Democracy Hypocrisy

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Here we are, a week to go until Election Day and despite the fact that at least 50% of Connecticut voters have a negative opinion of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, he may very well be on the verge of winning re-election with 43% of the vote.

With the “finish line” in sight, the news is full of reports that Republicans are continuing to condemn third-party candidate Joe Visconti for being a “spoiler.”  These “political leaders” are demanding that Visconti get out of the race.

This, while Malloy has been uncharacteristically going out of his way to complement Visconti for his willingness to stand up and be honest about his beliefs.

Despite Malloy’s apparent public “endorsement” of Visconti’s 3rd  party challenge, my recent blog post informing people how they can write in my name for governor has generated a new round of emails and nasty comments from Malloy supporters blasting me for threatening to be a “spoiler.”

All in all it is a wonderful and terrible commentary about the shallowness of principle that guides our establishment political parties and those who blindly follow their lead.

It would appear that as far as leadership of the Democrats and Republicans are concerned, a spoiler is anyone who has the audacity to utilize their fundamental American right to participate in our democracy — if that person might possibly reduce the number of votes their establishment candidates might otherwise get.

Connecticut’s Ralph Nader once observed that the word spoiler is a “politically bigoted term.”  Nader went on to note that those who condemn 3rd parties believe that,

“All of us who think that the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy, choice, dissent should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two parties own all the voters and turn the government over to big business?”

Or perhaps the outspoken populist, Jim Hightower, put it even better when he wrote,

“So now is the time, more than ever, for those who truly value all the principles of democracy especially including dissent, to be the most forceful in speaking up, standing up and speaking out.”

Here is a message for those who support Malloy or Foley, but claim to believe in democracy…your hypocrisy is showing.

Dissent does not undermine democracy.  In fact, dissent is essential to democracy.

Or as Frederick Douglas said,

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Instead of blaming Visconti or myself for their lack of public support, Malloy and Foley should be looking in the mirror and contemplating the fact that significantly more voters dislike them than like them.

Malloy’s “Final Destruction” of Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Reform Law

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s has finally succeeded in his effort to utterly destroy Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Reform Law.

In stark contrast to Malloy’s action this year, the Democratic Party has long claimed that eliminating the inappropriate influence of tainted political donations has been one of the its most important values.  Over the years, unions and progressive organizations have made campaign finance reform a cornerstone of their political agenda.

But in just one term in office, Governor Malloy and his political operatives have managed to undermine and now destroy Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law of 2005.

Following the downfall of Governor Rowland, Connecticut adopted a nationally-recognized campaign finance reform law that provided political candidates with public funds, as long as they refused to take any additional money from political action committees, companies or individuals that do business with the state, large donors or any other special interests.

In his earlier campaigns, Malloy claimed to be a champion for campaign finance reform, but as a direct result of loopholes proposed by Governor Malloy and approved by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly, Malloy has left the spirit and the letter of Connecticut’s campaign finance law in shambles.

Not only has Malloy taken the $6.2 million in public funds for his re-election campaign this year, but he has also inappropriately tapped into nearly $4 million in tainted money that has been laundered through the Democratic State Central Committee and another $3.5 million that has been funneled through a political action committee associated with Malloy’s campaign.

Malloy’s final blow to Connecticut’s commitment to “clean elections” came with the news that the Connecticut Democratic Party has sent out a “mass mailing to promote Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election with money raised for federal congressional campaigns — even though state regulators have denounced the plan and the Federal Election Commission hasn’t yet said whether it’s legal.”

The details surrounding the Malloy campaign’s latest maneuver can be found at CTNewsJunkie Democratic Party Goes Forward With Malloy Mailer and the Hartford Courant at Democrats Send Controversial Pro-Malloy Mailing Without Waiting For Feds’ Opinion

What is particularly revolting about Malloy’s action it that it allows him to use money that comes directly from people who have state contracts or who have benefited from Malloy’s corporate welfare program.  By using money from the Democratic State Central Committee’s “federal account,” Malloy is also utilizing funds that came from Federal Political Action Committees, a source of money that we never allowed even in the Rowland and pre-Rowland era of pay to play politics.

Malloy’s attitude is either that the law simply doesn’t apply to him or that “the end justifies the means,” no matter how immoral those political actions may be.

As Jon Lender notes in his article,

The SEEC [State Election Enforcement Commission] sent a 10-page letter Tuesday to the FEC saying the Democrats’ mailing would undermine state clean-election laws passed after the 2004 corruption scandal surrounding then-governor Rowland. Those clean-election laws included a ban on state contractors’ money in election campaigns, which was supposed to keep special-interest money out of state elections

But rather than do the right thing, Malloy and the Democrats sent out their mailing using money from state contractors and other organizations that were banned as a result of Connecticut’s campaign finance reform legislation.

