No Really… Nothing more for instruction, but plenty for Common Core compliant computers

A Wait, What? blog post earlier this week entitled, “Malloy/Pryor Common Core Strategy – Hey, but we’ve got some computers!” outlined the fact that while many of Connecticut’s urban schools are woefully underfunded,  Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were able to find $25 million in state bonding to buy computers so that more of Connecticut’s students can be forced to take the ill-conceived Common Core Tests.

Some districts are having students take the new Common Core Tests this year while all public schools will be required to make students take the Common Core Tests next year … despite the fact that districts have yet to develop full Common Core curricula for their schools.

This means, as many public school teachers already know, Connecticut students will be required to take tests that attempt to measure things the students have yet to learn.

When New York State implemented this same strategy, the percent of students at goal dropped from 75% or so to about 25% or less, thus creating the artificial impression that New York’s schools were failing.

As proof of where Malloy and Pryor’s warped Common Core Testing plan is taking Connecticut one need only look across the nation to California where it was announced that this year the State of California is providing schools with $1.25 billion for computers, bandwidth and training to install Common Core standards.

California, like Connecticut has been facing extraordinary budget problems that have resulted in raising taxes, laying off teachers and cutting instructional programs in public schools.

But like Connecticut, at least they will have common core compliant computers…

Go figure…

Malloy/Pryor Common Core Strategy – Hey, but we’ve got some computers!

Governor Malloy’s budget provides no additional state funding for major local educational expenses like special education and school transportation. 

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Education Funding Formula (ECS) is approximately $2 billion underfunded meaning the costs of funding local schools are being unfairly, and arguably illegally,  shifted on to the backs of local property taxpayers.  The result is that school budgets are hurting, teachers are being let go, class sizes are increasing and there are more and more reports of cut-backs in school programs and services.

Funding problems continue to mount.  Although early childhood education is by far one of the single most effective investments when it comes to ensuring better academic outcomes, as the CT Mirror reported late last month, “The U.S. Department of Education has rejected Connecticut’s request for $37.5 million in Race to the Top funds aimed at overhauling day care centers and preschools by attempting to ensure they are safe and providing educational value.”

The story explains that one of the grant reviewers wrote, “The State does not present a High Quality Plan to improve the effectiveness and retention of Early Childhood Educators who work with Children with High Needs…”

Yet Governor Malloy’s ill-conceived “education reform” initiatives and the new Common Core standards and standardized testing mandate will require local communities to spend tens of millions of dollars of additional dollars that they do not have.

Unable to increase local property taxes sufficiently, the warped education strategy that has been developed by Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, will continue to mean that many communities will face higher property taxes while actually being forced to reduce their education programs so they can shift scarce resources away from student instruction and toward implementing the new Common Core tests and the absurd new teacher evaluation program.

But leave it to Governor Malloy and his administration to figure out a way to make the situation even worse.

Rather than provide the necessary resources, fight the new Common Core Testing madness and repeal the damaging impact of his corporate education reform industry plan, Malloy is pulling out the state’s credit card and ordering “computers, tablets and other electronic devices in order to meet the requirements of Common Core.”

With what could only be called misplaced pride or hubris, Governor Malloy has directed the State’s Bond Commission to borrow $22,619,148 for Common Core equipment.

The Malloy Administration writes, “All capital purchases meet the Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements Specifications to ensure that local districts are test-ready.  [The new Common Core testing scheme that will make an appearance in many Connecticut towns this year, and are mandated for all students next year, can only be conducted on computers.  This requirement will force many towns to divert funds away from other far more important priorities in order to purchase computers that meet the “Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements Specifications.”]

The ultimate cost that communities will have to pay to purchase Common Core computers and software, as well as expand internet capabilities, will be significantly more than the money that is being provided by state of Connecticut.

Oh, and in one final twist, the Connecticut General Assembly actually approved $25 million for the new computers but the Malloy administration is only allocating $22.6 million.

One can only assume that the other $2.4 million is being “reserved” just in case Malloy and Stefan Pryor need those additional funds to help “persuade” a particular district to take some action, reward a friendly mayor or two or help grease the skids when it comes to this year’s gubernatorial politics

The $22.6 million borrowing plan is part of the State Bond Commission agenda that will be taken up at this Thursday’s Bond Commission meeting.

