State won’t pay for DMV contract upgrade until it is done right… Connecticut?  No Kansas

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Is privatization of public services always bad?

Certainly not … Over the past three decades, most of Connecticut’s health and human service programs were successfully shifted to community based non-profit providers.  (The very social service agencies that are now being targeted for some of the deepest, most devastating but cuts in Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor’s new proposed state budget.]

But while the rush to hire expensive out-of-state consultants or privatize government services often produces a product that is more expensive and ridden with incompetence, waste and even fraud, Malloy and his administration have spent untold millions of dollars on just these types of efforts and contracts, often with disastrous results.

The problems associated with the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles effort to upgrade their computer system is but one such example.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  In their new proposed state budget, Malloy and Wyman are now proposing to privatize additional services at the Department of Motor Vehicles and planning to end the requirement that motorists are up to date on paying their local car tax in order to register a vehicle.  Malloy’s plan would leave Connecticut’s 169 towns twisting in the wind, left on their own to try and collect the property taxes that are due.

See: Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again. (Wait, What?),  Malloy Proposes Bill To Outsource Some DMV Services (CT Newsjunkie);  Malloy: Speed DMV lines by shedding ‘collection agency’ role (CT Mirror) and Malloy Calls For DMV Legislation To Cut Wait Times (Hartford Courant)

It is almost as if the Malloy administration is dedicated to forcing cities and towns to raise their property taxes, while purposely refusing to look around and learn from the experiences of others.

Kansas’ problems with the same contractor that Connecticut used to upgrade the DMV computer system.

In June 2013, the Topeka Capitol Journal highlighted the significant and growing problems associated with Kansas’s decision to turn to the 3M Company to upgrade that state’s Department of Motor Vehicle Computer System. In an article entitled, State won’t pay 3M contract until system is fully implemented, the paper reported;

The Minnesota-based company responsible for the state’s new motor vehicle system won’t receive the remaining balance on its contract until the whole system is active and bug-free.

[…]

The driver’s license system was supposed to launch in October 2012, but after the motor vehicle phase caused several issues at multiple counties throughout the state, the KDOR decided to delay its implementation.

By 2012, the problems with the 3M contract in Kansas had led to the call for a legislative audit that, in turn, revealed significant “flaws in Kansas’ motor vehicle driver’s license overhaul.”

But as noted, asking Connecticut State Government, or at least the Malloy administration, to learn from the lessons of others is apparently too much to ask.

The Waterbury Republican-American’s Paul Hughes reported on the DMV situation in September 2015, DMV computer mess assessed – Poor planning cost time and an extra $1.9M, explaining;

“Inadequate planning not only increased the cost of modernizing the computer system for the Department of Motor Vehicles, but also delayed completion of the project, according to a new report.

The rollout of the upgraded computer system snarled business at DMV offices across the state last month after they reopened following a weeklong shutdown, leading to long lines, high levels of frustration and lots of coverage from the state’s news media.

In a report released Thursday, the legislature’s Auditors of Public Accountants said it appears that a lack of proper initial planning by the DMV and project manager 3M Corp. resulted in $1.9 million additional costs and delays.

The DMV agreed with the finding, saying agency officials will reassess the need for professional management services when undertaking major information technology-related projects going forward.

[…]
The report noted several shortcomings on the part of DMV and 3M Corp. regarding the computer system upgrade that cost $26 million.

A lack of adequate planning resulted in certain business requirements not being included in the department’s request for proposals form interested vendors.

The scope of the project had to be modified many times because of the improper review of the contract.

3M Corp. had changed project managers 12 times.

DMV’s own auditing unit was not involved in the project planning.

In another blistering investigative piece, the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender examined the Malloy administration’s actions leading up to and through the DMV disaster.  On January 26, 2016, Lender’s story, Heated Words Inside The Crisis That Led To DMV Commissioner’s Resignation, reported;

Ayala, by the way, has not been heard from publicly since he submitted his resignation to the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Tuesday night and then held a brief, emotional meeting to announce his decision to his top departmental managers at DMV headquarters in Wethersfield.

[…]

Word of Ayala’s resignation emerged this past Wednesday, two days after The Courant submitted an FOI request and questions on a subject that might have become the latest political headache for him and the Malloy administration: DMV’s hiring in November of an Ayala associate from Bridgeport — who pleaded guilty in 2006 of felony drug charges in Superior Court and served time in prison — as a $36,000-a-year office assistant in the commissioner’s office.

The aide, Carlos Cosme, 39, worked for two years as a $40,000 staff member of the state Democratic Senate Caucus, starting in January 2013, then switched to DMV while Ayala was in charge.

Cosme initially was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2006 on charges of possession of drugs with intent to sell, but that term was reduced and he was released in 2009 to supervised parole that ended in 2011, records show. Cosme was not available for comment.

Personnel records obtained late in the week show that Cosme was hired at DMV on Nov. 13, although state comptroller’s records initially said it was early in 2015, and that he was rated as one of two top applicants by a three-member department panel that included Mildred Torres-Ferguson, the former top aide to the state Democratic speaker of the House who is now executive assistant in the DMV commissioner’s office.

