Budget Cuts, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Budget, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor Commissioner's Network, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight Company, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
Eighteen months ago, on January 5, 2012, Governor Malloy’s sponsored an Education Reform Workshop at Central Connecticut State University. During the first breakout session there was a panel discussion focused on the issue of “Low-Performing Schools and Districts.” The panel was moderated by Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education company.
A few weeks later, Mass Insight Education’s Justin Cohen returned to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill, Senate Bill 24. Cohen wrote, “To dramatically and systemically improve our nation’s failing schools, comprehensive state turnaround initiatives, like the Commissioner’s Network included in Senate Bill 24, must be pursued as part of a spectrum of interventions. As the President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education, I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for its consideration of Senate Bill 24 and strongly support its passage.”
Cohen added, “Senate Bill 24 creates part of the structure and authority necessary for the state to perform this work and hold districts accountable…”
Two trips to Connecticut in a matter of weeks.
Talk about a dedication to Governor Malloy’s education reform proposal!
And now it turns out that just last month, on 4/13/13, the State of Connecticut wrote out a check to Mr. Cohen’s Mass Insight Education company for $123,930.00. It was an initial payment on a much larger contract signed by the Malloy Administration’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. Mass Insight Education was chosen, over a number of entities including Connecticut’s Regional Education Service Centers, to assist with Stefan Pryor’s Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Program. Funny…that was the very thing Cohen came to Connecticut to testify in favor of the year before!
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Rhee’s time there in Washington DC won her fame and fortune, as well as the demand for investigations into allegations about widespread cheating to inflate standardized test scores.
Before he worked as Rhee’s Director of Portfolio Management, Cohen worked as Director of Industry Support and Development for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
And before that, worked for the Edison Schools company. Finally, of course, having won a contract from Stefan Pryor, we shouldn’t be surprised that Cohen also went to Yale University.
Fellow education blogger Gary Rubinstein investigated and wrote about Mass Insight Education. Rubinstein observed that while Mass Insight claims to lead turnaround projects around the country, their track record is murky, at best. Rubinstein wrote, “On their School Turnaround Group [website] they list eight successful ‘turnarounds’ from around the country. Ironically, these eight ‘turnarounds’ were led by companies other than Mass Insight, but as Mass Insight doesn’t seem to want to put its own record up to scrutiny, they use these case studies to show the sorts of strategies that Mass Insight employs in its own turnarounds.”
Not surprising, Rubinstein discovered that the examples that Mass Insight Education relied upon are similar to what charter school companies here in Connecticut have been doing. The “improved test results” that they education reforms tout are simply the result of policy changes that allowed these schools to skim off students that are less poor, have fewer language barriers, need fewer special education services or display fewer behavioral problems. As usual, the “miracle turnaround” was a product of comparing apples to oranges, not comparing real “turnaround” in the existing population of students.
Meanwhile, Mass Insight Education has been raking in the money. According to research conducted by EduShyster, a public education blogger with extensive experience in Massachusetts, “In 2009, [Mass Insight] CEO William Guenther reported earning a cool $370,000–for 30 hours per week work. That works out to roughly $237 per hour.”
By 2011, Guenther, the Mass Insight CEO, was making $450,000.
Among its purported services, EduShyster discovered that “Mass Insight has moved into the highly lucrative consulting world, offering helpful tips to public districts and state officials around the country about how to “modify collective bargaining agreements .”
It figures that senior officials in the Malloy administration would hire a pro-charter, anti-union consulting company to advise his administration on how to undermine collective bargaining agreements.
And to further their standing, according to their IRS 990 filings, Mass Insight even engages in lobbying, although their most recent report fails to identify whether their 2012 efforts to support Governor Malloy’s education reform bill counted as lobbying.
But like all good lobbying, it would appear that their government relations expenditures can really pay off.
For example, last month’s check for $123,930.00 could have been spent here in Connecticut, supporting a Connecticut school or it could have retained the services of Connecticut residents, but instead it joined the millions of dollars flowing that are flowing to the corporate education reform industry outside of our state.
