Connecticut Attorney General Jepsen to appeal CCJEF v. Rell ruling

Claiming that the State of Connecticut “far exceeds” what it needs to spend on public education, Attorney General George Jepsen announced today that he will appeal the recent court decision in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit.

While Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled Connecticut’s school funding program was irrational and unconstitutional, the judge went far afield of the actual case, using his decision to condemn Connecticut’s teachers and public schools and promoting his own version of a corporate education reform agenda.

An appeal will mean Connecticut’s Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on the ruling and confirm whether Connecticut’s elected officials must finally address Connecticut’s broken school funding formula.

The following is Attorney General Jepsen’s statement;

Statement from AG Jepsen on Next Steps in CCJEF v. Rell

Attorney General George Jepsen today issued the following statement to announce that the state will seek a direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court of the ruling issued by the Superior Court last week in the case of Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell:

“Under our system of government, state education policy is determined by the Legislative and Executive Branches and implemented under a strong tradition of local control by municipal school boards and, ultimately, teachers. This decision would wrest educational policy from the representative branches of state government, limit public education for some students with special needs, create additional municipal mandates concerning graduation and other standards, and alter the basic terms of educators’ employment – and entrust all of those matters to the discretion of a single, unelected judge.

“For the public and legislators to trust the legitimacy of such a dramatically new system and the policies it produces, they must know that the ruling mandating it is legally correct. There are strong arguments that the trial court exceeded its authority and the standards articulated by the Connecticut Supreme Court, and so today we are asking that court to review this ruling.

“Despite its order, the trial court correctly determined that the state far exceeds its minimum constitutional obligations for providing equitable access to adequate education. Nevertheless, the ruling identified profound educational challenges that remain and must continue to receive serious and sustained attention – and action – at every level of government. Nothing about this appeal prevents policymakers from immediately addressing those challenges, and I urge them to do so without delay.”

More about this development and previous media coverage via links below:

CCJEF V. RELL MEDIA COVERAGE

CT Mirror

9/7/16 – Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’

9/7/16 – Ruling may end ‘hold harmless’ principle in CT budget politics

9/12/16 – For David Rosen, 11 years in court just a beginning in school case (New Haven Independent)

9/13/16 – Malloy, a plaintiff and then a defendant, hedges on school appeal

9/15/16 Jepsen files appeal, says Moukawsher school ruling ‘legally unsupported’

Hartford Courant

9/7/16 – Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools and   CCJEF Ruling Press Conference

9/8/16 – Legislature Must Draft A New Deal For CT Education

9/9/16 – Lawmakers Scramble To Craft Response To Judge’s Education Ruling

9/15/16 State Appeals Controversial Education Overhaul Decision

CT Newsjunkie

9/7/16 Judge Orders State To Make Sweeping Changes To Education Funding, Policies

9/15/16 State Appeals Education Ruling to Supreme Court

Stamford Advocate

9/11/16 – Wendy Lecker: Will equity without adequacy be enough to help Connecticut’s neediest children?

Connecticut Post

9/7/16 Judge says state’s school funding formula is irrational

9/9/16 –After ruling on school finding, officials ponder next step

9/15/16 – State to appeal decision on school funding

New York Times

9/7/16 Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to Overhaul Its School System

9/11/16 – In Connecticut, a Wealth Gap Divides Neighboring Schools

9/12/16 – A Holistic Ruling on Broken Schools

Links to the actual decision

Hartford Courant – http://www.courant.com/education/hc-read-ccjef-v-rell-20160907-htmlstory.html

CT Mirror – https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html

Judicial Department – http://jud.ct.gov/CCJEFvRell.pdf

 

Related Statements:

CEA CEA Leaders Respond to CCJEF v. Rell Decision

AFT – Comments on Court Decision in Historic State Education Funding Case

CCM – CCM INITIAL STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO SUPERIOR COURT DECISION IN CCJEF V. RELL SCHOOL-FUNDING DECISION

Educators 4 Excellence – Educators 4 Excellence-Connecticut reacts to ruling of CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit

ConnCAN – CONNCAN ISSUES STATEMENT IN CCJEF COURT CASE

 

Commentary pieces:

Education Ruling: OK To Shut Out Disabled Kids?

Tell state officials: Don’t appeal CCJEF ruling

Did one Connecticut judge just change the conversation about education inequality?

The Aftermath Of The CCJEF Ruling: What Is Next For Public Education In Connecticut?

Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul

In Perplexing Decision, Connecticut Judge Fails to Raise the Bar for Adequate School Funding

Asked about the critically important CCJEF v. Rell case, Malloy tells media he isn’t Governor Jodi Rell

It was another classic Wait, What? moment with Dannel Malloy at the helm.

When the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit was filed 11 years ago, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy was a plaintiff in the case, one of a number of local elected officials who decried the fact that Connecticut’s system of school funding was unfair, inadequate and unconstitutional.

Then, Malloy become Connecticut’s governor in January 2011 and immediately did, “a 180.”  Instead of using his position to settle the lawsuit and develop a funding formula that would be fair and constitutional, Malloy lead the charge to dismiss, disrupt and upend the case that would have benefited the children, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Stamford and Connecticut’s other poorer cities and towns.