The November hiring was Cosme’s second try at employment in the DMV commissioner’s office; it turns out that Ayala had attempted to hire him at DMV in January 2015 on his way in as commissioner, a top state official said.

[…]

Andres Ayala Jr. resigned as head of the troubled Connecticut DMV in the wake of a disastrous role out of a new computer system. The computer software, meant to streamline DMV services, resulted in massive wait times, erroneously suspended registrations and a number of angry complaints beginning in August 2015.

While Ayala appeared to shoulder the blame, his tenure and the continued problems came at the end of a process that began in 2009.

The errors in the software turnover have continued into 2016, with many vehicles missing from town tax rolls. West Hartford Assessor Joseph Dakers told the Hartford Courant that the missing property amounted to $7.6 million just for his town and it would take a long time for towns to sort through the missing data.

The DMV intended the Connecticut Integrated Vehicle and Licensing System Modernization Project, called CIVLS, to update its computer system. The goal was to allow more online integration so that drivers could register their vehicles, pay fines or fees and order license plates through a website rather than standing in line.

DMV awarded the contract to oversee the update to Science Applications International Corporation. SAIC then sub-contracted with the 3M corporation to use its software. SAIC and DMV purchased 3M’s software in March of 2010 under then DMV Commissioner Robert Ward. Over the next four years, the new commissioner, Melody Currey, oversaw the installation.

“It’s always referred to as the 3M contract, but really SAIC was the contractor,” said Currey, now Department of Administrative Services commissioner.

[…]

The contract with SAIC, with a value of up to $30 million, included just under $22 million for the 3M software, $4.9 million for “additional deliverables,” and up to $3.5 million for optional maintenance over eight years.

Installation of the new system was scheduled to take place over four phases, beginning with “Release 1” or R1. R1 dealt with back office financials and infrastructure, and took place out of the public eye. Currey described the launch of R1 as “very successful” and “a positive story.”

Following R1 in 2011, SAIC transferred leadership of the project to 3M to implement the R2 phase of licensing and registration. According to Ward, there were concerns within the DMV that SAIC was not devoting enough resources to the project and state officials pressured SAIC to turn over management of the project to 3M.

SAIC still maintained responsibility for the project, according a September 2011 memo from the company. “SAIC, however, acknowledges that it will remain primarily responsible for the completion of the terms and conditions of the Agreement. Any enforcement of the terms and conditions of the Agreement will be made in accordance with the terms of the agreement with SAIC which remains fully responsible for the performance of its subcontractors and the completion of the project.”

The problems began for Connecticut drivers during the R2 phase of the software upgrade. Similar to the issues facing towns now, records for hundreds of divers that should have been transferred were lost in the old system. The DMV had to assign a special team to retrieve the information. Glitches in the system itself extended wait times from half an hour before the upgrade to three hours following the rollout. Several months after the upgrade, drivers were still reporting that the DMV had erroneously suspended registrations, which led to tickets for the “violation.”

[…]

When a 2012 audit of the DMV found that the upgrade was facing serious problems with implementation, one of the names signed at the bottom of the report was former DMV Commissioner Ward’s. When he left DMV, Ward became one of Connecticut’s two auditors of public accounts.

The audit notes that 3M had changed project managers twelve times since work had begun. It also raised concerns about improper management. “It appears that inadequate planning of the project not only increased the cost, but also resulted in delaying the completion of the project. Many existing issues with the current antiquated system that should be resolved with CIVLS may remain unsolved for years.”

The audit recommended improvements. “The Department of Motor Vehicles should consider proper planning by using professional project management services for major projects such as CIVLS, so there is adequate planning in order to avoid additional costs and issues in carrying out the project.” DMV did not follow this recommendation.

Currey said many states have tried similar upgrades to DMV software with worse results. “It’s a very hard change in the system. You knew there were going to be glitches and struggles as it is with any change in technology.” She said that California, in particular, spent $208 million before giving up on a DMV upgrade project altogether. California was using the contractor HP Enterprise Services, another company with a sour history updating DMV records, particularly in Vermont where the contractor and state parted ways after an effort costing $18 million.

[…]

Some supporters say Ayala may have been the “fall guy” for a faulty system put into place years before his role at the DMV – while his predecessors moved on to new, more powerful positions.

“My four years at DMV brought about many changes that created a more effective department for people and businesses. I have those same goals for DAS,” Currey said at the time of her nomination to run DAS, Connecticut’s main contracting agency. Currey said she believes Connecticut weathered the storm much better than other states and now the new system is up and working properly.

While proposing to cuts to most of state government spending, the Malloy administration recommended increasing the DMV budget by 27 percent next year. Overtime at the agency is on track to double this year.

Overtime at the agency is on track to double this year?

And now Malloy and his administration want to outsource more of DMV’s services and eliminate DMV’s role in helping towns get the property taxes that they are due.  Of  course, unpaid local property taxes can lead to program cuts or increased taxes for those who do pay what they owe.

