The Malloy Leadership Model – Raises for political appointees – Secrecy whenever possible

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It was the night before the night before Christmas and with the vast majority of Connecticut citizens focused on the short work week and the upcoming holidays, the Malloy administration quietly announced that they were handing out major salary increases to approximately 200 of the governor’s political appointees.  In fact, although some of these individuals already made more than the Governor, Malloy gave a number of his top aides no less than 12 percent pay raises, skyrocketing those salaries even higher.

As explained in a Wait, What? post last month entitled, “Malloy political appointees score big with “Christmas” salary increases,” although Malloy spent the 2014 gubernatorial campaign claiming there was no state deficit, nor would there be one next year, a $100 million hole in the budget “appeared” in the week following Election Day and the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has consistently warned that the State of Connecticut will be facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in next year’s budget.

But as incredible as the news was that Malloy handed out large pay raises back on December 23, 2104, the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, has now reported that Malloy’s extreme generosity toward his political appointees pales by comparison to what Malloy actually did on that day that he ordered the pay raises.

As Lender explained in his recent weekend story, “Political Appointees’ Christmas Raises Came With Unannounced Gift: A Provision For Future Pay Hikes,” the pay raise directive that Malloy signed not only granted his aides those lucrative raises but he also changed the entire payment arrangement for top political appointees (who are coded as Labor Unit 01 in the state payroll system).

Through the years, the decision about whether to increase the pay of Labor Unit 01 (political appointees) required direct gubernatorial action, ensuring the public, via the media, would know when a governor decided to give his or her aides raises.

But on December 23, 2014, Malloy not only signed the required executive directive granting his aides up to 12 percent raises, but he added language that reads,

“Note – Effective January 1, 2106, employees in Labor Unit 01 shall receive cost of living adjustments and annual increments granted to managerial and confidential employees in the MP pay plan in Labor Unites 02 and 03.  The EX [Executive Pay Plan] pay plan shall be adjusted accordingly.”

As Lender reports, Malloy’s action means that going forward a governor’s top political appointees will automatically get the same salary increase that Connecticut non-union, non-political, 3,000 classified employees will get.

The move not only means Malloy’s political appointees will get automatic get pay increases each year he is in office, but that unless the edict is directly repealed, the political appointees of future governors will also reap the benefits of Malloy’s decision to provide an unprecedented level of special treatment for political appointees.

Lender adds that the, “provision calling for those raises in future years was quietly tacked onto the end of the official Dec. 23 order that authorized the raises – which was signed by Malloy, his budget director Ben Barnes, and Commissioner Donald DeFronzo of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).”

Barnes also serves as Malloy’s budget director and was one of the political aides that got a 12 percent pay raise in December.  Malloy’s Chief-of-Staff also pulled in a 12 percent pay raise at the time.

As an indication of the Malloy administration’s never-ending strategy of secrecy, Lender notes, “But this provision wasn’t mentioned in the press release that a Barnes deputy issued as darkness fell at 4:32 p.m. on the day before Christmas Eve.”

Lender and the Hartford Courant provide a link to the pay raise memo which can be found at: http://das.ct.gov/HRDocs/EItem/2147-E.pdf

Lender’s piece adds that, “Both Barnes and the Democratic governor have defended the raises by saying most of the political appointees hadn’t gotten raises during the governor’s first four years in office – or had not come close to keeping up with unionized employees and non-unionized managers. As Barnes put it, the state needs to ‘attract and retain top-notch talent.’”

When Lender asked OPM Secretary Barnes why the larger change in policy wasn’t reported in the press release, Barnes claimed that the Malloy administration wasn’t attempting to withhold the information, but, “It didn’t seem that it was as relevant as the fact of the raises.”

So Malloy’s position is that he needed to give his political appointees up to 12 percent raises in order to “attract and retain top-notch talent,” and that he decided it wasn’t necessary to tell the public about the maneuver to that automatically grants raises to political appointees in the future because it, “wasn’t relevant.”

It would appear that Governor Malloy and UConn’s Board of Trustees, who approved a massive boost in salary and benefits for President Susan Herbst between Christmas and New Year’s went to the same school of public relations.

You can read more about this issues at Wait, What? -Malloy political appointees score big with “Christmas” salary increases  and at the Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-lender-appointees-raises-0111-20150109-column.html

Malloy political appointees score big with “Christmas” salary increases

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On the day after Christmas about 200 of Governor Dan Malloy’s top political appointees will receive salary increases that will boost their income by as much as 12%.

