthy Charter School backers give big to Malloy – Malloy gives big to charter schools

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Call it the new American Way.  The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

Here in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

In classic fashion, their plan slashes a full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break.  Their plan makes absolutely no effort, whatsoever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would actually come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts to programs that help children in crisis, the developmentally disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise property taxes.

But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools.

The CT Mirror explained the situation in a story entitled, Malloy: Increase charter school, cut neighborhood school funding;

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for the next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal public schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

The reason seems pretty obvious.  Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group.  Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN.  He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sackler and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor.  Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.

During the very same time, Malloy and Wyman have turned their backs on the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers that actually support and fund Connecticut’s public school system.

Since taking office, Team Malloy/Wyman have dumped over $450 million in scarce taxpayer funds into charter schools in Connecticut, although these schools consistently discriminate against children who require special services, children who aren’t fluent in the English language and children who won’t adhere to the charter school’s abusive “no-excuses” disciplinary policies designed to push out children with behavioral issues.

While public schools in every town will suffer from Malloy’s budget cuts, and local taxpayers will be forced to pick up some of the lost state funding, the charter schools will continue to wallow in more state support.

The CT Mirror noted;

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000).

Of course, the charter school supporters who donated and worked for Malloy are overjoyed by the news that Malloy was coming through, yet again, for the charter school industry.

“Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, applauded the governor’s proposed budget.”  (CT Mirror 2/5/16)

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public school advocate pointed out the harsh reality in her blog yesterday, Connecticut Governor Malloy Increases Funding for Charters, Cuts Funding for Public Schools;

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students.

The truth is that the charter school industry has put an unprecedented amount of money on the political table.  Dannel Malloy and Nancy Wyman happily took that money and continue to produce for their favored donors.

It may be the new American Way, but it is a disgusting style of politics that shouldn’t be tolerated here in Connecticut.

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

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In many places across the country, the effort to undermine public education is alive and well.

In Connecticut, thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration, the corporate education reform industry is successfully turning public schools into little more than testing factories.  These days Malloy also serves as the  head of the Democratic Governors Association.

Between the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the new “mandate” that all high school juniors must take the new,Common Core-aligned,  SAT, public schools are being forced to revamp their instructional programs so that they can fulfill their duties by teaching to the test.

Not only is the “high stakes” testing scheme being used to unfairly label children and evaluate teachers, but school administrators are manic about the possibility that their schools and district may not “look good” in the eyes of the testing industry and its disciples like Governor Malloy who famously said, in 2012, that he “didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.”

Just last month the Westport School System sent out a letter to parents urging them not to opt their children out of the inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing program.  The letter read;

We are requesting that all students complete the full SBAC assessment this year. The state of Connecticut has set out a list of consequences for districts that do not have 95% of their students take the test in 2016.  Prior to 2015 we have always had 99-100% participation. Last year we were the only district in our District Reference Group (DRG A) who did not achieve this requirement. We have linked an article from the Connecticut Mirror with more information.

Westport’s educational programs benefit from some state funding, as well as a positive rating from the state, which we do not wish to jeopardize as a result of low participation rates in the standardized assessment program.

Wait what?

Westport schools want parents to force their children to take an unfair test that is designed to fail many of those students because the school district doesn’t want to jeopardize the “positive rating” it has from the state?

Meanwhile, other school districts are simply following the Connecticut State Department of Education’s directives and misleading or lying to parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Of course, most school districts recognize that “high” participation rates aren’t enough to win accolades from the education reformers so students HAVE to be taught how to score better on the SBAC and SAT tests.

As a result, Connecticut public school students are losing hundreds of hours of instructional time so that they can prepare for the testing by taking practice tests and engaging in test prep.

With that as the backdrop, a “special” achievement award should go to Danbury Connecticut’s school system.

Not only is Danbury using the school day to teach to the test, they have actually hired SBAC TUTORS to try and make sure that some of the more  “academically challenged” children get the extra help they need to get higher SBAC scores so that they won’t do too much damage by pulling down the school and district’s average test scores.

Late last year, in preparation for the all-important 2016 SBAC testing window, Danbury posted a want ad for SBAC TUTORS.

According to the job posting, SBAC Tutors were need by the Danbury Public Schools to work in all “Elementary and Middle Schools.”

Tutors would work two hours a day, 2-3 days per week (TBD by School Principal) and would “provide additional tutoring support to identified students in advance of standardized testing.”  The posted pay rate, $33.12 per hour.

