Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting

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The uncomfortable truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and key members of the Connecticut General Assembly continue to side with the Corporate Education Reform Industry rather than with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

The most recent indicator of the warped approach being taken by Connecticut’s “political leaders” was the outrageously inappropriate and misleading memo that was sent out this week by Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

The Education Commissioner’s directive sought to further harass and scare Connecticut parents into falsely believing that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

See: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

The question that arises over and over again is why Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials are engaged in their ongoing effort to undermine and privatize public education in Connecticut, denigrate teachers and turn our public schools into little more than taxpayer funded testing factories.

The answer, sadly, is rather simple…

The Corporate Education Reform Industry has spent a record-breaking $6,767,957 plus in support of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” agenda – – – An Agenda that includes forcing the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme on Connecticut’s public schools while cutting taxpayer support for public education and increasing public funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.

Since Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” agenda, the charter school industry and the corporate funded “education reform” advocacy groups have hired dozens of lobbyists and spent nearly $7 million, or more, to “persuade” Connecticut officials to adopt policies that are diametrically opposed to what is in the best interests of Connecticut students, parents, teachers and public school system.

Corporate funded and affiliated groups like Achievement First, Inc.; A Better Connecticut; Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy; StudentsFirst/GENEPSA (Michelle Rhee); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.; Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); North East Charter Schools Network ; Bronx Charter School of Excellence; Students for Education Reform; Educators 4 Excellence; Excel Bridgeport, Inc.; Achieve Hartford, Inc. and  their newest front group, the Coalition for Every Child, are pumping more and more money into lobbying and advertising programs.

This year, more than two dozen paid lobbyists are running around the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building working to divert more money to charter schools, while supporting the Common Core SBAC testing scam and other “education reform” agenda items.

According to the latest filings with State Ethics Commission, Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars on lobbying during this legislative session.  These groups are dropping millions more on advertising.

Connecticut’s Parents, teachers, public education supporters and taxpayers deserve better from their elected officials but Governor Malloy has made his position clear.

Malloy has said he is “staying the course” on his “education reform” agenda even if his education policies “aren’t popular.”

But what about state legislators?

Will the members of the State Senate and House of Representatives continue to turn their backs on the people who elected them?

The answer will come in the coming weeks, along with even more spending on lobbying and public relations by the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

The following chart reveals just how much money has been spent to push through Governor Malloy’s anti-public school, anti-teacher and anti-parent agenda.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,731,504
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $1,113,587
   
A Better Connecticut $2,326,391
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $911,950
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $292,684
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $277,987
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,954
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $62,900
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.Note:  Does not count the recent multi-million dollar television advertising campaign that Families for Excellent Schools failed to report, despite state laws requiring full disclosure $35,000
EDUCATION REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES as of 2/1/2015 $6,767,957

Legislative Champions starting to step forward in Connecticut

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In response to the growing public concern about the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme, and the inappropriate and unfair use of standardized test scores when evaluating Connecticut’s public school teachers, a growing number of state representatives and state senators are stepping forward and introducing legislation that would stop, or at least slow down, the damaging Corporate Education Reform Industry’s agenda that is undermining public education in Connecticut.

Congratulations are in order for every one of these elected officials since, in virtually every situation, their legislative proposals are challenging the policies that have been promoted by Governor Dannel Malloy and his pro-education reform administration.

It is interesting to note that most of these important bills have been proposed by Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly, but an increasing number of Democratic legislators are standing up and speaking out in favor of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Special credit goes out to State Representative Melissa Ziobron, who represents the 34th House District which includes East Hampton, East Haddam, and a part of Colchester.

Representative Ziobron, who is in her second term, has become one of the most outspoken proponents of public education.

As a former member of a Board of Education she witnessed the growing negative consequences of the “No Child Left Behind Act” and the “Race to the Top Initiative,” especially in the standardized testing nightmare that is now driving public education in the country.

As a parent and legislator, she used her first term to study the real issues associated with the Common Core, its testing system and the impact of unfunded mandates on public education.

While recognizing that public education continues to face major challenges and problems that must be addressed, Representative Ziobron has become an advocate for parents who wish to opt their children out of the Common Core tests and for policies that support, not undermine, the role of parents, teachers, and local citizens in how their local schools should be run.

As for legislation now before the General Assembly, the following is an initial list of pro-public education bills that have been introduced so far this session.

A review of the list of sponsors highlights the fact that more and more legislators are responding to the demand that legislative action is needed to protect and support our public schools.