The raises come despite the fact that the this year’s existing budget deficit is pegged at about $50 million and will probably grow to well over $100 million in the next couple of months.  Of course, this year’s budget deficit is nothing compared to the projected $1.4 billion shortfall in next year’s budget.

But to the victor goes the spoils, so not only are Malloy’s top aides getting big raises but the Malloy team held off releasing the news of the taxpayer funded gifts to ensure it didn’t become a news story until Christmas Eve, thereby significantly reducing the number of Connecticut residents who will learn where their tax dollars are going.

Some readers may remember that as a candidate for re-election, Malloy spent the fall claiming that there was no state deficit, nor would there be any deficits if he was re-elected.

Then, about a month ago, Malloy announced “emergency cuts” to reduce a projected $100 million state deficit that appeared the week after Election Day.  Malloy’s cuts only resolved about half the deficit problem that existed at the time.  The rest of the financial problem has gone unaddressed, and as noted above, will likely grow considering the Malloy administration appears to be intentionally hiding areas where it is overspending.

When Malloy announced last month’s budget cuts, a significant portion of them were aimed at the Department of Children and Families, where Malloy intentionally limited DCF’s ability to place children who are in crisis, and unable to live at home, into group homes.

Malloy also reduced funding for occupational therapy and day services for those with developmental disabilities.

And although Malloy had already made historic cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, he went even further, cutting Connecticut’s institutions of higher education even more which further ensures that students and their parents will end up paying more and getting less.

But as the CT Mirror reported late yesterday, “The holidays will be a little merrier for about 200 appointees of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other constitutional officers: They are getting raises ranging from three percent to 12 percent at an annual cost of $1.4 million.”

Leading the list of happy campers is Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, whose salary will increase on Thursday to over $209,000 a year, a 12 percent increase.  Malloy’s Chief of Staff, Mark Ojakian also received a 12 percent raise pushing his salary to nearly $190,000.

Perhaps even more telling than the extra $1.4 million Malloy is giving out to his political appointees is the way in which the news was released.

As the CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas explained,

“The raises were announced on the night before the night before Christmas, when hardly a creature was stirring, either in the House, the Senate or the Capitol press room.

A press release went out at 4:34 p.m. under the name of Gian-Carl Casa, the undersecretary of policy and management.

At the time, he was sitting on an airplane in Baltimore, connecting on a vacation flight to Florida. Reached by cell phone on the tarmac, he did arrange for the full list of raises to be forwarded to The Mirror.”

Explaining away Malloy’s decision to hand out major salary increases to his political appointees while tens of thousands of Connecticut families continue to face economic distresses, Malloy’s budget chief provided what may be one of the greatest quotes of 2014.

Barnes explained in the emailed statement;

 “For the last four years, most appointed officials have not seen their salary change as they have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Connecticut families…Because of their hard work, we are seeing the results in many areas, such as a steadily improving economy that’s added over 75,000 jobs since 2011.”

The list of Malloy’s commissioners who are getting double-digit salary increases include;

Commissioner Catherine Smith (Economic Development) Now at $190,400

Commissioner Jewel Mullen (Public Health) $190,400

Commissioner Kevin Sullivan (Revenue Services) $190,400

Commissioner Roderick Bremby (Social Services) $190,400

Commissioner Thaddeus Martin (Military Department) $182,132

Commissioner Joette Katz (Children and Families) $172,291

Commissioner Patricia Rehmer (Mental Health and Addiction Services) $165,535

Commissioner Melody Curry (Motor Vehicles) $145,600

Commissioner Steven Reviczy (Agriculture) $132,160

You can read the CT Mirror story at: http://ctmirror.org/early-christmas-malloy-appointees-get-raises-of-up-to-12/.  The CT Newsjunkie story is here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_appointees_get_pay_increase/ and the Courant is here: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-administration-raises-20141223-story.html

Malloy administration dumps the State’s best/toughest labor negotiator

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In a stunning move that surprised people across the political spectrum, Governor Malloy’s administration has laid off the individual who is widely acknowledged as the best and toughest labor negotiator the State of Connecticut has ever had.

Linda Yelmini has worked as a classified state employee since 1987, serving as a key labor negotiator and personnel manager for Connecticut’s Democrat and Republican governors, as well as for Independent Governor Lowell Weicker.

Those of us who have been involved in projects on the same side and opposing sides of Yelmini can attest to her extraordinary understanding of the law and her dedication to the state and its taxpayers.

Over the years, her reputation as a tough negotiator and manager has led many to observe that one definitely doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of an issue that she is working on and there are certainly active, retired and fired state employees who’d even call her ruthless.