In this case, Malloy’s Department of Education is using Connecticut taxpayer funds to pay corporate consultants from Massachusetts, while Connecticut towns are left laying off teachers and reducing vital services.
Let’s hear it for the success of the corporate education-industrial reform movement!
Budget Cuts, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Office of State Ethics, Paul Vallas, Steven Adamowski, Teach for America Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Stevan Adamowski, Teach for America
Yup, the Connecticut Director of Teach for America has submitted an application to open a charter school in Bridgeport.
Nate Snow arrived in Bridgeport in 2007 as a new TFA recruit.
Today he serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and President of the Board of Directors of Excel Bridgeport, Inc., a corporate funded education reform organization that he co-founded with Meghan Lowney, an aide to billionaire, hedge fund owner Steven Mandel.
Excel Bridgeport serves as the primary advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch and “Superintendent of Schools” Paul Vallas’ education reform policies.
After graduating from Texas A&M University, Snow joined TFA and taught for two years in Bridgeport. He then joined TFA’s fundraising operation and then made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Snow and Vallas recently signed a three-year contract between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Teach for America for $777,000, although the contract was never provided to the Board for their review and approval. Team Vallas is claiming he has the authority to sign the contract without Board involvement.
And meanwhile, despite having no experience in school administration, Snow is the lead name on a charter school application that is pending before Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Snow’s proposal is to create a Montessori Charter School for children between the ages of three and thirteen.
As to Snow’s connection to TFA and Excel Bridgeport, a recent CT Post article reported that “The charter school idea, he said, is his own.”
According to their proposal, “Whittier’s Montessori program is inspired by the design and implementation of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School (AFMMS), a high-performing public Montessori school in Hartford, Connecticut. Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School has distinguished itself by meeting high standards of student achievement through a meticulous, fully implemented Montessori program.”
Stephen Adamowski, who according to emails acquired through a Freedom of Information request, worked with Snow around Malloy’s education reform bill, was a strong proponent of Hartford’s Montessori school and now, as Malloy’s Special Master for Windham and New London has been working hard to get Windham to switch one of its elementary schools over to a Montessori school.
In the new Montessori charter school application, the proponents explain how they developed the plan saying, “Prior to preparing for this submission, none of the founders had worked with a Montessori school, but they knew that it was a good brand with an excellent reputation. Starting with a visit to the acclaimed Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, then undertaking conversations with parents who have children in private Montessori school in Fairfield County, and ending with informal consultations with Montessori leaders from around the country, the Founding members became convinced that Montessori should be an option for all children in Bridgeport. Nate Snow contacted the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), located in Hartford, for further information on what was necessary to start a public Montessori school. These discussions led to an eventual contract with NCMPS to assist in school design and to aid in writing the charter application.”
The charter school proposal aims to start with 69 students next fall and reach 209 students in its fifth year. Their budget calls for expending $1.7 million in year one and at least $3.8 million in year five.
While state charter schools get their money primarily from a state grant, Snow and his colleagues are trying to open a “local” charter school, meaning the funds would come mostly from Bridgeport’s school budget, with an extra $3,000 per student coming from a new state “local charter grant” that was part of Malloy’s education reform law. Malloy’s education reform law also included a series of $500,000 “start-up grants” that charter schools could get from the state. Snow and company are counting on getting one of those grants, as well.
In addition, the cost of transportation and special education costs would be paid for by the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Bridgeport is already well into the 60 day local charter review process. The application, if approved, would then go to Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the state Board of Education.
As to the various players behind the proposal, Wait What? readers may recall that starting in January 2011, Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Excel Bridgeport worked to persuade the Connecticut State Board of Education to take over the Bridgeport School System. Over the course of the six months leading up to the State Board of Education’s illegal takeover, Lowney, Snow and Excel Bridgeport engaged in numerous communications with state officials.
