When Government Fears Democracy; It’s Time to Fear Government

51 Comments

In a blatant and disgusting abuse of power, Governor Malloy, with the support of the vast majority of Democratic Legislators, has taken away the fundamental democratic rights of Connecticut citizens, in this case, the people of Bridgeport.

Last night, during the Legislature’s Special Session, the House of Representatives and the State Senate adopted House Bill #6001, An Act Implementing Provisions of the State Budget the Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2012.

Deep within the bill, in Section 292 of the 297 section document, the Malloy Administration is authorized to “loan” the City of Bridgeport $3,500,000 to cover a school budget deficit they face this year.

In return, as a condition of making the loan, the City of Bridgeport must select a “superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”  In this case, the commissioner being Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

Let there be no confusion.  While this language applies “only” to Bridgeport, the depth of the power grab is extraordinary.  The citizens of every Connecticut community should be concerned and fearful when government officials take action that removes our ability to choose our own leaders.

What is really going on?

Last year, the Connecticut Board of Education voted to take over Bridgeport’s schools and appoint a new Board of Education.  That appointed Board then replaced Bridgeport’s superintendent with Paul Vallas, the “education reformer” who is in the process of “restructuring” (many would say destroying) Bridgeport’s Schools.  In the last few months, Vallas as distributed millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to consultants and companies while laying off teachers who live and were educated here in Connecticut.

The State Supreme Court ruled that the State’s action was illegal and ordered that a democratically elected Board of Education be re-installed.  The voters of Bridgeport will be voting to select a new Board of Education this fall.

The Malloy Administration and the “education reform” leadership are so worried that a democratically elected Board may choose to move the City in a different direction, that they are implementing two incredible actions.

First, they are planning to sign a multi-year contract with Paul Vallas so that should the elected board want to choose a new superintendent, the cost of buying out Vallas’ contract will be so great that they will be forced to keep Vallas in place.

Second, to assure that Bridgeport’s voters don’t have a voice in who is running their schools, the Malloy Administration put forward this language preventing Bridgeport’s future Board of Education from selecting any superintendent unless that person is one of the three names given to them by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education. (Not so coincidently, Commissioner Pryor, another “education reformer has previously worked with Paul Vallas and some of the other consultants and companies that Vallas had hired.)

Governor Malloy’s original “education reform” bill included language that mandated that when the State of Connecticut takes over a school system, the education commissioner will have the authority to approve or reject the local board’s choice for superintendent.  However, that provision was rejected by the Legislature and, more importantly, it still left the community with the fundamental authority to choose its own education leadership.

Now, with no public hearing, or even the opportunity for the public to know what was happening, the Governor proposed and Legislature adopted a provision that forces a democratically elected board of education to choose a leader from a list provided them by a non-elected political appointee.

Those who would say “it’s only Bridgeport” or “it’s appropriate collateral for a $3.5 million loan” are very wrong.

In our democracy, no state government has the right to say to a local community that you must choose a leader from the list of three people I give you.  Even giving a non-elected state official veto power over who a local board can choose is disturbing, but to actually limit who a democratically elected board may choose, violates the most fundamental principles that this nation was founded upon.

This action may be away to protect some people’s political and financial interests, but the cost is our freedom.

Here is how legislators voted:

House:  http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOTE/H/2012HV-00302-R00HB06001-HV.htm

State Senate: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOTE/S/2012SV-00465-R00HB06001-SV.htm

For additional coverage see http://ctmirror.com/story/16628/after-court-ruling-state-takeover-illegal-legislature-mulls-workaround, http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/two_big_bills_hours_of_debate/ and http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/state-could-get-hand-in-selection-of-bridgeport-superintendent-for-3-5-million-loan/

The actual language of the bill is below;

Sec. 292. (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The sum of $2,300,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Personal Services, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(b) The sum of $700,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Sheff Settlement, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(c) The sum of $500,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for OPEN Choice Program, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(d) The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner, and (2) may require additional process or outcome targets and objectives to be included in the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116. The city of Bridgeport shall repay such loan not later than June 30, 2015. The commissioner may permit the city of Bridgeport to repay such loan by reducing the equalization aid grant received pursuant to section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, in each fiscal year of such repayment. The commissioner may, upon approval from the secretary, forgive all or a portion of such loan if the city of Bridgeport has complied with the conditions of such loan and the commissioner has approved the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116.