Malloy not only squandered the opportunity to develop a constitutionally adequate school funding system, he used his budget authority to make the state’s school funding programs even more unfair.

Last week came the initial trial ruling on the CCJEF v. Rell case.  Connecticut superior court judge went so far as to say that not only is Connecticut’s school funding system unconstitutional, it is irrational.

So will Malloy and his administration appeal the decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court or not?

In a press conference yesterday (Tuesday, September 13, 2016) Malloy ducked the all-important issue claiming that since his name was Dan Malloy and not Jodi Rell, it wasn’t his responsibility to recommend whether the state of Connecticut should or should not appeal the controversial decision.

Instead he told reporters to go talk to Attorney General George Jepsen, the very state official Malloy has worked so closely with in their effort to dismiss and destroy the CCJEF lawsuit.

The New Haven Independent captured Malloy’s interaction on the subject, reporting the following in a story entitled, Malloy: Ask Jepsen,

Don’t ask Dannel P. Malloy how Connecticut will respond to a judge’s landmark ruling ordering sweeping changes in the state’s education system. After all, his name’s not on the lawsuit.

So the governor said when pressed by reporters at an unrelated New Haven press conference Tuesday afternoon for his take on Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s 254-page ruling last week in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell.

The 11-year-old lawsuit sought fairer educational funding for poorer school districts.

Judge Moukawsher went further. He not only ordered the state to distribute its education aid to local cities and towns more rationally and fairly (though not necessarily to spend more money overall). He also ordered new standards for high school graduation, for distributing special-education aid, for evaluating teachers. And to present a plan to do all that in 180 days.

Malloy was mayor of Stamford when the coalition originally filed that suit. He in fact joined the coalition. He was a plaintiff.

Now he’s the governor — not “Rell,” aka Jodi Rell, who was governor at the time of the filing. Malloy is now in effect the defendant, not the plaintiff.

So, reporters asked: Will he direct the attorney general to appeal the ruling?

Malloy responded that it’s not his call. Technically, Attorney General George Jepsen will have to decide whether the state appeals the ruling. And Malloy, who usually prides himself as a driving force behind state policy, said he plans not to try to influence Jepsen’s decision.

[…]

Malloy said he agrees with much of what Judge Moukawsher wrote in his decision: “You know why I think he made very valid points? Because I’ve been making the same points for the past five years.” He also said he disagrees with some of the decision, particularly the timetable; given that some of the decisions involve the legislative process, he questioned whether the state can meet the 180-day deadline.

CT Mirror reporter Mark Pazniokas didn’t let Malloy off the hook. Following is a partial transcript of his follow-up questions and Malloy’s responses.

Malloy: The attorney general needs to do what the attorney general needs to do.

Pazniokas: The lawsuit, after all, is “CCJEF vs. Rell.” The attorney general’s office is charged with doing the defense. They are not the defendant. You in effect are.

Malloy: My name’s not Rell.

Pazniokas: But if you were elected a little bit earlier, “Malloy” would be the defendant. The State Department of Education is in effect the client …

Malloy: I’m not fighting you. I’m not trying to get away from giving you a true answer and a factual answer. It’s a very involved decision. If the attorney general believes that it needs clarification, that it needs final judgement status … I am telling you that I am in agreement with large portions of this decision. And particularly on those points that I have made for the past five years.

Pazniokas: I just want to be clear … You are saying it is entirely George Jepsen and his team, his decision to appeal? You are not going to express a view to the attorney general’s office about whether to appeal at this point?

Malloy: If this was a simpler decision, if it was written on five pages and made statements solely about funding or the distribution of funds, then maybe it wouldn’t even be necessary to even be considering appealing. What I’m telling you is I have enough confidence in the attorney general and his staff that they’ll make the right decision. And I will support that decision. …

The primary purpose as you understood and I understood it when I brought it, then I’m largely in agreement [with the decision]. I don’t know what else to tell you.

I’ve answered it. enough.

Pazniokas: Again, I want to be clear. My question didn’t suggest that you would dictate what the attorney general would do. What’ I’m asking is: So you’re not going to participate in a conversation with him about an admittedly very complex …

Malloy: … Listen. I’m not running from this. I’ll participate in any discussion the attorney general wants to have with me about this subject … I’m even acknowledging that it may have gone beyond the scope of the original proceedings as drafted, as represented in the pleadings. So that may lead people in a particular direction. But if you’re asking me about the core purpose of this lawsuit — and that is how we distribute money for education — I am largely in agreement.

Call it just another day in Malloy’s world of leadership and policy….

You can read and comment on the full New Haven Independent story at: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/malloy_ask_jepsen/

Malloy destroys Connecticut’s regional hospitals, Jepsen and Democrats fail to act

While national attention has focused on the Malloy administration’s inappropriate relationship with the insurance industry and the merger of CIGNA and Anthem, few in Connecticut are fully aware that Malloy’s disastrous budget and regulatory policies are leading to the demise of Connecticut’s historic system of regional hospitals and hospitals that are owned and operated by nonprofit entities based in Connecticut.