But apparently all of that is of little concern to Team Malloy/Wyman.

WATCH THIS VIDEO – The Charter School Industry’s abusive “no excuses” approach to education

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Charter Schools – Privately owned, but publicly funded.

Charter schools “pride” themselves on their “no excuses” strategies and techniques.

This time the horrifying video is from one of the infamous charter schools that make up the Success Academy charter school chain in New York City.

However the charter school industry’s “no-excuses” approach, primarily aimed at children of color, is the hallmark of the charter school industry across the nation, including at Achievement First, Inc., the large Connecticut-based charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.

CLICK TO WATCH THIS VIDEO FROM SUCCESS CHARTER SCHOOL

The problems run far deeper than just one video.

This year, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman have proposed a state budget that increases funding for Connecticut’s charter schools while making the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.

Since taking office, Malloy and Wyman have doubled the amount of money spent to subsidize Connecticut’s charter school industry.  As a result of their “education reform” initiatives, well over $100 million in taxpayer funds will go to charter schools rather than the state’s local public school system.

A very similar story has been unfolding in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo, like Governor Dannel Malloy are charter school loyalists and disciples.  Both governors have refused to adequately fund public schools, which has shifted more and more of the burden for paying for public education onto the backs of local property taxpayers.

Why would any public servant divert scarce public funds to privately owned charter schools that engage in techniques that are nothing short of child abuse?

First, it would be wrong to call these politicians public servants…

Second, one important answer can be found by looking at whom Cuomo, Malloy, Wyman and other pro-education reform politicians turn to for major campaign contributions.

In both Connecticut and New York, the people behind the push for “education reform” including charter schools, the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the anti-teacher agenda are among the biggest donors to these candidates.

In New York, the Success charter school chain, and their political front groups, have spent millions in campaign donations and lobbying activities to prop up Governor Cuomo and his policies.

In Connecticut, the Achievement First, Inc. charter school chain, and their political front groups, have spent millions in campaign donations and lobbying activities to prop up Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman and their policies.

To learn more about the controversies surrounding charter schools in Connecticut read the following Wait, What? posts…

But first watch this video:  http://nyti.ms/1QZwcxp

 

Wait, What? Posts to read;

Cha-Ching! Wealthy Charter School backers give big to Malloy – Malloy gives big to charter schools

CT Charter Schools collect $100 million+ from taxpayers despite discriminating and abusing children

Achievement First Inc. pledged to do better with special education students but didn’t

Meanwhile, more on the “Shocking Numbers Of Kindergarten, First Grade Suspensions” at Achievement First Schools

Achievement First – Hartford: A disturbing history of losing students along the way

Dumping Children – The immoral and unethical Charter School tactics to push students back to public schools

Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr.

Charter School Renewal in CT: The Accountability Is Flexible (By Robert Cotto Jr.)

LOOK OUT!  If parents opt their children out, the Malloy administration will cut funding for poor children

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Wait, What?

Just when it seemed that Governor Dannel Malloy’s arrogance and bullying couldn’t get any worse, Connecticut school officials have been told to instruct parents that they may not opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium Assessment (SBAC) or NEW SAT testing schemes.  The Malloy administration has said that if students aren’t forced to take these tests, local school districts will lose their Title 1 education funding.

Despite the fact that there is no law, regulation or legal policy that prevents parents from opting their children out of the destructive testing mania,  school superintendents and principals have been directed to do everything they can to prevent parents from standing up to protect their children.

The latest example of the Malloy administration’s campaign of intimidation and abuse comes from North Haven, where the superintendent of schools wrote to parents telling them that their children must take the Common Core tests.

Covering the development, the North Haven Citizen newspaper wrote;

Opting out of standardized tests is a popular experience for public school students and many North Haven students did just that when it came time to take the new SBAC test last year.

But North Haven Superintendent of Schools Robert Cronin encouraged parents to direct their children to take the test this year, making it the subject of his December letter to parents.

“In the past we honored opt outs because the test was in its infancy and still being developed. But it is developed now and we’re administering it this year and my job is to carry out state statutes.”

The key statute Cronin is following is the agreement to test 95 percent of students in affiliation with the federal No Child Left Behind law. While there are no state or federal laws that direct a student to take a standardized test, the town may lose state funding if students opt out.

[…]

“Our participation is monitored closely by the state Department of Education,” Cronin said. “There will be consequences for districts that don’t meet the participation rates and we could lose Title I funding that is currently over $300,000.”

North Haven’s Superintendent, Dr. Cronin, is correct about the approach that Governor Malloy’s administration is taking.

In an effort prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core tests, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent a memo to all school superintendents informing them that their school districts would loss some or all of their Title I money if they did not force 95 percent of their students to take the SBAC and SAT tests.