This list of bills will be updated as additional pieces of legislation are identified.  Readers can learn more about these bills and identify when action on them is taking place by going to the Connecticut General Assembly’s bill-tracking website:  http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgasearches.asp

 

Proposed legislation on the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) System;

HB 5398 – AN ACT CONCERNING PARENTAL OPT OUT OF STATE-WIDE EXAMINATIONS FOR STUDENTS; Purpose: To allow the parent or guardian of a student to opt their child out of taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Sponsor: Rep. Ziobron,

HB 6422 – AN ACT REPEALING THE REQUIREMENT THAT STUDENTS IN GRADE ELEVEN TAKE THE SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENTS; Purpose: To repeal the requirement that students in grade eleven take the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Sponsors: Rep. Ziobron, Rep. Kokoruda,

 

Proposed legislation to slow down or push back against the Common Core;

HB 5137 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE CREATION OF A DATABASE TO COLLECT INFORMATION RELATING TO COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS IMPLEMENTATION; Purpose: To create a database to track funds being used to implement the common core state standards. Sponsor: Rep. Ziobron

HB 5680 – AN ACT CONCERNING A STUDY EVALUATING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS.  Purpose: To conduct a study of the effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards to help policymakers evaluate whether and to what extent the Common Core State Standards are working or should be modified.   Sponsors: Rep. MacLachlan, Rep. Carney

SB 785 – AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS CURRICULUM. Purpose: To allow for necessary changes to the Common Core State Standards.  Sponsors: Sen. Markley

SB 344 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE PHASE IN OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS AND SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT; Purpose: To phase in the common core state standards and Smarter Balanced assessments in the public schools.  Sponsors: Sen. Boucher

HB 5544 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROVISION OF CURRICULUM MATERIALS RELATING TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND TEACHERS. HB 5544 Purpose: To support school districts and teachers by supplying them with materials necessary to teach the Common Core State Standards. Sponsors: Rep. Yaccarino

 

Proposed legislation to protect student data from the Common Core Testing Companies

SB 786 – AN ACT PROHIBITING THE DISCLOSURE OF PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE STUDENT INFORMATION. Purpose: To prevent the disclosure of student information. Sponsor: Sen. Markley

Proposed legislation requiring an appropriate teacher evaluation program THAT DOES NOT INAPPROPRIATELY utilize standardized test scores.

HB 5400 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROHIBITION OF THE USE OF STUDENT MASTERY TEST RESULTS IN TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS. Purpose: To prohibit the use of students’ mastery test results in an individual teacher’s performance evaluation.     Sponsor: Rep. Ziobron

HB 5138 – AN ACT PROHIBITING THE USE OF STUDENT MASTERY TEST RESULTS IN TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS. Purpose: To prohibit the use of students’ mastery test results in an individual teacher’s performance evaluation.      Sponsors: Rep. Srinivasan, Sen. Witkos

HB 5681 -AN ACT REPEALING THE REQUIREMENT THAT TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS INCLUDE STUDENT MASTERY TEST RESULTS; Purpose: To uncouple students’ test results on the Smarter Balanced Assessment from a teacher’s performance evaluation. Sponsors: Rep. Candelora, Rep. Fritz

HB 5987 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN ELL STUDENT TEST SCORES AS PART OF TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS AND SCHOOL DISTRICT PERFORMANCE MEASURES. Purpose: To limit the use of certain ELL student performance data in teacher performance evaluations and school district performance measures.    Sponsors: Rep. Candelaria, Sen. Boucher, Rep. Johnson, S. 049

Proposed legislation holding Charter Schools accountable:

HB 6003 – AN ACT CONCERNING A MORATORIUM ON NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS AND A REVIEW OF EXISTING CHARTER SCHOOLS.  Purpose: To place a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools by the Commissioner of Education require the Department of Education to conduct a review of existing charter schools. Sponsors Rep. Vargas, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Johnson, et. al.

HB 6532 – AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOL TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND PERFORMANCE. Purpose:  To improve charter school transparency, accountability and performance. Sponsor: Rep Rojas

Insurance Executives Win; Citizens and Mental Health Advocates Lose

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At the end of May, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they are actually providing Connecticut residents.

The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee.  While insurance companies already report some utilization data, the Committee’s investigation determined that companies were not providing the information necessary for policymakers to determine whether patients were getting the substance abuse treatment and mental health services that they need and deserve.

Considering that the cost of appropriate substance abuse treatment and mental health services is far cheaper and more effective than dealing with the resulting emergency room visits, potential suicide attempts, violence and incarceration that can result from inadequate treatment, the bill was extremely appropriate.

With strong support from Democrats and Republicans, the legislation passed the Program Review and Investigation Committee 11 – 0, the Insurance Committee 15 – 2, the Connecticut State Senate 35 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 143 – 0.