Despite their ongoing lobbying, both before and during the illegal takeover and throughout the effort to persuade legislators to support Malloy’s education reform bill, neither Lowney, Snow nor Excel Bridgeport registered to lobby with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, as required by law.
More than two weeks after the end of the 2012 Legislative session, Excel Bridgeport finally filed the required papers, listing Jorge Cabrera as the organization’s lead lobbyist.
Excel Bridgeport, a group initially called the Bridgeport Partnership for School Success, Inc., was created in December 2010 and then changed its name to Excel Bridgeport Inc. in September 2011.
According to its incorporation papers, Meghan Lowney, the Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation, (the personal foundation of Fairfield County billionaire Stephen Mandel), was registered as Excel Bridgeport, Inc.’s founding president and Nathan Snow, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Teach for America Chapter served as the organization’s founding vice president.
Snow then took over the role as Excel’s president. A board was also created made up of Jonathan Hayes (Executive, Meetinghouse Productions), Joel Green (Partner, Green & Gross, PC), Robert Francis (Executive Director, RYASAP), Carl Horton, Jr. (Consultant, Accenture), Scott Hughes (City Librarian, Bridgeport Public Library), Meghan Lowney (Executive Director, ZOOM Foundation) and Joseph McGee (Vice President, Fairfield County Business Council). Like Snow, Francis, the Executive Director of RYASAP, also has a contract with the Bridgeport Board of Education.
As of now, Lowney and Snow have still not registered to lobby despite their ongoing efforts to influence public policy.
Meanwhile, faced with inadequate state resources, and Mayor Finch’s need to come up with $3.2 million more just to meet the state’s minimum local expenditure law, it will be interesting to see if Paul Vallas, the Bridgeport Board of Education and Commissioner Stefan Pryor divert dollars to their colleague Nate Snow and his proposal for a new Montessori charter school.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Budget Cuts, Connecticut General Assembly, Malloy, Retired Teachers, State Budget Budget cuts, Malloy, Retired Teachers
Last month, in a post entitled, Define fiscally and morally irresponsible? Malloy’s plan for older, retired teachers. Wait, What? readers had a chance to learn about Governor Malloy’s budget proposal to eliminate the state’s contribution to the retired teacher’s health insurance fund.
The fund pays a portion of the health insurance premiums of retired teachers. The bulk of the cost still rests on the individual teachers.
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will be holding a public hearing on Malloy’s proposal tomorrow.
Malloy’s plan would force the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Board to spend the existing fund down to almost zero over the next two years.
According to an article in yesterday’s CTMirror, while Malloy’s plan would “save the state” $70.7 million in the upcoming FY14-FY15 biannual budget, but it would “put the plan’s funding at a ‘dangerous level in two years.”
Why take such a fiscally irresponsible action you ask?
Because eliminating the contribution would make the state budget look more balanced during the next gubernatorial election cycle, although the “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach would require a massive boost in the state contribution to the teacher’s retirement fund in FY 16, the year after the next election. More
Bridgeport, Budget Cuts, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
With only three months left in the school year, yesterday started with the news that Mayor Bill Finch was reneging on his promise and cutting the Bridgeport school budget by $4.4 million dollars. By the end of the day, the size of the cut was reduced to $1.1 million.
And according to a report in the CT Post, after the dust settled from all the meetings, Bridgeport’s $234,000, part-time, Acting Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas, “told the Board of Education that, he is not upset because his main concern is the bottom line and the city’s deal makes the district “whole.”
The CT Post further reports that; “City officials, meanwhile, said Monday they were not shortchanging the district at all.”
“As the mayor had promised, we are absolutely continuing the $5 million in support to the Board of Education in the current fiscal year,” said City Budget Director Thomas Sherwood in a statement.
“There is no cut,” said Elaine K. Ficarra, Mayor Bill Finch’s director of communication.”
The comments, taken together, assure Bridgeport students, parents, teachers and taxpayers that while Mayor Finch successfully reduced the school budget, it was not cut, and the bottom line is that the Bridgeport’s school budget is “whole.”
