Now is the time for Connecticut to conduct an Education Cost Adequacy Study

In testimony before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee last week, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] presented the rationale behind Connecticut conducting an Education Adequacy Cost Study in order to determine the level of resources that are really needed to ensure that every child has access to their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

CCJEF explained;

For too long Connecticut has developed education funding policy backwards and without hard data. For too long our State has let budget politics, special interests and perceived fiscal “realities” determine how much to spend on K-12 public education. State government time and time again has backed into an education funding amount and then corrupted the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula and other funding programs to deliver an agreed upon spending amount.

An Education Adequacy Cost Study is the necessary prerequisite to developing a new, rational and constitutional education finance system in Connecticut. Unlike the arbitrary, budget driven efforts of the past and present, an Education Adequacy Cost Study would provide hard, real-world data on student needs and what resources are necessary to meet our state constitutional responsibility to deliver an adequate and equitable educational opportunity for every K-12 public school student in our state.

CCJEF added;

An Education Adequacy Cost Study would ensure that the resource needs of all school districts – successful, struggling, and those in between – as well as the resources needed by regular and all special needs students are identified and quantified. It would then be up to policymakers and stakeholders to put these resource needs in fiscal context, determine a state and local share, and rationally develop an education funding formula and system that is based on actual student needs.

And CCJEF concluded;

Such a study is the necessary first step to developing a rational, effective and constitutional education funding and finance system that provides a truly adequate and equitable educational opportunity to every K-12 public school student in Connecticut. Let’s reject the mistakes of the past. We are all united in working to ensure the best opportunities for our public school students. An Education Adequacy Cost Study, jointly managed by the State and CCJEF, would send a strong message that we share common goals.

CCJEF’s call for a cost adequacy study is exactly the right step for Connecticut State Government.  The General Assembly should reject Governor Dannel Malloy’s record cuts to public education and instead conduct a fair and honest cost study, in conjunction with CCJEF, to determine the appropriate level of support for Connecticut’s public schools.

Breaking News – Bridgeport, Danbury, New Britain and Waterbury among most financially strapped school districts in the nation

In a stunning and disturbing new report highlighting the political malfeasance of elected and appointed leadership across the country, the Education Law Center has identified 47 school districts in 20 states that rank as America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts.

The report identifies Bridgeport, Danbury, New Britain and Waterbury as among the most financially strapped school districts in the nation.  Children in these districts are attending schools that are under severe fiscal distress.

While Connecticut ranks as among the wealthiest states in the nation, Connecticut’s failed school funding system leaves many communities without the financial resources they need to ensure that all of the state’s children have access to high quality educational opportunities.

The new report identifies school districts with higher than average student need and lower than average funding.

The Education Law Center explains;

This mix of fiscally disadvantaged school districts arrayed across the country underscore the absence of a coherent and fair approach to financing state public education systems. Many districts – especially urban, inner suburban and rural, serving very high-need student populations – continue to struggle from a lack of sufficient funding, which makes it impossible to provide all students with the opportunity for a high quality education. This does not happen by accident.

Many state school finance systems are not designed based on the actual costs of purchasing the teachers, support staff and other resources to deliver rigorous education standards, including the additional resources necessary to meet pressing needs in the nation’s high poverty schools and districts. As a consequence, some states simply fail to provide sufficient support to address student needs across districts and differences in local fiscal capacity to meet those needs. In other cases, states create aid formulas that measure district need and/or local fiscal capacity imprecisely or inaccurately, with the result that some comparably needy districts are less well-funded than others. Even worse, some states allocate the majority of their aid with little or no sensitivity to either local district need or fiscal capacity.

This list of the most fiscally disadvantaged districts highlights the urgent need for school finance reform in many states. This reform must start with a determination of essential education resources and end with a funding formula that accounts for district poverty concentration and local fiscal capacity. It will require replacing outmoded, arbitrary funding formulas and the historic method of distributing funding based on prior year spending and political, not educational, considerations.

