No Victory on “CT Transportation Initiative” despite claims

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The 2015 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly is over and as you listen to Connecticut politicians claiming victory on a new transportation initiative – face it – they are quite simply…lying!

The lack of the promised transportation funding “Lockbox” and the successful effort to by-pass Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws have become the pillars of Governor Dannel Malloy’s purported “transportation initiative.”

Although it failed to garner any media attention, included in the massive 686-page “budget implementation” bill just passed the legislature were sections rolling back an important aspect of Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws for transportation projects.

As noted in yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled, WARNING! “Budget Implementation Bill” includes language undoing post-Rowland competitive bidding reforms, the Malloy administration and Democratic legislative leaders embedded language into the “budget implementation” bill that allows the Malloy administration to side-step competitive bidding requirements on what will likely be the largest transportation projects the agency undertakes.

Equally astonishing is that while the legislature approved Malloy’s request for billions of dollars in transportation bonding, the General Assembly failed to ensure that the taxes intended to pay for the transportation program will actually be spent on the transportation program.

As the CT Mirror Reports,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got the $2.8 billion in bonding he needs to launch his transportation overhaul initiative — but not the legal ‘lockbox’ he insisted upon to protect it.

The transportation safeguards lawmakers approved Monday lack a mandated pledge to bondholders — something Malloy had said was essential to ensure dollars earmarked for transportation are spent for that purpose.

Instead legislators merely wrote in statute that transportation funds can’t be diverted for other purposes. For more than a decade, legislators and governors have assigned resources to transportation with one law, and then redirected them for other purposes with another law.

The CT Mirror goes on to remind readers that Malloy promised that he would VETO any transportation funding bill that did not include a “Lockbox” to protect taxpayer investment in transportation improvements.

In his State of the State Address in January, the governor said the state must pledge in its transportation bond covenant — effectively the control between the state and its investors — not to divert transportation funds.

“No gimmicks, no diversion,” the governor said. “And we should include a covenant with bondholders and all people of Connecticut to ensure that money set aside for transportation projects is only used for that purpose.”

Malloy added that until the legislature passed legislation with this safeguard, “I will veto any attempt to levy additional sources of new revenue for transportation.”

By way of response, the governor’s spokesperson dismissed Malloy’s earlier rhetoric about the need for a “Lockbox” noting,

“Today’s vote is the first step towards the future of a best-in-class transportation system,” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said. “This issue is too important — for jobs, for businesses, and for families. We would like to thank the legislature for sharing the governor’s vision to transform our infrastructure.  This one vote will have ramifications that will benefit generations of residents.”

You can read more about Malloy’s “Transportation Victory” at:

CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/2015/06/29/senate-approves-initial-bonding-for-malloys-transportation-overhaul/

CT Newsjunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/language_implementing_budget_includes_dozens_of_other_legislative_concepts/

Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-senate-debating-budget-implementer-20150629-story.html#page=1

CT’s Legislative Democrats set to make a bad budget worse

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Governor Dannel Malloy must have been singing the children’s song “Roll Over, Roll Over,” because it appears that Democrats in the Connecticut State Senate and House of Representatives will return to Hartford today to “fix” a bad state budget by making it worse.

As the CT Mirror reported on Friday,

“The House and Senate will return Monday at 10 a.m. for what the leaders hope will be a one-day special session to pass budget revisions and implementer bills, a bond package and two criminal justice measures.”

In an effort to appease big business, the changes to the budget include another $25 million in health care cuts to Connecticut’s poorest residents and a $25 million in cuts from an “undisclosed list” of government services and programs.

Among the most bizarre maneuvers is an effort to screw state employees by predetermining the outcome of next year’s state contract negotiations, unless of course, it is just a ruse to make it look like a cut when, in fact, they intend to put the money back in to the budget in the 2017.

As CT Mirror explained,

“House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the bill also would reduce salary reserve funding in the second year of the biennium, a nudge to the administration to obtain concessions in coming contract negotiations.

“We are setting a direction to the governor as to what we’d like to see in terms of concessions, so to speak, in year two when he negotiates those contracts,” Sharkey said.”

According to the CT Mirror,

“With these changes, overall tax hikes in the new, two-year budget would drop from $1.5 billion to just over $1.3 billion. The new budget also cancels close to $500 million in previously approved tax cuts that were supposed to be implemented in the coming biennium.”

Under both the “old” and “new” budget plan, the state will continue to implement record budget cuts to a variety of vital state programs and services.

In addition, although the legislature’s original tax plan added a minor bump in the income tax rate for the super-rich; both the original and revised versions of the state budget continue Governor Malloy’s long-standing commitment to coddle Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers by refusing to require them to pay their fair share in income taxes.