From The Journal Inquirer, via the Hartford Business Journal, comes more news about the destruction of Connecticut.  In ECHN sale gets final OK; State officials expect end of July completion (6/13/2016) and State gives conditional OK to Waterbury Hospital sale (6/26/16), Connecticut citizens have the opportunity to learn more about the repercussions of Malloy’s unprecedented attacks on Connecticut’s once great system of regional hospitals that were dedicated to the health of the citizens and communities in which they served.

Instead of protecting these important community and health assets, Governor Malloy and his administration – with the support of the Connecticut legislature – have undermined Connecticut’s hospitals and set up a system in which these vital institutions are being turned over to out-of-state, for-profit entities that see Connecticut’s citizens as simply an opportunity to make a buck at the expense of our health and our communities.

Few, except for the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG), have been stepping up to fight Malloy’s destructive policies.  Among those dedicated to the “get-along-to-go-along” approach to politics and governance has been Attorney General George Jepsen who should have been fighting Malloy on his outrageous anti-local hospital policies.

The problem has been taking shape for the past few years,

See Wait, What? articles;

Governor Dannel Malloy – On a Mission to destroy Connecticut’s hospitals (12/14/15)

WARNING: The assault on Connecticut’s Hospitals – Here come the for-profit hospital operators  (7/11/15)

Malloy must take responsibility for many of the these hospital layoffs (6/6/14)

But news that the State of Connecticut had given final approval to the destruction of Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN), including Rockville and Manchester hospitals, came earlier this month and now comes the reporting on the state’s approval of the plan to undermine healthcare in the greater Waterbury area.

In ECHN sale gets final OK; State officials expect end of July completion, the JI wrote;

State regulators have decided not to require an independent ombudsman as a condition for approving the $105 million sale of Eastern Connecticut Health Network to a California for-profit company.

That was the only major change announced Friday in the final decision by the state Office of Health Care Access and Attorney General George Jepsen ratifying ECHN’s purchase by Prospect Medical Holdings Inc.

The ombudsman had been one of the most important conditions for many area residents.

State regulators agreed instead to allow for two new members selected from the community, with full voting privileges, to sit on an oversight board that includes local doctors, health care workers, and ECHN managers.

State officials expect the sale to be finalized by the end of July, when ECHN would become known as Prospect ECHN Inc.

[…]

During two days of public hearings last month in both Manchester and Vernon, residents called for appointment of an independent ombudsman to an oversight committee to ensure the communities’ interests are served.

OHCA included that request in the draft decision, but the wording was changed in the final decision released Friday.

Rather than an ex-officio, non-voting member, the two new “community representatives” will have voting privileges and be selected in consultation with the mayors of both Manchester and Vernon.

[…]

Prospect plans to implement its “Coordinated Regional Care” model here, using a preferred provider network focused on preventive care and early readmission to reduce emergency visits.

Prospect officials said Friday afternoon that they were still reviewing the final decision and had no immediate comment. Nevertheless, they said, they hope to finalize the sale soon.

The private company owns 13 hospitals, including seven in California, four in Texas, and two in Rhode Island. It also plans to buy Waterbury Hospital as well as acute-care facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In California, where Prospect is headquartered, that state’s patient advocate has rated many of its programs and services as “poor.”

In addition, two of its southern California hospitals in Los Angeles and Culver City are facing federal sanctions because of an “immediate jeopardy” status for unsanitary conditions that caused a surgery to be closed for eight days in order to be properly cleaned and pass inspection.

The company is also facing a labor battle with its nurses and other health care workers in Rhode Island, where contracts are about to expire.

Meanwhile, yesterday the JI covered the situation in Waterbury in an article entitled, State gives conditional OK to Waterbury Hospital sale included;

State regulators Friday issued conditional approval of the sale of Greater Waterbury Health Network and Waterbury Hospital to Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc. for $100 million.

The state Public Health Department’s Office of Health Care Access, or OHCA, and the state attorney general’s office late Friday both released their proposed final decisions to approve the health network’s Certificate of Need application, issuing several conditions.

Conditions that California-based Prospect must meet include: reporting to state regulators any changes to patient care or services in the next three years; submitting a health and community needs assessment plan; maintaining current charity and indigent care; hold a semi-annual joint meeting of the board of directors that’s open to the public; designate a voting board member position for a community representative appointed by the mayor; submit a three-year service plan for any consolidation, reduction, or elimination of services; and submit a semi-annual report to state regulators showing how funds are spent on capital improvements.

[…]

For-profit Prospect Medical is also in the process of purchasing nonprofit Eastern Connecticut Health Network, including Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, for $105 million, with plans to spend $75 million in capital improvements on those facilities over the next five years.

Prospect now owns 13 hospitals in California, Texas, and Rhode Island. It is also seeking to purchase acute care facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

And where are Connecticut’s elected officials?

They remain, silent.