Title 1 is a federal grant that provides state governments with extra funds to give to local school districts to help pay for programs targeted at helping poor children do better in school.  The funding system was initially passed as part of President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

According to the most recent data available, the United States Department of Education adds;

“…more than 56,000 public schools across the country used Title I funds to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, funds support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

That same year Title I served more than 21 million children. Of these students, approximately 59 percent were in kindergarten through fifth grade, 21 percent in grades 6-8, 17 percent in grades 9-12…”

Faced with the growing opposition to the Common Core testing scam that unfairly labels children as failures and is to be used to inappropriately assess teachers as part of Malloy’s teacher evaluation system, many parents are rightfully refusing to allow their children to participate in the Common Core testing farce.

In response, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and their administration are ordering school districts to force students to take the tests or else…

Or else?

Or else Malloy’s Commissioner and his political appointees of the State Board of Education will cut the funding that school districts are required to use for, “additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, their could be cuts to funds that support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

It is unbelievable, but true!

Add this one to the growing list of reasons that more and more Americans have lost faith in their government officials…

Meanwhile, as the North Haven Citizen reports, school officials in the North Haven schools will be doing all they can to push students to take the Common Core SBAC and SAT tests.  As one North Haven principal explains;

“We’ll also offer incentives for completing the test, such as classroom awards or extended lunch times. We’re changing the overall environment for the test”

As for me up here in northeastern, Connecticut – “My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

For more on the opt-out issue see the following Wait, What? blog posts;

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

ALERT – Lobbyists for the “Education Reformers” spend $1.9 million more in Connecticut.

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

Yet another warning about taking the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

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

Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again.

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When they were running for re-election, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were all smiles as they accepted the political endorsements from Connecticut’s state employee unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

When Malloy and Wyman wanted the unions to fork over money to help pay for their re-election campaign, union leaders stepped up big time.

Using hard-earned money collected from their members, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was set up to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

In addition, when Malloy and Wyman wanted campaign donations funneled into a special account run by the Democratic State Central Committee, the various unions came up with over $160,000.

And not a complaint was heard when unions’ political operation kicked into high gear, providing the votes that Malloy and Wyman needed to get the second term in office that they so desperately wanted.

Even after the 2014 election, Team Malloy/Wyman kept their proverbial hand out, looking to the unions to cough up even more of their members’ money.  According to the latest campaign finance reports, the state employee unions have donated in excess of $42,000 to the Malloy/Wyman political operation in 2015.

However, as Connecticut’s public employees are learning, yet again, the Malloy administration is fond of turning on state employees with a vengeance.

While refusing to demand that Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share, Dannel Malloy’s new state budget plan cuts vital programs, lays off state employees and seeks to privatize public government functions.  The budget proposal is more in line with something that would be coming from the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Scott Walker.  (See also – Malloy Administration ushering in a “Wisconsin Moment” at UConn and CSU Wait, What? 11/6/2015)

In addition to proposing a state budget balanced through state employee layoffs, concessions and major budget cuts, each news cycle reveals additional attacks by the Malloy administration on state employees and the services they provide.

As CT Newsjunkie is reporting in an article entitled, Malloy Proposes Bill To Outsource Some DMV Services, in an incredible and deceitful move, Malloy is expanding his effort to shift the blame for the massive problems associated with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ recent computer upgrade onto the backs of the state employees who work at DMV.

Although it was the Malloy administration that contracted with the out-of-sate, for-profit company to revamp DMV’s computers, a move that has led to longer wait times and a variety of problems, Malloy is now proposing to privatize even more of the DMV’s activities.

As CT Newsjunkie reports;

AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar said the outsourcing of the information technology was just the most recent in a “long line of outsourcing failures that could and should have been avoided.”

However, “the administration appears ready to double-down on another risky contracting scheme. If it fails — like so many previous privatization bungles — state residents will be left with the tab and suffering from degraded services,” Morningstar said.

Morningstar serves on the State Contracting Standards Board, which has been unable to meet to go over contracts because the governor has yet to fill the vacancies on the board and it doesn’t have a quorum.

This week Malloy and Wyman will begin a new round of their – my way or no way — budget tours, and while the spin will be coming fast and furious, their fundamental approach to the Connecticut state budget will be clear for all to see.  Target the most vulnerable for budget cuts, expand funding for charter schools, shift costs to local property taxpayers, college students and others … and most importantly … blame state employees.

Malloy’s approach has certainly changed considerably since he took the stage  at the AFL-CIO convention in June 2014 where he proclaimed;

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens,” Malloy told about 450 union leaders and supporters gathered in the unionized Omni Hotel. “When you understand that they too have rights; that we can move forward together, and in fact when we don’t move forward together, we move backward.”

If this all sounds a bit familiar… 

 Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’ (AFSCME + AFT IN CT Newsjunkie)

No Wisconsin Moment in CT (AFSCME)

Conn. Members Say No to a ‘Wisconsin Moment (IBEW)

Wyman: We’re All In This Together, Offers To Buy Foley A Ticket To Wisconsin Moment (OIB Blog)

NOTE: For those who want to be lectured to, the Malloy/Wyman style of leadership will be on full display at their first Town Hall Budget Forum February 11, 2016.

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman today announced that they will hold a town hall forum in Stamford on the evening of Thursday, February 11, 2016, to discuss his budget principles, his proposals for adapting state government to a changing economy, and other issues concerning the future of the state.