This month, the state of Connecticut is in state court facing a lawsuit for failing to provide the financial support cities and towns need to ensure that all students have access to their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality public school education.

Yet at the same time, the state is forcing schools to devote more and more time, money and resources to destructive testing programs…all in an effort to improve standardized test scores.

Oh, and for those parents who live in school districts that aren’t providing extra tutoring outside of the school day, don’t worry.

There are plenty of for-profit companies out there that will be happy to take your money and tutor your child so that he or she won’t be labeled losers when it comes to the SBAC test.

As one online website proclaims; Get Your Child Ready for the SBAC

SchoolTutoring Academy’s SBAC Tutoring Programs start with a free academic assessment with an Academic Director. Our SBAC Tutoring Program includes:

  • One-on-one Tutoring Sessions– Private tutoring sessions with a certified tutor.
  • Bi-monthly Progress Reports– Reports on your child’s progress and parental conference calls.
  • Customized Program– Academic Directors build a customized learning plan to achieve success.
  • Free Consultation– All programs include free academic consultation from a SchoolTutoring Academy Academic Director.

All of this is available for $199.99/month. Call 1-877-789-9565 to talk with our Academic Directors about your SBAC tutoring questions. They can also explain how a SBAC tutor can help your child improve their skills and test-taking abilities.

Malloy presents a state budget plan that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud

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Flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, his “policy-partner,” Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy lectured a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly today about the importance of being fiscally responsible.

It was a grand theatrical performance that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Less than two weeks ago, singer and music producer B.o.B informed the world that despite what we have been told, the World is Flat!

Like Governor Dannel Malloy, the “all-knowing” musician laid down the “truth” about the flatness of the Earth explaining;

“No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”

“A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know… grow up.”

“I question the international laws that prevent you from exploring Antarctica and the North Pole… what’s there to hide? …I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived.”

Thankfully, in an epic response, world renowned astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, went on the Nightly Show to set things straight.  The best portion of which can be seen in this video clipThe Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss also has a great write-up in article entitled, Why in the world would rapper B.o.B think the Earth is flat? A quick science lesson.

Earlier today, doing his best to channel B.o.B. into the historic chamber of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Malloy took off on a fantastic ride of revisionist history in which he blamed everyone but himself for the fiscal disaster that is dragging Connecticut into the muck.

A far deeper analysis of Malloy’s budget proposal will come in the days and weeks ahead, but readers can learn more about some of the specific aspects of Malloy’s proposal via the following links.  Malloy targets municipal aid, agency budgets, perhaps ‘thousands’ of jobs (CT Mirror), Malloy Budget Plan Hammers State Workers, (CT Newsjunkie), Gov. Malloy Will Cut State Workforce By Thousands (Hartford Courant) and from many other Connecticut news outlets.

That said, the details of this farce of a budget where overshadowed by Malloy’s even more bizarre effort to portray himself as some sort of fiscal guardian and truth teller.

As the Hartford Courant wrote;

“In a sternly-worded speech, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told state legislators Wednesday that they must accept “a new economic reality” of smaller government, scaled-back programs and greater compromise.”

This from the politician who relied on budget gimmicks to produce a series of state budgets that did not balance and then based his re-election campaign on the message that there was no deficit and that he would neither propose nor sign any tax increases if given a second term in office.

Of course, literally days after the election, Malloy’s budget chief admitted that there was a state deficit and Malloy went on to sign a budget that included the second massive tax hike of his tenure as governor.

And as every observer of Connecticut government and politics recognizes, the words “Malloy” and “compromise” cannot be used in the same sentence.

Malloy’s rhetoric about honest budgeting was only eclipsed in today’s speech by his comments regarding his record when it comes to Connecticut’s long term debt obligations.

Unconstrained by the truth or his own record in dealing with Connecticut’s failure to properly fund its pension and post-employment benefit programs, Malloy pontificated;

“Now, it has fallen upon us to fix it. After decades of neglect, we are finally paying our pension obligations every year. I think we all know that must continue.”

This from a guy who just a few months ago proposed kicking the can so far down the road that we’d shift more than $8 billion in pension liabilities onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and grandchildren.

And lest we forget, it is Malloy who has gone crazy with the state’s credit card, borrowing money to pay for various pet projects including his massive corporate welfare program.