CT Newsjunkie has an excellent article about some of the other projects the Malloy administration is seeking to fund this week.   The piece can be found at: State Bond Commission Looks To Borrow More Money For Job Creation

Malloy can tell it to the judge (By Wendy Lecker)

Fellow public school advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has written yet another “must read” column for the Stamford Advocate.   

While candidate “Dan” Malloy ran on a platform of supporting public education, Governor “Dannel” Malloy has pushed an agenda that has systematically undermined Connecticut’s public schools.  Rather than solve Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding formula, as he promised, Malloy has repeatedly worked to destroy the very lawsuit that he helped bring on behalf of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

His education “reform initiative” is the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-local control legislation of any Democratic governor in the nation.

And his Commissioner of Education has so mismanaged the Connecticut Department of Education that a significant number of school superintendents are actually talking about a vote of no confidence in Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

With that as the background, Wendy Lecker has written a piece appropriately entitled, “Malloy can tell it to the judge.”

In it she writes:

Connecticut recently was treated to two contradictory pictures of education in our state: one was fantasy and the other, reality. The magical thinking was provided by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a speech at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute on Dec. 2. There, he trumpeted the success of his 2012 education “reform legislation.” Two days later, Judge Kevin Dubay of Connecticut Superior Court provided a dose of reality about Malloy’s grand, but empty, pronouncements, in his decision to deny Malloy’s motion to dismiss the CCJEF v. Rell school funding suit.

At his AEI speech, Malloy shockingly dismissed the need to provide all children with educational opportunities as “old rhetoric.” His focus is not on educational opportunity, he claimed, but rather “educational success.” Malloy trumpeted his 2012 education “reform” legislation as providing the path to educational success.

Contrary to Malloy’s contention, educational opportunity is not just “old rhetoric.” The concept of educational opportunity has a specific constitutional meaning in Connecticut. Under our constitution, Connecticut must provide all children with “suitable educational opportunities.” Connecticut’s highest court has defined those opportunities as schools with sufficient resources to provide an education that prepares Connecticut’s children to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.

As mayor of Stamford, Malloy understood the constitutional significance of educational opportunity. He was a founding member of the CCJEF coalition and one of the original plaintiffs in the suit demanding the state fulfill its legal obligation to provide fair and adequate funding to all Connecticut public schools.

However, as governor, Malloy would like to pretend that Connecticut’s children can achieve academic success while he deprives them and their schools of the basic educational resources necessary to provide constitutionally required educational opportunity. Indeed, the governor’s faulty approach was the linchpin of his most recent failed attempt to get rid of the CCJEF case.

In his motion to dismiss the CCJEF case, Malloy claimed there was no need to continue with this case because his 2012 education reforms cured all the constitutional deficiencies in Connecticut’s educational system. The judge disabused the governor of the fantasy that his reforms have actually improved Connecticut’s schools. He ruled that Malloy and the state presented no evidence to prove that his 2012 reforms were enacted to correct the constitutional inadequacies of Connecticut’s educational system or state school funding.

Malloy’s 2012 education legislation was not designed to provide Connecticut’s children with equal educational opportunity. As he admitted in his AEI speech, educational opportunity is no longer the governor’s focus. He would rather push unproven “reforms” that bear no relationship to what our highest court and our constitution recognize that our children need.

Another incredible claim made by Malloy at the AEI appearance was that his 2012 education legislation, for the first time in Connecticut history, directed copious amounts of money to Connecticut’s neediest districts.

A few hard numbers may help bring Malloy back to this planet. According to CCJEF’s expert’s analysis, updated to 2012 dollars, East Hartford’s school district is owed $6,131 per child in state funding. Malloy’s 2012 legislation gave them an increase of $214 per pupil. Bridgeport’s school district is owed $7,505 per child, but only received an increase of $209 per pupil in the 2012 legislation. The state owes New Britain’s children $10,185 per student. The 2012 legislation provided them with a whopping $245 per pupil increase. The list goes on and on. Moreover, as a condition for each tiny increase in ECS funding, these districts were saddled with costly mandates.

By contrast, charter schools, which educate 1 percent of Connecticut’s public school children and 90 percent of which serve a less needy population than their host districts, received an increase of $2,600 per pupil over three years in the 2012 legislation. Diverting state funding to 1 percent of public school children, who are often not the neediest, is likely to increase educational resource inequity in the state, especially when our neediest schools are getting so little.