 

  • CONconn

    Jon, do you have a record of who voted and how they voted? I want to see if the people who represent me voted for this, and act appropriately.

    • jonpelto

      House:  http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOTE/H/2012HV-00302-R00HB06001-HV.htm, State Senate: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOTE/S/2012SV-00465-R00HB06001-SV.htm

      • guest

        It looks like Don Williams voted yes, resoundingly, as well as Susan Johnson in the House.  So, Windham, you’re next for the Bridgeport treatment!  And to Bridgeport, my condolences for having to suffer the tyranny of the 1%, who are protected by the rights that have been denied to your citizens.

        • jonpelto

          Well said!

          Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

        • Seeing the light…

          So does that mean the Gov. Malloy and the Dem legislature are the leaders of the 1%? And further, since the Republicans all voted against this are they now the party that fights for the “rest of us”?

          • Msavage51

            My opinion–and what I’ve said for a while now–both parties are controlled by the 1%. The GOP members tend to vote against anything that the Dems. support and vice versa–just as a matter of principle. And I’m sure the GOP didn’t want to spend $3.5 mil on an inner-city school system. I doubt it had anything to do with the provision re Pryor’s control over supt. choice.

          • guest

            The GOP will spend the $3.5 because it goes into corporate pockets eventually.  GOP candidate for Gov. Foley is on numerous privatize the schools-boards and a big donor to TFA.  Nate Snow of TFA was a GOP candidate for BoE in Bridgeport.  He didn’t get in (I guess they didn’t think of the ballot trick), so he got together with others to take over the elected BoE.

    • Linda174

      Yes, where can we get a list of who voted for and who voted against. Thank you.

    • sharewhut

      ” I want to see if the people who represent me”
      You ARE kidding, right?

  • Linda174

    Now our commissioner, with no prior teaching experience, can continue to choose more of his reformer privatizing cronies to take over our schools while losing local control, cutting teaching staff, hiring more consultants, testing children non-stop and destroying our communities. Welcome reform Pryor style.

    • jonpelto

      the pretty much sums up the situation.  oh – and one last thing –  Connecticut’s Middle Class picks up the tab.

      • sharewhut

        Linda, Linda, Linda don’t you get it?
         “Catch-22  SB-24 says they
        have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”

  • Magister

    Just how egregious does the “reform” movement need to get before they are curbed?

    • Msavage51

      Can you offer any advice re the best way to handle correspondence with the “yes” voters? Tell them we are voting against them? Just voice our disappointment?

      • jonpelto

        I’d go with the extreme disappointment. The “rules of the game” is that once the debate started they had the “obligation” to vote yes but the leadership had the obligation to explain the bill in caucus to make sure people understoof what was happening. My guess is that wasn’t really done”
        However when I was a floor leader in the House leadership realized they had a problem and we halted debate and went back to caucus to fugure out the best way to proceed.
        Since we don’t know what actually happened you might want to ask.

        Did you screw up because you didn’t know what was in the bill or did you know what the bill did and voted foe it anyway.

        Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

        • TMS

          I’m sorry Jon, but the “I didn’t know what was in the bill”, excuse doesn’t cut it. Isn’t it their obligation to know what’s in a bill? I know, I know, there’s a lot to read and very little time, BUT why is that the case. It’s been over a month since the legislative session closed. There should be a hard stop put in place so nothing can be added or subtracted for the special session items so the legislators can tatke that month to read what will be debated and voted on. Are they as illiterate as our children will be after the damage from “education reform”?

