A reader asks their Legislator – Why did you bail on Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers?

2 Comments

Bill Morrison is an outstanding educator and education advocate.

A regular reader and participant on the Wait, What? blog, Bill recently followed up on the post Democrat controlled legislature’s action on Malloy’s education veto nothing but a scam, to ask his state legislator why they simply turned their back on their constituents when Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed a bill that would have required Connecticut’s commissioner of education to have appropriate education experience.

If everyone would take such action, legislators across the state would understand that their subservient behavior to Malloy’s whims was unacceptable.

What follows is Bill’s correspondence with his legislator followed by a breakdown of how legislators voted on the veto override effort.

From Bill Morrison:

I wrote the following letter to my Representative. He was one who failed to even show up.

Dear Representative Ryan,

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a registered Democrat, a constituent, and I voted for you. I am also retired Navy, and I am a public high school history and social studies teacher.

That said, I am extremely disappointed that my state legislature allowed itself to be bullied into not overriding Malloy’s veto of the Bill setting minimum professional standards for State Commissioners of Education. As a professional educator, I am heartily sick and tired of Malloy’s targeting us for persecution, demonization, and vilification. I am sick of him undermining our strong efforts, especially in urban schools. And, I am disillusioned that a Democrat governor could so obviously pander to corrupt corporate interests through his immense support of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing. In short, I am very disgusted by my own Party because of its sycophancy towards Malloy and corporate interests.

Yesterday, the legislature voted not to override Malloy’s veto, with many Democrats not even showing up for the vote. As you are aware, Malloy’s previous Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, was extremely unqualified for the position, and he wreaked havoc in Connecticut’s public schools. His appointment was on obvious conflict of interest because of his affiliation with Achievement First Charter Schools (a corporation that gained financially because of Malloy’s and Pryor’s influence), and he was manifestly not qualified for the position because of his not having any background in education. I had hoped that the legislature would stand up for the Connecticut’s citizens instead of slavishly pandering to Malloy. Instead of doing the right thing for Connecticut’s children, families, and schools, Democrats would not even stand up for a Bill that they had drafted in the first place, a Bill that passed the Senate unanimously with all but five dissenters in the Legislature.

I feel nothing but shame for my Party, and I sincerely hope that Democrats learn from this that they need to return to their roots and support their true constituents not big money.

Bill Morrison

While nearly every Republican legislator voted in favor of students, parents and teachers, the vast majority of Democratic legislators reversed their support or simply failed to show up when the vote to override Malloy’s veto was taken.

Here is more information about how legislators voted;

Democrat controlled legislature’s action on Malloy’s education veto nothing but a scam.

No Democratic legislator voted against the bill during the regular session, but apparently terrified to upset Governor Dannel Malloy or go against their own Democratic leaders, nearly 60% of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives failed to show up for the vote.

Of the 37 Democrats who did attend the veto session, 18 voted to override Governor Malloy’s veto, while an incredible 19 Democrats rolled over and changed their votes in a bizarre subservient gesture to Malloy.

Democrats switching sides to vote in favor of Malloy’s veto included the Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, Majority Leader of the House Joe Aresimowicz, Chairman of the Education Committee, Andrew Fleischmann, Chairman of the Human Services Committee Peter Tercyak, and Windham State Representative  Susan Johnson  The entire list included; 

DEMOCRATS supporting Malloy’s veto
ALTOBELLO
ARCE
ARESIMOWICZ
FLEISCHMANN
GENGA
HENNESSY
JANOWSKI
JOHNSON
LOPES
MCGEE
SANTIAGO, E.
SANTIAGO, H.
SIMMONS
STAFSTROM
TERCYAK
SHARKEY (SPKR)
GENTILE (DEP)
GODFREY (DEP)
SAYERS (DEP)

 

Democrats who failed to even show up at the 2015 Veto Session included

DEMOCRATS FAILED TO SHOW UP
ADAMS X
ARCONTI X
BACKER, T. X
BAKER X
BARAM X
BECKER, B. X
BERGER X
BOUKUS X
BRYCKI X
BUTLER X
CANDELARIA, J. X
CONROY X
CUEVAS X
CURREY X
DARGAN X
DILLON X
ESPOSITO X
FOX X
FRITZ X
GONZALEZ X
GUERRERA X
HAMPTON X
HEWETT X
KINER X
LESSER X
LUXENBERG X
MCCARTHY VAHEY X
MCCRORY X
MEGNA X
MILLER, P. X
MUSHINSKY X
PERONE X
REED X
RILEY X
RITTER X
ROJAS X
ROSARIO X
ROSATI X
ROSE X
SCANLON X
SERRA X
STALLWORTH X
TONG X
URBAN X
VERRENGIA X
WALKER X
ZONI X
MILLER, P.B. (DEP) X
MORRIS (DEP) X
RYAN (DEP) X

 

Democrats who stood up to Malloy and the Democratic Leadership and voted to override Malloy’s veto;

 

DEMOCRATS VOTED TO OVERRIDE MALLOY
ABERCROMBIE Y
ALBIS Y
ALEXANDER Y
COOK Y
D’AGOSTINO Y
DEMICCO Y
HADDAD Y
JUTILA Y
LEMAR Y
MORIN Y
NICASTRO Y
PORTER Y
ROVERO Y
SANCHEZ Y
STEINBERG Y
VARGAS Y
WILLIS Y
ORANGE (DEP) Y

 

Perhaps most telling of all, the following Democratic legislators co-sponsored the legislation requiring Connecticut’s commissioner of education have educational experience and then failed to back the bill when that support was necessary.