The governor’s empty political posturing about the success of his education reforms may work at think tanks in Washington. However, here in the Constitution state, facts matter, and Judge Dubay made clear that, so far, Malloy has failed to provide any. The judge ordered that the CCJEF case proceed to trial where, one way or another, Malloy will have to put his money where his mouth is.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s column here: Lecker: Malloy can tell it to the judge

Updated: Malloy, Pryor and Jepsen get slapped down by Court on education case

A Connecticut Superior Court judge has rejected the state’s request to throw out a lawsuit charging that Connecticut has failed to provide enough money to its poorest school districts and that Connecticut must revise its school funding formula because it is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit known as CCJEF v. Rell was brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a coalition of municipalities, boards of education, unions and other groups.  In a statement CCJEF called the court’s most recent action a “a major win” for public school children, adding, “The opinion sets the stage for students of Connecticut to finally get their day in court, nine years after the case was initially filed.”

The case has already been before the Connecticut Supreme Court which ruled three years ago that Connecticut’s school funding formula is unconstitutional and sent the case back to the superior to conduct a full trial and determine what the state must do in order to meet its constitutional duty to provide Connecticut students with an “adequate” education.

With this latest ruling a full trial should finally begin on July 1, 2014.

Not only is the case extremely important because it will force the state to re-do its school funding system, but the lawsuit has significant political ramifications.

Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the case court aimed at forcing the State of Connecticut to implement an adequate school funding formula.

Candidate Dan Malloy campaigned on a promise to settle the case and help Connecticut’s local property taxpayers by requiring the state to provide more funds for local schools

But Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen switched their positions after getting elected and have been working hard to have the case dismissed.

They want the case eliminated despite, as noted above, the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court has determined that Connecticut’s system of funding its schools is unconstitutional and it was the Supreme Court that sent the case back to the superior court for a full trial on the issue.

But even then Malloy and Jepsen have been trying to prevent the trial that the Connecticut Supreme Court demanded.

As the CT Mirror reported;

“When asking that the case be dismissed, the state’s top attorneys argued earlier this year that such a trial would be premature. The state’s education commissioner told the court that the education reforms that became law in 2012 needed a few years to roll out before the changes they made would be realized.

But the attorneys for the plaintiffs called the reforms championed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “trivial.” Those reforms to date include the state intervening in 11 low-performing schools, launching new teacher evaluations based on student performance and the state providing more money to struggling districts.”

Now Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay has thrown out Malloy and Jepsen’s motion to dismiss the case and ordered the trail to go forward.

Judge Dubay wrote, “The extent to which these reforms impact the adequacy of the state’s education system in the context of constitutional standards, however, remains unascertainable at this stage.”

Judge Dubay added, “The plaintiffs should be given an opportunity to prove the allegations set forth in the complaint, specifically that the education system remains unconstitutional in spite of the 2012 reforms.”

The defeat for Malloy and Jepsen is a stunning development considering the two incumbents were trying to get the case dismissed or at least postponed until after the next election cycle.

Now, rather than being able hide from their about-face on the critical issue of school funding, Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen will be facing a court trial on Malloy’s failure to deal with Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system right in the middle of the election.

More about the developing story can be found at the CT Mirror:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/12/05/trial-guaranteed-ct-school-funding-and-reforms,  CT Post: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Judge-won-t-dismiss-education-funding-lawsuit-5039666.php, Courant: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-school-lawsuit-1206-20131205,0,7241082.story

And on Education Funding… Malloy misleads audience… again…

According to an article published in the CT Mirror and entitled,Malloy makes no promises to increase school funding further,” when speaking to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute yesterday, Governor Malloy wasnoncommittal Monday when asked during a forum in Washington, D.C., if he would further increase education funding again next year.”

In what has now become typical fashion, Malloy failed to tell the audience the whole truth.

In fact, what little funding Governor Malloy has provided for Connecticut public schools over the past three years has come with such extensive strings that it failed to provide local towns with real or meaningful options.

Even more importantly, Malloy’s new unfunded state mandates for far more standardized testing and the warped teacher evaluation program will cost Connecticut communities tens of millions of dollars.  Since the state is not reimbursing towns for most of these new costs, Malloy’s proposals will actually force most Connecticut towns to increase local property taxes and reduce existing education programs as they divert scarce resources to pay for Malloy’s untested and inappropriate programs.

