Cost of SBAC testing in Connecticut is unconscionable, unnecessary (by John Bestor)

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Connecticut educator and education advocate, John Bestor, has written another powerful commentary piece, this time dealing with the utter waste of scarce taxpayer funds on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme that is designed to fail a vast number of our state’s children.

With Governor Malloy implementing unprecedented cuts to vital state services, including public education, Malloy and the legislature should have started out by eliminating the funding for the SBAC testing scheme…long before the attacked the programs that are really helping Connecticut’s children, parents, teachers and public schools.

Published in the CTMirror and entitled, Cost of SBAC testing in Connecticut is unconscionable, unnecessary, Bestor writes;

Education activists have been speaking out and pushing back against the misguided Common Core State Standards and the flawed Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) statewide test protocol for several years now, as they have become more aware of the billionaire-driven, media-complicit, and politically-entrenched “corporate education reform” agenda.

Although the computer-adaptive Smarter Balanced Assessment remains unproven and developmentally-inappropriate, proponents of the controversial test have been unable to demonstrate that SBAC is a psychometrically valid or reliable measure of student academic progress, let alone college- and career-readiness.  Nor have they convincingly countered claims that SBAC is unfair and discriminatory to students who are required to suffer through hours of supposedly “rigorous” and often incomprehensible test questions.

Despite a charge from the Connecticut Legislature’s Education Committee to evaluate the efficacy of SBAC, the Mastery Examination Task Force has failed to address the fundamental psychometric criticisms associated with SBAC which have been convincingly presented by Dr. Mary Byrne in her testimony in the Missouri lawsuit against SBAC.

The Task Force has also failed to consider the findings of over 100 California researchers who called “for a moratorium on high-stakes testing broadly, and in particular, on the use of scientifically discredited assessment instruments (like the current SBAC, PARCC, and Pearson instruments).”   Is there any chance that the Task Force would review the College Board executive’s whistle-blower commentary on the unprofessional and fraudulent development of the newly-redesigned SAT?

Although these findings resonate with education activists and an increasing number of parents across the nation, they have fallen on deaf ears with leadership in our state, even while many other states have dropped their membership with the consortium or removed tying results to high stakes until such findings are substantiated.  Perhaps, an understanding of the exorbitant costs associated with the controversial SBAC and Statewide SAT will gain the public’s attention.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Education Commissioner
Stefan Pryor signed the NCLB waiver agreement that coerced and committed the CSDE to (at the time) unidentified costs associated with the “next generation” SBAC assessment in order to escape unrealistic NCLB expectations.  The SBAC membership contract is renewed annually for $2.7 million a year (now estimated $2.3 million with 11th-graders out assuming CSDE was able to recover the costs for not testing juniors).

In addition, $13.5 million is paid to AIR (American Institutes of Research) to administer the SBAC test.  Another $15.3 million has been allocated to AIR (over 4 years, including this year’s pilot) to cover CMT/CAPT Science Test administration.  An adjustment was necessary to the original SBAC agreement when the CSDE switched to the unproven, newly-redesigned Statewide SAT for 11th graders which resulted in a $4.4 million three-year contract with the College Board.  Under the current state testing protocol, these expenditures will be recurring and likely to increase in future contract renewals.  These estimates do not include the untold expense associated with the substantial costs to districts for implementation, teacher time for test preparation, and student time lost to meaningful instruction.

During the recent government budget crisis and with future budgets likely to be just-as or even-more difficult, this CSDE/CSBE cost is both unconscionable and unaffordable.

Bottom line: this is an unnecessary expense as the Mastery Examination Task Force can re-design the course of statewide assessments.

Task Force members need to look afresh at the federal testing mandate required by the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act.  This re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in late 2015 empowers each state to determine its own assessment practice as long as the state meets its federal obligation by measuring Reading and Math student achievement annually in grades 3 – 8, 11 and Science achievement three times during that same grade span.

No longer are we required to give one extensive summative test each year, when the requirement can be met by using interim assessments that are already given in schools and combining those with more authentic forms of assessment that are far more meaningful to students.

Rather than expend millions of dollars in massive giveaways to the greedy test industry and their lobbying business partners in the charter-school movement, there is no doubt that this assessment expectation could be accomplished more simply and more cost effectively.