Dannel Malloy has turned Connecticut’s once prominent position on campaign finance reform into a joke.  Proponents of clean elections, including Democrats, union members and progressives should be ashamed by Malloy’s actions.

Teachers misled with claim that Malloy deserves credit for “fully funding teacher pension”

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Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme

Many of Connecticut’s active and retired teachers recently received a “fact” sheet urging them to support Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s bid for re-election.

While the “EXAMINE THE FACTS” document failed to highlight the reality that Governor Malloy actually proposed CUTTING funding for teacher health care, in an attempt to persuade teachers to vote for Malloy, the “fact” sheet claimed that Malloy is the “First governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

Let’s be honest – if Governor Malloy had unilaterally taken steps to “fully fund teacher pensions” and “guarantee full funding in the future,” that would have been a powerful reason for teachers to consider voting for him, but the truth is far from what Malloy’s supporters are suggesting.

The state law mandating full funding of teacher pensions, which were made iron-clad through “bond covenants” with Wall Street was adopted in 2007, four years BEFORE Dannel Malloy became governor.

In 2007, after persuasive lobbying by the Connecticut Education Association, Republican Governor Jodi Rell and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly approved a plan to borrow $2 billion to shore up Connecticut’s underfunded teacher pension system.

The legislation required that, “for each fiscal year in which the bonds are outstanding [up to 30 years], the act automatically appropriates the actuarially required annual state contribution to the Teacher’s Retirement Fund (TRF).”

As part of the bond covenants with the Wall Street investors, that state of Connecticut was prohibited from repealing that language.

Yes Virginia, there is a power greater than the democratically-elected government of Connecticut and it is called Wall Street.

The EXAMINE THE FACTS document makes it seem that Governor Malloy made the decision to fully-fund the Teacher Retirement Fund because he was “committed” to teachers.

That is simply not true.

Connecticut State Government made the necessary payments to fully fund the teachers retirement system because it had signed a contract with Wall Street investors in 2007 that required that those payments be made.

We know that the Democrat’s mantra is that Tom Foley is dangerous, despite the fact that he will be dealing with a Democratic General Assembly…But misleading or lying about Malloy’s record is hardly an effective way to persuade teachers to cast their vote for Malloy.

You can read the “fact” sheet here – http://www.cea.org/issues/news/2014/sep/29/pdf/Malloy-Foley-Examine-the-Facts.pdf

Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme.

CEA Tells Teachers Malloy Supports Collective Bargaining BUT that isn’t quite true: 

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As part of its ongoing effort to persuade Connecticut teachers to support Governor Malloy’s bid for re-election, the CEA has sent out information to its members including a “Fact Sheet” called EXAMINE THE FACTS.

In addition, the cover of this month’s CEA Advisor magazine reads;

EXAMINE THE FACTS;
A better direction for students, teachers and public education
A Better direction for education funding, pensions and collective bargaining.
Malloy/Wyman 

See CEA Flyer – EXAMINE THE FACTS AND CEA Advisor:

The lead article begins,

“Educators are truth tellers. They enlighten.  They inform … we like to think our Association plays a similar function for members like you.”

While it is fair to say the Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s position on the issue of collective bargaining is extremely troubling and worthy of opposition, it is vitally important that voters been given the truth, especially by those who support a particular candidate.

In this case, the CEA statement on behalf of Governor Malloy is as follows:

MALLOY: Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions

Actually that isn’t really the truth:

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy remains the only incumbent Democratic governor in the United States to have proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school districts.

His plan was to replace the due process system called tenure with a series of certification contracts that would be renewed if teachers managed to prove their competency using an unfair and inappropriate set of standards.

While it is true that Malloy told a CEA forum last month that he did support teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions, Malloy HAS NEVER publicly renounced his 2012 proposal to eliminate tenure for all public school teachers – the single most important working condition for teachers.

In fact, in an earlier candidate debate with Tom Foley, Malloy was asked about his infamous statement that a teacher need only show up for four years to get tenure.

In response Malloy said,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

So while telling the CEA that he supports collective bargaining, Malloy told that public that his idiotic and insulting statement that teachers “need only show up” to get tenure, wasn’t about teachers, it was about tenure.

What the????

That is hardly a successful effort on Malloy’s part to say that he believes in the important role of tenure.

But perhaps even more important is Malloy’s failure to publicly retract his effort to repeal collective as part of his Corporate Education Reform Industry proposal in 2012 (Senate Bill 24).

