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.

Connecticut’s Governor and elected officials play: “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

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During the last gubernatorial campaign, each side claimed that they had a deeper commitment to fiscal responsibility and government transparency. 

Now more than two and a half years later we are further away from both concepts than most people could have possibly conceived of.

In an announcement that will come as no surprise to Wait, What? readers, a report by the Fiscal Policy Center, which is part of Connecticut Voices for Children has determined that we should consider changing our state song from Yankee Doodle Dandy to Bob Dylan’s famous ballad, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”

The non-partisan Fiscal Policy Center concludes;

“By relying on borrowing and one-time fixes, we’re undermining the long-term stability of the budget and gambling with these investments in our children’s future.”

The reported on the state budget that was proposed by Governor Malloy and approved by the Connecticut General Assembly “warns that the ‘quick-fix’ budget solutions adopted in the budget will deepen the state’s long-term budget deficit and could ultimately endanger funding for child and family services.”

The report goes on to explain that the new budget uses borrowing, one-time revenues, and fund transfers to close budget deficits and cover operating expenses and reports that, “ By relying on these measures, rather than recurring revenues to close the state’s budget gap…state policymakers have opened up a larger revenue hole in future budget years.”

Key problems about Connecticut’s state budget that highlighted in the new report include:

  • The new state budget “relies on almost $600 million in borrowing, over $400 million in temporary fund transfers, and $500 million in one-time revenues to pay for operating expenses.  Because these funding sources will dry up at the end of the two-year budget, there is currently a projected state deficit of $712 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and comparable holes in 2017 to 2018.” 
  • “Reliance on debt and one-time revenues will further increase budget risks for the state if economic growth does not return quickly.  The state’s budget projections assume that robust economic growth will result in increased state tax revenues.  With a nearly empty Rainy Day reserve fund, if this growth does not emerge, Connecticut would have little choice but to turn immediately to deep cuts, steep tax increases, and more borrowing.” 
  • “The state government has transformed over $1 billion in debt it owed itself and its employees into debt it now owes to bondholders, resulting in less flexibility and control of the repayment of that debt.  While the state budget plan pays down funds owed to the state employee and teacher pension systems, it does so by borrowing money from private bondholders.  In addition, the state has borrowed money from the private market to meet stricter accounting requirements under the rules of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).”

You can find the full report, entitled “A Gambler’s Budget: the Fiscal Year 2014-15 State Budget,” at www.ctvoices.org.

Connecticut: The Republic of Debt

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The 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly ended with the adoption of record amounts of additional state borrowing. 

They adopted $750 million in state bonds to pay a portion of the cost associated with moving Connecticut to Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles (GAAP).  Then there was the $1.6 billion for Malloy’s UConn initiative “to overhaul the state’s flagship university over the next decade,” this coming after the state’s $2.3 billion UConn 2000 program.  And then, of course there are hundreds of millions more in bonding for programs and services that should be funded out of the State’s General Fund rather than state borrowing, such as Malloy’s massive corporate welfare program and the state’s Stem Cell Research Program.

The fact is that the FY14-FY15 state budget relies heavily on record borrowing.

And this is occurring in a state that already has record amounts of debt.

Even before this latest bonding spree, the balance on Connecticut’s state credit card was more than $19.3 billion.

Referred to as “bonded indebtedness,” it is the amount of outstanding debt that Connecticut’s taxpayers must pay back, with interest, over the next 20 years.

This amount does not include the taxpayer funds that must also be paid to fund the state’s various unfunded liabilities such as the state and teachers’ pensions, health and other post-employment benefits.  That amount adds another $40 billion plus to the state’s fiscal ledger.

The $19.3 billion is only the existing bonds that must be paid…

When it comes to the level of state debt, no other state in the nation comes close to the level of official indebtedness facing Connecticut and its citizens.

The average per capita debt burden among the 50 states is $1,408.  That is, every man, woman and child in the average state is “on the hook” for $1,408.

In Connecticut, the per capita debt burden is $5,096.

But that’s not all.                                                                               

When it comes to facing the ramifications of the growing debt, Connecticut’s elected officials actually took a giant step backwards this year.