This list also underscores the national imperative for all states to continuously work to ensure that their public education finance systems are meeting the needs of all students and the demands placed on local districts, schools and educators. Some states with deeply regressive funding, such as Illinois, need drastic action to improve. Other states, such as Massachusetts, is on the path to fair funding but has more work to do to ensure all children have the opportunity to succeed.

The ELC concludes;

“These findings again show that Governors and Legislatures in far too many states stubbornly resist investing in K – 12 education so all children have the resources needed to succeed in school,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and a report co-author. “The states with districts on this list chronically underfund their poorest schools, leaving behind thousands of vulnerable children. This is our national hall of shame.”

You can read “America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts” at http://edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/Newsblasts/Disadvantaged_Districts_Report.pdf

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) continues to pour big money into political campaigns

Since its formation in 2006, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) has raised over $690,000 for its federal political action committee.  In addition to the federal DFER PAC, the organization has formed numerous political action committees at the state level including, DFER Colorado, DFER Colorado Small Donor Committee, DFER Connecticut PAC, DFER DC Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER DC PAC, DFER Illinois PAC, DFER Illinois Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER Massachusetts Independent Expenditure PAC, DFER New Jersey PAC, DFER Louisiana PAC, DFER New York PAC, and DFER Washington State PAC.

DFER is the political action committee front for the corporate education reform movement’s Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4).

DFER uses Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy as “Dark Money” groups to funnel millions of dollars into lobbying and political campaigns on behalf of the charter school industry.  In 2016, Education Reform Now Advocacy dumped nearly half a million dollars into the charter school industry’s failed effort to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. As a dark money group, ERN and ERNA refuse to disclose the names of their donors.

Funded by major Wall Street executives and the education reform foundations, DFER and its related entities lobby for charter schools, the Common Core testing scheme, teacher evaluations based on scores and school vouchers.  They are perhaps best known for their opposition to democratically elected boards of education.  Instead they push for mayoral controlled schools.

Whitney Tilson, a co-founder of DFER, “explained the hedge funders interest in education saying that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

As the Center for Media and Democracy noted, “The Board of Directors for Education Reform Now (ERN) consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital and others.”  Major donors to DFER, ERN and ERNA include corporate executives with Anchorage Capital Partners, Greenlight Capital, Pershing Square Capital Management, as well as a variety of other hedge funds.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is another donor to the charter school group.  It was Murdoch who famously stated, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

As federal campaign finance reports reveal, the donor list to Democrats for Education Reform is a who’s who of the charter school industry including Charles Ledley, John Petry, Joel Greenblatt, Christopher Stavrou, David Einhorn, Katherine Bradley, Dan Loeb, Boykin Curry, James Mai, Brian Zied and many others.

Charles and Rebecca Ledley, a major force behind the charter school industry’s Question #2 campaign in Massachusetts, are the single largest contributors to the DFER Federal PAC, having donated at least $70,000 to the committee.

The primary beneficiaries of the corporate education reform group’s largesse include Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).  Another DFER favorite is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

More on DFER can be found at Wait, What? including; With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform and Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) explains why Common Core testing is so important and Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races and DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

 

Opt Out FACT – SBAC test will be unfairly used in Connecticut’s teacher-evaluation process

As more and more parents understand, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing program unfairly discriminates against poor students, students who aren’t fluent in the English language and students who require special education services.  It serves no useful purpose in today’s classrooms and certainly should not be used as a “high-stakes” test and punish program.

To make matters worse, as part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” initiative, the SBAC test will be used as part of Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system despite the fact that the test is developmentally inappropriate for many students and fails to adequately measure what is really being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

As Teacher Development Specialist, Kate Field, explained in a an April 2016 CT Mirror article,

Even the best standardized test is unable to measure the sizable domain of knowledge acquired over a year of study, and contains only a small sample of questions. Selection bias may unintentionally skew the sample of test items, which could result in some students scoring lower than others, not necessarily because they know less, but because they did not understand the way a question was worded.