But like so many other things associated with the Malloy tenure, the Malloy administration has refused to provide the public with honest information about its proposals.

As Connecticut taxpayers may recall, Malloy’ mantra of “shared sacrifice” was associated with a $1.5 billion tax proposal that included higher income tax rates for everyone EXCEPT those making more than $1 million.  However, Malloy’s successful effort to coddle the super-rich was never openly discussed by policymakers.

And yesterday, following the standard script, when he was asked about additional school funding Malloy responded with, “I think that it’s a little early to tell.”

What Governor Malloy failed to do was provide Connecticut voters with an honest assessment of the fiscal disaster that his administration has already created and will become increasingly apparent… especially after the next gubernatorial election.

According to the non-partisan Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis, Malloy’s tax and spending programs have created a situation in which Connecticut will face:

  • A $1.1 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2015,
  • A $1.2 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2016,
  • And a $1.4 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2017.

Equally appalling is the fact that even this year’s state budget is balanced by using one-time revenues and budget gimmicks that Malloy promised he would not utilize when he was running for governor.

By refusing to lay out the true nature of Connecticut’s financial problems, Connecticut citizens won’t have the information necessary to engage in an honest and thoughtful discussion about the challenges and issues facing the state.

Yesterday’s speech reminds us that the Malloy administration’s consistent lack of honesty and transparency will prove to be its most notable legacy.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/political-mirror/2013/12/02/malloy-makes-no-promises-increase-school-funding-further

Bridgeport: Where “truth” is sometimes fiction

Paul Vallas likes to brag that he “balanced” Bridgeport’s school budget during the two years he ran Bridgeport’s schools.

Mayor Bill Finch likes to brag that he is making a huge “investment” in Bridgeport schools.

Every time Paul Vallas speaks about his budget success he fails to mention that he didn’t actually balance last year’s Bridgeport School Budget, the taxpayers of Connecticut did.

When Bridgeport’s Education budget was still facing a $3.4 million deficit, Governor Malloy proposed, and the legislature adopted special language providing Bridgeport with a $3.4 million “forgivable” loan.

And what did Connecticut taxpayer’s get in return if the loan was “forgivable”?

If Paul Vallas left his job as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools – which he is now doing – Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, would be responsible for “approving” Vallas’ successor.  The wording is actually, “As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Vallas, Finch, Malloy and Pryor seem to forget that the “deal” is forever preserved in Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session (see complete language below).

And now, despite his bragging about his massive investment in Bridgeport’s schools, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has now cut a secret deal with the Malloy Administration that will allow Bridgeport to take a pass on the law that requires Connecticut communities to maintain a minimum contribution to their local school budget in order to qualify for state funds.

When Mayor Finch presented this year’s Bridgeport City Budget he announced, “Thanks to the actions of my administration and the City Council, we are working more closely with the Board of Education to provide better educational opportunities for our children than ever before.”

But now, the secret deal he has cut with Governor Malloy’s operation means the City of Bridgeport DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE their schools with $3,281,703 that would otherwise have been required under Connecticut law.

You can read about the new Finch/Malloy Bridgeport deal in yesterday’s Wait, What? post: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke.

So Vallas didn’t balance the school budget last year, Connecticut taxpayer’s picked up the cost of the $3.4 million deficit.

And this year, a new deal between Malloy and Finch will mean that Bridgeport is excused from having to put $3.2 million into their school budget.

But hey, at least Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gets to require that the selection of a Bridgeport superintendent of schools is from “a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Here is the language of Section 289 of Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session.

Sec. 289. (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The sum of $ 2,300,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Personal Services, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(b) The sum of $ 700,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Sheff Settlement, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(c) The sum of $ 500,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for OPEN Choice Program, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(d) The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner, and (2) may require additional process or outcome targets and objectives to be included in the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116. The city of Bridgeport shall repay such loan not later than June 30, 2015. The commissioner may permit the city of Bridgeport to repay such loan by reducing the equalization aid grant received pursuant to section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, in each fiscal year of such repayment. The commissioner may, upon approval from the secretary, forgive all or a portion of such loan if the city of Bridgeport has complied with the conditions of such loan and the commissioner has approved the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116.

