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

Would the Captain please return to the bridge immediately!

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You certainly can’t say that Governor Malloy is preoccupied with the minutia of running the state of Connecticut.

In fact, it is probably more accurate to say that it appears that he finds the day-to-day administrative duties of serving as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer boring, annoying or, at the very least, a waste of his time.

Many observers and commentators have already noted that Malloy has spent more time out-of-state than any other governor in recent history.  His recent “West Coast” fundraising trip, the one that he won’t discuss, is just one more example.

It certainly seems accurate to say, except in the face of an immediate natural disaster or crisis when the television cameras are running, Governor Malloy is pretty disinterested in rolling up his sleeves and attending to the actual administrative duties of managing a $20 billion dollar enterprise.

That said, when it comes to attending ground breakings or handing out taxpayer funds he is a master.

One of the most serious examples of this “hands-off” approach can be seen at the State Department of Education where Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has been allowed to systematically dismantle the professional capabilities of the agency.

While jobs go unfilled, key administrative functions go uncompleted.

And it when tasks must actually be performed, it seems the Malloy administration is more it is comfortable with out-sourcing the work to expensive, out-of-state consultants.

The impact of this approach can be easily seen with the State Department of Education’s Alliance District Program where at least eight communities ARE STILL WAITING for approval of their Year 2 Funding plans despite the fact that the fiscal year started 120 days ago and the school years is more than two months old.

The Malloy administration is quick to wrap itself in corporate education reform rhetoric but can’t seem to even review and approve the grants needed to implement its own corporate education reform program.  (Although it should be noted that checks are flowing for MassInsight, the out-of-state education reform consultants who were brought in to run the failing program).

Today we now hear about yet another example of the downside of having an Administration that is either unwilling or unable to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of running a complex organization like the government of the State of Connecticut.

A recent state audit provided a devastating assessment of the failures at the State Department of Public Health.

The situation is summarized in a press release that was sent out by the House Republicans entitled, “House Leader Cafero Blasts Health Department Over Audit Faulty Background Checks on Day Care Personnel, Missing Drugs, No Oversight.”

I use the House Republican’s verbiage, word for word, because it should send a shockwave through the entire Democratic Party and especially the Democrats who make up the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives.

A consistent refrain here at Wait, What? has been to raise the question, what would “we Democrats” be saying if the table were turned and it was a Republican governor doing the things that  Malloy has been doing.

“We Democrats” would be calling that Governor out on those issues and demanding immediate action.

It may be painful for Democrats to hear, but Connecticut Democrats should paying far closer attention to press releases like this one.

The Connecticut House Republicans write:

“HARTFORD – House Republican Leader Larry Cafero today criticized the state Department of Health over an audit that shows holes in background check for daycare providers, missing drugs, lack of staff oversight and numerous other findings that raise questions over agency management.

“These troubling findings by the auditors raise serious questions about how this department is being run and whether it takes seriously its core mission to function as the State of Connecticut’s premier health agency,’’ Cafero said.  “These violations need to be addressed immediately.’’

One of the most troublesome cites concerned faults in background checks for child care facilities. The auditors called into question whether the department’s procedures may not turn up people not suited to working in the child care facilities due to lack of monitoring and follow-through in checking records.

“Child care providers and their employees may be operating without the required completed background checks. As a result, children in licensed child care facilities are at an increased risk of coming into contact with unsuitable individuals,’’ the report released today states.

The department agreed with the finding. The auditors came up with 17 recommendations that need to be addressed including:

  • DPH has not established a process to properly track prescription drug distribution and drugs, including those used to treat pain, have gone unaccounted for;
  • EMS providers have failed to submit required tracking and activity reports;
  • DPH should overhaul its contractor oversight procedures to ensure that the work is being performed and invoices are processed correctly;
  • Travel vouchers for employees have not been authenticated;
  • Compensation time for employees lacks oversight and questions arose over allowing employees to return to work following lengthy sick leaves.

Cafero said nine of the 17 citations are repeats of a previous audit and questioned why they had not been corrected.

“Some of these findings appear relatively benign but overall the picture being painted is a general lack of oversight on the part of management that needs to be fixed,’’ he said.”

In truth, the failure of leadership at the State Department of Education and the State Department of Health are the most visible parts of a much bigger iceberg.

Democrats need to take heed before it is too late to get the captain on to the bridge.