But then, in an apparent gift to insurance executives, who have been extremely generous to Malloy’s political fundraising efforts, the Governor reversed course and vetoed the bill.

Now, according to House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, the Democratic-controlled legislature will not override any of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s vetoes, including the important substance abuse and mental health bill.

The General Assembly’s decision to simply give in and give up the fight to ensure a better and fairer health insurance system for Connecticut is a sad one.

As the CT Mirror reported at the time Malloy vetoed the bill,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vetoed a bill opposed by the insurance industry that would have required carriers to report information about the substance abuse treatment they have covered and their networks of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.

Malloy said he supported the objective of the measure, which was intended to increase the amount of information available about substance abuse treatment and coverage, but was concerned that it could lead to inaccurate information being gathered.

Malloy took issue with that last requirement, saying in his veto message that it’s unusual for state law to require private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives,” and that he worried about the precedent it could set.

In defense of his veto, Governor Malloy actually said that he is opposed to requiring private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.”

Malloy’s statement is absolutely absurd considering that private businesses that are engaged in public purposes MUST regularly “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.”  Just ask the electric companies, the water companies and all the other private entities that serve the public good.

Insurance companies that provide health insurance to Connecticut residents must be held accountable for their actions and the bill Malloy vetoed would have done exactly that.

As Jeffrey Walter, the president of the Rushford Center and an expert on substance abuse treatment, explained in his testimony in favor of the legislation,

“The legislation might not be necessary were it not for the fact that behavioral health is treated differently by the insurance industry than virtually any other health care specialty….care for psychiatric and substance use disorders [are] denied at a rate that far surpasses my other part of the health care system.”

The Connecticut Psychological Association added,

“The provisions…increase transparency related to coverage decisions and complaints, which will facilitate evaluation of the review process, including compliance with federal parity law, which requires equal treatment of medical and behavioral health providers and conditions, as well as network adequacy.”

And Connecticut’s State Health Care Advocate, Victoria Veltri, explained,

“Expanding the data that insurers report to the Insurance Department concerning member utilization of services for the treatment of substance use, co-occurring and mental health disorders will provide additional needed clarity to the issues concerning consumer access to treatment for these conditions.”

Malloy was wrong to veto this bill and the Connecticut General Assembly is failing to do its job by refusing to even consider overriding Malloy’s veto.

You can read more about the bill in this CT Mirror story: http://ctmirror.org/malloy-vetos-substance-abuse-treatment-bill-opposed-by-insurance-industry/?hvid=4ILvLG

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Important Wait, What? weekend stories you might have missed

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Define fiscal irresponsibility….

While most Connecticut residents feel a growing unease about the Malloy administration’s irresponsible and underhanded approach to state budgeting, I’m often asked to give specific examples of how Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has handled the Connecticut budget during his term in office.

Long-time readers may remember this one, but here is a prime example for readers who are newer to Wait, What?

In January 2010 there was a tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a young Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.

As politicians are wont to do, state legislators kicked into action, and on May 1, 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 10-83.  The new law created a special protected trust account called the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a program to use the funds to help Connecticut school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175 and directed that $50 of each license restoration payment be deposited into the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Now fast forward two and a half years…

Governor Malloy had been in office for two years and none of the $4.7 million collected for school seat belts had been spent.

And then, rather than using the money for its intended purpose…

We witnessed the following;

As part of the December 2012 “deficit mitigation bill” Governor Malloy and the legislature included language that overrode the existing law and quietly transferred $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt Account into the General Fund to help eliminate the projected FY 2013 $415 million deficit.

Gone was the money for school seat belts.

For more go to:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/05/31/define-fiscal-irresponsibility/

 

Does it really only cost $30,000 to get Governor Malloy to veto a good bill?

Over the past few months Governor Malloy and his political operatives have raised more than $30,000 from major insurance companies and their corporate executives.  The funds were deposited into the special Democratic State Central Committee account that will be used to augment the $6.2 million that Malloy will be getting from the State’s public financing system.

Then late last week Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they were actually providing Connecticut residents.

The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee, a committee I chaired in 1993 during the last year I served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

The Program Review and Investigation is the only committee charged with fully investigating major public policy issues and developing comprehensive solutions.

In this case, the committee produced a comprehensive report entitled, “Access to Substance Use Treatment for Privately and Publicly Insured Youth.”  Phase I of the report, and its corresponding legislative initiatives, was adopted on December 18, 2012.  Phase II of the report was adopted on June 7, 2013.

This past legislative session, one of the legislative proposals arising out of the report, was introduced in the form of House Bill 5373, An Act Concerning the Reporting of Certain Data by Managed Care Organizations and Health Insurance Companies to the Insurance Department.

The bill was a common sense, first step toward ensuring insurance companies actually pay the bills they are supposed to be paying.