As for his immediate commitment to making even deeper cuts to state programs, Malloy’s approach is probably best reflected by his proposal to cut funding for dental care for poor children and his plan to save $1 million by “reducing the burial benefit for indigent people from$1,400 to $1.000.”  That last one was actually something Malloy proposed last year, but legislators reviewed the issue and trashed the plan.

In the end, Malloy’s new budget plan relies heavily on reducing services for those with developmental disabilities, those who suffer with mental illness and addiction, and other vulnerable residents who rely on help from Connecticut’s nonprofit providers for community services.

Of course, Malloy has now returned to his claim that he will not support any new taxes, overlooking his own effort to dramatically cut municipal aid, which will force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise local property taxes.

Then, as if to remind us, once again, of Malloy’s true priorities, the governor, who refuses to require that Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens pay their fair share in taxes, adds a new provision in his budget plan that would provide a tax break for millionaires when it comes to paying their probate fees.

As Connecticut citizens work to understand Malloy’s latest budget proposal, they would do well to remember that just because a politician or a musician says it’s so —- doesn’t actually mean that it is so…

Readers who want to understand Malloy’s perspective can start by taking a step back from today’s budget madness and read the recent Wait, What? post entitled; Malloy Budget Plan – Coddle the rich while cutting vital state services.

ALERT – Lobbyists for the “Education Reformers” spend $1.9 million more in Connecticut.

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While 2015 was a bad year for many Connecticut taxpayers and for those that rely on vital state services, it was a very, very good year for Connecticut’s charter school industry.

Making deep and significant cuts to a broad range of critical services, including funding for public education, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly actually handed even more public money over to the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

While leaving Connecticut’s real public schools without sufficient funds, Malloy and Democratic legislators approved a deal to divert more than $100 million dollars this year to the companies that operate Connecticut’s charter schools.

Why would Malloy and Connecticut’s elected officials turn their backs on their own students, parents, teachers and public schools?

Maybe it had something to do with the record breaking amount of money that the “education reformers” and the charter school industry spent lobbying the Governor and the legislature.

Connecticut’s Democratic legislative leaders initially said they would not agree to giving Connecticut’s charter schools even more money, Malloy demanded that it was, “his way or else.” Rather than doing the right thing and standing their ground against the bully, Democratic legislators even gave Malloy the additional money he wanted to open two new charters schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford. Both local boards of education in Bridgeport and Stamford had overwhelmingly opposed the proposed charter schools, explaining that they did not need or want additional charter schools in their district.

Ignoring Connecticut’s collapsing fiscal situation, the Governor and legislature actually handed the charter schools even more scarce public funds, even though those schools discriminate against Connecticut children by refusing to accept and educate their fair share of students who require special education services and those who aren’t proficient in the English language and therefore need additional English language services.

According to the latest lobbying reports filed by the various corporate education reform lobbying groups with the Office of State Ethics, the corporate-funded advocacy organizations that support charter schools, the Common Core and the absurd Common Core testing scheme spent more than $1.9 million lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015.

Leading the spending spree was the New York-based entity that calls itself, “Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.”  This is the group that bussed in parents and students from as far away as New York City and Boston to hold a rally at the Connecticut State Capitol demanding more money for the privately owned charter schools.

The additional $1.9 million in lobbying expenditures brings the total amount these groups have spent in support of Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher initiatives to more than $9 million, making it the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

The list of corporate-funded education reform entities that reported lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015 included Achievement First, Inc., the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); the North East Charter Schools Network and the Bronx Charter School of Excellence.  A number of other charter school and education reform front groups, including Educators 4 Excellence, Excel Bridgeport and Achieve Hartford were active around the state but claim that they did not communicate with the governor or legislators and therefore do not need to reveal how they spent their money.

Connecticut has become a case study in how “big money” is changing how education policy and politics is conducted.

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

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Based on utter ignorance or stunning arrogance, the elected members of the Regional School District #7 Board of Education (Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford and Norfolk) voted last week – January 27, 2016 – to adopt an official policy “banning” parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.

By a unanimous vote, Board Chair Molly Sexton Read, Vice-Chair Robert Jerram, Secretary/Treasurer Don Torrant and members Mary Duran, Noel Gauthier, Deborah Bell, Theresa Kenneson and Dennis Spector adopted an anti-opt-out policy stating;

“Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language. All students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessment. Until such legislation changes, the Department of Education and each school district must comply with federal and state mandates.”