The paper is reporting that while the Mayor and City Council are cutting the city’s appropriation to the Bridgeport schools by $1.1 million, Vallas told the school board that, “the district will be allowed to pay employee medical expenses out of an internal service fund for the rest of the year. The move would cut district expenses by as much as $1.9 million.”
Last April, Finch proposed increasing Bridgeport’s financial contribution to its schools by $7 million. Finch called it an historic investment. The Bridgeport City Council then cut that proposal to $5 million. Meanwhile, the Connecticut General Assembly modified the Education Cost Sharing Formula, which translated into an increase in $4.4 million for Bridgeport. The additional $5 million from the city and the $4.4 million from the state were highlighted in every financial document Vallas provided the Board of Education and posted on the Board of Education’s website.
The additional ECS funds were contingent on Alliance Districts meeting certain criteria and the State, only recently, released the $4.4 million to Bridgeport.
After speaking with Finch Administration officials, the CT Post explained the situation by writing;
“Normally, state Education Cost Sharing funds flow through the city’s general fund. This year, $4.4 million in new ECS funds went directly to the district after the city had already forwarded the same amount of money to the district…In essence, the board got paid twice and the council was rectifying a $4.4 million mistake.”
Of course, the notion that, “In essence, the board got paid twice” is utter nonsense.
But by the end of the night, Vallas was reporting that all was well because, as he put it, “in a nutshell, I am north of $9.4 million.”
So the upshot is that Mayor Finch and his Administration are claiming that they cut the Bridgeport School budget but it won’t reduce funding for the schools.
You can read the full article CT Post article at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/School-board-told-city-paying-3-9M-not-5M-4365102.php
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Healthcare, Human Services, Malloy, Mental Health Services, State Budget, State Deficit Budget cuts, Economic Development, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Pick up any newspaper and you are bound to see at least one story about the impact of budget cuts and another about how state governments are giving money away to private companies in an attempt to convince them to create or retain jobs.
It is quite a commentary about our times. A lack of adequate funding means people who work for schools, hospitals and nonprofit providers of human services are or will be losing their jobs, while taxpayer continue to provide the money that is being used to try and persuade businesses to pledge that they will create or keep private sector jobs.
True, it may not be the notoriety that we want, but you certainly can’t say that Connecticut hasn’t become the epitome of this paradox.
For example, earlier this week, Wait What? readers were provided an opportunity to read two posts, one entitled Has it come to this…? and another entitled And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery.
The first post reported on a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece by a father lamenting Governor Malloy’s cut to essential programs that help Connecticut’s developmentally disabled residents while the second was about the Governor’s visit to a brew pub in Stamford to celebrate a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant that the Malloy Administration was giving to help the brew pub expand.
The two stories served to enlighten readers about the reality of our times or the juxtaposition between an era where we are cutting vital services while providing private companies with what some would call economic development incentives and what others would refer to as corporate welfare.
What I failed to report was that, in addition to the brew pub, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Catherine Smith, were actually visiting three other companies around the state that day. All four of the companies were receiving funds thanks to the State’s Small Business Express Program (EXP).
Over the past eighteen months, the Small Business Express Program has given out more than $80 million. According to state officials, the program has helped “create and retain more than 7,600 jobs.” The Legislature will soon be voting to give the Governor an additional $60 million for this program.
In addition to Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, Malloy was visiting Atlantic Canvas and Awning (a company that received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000); Automotive Core Recycling (a company that recycles and sells catalytic converters and other auto parts and received a $250,000 loan) and Katalina’s (a cup cake bakery that received a loan of $30,000 to add equipment and furnishings to their new retail shop).
According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, the $50,000 loan and $10,000 grant “support the creation of three new jobs and retained four,” the $250,000 loan translated into one new position and retained 8 jobs, while the $30,000 loan to the bakery “created one full time job and retained two full time and two part time jobs.”
The Governor’s press release that day announced that the Small Business Express Program has already created or retained more than 1400 jobs in 2013.