Section 17 of Senate Bill 24 read,

 “(F) The provisions of sections 10-153a to 10-153n [Connecticut’s Collective Bargaining law], inclusive, shall not apply to any teacher or administrator who is assigned to a commissioner’s network school…”

The language meant that collective bargaining SHALL NOT APPLY to teachers working at turnaround schools.

Thankfully the outrageous, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining language was stripped out of the bill by the Democratic legislators…just as they would if Tom Foley tried to introduce anti-union, anti-collective bargaining legislation.

As the leadership of the CEA, AFT and other public employee unions continue to campaign for Dannel Malloy, they (or Malloy) still have not faced that fact that:

No Connecticut Governor – Democrat, Republican or Independent – has ever proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for a group of public employees.

The truth is that Dan Malloy proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest schools in Connecticut and to this day he has NEVER publicly retracted that proposal or apologized for his union busting effort.

The CEA leadership is absolutely correct that teachers and all voters should EXAMINE THE FACTS.

People may want to vote against Foley for his anti-worker position, but Malloy has a long way to go before he has earned the vote of Connecticut’s teachers or state employees.

The question remains…

If Malloy really wants teachers to support him, why hasn’t he clearly endorsed the concept of teacher tenure and made a public statement that he was wrong to try and eliminate tenure and repeal collective bargaining in his 2012 Corporate Education Reform Industry legislation.

In the coming days we’ll take a look at some of the others issues presented as “facts” in the EXAMINE THE FACTS flyer teachers have been receiving.

The Democrat’s sanctimonious claims about campaign money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Courant reports:

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

And CTNewsJunkie explains Malloy ruse with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AETNA INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

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

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

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

CBS CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $1,000

CIGNA CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

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

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION PAC — $5,000

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

DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM — $5,000

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

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

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

GHC ANCILLARY CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $3,000

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

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

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

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

PFIZER INC. PAC — $10,000

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

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

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

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

SYNERGY PAC — $5,000

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

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

THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES INC. PAC — $10,000

THE WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS EMPLOYEES PAC — $5,000

THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC INC. PAC — $2,000

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

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

WALGREEN CO PAC — $2,500

WEBSTER BANK PAC – FEDERAL — $2,500

WELLPOINT, INC. WELLPAC — $2,000

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

Guest Post – Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy

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Editorial Note:  Many of the mot powerful and informative blog posts over the past three years have come in the form of guest posts from teachers, parents and public school advocates.  If you have a commentary piece inside you that you’d like to write down and have posted, just drop me a note – [email protected]

Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy ( A Guest Post by Jay Poppa)

[For informational purposes only, Jay Poppa is the Vice President of the Bridgeport Education Association; this commentary piece is his own and not associated with his position in the BEA]

On Friday, September 26 the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Board of Directors fell into the pit of lesser evilism by voting to endorse incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy for a second term.

CEA leadership ignored the recommendations of the CEA PAC, which was to not endorse any candidate running for Governor, a decision at least two of Connecticut’s largest teacher locals, affiliated Bridgeport (CEA) and unaffiliated Hartford (AFT), already made on their own.

The CEA is now committed to supporting the teacher attacking, pro-corporate education reformer Malloy. What’s more is that this decision highlights the failed strategies of the CEA in thinking that choosing a so-called “lesser evil” will help to protect teachers, students and schools from the greater evil represented by people like Republican candidate Tom Foley. However, Malloy is just as eager to carry out the education reform dictates pushed by the profit hungry corporate education reform industry, and has publicly stated so.

The CEA’s strategy of lesser evilism and their reluctance in calling out their Democratic Party political “friends” over the last few years has hampered the union’s ability to effectively fight for the schools we need. Supporting the Democrats is a political dead-end for any union. In this political climate only organizing a strong rank and file base with deep community ties will effectively combat corporate education reform and the general attack on the working class.

As the late historian Howard Zinn said, what matters most isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in. If social movements and workers aren’t in motion, making demands on politicians and struggling from below, mainstream politics will be shaped by the pressure from above, by the demands and priorities of the wealthy and the education reform industry they promote.

Over the past year the CEA leadership has made some positive efforts to be more responsive to their membership and move toward an organizing model of unionism. Unfortunately, endorsing Malloy will significantly undermine these efforts by eroding their leadership and the trust of their rank and file activist base and community allies. If the CEA is serious about its efforts to organize the teacher rank and file and their community allies they must retract their endorsement.