In an apparent effort to rationalize their decision to undermine their district’s students, parents, teachers and citizens, the board of education’s statement opined;

Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out.” While it was possible to opt out of initial trial assessments when the Common Core initiative started, the SBAC assessments are mandated by the state and therefore not optional,

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3) (C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.

The Connecticut General Statutes also require that “for the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-14n (b) (1).

Like the federal statute, this state law also does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment.

Wait, What? Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out?”

Students and parents aren’t the ones confused, it is the public officials that need schooling about one of the most important tenets of our nation’s constitutional system of government.

The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads;

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

To repeat the obvious – There is NO law, regulation or legal policy that prevents parents from opting their children out of the Common Core testing program nor is there any law that allows the federal or state government to punish parents and children for refusing to participate in the testing system.

Second, the school board’s attempt to cherry-pick statutory language is extremely disingenuous.

The Regional School District #7’ policy cites section 10-14n of the Connecticut General Statutes which lays out the law about Connecticut’s mastery test.

The policy notes subsection (a) of 10-14n but completely overlooks section (e) of that statute which reads;

Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination.   (e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

The law is actually extremely clear.

It is illegal for a Connecticut school district to require that a student receive a satisfactory score on the so-called mastery test in order to be promoted from one grade to the next or graduate from a Connecticut public school.

Therefore, a school district cannot hold a child back or prohibit him or her from graduating if they don’t have a satisfactory mastery test score…or for that matter, any mastery test score at all.

School districts can urge parents to allow students to take the Common Core mastery tests, but they simply cannot require that students have a mastery test score in order to graduate or be promoted.

The Mission Statement of Connecticut’s Regional School District #7 reads;

Northwestern Regional is a comprehensive public Middle School-High School. We serve the total Regional Community with emphasis on middle school and high school students. Our educational program promotes cognitive, personal and social development in a safe learning environment. We seek to empower students to be independent lifelong learners and contributors in a changing society.

The very essence of empowering students begins with telling them the truth.

The truth is that in Connecticut, unless the law is changed, parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core mastery testing program.

Instead of parroting the lies coming from Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration, the members of Regional District #7 and every other Connecticut school district have a duty to stand up for the children and citizens of their communities.

If Connecticut’s elected officials want to prohibit parents from opting their students out of Connecticut’s mastery test they must try and pass a law that specifically repeals that fundamental and inalienable right.

Yet another warning about taking the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

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Following up on my recent Wait, What? blog post entitled;

“My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

Here is a SPECIAL WARNING for high school juniors who are thinking about applying to a college or university that requires applicants to submit all of their SAT scores, rather than just their best score.

Last spring, without understanding the ramifications of their action, Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly “mandated” that all high school students take the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016, despite the fact that the NEW SAT hasn’t even been released, let alone validated as an accurate measure of mastery.

There is so little known about the NEW SAT that Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education won’t even identify what constitutes a passing score on the NEW SAT until after Connecticut’s high school juniors have taken the test and the State Department of Education has been given and analyzed the results

What is known about the NEW SAT is that the College Board, the corporation that produces the SAT, is claiming that they have aligned the NEW SAT with the Common Core which means that the test will include significant content that most high school juniors have not been taught.  This problem will be especially prevalent in the MATH section of the test.

The first time that students across the country will have the opportunity to take the NEW SAT will be on March 5, 2016.  The NEW SAT will also be offered in May, June and on various other dates in the summer and fall.

The Malloy administration’s decision to “mandate” that Connecticut’s 11th graders take the NEW SAT during the school day on March 2, 2016 ensures that Connecticut’s juniors will be nothing more than guinea pigs for the testing industry since, as a brand new test that has never been offered before, the NEW SAT will undoubtedly have significant issues and problems that will need to be resolved before it is “ready for prime time.”

Considering that there is so little known about the NEW SAT, the Malloy administration’s “mandate” means that students are forced to consider the March 2, 2016 test as little more than a “practice exam.”

However, such a strategy could be particularly devastating for students who are trying to get into an institution of higher education that demands that all of their SAT test results be submitted with their applications.

PrepScholar, a major SAT tutoring organization, highlights this serious problem explaining;

If you’re applying to schools that require all scores, you need to be very careful each time you take the SAT, because you will have to send any scores you get, even if they’re low.

Prepscholar adds;

Don’t take the SAT the first time “for practice” to get used to the test. Colleges will see that “practice score.”

Governor Malloy has sworn allegiance to the corporate education reform industry and their dangerous obsession with the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.  His actions have thrown Connecticut’s students under the proverbial bus.