Not only did Malloy and the legislature add record amounts of debt, they ducked debt payments that were supposed to be made during this upcoming budget cycle, thereby pushing the burden until after the next gubernatorial election.

Back in Fiscal Year 2009, Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled legislature addressed a massive state deficit by approving a series of special, short-term bonds called Economic Recovery Notes.  Each year the state is supposed to be paying off a portion of those notes. 

However, the two year budget just passed by the General Assembly delayed $196 million in Economic Recovery Note payments next year and the year after.  The additional interest cost to Connecticut taxpayers for this “restructuring” will be about $45 million

Ironically, when you strip away all the political spin, that amount is about what Malloy and his administration added to education spending in Connecticut…and the gall to claim it was a “historic” investment in education.

During the last gubernatorial campaign candidate Dan Malloy called these types of budget gimmicks, “kicking the can down the road,” and promised never to do it.

Now Governor Dannel Malloy is making these gimmicks a regular approach to his budget plans.

Teacher Evaluation Program: Malloy, Pryor and General Assembly slam door on a locally developed plans

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Implementing Connecticut’s new “teacher evaluation program” will be the most costly initiative local boards of education will be facing over the next couple of years.  No one dismisses the importance of developing more effective teacher evaluation efforts, but the convoluted and complex system being developed by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will have a massive impact on how local schools function.

With limited state support, Connecticut’s cities and towns will collectively have to pay tens of millions to implement the new, state-mandated evaluation system.  Add in the time required of superintendents, principals, administrators and teachers and the impact will be extraordinary, both in terms of cost and time taken away from instructional work.

When Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill passed during the 2012 session of the Connecticut General Assembly it included an important provision that allowed towns to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, as long as those systems were approved by the State Board of Education.

The ability of towns to tailor their own evaluation systems was one of the few provisions that honored Connecticut’s historic commitment to allowing the citizens of each community to govern their own school systems.

At the time, legislators recognized the fundamental right of communities to develop teacher evaluation systems that meet state standards but took into consideration all the factors that go into managing a local school system.

But then, as the clock approached midnight on the second to last night of the recent legislative session, an incredible and stunning amendment was adopted by the legislature.

In the bill that allowed towns to “phase-in” the state’s new teacher evaluation system over the next two years, rather than forcing all of the changes this year, the legislature added two significant restrictions to a town’s right to develop their own system.

Using language provided by Commissioner Pryor’s staff, the legislation was changed to read that towns could only develop their own teacher evaluation systems if they, “expressed an intent, not later than July 1, 2013, to adopt a teacher evaluation program.”

The language means that even though the state system has not been finalized, if school superintendents and local boards of education do not inform Commissioner Pryor by July 1, 2013 that they intend to create a locally-developed system, they are prohibited from ever developing their own plan and must instead utilize the state plan no matter how bad it may be for their community.

Second, under the old language, the Connecticut’s State Board of Education was required to approve or reject a town’s locally developed plan.  The Board’s participation assured that these decisions would be made in an open and transparent way and the local boards of education and the citizens of the community could come to a public board meeting to make their case, hear the discussion and see the vote.

Instead, the new amendment removed the role of the State Board and simply authorized Commissioner Pryor to decide the fate of any community-developed teacher evaluation plans.

One moment the law guaranteed that the state’s decisions were made in the light of day and in a public setting and the next, local communities were left twisting in the wind, forced into a situation where their local plans will be simply approved or rejected behind closed doors.

So now, as a result of the changes put forward by the Malloy Administration and Commissioner Pryor, and approved by the Connecticut General Assembly, superintendents and local boards of education have only TWO WEEKS to submit their intent should they want to develop their own local teacher evaluation systems…and even if they do submit a plan, its fate rests solely in the hands of a Commissioner who has no educational experience.