Standardized tests also do a poor job of measuring important skills like creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Standardized tests tend, to varying degrees, to be culturally and linguistically biased against English language learners and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Field added,

Using SBAC [to evaluate teachers] undermines the integrity of teacher evaluation, because the test was not designed to measure teacher effectiveness. In addition, once a test becomes high stakes, teachers and administrators may feel pressured to sacrifice valuable learning time to teach test-taking strategies, and narrow their instruction to focus on the small sample of questions likely to appear on the test.

The truth is that the SBAC is a colossal waste of time and scarce resources and it should be dropped as a vehicle to label and punish students, teachers and public schools.

While Connecticut’s policymakers should simply do away with this terrible testing scheme, the best way for parents to have an immediate impact is to refuse to allow their child to be part of this unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory testing system.

Opting one’s children out of the SBAC test not only protects those students from the negative aspects of the testing program but it sends a powerful message to the state’s elected and appointed officials that parents will not stand idly by as the SBAC testing scam is used to undermine public education in Connecticut.

For a more about opting out including a draft opt out letter go to: Parents – Just say NO to the 2017 SBAC Testing Scheme

Beware of Trump and DeVos’ grand plan to privatize public education

First published on Washington D.C.’s The Hill Website, Beware of Trump and DeVos’ grand plan to privatize public education;

To Betsy DeVos, school choice is not simply the inherent right that every parent has to choose their child’s educational setting, it is all about requiring taxpayers to pick up the tab for that parent’s private individual choice, regardless of whether the parent chooses a public school, a charter school, a nonprofit private school, a religious school or even a fly-by-night online virtual school.

Historically, the United States has devoted itself to a comprehensive system of public schools, locally controlled and funded by public resources. Parents who didn’t want their children to attend the public schools, could, of course, pay for them to go to a private school.

But DeVos and her associates in the corporate education reform movement have been working hard to undermine that historic concept and replace it with one in which public funds are used  to subsidize whatever “choice” a parent makes for their child.

The most common form of public subsidy for “school choice” has been the rapid rise of the charter school industry. Today there are approximately 3 million students attending about 6,900 charter schools in the United States. Supporters of these publicly funded but privately owned and operated entities claim that their primary purpose is to provide parents with choices.

However, advocates for privatizing public education support a far broader array of school choice options, including funneling public money directly to private schools.

And in Donald Trump, DeVos and her allies have found someone who will champion the cause of shifting massive public resources away from the nation’s public schools to subsidize the country’s private and parochial schools.

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump proposed using $20 billion in federal money to allow parents to send their children to charter, private, or religious schools.

While Betsy DeVos’ confirmation process was much more controversial than Trump could have expected, his policy goals undoubtedly remain intact. In the coming weeks and months we’re likely see Trump’s new Secretary of Education propose a variety of programs and mechanisms to promote their agenda, including efforts to persuade states to dramatically expand support for charter schools and school voucher efforts.

As Fox Business News reported, DeVos told a group in 2015, “Let the education dollars follow each child, instead of forcing the child to follow the dollars. This is pretty straightforward. And it’s how you go from a closed system to an open system that encourages innovation. People deserve choices and options,”

Although critics point out, the nation’s public schools are already underfunded and vouchers and other privatization programs further undermine the ability of public schools to provide students with the comprehensive educational opportunities they need and deserve, the Trump administration is likely to “go all in” with the effort to redirect public resources to privately owned and operated school settings.

These privatization efforts will probably include education savings accounts and school vouchers, either paid for directly with tax dollars or funded through a system of tax credits.

Under an Education Savings Account program, parents who withdraw their children from public school are given stipends that are deposited into government-authorized savings accounts.

Parents can then use those funds to pay for private school tuition and fees. Alternatively, parents are given a School Voucher that they can then use to direct public funds to a selected private or parochial school. In this case, the funds meant for paying for the child’s public school education follows that child to the private school.

According to the pro-privatization advocacy group, Ed Choice, about 400,000 children in 29 states attend schools with the help of vouchers.

In many of the existing situations, school vouchers are limited to families with lower incomes and schools that accept vouchers must meet a series of mandatory academic standards.