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

Yesterday, lawyers for Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen spent the day in a Connecticut courtroom arguing to a judge in the CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit why the state should not be held accountable for failing to provide Connecticut’s children with their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

We can be sure of one thing.  If a Republican governor was engaged in such an unethical and immoral approach to Connecticut’s school funding system, Democratic officials would be leading the demonstrations demanding that the state of Connecticut settle the lawsuit and fulfill their obligation to our state’s children.

But Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen claim the “Democratic Party” label and thus there was nothing but silence yesterday from Democratic Party officials.

Meanwhile, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is not only preparing to take the stand against Connecticut’s children in the critically important CCJEF School Funding Lawsuit, but she is leading the Malloy/Wyman administration’s inappropriate attack on students, parents and the public school administrators who were honest and truthful, last spring, about a parent’s right to opt their child out of the disastrous Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents a Connecticut parent from refusing to have their child participate in the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Testing Program, that truth isn’t stopping the Malloy administration from reaching out to punish the school districts that didn’t “prevent” parents from utilizing their inalienable right to opt out of the testing.

The attack on Connecticut school districts that “allowed” children to be opted out is nothing short of reprehensible and the Malloy administration’s tactics are becoming a national disgrace.

Dr. Daniel Katz is a New Jersey-based educator, university professor, expert on preparing special education teachers for the classroom and a fellow education blogger.  From his vantage point, Daniel Katz has been watching Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration’s attack on students, parents, teachers and public education with disgust.

In his latest column entitled, Connecticut Recommends Thumbscrews, Daniel Katz writes;

Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy does not always grab attention in the annals of corporate education reform.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made battles with public unions more central to his image.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plainly relishes getting to act “tough” and yell at teachers questioning his agenda. Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel shuttered 50 public schools, mostly serving ethnic minority children, in one go, without caring to listen at all to the residents of the impacted neighborhoods.  Neighboring governor and fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York staked a huge portion of his agenda for 2015 on ramming through controversial education reforms, and his approval rating both overall and especially on education have tanked in a highly visible manner.  Compared to headline grabbers like these, Governor Malloy does not seem to get much attention.

Which is a shame because when it comes to the Holy Trinity of education reform – common standards, standardized testing tied to punitive consequences, and preference for charter schools over district schools, Governor Malloy is the complete package. In 2012, he called for major changes to teacher tenure in Connecticut, earning praise from ConnCAN, an education reform group promoting charter schools.  Facing push back from teachers and parents about the pace and nature of education reforms, Governor Malloy was forced to call for a “slow down” in the pace of reforms, especially tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.  $91,000 in campaign donations flowed to Connecticut Democrats from a single wealthy businessman and charter school advocate, Jonathan Sackler, and three members of his family; those donations and others from Wall Street were rewarded with proposals for over $21 million in new charter school funding while public school spending remains flat.

It is pretty clear that Governor Malloy stands shoulder to shoulder with New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel even if he prefers to draw less national attention to himself.  So it is perhaps not surprising that his education department is contemplating thumbscrews for the Opt Out movement in Connecticut.

Opt Out was not the force in Connecticut that it was in neighboring New York with only 11,200 students not taking the state exams while the state says 267,000 did.  However, a number of individual districts did not meet the 95% testing requirement of No Child Left Behind which was continued in the new Every Child Succeeds Acts, and in some districts those numbers were significant. Roughly 7 out of 10 high school juniors opted out in Stonington, and participation fell below 95% in over 30 communities.

This Fall, roughly a dozen states got a letter from Ann Whalen at the US Department of Education, an adviser who is acting as the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, reminding them that their districts need to test no less than 95 percent of all students and that the state needs an action plan to deal with those who do not.  The letter opens by reminding state chief education officers of the legal requirements to test all children in grades 3-8 and once in high schools, that the examinations must be same for all students, and no student may be excluded from the examinations.  Ms. Whalen asserts that the sections of the law she cites “set out the rule that all students must be assessed.” The letter continues to remind the state officers that both their state and local authorities who receive Title I, Part A money assured that they would test all students in accordance with the law.  Ms. Whalen also offers “suggestions” for actions state education authorities can take to address participation in the assessments:

  • Lowering an LEA’s or school’s rating in the State’s accountability system or amending the system flag an LEA or school with a low participation rate.
  • Counting non-participants as non-proficient in accountability determinations.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to develop an improvement plan, or take corrective actions to ensure that all students participate in the statewide assessments in the future, and providing the SEA’s process to review and monitor such plans.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to implement additional interventions aligned with the reason for low student participation, or even if the state’s accountability system does not officially designate schools for such interventions.
  • Designating an LEA or school as “high risk,” or a comparable status under the State’s laws and regulations, with a clear explanation for the implications of such a designation.
  • Withholding or directing use of State aid and/or funding flexibility.

Ms. Whalen also reminds the states that they have “a range of other enforcement actions” including placing conditions on Title I, Part A grants or even withholding them.  For a real kicker, she goes on to say that if states with less than 95% participation in the 2014-2015 school year do not assess 95% of students this year, then the federal education department “will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administration funds; (2) place the State’s Title I, Part A grant on high-risk and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.”