The new law now reads as follows:

“Section 10-151b (d) A local or regional board of education may phase in full implementation of the teacher evaluation and support program adopted pursuant to subsection (b) of this section during the school years commencing July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, pursuant to a teacher evaluation and support program implementation plan adopted by the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, not later than July 1, 2013. The Commissioner of Education may waive the provisions of subsection (b) of this section and the implementation plan provisions of this subsection for any local or regional board of education that has expressed an intent, not later than July 1, 2013, to adopt a teacher evaluation program for which such board requests a waiver in accordance with this subsection.”

The amendment passed the House of Representatives unanimously, with all Democrats and Republicans voting yes, on June 4th, 2013 at 10:49 p.m.

When it comes to our state’s economy, our elected officials are our own worst enemies…

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With a state-economy ranked 50th in the nation, one would think that Governor Malloy and our elected officials who drop their economic development strategy that relies on corporate welfare to lure hedge fund companies and other corporate giants to move or stay in Connecticut.

But in the legislative session that just ended, Malloy and the majority decided to stay the course and, in the process, throw Connecticut’s hospitals under the bus.  Despite the rhetoric from the Malloy Administration that the massive cut to hospitals would have no impact, policymakers knew the consequences and turned a blind eye to the fact that the new state budget would lead to the loss of hundreds of Connecticut jobs.

The CT Mirror summarized the situations when they listed Connecticut’s hospitals as one of the biggest “losers” during the recent session.  The CT Mirror wrote:

“Hospitals: Hospital officials decried the governor’s proposal to cut more than $500 million in funding from hospitals, saying it will lead to job cuts and hurt patient care. But their pleas went largely unanswered. The next two-year budget slashes payments hospitals receive to compensate them for treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and money they currently receive as reimbursement for a provider tax they pay. The Malloy administration says the hospitals will still receive more money because more people will have health insurance, but hospitals counter that the funds will only come from treating thousands more poor patients…”

The impact of the Malloy administration’s approach started to be seen earlier this week when, according to the Connecticut Post, St. Vincent’s Medical Center “eliminated 100 positions and laid off nearly 50 employees this week, including some nurses and doctors. The cuts are expected to save the hospital about $10 million.”

As hospital’s vice president for health services explained, “This is a case of trying to look forward and protecting the direction and mission of our organization as the ground shifts beneath us.”

There is no question that many senior hospital administrators are overpaid and are diverting scarce resources away from patient care, but rather than confront that controversy head on, Malloy and the legislature simply slashed the amount of state funds going to hospitals and left the overcompensation issue unaddressed.

According to the Connecticut Post article, “Layoffs began Monday and continued Tuesday. The cuts were across all levels of the hospital, and included some nurse and doctor positions…Of the positions cut, 48 were filled and resulted in layoffs.”

As the Connecticut Hospital Association warned during the legislative session, “A state budget that cuts hospitals by $550 million will result in job loss and the loss of programs and services…”

There is simply no question that most hospitals around the state will be laying off employees as a result of the new state budget.

And for the record, these aren’t mythical six figure jobs that companies are supposed to be creating over the next ten years; these are the very real jobs of the very real residents in communities across Connecticut.

Adding to the disaster is the fact that not only will Connecticut residents be losing their jobs, but access to quality health care in our local hospitals will be undermined.

You can read more about the St. Vincent’s Medical Center layoffs here:  http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/St-Vincent-s-to-eliminate-100-jobs-4593474.php

Don’t let the word Democrat confuse you…

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Connecticut Mirror, March 22, 2010;

“The state Supreme Court [ruled] that Connecticut schoolchildren are guaranteed an adequate standard of quality in their public schools — a crucial legal victory for a coalition seeking to force a dramatic increase in state spending on education.”

Connecticut Mirror, April 10, 2013:

“State moves to dismiss long-standing challenge to education funding

Calling their demands “extreme and radical” as a trial draws nearer, the Connecticut attorney general has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by parents and educators demanding more funding for education.

In a motion to dismiss filed earlier this year, Attorney General George C. Jepsen argues that the education problems in the complaint dating back to 2003 have since been addressed by lawmakers through the changes to state law made in 2012.”

So there you have it.  Democrat Attorney General, George Jepsen, calling the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education funding (CCJEF), “extreme and radical.”