          • jonpelto

            You are correct, it is an explanation but not an excuse.  Next week the appointed board will extend Vallas’ contract.   There will be a provision that he has to be paid $250,000 – $500,000 to buy out his contract thereby making it “impossible” for the elected board to remove him.

            To demand this language on top of that – to take action that is openly undemocratic and unAmerican gives us a glimpse of just how scared  these “reformers” are that people may catch on to their activities.  Imagine the amount of money at stake if a sitting Governor and legislative leaders are willing to pass legislation that is more anti-democratic then anything we’ve seen in decades.

          • jonpelto

            You are right.

            Just because a tradition exists – one in which some legislators don’t want to know what is in the bill or can’t figure out what is in the bill – is no excuse.

            Perhaps the better word is explanation.

            I saw a few responses to people saying I can’t vote against the whole bill. (which means leadership has told me I have to vote for the bill). That doesn’t excuse the fact that if the caucus members met and said – we want that section out – or I can not vote for this bill until that section is out – then leadership has to make a decision. Do you keep it in and split the caucus or do you find compromise.

            There is no reason this section should have been in there and no reason the legislators shouldn’t have demanded to take it out.

            Next week the appointed board will vote to extend Vallas’ contract. If the democratically elected board wants a new leader they will have to pay Vallas one or two years of salary – which they don’t have – so the corporate interests are “safe”.

            Why they think that on top of that they need this undemocratic, un-American fail-safe solution gives us some idea how important it is to the “reforms” to keep the status quo and the money flowing to the right people.

        • Msavage51

          No offense intended toward you, Jon–but the “rules of the game” are a load of horseshit! What is the point of having individual reps. if they’re simply going to vote along party lines? They should be representing the interests of the CONSTITUENTS, not the party. Prime example of why the entire system needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up, in my opinion. Obligation, schmobligation–the OBLIGATION is to READ what is in the legislation, be intelligent enough to understand it and analyze it critically, and do what’s best for the CITIZENS according to the terms of the CONSTITUTION. Screw the party. 

  • sharewhut

    Getting to the point that they might as well take over all the schools-, a true state BOE.
    Municipalities cut property taxes by 50-75% to cover operations and capital.
    Implement a statewide mil rate of 10 or so to be used for education only (yeah, we’ve heard dedicated education funds before).
    MILLION DOLLAR SPECIAL MASTERS FOR ALL!!!
    Not legal? Who cares, say nothing about it,write it into middle of a budget implementer, vote it at midnite, and tell the sheeple how great it is that we’ll have true educational parity!

    • jschmidt2

       sorry but I see no reason for the taxpayers of small towns to pay for the mess the big towns, Democrats and unions brought on themselves.

      • Severus Snape

        I’ve been a teacher since the ’90s.  I drive a rusty car with 230K.  I paid a dollar for it. I live in a little six room house on 0.1 acre with four people.  I don’t even have a television or a cell phone. Yeah, it must be my wasteful union and all that money I make that has ruined Bridgeport’s schools. 

        • jschmidt2

           You’ll be hard pressed to find any private worker to feel bad for you considering they have suffered layoffs, cuts, lost pensions if not bankruptcy. They pay a lot of taxes for public servants and the Democrats have given the unions what they want on the state level. Local school system level is a different story and  subject to much closer scrutiny which results in the local anomalies. But recently it was discovered that there are 10 pensioners receiving over 195k per year, 8 being  from UCONN. That is the type of outrageous benefits that gives the unions the bad name. If we continue with these insane benefits including counting overtime in pensions, then taxes will have to go higher, businesses will have to leave as we have seen with the $10 Billion hedge fund and the 300 employee Norden. There go the jobs. No amount of Malloy bribing will keep enough companies here to support the benefits promissed to the unions by the Democrats.

          • Msavage51

            I was riding that “unions are sucking us dry” bandwagon earlier this year too. And I still think there is plenty of abuse by the unions–especially at the statue university levels. And union management is screwing  the taxpayer and their own members–both at the same time, in my opinion. Elected officials are on the take. Administrators in our public schools are getting far too much money, in many cases. Corporations and billionaires are getting taxed far too little.