To fund their voucher system, Trump and DeVos may look to have the program funded out of federal dollars or they may seek to utilize tax-credit to fund the vouchers. Tax-credit vouchers, also called, scholarships, allow taxpayers, often businesses, to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.

While a school voucher proposal is likely, critics say that DeVos’ voucher plan would exacerbate educational inequality, that “voucher programs do not work to improve student achievement”, and “voucher programs and charter school expansion drain both money and social capital from the traditional public schools, creating even more of an imbalanced, two-tiered system.”

The problem is that undermining the nation’s public education system is exactly what Trump and DeVos are trying to do.

You can read and comment on the original piece at: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/education/318948-beware-of-trump-and-devos-grand-plan-to-privatize-public

Parents – Just say NO to the 2017 SBAC Testing Scheme

SBAC  testing will begin soon in Connecticut’s schools.

FACT:  Parents have a fundamental and inalienable right to REFUSE to have their children take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test – Period, End of Story.

Do not be bullied into believing that you have lost your right to protect your children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “test and punish” SBAC testing system.

When considering the refusal (opt-out) issue it is critically important that parents understand that there is no federal or state law that eliminates a parent’s right to refuse to allow their children to take the SBAC test.

While there are federal and state laws that direct states and school districts to try and achieve a 95 percent participation rate for the standardized tests, the State Department of Education’s own instruction on the matter makes the truth clear.

In a February 29, 2016 PowerPoint presentation entitled “Improving Participation Rates on State Assessments,” the Connecticut State Department of Education states;

There are no penalties for students and families for not participating, however, there may be unintended consequences that have an effect on students and families in the school district

As to these consequences, the Connecticut the State Department of Education has informed districts that they will take action if a school district falls below 90 percent two years in a row.  However, no district has ever lost funds due to a high opt out rate.

And in New York, where opt out rates exceed 25 percent of all students, no district has ever lost money or been punished due to its failure to get students to take the unfair tests.

So remember, while federal law continues to “expect” participation rates of greater than 95%, there is no legal requirement – what-so-ever – that any individual student must take the SBAC test.

The following is a template letter that parents may want to use when opting their children out of the SBAC test:

Student:           _________________________          School: ___________________________

Teacher:          _________________________          Grade: ____________________________

Date:  ___________________________

Dear ____________________,

We are writing today to formally inform the district of our decision to refuse to allow our child __________________, to participate in the 2017 Connecticut Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test for grades 3-8

Our refusal should in no way reflect on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we have no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources.

We refuse to allow any data to be used for purposes other than the individual teacher’s own formative or cumulative assessment. We are opposed to assessments whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction.

We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. We believe in the high quality of teaching and learning that occur in our child’s school. We hope our efforts will be understood in the context in which they are intended: to support the quality of instruction promoted by the school, and to advocate for what is best for all children. Our schools will not suffer when these tests are finally gone, they will flourish.

We do apologize in advance for the inconvenience or scrutiny that this decision may cause the administration, the school, and staff.

Sincerely,

Steps to opting your child out of the SBAC test: 

STEP 1:  SEND A TEST REFUSAL/Opt-Out LETTER TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL

STEP 2: THE SCHOOL WILL USUALLY RESPOND WITH A LETTER STATING THERE IS NO PROVISION TO ‘OPT OUT’ OF CONNECTICUT’S SBAC EXAM. This is true, but the lack of a provision specifically providing for an opt-out does not negate the fact that parents have a fundamental right to refuse to have their children participate in the test.

In Connecticut, thousands of students were opted out of the testing in 2015 and 2016.  In New York, over 230,000 students refused to participate in that state’s annual standardized testing program.

If you’re being told that opting out isn’t an option, you’re being lied to.

STEP 3:  SEND FOLLOW UP LETTER AS NECESSARY 
Depending on the response you receive from your school district, you may need to reiterate your decision.  Opting your child out – that is refusing to allow them to participate – is your fundamental right.  The school district can make it difficult or bully you but they do not have the right to prevent you from protecting your children from this testing scheme.