When looking at the CEA position it isn’t surprising to find their endorsement of Malloy falls in line with what many of the largest and strongest teacher unions in the country are doing.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) whose historic 2012 strike inspired and energized the US labor movement, voted to endorse Democratic Governor Pat Quinn whose running mate is former Chicago Public School superintendent Paul Vallas.  Vallas has been the poster boy for the “shock doctrine” style, pro-charter school, school privatization schemes.  He oversaw the wholesale privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in which he turned almost all of the public schools over to charter school operators. He then went on to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia, Haiti and Bridgeport, CT (where he was forced out by a coalition made up of the community and the CEA/BEA) school systems.

Lesser evilism as a strategy has plagued the American labor movement for decades. It has played a part in the ineffective response to the employers offensive on American unions and living standards over the past four decades. It is a strategy that hasn’t helped to overcome union retreat and defeat and has created a steady decline in the unionization rate from a high 1950s high of 35% to 11.3% of the total work force.

One aspect of this employer’s offensive has been the desire to eradicate American unions. After decades of steady attacks by the employers the unionization rate in the private sector is about 6.7%.

Now both Republicans and Democrats have set their sights on destroying public sector unions who make up about 35.3% of this workforce.  This attack has been a bipartisan effort aimed mainly at teachers, the largest section of organized labor, but this attack extends to all public sector workers.

The CEA Leadership Bungles SB24

In the winter and spring of 2012 Malloy proposed and helped to get passed his “education reform” bill SB24 that was written by the corporate education reform industry.

Connecticut teachers have been angry at Malloy’s verbal attack on their profession.  Malloy’s most infamous quote from his address to the 2012 Connecticut House of Representatives, “Basically, the only thing you have to do is show up for four years (to earn tenure)” is widely remembered for its vitriolic character. Malloy’s willingness to engage in some of the most outwardly heinous aspects of the corporate reform movement such as teacher bashing were only outdone by his actions which have positioned him as one of the most aggressive pro-corporate education reform Governor’s in the country.

The CEA, then led by Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine and President Phil Apruzzese, responded to SB24 in a manner that could only be characterized as top down, bungling and inadequate.

Apruzzese and Levine initially agreed to some of the most hated aspects of SB24 such as the new teachers evaluation that aimed to tie teacher certification to evaluations based heavily on standardized test scores. Apruzzese and Levine unilaterally released their “View From the Classroom” which was the CEA plan for education reform that included some of worst provisions of SB24.

Instead of sharply and aggressively critiquing SB24 which was what was needed to match the support put together by the corporate education reform industry and Malloy, the CEA hugged the line between collaboration and mild criticism effectively making their critiques weaker at a time when they needed to be stronger and sharper.

Current CEA Leadership

The current CEA leadership, under President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, has stated their desire to and actually has taken some steps to change the course of the CEA to focus more on organizing teachers and community members against education reform. These steps, however, have been slow and often inadequate. In fact, outside of the Summer Leadership Conference organizing workshops and the Bridgeport fight to keep an elected school board, the CEA has publicly continued on the path of compromise.

On some provisions of SB24 the current CEA leadership has quietly accepted or has positioned themselves as good partners in Malloy’s education reform plan.

Even critical participation has been absent in the conversations over the Commissioner’s Network a “turn around,” competitive grant style school funding scheme. In fact the CEA and local affiliates have done little to organize or discuss with the public that these programs seek to lower our expectations as to what we will receive in terms of funding and resources from the state and they also seek to curtail the rights of union members. The CEA could highlight these issues, along with some of the real problems our schools and students face, such as how our schools are underfunded by the state, or that our “underperforming schools” are predominantly in poorer, working class neighborhoods, and neighborhoods of color.

Token Gestures and Defending the Real Evil

Now election season is nearing and Malloy is behind in the polls. He has offered teachers a few token gestures; getting rid of Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and alleviating some of the provisions of the new teacher evaluation plan. Unfortunately for teachers and students most of the damage has been done. Malloy’s SB24 locks in additional state funding for charter schools when our public schools aren’t even adequately funded. It still uses standardized test data to evaluate teacher performance, which will lead to more “teaching to the test.”

In the coming days and weeks we will hear CEA leadership justify their decision in many ways. They will argue that not endorsing Malloy would have been irresponsible because it would allow Foley to get elected or that our allies and fellow union members were counting on us to help keep Foley out. They will tell us that Foley wanted to bring right to work legislation to Connecticut or bring about a “Wisconsin moment” and that supporting Malloy was a “hard choice” for the CEA to make. We will hear that Malloy isn’t what we want but he’s the best we can get. CEA will advise that we hold our noses and vote for Malloy anyway.

While Foley’s “money follows the child” position on education is lunatical and his pension ideas are frightening, the truth is that there is no good choice between the two mainstream parties.  However, supporting Malloy will only allow him to continue a rightward slide and attack on public education while saying to us, “Well, at least I’m not Foley.”