            Re the loss of the hedge fund–think I read that that particular vampire employed a grand total of 19 people–not exactly a big-time employer. As far as taxes–if he took advantage of as many loopholes as most hedge fund managers, bankers, and large corporations enjoy, he wasn’t paying nearly his fair share anyway. And what benefit was he producing for society? Making himself and his already-loaded “clients” richer. Sucking more money away from the economy so it can be hoarded by the greedy sociopaths who are in control. Good riddance, in my opinion.

            Both parties, union management, the political system, our banking system–all corrupt and need to be knocked down and restructured, in my opinion. The teachers themselves–hardly overpaid–are one of the groups that is NOT ripping off everyone around them.

          • jschmidt2

             What good does the hedge fund do? He pays taxes however much they are. Taxes that CT is not going to get now. The wealthy invest in mutual funds, the same funds the pensions invest in and without the wealthy they might not be as susccesful. We can cry about “:fair share” but that is dependent on the tax code. So you we have get rid of the loopholes and subsides including the Solyandra like ones where the govt thinks they are smart enough to pick winners.We need to get rid of Malloys first five because it is a joke and other business are paying taxes to subsidize that program because they happen to be too small or not expanding. Of course as we;ve seen with CIGNA you don’t have to expand, just hire more contractor even if they are landscapers. THen lower the corp tax rate from the highest in the world to 15% as Canada has done instead of raising taxes as the losing states or Illinois, CT, CA. Repatriate overseas profits at 15% if they are used for expansion and growth in the US not stock buy backs. Lower the cap gains tax to )5 since it is already tax in the corp entity. They you will see growth in those states that have lower taxes but not necessarily CT unless they stop raising taxes on everything that moves and spending tons on useless project like the busway. Out govt in CT and in DC is too big. It needs to shrinkl. Not teachers since they have a hard enough job now. But perhaps if we shrink state govt, those teachers can get more.

  • AM

    Well, my house member (Greene) voted NO, but Sen. Crisco voted YES.  I don’t get what Crisco’s problem is.

    • jonpelto

      All the Democrats voted as a bloc – except for a handful.

      The Democratic leadership knew the language was there – what isn’t clear is whether to properly explained the situation to their colleagues
      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

      • sharewhut

         Typical ‘release’ of those in contentious districts once outcome is assured. Safe seat vote our way, got a fight, if we don’t need you, you can CYA.

      • guest

        voted as block-heads

  • TMS

    “Guest” below, offered his/her condolences to Bridgeport for what they will have to endure, but I don’t hear any sort of outrage coming from the residents and parents of Bridgeport. Could we be wrong in our assumption that they are disturbed by this legislation? I have heard desperate parents, who are at their wits end regarding the quality of education in their school system, say anything is better than nothing. Who are we to be criticizing them for only wanting some changes for their kids. I’m outraged, but it’s not my child being affected.

    • WatchandPray

      Plain and simple; the people DO NOT KNOW THIS!  The CT Post is a shamefully and woefully misdirected news agency.  There is outrage and anger; the last BOE meeting was a case point.  Let me reiterate; no one knows this.  Radical changes have occurred at break neck speed-no one can keep up.  But the spin of “newness” of programs and promises has misled people of the Bpt. community to think that great things are here.  

      Today, after taking back-to-back exams, high school students will be shuttled to Housatonic Community College to take the heralded Accuplacer test to determine the need for subject area remediation.  All in the same day.  Does that make ANY sense?

      • guest

        TMS clearly has no idea how disenfranchised many people are, many harried parents, etc.  That is, they are disenfranchised until Malloy and his machine realize they need a few more votes to win an election.  Then more ballots arrive on a silver platter.

        • TMS

          I’m sure you’re right “guest”, but I just find it hard to accept. It’s a travesty and outright criminal. Unfortunately, after reading “Querculus’” response, I don’t think they would appreciate your discription or our interference. They see it as some kind of attack on their intelligence and I know that’s not anyone’s intention on this blog.