That said, there are others who would argue that while she is tough, she has constantly strived to ensure that work rules have been applied consistently…which may just be the problem the Malloy administration has with her.  I’m sure they found it harder to make some political hires when the state’s chief labor negotiator tells them such a move would violate state labor laws and contracts.

While the Malloy administration’s decision to remove Yelmini and throw away her decades of experience is extremely odd, the way they went about it and their effort to spin their story is even stranger.

When interviewed about the news, Yelmini told reporters that the announcement to remove her from her career position had come as a “shock” and that she was told that her position would be replaced by a “political appointee.”

At the same time, in what could only be called laughable, Malloy told reporters that he had nothing to do with the decision, claiming that his budget director, Ben Barnes, was solely responsible for the action.”

CT Newsjunkie quoted Malloy as saying, “Ben’s going to continue in the position as secretary and he’s designing what he wants I guess.”

The notion that the governor’s budget director would lay off the state’s chief negotiator and replace that person with a “political appointee” without the approval of the governor is beyond absurd.

Unless, of course, Malloy is telling the truth in which case it is an extremely sad commentary about Malloy’s lack of managerial focus and his lack of commitment to his role as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer.

The CT Newsjunkie story went on to report that, “Malloy said he leaves these types of personnel decisions up to his department heads…’Within these departments, I give a lot of leeway to the people who are hired to do the job,’ Malloy said.”

So let’s get this straight…

Malloy is saying that despite that fact that the state is facing a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit next year, in which the Governor, himself, has consistently said he won’t raise taxes, won’t cut aid to towns, won’t cut vital services and won’t need to sit down with state employee unions to talk about concessions, he allowed an underling to fire the state’s chief labor negotiator and replace her with a political appointee…and he wasn’t even involved in the decision?

Yeah, and I got a bridge to sell if anyone wants to buy it.

You can read more about this strange development at:  Malloy Administration Personnel Changes Are Under Way.

Jon Lender has more details at the Courant in a piece entitled State Labor Relations Chief Facing Layoff

Budget Gimmicks and Declining Revenue catch up to Malloy

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As the CT Mirror is reporting, Governor Malloy’s extraordinary budget gimmicks and Connecticut’s lagging economy have caught up with the politician’s wild re-election promises.

The CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf reports,

“Citing declining state revenue projections, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave up Monday on two of his biggest re-election year budget initiatives: a $55-per-person rebate and a supplemental payment into the state employees’ pension fund.

“We do not anticipate enough revenue to provide a tax refund or to make a supplemental pension payment, as we had hoped in January,” Benjamin Barnes, who oversees the budget as secretary of policy and management, wrote in a letter sent Monday morning to legislators.

While the Governor and his budget chief sort of skipped over the ugly details, the underlying problem is that Malloy’s rosy economic forecasts failed to materialize.

Last week the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis reported that Connecticut Income Tax revenues were going to be $330 million short of what has been predicted.

This shortfall in revenue not only opens a huge problem for Malloy’s budget proposal for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2014 but increases the projected budget shortfall for the following year’s budget to over $1.2 billion dollars.

Malloy, who has pledged not to increase taxes if re-elected is nowlooking at budget deficits of over $1 billion for each of the next four years if he is re-elected.

Claiming that he was sitting on a $500 million surplus this year and even more money next year, Malloy promised a series of election year tax-cuts including a $55 rebate to all individuals earning less than $200,000, and a $110 rebate to all couples earning less than $400,000.

Malloy also promised that he would pay an additional $100 million into the state employees’ pension fund, a fund that is approximately $11 billion underfunded.

But as the CT Mirror explains, income tax revenue has not come in as projected and the excessive use of one-time revenue and borrowing for ongoing expenses means Connecticut will continue to face extremely serious fiscal problems over the next few years.

You can read the entire CT Mirror story here:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-gives-up-on-tax-rebate-citing-declining-revenues/

The CT Newsjunkie’s article on this breaking story can be found here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_scraps_55_rebate/, while the Courant’s article is here: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-malloy-tax-rebates-20140428,0,4875051.story.

Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

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Mass Insight Contract “magically extended” on its last day.  Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

The cornerstone of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative is the concept of “turnaround schools” and the creation of the “Commissioner’s Network.”  Both strategies are part of Malloy’s broader effort to allow private entities to run public schools.

The task of implementing those outrageous policies rests with Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and two members of his personal staff, Adam Goldfarb (Chief of Staff) and Morgan Barth (Director of the Office of School Turnaround).

Morgan Barth is the former Achievement First employee who illegally taught and worked in Achievement First schools for six years.