More at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/06/01/really-cost-30000-get-governor-malloy-veto-good-bill/

 

And then this one…Will the Working Families Party stand up for working families in this year’s election

Does it really only cost $30,000 to get Governor Malloy to veto a good bill?

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(Correction:  Please note the $30,000 figure used in this article is donations form all insurance companies.  However, a re-review of the campaign finance data reveals the actual amount insurance companies gave the Connecticut Democrats’ federal account was in excess of $40,000)

Over the past few months Governor Malloy and his political operatives have raised more than $30,000 from major insurance companies and their corporate executives.  The funds were deposited into the special Democratic State Central Committee account that will be used to augment the $6.2 million that Malloy will be getting from the State’s public financing system.

Then late last week Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they were actually providing Connecticut residents.

The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee, a committee I chaired in 1993 during the last year I served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

The Program Review and Investigation is the only committee charged with fully investigating major public policy issues and developing comprehensive solutions.

In this case, the committee produced a comprehensive report entitled, “Access to Substance Use Treatment for Privately and Publicly Insured Youth.”  Phase I of the report, and its corresponding legislative initiatives, was adopted on December 18, 2012.  Phase II of the report was adopted on June 7, 2013.

This past legislative session, one of the legislative proposals arising out of the report, was introduced in the form of House Bill 5373, An Act Concerning the Reporting of Certain Data by Managed Care Organizations and Health Insurance Companies to the Insurance Department.

The bill was a common sense, first step toward ensuring insurance companies actually pay the bills they are supposed to be paying.

Jeffrey Walter is an expert on substance abuse issues and the president of the Rushford Center, one of the Connecticut’s leading private, non-profit behavior health providers.  In his testimony in favor of the legislation, Walter said,

“The legislation might not be necessary were it not for the fact that behavioral health is treated differently by the insurance industry than virtually any other health care specialty….care for psychiatric and substance use disorders [are] denied at a rate that far surpasses my other part of the health care system.”

The Connecticut Psychological Association testified,

“The provisions…increase transparency related to coverage decisions and complains, which will facilitate evaluation of the review process, including compliance with federal parity law, which requires equal treatment of medical and behavioral health providers and conditions, as well as network adequacy.”

Connecticut’s State Health Care Advocate, Victoria Veltri, concluded,

“Expanding the data that insurers report to the Insurance Department concerning member utilization of services for the treatment of substance use, co-occurring and mental health disorders will provide additional needed clarity to the issues concerning consumer access to treatment for these conditions.

And the Connecticut Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry explained,

“We believe that transparency will best serve the public and private sectors while, most importantly, serving our children and families with quality service options.”

Malloy’s Department of Insurance DID NOT take a position on the bill, although the lobbyists representing the insurance industry opposed the bill claiming that reporting the required data would be a burden.

Legislators across the political spectrum dismissed the insurance industry’s claim.

The Program Review and Investigation Committee approved the bill 11 – 0.

The legislature’s Insurance Committee, which generally supports the insurance industry, approved the bill 15 – 2.

The Connecticut State Senate approved the bill 35 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 143 – 0 in favor of the bill.

As the CT Mirror reported last week,

The bill would have required insurers to report information on substance abuse treatment coverage to the Connecticut Insurance Department, for inclusion in the department’s annual consumer report card on health insurance carriers. The insurers would have been required to report information including:

  • The estimated number and percentage of members who get treatment for a substance use disorder and the level of care provided
  • The median length of covered treatment
  • Claims expenses
  • The number of in-network providers who offer substance use disorder treatment and percentage accepting new patients
  • The number of providers and facilities that treat mental health and substance use disorders and sought to join the carrier’s network, were accepted or stopped participating in the network
  • Factors that might negatively impact members’ access to treatment for substance use disorders, including screening procedures, the supply of health care providers, limited capacity among treatment providers and reimbursement rates.

But the CT Mirror added,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vetoed a bill opposed by the insurance industry that would have required carriers to report information about the substance abuse treatment they have covered and their networks of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.

Malloy said he supported the objective of the measure, which was intended to increase the amount of information available about substance abuse treatment and coverage, but was concerned that it could lead to inaccurate information being gathered.

Malloy took issue with that last requirement, saying in his veto message that it’s unusual for state law to require private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives,” and that he worried about the precedent it could set.

Wait, What? —- Governor Malloy said he is opposed to requiring private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.”

But of course Malloy knows, as does every other public official, that the insurance industry and every other state regulated industry is required to report significant amounts of information that is designed to allow public officials and public agencies to “achieve public policy objectives.”

That is the very reason that certain industries are regulated.

