More on the CCJEF v. Rell Case “Judge Moukawsher’s Disconnect” by Barth Keck

Writing for CT Newsjunkie, Connecticut educator and CT Newsjunkie columnist, Barth Keck, tackles the recent CCJEF ruling.  Keck writes;

Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling last week that the state must devise a new formula for funding public schools was not surprising. What was surprising was the wide-ranging scope of his criticism of public schools as well as the exceedingly tight timeframe — 180 days — he gave the state to remedy the problem.

“The extraordinary ruling orders the state to revamp virtually all areas of public education — from the hiring and firing of teachers, to special education services, to education standards for elementary and high school students,” reported the Hartford Courant. “He also criticized the state’s generous reimbursement policy for school construction projects, especially in an age of decreasing enrollment.”

In short, Judge Moukawsher issued a scathing judgment on how Connecticut educates its children. As a public school teacher for the past 25 years, I found much of what he said in a three-hour reading of his 90-page decision insulting.

I do agree, in principle, with the judge’s ruling that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities,” particularly since the state’s educational funding formula “allows rich towns to raid money desperately needed by poor towns,” essentially “mak[ing] a mockery of the state’s constitutional duty to provide adequate educational opportunities to all students.”

But Moukawsher’s generalizations about public schools and teachers were glaringly ignorant of the real strides that Connecticut schools — including the ones in “poor towns” — are making.

For example, the judge wrote that the state’s teacher evaluation system is “little more than cotton candy in a rainstorm” since “[s]tate standards are leaving teachers with uselessly perfect evaluations and pay that follows only seniority and degrees instead of reflecting need and good teaching.”

Barth Keck concludes his important commentary piece by observing

In the end, Judge Moukawsher may honestly believe that “schools have to be about teaching children and nothing else,” but he’s sadly mistaken. Clearly, he’s never taught in a Connecticut public school — urban, suburban, or rural — if he thinks teachers do nothing but “teach.” And while his ruling to ensure fairness in school funding is morally correct, his haughty rhetoric castigating Connecticut’s public schools and those who work in them is simply narrow-minded and offensive.

Please take the time to read Barth Keck’s article its entirety on the CTNewsjunkie website at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_judge_moukawshers_disconnect/

Sign of the Times; Reader hopes for my death following posts on Courtney, Himes and anti-Syrian Immigrant vote

Certainly it must have been written in jest….

Maybe it was not meant so much as a threat, but simply a reminder that the tenor of public discourse continues to spiral downward as our society, increasingly torn and tattered by the political and economic environment, unraveling around us.

Following the United States House of Representatives’ passage of legislation designed to delay and derail the ability of Syrian immigrants to come to the United States, I posted two commentary pieces at Wait, What?.

The first took Connecticut Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney and Jim Himes to task for being among the 47 Democrats to join the House Republicans voting in favor of the bill, Congressman Courtney and Himes – You have brought shame on our nation and our state, I can no longer support you (Wait, What? Friday, 11/20/15), while the second sought to provide readers with the facts about how the U.S. refugee system really works PLEASE take a moment to review the facts about the U.S. Syrian refugee issue (Wait, What? Saturday, 11/21/15).

CT Newsjunkie, a website dedicated to providing people with Connecticut news and a wide range of commentary was kind enough to include a link to the first blog in their “Friday Night Fix!” email highlighting the week’s news and providing suggested reading material for the weekend.

For their part, the Hartford Courant’s CapitolWatch Tweeted a link to the blog with,

“You have brought shame on our nation:”@jonathanpelto disappointed in Rep. Courtney’s vote on Syrian refugee bill.”

A Hartford Courant editor turned to his own Twitter Account to add,

“Trouble on the fringe: @jonathanpelto throws @RepJoeCourtney under the bus.”

A significant number of readers responded to the two Wait, What? Blog posts, some added their opinions by commenting on the What, What? Blog while others communicated by email.

The range of opinions was extensive.  People have strong feelings about issues like immigration.  This blog has thoughtful readers across the political spectrum and while some of the comments and emails were harsh, none could  be defined as abusive or threatening.