Last year, as part of their ongoing effort to undermine local control and privatize public education in Connecticut, Commissioner Pryor let go or re-assigned the extremely experienced team of State Department of Education experts who had been helping towns work through the challenges of educating students in Connecticut’s largest and poorest districts.

Pryor let go the four Leaders in Residence and three superintendents, each of whom had direct experience working with administrators and teachers in urban classrooms and school districts where the majority of students face the challenges of poverty, language barriers or special education needs.

Pryor also re-assigned the State Department of Education’s experts on bullying and improving school climates, multi-cultural education and bilingual and English language learning programs.

Instead of utilizing Connecticut experts, Pryor retained an out-of-state, politically-connected company called Mass Insight for nearly $1 million. 

To service the contract with Pryor, Mass Insight sent in a handful of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants.  In the first four months of the contract, Mass Insight replaced nearly every one of these out-of-state consultants with another inexperienced, out-of-state consultant.  In some cases the consultants lasted no more than a few weeks in the job. 

But as a group, Mass Insight’s consultants, with Morgan Barth at the helm, managed to alienate superintendents, principals and local boards of education in many of Connecticut’s thirty Alliance Districts.

The contract with Mass Insight was scheduled to end on January 31, 2014.

But with no public notice and no public participation, Stefan Pryor and the State Department of Education, along with the help of Malloy’s Budget Director and Attorney General George Jepsen’s Office quietly approved an $800,000 contract extension that is said to have gone into effect on JANUARY 31, 2014.

The last-minute $800,000 contract extension will allow Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth and Mass Insight to continue to wreak havoc on Connecticut’s poorest public schools.

Hidden from public view, Stefan Pryor requested and obtained approval from Malloy’s Budget Chief and the Office of Policy and Management to extend Mass Insight’s contract and pay the out-of-state company the extra $800,000 on January 24, 2014.

According to documents related to the matter, the Mass Insight contract extension was finalized and sent to the company on January 30, 2014.

Under state law, as a check and balance on excessive agency actions, contract extensions of this nature require a sign off from the Office of the Attorney General.   

In this case, the Mass Insight contract was apparently forwarded to the Attorney General’s office on January 31, 2014. 

While it is unclear exactly when the Attorney General’s Office acted, it did approve the contract and Commissioner Pryor and the State Department of Education reported that they planned to have the contract amendment “fully executed by the end of business January 31, 2014.”

While it is beyond insulting to see the Malloy administration dump experienced Connecticut residents so it can out-source jobs to out-of-state consultants, it is even more absurd that Commissioner Pryor would seek to extend this contract and further undermine Connecticut’s poorest school districts. 

Governor Malloy’s fake Connecticut Budget “Surplus”

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If you’ve listened to Governor Malloy lately or checked out some of the media reports recently you’d think Connecticut was on the road to economic recovery, that the state had a budget surplus and it was “Morning in Connecticut.”

Putting aside the continued high unemployment rates, Governor Malloy’s failed economic development strategies and the growing amount of poverty in Connecticut, there is a much more immediate problem with Malloy’s claim that Connecticut’s fiscal health is back on track.

Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes recently released his monthly report to the State Comptroller on the status of Connecticut’s State Budget.  Barnes wrote, “This month’s estimate reflects a positive $273.3 million balance from operations, an increase of $137.4 million from last month’s letter.”

If taken at his word, it would appear that Connecticut has a $273.4 million budget surplus so far this year.

But when it comes to Malloy, Barnes and their budgeting strategies, things aren’t exactly as they appear.

Any reasonable person would assume that you determine the health of a state budget by comparing the level of tax revenues to the level of government expenditures.  If they are equal you have a balanced budget.  If expenses are greater than revenues you have a budget deficit and if revenues are greater than expenses you have a budget surplus.

But looking back at some of the gimmicks used by the Malloy administration this year corrupts the entire notion of what a balanced budget actually is…let alone what is should be called a budget surplus.

When examining how the Malloy administration put this year’s budget together one need only look at the following fiscal gimmicks.

And these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way revenue and expenditures were defined to make it appear that Connecticut is on stronger fiscal footing.