Education activists and the parents who have courageously opted their children out of the unproven SBAC understand the tangled web of deceit with which the proponents of “corporate education reform” are remaking, some say destroying, American public education.

You can read and comment on his piece at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/06/29/cost-of-sbac-testing-in-connecticut-is-unconscionable-unnecessary/

 

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

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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.

Malloy’s blindness and lack of leadership leads to chaos at UConn

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Although Governor Dannel Malloy has consistently ducked his responsibility as the statutory President of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, the buck actually does stop on his desk…. Even while he pretends it doesn’t

Back in January 27, 2016, the UConn’s Board of Trustees voted to approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), the non-teaching professional staff at UConn.

No member of the UConn Board of Trustees voted against the contract.  All voted yes, except for one of the two alumni representatives, who abstained.

Then, as the concerns were raised about the contract by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Dannel Malloy suddenly become critical of the agreement – despite the fact that, by law, Malloy is the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, Malloy appoints the majority of the members of the Board and Malloy’s own personal representative on the Board had missed 12 of the last 15 monthly meetings, including the Trustee meeting in January when the contract was approved.

Malloy’s personal representative has missed every meeting since then, having now missed 15 of the last 18 UConn Trustee meetings.

Malloy pretended like it all occurred on someone else’s watch and demanded the contract be withdrawn or defeated.

Now, six months later, the CT Mirror is reporting a new and even more shocking controversy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 – A few top UConn officials get pay increases despite tough times (CT Mirror)

In a fiscally challenging year in which few non-union managers received pay increases – at UConn or elsewhere in state government – President Susan Herbst is sticking by promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to give multiyear increases to four senior staff.

In December 2014 – one month after the governor cut state funding for UConn by $3.7 million and warned more cuts would come before the fiscal year ended – Herbst gave three of her most senior staff members hefty pay increases over two or three fiscal years.

Those increases went to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s deputy chief of staff. In 2013 she awarded her chief of staff increases and bonuses over the next three fiscal years.

Thursday, June 23, 2016 –  Legislative leaders call UConn ‘tone deaf’ over raises for top staff (CT Mirror)

Legislative leaders Thursday blasted hefty pay increases University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst awarded to four senior staff members as the state and public university grapple with big budget cuts.

“UConn’s administration continues to be tone deaf to the economic realities facing our state. Handing out exorbitant raises to their highest-paid staffers while at the same time increasing tuition on hard-working families is the height of arrogance,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said in a statement sent to reporters Thursday afternoon. “As state employee layoffs approach the 1,000 mark, and virtually every state agency is dealing with severe budget cuts, the leadership in Storrs has shown once again they just don’t get it.”

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, in a statement shortly afterward, called on UConn to rescind the raises.

“Really?! You’ve got to be kidding me. One might have thought that the examples of the disastrous mistakes of Chancellor Gray and President Hogan would have left a more lasting impact on decisions regarding raises for administrators in higher education. At a time when painful reductions are being imposed throughout state government, UConn should not see itself as an isolated and privileged exception. I urge President Herbst to reconsider and rescind these untimely raises,” said Looney.

The Connecticut Mirror reported Wednesday that Herbst was sticking to promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to award multiple-year, double-digit percentage pay increases to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

All received pay increases in the 2015-16 fiscal year even though few other non-union managers did – at UConn or elsewhere in state government.

The school’s top lawyer received a $55,000 increase over two fiscal years, her chief of staff received a $50,000 increase over three fiscal years and her chief architect received a $45,000 increase over two fiscal years. The general counsel and chief of staff also received bonuses of $25,000 to $30,000 each year.

Bonuses and pay raises for a select few elites while state employees are being laid off, tuition is going up and programs are being cut.

The reverse Robin Hood Effect continues to move forward at full steam.

Now watch for Malloy to wake from his stupor and demand something… anything in order to look good in the face of this disturbing development.

But face it, the one thing that won’t happen is for Malloy to take responsibility for his utter lack of leadership on the Connecticut budget or his failure to do what is right for UConn’s students and the institution’s future.

Malloy’s 2015-2016 state budget off by nearly a billion dollars

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When Governor Dannel Malloy signed THIS YEAR’S state budget he said it was balanced…but he wasn’t telling the truth.