Meanwhile that distraught and frustrated father, along with the others who care for Connecticut’s developmentally disabled, try to cope with Governor Malloy’s $6 million cut to employment and day service programs.
Actually, that $6 million cut was part of a much bigger list of cuts Governor Malloy ordered last November 28, 2012. That day, back in November, Governor Malloy announced $170 million in budget rescissions.
The press release didn’t actually quote Governor Malloy. Instead the task of explaining the cuts was left to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director. Barnes wrote, “Many of these cuts are very difficult to make, especially now when so many residents continue to struggle in a tough economy, But as painful as they are, cuts are necessary to keep this year’s budget in balance. State government needs to live within its means.”
The November list included a wide variety of reductions including a $53,000 cut to the Division of Criminal Justice’s Shooting Task Force; a $200,000 cut to the Jobs First Employment Service Program, a $488,000 cut to the state’s Environmental Quality Program; a $335,000 cut to the Department of Health’s Community Health Services Program and $41,000 cut to their Genetic Diseases Program; a $433,000 cut to the state’s Community Mental Health Centers, a $2.3 million cut to home care services that keep people out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals and the list goes on and on.
More recently, the state budget plan that Governor Malloy proposed a month ago continued those cuts. In fact, his new budget makes even deeper cuts to a variety of vital and essential services.
So how is it possible that a Governor would be instituting record budget cuts while giving away record amounts of taxpayer funds to private businesses?
Truth be told, it is the difference between how the State operating budget works compared to the way the State Capital or Bond budget functions.
Even in the desperate times, the Capital budget continues to pump out cash.
The State’s operating budget is paid for with tax dollars. The State’s Capital Budget is funded via the state’s credit card.
Because we are borrowing the money and then paying the amount (plus interest) back over twenty years, the argument is that cutting the Capital Budget won’t help to balance this year’s operating budget. This year’s operating budget is still facing a $135 million plus deficit despite the terrible cuts instituted by the Governor and the additional cuts approved by the General Assembly.
Although Connecticut already has the highest per capita debt burden in the nation, since the word “deficit” applies to the operating budget and not the Capital Budget, we end up with a situation in which vital services are cut at the same time money is being handed out.
In fact, if Governor Malloy gets his way, we’ll see more cuts to essential services and more layoffs of hospital and human service workers in the coming months, and at the same time, the General Assembly will be allocating even more money for the Governor to hand out to the private sector.
Budget Cuts, Corporate Welfare, Malloy Budget cuts, Corporate Welfare, Malloy
In a tribute to modern American politics, while Sunday’s newspaper featured the article by the father of the 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter who wrote, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”; the Monday paper featured a photo-op of Governor Dannel Malloy in his hometown of Stamford celebrating a grant for $100,000 to the Half Full Brewery.
Thanks to Malloy’s $100 million Small Business Express Program, in which the state borrowed $100 million to give away operating grants to various businesses, the Stamford beer pub got a helping hand from Connecticut’s taxpayers.
Billed as a way to provide “working capital” to small business, the program effectively picks winners and losers, all funded at taxpayer expense.
While supporting small business is probably a better economic development strategy then giving away tens of millions to corporate giants, the actual benefit of many of the grants remains doubtful.
With the legislation approved in October 2011, the Malloy administration has funded 598 applications to the tune of about $80 million.
Despite the record budget cuts included in his new budget, the Governor is proposing to borrow another $60 million for the corporate welfare program. While the Stamford brew pub is undoubtedly appreciative of the $100,000 gift, there was no word from the state’s other small beer manufactures (23 of them) or the state’s hard cider manufactures (8 of them) or the state’s apple brandy manufacturers (3 of them) or the state’s liquor manufactures (12 of them).
You can catch the story and a picture of Malloy at the beer tasting at: http://stamford.dailyvoice.com/business/gov-dannel-malloy-gets-taste-stamford-brewery
Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes Budget cuts, General Assembly, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes
Over the weekend, there was a heart-wrenching commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that was written by the father of a 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter.