On another front, the “new” state budget continues to send the vast majority of the new money for nursing home care to those facilities that are unionized rather than the long-standing approach which treated residents of long-term care facilities the same – regardless of whether they are living in unionized or non-unionized nursing homes.

The decision to favor the unionized facilities raises serious legal issues which are being reported by CT Newsjunkie in an article entitled, Association Says Nursing Home Allocation Violates Federal Law.

The state’s largest association of skilled nursing facilities says the way lawmakers are planning to distribute funds to nursing homes violates federal law.

The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities warned Sunday night in a statement that distributing $9 million to raise wages in 60 unionized nursing homes and only $4 million to 170 non-unionized skilled nursing facilities is “blatantly unfair and discriminatory to the non-union workers who do the exact same work as the union workers with the same Connecticut taxpayer money.”

Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the association, said nursing homes in Connecticut are overwhelmingly non-union with only 30 percent associated with organized labor.

That means non-union workers would see overall wages increase 0.75 percent, while unionized nursing homes would receive a 5.5 percent increase. According to Barrett this amounts to a 10 cent raise for non-union workers, and an 80 cent raise for union workers — eight times the increase non-union workers would receive.

Barrett warned that if lawmakers approve the allocation they are putting at risk federal matching funds for $1.2 billion in Medicaid nursing home expenditures.

Legislative leaders Friday said they put an additional $1 million into the budget for non-union homes, bringing the wage increase funding for those homes up to $4 million.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Friday that they were giving an additional $1 million to the non-union homes to “provide a little bit more equity.”

[…]

Barrett said there’s well-established case law that doesn’t allow for this type of inequity to exist between union and non-union homes.

For more about the “new” state budget read;

CT Mirror at http://ctmirror.org/2015/06/26/democrats-whittle-down-future-town-aid-to-cut-business-taxes-now/ and CT Newsjunkie at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democrats_roll_back_raises_for_state_employees_increase_money_for_hospitals/

Charter School Industry money persuades legislators to give them your tax dollars

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The Connecticut General Assembly is returning to Hartford for a special session to pass the statutory language needed to implement the state budget that the Democratic controlled legislature passed earlier this month.

While legislators are going into special session, cities and towns across Connecticut are cutting local public school programs as a result of the inadequate education funding that is part of the state budget that was agreed upon in a deal between Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislators earlier this month.

But while the people reel from the impact of the major tax increases and deep spending cuts to vital services that are part of the new budget, there is one group that is overjoyed with the state budget that is receiving so much criticism from across the political spectrum.

Thanks to their record spending on lobbyists and lobbying, Connecticut’s charter school industry is sitting pretty thanks to the decision by Malloy and the Democrats to give the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools record amounts of public funds.

Having created a myriad of front groups with names like Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child; North East Charter School Network; Connecticut Council for Education Reform; Achievement First, Inc., Bronx Charter School of Excellence, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., Educators 4 Excellence and FaithActs for Education, charter school owners and the corporate executives behind the education reform industry have poured another $1 million into their successful campaign to persuade legislators to give private charter school companies even more public funds while leaving their own local schools high and dry and twisting in the wind.

In just the first 150 days of the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the charter schools and their front groups spent more than $1,149,800.70 to “persuade” legislators to fund their corporate entities rather than our public schools.

The Charter School and Corporate Education Reform groups involved in the lobbying include;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $69,894.80
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $4,489.01
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $39,959.00
   
North East Charter School Network $85,608.24
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $938,923.47
   
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $10,936.27
   
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRY

January 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015

$1,149,800.70

 

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 $7.9 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-common core, anti-teacher agenda.

To help grease their success, the various charter school advocacy groups has even spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and his former press secretary.

During the recent legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child ran television ads calling upon Connecticut’s elected officials to divert even more scarce taxpayer funds to charter schools.  The group was also the lead sponsored of a pro-charter school rally in which they bussed in parents and students from charter schools as far away as New York City and Boston.

Among the more curious expenditures listed in the reports filed this month with the State Ethics Commission by Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child was a payment of just over $2,000 to the charter school management company Achievement First, Inc.

However, with Achievement First Inc. and other charter school companies claiming that they don’t have to abide by Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act because they are private entities, there is no way to know what exactly the charter school operator is doing with its public funds or other funds that they are collecting.

A bill expanding the reach of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law to ensure greater transparency when it comes to the charter school companies was water-downed during the last days of the legislative session as a result of intense lobbying by the charter school industry.

Dacia Toll, the Co-CEO of Achievement First Inc. testified that requiring charter school operators to adhere to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act would be a unfair burden.