In fact, it was off by nearly a billion dollars.  Budget cuts and layoffs have reduced some of the gap, but when the year ends in ten days – on June 30, 2016 – the state will need to grab much of Connecticut’s “rainy day” fund to balance the books.

As CT Newjunkie reports;

Connecticut’s budget deficit has grown to $315.8 million and the state will have to use more of the Rainy Day Fund than expected to cover the shortfall in this year’s budget.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said Monday that the deficit has increased by about $56.7 million from last month’s estimates. It means the state will only have about $90.2 million left in its Rainy Day Fund because it will have to use $315.8 million of the $406 million Rainy Day Fund to close the deficit.

In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Barnes said that revenues continue to decline. The personal income tax is down about $75 million and the sales tax is down about $28.2 million.

But the even more serious problem is with the budget that begins on July 1, 2016 and runs through June 30, 2017 (FY17 budget).

Again, Malloy and the Democrats have done Connecticut an extraordinary disservice by not setting up a revenue and expenditure plan that balances.

The establishment will try to keep the magnitude of the problem secret until after the November legislative elections, but despite massive layoffs and record cuts to public schools, human services and healthcare, the austerity budget that Malloy and the Democrats passed this spring – and claimed produced a balanced budget – is at least a quarter of a million ($250m) dollars out of balance.

With only $90 million left in the raining day fund, Malloy and his team has created a situation in which they have allowed him to drain the state’s reserves and burden Connecticut’s taxpayers with a massive deficit in the coming fiscal year.

Keith Phaneuf adds more in his article entitled, Outgoing CT budget deficit swells, hints at more red ink to come

The fact is that fiscal irresponsibility is major barrier to economic activity.

The state, its business community and especially its taxpayers would have been better off if Malloy had dealt honestly with the need for appropriate revenue to ensure vital services were maintained and the budget was balanced.

Stench of corruption grows around Malloy

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When running for re-election in 2014, Governor Dannel Malloy took a $6+ million public finance grant to pay for his campaign.  In exchange for the taxpayer funds, Malloy swore, under oath, that he would not solicit, accept or use other funds to pay for his campaign expenses.

But Malloy lied and solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists, state contractors and those who have benefited from his corporate welfare programs.  That money, which in the end totaled more than $5 million, was funneled through a special account within the Democratic Party.

Last week a plea bargain deal with the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission ended with Malloy’s political operatives paying a fine of $325,000 to the state, rather than the $6 million Malloy should have paid.

Not only were Connecticut citizens saddled with four more years of Dannel Malloy, but Connecticut taxpayers are out more than $5.7 million.

See: Malloy’s Connecticut – Ripping off Connecticut while keeping citizens in the dark and NEWS FLASH – Malloy + Dems slammed with record fine for campaign finance violations but slip off the hook

Meanwhile, it a separate situation, David Sirota, the nationally renowned investigative reporter has been covering Malloy’s actions as they relate to the attempt by CIGNA and Anthem to merge.  Both entities, but especially CIGNA have close political ties to Malloy and the Democratic incumbent has benefited from significant campaign donations from CIGNA and its executive team.

David Sirota is the senior editor for investigations at the International Business Times.  Sirota’s investigation has led to the following stories in the International Business Times:

Each one deserves a complete read-through, but Wait, What? readers should pay special attention to those marked with ***

***Will Cigna And Anthem Merge? How Health Insurance Companies Pump Money Into Politics (6/1/16)

Connecticut Groups Call For Dan Malloy To Remove Insurance Regulator In Anthem-Cigna Merger (6/2/16)

***Connecticut Rejects Request For Records About Anthem-Cigna Merger (6/7/16)

Obamacare Architect Kathleen Sebelius Questions Proposed Healthcare Insurance Mergers (6/10/16)

Cigna-Anthem Deal: Democratic And Republican Lawmakers Demand Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy’s Regulator Be Removed From Controversial Merger Review (6/10/16)

***Cigna-Anthem Deal: Connecticut Gov. Malloy Signs Secrecy Bill That Could Shield Insurance Information From Public Release (6/13/16)

Cigna-Anthem Deal: Connecticut Ethics Officials To Vote On Conflict-Of-Interest Controversy (6/14/16)

***Anthem And Cigna Boost Spending On Lobbying As Lawmakers Review Merger (6/16/16)

***Cigna-Anthem Deal: Connecticut Officials Vote To Launch Ethics Review Of Gov. Dan Malloy’s Insurance Regulator (6/16/16)