And then Sunday night came a comment from a reader who apparently resides in Fairfield County and wrote, among other things;

I have actively campaigned against Jim Himes, and I have proudly voted against him in the last two elections. I now congratulate Jim Himes for his sensible vote, and I gladly invite all you stupid libtards to consume my feces.

[…]

Hey Jon, I’m talking to you — polish my nutsack. Hope you meet the same fate as Chris Stevens!

The reference to the “same fate as Chris Stevens!” appears to be to the killing of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was murdered, along with others, in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2012 at the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham has claimed that the body of Ambassador Stevens was “dragged through the street,” while other conservative commentators have said he was also sexually assaulted, before being murdered.  Both claims were determined to be untrue by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, an Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack, and by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Of course, let’s face it, there is no doubt that a blog comment like that is meant as a joke, perhaps nothing more than a very colorful way to articulate opposition to my commentary pieces.

Besides, this is the United States of America where the Freedom of Speech is the cornerstone of our form of government, which, in turn, is the greatest experiment in an open, egalitarian, large-scale democracy in human history.

In the United States, we don’t kill people because of what they say or write.

Well there was Alan Berg, the Denver talk show host who was gunned down in his driveway, but that was thirty-one years ago and besides that was different, he was assassinated by a White, neo-Nazi, right-wing extremist group because he was liberal, Jewish and known for his outspoken and acerbic commentary.  (Ah… Well… Let’s just say it was a long time ago and leave it at that.)

As noted, people just don’t kill bloggers and commentators because they don’t like what they say and write.

True, four bloggers and a publisher have been killed in Bangladesh this year, but that’s different.

Bangladeshi-born US writer Avijit Roy, founder of secular Bangla blog site Muktomona, was hacked to death on February 26, 2015 as he was leaving a university book fair.

Oyeshekur Rahman Babu, a writer and blogger, was chopped to death in central Dhaka on March 30, 2015.

Science writer and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in a similar attack in north-eastern city of Sylhet on May 12, 2015

On August 7, 2015 attackers entered the apartment of blogger Niladri Chattapadhay and chopped him to death.

And Faysal Arfin Deepon, whose company had published Avijit Roy’s work was stabbed him to death in his office on October 31, 2015

But those killings didn’t occur in the United States, all four were murdered in Bangladesh by Islamist militants with links to al-Qaeda.

And while there have been similar attacks in other parts of the world, they all took place somewhere “over there.”

According to Reporters without Boarders, not counting the hundreds of journalists who have been killed as a result of their reporting over the past couple of years, at least 215 bloggers have been murdered and more than 250 more have been imprisoned for the their crime of commenting on the news and the world around them.

Syria, whose refugees have become the focal point of the anti-immigrant rhetoric has seen the largest number of bloggers murdered over the past two years, a total of at least 72 individuals.

However, assassinations of bloggers have also occurred in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Mexican activist and video blogger José Luis Rodríguez Muñiz  posted a commentary critical of his the region’s Governor, Mayor and politicians calling them “bola de ratas” (or “Ball Rats” in English.) Hours later he was shot to death by unidentified gunmen.

But this is the United States,

We’re different…  In our country, people are allowed to speak their minds.

I mean, I’m sure the comment posted to Wait, What? was meant as a joke and how dangerous can a joke be?

Heck, even Donald Trump was probably joking when suggesting My Fans Were Right To Beat Up Black Protester

After his supporters beat up a Black Lives Matter protester on video, Donald Trump suggested that they may have done the right thing.

The protester, a black man, reportedly started chanting Black Lives Matter at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday. In a video captured by CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond, rally attendees swarm around the man, kicking and punching him as he curls up on the ground.

Trump was asked to weigh in on his supporters’ actions on Fox & Friends Sunday morning. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he said. “It was disgusting what he was doing.”

Yeah, it’s probably all a big joke.

Yes we are failing our children…especially here in Connecticut

When Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to the podium in February 2015 to announce his proposed austerity budget for the State of Connecticut he announced a plan in which more than half (54%) of his proposed budget cuts came from children’s programs.