Democratic Attorney General, telling the CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, that, “’It is too late to evaluate the adequacy of the education system that existed at the time the lawsuit was filed’…By the same token, he added, ‘It is too early to adjudicate Connecticut’s newly reformed education system.’”

However, despite Jepsen’s outrageous comments, everyone associated with Connecticut public education recognizes that the State’s ECS funding formula is at least $2 billion under-funded.  Even the Malloy Administration’s own budget director, Ben Barnes, has confirmed that number.

Even more to the point, as a Connecticut State Representative, State Senator and candidate for Governor, George Jepsen, like all major Democratic leaders, pledged to increase Connecticut’s education funding up to a level in which the state paid at least 50% of the total costs of primary and secondary education, while local property tax payers were left paying the remaining amount.

In fact, the decision to adopt an income tax was driven, in no small part, by the commitment Democrats made to shift the responsibility for funding education away from local property taxpayers and onto the state.

Now, more than 20 years later, Connecticut is far where it needs to be when it comes to adequately funding its public education system.

And now, leaders like Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen are conveniently forgetting the promises they made time and time again.

As Wait, What? readers read last week, Governor Malloy was not only a supporter of the CCEJF school funding lawsuit, he was one of the initial plaintiffs in the case.

In the earlier Wait, What? post entitled, “The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history,” we reviewed how candidate Dan Malloy approached the most important education lawsuit of our lifetime.

That approach included a November 22, 2005 press release by Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy entitled “Malloy Supports Lawsuit Challenging Education Funding System…says that reforming the education funding system is an issue of ‘fundamental fairness.’”

As a candidate seeking votes, Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign wrote, “Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy joined fellow members of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] today in filing a lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s existing school funding formula as inadequate. Malloy is a founding member of CCJEF coalition, which commissioned a June 2005 cost study demonstrating that 92 of Connecticut’s 166 school districts fell short of funding levels deemed to be necessary for providing children with an adequate education, as demanded under Federal and State law.”

Malloy’s press release quoted him as saying, “The bottom line is that Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing [ECS] Formula should be scrapped and rebuilt and the State of Connecticut must finally live up to its obligation and pay its share of our education costs. The existing ECS formula has been deliberately under-funded and arbitrarily capped. This isn’t an urban versus suburban issue or a big government versus small government issue; it’s an issue of fundamental fairness. Every child in Connecticut deserves the opportunity to get an adequate education. Our constitution demands it.”

Over the years, George Jepsen claimed to be equally committed to a fairer, more equitable school funding program.  But now, as Connecticut’s Attorney General, Jepsen is asking the courts to dismiss this historic and fundamentally important lawsuit.

Instead of standing up to ensure Connecticut’s Constitution is followed, Jepsen is maneuvering to try to keep the judicial branch of government from playing the very role it was created to do.

In the recent motion to dismiss the case Jepsen wrote, “The bottom line is that plaintiffs’ extreme and radical requested relief would amount to taking the state’s funding decisions for public schools away from the citizens’ elected representatives…”

That statement is totally and absolutely untrue.

It is beyond untrue, it is an outright lie.

No one is expected the Connecticut courts to eliminate the role of the Connecticut General Assembly, and Attorney General Jepson knows that better than anyone.

The fact is that the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that Connecticut’s children have a Constitutional right to a quality education.

A series of Connecticut governors and Legislatures have refused to provide the funding necessary to fulfill that Constitutional requirement.

The lawsuit is a necessary and appropriate mechanism to ask the courts to require that governors and legislatures actually stop ducking their constitutional responsibilities

It is one thing for Attorney General Jepsen to argue that the state doesn’t want to provide sufficient funding; it would even be plausible for Attorney General Jepsen to argue that the existing funding is enough to provide a quality education, but it is beyond outrageous that any elected official, especially a Democrat, would claim that his lawsuit is radical or extreme.

By clicking the link below, you can read the full CTMIrror story, including the powerful and persuasive counter-argument to Attorney General Jepsen’ that is being put forward by State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield.  Unfortunately, a full reading of the article will drive home the appreciation that for some politicians, there is simply no limit to their willingness to say anything in their effort to stretch and twist the truth.