The reality is that the words and actions from the CEA leadership show a lack of understanding as to who the forces are behind the corporate education reform project.

Through the 2010 remarks of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch we can see how the richest 1% of the American ruling class see public education.

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching….”

They see it as a massive untapped market for private investment and profits.

The problem isn’t that the Democrats are too weak-willed to fight against the profit driven Murdoch and his ilk. As left-wing writer Doug Henwood clearly wrote about the nature of the Democrats:

“Another recurrent feature of the ["lesser evilism"] genre: a lament over the Democrats’ lack of spine, which is often treated as a curable condition. But in fact, the invertebrate status is a symptom of the party’s fundamental contradiction: it’s a party of business that has to pretend for electoral reasons that it’s not. Related to that, it’s getting harder to say what the party’s core beliefs are. Republicans have a coherent philosophy–loopy and often terrifying, yes, but coherent–which they use to fire up an impassioned base. The Democrats can’t risk getting their base too excited, lest it scare their funders.”

In fact among Malloy’s top two campaign donors are Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson, his wife. Sackler is the director of Purdue Pharma and a major proponent of charter schools in Connecticut. Of course Sackler and Corson are going to want something for their money.

We have to remember that by supporting politicians like Malloy we are helping to push the Republican Right even further to the right. A position of “no endorsement” could have sent a message to both candidates that their politics are not supported.  Instead the CEA’s message to the public and Malloy is, “there is no consequence for your attacks on us, keep it up.”

What’s more is that there is a genuine third-party candidate who is running and who has been a vocal opponent of corporate education reform. Jonathan Pelto, a progressive activist and pro-public education, pro-teacher blogger announced that he would be running for governor over the summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot although he is still running as a write in candidate.

The truly hard choice for the CEA would have been the most sensible. They could have put their money and political support behind Pelto’s campaign. Even if he didn’t win it would have excited thousands of teachers, parents and community activists. It would have spread the message of why corporate education reform is a bad thing and how Malloy is an advocate of it. It would have helped to organize allies together and it could have set the CEA and pro-public education forces up to wage a stronger fight against whoever gets elected Governor.

The Democratic Party has been called “the graveyard of social movements” for a reason, because once you accept the idea that defeating the Republicans is the most important political strategy, it makes sense to prioritize that over everything else. The result is that movements don’t stand up when the attacks come from Democrats, as they already have and will continue to in the future.

Even those in the CEA leadership who understand the importance of organizing but still engage in lesser evilism will continue to postpone organizing efforts and claim that the unions aren’t strong enough yet to pursue a strategy that doesn’t include endorsing bad politicians. This position ultimately allows activists to kick the can down the road to some imaginary future in which we magically have the right level of organizational strength to put forward a real alternative.  That magical future will never arrive if we don’t start organizing for it now and on a principled political basis.

When we support the lesser evil, even if we do so reluctantly, we make it harder to fight against the greater evil of education reform. Whoever gets elected will aim to gut the public education system and scapegoat teachers. The battle against this will need to be waged by the rank and file teachers, their allies. Unfortunately, we will be starting from a position in which our leadership just spent money and time defending Malloy, helping to put him back into the Governor’s seat.

If the CEA truly wants to wage the fight necessary to defeat the education reform industrial complex, they will need to rescind their endorsement and truly move completely into an organizing model of unionism. Any other gesture from the CEA will seem disingenuous and conciliatory. If the CEA leadership isn’t willing to change course on its own then it will be up to the hundreds of rank and file teachers that have more recently emerged inside the CEA to put forward the ideas, politics and strategies we need to win.

You can reach Jay Poppa at [email protected]

CEA and AFT-CT not alone in endorsing anti-teacher, corporate education reform champions

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Last month, the New Jersey Education Association voted to endorse U.S. Senator Cory Booker for re-election.  Booker, like Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, is among the nation’s most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic elected officials.

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was Mayor Booker’s top aide in Newark, New Jersey before he returned to Connecticut to lead Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative with its anti-tenure, anti-teacher, pro-charter school provisions.

The move by the NJEA, like that of the CEA and AFT-CT, has raised a lot of questions among teachers and public education advocates.

It seems that the debate falls into two camps.  Union leaders and their supporters argue that even if the choice is “between two evils,” an endorsement is needed.  They articulate an approach that claims that in today’s political environment, the practical must take the place of the principle.

In fact, a particularly honest union leader recently told me when it came to whether to endorse Malloy or make no endorsement was the real fear that if Malloy won he would actually increase his war on teachers and the teaching profession.

On the other side of the argument are those of us who say that the organization representing teachers simply cannot overlook the fact that Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the country to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.