Rep. David W. Kiner, 59th Dist.                    (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. David Arconti, 109th Dist.                    (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, 95th Dist.              (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Terry B. Adams, 146th Dist.                  (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, 145th Dist.         (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Kim Rose, 118th Dist.                           (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Louis P. Esposito, 116th Dist.               (Did not show up for the vote)

Sen. Eric D. Coleman, 2nd Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, 17th Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

Sen. Mae Flexer, 29th Dist.                           (Did not show up for the vote)

Sen. Marilyn Moore, 22nd Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

If you don’t know who your State Senator or State Representative is go to http://www.cga.ct.gov/

And scroll down for form to use to identify your elected officials

Charter School + Corporate Education Reform Industry continue record-breaking spending on lobbying

4 Comments

With the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly finally over, the corporate education reform industry is celebrating its victories.

More money for charter schools, while Connecticut’s public schools remain significantly underfunded, tops their list.

In addition, of course, there is the incredible and unethical defeat of the legislation that would have required Connecticut’s commissioner of education to have appropriate classroom and education experience.

All together the various corporate funded “education reform” groups dropped another $1.4 million, over the last six months, to promote and lobby on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-teacher, education reform initiatives that included diverting even more scarce public funds to privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

According to the June reports filed with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, Charter Schools and Corporate Education Reform groups have spent the following so far this year;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $84,100
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $5,700
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $40,000
   
North East Charter School Network $109,700
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $1,123,300
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $13,100
   
Other Corporate Education Front Groups include FaithActs for Education, Educators 4 Excellence, Connecticut School Finance Project, Achieve Hartford, Excel Bridgeport…  
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRYJanuary 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015 $1,375,900

 

Not surprising, a number of individuals associated with Malloy have collected huge amounts of money in lobbying and public relations fees to help promote his “education reform” agenda.

Consultants and lobbyists who made money this year from the corporate education reform industry included;

Corporate Education Reform Group Consultants and Lobbyists
Families for Excellent Schools Andrew Doba (Malloy’s former spokesman)
Roy Occhiogroso (Malloy’s chief advisor)
ConnCAN: Gaffney, Bennett & Associates
Connecticut Council for Education Reform: Reynolds Strategy Group
NE Charter School Network: Depino, Nunez & Biggs

 

Since the corporate education reform industry began ramping up their lobbying efforts as part of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative of 2012, the various charter school advocates and education reform groups have spent a record breaking $8.4 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing, anti-teacher agenda.

CT Mirror recently took a look at lobbying expenditures in an article entitled Digging into spending on lobbying in ConnecticutAlthough they noted the massive expenditure by the lead education reform group, Families for Excellent Schools, which is based in New York, they didn’t total all of the funds being spent by the corporate funded education reform advocacy group.

However, no matter how you calculate it, the education reform industry has become the biggest “player” when it comes to lobbying Connecticut State Government.

Democrat controlled legislature’s action on Malloy’s education veto nothing but a scam.

8 Comments

A lesson on power politics and how many legislators will jettison their constituents in order to hang with the power elite.

Where did your elected representative stand on the veto issue?

A handful of Democrats and a bunch  of Republicans proved that they are willing and able to stand up for the students, parents, teachers and public schools in their district.  The others… nope!

At yesterday’s constitutionally mandated 2015 veto session of the Connecticut General Assembly, 50 of the 87 Democratic members of the Connecticut House of Representatives (57 percent) didn’t even bother to show up show up and vote.

With only 37 of the 87 Democrats in the chamber, the Democratic leaders were able to ensure that there were not enough votes to override Governor Dannel Malloy’s veto of the bill requiring Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education to have appropriate education experience.

As the CT Newsjunkie reported in the article entitled, General Assembly Opts Not to Override Malloy’s Vetoes,

The House needed 101 votes to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of a bill that outlined qualifications for a state Education Commissioner, but only 62 lawmakers voted in favor of an override Monday.

At least 21 representatives voted not to override the bill and a whopping 68 representatives did not attend Monday’s constitutional veto session. And even though House Speaker Brendan Sharkey allowed a vote on one of Malloy’s vetoes, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Sharkey said there were members of the Democratic caucus who felt strongly about the Education Commissioner bill to turn out Monday and vote to override it. There were 18 Democratic lawmakers who voted in favor of overriding Malloy’s veto.

One of those was Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven. She said she thought the legislation, which specified that education commissioners must have at least five years’ experience as a teacher and three years as an administrator, was “good public policy.”

The bill originally passed the House 138-5 and got unanimous support in the Senate before being squelched by Malloy.

No Democratic legislator voted against the bill during the regular session, but apparently terrified to upset Governor Dannel Malloy or go against their own Democratic leaders, nearly 60% of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives failed to show up for the vote.

Of the 37 Democrats who did attend the veto session, 18 voted to override Governor Malloy’s veto, while an incredible 19 Democrats rolled over and changed their votes in a bizarre subservient gesture to Malloy.

Democrats switching sides to vote in favor of Malloy’s veto included the Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, Majority Leader of the House Joe Aresimowicz, Chairman of the Education Committee, Andrew Fleischmann, Chairman of the Human Services Committee Peter Tercyak, and Windham State Representative  Susan Johnson  The entire list included;

DEMOCRATS supporting Malloy’s veto
ALTOBELLO
ARCE
ARESIMOWICZ
FLEISCHMANN
GENGA
HENNESSY
JANOWSKI
JOHNSON
LOPES
MCGEE
SANTIAGO, E.
SANTIAGO, H.
SIMMONS
STAFSTROM
TERCYAK
SHARKEY (SPKR)
GENTILE (DEP)
GODFREY (DEP)
SAYERS (DEP)

 

Democrats who failed to even show up at the 2015 Veto Session included

DEMOCRATS FAILED TO SHOW UP
ADAMS X
ARCONTI X
BACKER, T. X
BAKER X
BARAM X
BECKER, B. X
BERGER X
BOUKUS X
BRYCKI X
BUTLER X
CANDELARIA, J. X
CONROY X
CUEVAS X
CURREY X
DARGAN X
DILLON X
ESPOSITO X
FOX X
FRITZ X
GONZALEZ X
GUERRERA X
HAMPTON X
HEWETT X
KINER X
LESSER X
LUXENBERG X
MCCARTHY VAHEY X
MCCRORY X
MEGNA X
MILLER, P. X
MUSHINSKY X
PERONE X
REED X
RILEY X
RITTER X
ROJAS X
ROSARIO X
ROSATI X
ROSE X
SCANLON X
SERRA X
STALLWORTH X
TONG X
URBAN X
VERRENGIA X
WALKER X
ZONI X
MILLER, P.B. (DEP) X
MORRIS (DEP) X
RYAN (DEP) X

 

Democrats who stood up to Malloy and the Democratic Leadership and voted to override Malloy’s veto;

 

DEMOCRATS VOTED TO OVERRIDE MALLOY
ABERCROMBIE Y
ALBIS Y
ALEXANDER Y
COOK Y
D’AGOSTINO Y
DEMICCO Y
HADDAD Y
JUTILA Y
LEMAR Y
MORIN Y
NICASTRO Y
PORTER Y
ROVERO Y
SANCHEZ Y
STEINBERG Y
VARGAS Y
WILLIS Y
ORANGE (DEP) Y

 

Perhaps most telling of all, the following Democratic legislators co-sponsored the legislation requiring Connecticut’s commissioner of education have educational experience and then failed to back the bill when that support was necessary.

Rep. David W. Kiner, 59th Dist.                    (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. David Arconti, 109th Dist.                    (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, 95th Dist.              (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Terry B. Adams, 146th Dist.                  (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, 145th Dist.         (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Kim Rose, 118th Dist.                           (Did not show up for the vote)

Rep. Louis P. Esposito, 116th Dist.               (Did not show up for the vote)

Sen. Eric D. Coleman, 2nd Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, 17th Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

Sen. Mae Flexer, 29th Dist.                           (Did not show up for the vote)

Sen. Marilyn Moore, 22nd Dist.                    (Voted NO on holding a vote)

If you don’t know who your State Senator or State Representative is go to http://www.cga.ct.gov/  and scroll down

By Comparison, 45 of the 64 (70 percent) of the Republicans were present at the Veto Session and all but two voted to override the Governor’s veto.

In the end, of the 62 members of the House of Representatives who were willing to stand up to Malloy, 70 percent were Republicans.

As CT Newsjunkie reported, in what may have been the most absurd moment of the entire 2015 legislative session, West Hartford Democrat and Chairman of the Education Committee Andrew Fleishmann changed his position in order to vote with Malloy explaining,

“[T]here was interest from the governor’s office to address the issue of Education Commissioner qualifications in the future. He said there will be an ongoing dialogue and it’s likely the bill will come up again next year.

“The administration is always open to discussion,” Fleischmann said.

The Republican legislators were clear, not only on the substance of the issue, but on the even more important procedure in which the Democrats ducked their responsibility to their constituents and the people of Connecticut.

The Republican leader of the State Senate, Len Fasano stated,

“This is politics over policy. “The legislature has spoken. The governor has every right to veto it, but when the majority party follows the politics and not the policy that makes this building very scary to me.”

Proving the accuracy of Fasano’s statement, the State Senate met after the House of Representatives had adjourned and voted 18-12, along party lines, not to take up any of Malloy’s nine vetoes.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff went so far as to blame the entire situation on the Republicans saying that the veto session was “complete theater by the Republicans.”

Duff added that the Republicans, “have been on a ‘bad news tour’ for the past month and have taken ‘rooting for failure to a new level.’”

Quite a commentary when a Democratic leader of the Connecticut State Senate claims that a demand that the Legislative Branch fulfill its constitutional duty is nothing but “theater by the Republicans.”

If Connecticut’s 2015 veto session proved anything, it is that in Hartford, as in Washington, far too many politicians have lost their way….forgetting that they serve the people of their district and not those who already have way too much power.

They would all do well to remember the lines of Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

You can read the full story in the CTNewsjunkie at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/general_assembly_doesnt_override_malloy/

More coverage can also be found in the CT Mirror at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/07/20/malloy-vetoes-stand-but-house-gop-forces-an-override-debate/

CT Republicans step up for students, parents and teachers as Democrats run away and hide

9 Comments

Watching the way Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy has sought to undermine public education while denigrating, insulting and bullying public school teachers, one is left with the inevitable conclusion that Connecticut’s chief elected official is driven by some personal problem he has with educators.