Parents must remember that despite the lies coming out of the State Department of Education, there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy the prohibits a parent from opting their child out of the testing madness.

Connecticut school districts may not hold a child back or prevent them from graduating simply because they fail to participate in the Common Core testing madness.

Opting your child out of the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 may be one of the most important things you can do to help your child get into their preferred college.

Take heed – “My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016” – and other parents should consider doing the same thing.

As an FYI, the following is partial list of colleges and universities that report that if a student has taken the SAT then they must provide the school with all of their SAT scores, even the problematic one from March 2, 2016.

School Name City State
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Little Rock AR
Pomona College Claremont CA
Scripps College Claremont CA
Stanford University Stanford CA
University of California Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, LA, Santa Cruz etc. CA
Quinnipiac University Hamden CT
Sacred Heart University Fairfield CT
Yale University New Haven CT
George Washington University Washington DC
Georgetown University Washington DC
Howard University Washington DC
Delaware State University Dover DE
University of Kentucky Lexington KY
Grambling State University Grambling LA
Tufts University Medford MA
University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell MA
University of Maryland College Park MD
Macalester College St. Paul MN
Saint Louis University St. Louis MO
Barnard College New York NY
City College of New York New York NY
Colgate University Hamilton NY
Cornell University Ithaca NY
Hunter College New York NY
Queens College (City University of New York) Flushing NY
Syracuse University Syracuse NY
Wagner College Staten Island NY
Art Academy of Cincinnati Cincinnati OH
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA
Curtis Institute of Music Philadelphia PA
Duquesne University Pittsburgh PA
Susquehanna University Selinsgrove PA
Temple University Philadelphia PA
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia PA
University of South Carolina Columbia SC
Rice University Houston TX
Texas A&M University College Station TX
Castleton State College Castleton VT
University of Washington Seattle WA
Washington State University Pullman WA

 

Malloy Budget Plan – Coddle the rich while cutting vital state services

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On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the rest of his administration will submit his latest budget plan to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Malloy’s approach, one that borrows directly from the disgraced trickle-down economic strategies of the Neo-Conservative/Neo Liberal philosophy, will be to balance Connecticut’s state budget by continuing to coddle Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens while cutting critically important health, human service and education programs for those who are struggling the most in today’s troubled economy.

The sad reality is that Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens will be those who suffer most from Malloy’s proposals.

Governor “There Is No Budget Deficit – I Will Not Raise Taxes” Malloy will also propose shifting more of the burden for paying for government services onto Connecticut’s local property taxpayers, despite the fact that Connecticut’s property tax system is regressive and unfairly burdens middle-income and working families in Connecticut.

Finally, yet again, as if to reiterate that Malloy has to have it have it his way or no way, Governor Malloy will be proposing a dangerous and unprecedented power grab that would transfer significant budget control and oversight away from the Legislative Branch of government to the Executive Branch, giving him and his budget chief unparalleled authority over how appropriated state funds are actually spent.

Malloy Policy #1 – Coddle the Rich

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a national non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues,

Connecticut’s wealthiest pay 5.3 percent of their income in state and local taxes.  Connecticut’s middle income households pay 10.7 percent and Connecticut’s poorest pay 10.5 percent on state and local taxes.

Connecticut’s tax system is unfair, but rather than address this situation, Malloy has consistently refused to require that Connecticut’s wealthiest pay their fair share in taxes.

As in the past, Malloy is promising “not to raise taxes,” although that pledge does not include his upcoming proposal to raise the gas tax and re-institute tolls to pay for his transportation initiative after having diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from the Transportation Fund, over the past five years, to cover costs in the General Fund.

Malloy Policy #2 – Cut vital programs including those for Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents.

As reported by the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf last Friday, Malloy promises ‘very austere’ state budget next week; Connecticut’s Governor will seek to balance the upcoming state budget on the backs of those who rely the most on state services.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Friday that the spending plan he will offer state legislators next week will be a “very austere” budget with no tax hikes.

The Democratic governor, who needs to close a deficit projection topping $500 million in the preliminary budget for 2016-17, also all but ruled out use of the state’s modest emergency reserve.

“It’s an austere budget. I think everybody knows that,” the governor told reporters after the State Bond Commission meeting in the Legislative Office Building.

[…]

And while Malloy offered few hints on where he would cut, he did offer one big clue.

When asked whether the emergency cuts he ordered in September to close a shortfall in the current fiscal year might offer a blueprint of where he would look for savings in 2016-17, the governor responded: “It’s a start.”