His daughter’s name is Katie and he wrote, “She lives at home with my wife, Donna and me. She is the love of our lives and we embrace the gifts she brings to us and to all who know her.”
His piece was entitled, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”
Katie’s father reported that “Last November, the governor exercised his rescission authority and, without notice, reduced funding for people with disabilities who receive residential and day services. Making these cuts permanent, as proposed, delivers a body blow to vital assistance Katie receives from the Department of Developmental Services through organizations such as HARC. The latter is a long-respected family organization that provides critical services for people like Katie. It was founded by parents like me as a self-help group, at a time when institutionalization was the only choice for help. The splendid people at both these agencies are a blessed lifeline for my daughter and others.”
While every Connecticut resident, and especially every elected official should read the full article, it is easy to understand his core message.
There are useful state services, there are important state services, there are vital state services and then there are essential state services.
The services that Katie and her family receive are truly essential.
These services are essential, not only because we hold ourselves out to be a humane and caring society, but because the cost of respite and day services allow thousands of our fellow citizens to live at home rather than in far more costly institutions.
These are services that government provides because it is the right thing to do.
There are also services that when cut define the notion of being pennywise and pound foolish.
No governor, Democrat or Republican should have cut those services, but Governor Malloy did.
No Legislature, Democrat or Republican should have allowed those cuts to go forward, but Connecticut’s legislature did.
Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions and debates about appropriate levels of taxes and services, but a stunning large number of the cuts in Governor Malloy’s rescission package and the deficit mitigation package that he proposed and the legislature passed with bi-partisan support were not reasonable.
Those cuts passed because few legislators took the time to study the package and fewer still had the courage to stand up and say no to this governor.
Over the next 90 days the Connecticut General Assembly will be reviewing Malloy’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.
There is truly no excuse for aspects of what Malloy has proposed and even fewer excuses for the legislature to accept them.
Take a moment to read this father’s piece and know that it is just one example of budget cuts that have been made or are being contemplated that leave some of our most vulnerable fellow residents without the help and support they so deeply need and deserve.
Government officials will only respond when they know that their constituents will hold them accountable for their actions.
It is essential that our elected officials understand that that is exactly what we are going to do.
You can read the commentary piece at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-duffy-who-will-care-for-katie-0303-20130301,0,7996231.story
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, New Haven, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, New Haven, Stefan Pryor
It might be difficult economic times here in Connecticut. Taxes going up, vital services being cut, but low and behold, public funds are flowing ever faster into Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
Not only is Commissioner Pryor overseeing the process that is allowing Achievement First to expand its schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, but he is playing the pivotal role in the approval process for new taxpayer-funded charter schools in Connecticut.
The net result is that Achievement First is the fastest growing charter school entity in the state.
Now comes news of even more public funds and support for the company that Pryor helped build as one of its original directors.
The application deadline is quickly approaching for the new Achievement First Residency Program for School Leadership.
The “best and brightest” teachers from Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford Public Schools are being asked to participate.
According to the program’s recruitment materials, “This full-time, paid residency opportunity will allow talented education reformers to learn and leverage some of the country’s most effective practices to drive breakthrough student achievement.”
Participants will complete two residencies over the course of one academic year, “first at a high-performing Achievement First school and then at a district school with a high-impact principal.”
“Residents will be mentored by an outstanding principal at each school, given specific leadership responsibilities, and provided with focused feedback on their growth and development. Residents will simultaneously receive structured professional development and guidance on change implementation strategy from amazing practitioners.”
The material goes on to claim, “Following the residency year, the intention is to deem Residency Program graduates who meet program requirements and competency standards as placement-ready assistant principals (APs) or principals.”
Despite the unprecedented financial crisis, participants will receive full salary and benefits. In fact, the participants will continue to be employees of the local schools systems so they will continue to retain all district benefits and have a job to fall back on if they aren’t deemed an appropriate fit for promotion.
Professional development programs are hardly unique and are generally very valuable, but in this case, the program is being developed and run through an exclusive district/charter school management agreement that will serve as the one year alternative route to certification for people to become school administrators.