Cigna-Anthem Merger: California Insurance Regulators Call On Justice Department To Block Insurance Mega-Merger (6/16/16)

***Cigna-Anthem Deal: Connecticut Ethics Probe Spotlights Similar Conflict-of-Interest Charges From The 1990s (6/17/16)

Malloy’s Connecticut – Ripping off Connecticut while keeping citizens in the dark

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When Dannel Malloy was running for re-election in 2014 he collected a $6 million+ taxpayer funded Clean Campaign grant from the state of Connecticut with the promise that he would not solicit, accept, coordinate or use private funds to benefit his campaign.

In the following months, not only did he benefit from more than $5 million from an account funded by the Democratic Governors Association, AFSCME and AFT, he and his political operatives directly raised another $5 million, much of it from state contractors, lobbyist and people who have benefited from Malloy’s outrageous corporate welfare program.

The law was clear, if you take money in addition to the state grant, you lose the state grant.

That is, if you take money, you must pay back the $6 million in public funds.

Earlier this week, Malloy’s Democratic Party agreed to a settlement with the Connecticut State Elections Commission in which they paid a fine of $325,000 – or 5 percent – of what the taxpayer were owed.

Fair?

When it comes to Malloy, fair and proper are two terms that simply aren’t used.

In a stunning, courageous and insightful commentary piece, followed by a CT Mirror story, the lead investigator for the State Elections Enforcement Commission – Charlie Urso –  now retired – explains some of the issues that took place behind the scene.

Charlie Urso’s commentary piece – Malloy campaign law settlement was a mockery and a sham and the CT Mirror’s article – Investigator says Malloy settlement keeps voters in the darkis a MUST READ for those who really want to about Malloy and the modus operandi that permeates his operation.

While some of the details won’t be new for Wait, What? readers, the two pieces shed critically important light on what has happened to Connecticut under Malloy’s reign.

In Investigator says Malloy settlement keeps voters in the dark, the CT Mirror Reports;

Not too many investigators have Charles Urso’s resume:

He investigated two governors of different parties in different decades for different agencies, first as an FBI agent and then as an investigator for the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Near the end of his FBI career, he helped send Republican Gov. John G. Rowland to prison in 2005. He said Thursday his second career as an elections cop ended in frustration – getting stonewalled trying to find out if Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy violated campaign finance reforms inspired by the Rowland scandal.

The investigation of whether Malloy and the Democratic Party circumvented Rowland-era reforms – a ban on state contractor contributions and strict contribution limits attached to a voluntary system of public financing – ended Wednesday with a settlement.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the party will pay a record $325,000 over 27 months to settle allegations of impropriety involving use of state contractor contributions that flowed through a federal campaign account to support the 2014 re-election Malloy, who accepted $6.5 million in public financing through the Citizens’ Election Program.

Urso said he understands why his former employer took the deal. Democrats challenged an SEEC subpoena with a legal argument that could have neutered the commission’s enforcement authority, saying federal law largely pre-empted the commission in federal election years – which happen to also be state election years.

But he complained that Democrats succeeded in stopping an examination of how Malloy’s campaign and the party systematically raised money from contractors – as much as $10,000 at a time – in a so-called era of “clean elections.”

At the time of the settlement, the commission and the Democrats were awaiting a decision by a Superior Court judge on a motion to compel the party to honor the SEEC subpoena, which demanded bank records, emails and other documents pertaining to fundraising.

In an interview and an article published on CT Mirror’s commentary website, CT Viewpoints, Urso said Malloy and the Democrats made a sham of the Citizens’ Election Program, the system of publicly financed campaigns created in 2005 after Rowland resigned and went to prison.

“The settlement was made without allowing SEEC the ability to conduct a reasonable investigation. Despite public pronouncements of cooperation, they made a mockery of the investigation,” Urso wrote. “In response to SEEC requests, they only provided 300 pages of evidence before they refused to cooperate including ability to interview witnesses. The last time I investigated a Governor, I reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents.”

The documents were sought to shed light on about $1 million in spending through the federal account maintained by the Democratic State Central Committee. Some of the money was used to hire staff who laid the groundwork for Malloy’s re-election campaign.