Wait, What? – A weekend of political news and commentary

Connecticut and American Politics:

Will Rogers, the “unequal distribution of the money” and the elections of 2014 and 2016

Meanwhile…..John Rowland? No Dannel Malloy

Malloy continues to cash in on Education Reform initiative (corrected version)

 

Bridgeport: Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas:

UPDATED: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke

Oh and in case you missed it: Vallas lawyer’s gratuitous attack on those who sued Vallas

 

Hartford:  Steve Perry, Capital Prep and the move to re-vote the secret “Sheff deal”

Hartford Board of Education schedule re-vote for Monday (Capital Prep deal not part of vote yet)

A Model to Replicate? (A must read by Sarah Darer Littman)

Capital Prep Steve Perry’s shocking record of failure on student bullying

WNPR’s Dankosky covers Htfd BOE Chairman Poland’s call for investigation of Principal Steve Perry

 

 

UPDATED: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke

Note Correction about Bridgeport Board of Education Agenda Item:

Apparently without the approval of the State Board of Education or the approval of the Connecticut General Assembly, the Malloy administration is planning to provide Malloy ally, Mayor Bill Finch, with a special deal so that he doesn’t have to have the City Bridgeport meet the state law concerning their minimum budget expenditures for local education. The law is called the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR)

Municipal leaders and taxpayers across Connecticut are well aware of the fact that in order for a community to receive state education funds they must provide a minimum level of local funding.

In that way, communities must uphold their responsibility to provide resources for local public schools.

The requirement to meet the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) has forced local officials in some communities to raise property taxes on multiple occasions.

But according to late breaking news, Governor Malloy, his budget director and his Commissioner of Education have come up with a unknown mechanism to try and let Bridgeport off-the-hook for providing their schools with sufficient local funding.

What makes the whole situation even stranger is that details are being released by the Mayor of Bridgeport on a Sunday and not by Malloy, the Office of Policy and Management or the State Department of Education.

The Bridgeport Board of Education is scheduled to vote late tomorrow – Monday – November 25, 2013 on an agenda item entitled “Approval of Resolution and Letter Regarding Minimum Budget Requirement, 2013-14.”  The AGENDA ITEM IS NOT A MOTION to support Finch’s plan but exactly the opposite.  It is a motion requesting the City of Bridgeport ALLOCATE the required funds to balance the school budget and meet the Minimum Budget Requirement.  Finch’s move is actually meant to undermine the Board of Education’s expected action tomorrow.

Instead of waiting until tomorrow, the Bridgeport Mayor’s Office put out a Sunday press release outlining SOME of the details about the deal between Finch and the Malloy Administration.

But the information released to date fails to indicate how the plan could proceed without the approval of the State Board of Education or the General Assembly, the two entities with the authority to make education policy in the State.

According to a new headline the blog “Only in Bridgeport,” Finch Announces Agreement With State To Resolve Education Funding.”

The blog post adds,

“Mayor Bill Finch on Sunday issued a news release informing that the State Department of Education and the city have reached a resolution for the city to comply with the mandated Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR). News release from Finch follows that also includes a joint letter to the city from State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and state budget director Benjamin Barnes who worked as chief financial officer of Bridgeport schools before Governor Dan Malloy appointed him secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

The State Department of Education and the City of Bridgeport have agreed on Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) terms. The resolution of the MBR is as follows:

*The state recognized the level of effort made in $1.2 million worth of tangible, in-kind services to the Bridgeport Board of Education and is crediting that amount toward the FY2013-14 MBR compliance amount;

*The City also will make an additional $1.1 million contribution to the Board of Education in the form of a reduction in the Board’s required contribution for Worker’s Compensation indemnity payments for non-certified staff; and,

*The State will make an additional $1.2 million contribution to the City by the end of the fiscal year for the purpose of further supporting the Bridgeport Public Schools.

The blog post also include the “full text of the letter received by the City of Bridgeport from the State Department of Education and the Office of Policy and Management follows”

The letter from Malloy’s Budget Director and Education Commissioner reads as follows:

Dear Mayor Finch:

Thank you for your ongoing engagement with us regarding the City’s contribution to the Bridgeport Public Schools and the Minimum Budget Requirement. We all share a deep commitment to your community and its schools, and are hopeful that our discussions have led us to a positive way forward.

These discussions are especially timely today. In recent years, the State has made extraordinary financial contributions to the Bridgeport Public Schools, which we hope have helped to provide the educational resources that teachers and students need to succeed and, at the same time, have helped to move the district in the direction of budgetary stability. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the division and controversy that have continued to plague the Bridgeport public schools.