The forum will be held from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the UConn Stamford Campus in the Gen Re Auditorium (1 University Place, Stamford).  Residents who would like an opportunity to ask the Governor a question should arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event to submit their name on a sign-up sheet.  The forum is open to the public.

The Stamford event will be the first stop in a series of town hall forums that the Governor and Lt. Governor will be holding throughout the 2016 legislative session.  The event will be similar to those they have held in previous years, where they answered hundreds of questions on a range of state issues at numerous forums.

Dates and locations for additional town hall forums in the series will be announced during the coming weeks.

Cha-Ching! Wealthy Charter School backers give big to Malloy – Malloy gives big to charter schools

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Call it the new American Way.  The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

Here in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

In classic fashion, their plan slashes a full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break.  Their plan makes absolutely no effort, whatsoever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would actually come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts to programs that help children in crisis, the developmentally disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise property taxes.

But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools.

The CT Mirror explained the situation in a story entitled, Malloy: Increase charter school, cut neighborhood school funding;

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for the next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal public schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

The reason seems pretty obvious.  Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group.  Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN.  He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sackler and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor.  Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.

During the very same time, Malloy and Wyman have turned their backs on the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers that actually support and fund Connecticut’s public school system.

Since taking office, Team Malloy/Wyman have dumped over $450 million in scarce taxpayer funds into charter schools in Connecticut, although these schools consistently discriminate against children who require special services, children who aren’t fluent in the English language and children who won’t adhere to the charter school’s abusive “no-excuses” disciplinary policies designed to push out children with behavioral issues.

While public schools in every town will suffer from Malloy’s budget cuts, and local taxpayers will be forced to pick up some of the lost state funding, the charter schools will continue to wallow in more state support.

The CT Mirror noted;

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000).

Of course, the charter school supporters who donated and worked for Malloy are overjoyed by the news that Malloy was coming through, yet again, for the charter school industry.

“Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, applauded the governor’s proposed budget.”  (CT Mirror 2/5/16)

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public school advocate pointed out the harsh reality in her blog yesterday, Connecticut Governor Malloy Increases Funding for Charters, Cuts Funding for Public Schools;

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students.

The truth is that the charter school industry has put an unprecedented amount of money on the political table.  Dannel Malloy and Nancy Wyman happily took that money and continue to produce for their favored donors.

It may be the new American Way, but it is a disgusting style of politics that shouldn’t be tolerated here in Connecticut.

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

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In many places across the country, the effort to undermine public education is alive and well.

In Connecticut, thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration, the corporate education reform industry is successfully turning public schools into little more than testing factories.  These days Malloy also serves as the  head of the Democratic Governors Association.

Between the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the new “mandate” that all high school juniors must take the new,Common Core-aligned,  SAT, public schools are being forced to revamp their instructional programs so that they can fulfill their duties by teaching to the test.

Not only is the “high stakes” testing scheme being used to unfairly label children and evaluate teachers, but school administrators are manic about the possibility that their schools and district may not “look good” in the eyes of the testing industry and its disciples like Governor Malloy who famously said, in 2012, that he “didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.”

Just last month the Westport School System sent out a letter to parents urging them not to opt their children out of the inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing program.  The letter read;

We are requesting that all students complete the full SBAC assessment this year. The state of Connecticut has set out a list of consequences for districts that do not have 95% of their students take the test in 2016.  Prior to 2015 we have always had 99-100% participation. Last year we were the only district in our District Reference Group (DRG A) who did not achieve this requirement. We have linked an article from the Connecticut Mirror with more information.

Westport’s educational programs benefit from some state funding, as well as a positive rating from the state, which we do not wish to jeopardize as a result of low participation rates in the standardized assessment program.

Wait what?

Westport schools want parents to force their children to take an unfair test that is designed to fail many of those students because the school district doesn’t want to jeopardize the “positive rating” it has from the state?

Meanwhile, other school districts are simply following the Connecticut State Department of Education’s directives and misleading or lying to parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Of course, most school districts recognize that “high” participation rates aren’t enough to win accolades from the education reformers so students HAVE to be taught how to score better on the SBAC and SAT tests.

As a result, Connecticut public school students are losing hundreds of hours of instructional time so that they can prepare for the testing by taking practice tests and engaging in test prep.

With that as the backdrop, a “special” achievement award should go to Danbury Connecticut’s school system.

Not only is Danbury using the school day to teach to the test, they have actually hired SBAC TUTORS to try and make sure that some of the more  “academically challenged” children get the extra help they need to get higher SBAC scores so that they won’t do too much damage by pulling down the school and district’s average test scores.

Late last year, in preparation for the all-important 2016 SBAC testing window, Danbury posted a want ad for SBAC TUTORS.

According to the job posting, SBAC Tutors were need by the Danbury Public Schools to work in all “Elementary and Middle Schools.”

Tutors would work two hours a day, 2-3 days per week (TBD by School Principal) and would “provide additional tutoring support to identified students in advance of standardized testing.”  The posted pay rate, $33.12 per hour.