And that any normal political candidate would have worked diligently to persuade teachers that he understood that he had been wrong to propose doing away with tenure; that given a second term he would de-couple teacher evaluation from unfair standardized testing; that he would settle the critically important CCEJF school funding lawsuit in order to ensure that long after he has left office Connecticut would have a school funding formula that was both constitutional and successfully guaranteed that every Connecticut public school had the resources need to ensure their students had the education they deserved.

In Governor Malloy’s case, he refused to make the necessary changes to his policy agenda.

A very similar situation has taken place in New Jersey, where Corey Booker, a true favorite of the corporate education reform industry took, has taken the same basic approach to education reform and like Malloy, has pledged to “stay the course” on their anti-public education crusade.

And in New Jersey, like Connecticut, the unions caved in and handed their support to people who have spent years knocking down and stomping on teachers, parents and our public schools.

Here in Connecticut the CEA and AFT-CT endorsements of Malloy have ignited a long overdue debate about the role of leadership and the inherent conflict that exists between those on the “inside” and those on the “outside.”

A union leader who I have a lot respect for recently posted a note saying,

“The Koch brothers would be proud, Jonathan Pelto for your efforts to undermine the largest union in the state, and Connecticut teachers’ strongest voice in the policy arena. It’s easy to throw stones from the outside.”

A number of readers, including teachers, “liked” the statement.

For posterity, if nothing else, my goal has never been to undermine the teacher unions, but to persuade them to use their strength to force the real changes in policy that our teachers, students, parents and society need.

While it is true that failing to endorse Malloy could have led to Malloy banning the union leadership from the “rooms of power,” not endorsing Malloy would have sent a powerful message to elected officials, in Connecticut and around the nation, that walking away from the values and constituencies of the Democratic Party has real and severe consequences.

It wasn’t long ago that Hillary Clinton joined Jeb Bush on stage at a conference to sing the praises of the Corporate Education Reform Industry.  Considering that the nation’s war on teachers was effectively begun under George W. Bush and dramatically expanded under Barak Obama, Clinton’s move made political sense.

But if the teachers unions in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere refused to support Democrats who push anti-teacher, anti-public education proposals, we can be sure that other Democrats would take note. (And the opposite is equally true.)

Instead of sending that powerful message, the union leadership endorsed Dannel Malloy and Corey Booker, thus sending out a very different message across the country.

No matter how harsh or personal the criticism has become, I stand by my belief that it was wrong for Connecticut’s teacher unions to endorse Malloy and equally inappropriate to try and persuade members to vote for Malloy using faulty arguments.

A follow blogger in New Jersey has made a very similar observation.

Bob Braun worked for the Star-Ledger newspaper of New Jersey for nearly 50 years. He served as its education editor for nearly 30 years and then became its senior news columnist.  He now blogs at: http://bobbraunsledger.com/

In a post this week that is entitled, “The unforgivable lies in NJEA’s endorsement of Cory Booker,” Braun writes,

In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?

How could it be so indifferent to what is happening, not just in Newark, but in Camden as well where the NJEA-endorsed Urban Hope Act—a cause embraced by Booker– is about to destroy public education?

Such cynicism is absolutely breathtaking. Unforgivable.

[…]

The New Yorker article “Schooled ,” by Dale Russakoff who, unlike NJEA leaders, actually spends time in the city. Read this:

 

“Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped ‘Confidential Draft,’ titled ‘Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan’. It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. ‘Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,’ the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to ‘make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.’ The plan called for an ‘infusion of philanthropic support’ to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors.”

[…]

The NJEA endorsement is a propaganda rug woven carefully and deliberately of self-serving and cynical lies. The people who run the union simply cannot be so stupid or delusional or naïve that they don’t recognize what they are doing.

I understand –but do not agree—that people fear the loss of a Senate seat by Democrats, any Senate seat, might turn the upper house over to the Republicans. The NJEA could have said that. It could have not endorsed anyone, knowing Booker will probably win anyway. It didn’t have to give such a boost to this enemy of public education.

It is simply unforgivable for this organization that calls itself a union to hand Booker the bullets he needs to administer a coup de grace against public education in cities like New Orleans and Newark.

A constant refrain from Malloy’s supporters is that my posts on Wait, What? are driven by some type of “personal vendetta.”  As that same union leader recently wrote,

“Your personal vendetta against Malloy has clouded your judgment, and now you are working at cross-purposes against the educational and progressive issues you used to champion.”

I truly believe that reasonable people can disagree on important issues.  When it comes to strategies and tactics related to issue advocacy, disagreements can arise even more often.