Those emergency cuts fell most heavily on social services, hospitals, and public colleges and universities, though they touched most discretionary areas of spending, excluding municipal aid.

Malloy Policy #3 – Shift tax burden to the unfair local property tax

While details are scarce about where some of Malloy’s budget cuts will fall, one area that is definitely on the chopping block will be municipal aid.

Despite repeated promises not to cut aid to cities and towns, Malloy has done exactly that in recent years.  While cuts in municipal grants “reduce” the state budget, the costs are simply shifted onto local property taxpayers.  It is a  strategy that is even more unfair to middle and lower-income families in Connecticut.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s latest report also reveals that while Connecticut’s tax system is regressive, its property tax system is even more unfair.

Connecticut’s wealthiest pay 1.2 percent of their income in property taxes, the Middle Class 5.0 percent and the poor pay 5.3 percent of their money in local property taxes.

Malloy has already proposed cuts to the state property tax exemption for middle-income homeowners and additional cuts in municipal aid will further shift the overall tax burden onto the backs of working families in Connecticut.

Malloy Policy #4 – Seek greater executive branch control over budget

Finally, in what may be one of his most outrageous and irresponsible proposals yet, the power-hungry Governor is proposing to destroy critically important legislative oversight and control of the state budget.

As Phaneuf reports in today’s CT Mirror entitled, Malloy to seek greater executive branch control over budget

Sources familiar with the governor’s 2016-17 budget proposal say it won’t assign agency funding to many specific programs, moving instead toward the block-grant system used for state colleges and universities.

A block-grant system could tilt the balance of power away from the legislature, since lawmakers often use line items in the budget to shape executive agencies and programs and set priorities.

[…]

But the proposal still is likely to spark a battle between the branches of government over control of line-item appropriations and a debate over whether block grants would mask funding cuts for programs before a new budget is implemented…

[…].…Several sources familiar with that said it would give the Executive Branch broad new discretion to decide how budgeted funds are spent within each agency.

The legislature often directs agencies to operate programs “within available appropriations.” In other words, run the program as well as possible with the funding the legislature assigns.

But what if specific line items for programs don’t exist anymore? If a department is given one large block grant — and the authority to divvy up the funding as it sees fit — then administrators, and not the legislature, would decide which programs must get by with less.

The General Assembly’s modern role in molding state government and its policies through budgeting was shaped by a dramatic confrontation in 1969 with another Democratic governor, John N. Dempsey, and the legendary Democratic state chairman, John M. Bailey.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly voted unanimously to defy Bailey, who then played a major role in setting the legislative agenda, and override Dempsey’s veto of the Legislative Management Act, a reform measure reflecting a desire by lawmakers to be, if not a truly equal branch of government, then at least a more assertive partner.

It led to the hiring of non-partisan professional researchers and financial analysts, who allowed legislators for the first time to make budget and policy decisions independent of the executive branch.  In 1970, a constitutional amendment further strengthened the General Assembly by authorizing it to meet annually, beginning in 1971.

Malloy’s budget plan will be made public on Wednesday.  At that point, the only thing that will stand in the way of more fiscal and political disaster will be the members of the Connecticut General Assembly…meaning that Connecticut citizens have good reason to be concerned.

Education reform billionaire Paul Allen’s Yacht destroys vital coral reef in Cayman Islands

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Billionaire, Microsoft founder, college drop-out and charter school champion Paul Allen’s yacht, the MV Tatoosh, severely damaged 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the Cayman Island’s Coral Replenishment Zone earlier this month.  Local officials have reported that, “about 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain.”

A spokesman for Allen initially claimed that published reports were exaggerated and that it was the Cayman Islands’ harbor master’s fault for mooring the boat in that location.  Now, faced with a possible $600,000 fine, Allen has apparently dispatched a team to help deal with the damage his yacht did to the coral reef.

Paul Allen, who is worth $18 Billion, sits at the #27 spot on Forbes’ list of American billionaires and #51 on list of all the billionaires in the world.  Allen, a childhood friend of Bill Gates, drop-out from Washington State University and formed Microsoft with Gates after Gates dropped out of Harvard.

In the small world department, Donald Trump purchased Paul Allen’s Boeing 757-200 in 2011.  Now called “Trump Force One,” the plane serves as the visual backdrop for many of Trump’s photo ops.  The plane, retrofitted to Trump’s demands includes, “A master bath with 24-karat gold fixtures… In fact, virtually every fixture in the plane is 24-karat gold plated! Even the seat belts!”