This month, the state of Connecticut is in state court facing a lawsuit for failing to provide the financial support cities and towns need to ensure that all students have access to their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality public school education.

Yet at the same time, the state is forcing schools to devote more and more time, money and resources to destructive testing programs…all in an effort to improve standardized test scores.

Oh, and for those parents who live in school districts that aren’t providing extra tutoring outside of the school day, don’t worry.

There are plenty of for-profit companies out there that will be happy to take your money and tutor your child so that he or she won’t be labeled losers when it comes to the SBAC test.

As one online website proclaims; Get Your Child Ready for the SBAC

SchoolTutoring Academy’s SBAC Tutoring Programs start with a free academic assessment with an Academic Director. Our SBAC Tutoring Program includes:

  • One-on-one Tutoring Sessions– Private tutoring sessions with a certified tutor.
  • Bi-monthly Progress Reports– Reports on your child’s progress and parental conference calls.
  • Customized Program– Academic Directors build a customized learning plan to achieve success.
  • Free Consultation– All programs include free academic consultation from a SchoolTutoring Academy Academic Director.

All of this is available for $199.99/month. Call 1-877-789-9565 to talk with our Academic Directors about your SBAC tutoring questions. They can also explain how a SBAC tutor can help your child improve their skills and test-taking abilities.

Malloy presents a state budget plan that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud

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Flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, his “policy-partner,” Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy lectured a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly today about the importance of being fiscally responsible.

It was a grand theatrical performance that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Less than two weeks ago, singer and music producer B.o.B informed the world that despite what we have been told, the World is Flat!

Like Governor Dannel Malloy, the “all-knowing” musician laid down the “truth” about the flatness of the Earth explaining;

“No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”

“A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know… grow up.”

“I question the international laws that prevent you from exploring Antarctica and the North Pole… what’s there to hide? …I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived.”

Thankfully, in an epic response, world renowned astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, went on the Nightly Show to set things straight.  The best portion of which can be seen in this video clipThe Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss also has a great write-up in article entitled, Why in the world would rapper B.o.B think the Earth is flat? A quick science lesson.

Earlier today, doing his best to channel B.o.B. into the historic chamber of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Malloy took off on a fantastic ride of revisionist history in which he blamed everyone but himself for the fiscal disaster that is dragging Connecticut into the muck.

A far deeper analysis of Malloy’s budget proposal will come in the days and weeks ahead, but readers can learn more about some of the specific aspects of Malloy’s proposal via the following links.  Malloy targets municipal aid, agency budgets, perhaps ‘thousands’ of jobs (CT Mirror), Malloy Budget Plan Hammers State Workers, (CT Newsjunkie), Gov. Malloy Will Cut State Workforce By Thousands (Hartford Courant) and from many other Connecticut news outlets.

That said, the details of this farce of a budget where overshadowed by Malloy’s even more bizarre effort to portray himself as some sort of fiscal guardian and truth teller.

As the Hartford Courant wrote;

“In a sternly-worded speech, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told state legislators Wednesday that they must accept “a new economic reality” of smaller government, scaled-back programs and greater compromise.”

This from the politician who relied on budget gimmicks to produce a series of state budgets that did not balance and then based his re-election campaign on the message that there was no deficit and that he would neither propose nor sign any tax increases if given a second term in office.

Of course, literally days after the election, Malloy’s budget chief admitted that there was a state deficit and Malloy went on to sign a budget that included the second massive tax hike of his tenure as governor.

And as every observer of Connecticut government and politics recognizes, the words “Malloy” and “compromise” cannot be used in the same sentence.

Malloy’s rhetoric about honest budgeting was only eclipsed in today’s speech by his comments regarding his record when it comes to Connecticut’s long term debt obligations.

Unconstrained by the truth or his own record in dealing with Connecticut’s failure to properly fund its pension and post-employment benefit programs, Malloy pontificated;

“Now, it has fallen upon us to fix it. After decades of neglect, we are finally paying our pension obligations every year. I think we all know that must continue.”

This from a guy who just a few months ago proposed kicking the can so far down the road that we’d shift more than $8 billion in pension liabilities onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and grandchildren.

And lest we forget, it is Malloy who has gone crazy with the state’s credit card, borrowing money to pay for various pet projects including his massive corporate welfare program.

As for his immediate commitment to making even deeper cuts to state programs, Malloy’s approach is probably best reflected by his proposal to cut funding for dental care for poor children and his plan to save $1 million by “reducing the burial benefit for indigent people from$1,400 to $1.000.”  That last one was actually something Malloy proposed last year, but legislators reviewed the issue and trashed the plan.

In the end, Malloy’s new budget plan relies heavily on reducing services for those with developmental disabilities, those who suffer with mental illness and addiction, and other vulnerable residents who rely on help from Connecticut’s nonprofit providers for community services.

Of course, Malloy has now returned to his claim that he will not support any new taxes, overlooking his own effort to dramatically cut municipal aid, which will force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise local property taxes.