STEP 4: CLARIFY TEST DAY ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL AND TEACHER.  PREPARE YOUR CHILD Depending on your school’s policy/procedure, prepare your child for what will happen on test day.  Be certain to keep in touch with your child’s teacher so that details are worked out in advance.

And remember – you have the right to instruct your school district that you want your child removed to a safe area during the testing periods where they can do school work or read a book.

The official SBAC requirements specifically dictate that only students taking the test may be in the testing room.  The SBAC manual states;

Students who are not being tested, unauthorized staff, or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.

Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Program Test Coordinator’s Manual For Summative Testing 2016–2017 Published January 3, 2017

Please share your questions, concerns or experience via [email protected]

Malloy eliminates all state funding for Connecticut’s Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs)

At a time when school districts must be expanding their efforts to cooperate regionally, Governor Dannel Malloy’s new budget eliminates state funding for a vital and successful regionalization operation – the Regional Education Service Centers.

The six Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs) provide Connecticut communities and school districts with a wide variety of important cooperative services that save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. While most of the costs are picked up by the districts, the state of Connecticut provides about $600,000 a year to support these critically important networks.

The RESCs develop and manage a wide variety of cost-effective, high quality programs including efforts to regionalize special education services, professional development, minority teacher recruitment, English language learner efforts, transportation and a myriad of other programs.

To eliminate RESC’s would be disastrous for Connecticut’s schools, so it is important to see Malloy’s budget scam for what it is – simply dumping responsibility to fully fund the Regional Education Service Centers onto the backs of local taxpayers.

The situation leaves Connecticut students, parents, educators, school districts and taxpayers in a losing situation.

If Malloy’s proposal is adopted it will mean towns will have to pick up the tab for the RESCs translating into program cuts in the home districts or higher local property taxes.

As the RESC’s explain on their website;

Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs) were created more than 30 years ago by legislative mandate to help districts communicate and collaborate. Some years later, a formal Alliance of Connecticut’s six RESCs was established. RESCs are public education agencies whose main purpose is to “furnish programs and services” to Connecticut’s public school districts. RESCs’ cost efficient, cooperative efforts have saved money for Connecticut school districts and have enabled schools to expand services beyond what they could have accomplished alone. Each RESC is:

  • Locally governed by member boards of education
  • Cost effective in delivering programs and services to school districts
  • Committed to helping local school districts improve teaching and learning
  • Responsive to local needs and interdistrict opportunities
  • Flexible in creating, adapting, or eliminating programs

The RESC Alliance works with the Departments of Children & Families, Corrections, Education, Mental Health & Addiction Services, Mental Retardation, Public Health, Social Services and Board of Education & Services for the Blind (BESB) and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) on statewide issues and projects such as Technology Training, Beginning Educator Support Training, and Early Reading Success. RESCs are also instrumental in obtaining federal grants and funding. As Connecticut’s “First Stop” in education, RESCs keep districts abreast of new mandates and best practices through:

Cost effective and competent management in a public context

High value programs for a reasonable public expenditure

Dependable delivery system

Strong communication network with local school systems and communities

Successful implementation of legislatively assigned tasks

Thirty years successfully developing vital services and Malloy simply eliminates the funding.

Charter schools pose financial risk to municipalities by James Mulholland

The charter school industry is proposing a change to Connecticut’s school funding system to require that local communities hand over local funds to subsidize charter schools attended by local students.  The “money follows the child” funding system leaves local public schools without the resources necessary to ensure children have access to a comprehensive education.  In this piece, first published in the CT Mirror, educator and education advocate James Mulholland examines this latest money grab by the charter schools.

Mulholland writes;

In  December of last year, the Connecticut Department of Education issued a request for proposals for new charter schools – the first time in nearly three years.  As the state grapples with a budget disaster and Gov. Dannel Malloy continues to propose changes that would dramatically change the way Connecticut pays for education, the state should refrain from opening any new charter schools and freeze the funding of existing ones.