But in this case, Malloy vetoed an important bill that was primarily designed to help improve access to substance use treatment for privately and publicly insured youth because he said it would require the insurance industry to require private entities to “report on activities to achieve public policy objectives.”

Come on…

One would think that along with the $30,000 in campaign contributions the insurance industry could have, at least, come up with a better sounding explanation rather than urging Governor Malloy to use what is nothing other than an absurd and outright lie.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: http://ctmirror.org/malloy-vetos-substance-abuse-treatment-bill-opposed-by-insurance-industry/?hvid=4ILvLG

Define fiscal irresponsibility….

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While most Connecticut residents feel a growing unease about the Malloy administration’s irresponsible and underhanded approach to state budgeting, I’m often asked to give specific examples of how Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has handled the Connecticut budget during his term in office.

Long-time readers may remember this one, but here is a prime example for readers who are newer to Wait, What?

In January 2010 there was a tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a young Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.

As politicians are wont to do, state legislators kicked into action, and on May 1, 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 10-83.  The new law created a special protected trust account called the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a program to use the funds to help Connecticut school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175 and directed that $50 of each license restoration payment be deposited into the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Now fast forward two and a half years…

Governor Malloy had been in office for two years and none of the $4.7 million collected for school seat belts had been spent.

And then, rather than using the money for its intended purpose…

We witnessed the following;

As part of the December 2012 “deficit mitigation bill” Governor Malloy and the legislature included language that overrode the existing law and quietly transferred $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt Account into the General Fund to help eliminate the projected FY 2013 $415 million deficit.

Gone was the money for school seat belts.

That tragedy was yesterday’s news and no one even spoke out against the inappropriate raid on the School Bus Seat Belt Account.

Just a year later, adding insult to injury, Governor Malloy and his administration were crowing about a projected FY 2014 budget surplus.

But instead of using a portion of that surplus to pay back the $4.7 million taken from the School Bus Seat Belt Account, Malloy used the surplus funds to pad this year’s budget and even promised a series of election-year tax rebates and tax cuts before the fiscal reality facing Connecticut set in and he had to “postpone” those tax cut promises.

The fact is that over and over again, Governor Malloy has claimed that the state and its state budget have benefited from his good management skills.

But if a governor was truly dedicated to good management he or she would never have raided the School Bus Seat Belt Account or, at the very least, would have returned the money when it was clear that the state had the resources to do so.

Oh, and as an aside, when you hear the Republicans claim that they are the party of “fiscal responsibility,” remember that Malloy’s Deficit Reduction Plan passed the State Senate 31-3 and passed the State House of Representatives 140-3.

It was Democrats and Republicans, working together, who stole the money from the School Bus Seat Belt Account and then refused to pay it back when they had the chance.

Out here in the real world, when we talk about the need for leaders who are truly committed to fiscal responsibility, it has become painfully clear that we will have go outside the “incumbency” party to find them.

One more gimmick laden State Budget before the 2014 election for governor

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When Dan Malloy was running for governor in 2010 he wrote,

We have to be committed to getting our fiscal house in order…the current budgeting is a perfect example of irresponsible budgeting…Why?  Because this administration, once again, took the easy way out…the current budget was balanced on phantom cuts and one-time revenues that will not be available for the next budget round…As a result, the people of Connecticut have been sold a lemon.”

Yesterday, May 3, 2014 the Governor, with support from of the Democrats in the General Assembly adopted in irresponsible budget that relies on “phantom cuts and one-time revenues that will not be around for the next budget round.”

Connecticut’s new budget leaves taxpayers with a $1.3 billion dollar deficit for the state budget following this fall’s gubernatorial election.

As the media wrote,

Legislature adopts new CT budget built on risky assumptions (CT Mirror)

Lawmakers Approve Budget That Increases Spending, Gambles On Future Revenue (CT New junkie)

CT Mirror wrote,

The General Assembly adopted a $19 billion budget early Sunday that relies on about $200 million in fund sweeps and risky savings and revenues assumptions to stay in balance – including the last-minute discovery of $75 million in “miscellaneous” tax receipts.

[…]

They noted that nonpartisan fiscal analysts are projecting a $1.33 billion deficit in the first state budget after the election, a gap of nearly 8 percent.

And as for the promised tax break for retired teachers, CT News junkie notes,

The budget scales back the tax relief Malloy planned to offer retired teachers by phasing it in over a period of three years. Under the budget adopted Saturday, 10 percent of the retirement income would be exempt. That exemption increases to 25 percent in 2016 and 50 percent in 2017.

And to balance the new budget, the Governor and General Assembly utilized two particularly extraordinary gimmicks.

  • A new $75 million in revenue that will appear from various miscellaneous taxes
  • And a decision not to pay $51 million into the state employee health care fund to cover the impending retirement of correctional officers.