Here are a just a few of the ways in which this year’s Connecticut State Budget was “balanced.”  This year’s state budget:

  • Diverts $190.8 million from last year’s surplus to pay costs this year to make this year’s budget look more balanced and diverts another $30 million to do the same thing in next year’s budget. 
  • Diverts $115,000 for the Stem Cell Research Fund (SCRF) to pay for regular costs at Department of Health. 
  • Although the budget provided the DCF-funded private residential treatment centers with $11.5 million in maintain services, budget takes those funds away. 
  • Rather than use the $20.2 million in surplus from collective bargaining costs in last year’s budget as required to increase the raining day fund or reduce debt, Malloy’s budget dumped the money into the General Fund and Transportation Fund make the budget look more balanced. 
  • Diverts $1.4 million from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the UConn Health Center. 
  • Diverts $1.1 million from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Public Health. 
  • Diverts $3.4 million from Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Public Health and Department of Social Services. 
  • Diverts $1.3 million from Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Developmental Services and the Public Health. 
  • Further underfunds the Teachers Retirement Retiree Health Services Program by $22 million by reducing the reducing the state’s share costs to 25% and municipal health subsidy to 25%. 
  • Diverts $2.2 from the Pre-Trial Alcohol Substance Abuse Program to fund expenses in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Regional Action Councils). 
  • Diverts $1 million from Pre-Trial Alcohol Substance Abuse Program to fund expenses in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Governor’s Partnership to Protect CT’s Workforce). 
  • Diverts $500,000 in UConn funding to pay for CT Center for Advanced Technology Inc. 
  • Diverts $875,000 from the Student Protection Account to pay for expenses at the Office of Higher Education.  The Student Protection Account is supposed to be used to refund tuition when for-trade schools go of business. 
  • Diverts $1 million from the Systems Benefit Account to Operation Fuel and allows up $100,000 of that money to be used for administrative costs. 
  • Diverts over $2 million from various accounts within the Office of Policy and Management and transfers these funds to the Litigation/Settlement account in FY 14 to fund ongoing “litigation expenses.” 
  • Diverts $10 million from last year’s Transportation “Pay-As-You-Go” account to expenses this year including Rail Operations ($4. 2 million); Personal Services ($1. 5 million), Transit Improvement Program ($200,000), and Pay-As-You-Go ($4. 1 million). 
  • Directs the Office of Policy and Management to cut $10 million to municipal aid but the cut would not be announced until next fiscal year. 
  • Diverts $2.8 million in Magnet School fun from last fiscal year to pay $2.3 million for this year’s Sheff programming, $330,000 for the Sound School $160,000 for the Neighborhood Youth Centers for the New Haven YMCA. (Remember Appropriations Chair Toni Harp was planning to run the mayor of New Haven this year.  She did…and won). 
  • Diverts any balance of the Probate Court Administration Fund in excess of 15% of the total expenditures authorized to the fund to the State’s General Fund. 

These are just a few of literally dozens and dozens of examples of budget gimmicks that were used to make this year’s budget look “balanced.”

So when you hear that Connecticut has a “budget surplus” just remember that the so-called “surplus” is built upon a fiscal house of cards that will eventually collapse and Connecticut’s taxpayers and those who need and deserve vital state services will be the ones asked to pay the real cost for this political folly.

The Malloy administration’s approach to financial planning in 2013

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“Aware that the city school board was prepared Monday to pass a resolution demanding the funds, Barnes said he felt the time was right to make the deal.”  – CT Post 11/26/13

You heard him right… “The time was right to make the deal.”

The deal being that the City of Bridgeport would get a giant pass on having to allocate the legally required minimum funding that Connecticut towns must make in order to get state education funds.

The deal being between Governor Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch – WITHOUT THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE BRIDGEPORT BOARD OF EDUCATION – the elected officials who are legally responsible for running Bridgeport’s School and who had already adopted a budget based on getting the additional $3.3 million that the City of Bridgeport won’t have to provide.

Just last year, when Bridgeport was facing a $3.5 million budget deficit in its school budget, Malloy, with the approval of the Connecticut General Assembly, gave Bridgeport a $3.5 million “forgivable loan.”

As a condition for getting the money, Bridgeport had to agree to allow Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to approve any replacement for Paul Vallas, who was serving as Bridgeport’s Acting Superintendent at the time.

Now one year later another deal pops up, this time allowing Bridgeport to renege on its legal responsibility to provide its local schools with the minimum budget allocation of local taxpayer funds.

In what will certainly go down as one of the more absurd political statements of the year, the Connecticut Post reported today that “Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, who helped broker a budget deal reached over the weekend, said he doesn’t want this to be an annual bailout program for Bridgeport, and is looking for assurances the city will finally fully fund its Minimum Budget Requirement going forward.”

According to the Connecticut Post article, Mayor Bill Finch and the City of Bridgeport’s local contribution for their schools should be $3.3 million higher than what it has actually allocated for this year.

Rather than require that Bridgeport fulfill its legal responsibility, as all other towns must do, Governor Malloy is proposing a deal to “rectify the problem” by allowing about $1.2 million worth of in-kind services to the school board, allow the city to shave $1.1 million off the school board’s workers’ compensation contribution and have the state make an additional $1.2 million contribution to the city by the end of the fiscal year.