Federal law requires the federal account to be used for get out the vote efforts when there are federal offices at stake, even if those same efforts also serve candidates for state office.

But federal and Connecticut campaign laws are contradictory. State law bans contractor contributions and provides public financing to candidates who agree to accept donations of no more than $100 and abide by spending limits, while federal law permits contractor contributions to the parties’ federal accounts, up to $10,000.

When Malloy accepted the $6.5 million public grant, his campaign already had benefitted from the federal account, some of which came from contractors prohibited from giving directly to his or any other state campaign.

“The paperwork he signed certified he had not and would not receive contributions from prohibited sources,” Urso wrote.

David S. Golub, who clashed with Urso while representing the Democrats, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the governor had no comment, referring all inquiries to the Democratic Party.

Michael J. Brandi, the general counsel and executive director of the commission, defended the settlement Wednesday, saying the Democrats agreed to rules that resolve a significant conflict in state and federal election law and it ended litigation that could have produced a court ruling curtailing the ability of state regulators to enforce campaign reforms enshrined in the Citizens’ Election Program.

The settlement lays out new accounting rules and other restrictions intended to keep campaign money prohibited by state law out of state campaigns. The party also dropped its claim that federal election law pre-empts the commission from issuing subpoenas to investigate alleged potential violations of state elections law.

Urso’s voice was only one of those heard Thursday.

“This is great news for the integrity of our elections,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, the president of Common Cause. “The settlement affirms that candidates for governor and the legislature cannot accept aid from companies doing business with the state; that was the intent of the law that we and our allies worked so hard to pass after the scandals of the Rowland administration.”

Hobert Flynn conceded there may be some who were frustrated that the Democratic Party was not found to have violated state law, but a protracted legal battle wouldn’t have ensured the integrity of the Citizens’ Election Program.  She said the deal sends a message that states can pass and enforce campaign finance laws that are tougher than federal law.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, strenuously disagreed.

“The settlement contains nothing innovative or groundbreaking. All this settlement says is that the state Democratic Party now promises to follow current state law – the same law they should have been following in the first place,” Fasano said. “The SEEC trying to sell this agreement as a creative and innovative approach is a slap in the face to those they are supposed to protect by defending transparency and enforcing the law.

“It’s an excuse for the obvious reality that they rolled over to the state Democratic Party and accepted a payoff instead of doing their job.”

In a statement issued before Urso released his opinion piece, Fasano said the commission owed the public a full investigation, making the same point as the retired investigator.

“If the SEEC was going to try to settle this case without a ruling, then they shouldn’t have wasted taxpayer resources to take it this far all to end up making a deal without knowing all the facts,” Fasano said. “They should have waited for a ruling, and a complete investigation, so that we could have a real, enforceable resolution.”

You can read and comment on the original story at: http://ctmirror.org/2016/06/16/investigator-says-malloy-settlement-keeps-voters-in-the-dark/

You can read Charlie Urso’s commentary piece, Malloy campaign law settlement was a mockery and a sham, at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/06/16/connecticut-campaign-law-settlement-was-a-mockery-and-a-sham/

 

 

NEWS FLASH – Malloy + Dems slammed with record fine for campaign finance violations but slip off the hook

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During 2013 and 2014, Wait, What? repeatedly reported on the outrageous campaign finance violations being perpetrated by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his political operatives during his 2014 gubernatorial re-election campaign.  Wait, What? coverage included both original investigative pieces and detailed analysis of the outstanding reporting of the Courant’s Jon Lender.

Now, a year and a half latter, rather than face the full impact of their illegal activities, Malloy’s team “plea-bargained” a deal that was quickly voted on today by the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission.  The deal, adopted by a 2-1 Commission vote , lets Malloy and his team off the hook, although they will be paying a record fine for their violation of Connecticut law.

Had Malloy and his operatives been found guilty of intentionally violating Connecticut’s public financing system, he could have been forced to return his $6 million taxpayer-funded public finance grant that he received in return for swearing, under oath, not to circumvent that law and accept outside donations.  Instead, the Democratic Party will pay a $325,000 fine to make the “problem” go away.

The Hartford Courant, in a breaking story entitled, Agency Approves Settlement That Would End Probe Of Democrats’ Spending On Malloy Re-Election reports;

State election regulators voted in favor of a negotiated settlement to a high-profile lawsuit in which they have been trying to force the state Democratic party to turn over documents including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2014 campaign emails.