But back to Paul Allen…

Widely recognized for his philanthropic generosity of conservation projects and programs to improve health care and educational opportunities for girls in the 3rd world, Allen won acclaim in December 2013 when he sold his private island in Washington State and donated $100 million to help with the emerging Ebola Crisis.

Allen owns the Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders, a leading American soccer team.  He also ranks as the 8th wealthiest yacht owner in the world with three mega-yachts including; the Tatoosh, the 49th largest private yacht in the world; the Octopus, which is even larger than the Tatoosh, and the smaller Méduse.

While Paul Allen uses some his money to expand educational opportunities for girls in poor nations, when it comes to public students of the United States, Allen, like his childhood buddy Bill Gates, is using his fortune to undermine public education by promoting the charter school industry and the corporate education reform agenda.

Grants from Allen’s private foundation include, $150,000 for Stand for Children Leadership Center, a major political front group for the charter school industry.

“Reforming” the nation’s teacher training system has also been a top priority for Allen.  His donations include $2.8 million to The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, $550,000 to The Alliance for Education, $325,000 to a teacher training reform group funded through Foundations For A Better Oregon  and $150,000 to the Business Education Compact, an entity that supports “proficiency-based teaching and learning.”

Digital Learning Commons, an effort to shift children to online courses has received $350,000 from Paul Allen, while Teach For America has collected at least $400,000 from the billionaire.

When it comes to promoting the charter school industry, Allen’s donations include $275,000 to the Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with massive lobbying and campaign expenditures in support of efforts to build charter schools in Washington State.

After Washington State voters rejected a major charter school initiative in 1996 by a two to one margin, Bill Gates and the Charter School Industry turned to the Washington legislature to try and force Washington State to approve and fund charter schools.  However, those legislative effort failed in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

As the Associated Press reported in 2000, the pro-charter school corporate education reform lobby tried to get both the legislature and the electorate to approve and fund charter schools.

Employees from Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., were dispatched to help pass pro-charter school legislation and Allen donated his lobbyist to help with the effort. Allen also put up the $700,000 to help get Initiative 729 onto the Washington State ballot.  The initiative would have legalized charter schools in Washington State and required taxpayers to fund 80 new charter schools.

This time the initiative lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

Undaunted, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the super-rich continued to fund efforts to undermine Washington State’s public school system.  In a 2012 article entitled Bill Gates, other billionaires funding charter effort in Washington state, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss highlighted their activities reporting;

To get an understanding of how America’s wealthiest people are using some of their fortunes to drive school reform, take a look at a list of the contributors to the pro-charter school initiative on the Washington state ballot in November. The first few pages — the ones with the biggest donations — is a who’s who of billionaires.

The money is being donated to support Initiative 1240, which, if passed, would allow public charter schools to open in the state for the first time.  Washington voters have rejected the opening of public charter schools three times — in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — but supporters are nothing if not persistent.

First on the list (which starts with the biggest donations and goes down) is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a $2 million gift dated Oct. 4, 2012. He is also third on the list — with an $800,000 donation dated June 19, 2012, and he is No. 11 on the list — with a donation of $200,000, dated June 7.  His aggregate total, according to the Oct. 4. report, is $3.053 million.

Another billionaire occupies the No 2 spot — Alice Walton of Walmart Stores, Inc., fame, who, unlike Gates, doesn’t live in the state. Her Oct. 5 donation is listed at $1.1 million. She is also fourth on the list, with a July 11 donation of $600,000, giving her an aggregate total of $1.7 million.

Walton is listed on the Public Disclosure Commission form as a resident of Bentonville, Ark., so you might wonder why she cares so much about charter schools in Washington State. The Walton Family Foundation has been instrumental in funding charter school and voucher initiatives around the country over the past several years.

We move to No. 5 on the list, billionaire entrepreneur Nicolas J. Hanauer of Seattle, with a $550,000 gift dated Sept. 14, which adds to his $250,000 gift on July 11, his $175,000 donation on June 28 and his June 5 donation of $25,000, for an aggregate of $1 million.

No. 6 and No. 7 are Jackie Bezos and her husband, Mike, who happen to be the parents of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. They each gave $250,000, for a total of half a million, dated Aug. 28. But wait, they are also No. 13 and 14 on the list too, each with a $125,000 donation dated June 13. They are listed as living in Mercer Island, Wash.