Moody’s credit rating service has warned of the fiscal risks to municipalities posed by charter schools.  In its 2013 report, Charter Schools Pose Growing Risk for Urban Public Schools, Moody’s concluded that a rise in charter school enrollment, “is likely to create negative credit pressure on school districts in economically weak urban areas.”

According to Michael D’Arcy, one of two authors of the report, “A small but growing number of traditional public districts face financial stress due to the movement of students to charters.”

As urban areas such as Hartford teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, lowered bond ratings could have a devastating effect on already dire budgetary circumstances.  Gov. Malloy is proposing a new municipal accountability system for cities and towns facing severe fiscal difficulties.  The proposal includes a multi-tiered ranking system for communities that could lead to greater state oversight of local budgets and limit annual property tax increases for the cities and towns deemed most at risk.

Under the proposal, a municipality could be assigned to one of the first three tiers if it has a poor fund balance or credit rating.  Bridgeport and Stamford have resisted the state’s efforts to open charter schools in their cities.  In 2015, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the application of the Stamford Charter School for Excellence despite the fact that the Stamford Board of Education voted 7-1 to urge the state to deny the application.  The state of Connecticut may very well force cities to accept a charter school that may adversely affect its credit rating in the future.

Moody’s recently reiterated its belief about the adverse effects of charter schools this past November when Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected legislation that would have increased the state’s cap on charter schools.  Moody’s warned Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken their financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.

Nicholas Lehman, an assistant vice president at Moody’s, warned that passage of the referendum would be a “credit negative” for the cities.  Moody’s responded to Massachusetts voters’ rejection of the plan with a “credit positive” and reiterated that the history of charter schools shows they drain money from city education budgets.

Connecticut currently provides funding in excess of $100 million per year to operate 24 charter schools, 10 of which are managed by six management companies.  These companies charge a management fee of approximately 10 percent of the amount they receive from the state.

“If we saw fees of 10 percent or less, that would be reasonable,” says Robert Kelly, who oversees charter schools at the education department.  In part, these fees are used to duplicate administrative services such as payroll and human resources, which are already provided by the districts in which charter schools operate.  It seems particularly wasteful at a time when the state is looking to regionalize municipal services.

While cities and towns have seen their education funding slashed, Connecticut’s charter management companies have seen their coffers overflow. Last year, the State Board of Education increased charter school enrollment by 4 percent for the current school year. While the enrollment increase cost the state an additional $4.1 million, funding for traditional public schools was cut by $51.7 million and regional magnet schools, opened to help desegregate city schools, had budget cuts totaling $15.4 million

The diversion of millions of dollars from traditional public schools is one reason the New England Conference of the NAACP and the Massachusetts Lawyer’s Committee filed a motion against the effort to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.  It was the belief of Juan Cofield, president of the New England Conference of the NAACP, that “setting up a separate system is destructive to the notion of providing the best education for all students.”

Connecticut should not continue to pursue charter schools as a means to meet the educational needs of its children.  The financial risk to our cities and towns is just too great.

You can read and comment on the original piece at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/02/13/opinion-james-mulholland-2/

Malloy’s proposed state budget slashes aid to Connecticut’s public schools

Call it devastating, draconian or simply a vicious attack on Connecticut’s children, parents, educators and public schools, the governor who has consistently worked to undermine and privatize public education, since taking office in 2011, has now proposed a new state budget that destroys Connecticut’s already failing constitutional requirement to adequately fund its public schools.

In an effort to avoid raising state taxpayers and maintain the state’s system of coddling the rich from paying their fair share income taxes, Governor Dannel Malloy has called for shifting $407 million in teacher retirement payments to cities and towns in the first year of his proposed budget, an amount that would increase to $420.9 million in the second year of the biannual budget plan.

In addition, rather than appropriately fund Connecticut’s education grants, Malloy’s budget plan seeks to redirect existing state aid for public schools to Connecticut’s poorer towns by slashing grants to wealthier and middle income communities.

Overall, 31 Connecticut communities would see an increase in aid while 138 towns would get less state funds, with many towns getting significantly less state education funding.