As education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman explained in a CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, the charter school industry is simply unwilling to open its books for public inspection despite the fact that it receives well over $100 million a year in public funds from Connecticut’s taxpayers.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

For more about the charter school industry’s successful effort to meaningful prevent transparency go to: Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

“What in the world are they doing in Hartford?”

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Those were the simple, but rather profound, words of one Republican legislator as Connecticut’s House of Representatives and State Senate jammed through a new state budget as it careened toward its midnight deadline yesterday.

Now the General Assembly is headed for a special session to deal with some of the legislation that it failed to address.

Later this morning, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman will hold a press conference to congratulate themselves and applaud the Democratic legislators who voted for the budget package that Malloy negotiated with the General Assembly’s Democratic Leaders this week.

Raising nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next two years, with the middle class taking a particularly heavy hit, the new state budget makes massive cuts to a number of vitally important health care and social service programs aimed at helping Connecticut’s poorest families and those with developmental disabilities, mental health issues or other significant life challenges. The cuts include one that will mean more than 20,000 poor parents will lose their health care coverage.  [Not to worry says the government, they can buy health insurance]

While failing to properly fund Connecticut’s public schools, leading charter school industry advocate Governor Dannel Malloy was able to “persuade” the Democratic legislators to divert scarce public funds so that his allies can open up two more privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

And as if to highlight Malloy’s dedication to screwing Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers, not only does the new state budget add millions of dollars more for charter schools, it actually cuts the amount of the money that towns are given to transport students.  Local school districts are required to pay for the transportation costs of charter school students and are also required to pay for any special education services that charter school students need.

The Democrat’s new budget also makes a huge cut to the Board of Regents which includes the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges.  Even after the state universities and community colleges institute another significant tuition increase, the schools will be facing a $22 million budget deficit in the coming year, a hole that will mean reduced programs and staff at Connecticut’s largest system of public higher education.

As if to make a point, at the same time, the new budget actually reduces the amount of student financial aid available for needy Connecticut students who want to get a college education.

And in one of the more telling provisions of the state budget, money to help increase the lowest paid workers in nursing homes doesn’t go to all nursing homes but is funneled almost exclusively to homes that are represented by unions.

Meanwhile, on the tax side, long gone is Malloy’s “read my lips” promise that, if re-elected, he would not raise taxes.

The new state budget starts by dropping the property tax credit for middle income families from $300 to $200 and then the hits keep on coming for those in the shrinking middle class.

By comparison, Malloy’s pledge to coddle the rich remains pretty much intact.  The new budget increases the income tax rate for the state’s super rich from 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent, ensuring that they will be paying far less in state and local taxes than they would if they were living in New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts.

The Governor and legislative leaders are also applauding their effort to make transportation a key priority by claiming that nearly $500 million of the $2 billion in new tax revenue will go into a “lock box” for transportation.  The only thing they conveniently overlook is that this same budget withholds $371 million in general fund resources that have been going to pay for transportation projects.  The net effect is that the transportation fund far short of what it needs.

And as noted in yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled “The Train Wreck of the Democrats State Budget,”one of the most obnoxious and disgusting provisions of the new state budget is that it steals, yet again, the money that has been going into the state’s School Bus Seat Belt Account – an account that was set up after a tragic fatal school bus accident on I-84 five years ago.  Twice now Governor Malloy has drained the fund in order to use the dedicated money to reduce state budget deficits.  Despite the existence of the account, and its dedicated funding stream, the School Bus Seat Belt Account has yet to pay for school bus seat belts.

Of course, none of these facts needn’t get in the way of good political rhetoric.

Speaking about the glory of the budget, the Senate President called it one of the best in his 35 years in the general assembly.

And from “no new taxes” Malloy came what may be the quote of the year;

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today. This agreement will help Connecticut now and in the long-run — it helps transform our transportation infrastructure as we aim for a best-in-class system. It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family,”

You can read more about the budget via the following links:

Budget Bill Goes Down to the Wire in State Senate (CT Newsjunkie)

Senate Dems threaten ‘nuclear option’ to pass budget, $2B tax hike (CT Mirror)

Senate, House Approve $40 Billion Budget; Gov Set To Sign It (Courant)

 

The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget.

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[Or for long-time Wait, What? readers file under – Not the Fricking School Bus Seat Belts again!]

After working through the night, the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the Connecticut State Senate finally twisted enough arms to take up the state budget plan that they negotiated with Governor Dannel Malloy.

After hours of debate, the House passed the $40.3 billion, two-year budget plan by a vote of 73 to 70 with eleven Democrats voting against their party’s leadership.  Another five Republican and three Democratic state representatives simply failed to vote, some for reasons yet to be revealed.