But I will proudly stand by my statement that a Democrat who proposed doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school; who refuses to de-couple inappropriate standardized tests from teacher evaluation; who diverts a hundred million dollars a year from public schools to prop up unaccountable charter schools that refuse to educate their fair share of bi-lingual students and students who need special education services; and who refused to settle the CCEJF lawsuit and develop a long-term change to Connecticut’s school funding formula … DOES NOT deserve the badge of honor that comes with being endorsed by teacher unions.

Being invited into the “rooms of power” certainly has its advantages, but I truly believe that unions, including teacher unions, can have a far great impact by standing on principle and reminding candidates that there is a price for turning their backs on the most fundamental values of the people whose votes they want.

Please excuse the typos…

Malloy’s commitment to coddle the rich!

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Call it his most stunning, albeit honest, statement about his dedication to coddle the rich and ensure that the wealthy are not required to pay their fair share in taxes. In an interview with the Hartford Business Journal this week, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy reiterated his profound commitment to trickle-down economics and the notion that it is bad public policy to ask the rich to pay their fair share in taxes. Malloy told the Hartford Business Journal;

Maintaining, if not widening, the maximum differential between Connecticut’s taxes and New York and New Jersey’s is very important. I took a lot of heat amongst Democrats when I insisted that we maintain that differential in 2011, and I think it is important to do that. We know that the hedge fund industry in Connecticut has an advantage in Connecticut. Let us keep it. We know high-end earners [in Connecticut] have a tax advantage over New Jersey and New York. Let us keep it. Let us look at those areas that will allow us, particularly on a regional basis, to be a lower tax alternative.

Malloy’s comment that he “took a lot of heat amongst Democrats when I insisted that we maintain that differential in 2011,” is a reference to the decision he made in his first year in office to raise the Connecticut income tax rate on everyone except those making more than $1 million.  At the time Malloy told a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly that he didn’t want to raise the income tax rate on millionaires because he didn’t want to “punish success.” Considering that Connecticut could raise its income tax rate on millionaires by a couple percent and still be lower than New York and New Jersey, Malloy’s statement was a spit in the face to every middle class and working family in Connecticut. And even worse, as a candidate for re-election he has made it clear that he will not deviate from that un-American and un-Democratic course. As noted in a Wait, What? Blog yesterday,

“Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit from Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  After four years in office, Connecticut is facing a budget deficit of at least $1.4 billion next year and more than $4.8 billion over the next three years.  In response, Malloy and Foley have pledged that they will not raise taxes, cut services, reduce the number of state employees or need to engage the state employee unions in any negotiations about salary or benefits.”

But the truth is that additional revenue (read taxes) will be needed. The question is, will the rich be asked to pay their fair share or will the middle class continue to be the primary target of Connecticut’s bad fiscal policies? The fact is that Connecticut’s middle class pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, while the poor pay about 12%. By comparison, the rich only pay about 5% of their income in state and local taxes. We don’t have a progressive tax structure.  We don’t even have a flat tax structure. Connecticut has regressive tax structure that is crushing the middle class. But Malloy (and Foley) promise that they won’t raise taxes on the rich — even as a mechanism to make Connecticut’s tax system more equitable. One thing is certain… Malloy and Foley’s approach to the state budget will mean that Connecticut cities and towns will not get the state aid they will need to maintain their schools and other local services.  This, in turn, will require Connecticut’s communities to continue to increase local property taxes.  The result will be underfunded schools and a tax system that is even more unfair for the middle class and working families. Election Day is one month from today and thev reality of the situation is that Dannel Malloy continues to prove that he has voided his right to be called a Democrat. You can read the Hartford Business Journal article at: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20141004/PRINTEDITION/310039981

Okay, but what about the real issues…

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Gubernatorial Debate Turns Personal, Nasty (CT NewsJunkie), Malloy and Foley stage slugfest on character, integrity (CT Mirror), Malloy-Foley Debate Turns Nasty: Sharp Jabs On Integrity Questions

Hello?  Looks like the two major party candidates for governor are busy, but what about these other issues…

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit from Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  After four years in office, Connecticut is facing a budget deficit of at least $1.4 billion next year and more than $4.8 billion over the next three years.  In response, Malloy and Foley have pledged that they will not raise taxes, cut services, reduce the number of state employees or need to engage the state employee unions in any negotiations about salary or benefits.

While Connecticut’s middle class pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12% and the rich about 5%, Malloy and Foley say they won’t raise taxes on the rich — even as a mechanism to make Connecticut’s tax system more equitable.

Malloy and Foley’s approach to the state budget will mean that Connecticut cities and towns will not get the state aid they will need to maintain their schools and other local services.  This, in turn, will require Connecticut’s communities to continue to increase local property taxes.  The result will be underfunded schools and a tax system that is even more unfair for the middle class and working families.