Then, as if to remind us, once again, of Malloy’s true priorities, the governor, who refuses to require that Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens pay their fair share in taxes, adds a new provision in his budget plan that would provide a tax break for millionaires when it comes to paying their probate fees.

As Connecticut citizens work to understand Malloy’s latest budget proposal, they would do well to remember that just because a politician or a musician says it’s so —- doesn’t actually mean that it is so…

Readers who want to understand Malloy’s perspective can start by taking a step back from today’s budget madness and read the recent Wait, What? post entitled; Malloy Budget Plan – Coddle the rich while cutting vital state services.

ALERT – Lobbyists for the “Education Reformers” spend $1.9 million more in Connecticut.

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While 2015 was a bad year for many Connecticut taxpayers and for those that rely on vital state services, it was a very, very good year for Connecticut’s charter school industry.

Making deep and significant cuts to a broad range of critical services, including funding for public education, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly actually handed even more public money over to the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

While leaving Connecticut’s real public schools without sufficient funds, Malloy and Democratic legislators approved a deal to divert more than $100 million dollars this year to the companies that operate Connecticut’s charter schools.

Why would Malloy and Connecticut’s elected officials turn their backs on their own students, parents, teachers and public schools?

Maybe it had something to do with the record breaking amount of money that the “education reformers” and the charter school industry spent lobbying the Governor and the legislature.

Connecticut’s Democratic legislative leaders initially said they would not agree to giving Connecticut’s charter schools even more money, Malloy demanded that it was, “his way or else.” Rather than doing the right thing and standing their ground against the bully, Democratic legislators even gave Malloy the additional money he wanted to open two new charters schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford. Both local boards of education in Bridgeport and Stamford had overwhelmingly opposed the proposed charter schools, explaining that they did not need or want additional charter schools in their district.

Ignoring Connecticut’s collapsing fiscal situation, the Governor and legislature actually handed the charter schools even more scarce public funds, even though those schools discriminate against Connecticut children by refusing to accept and educate their fair share of students who require special education services and those who aren’t proficient in the English language and therefore need additional English language services.

According to the latest lobbying reports filed by the various corporate education reform lobbying groups with the Office of State Ethics, the corporate-funded advocacy organizations that support charter schools, the Common Core and the absurd Common Core testing scheme spent more than $1.9 million lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015.

Leading the spending spree was the New York-based entity that calls itself, “Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.”  This is the group that bussed in parents and students from as far away as New York City and Boston to hold a rally at the Connecticut State Capitol demanding more money for the privately owned charter schools.

The additional $1.9 million in lobbying expenditures brings the total amount these groups have spent in support of Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher initiatives to more than $9 million, making it the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

The list of corporate-funded education reform entities that reported lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015 included Achievement First, Inc., the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); the North East Charter Schools Network and the Bronx Charter School of Excellence.  A number of other charter school and education reform front groups, including Educators 4 Excellence, Excel Bridgeport and Achieve Hartford were active around the state but claim that they did not communicate with the governor or legislators and therefore do not need to reveal how they spent their money.

Connecticut has become a case study in how “big money” is changing how education policy and politics is conducted.

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

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Based on utter ignorance or stunning arrogance, the elected members of the Regional School District #7 Board of Education (Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford and Norfolk) voted last week – January 27, 2016 – to adopt an official policy “banning” parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.

By a unanimous vote, Board Chair Molly Sexton Read, Vice-Chair Robert Jerram, Secretary/Treasurer Don Torrant and members Mary Duran, Noel Gauthier, Deborah Bell, Theresa Kenneson and Dennis Spector adopted an anti-opt-out policy stating;

“Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language. All students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessment. Until such legislation changes, the Department of Education and each school district must comply with federal and state mandates.”

In an apparent effort to rationalize their decision to undermine their district’s students, parents, teachers and citizens, the board of education’s statement opined;

Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out.” While it was possible to opt out of initial trial assessments when the Common Core initiative started, the SBAC assessments are mandated by the state and therefore not optional,

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3) (C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.

The Connecticut General Statutes also require that “for the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-14n (b) (1).

Like the federal statute, this state law also does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment.

Wait, What? Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out?”

Students and parents aren’t the ones confused, it is the public officials that need schooling about one of the most important tenets of our nation’s constitutional system of government.

The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads;

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

To repeat the obvious – There is NO law, regulation or legal policy that prevents parents from opting their children out of the Common Core testing program nor is there any law that allows the federal or state government to punish parents and children for refusing to participate in the testing system.

Second, the school board’s attempt to cherry-pick statutory language is extremely disingenuous.

The Regional School District #7’ policy cites section 10-14n of the Connecticut General Statutes which lays out the law about Connecticut’s mastery test.

The policy notes subsection (a) of 10-14n but completely overlooks section (e) of that statute which reads;

Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination.   (e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

The law is actually extremely clear.

It is illegal for a Connecticut school district to require that a student receive a satisfactory score on the so-called mastery test in order to be promoted from one grade to the next or graduate from a Connecticut public school.