The whole approach is a statement about how Achievement First, Pryor and the other reformers look down on all that “extra” academic training that regular administrators are supposed to be getting before running our schools.
Call this the FAST TRACK to become an education reform school administrator.
The whole notion of diverting the best teachers away from the classroom and into charter school-run “training,” at a time when there aren’t enough staff to even maintain existing programs, let alone enhance efforts to promote quality educational programs, is a farce.
The program is little more than a publicly-funded effort to create a pipeline to recruit and train charter school administrators, paid for by taxpayers of Connecticut and its three poorest cities.
And who is the biggest beneficiary of all?
Who is collecting the funds? Who is coordinating the effort? Who will be siphoning off the graduates?
Achievement First, Inc., the very charter school management company that Stefan Pryor helped to create and lead for the eight years before he became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
And we wonder why taxpayers are sick and tired of paying more and getting less.
Budget Cuts, Ethics, Freedom of Information, Lottery Corporation, Malloy Lottery Corporation, Malloy, State Budget
State fiscal crisis?
What state fiscal crisis?
At 11:30 am today, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s Personnel Committee will meet.
The agenda begins with an executive session to review a “Draft Management Compensation Report.” They will then return from executive session and are scheduled to vote on the meeting’s one agenda item – The Management Compensation Report
Then at 1:00 pm, the full board of directors of the Lottery Corporation will meet.
Agenda Item IV: Executive Session. Topic: “Review of Draft Management Compensation Report.”
Return to open meeting, Agenda Item VI. New Business: “Review and Possible Action: Management Compensation Report.”
Of course, since the Management Compensation Report is presently in “DRAFT” form, the public entity won’t release the document until it is finalized.
Thus, anyone wishing to see the report would need to attend the meeting; wait for the personnel committee’s executive session to conclude and then read it quickly before the vote is taken.
Interestingly, today’s action might come as a surprise to those who are even paying attention to these things considering that at their December 5th meeting, the public was told that “Management continues to work on a compensation study, utilizing KardasLarson as a consultant…The [Personnel] Committee is assessing the data and findings. Management expects the project work to be finalized in the spring.”
Readers may recall that it was only last October that a headline in the Journal Inquirer caught people’s attention with “Top executives, already making six-figure salaries, given hefty bonuses.”
On October 19, 2012, the JI’s Don Michak wrote, “The Connecticut Lottery Corp. has dished out more than $170,000 in cash bonuses to 17 top executives and managers including 10 officials already paid more than $100,000 annually, the quasi-public agency’s records show…The payments in addition to the officials annual salaries ranged from a 6.7 percent bonus for the general counsel the corporation hired last November to a 10 percent bonus for its president and chief executive officer. Most fell between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent.”
Although the Lottery Commission’s Board of Directors voted for the “incentive payments” at their September meeting it took a freedom-of-information request by the Journal Inquirer before the Lottery released the details of the bonus program.
At the time, the vice chairman of the lottery corporation’s board of directors and head of its personnel committee, told the JI that the bonuses were deserved, saying, “This is pay-for-performance…”
The Connecticut Lottery Board is made up of 13 members, 11 appointees of various elected officials and two state office holders. The State Treasurer and the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management serve as ex-officio members of the board of directors. The Governor appoints 5 members, the remaining six are appointed by legislative leaders. Anne Noble, Governor Rell’s former Chief Legal Counsel has been serving as the president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation for five years.
All revenue, after paying for game prizes, retailer commissions, and operational and administrative costs are transferred to the Connecticut General Fund on a weekly basis. In fiscal year 2010, the Lottery transferred $285.5 million and in fiscal year 2011, $289.3 million was transferred.
While we won’t know until later what the new management compensation plan will look like, we can be pretty sure, considering their previous actions; the management team will be enjoying enhanced compensation packages in the very near future.
Hopefully some reporters will be at the meeting and cover the story.
Check back later for more details.