The tentative agreement, by the State Elections Enforcement Commission by a 2 to 1 vote with one abstention, would end legal action between the commission and the Democratic State Central Committee dating back more than a year. The agreement is subject to approval by the court in the next day or so.

Final approval means the SEEC would shut down its long-running investigation into whether state Democrats illegally spent about $250,000 on Malloy’s 2014 re-election — as the state Republican party alleged in a complaint — without ever obtaining the documents and other information that SEEC has always said it needed to determine who did what and whether any laws were broken.

Under the proposed settlement, state Democrats would voluntarily contribute about $325,000 to a state fund, in a payment that would not be considered a penalty or fine — and there would be no admission by the party or finding by the commission of illegality or wrongdoing.

The SEEC would drop a pending lawsuit it filed in Superior Court last year seeking a court order that the party comply with an investigatory subpoena it slapped on Democrats in May 2015, and the Democrats would withdraw a suit claiming that the SEEC lacks legal authority to pursue the subpoena. The two sides are facing a deadline on Friday — the day on which their request for a delay in the court ruling runs out.

State Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said in a phone interview Wednesday morning that he thinks that the SEEC should not settle the case and should pursue the probe to obtain the Malloy emails and related documents.

“If the SEEC settles, I think they are wrong,” he said. It would signal that in the future violators of campaign financing laws will know “the SEEC will back down,” Romano said.

Republican state Senate leader Len Fasano agreed, issuing a statement saying: “The SEEC must continue to stand firm and reject the deal…The SEEC has the moral and legal obligation to enforce our clean election laws and protect taxpayers. They need to reject this proposed deal to show that our state cannot be bought. They must complete their fact finding to ensure that transparency and the law prevails.”

Republican state House leader Themis Klarides also issued a statement acknowledging the hefty fine.

“They can call it whatever they want but the $325,000 fine is unprecedented and proves the seriousness of this violation of the law,” Klarides said. “This matter should have been pursed to its conclusion but apparently the e-mails and communications between Gov. Malloy and his lieutenants were so highly damaging that they thought it best to settle the case quietly. Just another blow against transparency in state government that the Governor once bragged about.”

[…]

Talks toward a settlement so far have involved proposals such as state Democrats making a voluntary payment as high as the range of $750,000, but an agreement has been elusive until the current tentative one.

The SEEC’s subpoena demanded documents including potentially sensitive emails between Malloy and top political aides that might relate to 2014 campaign spending that the Republican state party chairman said in late 2014 was illegal.

At the center of the SEEC’s lawsuit is a set of clean-election laws that Connecticut legislators enacted in 2005 after Gov. John G. Rowland was convicted of corruption for receiving lucrative benefits from state contractors. Those laws created a system of public financing of state campaigns, along with a ban on state contractors contributing to the campaigns of candidates for state office.

The bargain for state taxpayers was that, in exchange for having to pay millions in grants to candidates under the public-financing program, they wouldn’t have to worry about contractors and their family members influencing state office-holders with their contributions.

But critics say that Democrats’ campaign spending in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign undid that bargain — by letting contractors’ money into the state campaign through a back door.

The Republicans’ complaint said that state Democrats broke the state’s clean-election laws by paying for pro-Malloy mass mailings with about $250,000 from its federally regulated campaign account, which is allowed by federal law to accept heavy contributions from state contractors despite the state’s ban on contractors’ money going to candidates for state office. Republicans said the expenditure on the Malloy mailings — out of the federal account — illegally circumvented the state ban on contractors’ contributions.

 

You can read more about the Malloy campaign’s action via the following Wait, What? posts

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

Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!

Malloy is a fraud on campaign finance reform issues

Malloy’s double dipping campaign finance gravy train

Campaign Finance Reform Malloy Style: NU CEO says support Malloy by giving to the Connecticut Democratic Party

Malloy/Democrats make mockery of Connecticut’s once prominent role in campaign finance reform

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

Oh…Remember When Democratic Leaders were for Campaign Finance Reform

Peas in a pod – Malloy ally Cuomo appoints Finch to run New York Thruway system

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In a move that would make the likes of Donald Trump, or any other example of the Peter Principle proud, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has appointed defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch to run the $2 billion a year New York Thruway system

Finch, who as mayor of Bridgeport undermined Bridgeport’s public schools, supported and defended education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas, handed tens of millions of dollars in public funds to the charter school industry and used his power for personal gain, has landed nicely on his feet, after getting thrown out of office by Bridgeport voters.  Earlier this week, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo handed Finch a $175,000 high-profile political appointment.

Responses:

“Finch didn’t leave office in Bridgeport on the best of terms, approving $2.5 million in retroactive raises for himself, city supervisors and political appointees that Ganim has said contributed to a $20 million budget deficit.”  CT Post (6-15-16)

“That’s insane.  I’m lost for words. He’s never exhibited any kind of positive managerial ability. He nearly bankrupted us completely — a city in shambles.” Enrique “Rick” Torres, a former City Council member who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year.  (As quoted in the CT Post)

The Connecticut Post goes on to explain;

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated Finch on Monday to lead the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corp., a surprise choice for the high-profile post that had some of Finch’s former rivals scratching their heads.

Cuomo’s recommendation of Finch was unanimously accepted Monday by the agency’s board of directors. Finch will serve as the agency’s acting executive director until he is confirmed by the state Senate or 60 days passes, which is when the interim tag would be removed from his job title.

Finch, 60, assumes control of a $2.1 billion annual budget and 2,312 full-time employees in his new post, which will pay him $175,000 annually.

It marks the return to the public sector for Finch, who lost his 2015 re-election bid to the city’s once-imprisoned ex-mayor Joe Ganim,

[…]

“Bill Finch is a dedicated public servant and his combination of state and local government experience will be an asset to the Thruway Authority,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The Thruway is a critical part of New York’s transportation system and I look forward to working with Bill to ensure the safety and economic viability of our highways across this state.”

Finch notably inherits a $4 billion project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties. The new span is expected to be complete in 2018.

The development calls for a moment of silence in honor of the great writer, Roald Dahl, who observed;

“The fine line between roaring with laughter and crying because it’s a disaster is a very, very fine line. You see a chap slip on a banana skin in the street and you roar with laughter when he falls slap on his backside. If in doing so you suddenly see he’s broken a leg, you very quickly stop laughing and it’s not a joke anymore.”

But in this case, the joke and the disaster rests squarely on us, the people of the tri-state area…

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

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Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy has been able to count on the consistent and lucrative support of the charter school industry and their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher corporate education reform allies.

In addition to being one of Malloy’s largest sources of campaign cash during his 2014 re-election campaign, the owners and operators of Connecticut’s charter schools, along with the corporate elite who support Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have dumped more than $9 million into the lobbying effort to support Malloy’s agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

This lobbing frenzy makes the corporate education reform effort the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

Funneling money through a variety of different organizations and front groups, the charter school advocates have been able “transform” public education in Connecticut by promoting Malloy’s plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

While Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly are instituting unprecedented cuts to public schools, thanks to the  “reformers” lobbying effort, more than $110 million in public dollars will be handed over to charter schools this year alone.

In addition, these groups have spent their millions pushing the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, a program designed to label a vast number of Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools as failures.

The following chart highlights the Step Right Up, Buy Public Policy organizations that have lobbied on behalf of Malloy’s charter school and anti-public education agenda.

Organization Lobbying Expenses
A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN front group)  $2.3 million
ConnCAN  $1.9 million
Families for Excellent Schools  $1.8 million
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee)  $891,000
CT Council for Education Reform  $349,000
Students for Education Reform  $16,000
Achievement First  $422,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network  $132,000
Bronx Charter School $35,000
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA)  >$1.2 million
TOTAL $9 Million+

This past legislative session, these charter school and education reform entities spent in excess of $500,000 successfully persuading legislators to cut their own district’s public school funding, at the same time they were sending even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that these private institutions have traditionally refused to educate their fair share of students who need special education services, children who require help learning the English Language or those who have behavioral issues.

More taxpayer money for the private sector, less public funds for public schools.

Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly should be sent packing and replaced with people who will put our children ahead of political and private interests.

A void in oversight of charter schools (By Wendy Lecker)

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Surprise!  Connecticut taxpayers are giving privately owned and operated charter schools more than $110 million a year, with little to no oversight.  Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled state legislature are implementing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  The budget cuts, along with the inadequate funding allocated for public schools mean Connecticut’s public school students will be getting less, while local property taxpayers will be charged even more.

In another MUST READ piece, public education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker reports on the void in oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools.

Wendy Lecker writes;

One would think that after the scandals involving Connecticut’s two large charter chains, Jumoke and Achievement First, Connecticut’s education officials would finally exert some meaningful oversight over Connecticut’s charter sector.

One would be wrong.

This week the Connecticut Mirror reported that Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell dismissed a complaint against Bridgeport Achievement First, for using uncertified teachers for 47 percent of its staff, in violation of Connecticut statute. Wentzell unilaterally decided that the law allowing complaints against public schools does not apply to charters; despite the fact that charters receive more than $100 million each year in public taxpayer dollars.

Wentzell disregarded the data showing Achievement First’s misdeeds, claiming the State Department of Education (SDE) will wait until the charter comes up for renewal. Wentzell apparently ignored the law allowing her to put a charter on probation “at any time.”

The laissez-faire attitude toward charter schools pervades this administration. At the June 1 State Board of Education meeting, where the board voted to grant waivers to six charters to increase their enrollment beyond the statutory cap, Mark Linabury, head of SDE’s Choice Bureau, stated that when it comes to charter oversight, “we operate in the dark” until the renewal process.

While SDE closes its eyes, the complaints against charters pile up. Last week, students at Achievement First’s Amistad High School in New Haven staged a mass walkout to protest racial insensitivity and harsh discipline. They might have also protested the abominable graduation rate which, counting attrition since ninth grade, was 53 percent in 2015 — well below New Haven’s.

Amistad is one of the schools granted an enrollment increase waiver on June 1; supposedly based on Amistad’s academic performance (a 53-percent graduation rate?). Recommending the increase, SDE declared that Amistad draws 100 percent of its students from New Haven. However, the New Haven Independent, in reporting the walkout story, noted “(a)t 10:20, students who live in Bridgeport went inside after they were told they would not be allowed to board buses home if they didn’t.” Indeed, students told reporter Paul Bass that half of Amistad students come from Bridgeport every day. Is anyone at SDE minding the store?

Students have well-founded complaints about Amistad’s discipline practices. While suspensions statewide decreased from 2010 through 2015, they skyrocketed at Amistad, from 302 to 1,307 suspensions. There were more suspensions in 2014-15 than there were students, who numbered 984. During that five-year period, enrollment increased by about 25 percent, while suspensions more than quadrupled.

Other charters granted enrollment expansion waivers on June 1 also have deplorable suspension rates. Bridgeport’s Achievement First had 1,641 suspensions, almost double the number of students, 977, in 2014-15. The number of suspensions more than tripled since 2010-11, when there were 456, and 409 students.

Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport, operating for just one year, had 154 suspensions, outpacing its enrollment of 127 students. Great Oaks received the waiver for the largest increase in seats. Explaining the basis for exceeding the statutory cap, Linabury stated that there was a strict focus on the school’s performance.

Apparently SDE does not consider abusive discipline worth investigating. It should. A recent UCLA report found that nationwide, suspensions lead to dropouts, costing more than $46 billion in lost tax revenue and other social costs.

SDE admitted that, academically, Great Oaks performs well below the state average, and worse than Bridgeport, its host district. Yet SDE still recommended Great Oaks for an increase, which the board rubber-stamped.

Beyond its appalling lack of oversight, SDE made blatant misrepresentations in its quest to expand charters. SDE’s CFO Kathleen Dempsey, declared that before these charters opened, “local approval and support” were required. For Great Oaks and another school granted a statutory increase, Stamford Charter School for Excellence, that statement is false. The public and the local boards of education opposed these charters.

Some state board members feigned dismay that there was ample funding for charter increases while the state slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from vo-tech, magnets and public schools. They then approved the enrollment increases, without any investigation into discipline abuses, uncertified teachers or other misdeeds.

The members declared it would be unfair not to expand enrollment because the charters already held the lotteries for these seats. When asked why the charters held lotteries for seats before they were even approved, SDE again abdicated responsibility, claiming SDE has no say over charter lotteries.

With billions of dollars and student well-being at stake, Connecticut’s children and taxpayers deserve better than officials who sit idly by while charter schools call all the shots.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s original article in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-void-in-oversight-of-charter-7988759.php

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