Last fall and again this spring, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo informed Governor Malloy and his budget office that an additional $51 million would be needed to cover the health benefits of correctional officers that would soon be retiring.  Malloy failed to put the money in this proposed budget.  The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee initially proposed using one-time revenues to cover the costs but those funds disappeared in the final version of the budget that was approved yesterday.  Instead of making the payment, legislative leadership is relying on what they claim is a, “level of comfort that the Office of Policy and Management will be able to meet their obligations to retiree health care.”

At this point, it is also unclear how or if the new budget actually solves the under-funding of Connecticut’s magnet schools.

The bottom line – One more fiscally irresponsible state budget for the Governor who ran on the platform of “responsible budgeting.”

Malloy administration’s farce of a hearing on Common Core

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The development and implementation of the Common Core and its related Common Core testing scam is one of the most important issues facing American public education.

The Common Core was developed in relative secrecy and forced upon the states by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Some of the people who developed the Common Core Standards were even required to sign documents swearing not to speak about the process.

The vehicle used to pull off this education disaster was the National Governors Association and a series of other organizations that were paid by the corporate education reform industry, along with hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds, that were funneled to private consulting companies to “develop” the standards and tests, while pushing their own profit-making efforts to sell more computers, new software, textbooks, and consulting opportunities.

After all, it was media mogul Rupert Murdoch who said that the America’s K-12 public education system was an $500 billion untapped market.

And support for the growing corporate education reform industry came from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In Connecticut, for example, it was Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.  The bill not only passed, but it passed with overwhelming support from both Democratic and Republican legislators.

But after two years, when teacher’s concerns were finally being heard and more and more parents were speaking up, legislative attention returned to this vital issue.

The Democratic leadership decided to hold a sham “informational session” made up of pro-Common Core advocates.  In response, the Republicans, finally seeing the political advantage in speaking up, used a  little utilized parliamentary procedure to force a traditional public hearing on some of their bills related to slowing down the implementation of the Common Core.

The Democrat’s farce hearing took place on Friday, February 28th.

The two most amazing developments were the  lack of media coverage and the Malloy administration’s ability to keep their heads in the sand in the face of the disastrous impact of their policies.

For those who want to feel that emotion that allows one to laugh and cry at the same time you can watch the recording of the hearing by going to CT-N’s video on demand entitled, “Education Committee Informational Forum on Common Core State Standards.”

Warning:  The level of misleading statements and lies is enough to cause dangerous increases in blood pressure.

But equally disturbing is that the sham hearing received such limited media coverage.  In fact, most of Connecticut’s media outlets simply failed to cover it all together thereby leaving Connecticut citizens uniformed about the way in which the Malloy administration and the Democrats are trying to duck this important issue.

The best coverage of the hearing can be found in the Connecticut Post which wrote,

HARTFORD — Defenders of moving ahead with the Common Core learning standards spent four hours Friday explaining the controversial learning program and the test that goes with it before the Legislature’s Education Committee.

The invitation-only forum came after Republicans have forced public hearings on the matter. Those hearings have not yet to be scheduled.

Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, joined by Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which helped draft the standards, told the committee and a large audience that the road to fully implement Common Core in all classrooms may be a rocky one, but the state is headed in the right direction.

[Note: Pryor is a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers.]

The CT Post story includes Commissioner Pryor who said,

“Our youngsters are arriving at college unprepared for college. That is a problem,” he said. “We must aim for higher standards … Common Core goes about the teaching and learning process in the right way.”

[Note:  Connecticut’s schools are incredibly successful.  As a result of poverty, language barriers and insufficient support for students who have special education needs, Connecticut has a significant achievement gap between suburban and urban schools that must be addressed, but to suggest that “our youngsters are arriving at college unprepared” is the statement of a liar or a fool.]

The CT Post highlighted the rhetoric coming from the Council of Chief State School Officers and other groups that are being paid to sell the Common Core and the Common Core testing adding,

Minnich, who has been traveling the country in defense of the standards — Thursday he was in Missouri — said none of the 45 states that have signed onto the standards were forced to do so, and 73 percent of teachers support a more challenging curriculum.

“It is surprising to me that it is controversial,” he said.

The new standards, adopted in Connecticut in 2010 and now being fully implemented across the state, teach reading and math in a deeper way and in a different order than in the past. Most districts in the state have agreed to try out the new test that goes along with the standards this spring instead of the traditional Connecticut Mastery Test.

Results of the new test won’t “count”; still many are fearful that students, teachers and schools have not had enough time and training in the new system and will be labeled as failures when students perform poorly on the test. They also said time was being wasted.