The complete CTMirror story is here: http://ctmirror.org/story/19681/were-education-reforms-passed-enough-derail-school-funding-lawsuit

 

Commissioner Pryor, where is your Department’s mandated report on school safety and bullying?

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It is one of the most important reports that the State Department of Education produces.

It was supposed to include recommendations for how to create safer school environments.

It WAS DUE February 1, 2012…almost fifteen months ago!

Where is it?

Although Connecticut is learning the hard way that lawyers, with no classroom or education background, don’t make the best education leaders, it’s impossible to believe that Governor Malloy’s Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, and his senior leadership team fail to understand that creating a safe school environment is one of the most important educational issues of our time.

At the very least, we would expect that as lawyers, these “education leaders” would appreciate the need to follow the law.  But these days, even that appears to be a reach.

The fact is that parents expect and demand that our state, the Department of Education and our schools are doing everything possible to keep our children safe.  It is especially understood that a safe and healthy school environment is the single most important element in creating successful learning environments.

It is also the law in the State of Connecticut.

Although some elected officials can’t seem to get enough of the limelight on school safety issues since the nightmare of Newtown, some of our most dedicated elected officials have made creating a safer school environment a top priority for years.

Connecticut’s initial school bullying law dates back to 2002.  It was passed following the tragic suicide of a Meriden student who killed himself after being bullied.  The law was significantly expanded in 2007 and included additional responsibilities for the State Department of Education including a requirement that the Commissioner of Education submit a Bullying Policies in Connecticut Schools report on February 1, 2010.  (See http://www.cga.ct.gov/coc/PDFs/bullying/SDE_bullying_report_02-01-10.pdf)

Reading news headlines over the past few weeks, one might think today’s leaders are coming to the school safety issue for the first time.  However, in July 2011, Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying laws.

This comprehensive new law was called one of the most important school safety initiatives in the nation.

The legislation required schools and districts to develop “safe school climate plans,”  it established deadlines for reporting, investigating, and notifying parents about bullying incidents, it prohibited retaliation against those who report bullying (i.e. the Torrington situation) and required school officials to notify police when they believe bullying conduct constitutes a crime.

The law further required that no later than February 1, 2012, the Connecticut State Department of Education submit a report on “the number of verified acts of bullying in the state, an analysis of the responsive action taken by school districts and any recommendations it may have regarding additional activities or funding to prevent bullying in schools and improve school climate.”

For reasons beyond comprehension, it appears that Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, never released the report.

At a legislative public hearing on this major safe schools legislation, those who spoke or wrote in support of the legislation included Attorney General George Jepsen, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, State Representatives Mary Mushinsky and Catherine Abercrombie, State Senator Edith Prague, the Executive Director for the CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, the Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the Legislative Analyst of the African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC), the state’s Victim Advocate, the Connecticut Education Association,  CT Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL),  CT Association of School Psychologists (CASP),  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-CT) , Governor’s Partnership to Protect CT’s Workforce , Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network,  Family Equity Council , Planned Parenthood of Southern New England,  CT Psychological Association  and dozens of students, parents and school administrators who recounted their own experiences with bulling and the effects of bullying.

The legislation passed multiple committees, the Connecticut State Senate and the Connecticut House of Representatives

As the Vice President of the United States, Joe Bidden, would say…it was a “Big F***ing Deal.”

But the vital report required by Public Act 11-232 was never forthcoming.

Yet the law required the report be given to the Legislature.

And the report would certainly have contained vitally important information.

But the report is nowhere to be found!

Making the whole situation even more disturbing is the fact that just last week, with extraordinary bipartisan fanfare, Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly passed and signed into law Connecticut’s response to the Newtown tragedy.

In addition to what is being described as the nation’s toughest gun control law, the measure included a series of provisions designed to create safer school environments.

Leading the way is Section 89 of the new gun control and school safety bill.  It seeks to strengthen Connecticut’s anti-bullying and school climate laws by requiring the State Department of Education to do more to determine what schools are doing, identify best practices, to provide training to  school districts and generally ensure that schools are doing everything they can to create safer learning environments for their students.