Therefore, a school district cannot hold a child back or prohibit him or her from graduating if they don’t have a satisfactory mastery test score…or for that matter, any mastery test score at all.

School districts can urge parents to allow students to take the Common Core mastery tests, but they simply cannot require that students have a mastery test score in order to graduate or be promoted.

The Mission Statement of Connecticut’s Regional School District #7 reads;

Northwestern Regional is a comprehensive public Middle School-High School. We serve the total Regional Community with emphasis on middle school and high school students. Our educational program promotes cognitive, personal and social development in a safe learning environment. We seek to empower students to be independent lifelong learners and contributors in a changing society.

The very essence of empowering students begins with telling them the truth.

The truth is that in Connecticut, unless the law is changed, parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core mastery testing program.

Instead of parroting the lies coming from Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration, the members of Regional District #7 and every other Connecticut school district have a duty to stand up for the children and citizens of their communities.

If Connecticut’s elected officials want to prohibit parents from opting their students out of Connecticut’s mastery test they must try and pass a law that specifically repeals that fundamental and inalienable right.

Yet another warning about taking the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

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Following up on my recent Wait, What? blog post entitled;

“My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

Here is a SPECIAL WARNING for high school juniors who are thinking about applying to a college or university that requires applicants to submit all of their SAT scores, rather than just their best score.

Last spring, without understanding the ramifications of their action, Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly “mandated” that all high school students take the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016, despite the fact that the NEW SAT hasn’t even been released, let alone validated as an accurate measure of mastery.

There is so little known about the NEW SAT that Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education won’t even identify what constitutes a passing score on the NEW SAT until after Connecticut’s high school juniors have taken the test and the State Department of Education has been given and analyzed the results

What is known about the NEW SAT is that the College Board, the corporation that produces the SAT, is claiming that they have aligned the NEW SAT with the Common Core which means that the test will include significant content that most high school juniors have not been taught.  This problem will be especially prevalent in the MATH section of the test.

The first time that students across the country will have the opportunity to take the NEW SAT will be on March 5, 2016.  The NEW SAT will also be offered in May, June and on various other dates in the summer and fall.

The Malloy administration’s decision to “mandate” that Connecticut’s 11th graders take the NEW SAT during the school day on March 2, 2016 ensures that Connecticut’s juniors will be nothing more than guinea pigs for the testing industry since, as a brand new test that has never been offered before, the NEW SAT will undoubtedly have significant issues and problems that will need to be resolved before it is “ready for prime time.”

Considering that there is so little known about the NEW SAT, the Malloy administration’s “mandate” means that students are forced to consider the March 2, 2016 test as little more than a “practice exam.”

However, such a strategy could be particularly devastating for students who are trying to get into an institution of higher education that demands that all of their SAT test results be submitted with their applications.

PrepScholar, a major SAT tutoring organization, highlights this serious problem explaining;

If you’re applying to schools that require all scores, you need to be very careful each time you take the SAT, because you will have to send any scores you get, even if they’re low.

Prepscholar adds;

Don’t take the SAT the first time “for practice” to get used to the test. Colleges will see that “practice score.”

Governor Malloy has sworn allegiance to the corporate education reform industry and their dangerous obsession with the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.  His actions have thrown Connecticut’s students under the proverbial bus.

Parents must remember that despite the lies coming out of the State Department of Education, there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy the prohibits a parent from opting their child out of the testing madness.

Connecticut school districts may not hold a child back or prevent them from graduating simply because they fail to participate in the Common Core testing madness.

Opting your child out of the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 may be one of the most important things you can do to help your child get into their preferred college.

Take heed – “My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016” – and other parents should consider doing the same thing.

As an FYI, the following is partial list of colleges and universities that report that if a student has taken the SAT then they must provide the school with all of their SAT scores, even the problematic one from March 2, 2016.

School Name City State
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Little Rock AR
Pomona College Claremont CA
Scripps College Claremont CA
Stanford University Stanford CA
University of California Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, LA, Santa Cruz etc. CA
Quinnipiac University Hamden CT
Sacred Heart University Fairfield CT
Yale University New Haven CT
George Washington University Washington DC
Georgetown University Washington DC
Howard University Washington DC
Delaware State University Dover DE
University of Kentucky Lexington KY
Grambling State University Grambling LA
Tufts University Medford MA
University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell MA
University of Maryland College Park MD
Macalester College St. Paul MN
Saint Louis University St. Louis MO
Barnard College New York NY
City College of New York New York NY
Colgate University Hamilton NY
Cornell University Ithaca NY
Hunter College New York NY
Queens College (City University of New York) Flushing NY
Syracuse University Syracuse NY
Wagner College Staten Island NY
Art Academy of Cincinnati Cincinnati OH
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA
Curtis Institute of Music Philadelphia PA
Duquesne University Pittsburgh PA
Susquehanna University Selinsgrove PA
Temple University Philadelphia PA
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia PA
University of South Carolina Columbia SC
Rice University Houston TX
Texas A&M University College Station TX
Castleton State College Castleton VT
University of Washington Seattle WA
Washington State University Pullman WA

 

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