Malloy, legislature continue to water-down Connecticut’s “landmark” campaign finance laws

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Following the Rowland scandal, the Connecticut General Assembly passed and Governor Rell signed into law the most comprehensive state-level campaign finance reform initiative in the country.

Since then, incumbents have been chipping away at the law.

This year, Governor Malloy and the Democrats in the legislature made their most dramatic and audacious effort, to date, to undermine the law.

And they succeeded…with Malloy signing the new bill into law yesterday.

At a time when the public understands that campaign money plays too much of a role in American politics, Malloy and the Democrats took significant steps to reverse earlier limitations on campaign donations and spending.

As a result of the new law, significantly more money will be spilling into Connecticut campaigns.

Among other things, the law doubles the amount campaign donors may contribute to political parties and actually removes the cap on how much political parties can spend on publicly-financed candidates.

The most incredible new development is that the law now allows a candidate to help raise money for a political action committee that will later spend that money to support the very candidate who helped raise it.

As reported here at Wait, What? and elsewhere, Governor Malloy has held at least 15 fundraisers for a political action committee called Prosperity for Connecticut.  Under the old law, there were severe limitations on how that committee could spend its money, ensuring that its primary purpose was not to support any affiliated candidates.

The new law changes that system completely.

Malloy can now help a Super PAC raise unlimited amounts of money and that PAC can then spend that money to support Malloy.

The effort to water-down Connecticut’s campaign finance law even brought former Governor Jodi Rell back to the public arena.  In a written statement, the former governor said, “After a dark period in our state’s history, Connecticut became a role model for the nation with … our campaign finance reform…How sad that the Democrat governor, Democrat legislators and the Democrat Party are so greedy for campaign cash that they would willingly destroy what we so proudly enacted just a few short years ago.”

Malloy and legislators are quick to point out that Connecticut’s new law also includes a provision that requires groups making independent expenditures to disclose their campaign donors.  This is certainly a worthy requirement, but they could have easily stopped there without using that positive development to cover up their ongoing effort to remove limits on their own fundraising and spending.

As usual, Governor Malloy explained away his actions yesterday with a slew of half-truths and deceptions saying, “The bill I’m signing today requires a level of disclosure that few if any other states require. No bill is perfect, but this bill makes Connecticut a national leader in requiring disclosure and transparency.”

Now that is an Orwellian description of a piece of legislation if there ever was one.

You can read more about the successful effort to undermine Connecticut’s public financing system on the following links;    http://www.courant.com/news/breaking/hc-campaign-finance-changes-20130611,0,7166515.story and http://www.ctmirror.org/story/malloy-signs-campaign-finance-law-loosens-restrictions.

Connecticut: The Republic of Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not all.                                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No new taxes and other fairytales

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Late word is that Governor Malloy and Legislative Democrats have reached a budget “deal,” as the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly heads toward its closing date next week.

Putting aside the controversy surrounding Connecticut’s faulty spending cap, the one claim that is being spun, above and beyond all others, is that the budget contains no new taxes.

Or, as Governor Malloy put it yesterday,

“The bottom line is we will not increase taxes or create any new taxes. The budget will be in balance and will be GAAP-compliant.”

Of course, none of that is true

Connecticut’s state budget is far from GAAP-complaint and some of the revenue estimates are so optimistic that few believe the budget will be balanced when we come to the end of Fiscal Year 2015 or Fiscal Year 2016.

As for the notion that there are “no new taxes,” Malloy himself was forced to add, that it was “entirely possible” that the budget for FY15-FY16 would “extend taxes that were scheduled to expire like the tax on electric generators.”

In fact, even that statement skips over the fact that the budget deal between Malloy and the Democrats includes the largest gas tax increase in history, a tax increase that will go into effect on July 1.

It also appears that the legislature will continue the wholesale tax on energy production, which pushes up Connecticut’s electricity prices by more than $152 million.

Meanwhile, at last check, the hands of the lobbyists were clearly visible, in that the budget plan appears to exempt yachts from the luxury tax (a loss of $140,000 in state revenue) and exempts short-term boat storage from the sales tax (a loss of $4 million in state revenue).

The apparent deal between Malloy and the legislative Democrats also includes a number of other controversial or dubious proposals including;

• Extending the “temporary” 20% surcharge on the corporation business tax which will bring in $118.4 million in revenue.