Short version: States with Opt Out numbers that put them or local districts below 95% test participation must bargain, cajole, plead, or threaten districts and schools into making that target.  The Federal Education Department has put in writing that not only failure to take action to address low assessment rates, but also failure to meet the 95% target this year, WILL result in some form of punitive action from Washington.  Presumably, the degree of the punishment will depend upon how vigorous the state actions are.  It is also safe to assume that the Education Department offices in Washington have a new logo:

Connecticut got its own version of this letter from Dr. Monique Chism in the office of state support, and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna Wentzell quietly sent the state’s reply on December 4th, waiting until December 28th to release it to the public. In the letter, Dr. Wentzell assures Washington that although Connecticut met the 95% participation rate statewide, they are “not pleased” that a number of districts did not do so, and the state has devised a tiered intervention system to “ensure that districts meeting the standard are commended, those failing marginally are gently alerted, and those falling behind are strongly reminded of the potential consequences and provided support to remedy the situation in 2015-2016.”  In the next school year, Connecticut’s accountability system will “lower a school by one category for low participation rates in the 2015-2016 year.”  The system is explained in a graphic:

Districts in Connecticut are now warned: if your test participation rates were below 80% in any category, funds WILL be withheld if this year’s participation rate is not at least 90%.

SDE consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This remains as problematic as it has been every time the federal government or a state entity has raised it.  Yes, it is true that federal law requires that at least 95 percent of all students in all subcategories are tested in the participating grades.  Yes, it is true that state and local officials have to do what they can to test the students in the participating grades and have almost no legal authority to exempt any of those students.  However, the statute was written to prevent states and local school authorities from hiding low performing student populations from accountability systems.  I challenge Dr. Wentzell, Dr. Chism, or Ms. Whalen to find a single line of statutory authority to compel parents to submit their children for examination or to find any legislative intent in the original NCLB legislation or its successor to punish schools and districts for not exerting 95% control of the parents in their district.  There have been schools since 2001 who have not managed to test 95% of their students, but there is not a single example of a school being punished for that.

In the end, Connecticut, at the prodding of the Federal Education Department, is setting itself up for an unpleasant confrontation with parents, often parents that elected officials find difficult to ignore, with very shaky legal footing.  North Haven High School, for example, had extremely low participation rates on the 11th grade exams.  The community also has a median home value $22,000 above the state median and median household income $16,000 above the state median.  With only 4% of its residents below the poverty line compared to the state average of over 10% it is unlikely that North Haven’s schools rely significantly upon Title I funds, so it is unclear exactly what money Dr. Wentzell would withhold.  However, the loss of any money intended to help children who are in poverty based upon actions of parents rather than upon actions of school authorities is unprecedented, contrary to the intention of any federal and state accountability laws – and far more likely to increase the parental backlash than to bottle it up.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen don’t face the votes this year, Connecticut’s legislators do.  In this battle between the Malloy administration and Connecticut’s public schools, state senators and state representatives would do well to be clear about whose side they are on… Are they going to stand with Malloy or with Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers?

Connecticut’s historic school funding trial finally begins this week

As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

Connecticut’s historic school funding formula trial finally begins next week

As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

Et tu, Brute? – Democrats line up to betray Connecticut’s Latinos

Despite the herculean efforts of the political spinmeisters surrounding Governor Dannel Malloy and Connecticut’s Democratic Party leaders, the truth about what is taking place in Hartford, Connecticut is becoming increasingly apparent.

While the outcome of Hartford’s Democratic Primary for Mayor won’t be known until the last votes are counted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, Greenwich Native and Hartford newcomer Luke Bronin appears to be on the verge of defeating the only Puerto Rican mayor of any major city across the 50 States.

If the political take-down occurs, the vast majority of the “credit” goes to the “Divine Invisible” hand of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Malloy’s political operatives and Luke Bronin’s record breaking expensive campaign.

The harsh and disturbing reality is that if successful, Luke Bronin’s defeat of Mayor Pedro Segarra may very well be the most audacious political attack on the Latino community by a sitting Democratic Governor.

Novice Luke Bronin’s quest to become the next Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut is a case study on Dannel Malloy’s effort to deliver the money and political support necessary to install an affluent, white, protégée as mayor of Connecticut’s Capital, a community in which so-called “minority” residents make up well over 70 percent of Hartford’s 125,000 population and where at least 48 percent of Hartford residents speak a language other than English at home.

In Hartford’s public schools, less than 10 percent of the students are White and just over 50 percent are Latino or Hispanic.  Approximately one in five Hartford students is not fluent in English and 85% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

But in an extremely unreported, but extraordinarily dramatic set of circumstances, an individual who has never run for office, never worked in municipal government and never attended a public school is poised to defeat Hartford’s Latino Mayor, Pedro Segarra.

While Mayor Segarra has had his problems, challenges and difficulties, the race isn’t so much about the incumbent as it is about the challenger’s unprecedented campaign, a challenger who belongs among the 1% but claims his golden pedigree has prepared him to save Hartford.

And with that, the spotlight shifts to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.