          • TMS

            Sorry, I meant “Jorges2006″, not “Querculus”. May apologies to Querculus.

  • jschmidt2

    This is not unheard of in Democrat circles. Bridgeport does not have t take the money. But we this happen with the busway. Can’t let all that Federal money go to waste even though CT can’t afford their part of it. Better go into debt for this boondoggle. Say holds through with 3.5 mill. Yes it is sleazy but I wouldn’t expect anything else from Malloy.

  • cchealy

    I’m surprised one of the other conditions was giving the administration the power to choose the next State Senator for that city.

    • jonpelto

      Good one!

      Wait, don’t give them any more ideas!

      Besides – that is what redistricting is for.

      Meanwhile – would you guys please pull yourselves together and get a moderate, classic New England message and platform so you can be competative and for some balance.
      Why do we on the left have to always lead the charge to bring honesty into the governmental process :)

      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

      • jschmidt2

         unfortunately we need voters to vote in moderates and Republicans. DOn’t know when that is going to happen since the sane voters are leaving the state.

        • Msavage51

          Are you referring to the hedge fund managers?

          • jschmidt2

            Yes they are smart for leaving.

          • guest

            Turn off the lights on your way out….

  • Jorges2006

    If any of you came to Bridgeport early last year and witnessed the circus of the Board of the Education, you would understand why they voted themselves (except for the lead circus acts) out of power.  Not only could they not balance a budget, but some could hardly read a budget.  The former superintendent and his long, long list of staff were making well over $100,000 per year and had take home cars.  These top heavy administrators were bankrupting the school system.  Thank goodness the state has stepped in to try to straighten this mess.  Everything that I have just previously wrote is based on egos, not on making a better school system for children.  Why was there a supreme court case to over turn the state take over?  Because 2 people wanted to retain their positions on the BOE.  A BOE that has a record of failing children.  We should be thankful that Bridgeport is getting help and change.  The children deserve so much better and now there’s at least some hope.

    • Msavage51

       Unfortunately, Jorges, it looks like Bridgeport has just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Take a look at some of the previous posts on this blog. Then decide whether you really believe that Vallas has the best interests of the children in mind. Yes, Bridgeport needed help. But unfortunately Vallas represents a vulture looking to pick off a carcass rather than a savior offering hope and change for the better. If you are a Bridgeport parent, the best thing you can do for your kids is to fight this regime.

    • Brutus2011

      The same thing (top-heavy and wasteful crony and patronage 100K+ admin jobs) is the status quo in New Haven. The money does not reach the classroom yet those who waste funding have managed to divert attention to teachers.
      There is a huge problem here that unfortunately has massive inertia and I am not sure it can be displaced–other than armed rebellion which of course would be overkill.
      I don’t quite know how to proceed.
      These people are not going to give up their salaries and pensions without a fight.

    • WatchandPray

      You are correct in your assessment of the previous school board being dysfunctional; however, you are in another time zone with your remarks about the current administration.  There aren’t enough pixels to capture the litany of improper, uninformed, and downright foolish decisions that have been made over the last 5 months.  Read any of the posts on this blog and then the accompanying comments by Bpt. teachers.  Public education is being dismantled at world record speed in the Park City.  Do some homework.

  • Jack

    Malloy is a disgrace to the democratic party as well as the united States constitution. He is a wannabe dictator and hopefully he will be a one term governor.

  • Pingback: Gov. Malloy: Good, Bad and Indifferent » Ken Krayeske

  • Querculus

    “Up to three” means that Malloy/Pryor are free to provide ONE name. 

  • StillWatching2

    As Weicker said about “those little people” – “Don’t they know I tell them what to do – they don’t tell ME! ”

  • Bumpercar

    So people who call themselves “liberal” sit in the suburbs defending the status quo — a failing school system that condemns generantions of poor kids to poverty. How disgusting.

    Thank you, Governor, for standing up for these kids!

  • Pingback: Homepage