Malloy has pledged to “stay the course” on his inappropriate, destructive and expensive Common Core-driven corporate education reform and privatization agenda.  Foley has said he’ll copy Malloy’s strategy.

Despite having a school funding formula that is unconstitutional and forces schools to unfairly rely on local property taxes; Malloy has refused to settle the critical CCEJF v. Rell school funding case.  It isn’t even clear whether Foley has acknowledged that Connecticut’s school funding formula is unconstitutional.

Malloy has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.  This policy has resulted in massive increases in tuition and fees and shifted even more of the burden of getting an education onto the backs of Connecticut’s already overburden students and parents. Foley hasn’t proposed a higher education policy.

Although he implemented the biggest gas tax increase in history, Malloy has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from the transportation budget and into the general operating budget.  Malloy has also failed to move forward with critically important transportation projects.  By comparison, Foley hasn’t even proposed a meaningful transportation policy.

Massive cuts to Connecticut’s hospitals, along with his bait and switch provider tax on hospital care, has meant that Malloy’s policies are undermining the ability of many of the state’s hospitals to survive.  Consolidation and the entrance of for-profit hospital management companies threaten to dramatically reduce the availability of hospital care for large segments of the Connecticut population.  Foley has failed to propose a policy to save Connecticut’s hospitals.

Under Governor Malloy, the Department of Children and Families (along with and the Department of Developmental Disabilities) are so disorganized and/or underfunded that thousands of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, including children, aren’t getting the vital services they need and deserve.  Foley hasn’t proposed any meaningful policies to deal with enhancing human services in Connecticut.

Connecticut is among the states with the heaviest debt levels in the nation.  The state has more than $65 billion in outstanding debt and unfunded pension and health care benefits for state and municipal employees.  In response, Malloy has borrowed an additional $1 billion to provide corporate welfare checks to successful companies and has used the state’s credit card to pay for ongoing operating expenses.  While opposing “corporate welfare,” Foley hasn’t proposed a substantive plan to pay down Connecticut’s debt.

And the list goes on and on…

(Feel free to add other examples)

With a month to go in this year’s gubernatorial election, perhaps the candidates for governor could restrain their tempers and their personal attacks and actually take the time to explain to the voters of Connecticut what they will do about these and other issues.

Or then again, maybe their ongoing “slugfest” says more than enough about how they will conduct themselves if elected governor…

Look out Malloy and Foley – you are both on the wrong side on education

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A new National Poll on Public Education was released today.  The poll was paid for by a Democratic leaning advocacy group and conducted by Harstad Strategic Research – a Colorado-based firm which worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 re-election.

The poll reports….

Solid majorities back more funding for public schools and teacher pay, and overwhelming majorities rate local public schools and their teachers highly.

  • A 61% majority of voters believe that state funding for public schools should be increased – including 79% of Democrats, 57% of Independents and even 45% of Republicans.
  • And 56% of voters with an opinion believe pay for public school teachers falls short of what it should be.
  • Fully 82% of voters able to rate their local public school teachers rate them as excellent, very good, or good – versus just 8% who rate them as marginal or poor. Among public school parents, 93% rate public school teachers as excellent, very good, or good.
  • Speaking of public school parents, 84% give their children’s schools an A (53%) or B (31%) grade. Ten percent offer a C, and 3% say D or F. While there is certainly room for improvement, the median grade would in effect be an A-minus.

When given four broad reasons for why public schools might not be performing better, virtually no one puts the blame on “bad teachers.”

  • 40% Lack of parental involvement and support
  • 29% Inadequate funding and resources for public schools
  • 18% The effects of poverty, hardship and problems kids bring to school
  • 3% Bad teachers (including 4% of Republicans and 3% of conservatives)
  • 9% Don’t know

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

  • Neighborhood schools should be our top priority because they educate a huge majority of our kids;
  • Teachers should be held accountable by principals, supervisors and parents– not by standardized bubble tests;
  • Taxpayer money should pay for children’s education– not for corporate profits, CEO bonuses, or advertising budgets;
  • Educators should be teaching critical thinking and problem-solving– not just teaching to the standardized bubble test; 
  • We must let teachers do what they know best– teach our kids and prepare them for college and careers. Politicians and corporations should get out of the way; 
  • Everyone has a favorite teacherwho made a real difference in their lives – and we need to support and promote those kinds of classrooms.

More about the poll can be found at: http://www.democratsforpubliceducation.com/news/dems-public-ed-releases-poll-showing-overwhelming-support-public-schools/

 

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