  • Andrew Doba, who serves as Luke Bronin’s spokesman and cheerleader, spent the last two years as Governor Dannel Malloy’s Communications Director and official mouthpiece. While Bronin’s campaign broke Connecticut Campaign Finance Law this summer by accepting an illegal campaign donation form Doba’s New York based public relations company, following Wait, What? coverage of the issue, it now appears that Bronin is finally paying Malloy’s former aide for his services.  Considering Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-education reform, anti-teacher agenda, it is not surprising that Doba is also Connecticut point person for the New York City based charter school industry front group known as Families for Excellent Schools. The lobbying group has devoted more than $1 million to help pass Malloy’s “education” initiative that has diverted millions in scarce public funds to privately owned charter schools rather than to inadequately funded public schools in Hartford and the state’s other poor school system.
  • In recent weeks, Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor and alter ego has also collected more than $58,000 from Bronin’s campaign for “polling and advertising services.”
  • Bronin’s major donors includes many individuals with direct ties to Malloy, including Malloy’s former chief of staff, his former campaign manager, his former campaign treasurer, and a number of Malloy’s gubernatorial and campaign aides.
  • More than 50 of Malloy political appointees, including many who are collecting six figure incomes after getting appointed to state jobs by Malloy over the past few years are also on Bronin’s contributor list including present and former state commissioners and deputy commissioners, executive assistants and appointees to various boards and commissions including the Parole Board, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Board of Regents.
  • In addition, an unprecedented number of Bronin’s campaign donations have come from State lobbyists.

As of Bronin’s July campaign finance report, at least 33 state lobbyists, along with a number of their spouses had given to Luke Bronin’s campaign.  The list includes many of the most influential names in the lobbying business.

  • Bronin has been cashing in with Dannell Malloy’s previous gubernatorial donors, especially with those who have large state contracts.

For example, The Konover Company, a real estate management firm that profits from state contracts poured at least $71,000 into Malloy’s 2014 campaign effort via the Democratic Party’s “Federal Account.”  Those same individuals are among Luke Bronin’s largest campaign contributors.

Another prime example of the Malloy/Bronin reach is the fact that Bronin has collected $4,000 from Anthony Gaglio, Anthony Gaglio Jr. and their spouses.

The Gaglios own Viking Construction Inc. a company that donated $63,500 to Malloy via what the Harford Courant called, “a controversial state Democratic Party federal account that supported Malloy’s re-election.”

Reporting on Viking Construction’s donations to Luke Bronin, the Hartford Courant explained,

“Calls to Viking were not returned Thursday or Friday. Viking, a major player in residential construction, was general contractor for an affordable housing development recently built in Darien in cooperation with Malloy and state economic development officials.

Bronin, responding to a question about the Gaglios’ contributions, said in an email Friday, “I was introduced to them by a supporter, and after sharing my vision for a vibrant Hartford, I was pleased to get their support.”

  • Connecticut’s largest law firms, most of which also have lucrative state contracts, have also served as a major source of campaign funds for Bronin’s effort to defeat Pedro Segarra.

Among the large law firms that have provided Bronin with campaign donations are Pullman & Comely; Updike, Kelly & Spellacy; Shipman & Goodwin; Murtha, Cullina; Day, Pitney and Robinson & Cole.

These same firms were instrumental in funding Malloy’s Democratic Party campaign slush fund with about $45,000 coming from Pullman & Comely, $30,000 from Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, $11,000 from Shipman & Goodwin, along with sizable donations from Day Pitney; Robinson & Cole and others.

  • And other key Democratic Party officials also appear involved in the effort to defeat Pedro Segarra.  Attorney General George Jepsen’s two top aides, the AG’s Deputy Attorney General and his Chief Adviser, have donated to Segarra’s opponent.  Luke Bronin’s contributor list also includes top aides to State Treasurer Denise Nappier.
  • Equally telling is the fact Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, once considered a leading voice for Latino causes and a strong supporter of Pedro Segarra, has been utterly silent as the Malloy and the Democratic Party has targeted Segarra for defeat…as has many of Connecticut’s other key Democratic elected officials.

In the end, Governor Dannel Malloy’s decision to help remove one of the nation’s highest ranking Puerto Rican elected officials is not only noteworthy because Malloy is a Democrat and relied heavily on support from Latino and Hispanic voters to get elected to a first and second term, but also because Malloy will be take the helm of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) in just a few months.

In that role Malloy’s duty will be to raise money for the various Democratic candidates running for governor in 2016, while helping to get out the vote on behalf of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. Malloy has already been to New Hampshire to campaign for Hilary Clinton.

Considering the Democratic Party needs strong support from Hispanic and Latino voters in order to win a the national and state level in 2016, Dannel Malloy’s involvement in helping to take down a major Latino leader is nothing short of stunning.

Perhaps the only thing more stunning has been the complete lack of national media coverage about the developing situation in Connecticut.

State’s most vulnerable children get their day in court by Wendy Lecker

Wendy Lecker is one of Connecticut’s most outspoken education advocates.  As senior attorney at the Education Law Center, she has helped lead critically important school finance lawsuits.  Wendy Lecker is also a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.  This week she reports on Connecticut’s vital CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

Once supporters for ensuring Connecticut has a fair and equitable school funding formula, Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepson are now leading the effort to ensure that Connecticut’s public school students and Connecticut’s local property taxpayers don’t get the help they need and deserve.