But seeing the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly roll-over in support of Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives and flee from the Democratic Party’s historic role as advocates for teachers, the teaching profession and public education suggests that the legislators elected under the Democratic Party Banner simply don’t feel a sense of appreciation, duty or obligation to support teachers or the students, parents and public schools of their districts.

The Decision to forgo even holding a vote on Governor Malloy’s veto of a bill to require Connecticut’s commissioner of education to have appropriate educational experience has become a prime example of the Democratic Party’s apparent unwillingness to actually stand up and be counted on behalf of public education.

Of the 108 Democrat legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly, not one voted against the bill requiring the commissioner of education to have appropriate educational experience, but these same Democrats have now refused to even hold a vote on whether to sustain or override Malloy’s veto.

Political insiders dismiss the issue as nothing more than the realities associated with power politics.  While such politics is hardly new to Connecticut or the country, the underlying problem cannot be explained away so easily.

See: Malloy, Executive Power and the Politics of Appeasement (Wait, What? 7/18/15)

The harsh reality is that Governor Malloy, along with a variety of other Democratic leaders including Governor Cuomo of New York, Mayor Emanuel of Chicago and President Obama, have been engaged in an unprecedented assault on public education.

The utter failure of Democratic legislators, at the federal and state level, to stand up to that assault reflects a problem that has become so serious that proponents of public education are being forced to come to grips with the fact that the Democratic Party appears to be simply walking away from what may very well be the single most important issue in a democratic, egalitarian society.

While many Republicans across the country have acted no better, the Republican Party in Connecticut has taken an increasingly strong stand on behalf of public education.

While some would say their gesture is primarily political, the uncomfortable truth is that it is the Democrats who have repeatedly shown voters that politics trumps policy when it comes to these critically important education issues.

While Connecticut’s Democratic legislators have refused to even vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto, the response from Republican leaders have been clear, concise and absolutely on the side of students, parents, teachers and the value of public education to our future.

Democratic legislators may be gripped by fear when it comes potentially “embarrassing” Governor Malloy by overriding his veto, but people in the real world would rather see Connecticut’s Legislature Branch overcome their self-induced level of terror and actually perform their Constitutional responsibility.

As the Bristol Press put it in editorial this weekend entitled, OUR VIEW: Legislators must remember who it is they represent;

On Monday, the General Assembly will come together in special session, one that is technically is required, to decide whether members want to override any of the governor’s vetoes from the 2015 regular session.

But members won’t have the opportunity to restore any of the bills Gov. Dannel P. Malloy rejected, thanks to a decision by the Democratic leadership in the Legislature.

“The general consensus among our members, and in light of some of the governor’s concerns, is that these issues would be best re-looked at during the next regular session. Therefore we will not be scheduling any override votes,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, wrote Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, were not happy to hear the news.

“Failing to challenge the governor on his vetoes is putting politics before policy,” they said in a statement. “The legislature has overridden past governors, including Rell and Weicker. But Democrat lawmakers have never overridden a single Malloy veto ever. Simply accepting the governor’s vetoes is failing to represent and protect our constituents. We have a constitutional duty to the public to reassess these bills.”

They continued, “this is not a decision for only the majority leaders to make. Under our constitution it is up to the legislative body’s majority vote to consider an override of a governor’s veto. As such, there should be an opportunity for the assembly as a whole to voice its opinion. To gavel in and out without any reconsideration and without hearing input from all lawmakers violates our constitutional duty and therefore our obligations as elected representatives.”

We agree. Whatever their party, our elected representatives in the House and Senate are supposed to be the people’s voice at the Capitol. We understand that the leadership doesn’t want to put the rank and file in a position where they must choose between voting against the head of their party or against their constituents — if that’s what their conscience and the voters request — but  failing to do so leaves the people of Connecticut without representation. It also increases the arbitrary power of the governor’s office, suggesting that, even if a majority of the members of the Legislature disagree with him — and we have no reason to believe that they do — he shouldn’t or can’t be challenged.

Our view: Let the democratic process — small D — unfold!

Yes, the message to Democrats in Hartford is “let the democratic process – small D – unfold!”

But for those who belong to the Democratic Party or who tend to vote for the Democratic candidates, a parallel question is whether the Democrats’ continuing failure to stand up for public education invalidates their right to serve as the majority party in Connecticut.

Malloy, Executive Power and the Politics of Appeasement

7 Comments

In preparation for the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 constitutionally required veto session, Democratic legislative leaders announced yesterday that no votes would be taken on whether to sustain or override the nine bills vetoed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy during this year’s legislative session.

The most noteworthy of the bills that the Democrats are unwilling to bring up for a vote is PA 15-176, which was House Bill 6977, AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

The legislation requires that any person serving as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have an appropriate education degree and teaching experience.

The legislation arose in response to Governor Malloy’s decision to name Stefan Pryor, a charter school founder and corporate education reform industry advocate, to be his first commissioner of education, despite the fact that Pryor had no educational experience.

Stefan Pryor’s performance as Malloy’s Education Commissioner led both Democrats and Republicans to call for legislation requiring future leaders of the state department of education to have the requisite education experience.

The General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill #6977 and went on to pass the legislation by a vote of 32 – 0.

At no time did Malloy or his administration testify against the bill or publicly announce any opposition to the concept.

The bill went to pass the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138-5.

In the end, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill.

With its passage, HB6977 become Connecticut Public Act 15-176.

But despite the overwhelming level of support displayed for the bill by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy vetoed the legislation.

And now, in a disturbing and rather pathetic effort to appease Governor Malloy, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House has announced that, after speaking with the Democratic members of the two chambers, there will be no vote to override or sustain Governor Malloy’s veto.

Instead, the bill will simply die.

To read about the bill go to: Malloy vetoes bill requiring that education commissioner have education experience, for news coverage about the decision not to even vote on Malloy’s veto see: CT Dems shameful display of cowardice on Malloy’s Education Veto (updated) and news coverage  at General Assembly Won’t Override Malloy’s Vetoes (CT Newsjunkie),   Democrats will not attempt to override Malloy vetoes (CT Mirror), No Veto Overrides Planned By Legislature (Hartford Courant)

The Democratic legislators’ lame and unsettling decision to  not even allow a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto of AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION (PA 15-176) came as a shock to Connecticut’s two teacher unions (the CEA and AFT-CT) who claimed ownership of the bill and used its passage as some strange indicator that their endorsement of Malloy’s re-election effort was acceptable because he was now being taken to the “wood shed” for his historic abuse of teachers and the teaching profession.

But the underlying issue isn’t about Malloy vs. the teacher unions or about whether Dannel Malloy’s temper and thin skin led him to veto a bill, out of the blue, despite its nearly unanimous support.

The issue really isn’t even about whether state government should or should not require that the commissioner of education have appropriate teaching experience.

The fundamental issue at stake is the result of the decision by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly to prevent a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto.

The decision by the legislative branch to walk away from its duty to check and balance the executive branch reflects the growing politics of appeasement that has enveloped our political system and it is a situation that should be of concern to everyone across the political spectrum.

The foundation of the United States’ system of government is the inclusion of the system of checks and balances to guard against unwarranted authority.  It is an inherent part of both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.

As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47,

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

(The Federalist No. 47: The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts January 30, 1788)

In a 2006 Washington Monthly article on the danger of executive power, Bruce Fein wrote about Madison’s concept explaining,

The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: ‘The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.'”

“The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.”

Governor Malloy is wrong to have vetoed the bill requiring that the person responsible for running the state department of education have educational experience.

But the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly have done a far greater disservice by refusing to even vote on Malloy’s veto.  Their unwarranted decision to appease Malloy means that they have handed their constitutionally mandated legislative authority to the executive branch of government.

And that is something every Connecticut citizens should be very concerned about.

CT Dems shameful display of cowardice on Malloy’s Education Veto (updated)

11 Comments

In a throw your people under the bus moment, Democratic Legislative leaders are now apparently claiming that it was actually the Democratic legislators themselves, and not the leadership, that lacked the courage to vote on sustaining or overriding any of Governor Malloy’s 2015 vetoes, including the bill to require that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education should have some teaching and classroom experience.

A CT Newsjunkie article entitled General Assembly Won’t Override Malloy’s Vetoes explains;

Despite pressure from one of the teacher unions, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey announced Friday that there wasn’t enough support to override any of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s nine vetoes.

“The general consensus among our members, and in light of some of the governor’s concerns, is that these issues would be best re-looked at during the next regular session, therefore we will not be scheduling any override votes,” Sharkey said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus said based on feedback from their members they also agreed not to attempt to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

Other coverage includes the CTMirror who reported Democrats will not attempt to override Malloy vetoes.

Majority Democrats in the General Assembly will not try to override any of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s vetoes when they meet in special session Monday, House and Senate Democratic leadership announced Friday morning.

And the Hartford Courant’s No Veto Overrides Planned By Legislature, in which they add;

Finding no consensus to take action, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Friday that there will be no overrides of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s nine vetoes in the legislative session.

Some legislators and advocates had been pushing for overrides on some education bills, but the Democrat-controlled legislature has not overridden a veto since Malloy, a Democrat, took office in January 2011.

Republicans said Friday that they will show up at the constitutionally required veto session Monday prepared to overturn Malloy’s decisions.

Mark the date; it will be a moment to remember!

A date, thanks to the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly, when legislators refused to fulfill their fundamental duty to represent the citizens of Connecticut.

Connecticut has long been called the Constitution State due to its historic commitment to the value and importance of a constitutional democracy and the unique role Connecticut’s citizens have played in the development of our representative form of government.

But the message from Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly is that there is no place for our representative democracy when it comes to the eight bills that Governor Malloy vetoed earlier this month.

In an extraordinary show of submissive, subservient, even sycophantic behavior, Democratic leaders announced that they would not allow any vote to take place on whether to override or sustain Governor Malloy’s vetoes.

As a result of their pronouncement, Connecticut’s 36 Senators and 151 State Representatives will have no opportunity to represent their constituents.

While the Connecticut constitution provides that every voter has a State Senator and a State Representative to be their eyes, ears and voice when it comes to adopting the laws that apply to Connecticut’s citizens, the stark and insulting truth is that Connecticut’s legislative branch of government is refusing to do its job, leaving Connecticut’s voters voiceless.

A primary reason to hold a veto session was to override Governor Malloy’s arrogant veto of a bill requiring Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education to have appropriate classroom experience.

See: Malloy vetoes bill requiring that education commissioner have education experience

Dannel shows his true stripes yet again…

The CT Newsjunkie headline reads- Union Leader ‘Stunned’ By Malloy Veto of Standards For Education Commish while the CT Mirror exclaims Malloy vetoes qualifications for education commissioner

The leaders of Connecticut’s teacher unions are stunned because the Right Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy decided to veto legislation that would have required that the state education commissioners have “a strong classroom background, something his first education commissioner lacked.”

The legislation passed the Education Committee 32 to 0

It passed the State Senate 36 – 0

And it passed the Connecticut House of Representatives  138-5

Only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill in the House.

But Dannel Malloy vetoed it anyway.

And now the Connecticut Legislature won’t even debate or vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto.

But even this important opportunity to adopt good public policies pales in comparison to the bigger, far more profound statement that Democrats have announced by refusing to even allow the General Assembly to take up any of the bills vetoed by Malloy.

There is something very, very wrong with the way Connecticut government is functioning.

Superintendents and Legislators – Beware – the SBAC Tsunami is coming!

6 Comments

An open letter to Superintendents and Legislators 7/10/2015;

For more than a year and a half, public education advocates in Connecticut have been delivering the message that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is unfair, inappropriate, discriminatory and fundamentally flawed.  The Common Core SBAC test is DESIGNED to fail the vast majority of public school students.  It is a product of the education reform industry that is set on convincing policymakers and the public that our nation’s public education system is broken, that our public school teachers are bad and that the answer is more standardized testing and diverting scarce public funds to charter schools and other privatization efforts.

Rather then fight back, far too many politicians and school administrators climbed on board the education reform initiatives train that are undermining public education today.

In Connecticut, the SBAC disaster was slowed by a handful of  dedicated and committed public school superintendents who recognized that parents had the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the destructive SBAC test, but the majority of local education leaders (and elected officials) kowtowed to the Malloy administration and engaged in an immoral and unethical effort to mislead parents into believing that schools had “no degrees of freedom” on the SBAC testing issue.

We all know that defense was nothing short of an outright lie.

Now the results of the 2015 SBAC tests are coming in and students, parents, teachers and the public will finally see for themselves just how unfair and discriminatory the SBAC testing scam really is.

Common Core testing is unfair to all public schools students, but it is particularly damaging to students who come from poorer families, those that have English language challenges and those who require special education services.

As the following Wait, What? blog post reports, Washington State, another SBAC testing ground, has already released their early results and 7 in 10 high school juniors have been deemed failures according to the SBAC math test.

Although the Connecticut State Department of Education continues to claim that the SBAC results are not yet available, the news from other SBAC states is that preliminary information has been handed over to the states and, as the corporate education reform industry always intended, the vast majority of public school students have been deemed failures.

So a warning to Connecticut’s superintendents and other school administrators.  Whether you have been given the results or are still waiting for them to be handed over, beware of the Tsunami that is coming…

We all know that while the state has a significant achievement gap due to poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs, our public schools are not broken and our children and teachers are not failures.

Strategies exist to close the achievement gap, but the State of Connecticut and its leaders have simply refused to address the core issues that would improve academic achievement in any meaningful way.

And Connecticut’s parents will not forget that when it came to protecting Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools from the negative consequences of the SBAC testing scheme, the vast majority of Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials simply turned their heads away and did nothing.

In the coming weeks, when tens of thousands of Connecticut parents are wrongly informed that their children are academic failures remember, the bell tolls for thee…

Here are the numbers from Washington State.

More than 7 in 10 high school juniors in Washington State FAIL the Unfair SBAC Math Test (Wait, What? Post 7/9/15)

And for more, read;

TAKE NOTE – Real Educators don’t punish AND bully students and parents for opting out!

BEWARE: 9 in 10 Children who utilize special education services will fail the inappropriate Common Core SBAC Test

More than 90% of English Language Learners “Projected” to Fail Common Core SBAC Test

 

 

A Convicted Felon on Steve Perry’s Charter School Governing Council – There should be a law!

7 Comments

On December 5, 2000, Carl McCluster was sentenced to five years’ probation for embezzling $114,000 from a program meant to help homeless veterans in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

According to the court order, the defendant was placed on home confinement for the first six months. (The Judge order that, “The defendant shall pay none of the costs associated with monitoring.”) The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to the Veteran’s Affairs, Homeless Providers Grant Per Diem Program.

McCluster was back in federal court five years later to deal with the payment issues and a related garnishment of his wages from his employer, Shiloh Baptist Church.

The issue of convicted felons being associated with Charter Schools is unfortunately not new to Connecticut.

Just last year Connecticut witnessed the collapse of the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school chain as a result of revelations that the company’s CEO “Dr.” Michael Sharpe didn’t actually have the academic credentials he claimed and, to boot, had been convicted of embezzling public funds when he was working in California.

The State Department of Education claimed they had no knowledge that the CEO of Fuse/Jumoke Charter School company wasn’t exactly who he claimed to be.

So action was needed and with the Jumoke debacle fresh in their minds, the leadership of Connecticut’s Education Committee introduced Senate Bill 1096 – AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

The legislation has passed the Connecticut State Senate and it presently sits on the House calendar waiting for its potential passage prior to legislature’s midnight deadline tomorrow, Wednesday, June 2, 2015.

The bill requires greater transparency for Connecticut’s charter schools, something that Dacia Toll, the CEO of Achievement First, Inc., a large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island opposed, having told the Education Committee that it would be a “burden” for charter schools to have to be more transparent.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain co-founded by Malloy’s first term commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor.

While much of the charter school accountability bill is waiting for action by the House deals with fiscal transparency, there is also a critically important section on criminal background checks.

As the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research explains in the bill summary,

“Beginning July 1, 2015, the bill requires various individuals who manage and work in charter schools to submit to several types of background checks. Specifically, SBE must require governing council and CMO members to submit to Department of Children and Families child abuse and neglect registry checks and state and national criminal history records checks (1) prior to SBE granting an initial certificate to the charter school or (2) before the governing council or CMO may hire new members.”

Wait? What?

Submit background checks before a charter school can be granted approval to open?

But what about schools that already have the approval of the Connecticut State Department of Education to open, but haven’t actually received the funding they would need to start operating?

The bill’s language is clear – Beginning July 1, 2015 – Charter school applicants must do complete background checks and provide that information to the State Board of Education in their application material.

The two charter schools that Governor Dannel Malloy is demanding funding for were already approved in 2014, they have an approved application in place….just not funding (yet.)

So if you were listening closely, that sound you just heard was probably the wannabee charter school chain operator Steve Perry dancing a jig based on the fact that he won’t have to go through the trouble and burden of providing the state with information about the criminal backgrounds of members of his charter school’s governing council.

Because if he did, that would be a problem!

A big problem…

The charter school application submitted by Steve Perry and approved by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education included the names of the members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school…

And leading the list of governing board members is Carl McCluster, who also happens to be one of Perry’s biggest cheerleaders in Bridgeport.

Having testified for Steve Perry’s charter school and spoken at rally’s in support of Perry’s plan,  Carl McCluster and Steve Perry certainly don’t want to face what would be an awkward situation if Perry was required to reveal whether any of his governing board members are convicted felons.

The charter school industry is certainly hoping, and undoubtedly working, to make sure that Senate Bill 1096 is not taken up in the House of Representatives today or tomorrow.  Failure to pass the bill in the next 30 hours will kill the legislation.

However, even if the bill passes and is signed into by Governor Malloy, McCluster and Perry can rest easy because as it is presently written the law only applies to charter school applications that are submitted on or after July 1, 2015.

Phew, that is good to know

They have your child’s data and they aren’t afraid to use it.

6 Comments

The first in series about the lack of adequate protections related to student data and privacy

Over recent weeks the focus of this blog has been on parental right and the importance of opting out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, but that issue is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the unprecedented activities of the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their supporters like Governor Dannel Malloy.

While the vast majority of parents are blind to the issue, one of the most serious problems associated with the transformation of the nation’s education system is the creation of massive databases that track a broad array of data about children and how a variety of public and private entities mine that data for various uses including marketing to children and parents.

Just as troubling is the fact that few school administrators seem to understand the extent of these recent developments.

State and local school officials continue to tell parents that their child’s data is safe as a result of the federal government’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which was originally designed to protect students and ensure that parents knew what data was being collected on their children and how that data was being used.

But even a basic review of the communications being sent out by Connecticut’s Department of Education and local superintendents reveal that these officials either don’t know about the massive changes that have been made to the FERPA law or are intentionally misleading and lying to parents.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was designed to control the use of “educational records” and any agency or institution that violates the FERPA law and its regulations can be denied funding. As the law is written, school officials cannot share student data with outside entities without parental consent.

However massive changes to the FERPA privacy law in 2008 and 2011 undermined the most important elements of the nation’s student privacy law.  The United States Department of Education now defines “school officials” to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.”

This means the nation’s federal student privacy law allows schools to provide the data it collects on students to private companies, without parental consent, if the contract is related, in some way, to educational activities.

In addition, revisions to the FERPA privacy regulations, “removed limitations prohibiting educational institutions and agencies from disclosing student personally identifiable information, without first obtaining student or parental consent,” a change that now gives private companies access to data that specifically identifies each student.

The changes in the nation’s student privacy laws were pushed by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and companies that are financially benefiting from getting access to student data.

As Politco.com observed at the time, the private sector was overjoyed.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.

Politico went on to report,

CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products – educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

And we’re not talking about just a few companies using a few limited databases.

Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service),  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and dozens of other companies have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying to weaken privacy laws or stop the federal and state governments from reducing their access to student data.

Just this week, The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado released a major report entitled, ON THE BLOCK: STUDENT DATA AND PRIVACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE.  The report references a 2013 study conducted by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School which looked into how California school districts were handling student data.  The report found that;

“[In California] 95% of school districts now rely on cloud-services providers for a wide variety of services, such as data mining for student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, and data hosting.

However, fewer than 25% of the agreements specify the permitted purposes for disclosures of student information, fewer than 7% of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors, and many agreements allow vendors to unilaterally change the terms. Many also allow vendors to retain student data into perpetuity.”

After reviewing federal and state laws, the new NEPC report makes it extremely clear that while more than 20 states have passed their own student privacy laws to fill in gaps in the federal laws, Connecticut is one of the states that has completely failed to develop appropriate student privacy laws designed to protect the state’s children.

In Connecticut, for example, there is no requirement that contracts with vendors:

Restrict the use of data collection for advertising and marketing purposes

Require that parents are notified and have an unlimited right to review data that is being handed over to third parties

Require that third parties have and maintain appropriate data security procedures.

Require that data must be destroyed following intended use.

Require parents be notified about breaches or that third parties be held accountable for breaches. (In fact, when it comes to protecting student data, Connecticut actually has a statute that provides for immunity of liability for data breach and NO notice to parents that a breach has occurred.) 

This year a group of Republican legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly introduced H.B. No. 7017, an Act Concerning Student Data Privacy, but following a public hearing, the Education Committee passed an extremely weak version of what might be called an attempt at beginning to address the student privacy problem.

As the proposed legislation now stands, Connecticut parents would continue to have virtually no meaningful protections when it comes to the use of data collected about their children.

Check back for much more on the key issues surrounding student data and privacy, the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s efforts and the failure of public officials to address this growing problem.

Governor Malloy Administration’s Gag Order is nothing short of Putinesque

9 Comments

For even to the most cynical, the recent CT Mirror’s story entitled, “Is it a gag order or the Malloy administration speaking with one voice?” is utterly shocking and should make Connecticut residents extremely uncomfortable and very queasy.

The CTMirror article reiterates the reality that Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is not the Dan Malloy who asked voters to make him Connecticut’s governor in the 2010 election.

Dan Malloy, the candidate, ran on a platform that he would be the “most transparent governor in history.”  He claimed that he supported Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law, that he wanted stronger, not weaker, state ethics laws and that he believed that an honest, just and open government required strong Freedom of Information laws.

But since being sworn in as governor in January 2011, Dannel Malloy has become the least transparent governor in modern history, has consistently undermined and destroyed Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, made a mockery of the state’s ethics laws and has engaged in an unprecedented assault on the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

But his most anti-open government maneuver may very well be the news that Governor Malloy has allowed a directive to go out that prohibits his commissioners and other public employees from talking to legislators (or anyone else) about Malloy’s fraudulent state budget proposal.

As the CT Mirror reports;

Key legislators say a directive restricting what agency heads can tell legislators about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal is hindering lawmakers in doing their jobs and will push more of the budget-writing process behind closed doors.

“Our job is to negotiate and evaluate and build the best budget possible for the 3.5 million people of Connecticut,” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, House chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Denying us the ability to do that is denying us our responsibility and our authority as the legislature.”

“I think this is a politically correct gag order,” said Rep. Melissa Ziobron of East Haddam, ranking House Republican on the committee. “If we can’t get full answers to our questions, we can’t serve our residents and the state of Connecticut well.”

At issue is a memo Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, sent last month to Executive Branch agency heads.”

In a stunningly inappropriate, unethical, immoral and arrogant demand, Malloy’s budget director writes, “Requests for new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds should be referred to OPM…Agencies are expected to support the Governor’s budget rather than providing alternatives to that budget.”

While there has always long been an unwritten guideline that political appointees try to defend their boss’ proposals, the notion that Malloy, through  his budget director, would direct public servants, who are paid with public dollars, whose statutory duty is to run a state agency and provide public services,  not to speak with legislators or others about, “new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds” is nothing short of Putinesque.

As for reaction from legislators, the CT Mirror adds,

“Referring to Barnes’ memo, Bye told The Mirror this week that she’s not surprised, “in tough fiscal times, that a chief executive wants to keep as much control as he can.”

But Bye added that the administration must appreciate that the legislature has its own constitutional charge to adopt a budget, and it must have more than just facts and data.

For example, if the Appropriations Committee is considering restoring two programs cut in the governor’s plan, but ultimately decides Connecticut only can afford one, members normally would ask officials in the affected agency which program might provide the most public benefit.

“If we are trying to choose between funding programs, it would be better if commissioners could offer us their thoughts on those alternatives,” Bye said. “I think it would make for a better process.”

While State Senator Beth Bye’s conclusion that it would “be better if commissioners could offer us their thoughts on those alternatives” is absolutely true, her comment that is a forgone conclusion that “a chief executive wants to keep as much control,” provides cover for Malloy’s reprehensible action.

Wanting to “control the dialogue” is a long way from interfering with the Constitutionally mandated role of the Connecticut General Assembly.

The CTMirror article concludes;

“Barnes wrote Tuesday in a statement to The Mirror that, “We work together, as one administration, with all our commissioners and agency heads. This is a budget filled with tough choices, but they are the best ones to keep Connecticut on a path towards a brighter future. The Governor, through his office and through OPM, remains willing to discuss his budget proposals, or any other specific proposals legislators make, at any time. Executive branch employees are professionals who can’t be expected to publicly advocate for positions at odds with the Governor as a part of their job.”

Barnes statement is a bizarre and weak excuse for a policy approach that promotes secrecy and violates the most basic tenets of an open and transparent government.

The Democratic majority in the Connecticut House of Representatives should put down their budget pens, set aside their budget calculators and tell a governor and an administration that has gone amok that no further action will be taken on Malloy’s proposed budget until this outrageous memo is rescinded and Connecticut’s state commissioners and agency heads are instructed to be open and honest with all of the members of the legislative branch of government whose obligation is to review, revise a governor’s proposed budget and eventually adopt a budget that carries the weight of law.

Older Entries