While neither the Malloy administration nor Mayor Finch consulted with the Bridgeport Board of Education, their “deal” will actually create an immediate budget deficit in this year’s Bridgeport school budget, a budget deficit that require mid-year cuts to school programs.

As reported in the Connecticut Post, at last night’s Bridgeport Board of Education meeting, the Bridgeport Board of Education adopted a resolution, on a vote of 6 -1, to demand the city come into full compliance with the Minimum Budget Requirement law.

But the fact is that the Malloy/Finch deal with leave the Bridgeport Board of Education twisting slowly in the wind.

And as to the long-held notion that it is the Legislative Branch of Government that approves the state budget and only the Legislative Branch that can allocate additional funding for Bridgeport, Ben Barnes, who served as Bridgeport’s interim director of finance before he became Malloy’s Budget Chief, told the Connecticut Post that “he had some contact with the Legislature’s appropriations committee chairs over the matter, but believes the administration has broad authority within existing education reform dollars to make the additional payment to Bridgeport…“

Media requests from Wait,What? to the Governor’s Office, the Education Commissioner’s Office and the Office of Policy and Management asking for what statutory authority Barnes believes gives him the ability to give Bridgeport another $1.2 million in education funding without legislative approval have gone unanswered.

As if the Malloy/Finch deal wasn’t already difficult enough for the dozens of other Connecticut communities that are also suffering from inadequate funding to hear about, the Malloy administration managed to rub additional salt in the wound via a letter Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.

Pryor calls the Malloy/Finch deal less than ideal but adds that it is “sufficient to allow all parties to turn their attention from past conflicts to our aspirations for the future.”

Hello?

Commissioner Pryor?

Will allow all parties to turn their attention from past conflicts to our aspirations for the future?

By allocating state money without legislative approval, leaving the Bridgeport Board of Education with a new deficit for this school year and blowing off the financial problems faced by Connecticut’s other communities.

Yup, file this one under:  The Malloy administration’s approach to financial planning in 2013

You can read the full Connecticut Post article here:  http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/City-has-a-deal-but-board-not-satisfied-5011160.php

Hartford School Board vote reveals more about secret deal within Malloy administration

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As reported by the Hartford Courant, “The city board of education reversed itself Monday night and approved two proposed magnet schools for the 2014-15 year, nearly a week after voting to reject the plans that were negotiated as part of a settlement in the Sheff v. O’Neill case.”

The Hartford Board of Education also approved a proposal to proceed with selecting a Hartford neighborhood school to become a “lighthouse” school which would, in turn, attract additional state funds for the school.

As the Courant noted, “School board members voted Monday to pursue a “lighthouse” school model — essentially, a neighborhood school that would be entitled to special state funding for improvements… A lighthouse school in Hartford would receive at least $750,000 annually for improvements over a minimum of three years, school officials said Monday. Poland said the pledged funding from the state was crucial for the board’s reconsideration of the magnet school proposals.”

As originally proposed to the Hartford Board of Education last week, the “lighthouse” school was targeted to be the SAND Elementary School and was part of a package that would have allowed Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry to set up his own company and the Board would then have transferred control of both Capital Prep and SAND to that private entity.

The funds mentioned in today’s Courant article would have transferred to Perry’s company along with nearly $15 million-a-year in state funding for the 1,000 students that would have been under his control.

The resolutions approved by the Hartford Board of Education removed any direct reference to Perry, but as late as yesterday morning, Perry was still lobbying hard for the proposal.

Yesterday morning Perry’s operation was handing out a flyer at Capital Prep entitled “SAND Kids Can’t Wait” that instructed parents to attend the meeting and demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School.”

The powers that be must have gotten to Perry in the afternoon because no demonstration or “demand” by the Perry supporters took place.

Instead of granting Perry direct control of the schools and the corresponding funds, the Hartford Board adopted a process in which Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will form a four-member lighthouse school selection committee.

Critics of Steve Perry will note, however, that there is nothing in the Board’s language that suggests Perry can’t be selected by Kishimoto and her committee as the “turnaround entity” and the announcement yesterday that the eventual “lighthouse” plan must be approved by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, makes it that much clearer that the Malloy administration has played a major role throughout this policy fiasco.

Since the story first broke last week, participants in the Sheff negotiations have revealed that the Governor’s Office, OPM Secretary Ben Barns and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor played the lead role in the talks, rather than the Attorney General’s Office, which has traditionally played a more direct role in the lawsuit and its related negotiations.