Wendy Lecker explains,

Connecticut’s elected officials have steadfastly refused to fix our school finance system, which leaves schools underfunded and local property taxpayers overburdened. Public school students and local property taxpayers will finally have their day in court when Connecticut’s school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, starts trial in October. It is now important to understand some of the basic tenets in school finance.

First, all children have the constitutional right to school resources sufficient for an education enabling them to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education.

Second, it costs more to educate some children than others. Children living in poverty often require more services than children who do not. The stresses associated with poverty affect brain development, often leaving children with behavioral and cognitive difficulties. As a result, schools serving poor children need specific resources, such as: social workers, behavioral therapists, psychologists, learning specialists, small classes.

Children learning English require more services than those already proficient. The services necessary to help a child learn English are different than those needed to support a child who lives in poverty. Similarly, children with disabilities require additional services.

Third, some municipalities cannot raise as much revenue as others, and therefore need more state school aid. Often, those municipalities serve the highest concentration of the neediest — and therefore most expensive to educate — children.

These cornerstones of school finance are universally accepted and understood. They form the bases of school funding systems across the nation. They undergird the CCJEF plaintiffs’ case. Essentially, the plaintiffs claim Connecticut has underfunded its public schools in large part because the state school finance system does not accurately account for the cost of education in general, the cost of educating students with additional needs or a municipality’s capacity to raise revenue.

CCJEF’s school finance experts calculated the gap between what the state provides in school aid and what our schools and children need to be about $2 billion; based on 2004 standards, costs and demographics.

What does this massive school funding shortfall mean? Schools serving our neediest children lack essential academic resources: teachers, reading specialists, guidance counselors, social workers, reasonable class size, well-equipped libraries, academic intervention services, computers, preschool, etc.

Connecticut’s leaders have gone to great effort — and expense — to ignore these three basic tenets of school finance.

Since the CCJEF case was filed in 2005 — when then-Mayor Dannel Malloy of Stamford was a plaintiff — our leaders have convened commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees ostensibly to study school funding. They did this without consulting real school finance experts. These gimmicks provided the appearance politicians were doing something to fix the problem.

In reality, our leaders have done next to nothing. The state owes our neediest districts up to $7,000 dollars per pupil. However, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, the average increase in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) aid to our neediest received was $642 per pupil.

The only recent change politicians made to our ECS formula undermined fair funding. The legislature removed from the ECS formula the ELL weight: i.e. the adjustment in the formula that attempted to account for the cost of educating ELL students. This move is contrary to sound education finance policy and is particularly absurd in a state with a growing ELL population.

Connecticut’s inaction on school finance is why our small wealthy state figures prominently in a national report on financially disadvantaged districts. Connecticut is ranked fifth in the nation in the percentage of children enrolled in financially disadvantaged districts, with more than 13 percent of our children in these districts. The state with the highest concentration, Illinois, has 25 percent.

At the same time the state has done nothing to help poor districts, it has spent millions on unsuccessful attempts to have the CCJEF case dismissed.

In the latest budget season, the state made matters worse. State figures reveal that the largest increase our financially distressed districts will receive in 2016 is about $100 per pupil. Windham will receive an increase of only $19 per pupil. Most needy districts will get no increase for 2017.

At this pathetic rate, it will take more than 20 years before the state makes up the gap in school funding.

In human terms, that means two generations of children will go through school without adequate resources to help them learn, losing years of learning they cannot recapture.

Year after year Connecticut’s elected officials have been unresponsive to the educational needs of our most vulnerable children. In October, they will have to answer for that in court.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s original piece at: http://m.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-State-s-most-vulnerable-children-6378743.php?utm_content=buffer47d00&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

The Malloy Administration’s Big Lie: Parents Can’t Opt Out.

Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and his band of corporate education industry reforms continue their crusade to persuade Connecticut parents that they don’t have the right to opt out their children from the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test.

Pryor claims that federal and state laws trump parental rights.

He is lying…

And he knows it…

But neither Governor Malloy, Attorney General Jepsen nor the General Assembly will stand up for Connecticut’s parents.

And the majority of public school superintendents are carrying Pryor’s water rather than doing what is right for Connecticut’s parents, students and teachers.

Just up the road in Massachusetts, local boards of education are fighting back against a similar campaign of deceit.

As Diane Ravitch reported today,

“The school committee of Tantasqua, Massachusetts, voted to permit parents to opt their children out of the PARCC tests.  [There are actually two versions of the Common Core Test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) and PARCC]. [Per a reader, Tantasqua, Massachusetts. It is a school district within the town of Boylston].

In doing so, Tantasqua joins the school committees of Worcester and Norfolk, which reached the same decision.

The state department of education has opposed opting out, but the school committees are not following orders.

The Tantasqua vote was close, 8-7, and the deciding vote was cast by the chair of the committee, Michael J. Valanzola.