Pryor said the “test of the test” is required under federal law. He also argued that the standards are not a curriculum and do not dictate what needs to be taught in the classroom.

“But how flexible is Common Core if there is a test tied to it?” state Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, asked.

Minnich said the standards merely say, for instance, that third-graders will learn about multiplication and division and gain an understanding of fractions. How that is taught is up to the teacher.

Minnich maintained states ARE not under pressure to adopt the standards.

States that didn’t adopt the standards could not win federal Race to the Top dollars, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, pointed out.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, questioned the fairness of expecting students taught one way for so long to adjust in one year to a new set of standards.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gail Lavielle, also R-Wilton, wondered who decided the new standards are higher than what was already in place.

Minnich said national experts vetted the standards, and there are early indications in Kentucky and Tennessee, which have been using Common Core the longest, that student achievement is going in the right direction.

Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, said it is not the new, higher standards that bother him, but the way they have been implemented. He characterized the rollout as “crummy.”

The state now has a new website, training efforts and a committee to work on ironing out the problems, Pryor said.

From start to finish the Malloy administration’s arrogant, top-down approach on education reform has  been a disaster.   Malloy has failed on many fronts, but Stefan Pryor and his side-kicks like Paul Vallas, Steven Adamowski and Morgan Barth are on track to ensure Malloy is unelectable.

One would think that after two years of being told about the damage they are doing they’d change course.  But when it comes to issues like this, Malloy and his inner circle are tone deaf….or worse.

You can read the complete CT Post article at: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Common-Core-standards-defended-5277595.php

Connecticut to end non-credit remedial courses at public colleges

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No really….  A Connecticut law passed in 2012 made it illegal for Connecticut public colleges to provide non-credit remedial courses starting in 2014.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember the discussion on the blog.

Led by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, Connecticut adopted a corporate education reform initiatives aimed at ensuring that all students were “college and career ready,” while at the same time passed legislation that prohibits public colleges and universities from providing non-credit remedial courses.

Among other things, it was sold as a way to reduce the state budget.

The irony, of course, goes without saying.

The same individuals who were willing undermine Connecticut’s public education system by pushing the Common Core, the Common Core testing frenzy and the unfair teacher evaluation system all in an effort to prepare children for college were reducing the budgets for Connecticut’s public colleges and universities by record amounts.

But by prohibiting public colleges from providing courses for students who needed extra help, Malloy et. al. could simply remove a significant cost those colleges were facing.

The issues has remained in the background until now, when students, their families and the public are  finally learning about this incredibly bad policy.

As the New Haven Register recently wrote,

About 10,000 incoming freshmen at state colleges enroll in no-credit remedial courses across the state every year.  This year, that number will drop to zero.

The courses will no longer be offered at state colleges once Public Act 12-40 goes into effect this fall semester.

Signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2012, the act requires colleges to abandon lower-level, no-credit remedial courses and embed support into entry-level courses or a college-readiness program.

High school graduates who do not place into entry-level courses by way of adequate SAT scores or college entry exams will be out of luck.

The urgency of the act going into effect this year has sparked strong reactions from state legislators, community colleges and high school educators.

Strong reaction from state legislators?

Who by the way passed the bill, after heavy lobbying from the Malloy administration and over the objections of the House Chair of the Education Committee who made it very clear what the ramifications of the legislation would be.

Instead of taking the non-credit remedial courses, students are expected to turn to local public schools and community based adult education programs.  The original argument was that this would save the state and students money.

But due to an insufficient number of programs, many students who were college bound will be discovering college, even Connecticut’s community colleges, are beyond reach.

Welcome to the Malloy Administration’s definition of college and career ready.

And the problems will be evident across the state of Connecticut.

As the New Haven Register goes on to report,

“At Northwestern Community College in Winsted, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Patricia Bouffard said she anticipates there will be students who fall below the level of remediation community colleges can now offer. Based on test scores from fall 2013, about 15 percent of entering students at NCC would not have been eligible for remedial courses if the requirements were already in place.”

While Northwestern serves a significantly smaller population than Gateway [Community College in New Haven] — about 1,700 students — Bouffard said about the same percentage of students fall into the developmental level.”

[…]

The college is in the process of developing appropriate programs in reaction to the legislation but doesn’t yet have a partnership with nearby high schools. Bouffard said the college is in the second run of an 11-week, college-math proficiency program offered to students who are below the remedial course. 

The program is computer-based with faculty in attendance. Bouffard said English is a little more difficult in terms of developing a computer-based program.

Opponents of the corporate education reform industry will recognize the pattern.  Set standards that limit a cohort of students and then buy more technology and software to deal with the problem.

In Connecticut, this policy will mean that some of the students who need the most hands-on help will be provided programs that require them to “learn” what they need to know by sitting in front of a computer.

The New Haven Register article quotes State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who was just elected to the Connecticut State Senate in a Special Election.

Holder-Winfield’s comments represent the thinking of many  legislators who voted in favor of the original proposal.  The New Haven Register story explains that Holder-Winfield said that we was not, “’a fan of doing away with remedial courses’ but understood the logic behind it: ‘Many of our young people who go to college don’t graduate within the four to six years that we would think is normal.”

The New Haven Register reports that “Holder-Winfield understood that the bill would be rolled out and then legislators would determine if they were doing what was needed. Now, he said he isn’t sure it worked the way it was intended to work.”  He concluded, “I’m a fan of taking another look at what we have done and maybe pulling back off it. I don’t think that that was the solution.”

There are legislative proposals to  modify Malloy’s plan to end non-credit remedial courses at Connecticut’s public colleges.

Check back for updates.

You can also read the New Haven Register article here:  http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20140222/concern-grows-as-connecticut-colleges-to-drop-no-credit-remedial-courses

 

America’s Most Un-American Tradition: Racial Profiling

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A court decision in New York City focuses attention on Connecticut’s failure to deal effectively with racial profiling.

“So I…pull over to the side of the road
And I heard “Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?
“Well you was doing fifty five in a fifty four”
“License and registration and step out of the car”
“Are you carrying a weapon on you I know a lot of you are”

– “99 Problems” by Jay-Z,

Racial profiling is illegal, immoral, Unconstitutional and isn’t even an effective crime fighting tool…but it is standard operating procedure commonly used at the national, state and local level.

Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law is called the Penn Act and was named after an African-American state senator who was the victim of racial profiling.

But a decade later, Connecticut’s law is little more than a toothless symbol of political pandering.  Just this year, Connecticut media outlets reported that the Connecticut General Assembly “Unanimously Strengthens Racial Profiling Law.” But that report was far from the truth.

Meanwhile, while Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law remains a hollow example of fighting this crime, a New York Judge has ruled that the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy is unconstitutional, saying that the policy amounted to “indirect racial profiling,” and violated the fourth amendment of the Constitution.

As the Judge explained in her ruling, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life.”

The New York class action was the result of a nine-week trial that determined that African-American and Latino residents are illegally discriminated against by the NYPD’s racially-driven stop and frisk policies.

In Connecticut, where the Hartford Courant reported this past legislative session that the General Assembly, “voted…to expand the state’s racial profiling law to include more police departments,” the 1999 Alvin Penn racial profiling law remains little more than a requirement that certain police departments maintain records and report on the racial and ethnic make-up of the people they stop.

As the Connecticut Community Party wrote in a commentary piece in the Hartford News in May of this year, “The Connecticut General Assembly passed the Penn Act advisory board’s toothless racial profiling bill without adding any of the Community Party’s amendments. Last week this legislation was literally passed by the state Senate under the cover of darkness with no prior notice that the bill was coming up for a vote. The advisory board bill focuses solely on data collection with only a cursory nod towards enforcement, despite the fact that a Department of Justice investigation found that the East Haven police were engaging in racial profiling of Latinos. Instead of crafting legislation aimed at preventing a reoccurrence of this crime, which was the focus of an avalanche of gun control bills that were introduced following the Newtown school shooting, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Office of Policy and Management Under Secretary Mike Lawlor and the CGA continue to portray racial profiling as a theory which must be proven as fact. Our position is that this disparate reaction underscores a racial double standard at the State Capitol. The passage of the advisory board bill kills all of our enforcement language which was passed last year, including our traffic stop receipt provision that was scheduled to go in effect July 1st.”

Even watered-down, the bill’s effective date was set at July 1, 2015, a year after nearly every other new law was scheduled to go into effect.

As the Community Party went on to report, “Blacks and Latinos in this state will continue to be left vulnerable to the type of police abuse which occurred in East Haven because [Connecticut politicians] are more interested in using the racial profiling issue as a political football than in actually protecting people of color.”

So here we are.  As a result of yesterday’s bold action by a judge, New York City’s racial profiling policies are thrown out, but here in Connecticut, political games remain the order of the day.

It almost reminds one of the situation we face with Paul Vallas’ attempt to illegally hold onto the superintendent’s position in Bridgeport.

It is a sad commentary that it takes the actions of a judge to force politicians and our government to do the right thing.

For more on the New York Case check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/nyregion/stop-and-frisk-practice-violated-rights-judge-rules.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/opinion/racial-discrimination-in-stop-and-frisk.html?hp&_r=0

If you want to read more about Connecticut’s racial profiling issue start with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_W65Rju7n4 and https://www.facebook.com/PennAct.

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