And the cornerstone of that new effort is?

(You can guess what’s coming)

The report that the State Department of Education was supposed to produce on a biennial basis must now be produced on an annual basis.

The VERY REPORT that the Governor and General Assembly are expecting to use on an annual basis to track the school safety elements of this new legislation is the VERY REPORT that Commissioner Pryor failed to produce despite the law requiring him to do so.

All the speeches, all the reporters, all the cameras, all the publicity and neither the Governor nor his Commissioner of Education bothered to admit or explain how it is possible that Commissioner Pryor and the Malloy Administration failed to fulfill the existing law on creating a safer school climate.

The President of the United States is coming to Connecticut to get in on the act.  He will undoubtedly use Connecticut’s new law as a clarion call for action in Washington.

Let’s just hope that no one tells him that inside this new law are elements of the very problem that people find so frustrating.  As we have all come to recognize, it doesn’t do any good to have strong laws, if you have leaders who are unable or unwilling to enforce those laws.

So I ask again…Commissioner Pryor, where is the State Department of Education’s mandated report on school safety and bullying and why wasn’t it released, as legally required, no later than February 1, 2012?

News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law

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Earlier today, Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education met and voted to forward three names to Governor Malloy with the request that he pick one to serve as President of the combined State University and Community College System.

But the fact is that neither the Board of Regents nor the Governor has the authority to make the choice in this way.

According to Connecticut law, the Governor nominates the majority of the members of the Board of Regents and, according to the new Board of Regents law passed in 2011, “The Governor shall appoint the chairperson of the board…”

However when it comes to choosing the President of the Connecticut Board of Regents system, the law is absolutely and completely clear.

Section 10a-1b of the Connecticut State Statutes reads, “(a) The Governor shall appoint an interim president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education who shall serve as president until a successor is appointed and confirmed. On or after January 1, 2012, the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

Governor Malloy did appoint an interim President who was forced to resign after it was discovered that he inappropriately provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to his staff.

And now it is “on or after January 1, 2012.”

The law is that, “the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

According to a story that has been posted on the CTMirror website, the Chairman of the Board of Regents, appointed by Malloy, said that the board sent three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”

The CT Mirror reports that Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson said, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

But as the CT Mirror goes on to note, “State law requires the board to recommend “the president” to the governor. The board’s decision was announced during a two-minute public meeting following an hour-long meeting of the board behind closed doors.”

“The governor had requested three. And I thought as a courtesy or respect to his office, it would be appropriate to accede to that wish,” Robinson told the CT Mirror.

But the law is the law.

And, this is a law that the Governor’s Chief of Staff helped write and personally lobbied.

If the Governor and General Assembly meant to have the Board of Regents forward three names to a sitting governor so that the governor could then wheel and deal, they would have done that.

Instead it was written in a way similar to the law for the University of Connecticut.

Connecticut law has always been clear that it is not the role of politicians to decide which academic should run our institutions of higher education.

Instead, the approach has always been that governors nominate and legislatures approved the members of the various boards who then have the duty to make the key personnel decisions removed, or at least somewhat, from the realm of partisan and personal politics.

The debate about how best to choose the President of the Board of Regents took place two years ago.  A process was decided and that process was put into law.

That process provided that the Board of Regents would go through the selection process and choose who they deemed to be the best person for the job…and the governor would then appoint that person to the post.

The law is the law.

The Chairman of the Board of Regents had an obligation to tell Governor Malloy that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

The Board of Regents itself was obligated to tell the Governor that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

And Governor Malloy and his Chief of Staff should never have requested that the Board of Regents do anything but follow the law.

As citizens of the state of Connecticut we are left wondering…

What will it take for the Governor of this state to admit that even he is not above the laws of Connecticut?

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Attorney General should be on the phone right now ordering the Board of Regents to re-convene and conduct themselves in a manner that fulfills their duties under the laws of Connecticut, regardless of what the Governor has asked them to do.

You can find the CT Mirror story here:  http://www.ctmirror.com/story/19641/governor-will-get-pick-next-college-president

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