Making the situation far worse, Malloy’s budget plan allows most towns to redirect what education aid they will receive away from their public schools.  Rather than requiring towns to maintain their school budgets, Connecticut communities could use what aid they receive to pay for non-education expenditures.

Together these two developments will produce devastating cuts to education programs across Connecticut.

In his effort to pinpoint which communities win and which lose, Malloy is also proposing a significant change to the way in which poverty is defined, a factor that drives how much money towns get under Connecticut’s education formulas.

Presently, poverty is based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals in each community.  But Malloy’s proposal would replace that system with the number of people who participate in the state’s health insurance plan for children, called Husky A.

The system appears to be designed to help Hartford and a handful of other towns, but raises significant equity issues.  Daniel Long, an expert with Connecticut Voices for children explained,

“The concern is that you would underestimate poverty.”

Speaking with Long, the CT Mirror added,

“Long said that in other states that have shifted to using Medicaid to measure poverty, ‘it was used as a tool to lower who is counted.’ By using the number who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the state is ‘erring on the side of providing that additional aid.’”

When examining the list of “winners and losers” in Malloy’s plan, the governor’s strategy becomes evident.  The CT Mirror notes,

Hartford, which is facing the possibility of insolvency, is one of the biggest winners in the governor’s proposed budget. Hartford stands to gain $38.1 million in state aid next year, a 17 percent increase. Nearly $12.2 million of that would come from education grants, though it will be up to Bronin and his City Council to decide whether to send it to the struggling city schools. 

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Malloy’s former legal counsel, was the Greenwich native who moved to Hartford and was elected to the city’s top executive position last year.

Meanwhile, opposition to Malloy’s plan was swift with many towns announcing that his proposal would lead to massive cuts to public schools and large property tax increases in the majority of Connecticut communities.

In addition, a spokesperson for The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education, the plaintiffs in the CCJEF V. Rell school funding lawsuit condemned Malloy’s plan for moving the state in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to properly funding Connecticut’s public schools.

 “These proposed new cuts in state educational support underscore the need for judicial action to ensure that state government meets and does not retreat from its state constitutional responsibilities,” said James J. Finley, principal consultant to CCJEF and an expert witness in the case.

While Malloy has claimed that his plan was designed to take from the rich and give to the poor, the state’s middle income communities are among the hardest hit by Malloy’s funding scheme.

For example, Groton would lose $14.1 million in state aid and Milford would lose $12.1 million.  Other towns hit hard by Malloy’s budget plan include Wallingford, Glastonbury and Fairfield, but dozens of towns would face cuts in state aid that were such that it would lead to massive cuts in local school programs and major property tax increases.

As the lobbyist for Connecticut’s small towns decried,

 “The governor’s proposed changes to ECS and special education funding, coupled with his proposal to require towns to pick up one-third of the cost of teacher pension costs, will make it impossible for small towns to fund education without staggering increases in local property taxes.”

Malloy’s disastrous education proposal includes more money for charter schools

While it remains unclear whether Governor Dannel Malloy’s new education funding scheme includes a “money follows the child formula” that would force local districts to use local tax dollars to subsidize the privately owned and operated charter schools in their communities, the Governor’s budget does shovel even more state taxpayer funds to the charter school industry.

In addition to providing more than $111 million a year to Connecticut’s charter schools, Malloy’s plan adds $11 million in state funds so that charter schools can expand enrollment and $10 million more to increase the per pupil amount charter schools collect from the state.

Malloy, like newly sworn-in Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has been a consistent supporter of efforts to privatize public education by turning over scarce public resources to charter schools despite the fact that these schools discriminate against Latino students, students who need help learning the English language and students who require special education services.

With 137 of Connecticut’s school districts would be losing education aid under Malloy’s new funding proposal, and all towns would take a massive hit due to his effort to shift $400 million of teacher pension payments directly onto local taxpayers, it is especially galling to see Malloy’s plan pump’s even more money into the charter school industry.

Check back for more about the new funding formula as it becomes available