He said:

“It reaches the point of exhaustion, relative to the mandates from the state. Every time you turn around, there are new requirements on our school district but no money to back them up,” Mr. Valanzola said after the meeting. “And, for me, this sends a message that we are tired of the mandates and, ultimately, we are a School Choice district that believes in choice. Choice should rest with the parents and their right to be engaged in the process.” 

On Feb. 11, the Norfolk School Committee sent the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education a letter saying it would let parents decide for their children whether they will participate in the PARCC test. On March 6, the Worcester School Committee agreed to send a letter to the state similar to Norfolk’s. 

Here at Wait,What? we have asked the question repeatedly.

Is there no one in authority that has the courage and conviction to stand up against the outrageous, inappropriate and illegal dictates of the Malloy Administration?

Is there truly no one who will say enough is enough?

For more background read some of the earlier Wait, What? posts:

Pryor: Enough! Read the statute and back off the lie that students must take the common core test

 

Malloy, Pryor, Superintendents – Stop lying about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field!

 

Who on earth would require HS juniors to take the Common Core Field Test in the spring?

Would one of the top four leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly please stand up?

 

If Malloy won’t stop Pryor’s lies, then Attorney General Jepsen must do the job

Connecticut parents have a right to opt their children out of the standardized tests!

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, knows that is the truth but has chosen to engage in a strategy to intimidate and mislead Connecticut’s parents of public school students.

Governor Malloy must immediately put an end to this travesty or Attorney General George Jepsen should step in and perform that task.

Last December, Stefan Pryor sent out a memo to superintendents explaining how they were to intimidate parents into thinking that they did not have the right to opt their children out of the inappropriate and unfair standardized testing program.

The memo noted that Connecticut State Statute 10-14n reads,: “Each student enrolled…in  any public school shall annually take a statewide mastery examination,” but the memo also admitted that there were no provisions in the law to punish a parent or their child if a parents decided that they did not want their student to take the standardized tests.

The memo concluded;  

[IF] “Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.”

[THEN] “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing)…”

Furthermore, Pryor and his legal team have to recognize that the because the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test is nothing but a test of a test it doesn’t even qualify as a “Mastery Test” under the provisions of 10-14n and the Commissioner has absolutely no legal authority to force parents to make children take the test of a test.

Following yesterday’s post entitled, “Stefan Pryor says his rules trump parental rights.” a reader commented:

Background: There is no opt-out language in state or federal law governing assessment. Sec.10-14n of the Connecticut Education Laws states that “Each student enrolled…in any public school shall annually take a statewide mastery examination.”

Then…

In terms of the reporting of results from the SB-FT, please note the following:

Connecticut’s Field Test Flexibility waives the CSDE and local districts from the requirement of providing individual student reports regarding achievement on the SB-FT to parents, teachers, and principals.

But wait, how can this be when the law requires that according to Sec. 10-14n of the Connecticut Education Laws that…

[(e) Student] (d) The scores on each component of the [state-wide tenth grade] mastery examination for each tenth or eleventh grade student may be included on the permanent record and transcript of each such student who takes such examination. [provided, for a] For each tenth or eleventh grade student who meets or exceeds the statewide mastery goal level on any component of the [state-wide tenth grade] mastery examination, a certification of having met or exceeded such goal level shall be made on the permanent record and the transcript of each such student and such student shall be issued a certificate of mastery for such component. Each tenth or eleventh grade student who fails to meet the mastery goal level on each component of said mastery examination may annually take or retake each such component at its regular administration until such student scores at or above each such state-wide mastery goal level or such student graduates or reaches age twenty-one.

So does this mean they have to score the assessments even though the commissioner says they don’t? I’m confused, which part of the law are we supposed to follow? Oh wait, there won’t be any reports. I’m good with that, but there damn well better be an indication on my daughter’s transcript and permanent record as to whether or not my daughter met mastery on this “statewide mastery examination” as the law requires.

Commissioner Pryor, answer me this one simple question. Is this (the SBAC), or is this not the the “official statewide mastery examination”?

The Wait, What? reader makes the point better than I ever could.

Pryor and his corporate education reform industry allies are making a mockery of Connecticut law and are engaged in a disgusting campaign to that is designed to intimidate and mislead Connecticut parents.

Unfortunately, as we’ve learned the hard way, Governor Malloy is unwilling to put the interests of parents and students above his efforts to undermine teachers and public schools.

Malloy’s failure to act means the burden shifts to Attorney General George Jepsen to protect the rights of parents and their children.

If he refuses to act unilaterally, Connecticut allows one of the four top leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly to request a legal opinion from Jepsen.  [Connecticut General Statute 3-125 authorizes the Attorney General to issue formal opinions to leaders of the General Assembly and the heads of any state agency, state board or commission].

Senate President Don Williams, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney or House Minority Leader Larry Cafero are in in a unique position to stand up and demand the truth now that it has become clear that that Governor and Commissioner of Education are failing to properly implement Connecticut law.

Link to Pryor’s new memo:  Pryor’s March memo

Link to Pryor’s earlier memo:  Pryor’s December memo