More than half of Malloy’s total cuts aimed at programs to support children when, “spending on the ‘Children’s Budget’ – state government spending that directly benefits young people – makes up only a third of the overall state budget.”  [CT Voices]

In response to the criticism leveled at Malloy, a recent CTNewJunkie headline explained, “Malloy Administration Pitches ‘Lean’ Government, Denies Being Heavy Handed.”

Lean government, not being heavy handed?

According to recent economic data, the nation’s wealth grew by 60 percent over the past six years.  That translates into about $30 trillion of additional wealth, with the overwhelming majority of that money going to the country’s super rich.

During the same period, the number of homeless children grew by 60 percent. “For Every Two Homeless Children in 2006, There Are Now Three.” During this past winter approximately 138,000 children were defined as homeless by the US Department of Housing.

Children now account for nearly 50 percent the country’s food stamp recipients.  More than 16 million children get about $5 a day to pay for their meals, but that was before Congress and the President cut $8.6 billion from the food stamp program over the next ten years.

In 2007 about 12 in every 100 kids were on food stamps. Today that number stands at 20 in every 100 children.

According to UNICEF, the UN’s agency for children, the United States has one of the highest  child poverty rates in the developed world.  The report explains, “[Children’s] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States.”

And Here in Connecticut… 

About 113,000 Connecticut children live in the lowest levels of poverty, or about 14.5 percent of all the state’s children…nearly one in every six children.

Connecticut’s child poverty rate is up nearly 50 percent from 2000 when the number of Connecticut children living in poverty was just over 10 percent.  At the time, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to adopt an official policy stating its goal was to reduce poverty by fifty percent by 2010.  Connecticut failed.  Rather than reducing child poverty by 50 percent, the level of child poverty has increased by 50 percent since we entered the 21st Century.

Today the level of child poverty is more than 47% in Hartford; 40% in Waterbury; and over 32% in Bridgeport, New Britain and New Haven.

Using a more appropriate definition of poverty, living under 200% of the federal poverty level, the harsh reality is that almost 1 in 3 Connecticut children are growing up at unacceptable levels of poverty.

Yet in the face of the mounting levels of child poverty, Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy proposed more cuts to a variety of vital programs including those that are aimed at helping the state’s poorest children.

And is budget slashing comes despite the fact that Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers pay a far lower percent of their income in state and local taxes than the middle class and the poor and the rich are charged a much lower income tax rate then their brethren pay in New York and New Jersey.  The problem is that Malloy refuses to raise the income tax rate on the wealthy because, as he said before, he doesn’t want to “punish success.”

Connecticut’s elected officials can and must face the reality that we are failing our children.  They can start by requiring the state’s wealthiest residents to pay their fair share in taxes – thereby eliminating the need for cuts to children’s programs.  See – Democrats – Time to stop coddling the rich.

And as for Malloy, one wonders if his only defense is the fact that he is not alone in his disdain for truly putting children first on the political agenda…

What is perhaps the most telling point of all is that there are two nations in the World who have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child — South Sudan and the United States. 

[Numbers about child poverty at the federal level come from A Nation’s Shame: Trillions in New Wealth, Millions of Children in Poverty.]

There goes another $100,000 in taxpayer funds

Following up on yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled, NEWS FLASH:  Pryor’s No Bid contract costs taxpayers another $100,000 plus, CTNewsjunkie provides the details about the Malloy administration’s decision to pay an out-of-state consulting education reform company another $100,000 despite the fact that the company did not have a written contract extension.

As Christine Stuart explains,

The state agreed to pay a New York consulting firm $100,000 to settle a claim for a contract some thought had expired.

Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” sued the state Education Department for paying only part of $200,000 it claimed it was owed for work it did past the due date of the original contract. Jonathan Gyurko, the consulting company’s co-founder, was instrumental in negotiating the 2012 education reform package on behalf of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration.

When the contract expired in March 2012, the lawsuit claims Gyurko was given assurances by Education Department staff that if he continued to work he would be paid for his services — an additional three months past the end date.

Read the full story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/state_pays_education_consultant_100k/