At No. 8 is the fabulously wealthy Anne Dinning, a powerhouse at the hedge fudge giant DeShaw & Co., who gave $250,000, as did her husband, Michael Wolf, for a total of half a million for the couple. They live in New York. Wolf is No. 10 on the list.

Rounding out the top 15 is another Microsoft billionaire, Paul Allen of Seattle, who donated $100,000 on June 14.

The latest public disclosure forms show that cash contributions to the pro charter effort amount to $8.3 million. Opponents of the charter initiative say they have no wealthy donors and far less money.

This all helps illustrate what education historian Diane Ravitch referred to as “the billionaire boy’s club” (which apparently has expanded to include females) in her  bestselling book, “The Life and Death of the Great American School System,” and her in subsequent writings. In this post, she wrote: “Today, the question of democracy looms large as we see increasing efforts to privatize the control of public schools. There is an even more worrisome and allied trend, and that is the growing influence of money in education politics at the state and local levels.”

This time the “big money” forces won, passing the pro-charter school initiative by a vote of 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent.

However, pro-public education advocates challenged the law in the courts and Washington State’s Supreme Court recently ruled the new law was unconstitutional.

But have no fear, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the other the corporate elite behind education reform continue their fight to force Washington State voters to accept and pay for charter schools.

As for Allen and his collection of mega yachts, Boat International magazine explains;

Tatoosh, a five-deck yacht displacing 3,616 tonnes, was built for cellphone magnate Craig McCaw and later sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. A model of understated luxury, she has a huge owner’s suite with a full-beam bedroom, family room, observation lounge, office, gymnasium and two cabins for children. Six guest cabins are located on the lower deck. Aside from the main and dining saloons, there are a panoramic lounge and cinema.

Other facilities include two helipads with refueling equipment, one for the yacht’s own McDonnell Douglas MD500 and one for guests’ helicopters; a 12 metre speedboat and a Frers-designed 13 metre sailboat positioned in davits to port and starboard; a swimming pool; and a diving room with decompression chamber in the stern.

Tatoosh is manned by a full-time crew of 30, with facilities available for visiting staff and the helicopter pilot.

The Tatoosh is the yacht that damaged the Cayman Island coral reef.

Then there is the Octopus which is “one the world’s largest yachts.” Superyachtfan.com notes;

Octopus has a large helicopter hangar on the main deck, giving shelter to two helicopters. The yacht has a large glass bottom pool and a 10 person submarine. The submarine and the main tender (named Man of War) float into the yacht through a large hatch. The yacht has a music recording studio on the bridge deck. Other features include an observation lounge, a cinema, a juice bar near a gym, a salon and a medical centre. The owner has his dedicated deck, with a large study, a walk-in closet and an outside bar with whirlpool. There is a large VIP cabin, 4 guest cabins, a children’s cabin and two additional staff/doctors cabins.

And finally, the Méduse, a smaller 60 meter superyacht which is equipped with a “large helicopter and with a diving recompression chamber, elevator, cinema, gymnasium and two staterooms on deck, plus 4 other guest suites, and a nanny cabin.”

Oh, and last but not least – needless to say – none of these mega yachts are registered in the United States.  In order to avoid paying US Taxes they are all registered at “off-shore” locations.

IMPORTANT ALERT – Students, Parents, Teachers are being bullied about opting out of testing madness

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Reports are coming in from around the state that under pressure from Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, some local school officials are, once again, engaged in underhanded efforts to mislead students and parents about their rights related to the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and SAT testing schemes.

Last spring, some superintendents and principals went so far as to threaten children that they would not be promoted to the next grade or would not be able to graduate from high school if they did not take the Common Core SBAC test.

Such a statement is a lie!

Threatening students and parents is not only unprofessional, unethical and immoral, it is illegal.

Parents have the fundamental and unalienable right to opt their children out of the testing program and any attempt to take that right away is a civil rights violation under federal and state law.

Readers of Wait, What?

If you know of any situation in which state or local officials are engaged in efforts to bully, harass or mislead parents or students about their opt-out rights or are threatening teachers that they may not provide parents and students with accurate information about the Common Core testing, please get in contact immediately.

Information, including any related documentation, should be sent to [email protected]

The source of the information will be kept completely confidential.

(Please Note – School administrators and teachers wishing to report inappropriate efforts to prevent parents and students from opting out of the SBAC and SAT testing should use their personal email accounts and not their work email accounts.)

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