Highlights include the fact that the infamous Steve Perry, with the convicted felon on his governing board gets the public money he wants to open his privately owned charter school, as does the Bronx charter school which is coming to save Stamford’s public education system.

Of course, the “biggest” news is on the overall tax and spending issue.

Throughout the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, candidate Dan Malloy promised, committed and swore that that we could all read his lips and count on the truth that, if elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services.

Now, safely tucked into his second term in office, Malloy has negotiated and will sign a budget that includes nearly two billion in new (tax) revenue and makes massive cuts to human services, education and other critically important services.

The State Senate is expected to pass the budget bill before the legislature’s midnight deadline is reached tonight.

You can read more about the new state budget via one of the following article links; House adopts controversial state budget and House Democrats Pull An All-Nighter to Push Their Budget Through and House Passes Two-Year, $40 Billion Budget.

However, for those who slow down to look at a terrible car wreck, it is worth remembering that while most legislators, reporters and onlookers focus on the big numbers listed in the budget, one can usually find far more interesting developments at the “back” of the budget.

This year’s budget includes 223 Sections.  Most contain the legislative language needed to “implement” the changes needed to raise and spend the money contained in the budget but some…

Alas most legislators never take the time to read through all the words, numbers and verbiage.

For that matter, neither do most reporters.

Initial “tidbits” of note in the document that is presently being rushed through the legislature include changes that allow liquor stores to be open until 10pm and a change in the law that limits the number of liquor stores an individual may own.  (It was three but someone must have wanted more because the new number is five.)

Better still is Sec. 173 of House Bill 7061 (The Budget Bill)

The section reads, “Not later than June 30, 2016, the Comptroller may designate up to $25,000,000 of the resources of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, to be accounted for as revenue of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

In English this seems to say that some point in the next fiscal real (FY16), Connecticut’s State Comptroller will take out a magic wand and pronounce that 25 million dollars in state revenue that has come in during Fiscal Year 2016 is really, truly, actually revenue that will come in during Fiscal Year 2017.

Why would Governor Malloy and the Democratic legislators require that revenue that came in one year be declared revenue in a different year?

The simplified answer is that it is way to balance the budget in FY17 without having to deal with some of the uncomfortable limitations of the state’s screwed up spending cap.  Rather than simply deal with the spending cap issues, one way to sneak past the problem is to say revenue from one year is actually revenue in another.

But if that one doesn’t leave you shaking your head…

Try this one…

Section 55(d) of the budget requires that,

“On or before June 30, 2015, the sum of $ 3,000,000 shall be transferred from the school bus seat belt account, established in section 14-50b of the general statutes, and credited to the resources of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

Wait, What?

These people would actually steal the money that is dedicated install seat belts into school buses and dump it into this year’s General Fund to make the state deficit look smaller?

Who on earth would do such a terrible thing?

On wait, I remember?

And so will long time Wait, What? readers.

If you don’t remember the “school seat belt issue” just read the following Wait, What? posts.

Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? (Wait, What? 12/20/12) and School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry  (Wait,What? 1/22/14)

Here is the text from the 2012 post

Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority?   Aka:  No that was then, this is now…

Following the tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford in January 2010 that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools, the legislature kicked into action.

On May 1 of that year the General Assembly passed what was to become Public Act 10-83.

The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to administer a program to use the funds in the account to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Fast forward two and a half years…and the fund now has $4.7 million.

Yesterday, the Legislature’s deficit mitigation bill including language overriding the previous law and transferring the $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt account into the General Fund to help eliminate this year’s $415 million deficit.

Gone is the money for school seat belts.

That tragedy was yesterday’s news.

And besides, who would remember that the account in question grew out of the concern elected officials had for the safety of our children.

The Democrat’s sanctimonious claims about campaign money

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In recent weeks, many of us have received the emails or invitations from the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee urging, pleading and cajoling us to give them money so that they can fight off the “big” money that is pouring into Connecticut to attack Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his re-election campaign.

The display has been nothing short of sanctimonious – otherwise known as “pretending to be morally better than other people” or being “hypocritically pious or devout.”

Readers may recall the various Wait, What? blog posts over the past three years about how Connecticut’s once nationally-recognized campaign finance reform law became nothing more than a joke as a result of the loopholes that were proposed by Governor Malloy and passed by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly.

“Big money,” “tainted money,” “special interest money,” is now pouring into Connecticut, in large part, because of Malloy’s effort to corrupt Connecticut’s campaign finance system in order to allow for the very mechanisms that he and Tom Foley are now using to augment the $6.2 million in taxpayer funds that each of them received to pay for their 2014 gubernatorial campaigns.