We are committed to putting these divisive issues behind us so that the newly elected Board of Education can rededicate itself to the challenges ahead on behalf of Bridgeport’s young people. I know that you share that commitment.

It is clear that the City’s funding for the Board of Education will continue to be a challenge in light of Bridgeport’s fiscal condition. We have identified a way forward that will, we sincerely hope, allow the City to satisfy its obligations, and allow the Board to operate its budget in balance for the 2013-14 school year. It is not ideal, and it will require all parties – the City, the Board, and the State – to make some contribution. But it can be sufficient to allow all parties to turn their attention from past conflicts to our aspirations for the future.

In summary, our tentative plan is to make up for the $3.3 million in MBR shortfall as follows:

1. The City has demonstrated tangible in-kind contributions in the Board’s favor over the last two years which have provided significant budget relief to the Board. The City reasonably expected that those contributions would count toward FY 14 MBR compliance. As a result, the state will credit these contributions against the MBR and adjust the MBR requirement downward by $1.2 million, once necessary documentation is satisfactorily provided to the SDE.

2. The City will make a further contribution to the Board this year in the form of a $1.1 million reduction in the Board’s required contribution for Worker’s Compensation indemnity payments for non-certified staff. This will allow the Board to redeploy existing funds budgeted for that purpose to other areas. The City will provide such detailed assurances as needed by the Board that the City will make up the claims liability, and that this contribution will not impact the Board’s future contributions to the Internal Services Fund or otherwise deplete current or future resources of the school system.

3. The state remains committed to providing assistance to fiscally challenged communities so that they can maintain support for their schools. As part of this effort, the State Department of Education will provide the City with $1.2 million by the end of the fiscal year for the purpose of further supporting the Bridgeport Public Schools. All of these monies must be appropriated by the City to the Board for that purpose prior to the end of the fiscal year. This assistance will be contingent upon the successful completion of all other components by the City of the plan laid out in this letter.

4. Finally, the City, will commit to recommending and diligently working to enact a City budget for FY 15 that complies with the MBR and all local spending requirements, and to working with the Board to develop a long-term strategy for City support of the public schools.

Again, we are hopeful that this plan, and the new resources and partnership that it represents, will serve Bridgeport’s students and help the newly-elected Board to be successful.

Kind regards,

Stefan Pryor
Commissioner,
State Department of Education
 
 Benjamin Barnes
Secretary
Office of Policy and Management

 

Why Malloy, Stefan Pryor or Ben Barnes think such a deal wouldn’t need the approval of the State Board of Education or the Connecticut General Assembly is a mystery.

Furthermore, how Governor Malloy could give this tax break to his political ally, Mayor Bill Finch, and not make it available to property taxpayers in Connecticut’s other economically hard hit communities is also unclear.

CT Post Editorial says; Come on Malloy/Jepsen – Give State’s students their day in court”

The lawsuit is called CCFEF v. Rell.

As we know, it is the most important school funding lawsuit in more than 40 years.  Despite their previous support for the lawsuit, Governor Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen are now working overtime to try and prevent he case from even being heard.

And now the Connecticut Post’s editorial writers weigh in…on the side of Connecticut’s students.

The CT Post writes;

“Eight years and countless hours of work into a suit that seeks more money for children in underserved communities, the governor and attorney general are asking that it be dismissed. While that would certainly make their lives easier, their reasoning is flawed, and a judge should reject their pleas and allow the suit to continue.

It was during the governorship of M. Jodi Rell that the suit was filed under the banner of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, arguing that Connecticut children are being shortchanged by state funding formulas, and that the state is not meeting its obligation to provide an “adequate” education to all children.

Parents and officials in the state’s major cities were behind the effort, and their ranks included the mayor of Stamford at the time — Dannel P. Malloy.

Now Malloy, as governor, and Attorney General George Jepsen are urging a court to dismiss the suit, and using a number of specious arguments. For one, they say the group lacks standing to sue the state, which is odd, considering parents and school officials in underfunded districts have more stake than anyone in the quality of education offered in Connecticut.

Jepsen has argued that it would be unfair to decide the case based on conditions from 2005, when the suit was filed. But surely it’s not the fault of the suit’s backers that it has taken this long to work its way through the courts. If that argument is successful, anyone sued would have everything to gain by simply delaying whenever possible and then calling the action old news, as the state is trying to do here.