• Reducing the state’s earned income tax credit (EITC) from 30% to 25% which will cost Connecticut’s lowest paid working families $32.1 million.

• Transferring a one-time $30 million from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

• Cutting the famed Stem Cell Research Program by $28 million.

• Continuing Malloy’s plan to auction off the right to offer electric ratepayers lower standard offer pricing.

• And extending the temporary cap on tax credits against the insurance premiums tax, but the legislature now predicts doing so will generate $54 million, rather than $38 million.

Of course, overarching the entire debate is the fact that while taxes continue to climb for middle-class families, those making over $1 million a year are still benefiting from the reality that they – and they alone – faced no increases in their income tax rates in Malloy’s $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011.

The most significant statistic remains the same.  While lower-income families pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes and middle-income families pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the highest income earners pay about 6% of their income in state and local taxes.

You can read the latest coverage at: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/malloy-defends-budget-deal-jabs-gop and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_defends_spending_cap_changes_draft_budget_agreement/ and http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-budget-deal-0529-20130528,0,6889217.story

Connecticut’s House Republicans step forward to protect open, fair and accountable government

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If you found that hard to read, imagine how hard it was to write…

But it is true.

Last week, the leader of the House Republicans blasted Governor Malloy’s plan to undermine Connecticut’s watchdog agencies.

Representative Cafero observed that Governor Malloy’s budget proposal is, “…an attempt to undermine the public’s right to know what is going on within government.” 

Cafero added, “Investigations into campaign finance fraud, ethics complaints and Freedom of Information challenges will fall by the wayside if this proposal goes forward.’’  

While Democratic leaders remained silent or tip-toed around the issue, the House Republicans stepped forward to speak the truth.

The independence of Connecticut’s watchdog and good government entities is under assault.

What are these good government entities?

In 1974, following the Watergate scandal, the Connecticut General Assembly created the State Elections Commission (Public Act 74-213) to “ensure the integrity of the state’s electoral process.”

In 1975, Connecticut passed one of the most far-reaching Freedom of Information Acts in the nation and created the Freedom of Information Commission (Public Act 75-342) to “ensure citizen access to the records and meetings of public agencies in the State of Connecticut.”

And in 1977, the General Assembly formed the Connecticut State Ethics Commission (Public Act 77-600) to “promote the highest ethical standards and accountability in state government by providing education and legal advice, ensuring disclosure, and impartially enforcing the Codes of Ethics.”

In each case, the commissions and offices were set up to be bi-partisan or non-partisan entities, independent of any inappropriate political influence from the administrative or legislative branches of government.  The laws were designed to protect each entity’s fundamental mission to oversee Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, Connecticut’s freedom of information laws and Connecticut’s ethics laws.

Over the years, although Connecticut’s laws were already some of the strongest in the country, state government expanded and strengthened its good government statutes even more, further ensuring open and fair elections and government. 

In 2005, Connecticut adopted a Citizens’ Election Program, considered the “most sweeping public campaign finance program in the country. “

Then, in 2011, Governor Malloy proposed merging the government watchdog agencies into a single entity called the Office of Governmental Accountability.

While the Connecticut General Assembly revised Malloy’s original proposal to allow the various watchdog entities to retain some independence, the legislation, (Public Act 11-48) created the position of Executive Administrator, a position appointed by the governor.  The job of the Executive Administrator was to “provide consolidated personnel, payroll, affirmative action, and administrative and business office function.”

In this way, the Office of the Governor was given far greater reach into the day-to-day operations of the independent, government watchdog agencies.

However, as the Office of Governmental Accountability’s website notes, even today, each entity within the Office of Governmental Accountability “retains its independent decision-making authority, including for budgetary and employment decisions.”

But just a couple of weeks  ago, as part of his proposed state budget, Governor Malloy and his OPM Secretary, Ben Barnes, proposed doing way with that independent budget and employment decision-making authority.

As Representative Cafero explained, “All these watchdogs we rely on to ensure the rights of individuals and root out government fraud and mismanagement would fall under authority of an appointee of the governor. We will be losing any autonomy in these units.’’

Considering Connecticut’s long standing commitment to good government and independent watchdog agencies, the Governor’s decision to make this unprecedented power grab is beyond belief.

But that is exactly what Governor Malloy has done…

And to date, only the Republican legislators have stood up to say they will fight to put an end to Malloy’s proposal.

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