In addition, a number of sources have explained that the Perry boondoggle was proposed and pushed by the Malloy administration as a requirement for Hartford getting any additional state funds at all.

The notion that Pryor will now be a key player in the approval process reiterates the odd role the Malloy Administration has played in the effort to turn Capital Prep and SAND over to Perry’s private company.

According to the Courant report, “the [lighthouse] panel will be asked to convene at least one community forum and identify three or more city schools as candidates for a turnaround plan… By April 1, 2014, the selection committee is expected to recommend a school and its improvement plan, which must ultimately be approved by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.”

The entire “lighthouse” concept seems designed to get around the Connecticut General Assembly’s language which prohibits the Commissioner of Education from taking over more than two schools in a district via his “Commissioner’s Network” program.  Concerned about giving Pryor and the Malloy administration too much control over local communities, legislators added the “two-school limit” as a way to preserve local control of schools.  The “lighthouse” school proposal appears to provide the Malloy administration with yet another way to undermine that language and the authority of local communities.

As to the two “new” magnet schools, the Hartford Board of Education voted 6-1 to move forward with creating the Capital Community College Senior Academy which will be a magnet school for 11th and 12th graders.

The board also approved converting “High School Inc., one of Hartford’s specialized high school programs, to a Sheff magnet school beginning with ninth grade in 2014-15 and gradually expanding to 12th grade by 2017-18.”

You can read the Hartford Courant story at: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-sheff-magnet-1126-20131125,0,3465187.story

NEWS FLASH: Is Perry mocking Hartford Mayor and School Board Chair in Capital Prep Flyer or revealing secret strategy?

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Last week the Hartford Board of Education rejected the secret one-year Sheff v. O’Neill settlement agreement amid concerns that it was an inappropriate, and potentially even illegal, attempt to allow Steve Perry to set up his own company and then hand control of both Capital Prep and SAND elementary school over to that private entity.

The Perry issue also took down two other proposed magnet schools for Hartford; one at Capital Community College and one at High School, Inc. an existing Hartford school program that is connected to Travelers Insurance Company.

In response to the defeat, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland called a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education for tonight to re-vote the two proposed magnet schools and move forward with the idea of a more public process to help the SAND Elementary School or another neighborhood school become what is being called a “Lighthouse School” (whatever that is).

Chairman Poland and Mayor Segarra appeared to be salvaging what they could from the secret Sheff v. O’Neill deal, leaving aside Perry’s empire-building proposal.

The understanding was that proceeding with the “Lighthouse School” option WAS NOT an underhanded attempt to sneak Perry back into the picture.

But not to be outdone, Perry forces were handing out handing out a flyer and rounding up Capital Prep parents this morning instructing them to go to tonight’s Board of Education meeting to demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School.”

The headline of Perry’s flyer reads:  “SAND Kids Can’t Wait”

flyer (3)

Perry’s fancy flyer raises serious doubts as to whether Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland and Mayor Pedro Segarra were telling the truth about the purpose of tonight’s meeting or, alternatively, are they being had by Steve Perry, perhaps with the help of embattled Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto and others.

It is hard to imagine which would be worse… that the Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education and the Mayor of Hartford would be lying to their constituents and the people of Connecticut or that Perry would be undermining their effort without their knowledge.

What is clear is that Steve Perry believes the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School” is his for the taking.

The $3 million is money that Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, OPM Secretary Barnes and Attorney General George Jepsen put on the table to try to convince the Sheff Plaintiffs to agree to this one-year deal so that they can push-off any further discussion of the segregation lawsuit until next year, after the 2014 gubernatorial election.

The “Lighthouse School” concept was a shell of an idea that has never been spelled out but was adopted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1997.  (See language below).

Regardless of what was intended back in 1997, Steve Perry apparently believes that he has been guaranteed the leading role in an incredible deal that would allow him to take two existing public schools (Capital Prep and another Hartford School), more than 1,000 students, all of their state funding and an additional $3 million in a special allocation and move it off-line to a private company in which he is the sole officer.

The funding stream would provide Perry and his company with approximately $15 million a year in taxpayer funds.

For Perry to be so outspoken about the fact that Capital Prep parents should demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School” means others are definitely involved in this scam…

But the question is – is it Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Superintendent Kishimoto, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Board Chair Matt Poland or all of the above?

This will go down as a case study in how Connecticut public policy is made during the Malloy years and it doesn’t get any uglier than this…

 

Here is the definition of Lighthouse Schools from an old State Department of Education document:

A ‘lighthouse school’ is an existing public school or a public school planned before July 1, 1997, in a priority school district that (1) has a specialized curriculum and (2) is designed to promote intradistrict and interdistrict public school choice. During the 2000-01 academic year five lighthouse schools were operating in Connecticut. The State Department of Education provided up to $100,000 in grants to schools in each of the state’s three largest urban districts, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, to support the development of lighthouse schools into regional interdistrict magnet schools. Over a three-year period, each school must develop a unique educational theme, devise a governance agreement, revise its curriculum, establish a contract with surrounding school districts that will become feeders for the magnet school, recruit a diverse student body, and provide professional development for its teachers. After up to three years of funding as a lighthouse school, the school must open as an interdistrict magnet school whose purpose is to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation. As a result of the lighthouse program, one elementary school and one middle school opened as interdistrict magnet schools in September 2001

And here is the Agenda for tonight’s Hartford Board of Education Meeting:

Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement – Lighthouse (Dr. Kishimoto, Honorable Pedro Segarra, Mr. Poland and Dr. McIntye)

That the Hartford Board of Education further authorizes and directs the Superintendent to identify at least three (3) neighborhood and/or community schools as potential Lighthouse Schools, as well as the model(s) which may be implemented. The criteria to be used by the Superintendent in making these determinations shall include those used in considering re-designs, as well as any other relevant considerations. Thereafter, the Superintendent shall conduct one or more community forums to discuss the schools and models so identified.

Based on the results of said community forum(s), the Superintendent shall determine whether one or more of the schools and/or models so identified should be removed from consideration and whether a school and/or model not already so identified should be considered. After making these determinations, the Superintendent shall identify one (1) neighborhood school as a potential Lighthouse School, based on whether the school has the potential to meet the Lighthouse school goals. Specifically, does the school have conditions necessary for school quality improvement and increasing natural diversity? The Superintendent shall meet with and consider the input of the School Governance interested parents, other stakeholders, and the faculty and administration of said school. Based on the foregoing, the Superintendent shall recommend to the Board of Education one school for conversion to a Lighthouse School as well as the proposed model.

Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement (Dr. Kishimoto, Honorable Pedro Segarra, Mr. Poland and Dr. McIntye)

That the Hartford Board of Education approves the creation of a new Partnership Magnet School with Capital Community College, the Capital Community College Senior Academy;

Furthermore, the Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Capital Community College regarding the creation of such new school; and

Furthermore, the Board of Education authorizes the conversion of High School, Inc. to a Sheff magnet school starting with the 9th grade in 2014-2015 with expansion to grade 12 by 2017-2018.

Bridgeport: Where “truth” is sometimes fiction

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Paul Vallas likes to brag that he “balanced” Bridgeport’s school budget during the two years he ran Bridgeport’s schools.

Mayor Bill Finch likes to brag that he is making a huge “investment” in Bridgeport schools.

Every time Paul Vallas speaks about his budget success he fails to mention that he didn’t actually balance last year’s Bridgeport School Budget, the taxpayers of Connecticut did.

When Bridgeport’s Education budget was still facing a $3.4 million deficit, Governor Malloy proposed, and the legislature adopted special language providing Bridgeport with a $3.4 million “forgivable” loan.

And what did Connecticut taxpayer’s get in return if the loan was “forgivable”?

If Paul Vallas left his job as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools – which he is now doing – Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, would be responsible for “approving” Vallas’ successor.  The wording is actually, “As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner 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.”

Vallas, Finch, Malloy and Pryor seem to forget that the “deal” is forever preserved in Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session (see complete language below).

And now, despite his bragging about his massive investment in Bridgeport’s schools, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has now cut a secret deal with the Malloy Administration that will allow Bridgeport to take a pass on the law that requires Connecticut communities to maintain a minimum contribution to their local school budget in order to qualify for state funds.

When Mayor Finch presented this year’s Bridgeport City Budget he announced, “Thanks to the actions of my administration and the City Council, we are working more closely with the Board of Education to provide better educational opportunities for our children than ever before.”

But now, the secret deal he has cut with Governor Malloy’s operation means the City of Bridgeport DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE their schools with $3,281,703 that would otherwise have been required under Connecticut law.

You can read about the new Finch/Malloy Bridgeport deal in yesterday’s Wait, What? post: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke.

So Vallas didn’t balance the school budget last year, Connecticut taxpayer’s picked up the cost of the $3.4 million deficit.

And this year, a new deal between Malloy and Finch will mean that Bridgeport is excused from having to put $3.2 million into their school budget.

But hey, at least Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gets to require that the selection of a Bridgeport superintendent of schools is from “a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Here is the language of Section 289 of Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session.

Sec. 289. (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.

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