For background on the issue, read the September 15, 2014 Wait, What? post entitled, “Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has deposited his check for $6.2 million from the State’s Public Finance System.

As a result of Connecticut’s landmark 2005 campaign finance reform bill, in return for raising $250,000 in contributions of under $100, Malloy (and the Republican nominee for governor) have each received $6.2 million in public funds to pay for their gubernatorial campaigns.

The original concept, which passed following the conviction of Governor John Rowland in 2005, was that in return for a multi-million dollar campaign donation from the public, candidates would agree to forgo private funds raised from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees, and the wealthy and other special interest.

But that was before Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly torpedoed the most important elements of the law.

Now, in addition to the $6.2 million in public funds, Malloy and his political operatives have collected at least $3.5 million for his campaign into the Democratic State Central Committees “federal” account, much of it from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees and the wealthy.   The political maneuver was made possible thanks to a proposal Malloy and the Democrats pushed through in 2013.

In addition, a “separate” political action committee called Connecticut Forward, has already raised $2.5 million to run ads in support of Malloy and against his opponent.

Now, as the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender is reporting in “Democrats Press Controversial Attempt To Use Federal Account To Fund Malloy’s Re-Election,” and Christine Stuart is explaining in Democratic Party Wants To Use Federal Account For Malloy Mailer, Malloy and the Democrats are taking their campaign finance charade one step further.

The Courant reports:

The state Democratic Party is pushing an already controversial campaign-financing issue to a new level, asking the Federal Election Commission to comment on the legality of the party using money from a federal campaign account to pay for a planned campaign mailing asking voters to re-elect Gov. Dannel Malloy.

And CTNewsJunkie explains Malloy ruse with:

State election law prohibits state contractors from contributing to state party accounts or statewide candidates. But state contractors are not prohibited from giving money to the party’s federal account, which pays for some administrative costs and federal campaign activities.

Last month, state election regulators were forced to rule that an email solicitation from the head of Northeast Utilities in 2013 didn’t violate Connecticut election law even though it used Malloy’s accomplishments to solicit money for the Democratic Party’s federal account.

The SEEC concluded that it was “offensive and disturbing and violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” but there was nothing in the state law that made the more than $50,000 in contributions illegal.

The decision to pass Connecticut’s campaign finance reform law in 2005 and give candidates public funds to run their campaign was based on the requirement that candidates would not be able to accept money from people doing business with the state or others whose vested interest was to “buy” themselves public policy.

But instead, Malloy and the Democrats passed loopholes in the campaign finance laws that they sought to benefit from by being able to divert money from companies that do business with the state into the Democratic Central Committee’s Federal Account.

And now, Malloy wants to go even further and use that tainted money to directly pay for his campaign mailings.

Malloy’s blatant disregard for campaign finance reform is a perversion of everything the Democrats claim to stand for when it comes to getting dirty money out of politics and overturning the disastrous Citizens United ruling in which the United States Supreme Court determined that, in essence, defines corporations as people for the purposes of being able to buy elections.

And who are some of the “people” who donated to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “Federal Account” that Malloy is now trying to use for his campaign?

In addition to numerous corporations and individuals who directly benefit from having state contracts are the following political action committees;

AETNA INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

AT&T INC. FEDERAL POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (AT&T FEDERAL PAC) — $5,000

BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION STATE AND FEDERAL PAC — $5,000

BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM USA CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $7,500

CBS CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $1,000

CIGNA CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

COMCAST CORPORATION & NBCUNIVERSAL POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE – FEDERAL — $5,000

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION PAC — $5,000

COZEN O’CONNOR POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM — $5,000

DOMINION RESOURCES, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE – DOMINION PAC —$2,000

GENERAL DYNAMICS CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (GDC PAC) — $2,500

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (GEPAC) — 6,000

GHC ANCILLARY CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $3,000

MINERALS TECHNOLOGIES INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (MTI PAC) —$2,500

NATIONAL CONFECTIONERS ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $2,500

NESTLE WATERS NORTH AMERICA INC. PAC — $1,000

NORTHEAST UTILITIES EMPLOYEES’ POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE-FEDERAL —$2,500

PFIZER INC. PAC — $10,000

PITNEY BOWES INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $3,500

PRAXAIR, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

PURDUE PHARMA INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (PURDUE PAC) — $5,000

SPECTRA ENERGY CORP POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (SPECTRA-DCP PAC) —$2,500

SYNERGY PAC — $5,000

THE HARTFORD FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP, INC. PAC (AKA THE HARTFORD ADVOCATES FUND) — $10,000

THE PHOENIX COMPANIES, INC. – PAC FEDERAL — $2,500

THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES INC. PAC — $10,000

THE WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS EMPLOYEES PAC — $5,000

THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC INC. PAC — $2,000

UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INCORPORATED PAC (UNITED FOR HEALTH) — $10,000

WAL-MART STORES INC. PAC FOR RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT — $5,000

WALGREEN CO PAC — $2,500

WEBSTER BANK PAC – FEDERAL — $2,500

WELLPOINT, INC. WELLPAC — $2,000

XEROX CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (XPAC) — $2,500

Election Year: Incumbent or challenger – You MUST READ this column

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In a stunning piece written by pro-public education advocate and CT Newsjunkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman, Connecticut’s elected officials and anyone considering running for office are provided with a MUST READ substantive, educational and powerful piece entitled, “Politicians Underestimate Common Core Opposition at Their Peril (by Sarah Darer Littman).

While parents, teachers and public school advocates have learned that Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and their advisors and aides are tone-deaf when it comes to public education, there is still time for many of Connecticut’s elected officials to change course and join the side of parents, teachers and public education supporters rather than remain tied to the corporate education reform industry and the “reformers” hell-bent desire to privatize and undermine public education and the rights of parents and local communities.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s new community piece in CT Newsjunkie she writes,

Thanks to Republican legislators who used a rare parliamentary procedure to get a bill asking for a moratorium raised for public hearing, Connecticut finally got to experience a lengthy airing of views on the Common Core and its implementation thus far in our state.

Republicans had to resort to such strategies because, for reasons that can only be known to them, Democrats in the legislature tried to limit “hearings” on Common Core implementation to what amounted to a PR session with Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which is one of the organizations that helped draft the standards. Hardly a well-rounded airing of views — but then that doesn’t appear to have been what the governor and his allies wanted.

Democrats from Arne Duncan on down are trying to frame the growing nationwide revolt by parents, K-12 educators, university professors, and child development specialists as “Tea Party extremism” or overwrought “white suburban moms.” A recent Hartford Courant piece by UConn professor Robert Thorson simplistically categorized those who question the Core as anti-Copernican opponents of science. As a devoted Neil deGrasse Tyson fangirl, I can think of no greater insult.

Such diatribes are foolish and myopic. Common Core proponents need to face a very important fact: parents are not idiots. Those of us with older children can see the qualitative difference in curriculum since the Common Core roll out began — and we are not impressed. We’re angered by the loss of instructional time to testing for a benefit that accrues to testing companies rather than our children.

Common Core proponents claim that the standards raise the bar and will make us more competitive. But is this actually true?

I encourage parents and legislators alike to read the September 2013 study: Challenging published by AERA (American Educational Research Association). The analysis focuses on the ELA components of the standards, but what it says about the assumptions driving them and how they were constructed is important: “The blanket condemnation made by the CCSS authors that school reading texts have ‘trended downward over the last half century’ is inaccurate” — particularly so, the authors of the study found, in the K-3 grades. Why this is dangerous is that “we may be hastily attempting to solve a problem that does not exist and elevating text complexity in a way that is ultimately harmful to students.”

Just talk to any reading specialist about the ridiculous anomalies experienced when using lexiles. For example: Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid (950) has a higher text complexity than Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (890). While a computer might think the text in Wimpy Kid is more complex, any parent, teacher, or librarian with half a brain knows that the concepts in Fahrenheit 451 require far greater maturity to digest and comprehend. Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers (890) has a higher lexile than Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. (870). Now, my kids and I loved Captain Underpants, but seriously? Oh, and according to the lexile folks, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (1060) is on practically the same level as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1080).

Why then, are to we believe the standards are better and more developmentally appropriate? Simply because we’re being told it is so?

When the authors of the AERA study analyzed the literature used by Common Core writers to justify the need for more complex texts, what they found was: “a tight and closed loop of researchers citing one another and leading . . . to an artificially heightened sense of scholarly agreement about a decline in textbook complexity.”

It’s hardly surprising this is the case when we look at how the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, has funded the research, development, implementation and promotion of the CCSS.

According to HonestPracticum.com, Gates has spent more than $282 million to promote on his vision of education reform.

CLICK TO SEE THE FULL CHART

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asserts that despite such lavish spending, Gates “doesn’t have a seat at the table” when it comes to education policymaking, but it’s hard to believe Duncan could get those words out with a straight face. Gatesowns the table — and after all the money he’s spent, he seems completely baffled as to why we common folk aren’t jumping to eat what he’s put on it.

A teacher friend wrote to me in despair this evening:

Sarah, could you could ask legislators what they would do if a six or seven-year old did one of the following:

—Came to school late and sat down in her seat.  Raised her hand and waited patiently to be called on and then said, “The reason I am late to school is because my mother died last night.”

—Came to school and said, “I saw a guy get shot last night. There was blood all over the place and my mother screamed at me to close the door.”

—Came to school with his kindergarten sister and leaned up against the wall of the school sobbing waiting for his teacher to arrive. Then when she saw him and asked what was wrong, he told her that the cops shot their dog this morning.

—Sent to see the nurse by the teacher because when she was eating her snack and talking to the teacher the teacher noticed that she had huge cavities in every molar. But, she was not taken to a dentist until her mother was told she could not return to school until she went to the clinic.

These are true stories and I was the teacher.

Please Sarah, ask the legislators if they believe no-excuses charter schools, CCSS, and incessant testing are more beneficial to these students then counseling and other resources for families. Please remind them that we provide extra resources and support all around the state for many horrific tragedies, but we continually neglect our most vulnerable children and families when they experience tragedy.

My friend is putting a human face on the same question the authors of the AERA report asked: “Shall we tinker with complexity levels while overlooking the egregious educational inequities and scandalous socioeconomic conditions that researchers have demonstrated are persisted causes of low academic performance? . . . Higher test complexity levels are likely to ignore this problem while further widening the achievement gap.”

These are the facts that Malloy and Pryor and other Core proponents — including Gates, the Business Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who are funding the latest Pro-CCSS propaganda campaign — want us to ignore. They need to accept that no matter how much money they spend, parents, educators, and child development specialists will never do so.

You can read Sarah Darer Littman piece at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/politicians_underestimate_common_core_opposition_at_their_peril/  or search for her other commentary pieces at www.ctnewsjunkie.com

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

Is the Education Committee’s Common Core Informational Forum a joke?

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The Democratic controlled Education Committee has scheduled an Informational Forum on the Common Core on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 10:00 A.M. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building. 

As presently designed, only invited guests will be allowed to speak.

A number of sources have confirmed that at this point the speakers will be Governor Malloy’s Commissioner Stefan Pryor and two unnamed representatives, one from the National Governor’s Association and one from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

As an aside, Stefan Pryor is also a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

That fact that they General Assembly’s Democratic leadership would hold a forum in which the only speakers were Malloy’s Commissioner and representatives from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers is beyond belief and beyond insulting.

Such a forum would be insulting to the other members of the Connecticut General Assembly since legislators deserve to hear the various opinions that are out there about the Common Core.

And more importantly, a farce of a forum undermines the rights of the students, teachers, school administrators, parents and citizens who make up Connecticut’s public education community and need elected officials who are better informed about the Common Core and Common Core testing.

These Democratic leaders are well aware that the Common Core Standards were put together by the two organizations that have been invited to speak at the informational forum on February 28, 2014.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers were paid by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the Common Core standards and the unfair and inappropriate Common Core standardized testing scheme that goes along with those so-called standards.

As fellow education blogger Mercedes Schneider has reported, “The Gates Foundation underwrote the organizations writing the Common Core standards: the National Governors Association, Student Achievement Partners (David Coleman), the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve.”

According to Schneider, whose research was confirmed and published in the Washington Post and other media outlets around the country, “In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS — NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners — have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.”

The press conference releasing the Common Core Standards featured the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officials.

“American competitiveness relies on an education system that can adequately prepare our youth for college and the workforce,” commented Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. “When American students have the skills and knowledge needed in today’s jobs, our communities will be positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

“Strong schools are the surest path to our nation’s long-term economic success. America’s students are now competing with children around the globe for jobs and opportunities after graduation. We need to maintain a national focus to ensure our kids are ready to compete and ready to win. That’s why our nation’s governors committed to this effort to create a common set of high expectations for students across the country.  The Common Core State Standards reflect what can come from cooperation to improve student achievement,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who joined via satellite from Delaware.

Gates provided this statement for the press conference:

 “With the states’ release today of a set of clear and consistent academic standards, our nation is one step closer to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students, and developing the tools to help all children stay motivated and engaged in their own education. The more states that adopt these college and career based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.”

Those interested in the ugly details can track the hundreds of millions that Gates has spent to develop and sell the Common Core by lobby and bribing the federal government, individual states, school districts, universities and organizations.

Here are the links to read:

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/a-brief-audit-of-bill-gates-common-core-spending/
 
http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/gates-money-and-common-core-part-ii/
 
http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/gates-money-and-common-core-part-iii/
 
http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/gates-money-and-common-core-part-iv/
 
http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/gates-money-and-common-core-part-v/
 
http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/gates-money-and-common-core-part-vi/

By refusing to allow the public to speak out on this important issue and then stacking the deck by only featuring paid pro-Common Core ambassadors turns the Education Committee’s “informational hearing” into nothing short of a bad joke and makes it clear that the Democrats have joined Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor on their path of self-destruction.

Check back for more details as they become available.

CT Democratic legislative leaders block a public hearing on Common Core and Common Core Test

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Rather than hold a full, traditional public hearing in which any citizen could come and speak out about the implementation of the Common Core and its corresponding unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment testing scheme, it now appears that the Connecticut General Assembly’s Democratic leaders will do nothing more than hold a meeting on these issues with a group of invited guests.

Over the last week, the General Assembly’s Education Committee has held two meetings to select what legislative proposals will have public hearings.  At the Education Committee’s meeting on February 10, the Committee raised 23 bills for a regular public hearing.  Today the Education Committee raised an additional 8 bills for a public hearing.

A vote was not taken to hold a public hearing on any proposals related to the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Testing program or revisions to the unfair teacher evaluation program.

If the Democratic leadership does not change its position, Connecticut residents would be blocked from being heard on the single most important issues facing public education in the state.

Why the Democratic leadership would take such an inappropriate position is not clear.

Maybe Democrats believe that the Common Core is a federally mandated program and therefore public input at the state level is unimportant?

Or maybe they don’t want to be bothering with sit through a long hearing on the Common Core and the Common Core test when they have no intent to change the state’s policies on this issue?

Or maybe they think that the best strategy is to duck the issue and hope it all blows over before this November’s election?

Or maybe Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor or representatives of the Malloy Administration have ordered legislative leaders not to allow a debate on the issue?

But none of those explanations serve as a remotely reasonable excuse to prevent a public hearing on the Common Core, the Common Core testing or the warped teacher evaluation system.

And, of course, it didn’t take long for the Republicans to take advantage if the Democrat’s arrogance or misstep.

Earlier today, House Republican Leader Larry Cafero put out a press release calling upon Democrats, “to stage a full public hearing in the Education Committee on the controversial Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluation standards that have caused upheaval in state public schools.”

In a strongly worded letter to the Democratic Chairs of the Education Committee, the Republican House Leader wrote;

“We have heard from thousands of educators and parents outside the legislature on these matters. As lawmakers and their elected officials, we owe the public the chance to address these issues in a formal setting within the General Assembly,’’

Cafero opened fire on the Democrats asking, “…after lawmakers have been deluged from the public, not a single bill regarding Common Core or teacher evaluations was raised by the Education Committee.”

Carfero concluded his letter with;

“This is exactly why teachers, administrators, parents and their children find themselves in the situation they are in now: Common Core was adopted outside of the legislative process which meant that too many voices were left out of the debate…”

In the face of the Republican’s criticism, it is hard to understand what the Democrats could possibly say to explain their behavior and strategy.

For the record, here are the bills that the Education Committee has decided are worthy of a public hearing.

On 2/10/14 the Education Committee raised 23 bills for a public hearing including;

1. AAC Minor Revisions to the Education Statutes
2. AAC the Recommendations by the Legislative Commissioners for Technical Revisions to the Education Statutes
3. AAC Authorization of State Grant Commitments for School Building Projects
4. AAC Education Issues
5. AAC State Education Resource Center
6. AAC Uniform Regional School Calendar
7. AAC Education Mandate Relief
8. AAC the Technical High School System
9. AAC the Minimum Budget Requirement
10. AAC Boards of Education
11. AAC the Academic Achievement Gap
12. AAC Special Education
13. AAC Magnet Schools
14. AAC School Safety
15. AAC Chronic Absenteeism
16. AAC the Storage and Administration of Epinephrine at Public Schools and Public Institutions of Higher Education
17. AAC Collaboration Between Boards of Education and School Resource Officers
18. AAC Social Media Education
19. AAC Teen Dating Violence
20. AAC Access to Quality Pre-K for Children in the Care of the Department of Children and Families
IV. PREVIOUSLY RAISED GOVERNORS BILLS
21. HB 5043 – AA Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education
22. SB 025 – AA Establishing the Office of Early Childhood
23. SB 026 – AA Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education

And today, 2/19/14, the Education Committee raised 8 more bills for a public hearing including;

 1. AAC Alternative Schools
2. AA Establishing a Task Force to Study Paraprofessional Staffing and Pay Equity
3. AAC Student Privacy and the Administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
4. AAC the Availability of an Online Study Skills Curriculum
5. AAC School Readiness Funding
6. AAC State Funding for Education and the Budgets of Boards of Education
7. AAC Student Internships
8. AAC Local and State Charter School Accountability and Transparency

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