State lawyers also argue that the education reform package signed by Malloy last year makes the issue moot. This argument has the least merit. While those reforms do many things, they do not approach a solution for the chronic underfunding of urban districts, and some would argue they make the system worse. To say the law needs a few years to gauge its effectiveness is yet another delaying tactic.

The Connecticut Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that every child is entitled to an “adequate” education, and sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the state is providing that. Connecticut does spend a lot of money on its schools, some $3.8 billion this fiscal year. There is good reason to think that money could be spent more wisely.

But that is for a court to decide. What must not happen is for the suit to be dismissed before it is heard.

The lawsuit, and Connecticut’s students, deserve a day in court.”

You can find the Connecticut Post’s editorial here:  http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/State-students-should-get-their-day-in-court-4824907.php

It sure would be a refreshing change if our elected officials stopped spinning in circles, took the time to read this editorial and then followed the CT Post’s advice.

Update on the most important Connecticut school funding lawsuit in modern times…

Starting this year and next, Connecticut public school teachers will be judged, in no small part, by factors beyond their control such as their student’s standardized test results.  Some will lose their jobs after two years under Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill. 

But as reported in yesterday’s CT Mirror, “The state’s top attorneys Monday asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the [CCJEF v. Rell] case and give the education reforms passed by the legislature last year “at least three years” to be implemented.”

Attorney General George Jepsen, with the support of Governor Malloy, moved to destroy the most important school funding case in more than half a century, despite Malloy’s earlier promises to support the case.

And the media coverage of this extraordinary event?

Ah… minimal, at best. As of 7 a.m. on the day after the court hearing:

The Hartford Courant had reported – Nothing.

The CT Mirror has a story entitled, “Malloy’s school reforms may be headed for trial,Ken Dixon, a reporter for the Connecticut Post and Hearst Media wrote, Court hears case for, against dismissal,” and the CT Newsjunkie ran “Education Adequacy Case Headed Back To Courtlast week.

As the CT Mirror reported, “The Connecticut Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that every child is entitled to an “adequate” education, and sent the case back to the lower court to determine if the state is providing that.”

As mayor of Stamford and candidate for governor, Dan Malloy not only supported the case but was listed as a plaintiff with the CCJEF, the organization which brought the suit against Governor Rell as a way to force the state of Connecticut to face its historic underfunding of public schools in Connecticut.

Now with this extraordinarily important trial scheduled to start in July 2014, four months before the next gubernatorial election, Governor Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen are trying to get the case dismissed by claiming that Malloy’s “education reforms” do away with the need to deal with the fact that Connecticut underfunds its public schools by as much as $2 billion.

As Ken Dixon explains in his Connecticut Post Story,

“The [CCJEF] coalition is suing to get more aid for struggling schools in Connecticut’s cities, and for a new formula of support that takes municipal wealth into account and shifts the burden of public education from local property taxes. The current system, plaintiffs say, penalizes cities such as Bridgeport that have limited taxable real estate in relation to the needs of their schools.”

Dixon adds that “After the hearing, Dianne Kaplan deVries, project director for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, said that drastically changing the system for local school funding is important.

‘With political will seemingly always lagging, the only way those resources are going to be made available is for this lawsuit to succeed,’ she said.

Thus, ironically, the state seems to not understand that for the state of Connecticut to win — as well as its school children, communities, colleges, and employers — the state needs to lose this case.’”

As noted repeatedly here at Wait, What? for years Malloy claimed to be a strong supporter of the lawsuit but he suddenly switched his position following the last gubernatorial election.

Starting last year, Attorney General George Jepsen began a more aggressive effort to undermine the suit.  With Malloy’s support, Jepsen first moved to try to remove early childhood education from the issues to be covered by the lawsuit and is now he is trying to get the whole case dismissed.

In response to criticisms that Malloy has failed to fulfill his promise on school funding and the CCJEF v. Rell case, his spokesman said, “Through additional funding and reforms in the bill he championed last year, we’re making great strides in improvements to public education.”

Of course, the Malloy administration’s political spin completely overlooks the reality that an extra $50 million a year, funds that are primarily targeted to selected schools, doesn’t begin to resolve the $750 million to $2 billion underfunding problem that leaves Connecticut’s public schools underfunded and disproportionately shifts an unfair burden to local property taxpayers.

You can read more background on the case in the following two Wait, What? blog posts: